GUIDE TO THE RIVER CRAKE
(Coniston Water to the Sea)
NAME OF RIVER: Crake.
WHERE IS IT?: It flows out of Coniston Water in the south Lake District, aimed in the general vicinity of the sea.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: This is a 'source to sea' trip!
Start on Coniston Water and head down the lake until it becomes the river! Put in at Blawith Common (SD 2868 9036) (signposted on the road up the lake, layby beside the road) and portage a few hundred yards down to the Lake. There is a car park beside the Lake nearer Torver, but this involves a longer paddle along the lake.
Jon Green...'The carpark at Brown Howe (SD 291 910) is now a pay and display!!! Makes the 5 minute carry from Blawith Common a little more attractive!'
Takeout at Spark Bridge or at Greenodd Petrol Station (SD 3148 8269) where the Crake reaches the sea. Ask permission for parking at the latter spot.
APPROX LENGTH: 6 miles.
TIME NEEDED: 2-4 hours.
ACCESS HASSLES: There used to be an access agreement, but this is currently under review by CE, so expected a definitive statement shortly after you see Santa in Hades.
People have been ignoring the previous agreement and paddling this lake-fed river year round with few hassles over the last few years.
'Access and Egress points:
The River can be accessed via the southern end of Lake Coniston.
Spark Bridge - There is public access to the river at the village green.
Public footpath River Right between the a5092 and a590 bridges at Greenodd.
Please Note, 'Bobbin Mill' rapid immediately upstream of Spark Bridge is continuous Grade 3 and it is not possible to Inspect from the bank or portage this rapid due to private land on both banks.
As always please be aware of local residents when parking and changing in a respectful manor.' - Ian Adey (Local Access Advisor)
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: It's quite reliable as it's lakefed. Difficult to tell the water level...as the getout is tidal, and you start on a lake. Much of the river itself is on private land. Perhaps the best spot to judge the level is at Spark Bridge. If all rocks are covered in the rapids below, it's high. If it's nearly out of it's banks , it may be dangerous as barbed wire fences line the banks for long stretches of the trip.
There's an online EA gauge for the Crake at Low Nibthwaite - I have the calibrations as Low: 0.5m, Medium: 0.6m, High: 0.9m - Jim.
GRADING: Grade 2 and easy grade 3. The grade 3 is hard to inspect or portage.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Some weirs. Trees. Canalised banks. Low bridges in high water.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Once on the lake, paddle south until you find your way to the gap in the reeds. From the end of the Lake, the river drifts through reeds and then widens again into a large pool. After it narrows again, the water begins to pick up speed, and you just shoot down the gap between the trees. Most of the river is like this. It is flat for about a mile until small rapids appear.
The first significant rapid (easy grade 3?) appears when the river enters an s-bend near trees and drops away steeply. There are a few rocks to avoid but this long rapid eases through it's course.
After this, it's mostly fast grade 2, with a bits of 3- in higher water levels. In highish water, it is a good giggle with a few good/easy surf waves The biggest problem is trees.
Now and again there are natural weirs (more like small steps).
The second harder rapid is near the village of Spark Bridge. Bimble down until you get to a man made diagonal weir (may be hidden at high levels), where the river turns left. The river then steepens and goes under a metal bridge around a long right hand bend. At high levels you may need to duck under the metal bridge. Directly below is a steep grade 3 rapid with a choice of routes...left, right or straight down the middle in high water! You are then at Spark Bridge. Get out river right after the bridge if you want to finish here.
Alternatively, continue downstream on progressively easier rapids until the river becomes tidal just above Greenodd and the main Barrow road. Some old guidebooks describe a grabby tidal weir here, but I've never seen it. Get out on river right at the Petrol Station.
OTHER NOTES: We take first-timers down this, as it starts off very easy and ends up with a nice rapid. You just have to keep them out of the trees.
A pleasant river with plenty to keep you interested. For some reason, Terry Storry slates the trip in 'British Whitewater'. We found it perfectly pleasant and interesting for paddlers of all experience...see what you think.
Nick Mortimer...'Just got off the Crake 14.30 1 November 2004. First day of agreed paddling. We were 4 paddlers. No problems. No trees. Enough water. Got off before the sea as tide was in! There were some construction workers fettling the bank at Greenodd. There was another pair of paddlers on river. Probably with same idea, paddle first day of agreement. Found a lake use only kayak, probably some tourist driftwood from summer numpties. Got in where agreement asks, Brown Howe Car Park, with toilets. Paddle down lake only 15 minutes in short boats. Proper free car park with only 30 meter carry to lake, rather than 5 minute carry to lake from Blawith Common laybys.'
CONTRIBUTED BY: Ian Fairclough and Mark Rainsley, also Mark Davies, Jon Green, Nick Mortimer and Ian Adey.
A very pleasant paddle.However there are two significant tree blockages.
The first is after the first bridge you pass under. We passed this by sliding
over it on river left. With another 0.2 of water you would probably paddle over this.
It would cause a problem for a swimmer, but it is flat water at that point.
The second and more dangerous tree is located below Spark bridge, where the
river turns left. This tree totally blocks the river, and would be extremely dangerous in
high flows.We portaged on the right(very easy).Both of these trees were blocking the
river in Jan 2016; when we last ran this river, so it looks like they will be there
for a while.Happy paddling, Steve H.
More worryingly there is a tree in the first G3 rapid river right parallel to the flow but there appear to be branches from this well out in the flow just underwater at Low/Medium. Ok if you are in your boat but potentially very dangerous to a swimmer.
It may be wise to approach the new owners (once they are in possession) for permission to use the car park and see what their reaction is rather than the well-established (by locals at least) practice of just rocking up and getting on with the days paddling.
Also please be aware that for the next 20 or so weeks there will be delays (already over an hour at peak times) at the Greenodd junction just 50 metres away from this garage. This is associated with the construction of a new roundabout right on the estuary / next to the river and the crazy 3-way traffic light system that has been causing mayhem for commuters, local businesses and holiday makers already. Take plenty of chill pills if heading this way folks (or a map for the easy-to-use back lanes & get off the river at Spark Bridge to avoid the chaos)
I'm not trying to be a pedant, but I do wonder if the fact that it omits to state that paddling is not allowed at other times is significant.
there is also no indication of who this arrangement has been made with.
and lets not forget that the access & egress for the river are not on private land so really it can be descended at any time.
the only environmental issue that is time based & mentioned is nesting birds which actually falls between the dates the agreement allows.
so a strange agreement i must say