GUIDE TO THE RIVER EHEN
(Ennerdale Water to Egremont)
NAME OF RIVER: Ehen.
WHERE IS IT?: West Cumbria, flowing out of Ennerdale Water towards Egremont. OS Landranger Map 89.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: It is possible to put in on Ennerdale Water. Drive towards the point at which the river leaves the lake and turn into the parking place on your left, just after crossing the bridge. Carry the 100m from here up to the lake and put-in.
A more suitable put-in (see description) would be Ennerdale Bridge village, but am not sure what the parking/access situation is like. The next good access/ egress point is at Wath Brow Bridge at Cleator Moor, followed by the Rugby Club (below the road bridge) in Egremont, further downstream.
APPROX LENGTH: About 12.5km from Ennerdale Water to Egremont, though this can be broken up into three sections of ~2.5km, ~5km, and ~5km.
TIME NEEDED: From Ennerdale Water to Egremont is do-able in 2.5hours, but it depends a lot on the water level and how many trees you encounter in the upper stretches of the river.
ACCESS HASSLES: To paddle on Ennerdale Water you officially need prior permission from United Utilities (017687 72334 according to Stuart Millers White Water Lake District). For the 10m of lake above the weir though I cant imagine it would be a huge problem use your own judgement!
As for the river, I have no idea. We encountered six fisherman on our descent (mid Oct 05). Two very friendly, three ignored us, one told us (politely) that we werent allowed to canoe on this section as it was private fishing land.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: There are a number of gauges on the way down the river.
The most easy to see is the one river right, just after the weir as the river leaves Ennerdale Water. We paddled at 6 on this gauge, and didnt scrape on anything. It would be OK at lower levels, but some places may become a bit scrapey.
After Cleator Moor there are two gauges river right under footbridges, these were both around 20-22 but not really a viable indicator of waterlevels as I dont know how to find them from the bank!
Although a reasonable amount of rain is required to make the Ehen worth it, it holds its level much better than others in the area (i.e. Calder, Bleng) as it is fed by a lake.
GRADING: At 6 on the gauge at Ennerdale Water the entire river is nothing more than easy grade II throughout its length, but the water never stops moving. However, despite being only grade II, fallen trees make the section down to Ennerdale Bridge too dangerous for novices at this water level. At lower levels I imagine it would slow considerably, but take much longer to complete.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: One weir with a nasty towback shortly after the river leaves the lake.
Lots of fallen trees in the section above Ennerdale Bridge.
Another weir just above the bridge in Egremont.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The small weir leaving Ennerdale Water is arguably the most difficult whitewater youll encounter on the entire trip. Another small weir soon after the road bridge can be a bit more dangerous and may require portaging on the left bank due to its lengthy towback. Between this weir and Ennerdale Bridge, the river is narrow and flows rapidly through tree lined banks. Expect to have to fight your way through a number of fallen trees on this section, and perhaps portage a few too. The speed of the water makes this section unsuitable for weaker paddlers despite the lack of rapids due to the tree problem.
Following Ennerdale Bridge, the river opens out somewhat and winds its way through farmland. Again, no technical rapids, all is grade 2 but still rapidly moving. About 1km, river left, above Wath Brow Bridge is a section of (apparantly) private fishing land. Keep your eyes peeled, smile at them, and stay out of their way if possible.
The river continues its way down towards Egremont, the scenery becoming increasingly urban (as urban as the Lake District gets anyhow!). A terrace of houses, almost at water level on river left, indicates the largest weir of the trip is coming up. Inspect from the field on river right - In high water I have seen this form a mean stopper, but it goes in most water levels. Soon after the road bridge is the Rugby Club on river left. Take out here (N.B. I am not sure whether they allow this if there is anyone around it is probably best to ask them first). In the unlikely event they say no, it is possible to continue down through Egremont another 2km to Kersey Bridge (next to the village of Thornhill). There is one large sloping weir near the top of this section and I think this is the only difficulty, but havent done the section so cant really comment!
OTHER NOTES: After the described section, the river is flat and winds slowly towards Sellafield Nuclear site where it enters the sea.
The River Liza flows into Ennerdale Water and looks like it would have some nice III/IV drops at higher levels, but would require a long walk to the put-in at Black Sail Hut. The Calder and Bleng are also a short drive to the south.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Tim Poke Burne, Amie Young.
Can you suggest a minimum water level where canoeing is environmentally safe? I know that the environment agency have stated that provided you are not scraping the bed you will not affect salmon redds. Is the same true of these mussels?
As described in the guide, trees are a mega problem. At the time we ran it there were 2 total blockages and we sawed loads of branches on route. Take care in high flows.
We ran at about 0.50 metres and scraped a bit. Leave it til it's above 0.60 metres at least if you're in canoes.
Be careful of the one just upstream of the road bridge - in super high-flows it begins to look like a keeper. It has to be hooning through though.. most levels it's OK.