GUIDE TO THE RIVER GRETA
NAME OF RIVER: Greta.
WHERE IS IT?: It flows out of the NE Lake District below Blencathra and into Keswick. It empties into the Derwent eventually.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Put ins/ take outs: Access at junction of Glenderamackin Beck and St John's Beck (NY315247). There is sometimes barbed wire across the Glenderamackin at the junction (covered in flood). Egress to the private car park by Keswick Climbing Wall (264239). Take care to park and change discreetly. An alternative egress point with good parking is at the footbridge over the Derwent at Portinscale (NY254237) egress to the road on the right bank.
Take out in the middle of Keswick, anywhere that suits you. One possibility is just before Keswick on the river left just after a road bridge. There is another reasonable get out spot, river right, 200 metres downstream of the Derwent/Greta confluence, 50 metres upstream from the footbridge with good parking.
APPROX LENGTH: 5 miles.
TIME NEEDED: 2 hours.
ACCESS HASSLES: Steve Lenartowicz, BCU River Advisor... (Spring 2006) 'The Keswick Anglers' Association have the fishing rights for most of the Greta and the Derwent down to Bassenthwaite Lake. There is an access agreement in operation and it is important that canoeists demonstrate their integrity by keeping to the agreement. The agreement is here.
Mike Hinson, Jan 2006...'New access agrrement allows paddling 365 days a year!!! 1st Nov - 31st Dec, water has to reach white marker on bridge at get in to protect Salmon beds.'
Cumbria canoeists have set up a website which will include access arrangements. It is at www.cumbriacanoeists.org.uk
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: To judge the level, apply common sense at the get-in, or get a more precise reading in the centre of Keswick. Find the slate steps a short walk upstream of the footbridge in Keswick Park; the bottom step should be covered as a minimum. If theyre all covered you are on for a wild ridetake another look at your group. The Greta is amazingly continuous Grade 3 in these conditions, highly recommended but dont underestimate it!
Mike Hinson, Jan 2006...'White marker on bridge at get in...on/above this will be spate trip, gets more technical below this mark. Paddleable to 1ft below mark.'
There's an online EA Gauge for the Greta at Low Briery. Calibrations are roughly - Low: 0.70m, Medium: 0.85m, High: 1.10m.
GRADING: Grades 2 and 3. In spate it has remarkably long sections of Grade 3.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Plenty of trees encroaching upon the river. Barbed wire fences were a hazard in spate. Weirs.
The Greta is followed along its length by a disused railway track, which makes a convenient portage path, viewing gallery or even shuttle run/ cycle route if you have any fitness nuts in your group.
Launch on the downstream side of the bridge via a short path down to the river.
Flat water begins the trip, taking you under the first of many disused railway bridges. Although Keswick and the A66 are close to hand, you wouldnt know itthe valley is shrouded in gorgeous woodland, with the peaks of Blencathra and then Skiddaw towering above. Plus, sheep. Lots of sheep. The Greta eases up to Grade 2 in the first kilometre, until the Magnetic Rock rapid is reached, the first of many Grade 3 rapids. This is simple enough, follow the chute down on the right towards an awkwardly placed rock and try to conjure up a way around it.
The next notable rapid is more challenging, a long series of little drops where rocks channel the current from side to side with numerous eddies to catch. Just below this rapid you wont fail to spot The Wallthe Greta bends sharp right, forming a cushion wave on the bend. In spate its quite an obstacle, my entire University club once swam here simultaneouslyreally!
The next two harder sections are old weirs which have collapsed into rocky rapids. Watch out for metal debris from the weirs in the riverbed. The first weir produces quite a big rapid in spate. The second gives a choice of heading left of an island and dropping over the steep weir sill, or right down a more enjoyable rocky rapid.
A steep bouncy series of waves leads you down beneath the A66 bridge high above and with the river high, you really could be in Austria. You next pass under Forge Bridge where the Gretas best playspot lurksa stopper with convenient eddy service becomes a hard-to-catch surf wave in spate.
You are now sinking into the outskirts of Keswick. Rock reefs around a small island form a final Grade 3 rapid and then you float under innumerable bridges through the centre of town. There is a small but seemingly harmless(?) ledge weir to negotiate, but the river is spent. You have a choice of finish points. First is to egress on the left to the private car park by Keswick Climbing Wall (GR 264239), where you need to park and change discreetly. An alternative egress point with good parking is to paddle a further kilometre to the confluence with the River Derwent and then take out at the Portinscale bridge (NY 254237) egress to the road on the right bank.
OTHER NOTES: Alan Brenton adds...(May 2002) I'd agree with most of your comments However, the Greta can be serious beyond its grade in high water. It is the scene of lots of lost boats every season. On full tonk it carries lots of water with many of the lower rapids joining up. At this kind of level it's big fun for teams who are comfortable on Alpine type sections (in May, not August!) but if you cock it up you need to sort very quickly - very long swims await the unwary!'
Colin Curwen notes..'We paddled the river in October 1998 and remember it as you have described. The water was low when we ran it and while it was enjoyable enough it was a scrape in places. The first weir was particularly rocky and my friend managed to get himself stuck half way down the river left of the weir (In low water river left would be the more sensible option). We egressed just after the A66 Road Bridge as the rest of the river on into Keswick looked too low to be interesting.'
Anyone paddled the Derwent? Also, there are some interesting tributaries to the Greta which have been paddled...anyone able to tell us about them?
Also, read Andy Weeks' spate trip report.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley, Nigel Timmins, Alan Brenton, Mike Hinson, Steve Lenartowicz, Robin Simpson and Colin Curwen (LMUCC - ThinkDrink).