GUIDE TO THE RIVER DUDDON
(Seathwaite to Duddon Bridge)
NAME OF RIVER: Duddon.
WHERE IS IT?: In the Southwest Lake District, flowing down Dunnerdale from Wrynose and Hardknott passes. Wrynose Pass leads to Langdale and Ambleside, so this river could be combined with Great Langdale Beck, the Brathay or Rothay. Or maybe you fancy beginning on the Upper Duddon?
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Many. There is a harder upper section, but this section begins near the village of Seathwaite in scenic Dunnerdale. A short path leads from the road to the river, crossing Long House Gill at SD225960. This is an enjoyable alternative start point. Alternatively, put on slightly further downstream at Hall Bridge, where there is ample parking next to a telephone box (SD213953), get on river-left, downstream of the bridge. Ulpha Bridge (SD197930) can be used as a get-in/out for a shorter trip with lots of parking space. Take out on river left just after Duddon Bridge where the A595 (Barrow) road crosses (SD199882). There is good parking here at the lay-by on the left 100m back up the B road.
APPROX LENGTH: 6-7 miles.
TIME NEEDED: 2-3 hours.
ACCESS HASSLES: Unknown.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: It needs heavy rain to work but is usually possible for a day or two afterwards. The EA gauge at Ulpha is roughly calibrated as follows - Low: 0.60m, Medium: 0.75m, High 1.00m.
GRADING: Grade 3 with some easy grade 4.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Trees. Weirs.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Either continue on down from the end of the Upper Duddon if you have done this section, or put in as described above.
From the confluence of Long House Gill Grade 2+ water takes you for the first mile to Hall Bridge. Another bridge after a mile (with a waterworks on river left) is the warning of a weir. This has the odd bit of concrete and metal spikes to contend with. It is usually shot down the sloping face on the extreme right, although the fish steps on the left will go if you can escape the tow-back!
Below this, the river is straightforward until a sharp left bend, which is the beginning of a Grade 4- stretch. There are awkwardly placed rocks on the bend and the route is quite tight. Go extreme right, ducking the holly bush and dodge the pinning rock, which has been the cause of many a swim. Next up is Ulpha gorge, which starts as a bolder garden and then steepens up on a right bend with a cliff face in front of you. This gets up to grade 4 in high water and is worth inspecting river left. A flat stretch below allows for rescue of any swimmers/kit!
Below here is Ulpha Bridge, with a deep pool below...a good seal launch spot but mind the traffic! There now follows a long (several miles) stretch of Grade 2 and 3 water with the odd playwave to look out for. The end of this section is where some phone lines pass overhead and you can see Rawfold Bridge ahead just past an island. There used to be very good drop here but it got washed away some years ago and a grade 3/4 steep rocky rapid with various routes possible is left behind.
Below the bridge is a weir, which has a long tow-back and may be dodgy in high water, although in lower levels can be shot hard right. The final rapid (grade 3) goes through some small islands and is best run starting left and then making a sharp turn into the centre. The take-out bridge is found after another km of grade 2, where you can get out on the left or play on a small weir just below. Downstream is Morecambe Bay and the Irish Sea.
OTHER NOTES: In low/medium levels the white water on this river is far from continuous, so it makes a good trip for less experienced paddlers. However, in high water the section from the first rapid to the bottom of Ulpha gorge is pretty continuous with very few eddies. Now go take a look at the harder upper stretch?
CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley, also Chris Bolton. Updated by Jim Pullen.