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GUIDE TO THE RIVER IRWELL

(Rawtenstall to the Burrs)

NAME OF RIVER: The (upper) Irwell.

WHERE IS IT?: The Irwell's source is on the moors above Bacup. It flows through Rawtenstall, Ramsbottom Bury before joining the Mersey in Manchester. It is one of the rivers that drove the Industrial Revolution and, though getting better, the water quality leaves a lot to be desired. Learn to paddle here and you've lifetime immunity to Holme Pierrepoint's bugs.

Try this map.

PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: When in flood the river has been paddled (but not by me) from Bacup, but the section between Bacup Rawtenstall is canalised between high walls with many obstacles. This describes the section between Ramsbottom and the Burrs site just north of Bury.

Ramsbottom town centre, upstream of main road bridge SJ793168.

Ramsbottom, Nuttall Park SJ797161.

Summerseat SJ794147.

The Burrs SJ799127 off B6214.

APPROX LENGTH: 5 miles.

TIME NEEDED: 1 - 3 hours.

ACCESS HASSLES: No known problems above Burrs Weir, but paddlers are supposed to pay for the use of the Burrs Site (You also get access to showers, etc. if the centre is manned).

Chris Brooke (March 2003)...'The Burrs Activity Centre have an affiliation fee for users who wish to take advantage of the changing/ showering facilities. I would recommend this for regular users, in the long run its worth it. Burrs A.C. may make charge for using the training pool, the campsite (which at last notice was due to be closed to all but 'organised' groups, so phone for claification), and the Centre facilities. Parking is still free at the site so is river use.'

WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Looking downstream from the Burrs bridge:

No island visible: Full flood, paddle from Ramsbottom's Nuttal Park, experienced paddlers only (All features at Burrs will be washed our, bar the weir).

Island visible, water flowing in LH RH channels, but no obvious rocks, paddle from Ramsbottom.

If you can see a line of rocks parallel to the bridge just, or nearly covered, paddling from Rammy is marginal, but would suit intermediates.

Line of rocks visible, little water in RH channel, stick to the Burrs site.

Chris Brooke...'From the road bridge looking to the canal bridge. There are some stone blocks sticking out under the canal bridge near water level. If the water is below the blocks then all should be well. As the water level approaches the bottom of the blocks then the fun factor increases. If you cannot see the base of the blocks then the novice should beware. If you cannot see the blocks, then all should beware.

I have paddled the river from Nuttal Lane to Burrs site (portaging the Burrs Weir when the water was near the top of the blocks, and it was an interesting day, particularly the G3 section below Nuttal Lane.'

GRADING: II-III, IV in full flood.

MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS:

1 km upstream of the centre of Rawtenstall there is a serious hazard...most people start their trip below this, but be aware (May 2003)...'The wooden weir adjacent to Fallbarn Road next to the large gas holder is in a state of collapse. If it collapses there will be serious risk to life for anyone in the channel from Bocholt Way (SD810226, Rawtenstall town center) to Victoria Way (SD821226, 1km upstream of Rawtenstall town center). I would seriously advise anyone not to enter this section of the river, the walled channels would also contribute to making a rescue almost impossible. I would also like to stress that under no circumstances should canoes skid down the face of the weir as I have seen them do at other locations as there is nothing supporting the structure from within.' - from a local expert.

Weir at SJ792164 , between Rammy Summerseat. Due to a new security fence on river right portaging is no longer an option. Burrs Weir (18' high...) at top of Burrs site.

See also Andy Scott's remarks below.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The put-in at Rammy gives access to the bottom of the weir which is quite friendly apart from the LH corner. Under the road bridge, past a paper mill on right, when the next factory hoves into view run the dodgy weir extreme river left. This weir has a fearsome local reputation. The river is obstructed by willow tree branches in the water. Force a way through and then a couple of bends brings Nuttal Park into view on left, under a stone footbridge lies the start of the gorge. The river gradient increases considerably for 300m offering several holes waves to play in but few eddies. Large pool at the bottom, under a pipe on stilts, take LH side of RH channel to another pool. River narrows and produces a surf wave and a couple of holes. Watch for high waterfall on left; in flood it marks a stay-on-it-all-day- wave followed by a rock step which makes a river-wide stopper. Gradient steepens again to another stone bridge. The LH arch generates a surf wave. River then passes under a Restaurant; wave to the diners. This is Sumerseat, the next access/egress point being on left 200m after restaurant. The next stone bridge has a surf wave under RH arch; this is followed by another mini-gorge. A large white house on the right marks Taylor's weir. This weir has submerged exposed steelwork but can be shot centre-right in high water. Alternatively there is a chute on the left which is a safer route in low water.

The river is now a grade II bimble to the Burrs Weir. The weir is 18' high, smooth slope on left, 2' steps on right and is relatively shallow at the base. In low water it is very safe, but the stopper will hold a boat at ALL levels. If the water level is high enough to make the trip from Rammy a decent one you probably won't want to slide the smooth face. Take the steps instead - it's not quite as bad as it looks! Alternatively portage on the left.

The next 800m of river is the "Burrs Site" and is being developed for paddling. Ideal for beginners in low/medium water. The river bed is sculpted to produce holes, stoppers and waves. Best surf wave is under the road bridge this is followed by pop-out spot and a taily eddyline. Get out is obvious by the ramp on left

OTHER NOTES: Anyone paddled up/downstream of here?

Andy Scott, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (January 2003)...'Just to add to Nigel Crompton's very useful piece on the Irwell...we paddled the Irwell on 28/12/02 in an Old Town. Water levels were medium. For no other reason than curiousity we chose to put in at Stubbins upstream of the A676 bridge GR SJ794182. 100m downstream of the bridge is a broken weir. The stakes looked hazardous so we portaged easily on the right. The paddle down to Ramsbottom is straightforward at this water level and the Ramsbottom weir was easily bypassed by taking the cut on the right above the weir to the fish pass.

The advantage of the Stubbins put in for us - apart from the simple pleasure of paddling - is that we were properly warmed up before the grade 3 section between Nuttal and Summerseat.

As an intermediate (3*) open canoe paddler it's worth stating that this section between Nuttal Park and Summerseat is FUN. Lots of hidden rocks so that the line is often not obvious and the manouvering required in a big open boat was er.. interesting. Recommended.'

Jim Wallis adds...'My Parents live in Rawtenstall and I've seen the burn that runs along the Burnley road and into the Irwell by Asda with a bit of water in it. There is a long tunnel under Rawtenstall that would need to be walked in low water before a run would be possible, and is much longer than other Tunnels I've paddled (1/2 mile or more?). Any chance anyone knows more about this Burn? If runnable it would give me something to do when I go home.'

CONTRIBUTED BY: Nigel Crompton, Bolton Canoe Club, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Andy Scott.