GUIDE TO THE RIVER DERWENT
NB - the weir was completely destroyed in the floods of 2009, meaning this guide is for historical reference only.
NAME OF RIVER: River Derwent. Just the playspot at Workington is described here.
WHERE IS IT?:Lake District. Just above Workington.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS:Map. About 2 miles upstream from Workington town centre. Park right by the weir. I could give you directions but it's a lot easier to look on the map. There is a large sloping weir. The play weir is 50m below.
TIME NEEDED: Play as long as you like.
ACCESS HASSLES: Unknown.
Mike (Jan 2004)...'OK outside fishing season. Not OK during Fishing Season. But please be sensible. The river baliff and his heavies have been called by fishermen on us before.'
John Crosbie (2006)...
'Delicate access situation with Baliffs being called in to arrest paddlers in the past. We now have an agreement which is date and water level dependant. For the future of paddling this river it is essential that we adhere to this agreement.
1st November to 31st January. Canoeing permitted providing water above red lines on guages.
1 February to 31 May. As above, however, Bassenthwaite Lake to Isel Bridge closed (for nature conservation purposes.
1 June to 31 October river closed to paddlers except by special permission (and this is likely only to be given in June and July).
Groups of more than 10 people and Outdoor Centres are requested to avoid this river between Bassenthwaite and Cockermouth due to the sensitive wildlife and access issues.
Leaders of groups and individuals should ensure that:
- Each person is sufficiently trained to make a reasonably trouble free passage.
- Straight through, quiet passage is requested.
- Landing other than at the agreed sites should only be necessary in the case of an emergency
- Groups should be sufficiently well equipped to deal with any emergencies that may arise.
Wildlife - This river is designated under European legislation as a candidate Special Area of Conservation (cSAC) for sea, river, brook lamprey, salmon, otters, marsh fritillary (butterfly) and luronium natans (floating water plantain) and as well as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Canoeists must take care and make as little disturbance as possible to the wildlife and habitats present.
Consideration should also be made to wintering wildfowl, such as goldeneye, found on the river and banks in the upper reaches, between Bassenthwaite and Isel Bridge. These can be found in large numbers
(300+) during the months of January, February and in particular March and are important bird species. This is the reason there is no access 1st February to 31st May. Extra care should be taken at all other times.'
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: High water needed. See below.
Mike (Jan 2004)...'Use the gauge. Rule of Thumb, Low water = only 2 of the 4 sections playable. Medium water = all sections possible to play in. High water = Just one river wide wave. River does hold levels well as it is lake fed via Derwent Water, Bass, Buttermere, Crummock etc.'
GRADING: Grade 3.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: It's a weir...
Mike (Jan 2004)...'Top weir has a nasty fish ladder in the middle, but rest of the weir seems OK.'
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The legendary Workington weir! I'd heard many rumours, but finally got to paddle it. It's not Hurley though. But it is worth a trip. Even if Workington is miles from anywhere.
At the level we were there (just above 4 which was the top of the gauge at the weir) there were four distinct sections to the weir, split by concrete groynes. The feature nearest the bank was a 1m high wave which you could surf all day.
The middle two features were closed stoppers, which could hold you upside down, but are easy to exit via the ends, or throw some ends and you'll flush out.
The furthest feature on the other side of the river was a shallow hole. In slightly higher levels, the groynes wash out to form a river wide feature (allegedly).
Mike (Jan 2004)...'Workington weir represents a local play spot for West Cumbrian paddlers. The existing guide describes the bottom weir which is excellent, however there are two other weirs. Admittedly not as good to play in, but they do offer something different and can make it exciting for those not able to play in the larger waves, especially those new to the sport.'
OTHER NOTES: Try playing at night!
CONTRIBUTED BY: Simon Wiles, Whitewater Tourists, also Mike and John Crosbie.