GUIDE TO LECK BECK
NAME OF RIVER: Leck Beck.
WHERE IS IT: Very close to Kirby Lonsdale and within easy striking distance of the M6 (junction 36). A tributary of the Lune, this beck emerges high up on the fells at the resurgence from the cave system at Bull Pot.
PUT INS/TAKE OUTS: From Cowan Bridge head west on the A65 before turning first right to Casterton then right again at cross roads up the narrow road to the Bullpot Farm Caving Hut. Parking for two cars (if careful) is possible 1.5km after a sharp left bend where a rough track doubles back down to Smithy House Farm. Walk down the track for 100m before diving off down the fell parallel to the first wall. This brings you into the small sub-valley which can be followed to the Leck Beck confluence. Put in here or walk upstream to the higher put in below the resurgence.
Steve Ed (Oct 2005)...'We got in above this guide at the resurgence, where there's a good rapid with small drops and one 2.5 meter drop with a nasty hole which we shot blind but may need a look before hand.'
Egress river left at Cowan Bridge after the railway bridge but before the road bridge to avoid the weir immediately below it.
APPROX LENGTH: 5 km.
TIME NEEDED: 3-4 hours (including walk in).
ACCESS HASSLES: The first time I did this I was told by a local activist that the farmer at Smithy House was not happy with paddlers crossing his land so we crawled on hands and knees with our boats for over a kilometre hidden behind a wallwell not quite but we did try and look as incognito as possible! More recently (2005) we helped the same farmer clear a tree on the approach road (he was trying to get out, we were trying to get in) and he couldnt have been more friendly and had no problems with us crossing his land.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Really heavy rain is needed to bring this up and get the resurgence pumping. Look upstream of the road bridge in Cowan Bridge where the channel is quite wide and rocky it should look paddleable and will certainly be brown and fast flowing if it is on. The second time I did this was the weekend of the floods in Carlisle (January 2005) when it had been raining hard for 4 days. Even then, although the river was at a good level, slightly higher water would have been better and the lower section was still a bit of a boulder bash in places.
GRADING: Grade 4/4+, the gorge has a number of well defined drops with most feeling top end grade 4.
MAJOR HAZARDS: The second half of the gorge has 4 sizeable drops with the last 3m one looking quite gnarly at certain water levels. Swimming in this part of the gorge would be unpleasant (I imagine) as it would be difficult to avoid going over a subsequent drop.
Other hazards include two fences (one above and one below the gorge) and two or three log jams in the lower part of the river all are easy to spot and portage.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Most people put on at a confluence with a small sub-valley this sub valley is reached first as you walk downhill and directs you down to the confluence. It is possible to walk a bit higher up the main channel and get closer to the resurgence from Bull Pot this is a bit of a fight, but quite an atmospheric start as the water surges out of the cave system down an initial set of gnarly looking rapids I dont know if these have been run (we didnt), but there are still some entertaining rapids immediately below them that make the extra walk worth it. Then there is 300m of easier water before a fence forces a mandatory portage.
The fun really starts after the fence and although Leck Beck Gorge is short it manages to pack a lot in with several grade 4+ rapids and drops. The first half of the gorge has five defined rapids and although we inspected the lot, we felt only two required bank protection. The biggest, a 1.5m drop with an obvious line, is immediately followed by an easy chute before a twist and turn job with an awkwardly placed central boulder.
The second half of the gorge kicks in soon after as the gorge swings trough a 900 left hand bend. Most will want to protect and inspect all of the four second half drops as none are easy and swimming any of them would be very unpleasant (I imagine). The first two drops run sweetly with a decent boof before number three which has a choice of lines either side of central rocks, neither of which are easy. We opted to portage number four, a 3m drop which looked a bit on the gnarly side but may run better in slightly higher water.
The river then enters woods (another fence to portage) with several easier, but very enjoyable, grade 3/3+ rapids in a nice setting. The channel later widens out and does become a bit of a boulder bash at times as well as throwing in some large log jams. These are easily seen and portaged, and despite the scrappy lower third you are left feeling well satisfied and the upper section makes the adventure very worthwhile.
OTHER NOTES: It is possible to continue to the Lune but I do not know anyone who has done this. Both times I have done this we have had time to paddle another river in the area. Obvious choices include the Rawthey or Clough to the north or the Lune which is very close by.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Leicester (with due credit to Stuart Millers Guide White Water Lake District), also Steve Ed.