(Thornholme Farm to Sellafield)


WHERE IS IT?: West Cumbria, flowing out into the sea, through Calder Bridge on the A595, then through Sellafield Nuclear Site. OS Landranger Map 89.

PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: To reach the put-in from Calder Bridge, take the Cold Fell road towards Ennerdale Bridge, after 0.7km the road takes a sharp left hand bend and a small road carries straight on. Follow the small road up to Thornholme farm. Stop just before the farm and carry down the public bridleway to the confluence of Worm Gill and the Upper Calder (NY 0659 0903).

Taking out is possible in three places: 1) River right, 50m above Calder Bridge (NY 0426 0605) and follow the public footpath to the car park (at the start of the Cold Fell road on your right hand side). 2) At the sewage works just before Sellafield Nuclear Site (NY 0361 0499), park at the visitors centre. 3) Drive towards Sellafield station, instead of swinging right into the station car-park, turn left and follow a narrow track up the boundary fence (NY 0247 0272). Park when you reach the river.

APPROX LENGTH: 8km from Thornholme to the Sea, 4km from Thornholme to Calder Bridge.

TIME NEEDED: Water level depending, ~2 hours.

ACCESS HASSLES: Above Sellafield: Unknown. To the best of by knowledge the river through Sellafield is public land and you are perfectly entitled to right of way. Don't forget to wave to the security cameras as you enter the gauntlet! It may however it may be an offence under the The Official Secrets (Prohibited Places) Order 1994, see the forum thread on the subject.

WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: The Calder goes up and down faster than a hookers undercrackers. You need to catch it as it is raining, or soon after. Look at the river from Calder Bridge. If it looks brown and swollen, it is good to go from Thornholme. If youre wanting to do it any lower, have a look at the first rapid after the put-in and make your mind up. If that looks OK, you should be fine on the rest of the river.

GRADING: Continuous grade II/III- down to Calder bridge. Some drops through Sellafield can reach class IV and at some levels are difficult to portage.

MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Fallen trees may be an issue in the upper reaches of the river due to its speed and lack of convenient eddies. Below Calder Bridge are two weirs, at least one of which can produce an even walled in towback at some levels. In the middle of Sellafield site is a weir, just next to the cooling towers, which can create a mean stopper. The tree-lined canalized channel through Sellafield is very fast flowing making rescues and portaging difficult.

Other potential hazards include paranoid men with machine guns and luminous green liquid flowing into the river from the site. Hide any Greenpeace stickers and dont try and climb the fence (especially wearing a BA) if you decide the rapids are too much for you!

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: From Thornholme the river keeps its gradient for the entire section, dropping continuously at a shallow gradient down to Calder Bridge. A few trees may need to be avoided/ducked, but none need portaging (Oct 05). This section is mostly grade II with a few sections touching III in the narrower last kilometre before Calder Bridge.

Following Calder Bridge the river narrows into a small winding gorge, but the difficulty does not really increase at all. A few weirs are along this section, one of which may be worthy of inspection at certain levels.

Your first sighting of the fence is high up on river right, and soon it comes down to join the river at a road bridge. Dont forget to wave at the security camera just upstream of this on the right hand side. From here you are running a gauntlet between two 15ft high fences, topped with razor wire. Walking out is not an option! The first major obstacle is a weir right next to the cooling towers (which are soon to be demolished Oct 05). A small step with a nasty stopper can be run (or portaged) on the right. 15 feet later is a long slide (III+/-IV) with a nasty looking concrete channel just left of centre. Shoot the slide just to the right of this. A featureless fast flowing wave train joins the rapids, taking you under various pipes and more bridges before going through a small stopper river right and down another fun slide with a large breaking wave at the bottom this looks like a nice playwave in good flows if you dont mind the risk of growing a third arm following a capsize. One final significant fall drops under an internal railway bridge, there are a variety of lines, far right arguably being the easiest, centre and left both presenting holes to avoid. 100m later the fences disappear and youre free.

Take out right after the external railway bridge and walk back through the tunnel.

Pictures of the Lower calder

OTHER NOTES: The Upper Calder is worth a blast when it is raining. Other rivers nearby include the Bleng, Irt, Ehen and Esk.

CONTRIBUTED BY: Tim Poke Burne, Amie Young.