GUIDE TO THE RIVER KENT
(Sprint Confluence to Force Falls)
NAME OF RIVER: Kent.
WHERE IS IT?: South Cumbria, flowing through Kendal (as in mintcake).
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: There are various possible put-ins, but this is described from it's confluence with the Rivers Sprint and Mint above Kendal. Other possibilities are to launch in Kendal itself or at Natland Bridge for a shorter trip just taking in the best bits.
Take-out river right under the A590 bridge, directly after the final fall. If you figure it out on the map (OS 97) you'll see that there is a little lane there to park in.
Nick Mortimer (Dec 2003)...'We all get out on river right below Force Falls, but car is parked on *** downstream *** side of bridge. Force Lane is severed by A591 dual carriageway, so access lower half of Force Lane (signed) from A590 opposite Heaves Hotel. This lower part of lane is discreet from cottages, and walk up from river to car is easy, without knocking down any walls or walking through someone's allotment. How would you like 20+ paddlers trampling your vegetables? In Fact Hal Bagot, owner of Levens Hall/ Park encourages paddlers to get out here, as his bank, and does not want paddlers in the Deer Park.'
APPROX LENGTH: Various possibilities.
ACCESS HASSLES: Not good - although the river is run daily, abuse and obstruction from Anglers is sadly common.
Mark Davies, Regional River Advisor - Cumbria...'I have been getting quite a bit of stuff about the Kent; including a guy ringing me up from the police station in Kendal whilst reporting an assault that had taken place in which he was hit by rocks thrown by an angler!
There seems to be a bloke turning up saying he is the water bailiff, flashing a red ID card, and saying that he will find out where they are from by their number plates and they will be prosecuted.
This seems strange as a) they are called EA Fisheries Officers now (and have been for a while) so why is he still using the old title? b) If his ID says Water Bailiff, does that mean it is out of date? c) what is the legal position with regards finding out someone's address from their car number plate? is this possible / what about data protection / just because you're driving the car doesn't mean it's yours - it all seems a bit fishy to me.
I think 1) if people paddle any river during the fishing season - roughly end of March to start of November - they will always encounter resistance from anglers until we get legislation in place. Even with an access agreement on a river, my feeling is that we will not get permission to paddle a river during fishing season, although I will always try! 2) people should inform me of any incidents so that i can build up a database of stuff that I can use when I am in dialogue with people 3) people should be aware that they are not breaking an access agreement if they do get on and paddle 4) If they do get hassle whilst accessing/ egressing from a "water bailiff" they should ask where they would be better doing this.'
Darren Chapman, June 2004...'Paddled the river on a medium flow towards the end of the month. Our small group of 3 encountered 4 fishermen on the whole trip. For the first 3, the usual paddle backwards, nod at the fishermen, say hello followed each, with a slight nod/grunt returned. No problems, everyone's happy. The last one, just below the pool at Force Falls was a different 'kettle-of-fish'. We ran the drop and pulled up, upstream of him, still in the eddy. Asked if it was OK to pass, but no response. We suspected he was deaf so raised our voices.....'F%$K OFF' was the response, the next five minutes amounted to out and out verbal abuse! (From him that is). He had a limp, he was getting on a bit; I suspect he saved his pension for the fishing permit, so he wasn't impressed that we came down the river for free. Why though, could he not be civil? Do as we did, walk straight past and ignore!'
Nick Burton...(26/10/02) 'Two very unfriendly fishermen told us that the paddling season starts Nov 1st, before claiming that they'd called the police. I can't vouch for the truth of this as we'd finished and had long gone before any police would have had a chance to arrive! It was a shame really, as we'd met several other very friendly fishermen on the rest of the river.
K Holdway and Peter Croft...(Dec 24th, 2001) 'Don't run the final fish ladder on the last fall as we were moaned at by two water bailiffs today (Christmas Eve) and were threatened with Court action and a maximum of 2000 fine. Apparently it's illegal to canoe over fish ladders.'
Mick Wood www.cragsnpaddles.co.uk (March 2nd '02)...'I was at the Kent today and whilst getting out at Force Falls to take the obligatory photos we were told by the woman in the house next to the falls that we were not allowed on the central island/ rocks. She wasn't a happy bunny! We had already run it so we politely apologised'
Glyn Brayfield...(March 2003) 'One of the best rivers in the area. Had a nice run down in glorious sunshine, no problems until the get out. Whilst cruising gently towards the bank, we were accosted by two fisherprats who were very unpleasant. Having informed us that we were not allowed nor welcome on the river. we apologised through gritted teeth, (following BCU general advice with great restraint) left the river and proceeded home. Does anyone know the precise situation regarding access to the Kent? I can't even find out who the River Advisor is on the BCU website.'
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: This can almost always be paddled (in winter/ spring), even in very low water. It should be obvious when low water conditions apply, but if the river is high you will first want to look at the weir-like fall below Sedgewick bridge and decide whether a paddler is going to make it through the tow-back or not. I have not paddled this in very high levels but know of experienced groups who've had to walk out in those conditions.
Tom Botterill (Sept 2004)...'On the Kent, 0.29m on the EA Rivercall Service (09066 197733) - 0 m corresponds to the lowest it ever gets, and it is updated 4 am and 4 pm) was at a medium level with Force Falls straightforwards, slightly higher than the level in the pictures of the Sedgewick bridge rapid'.
George Ulrich (Spring 2004)...'(09066 197733) this number will give you a recorded message of the level updated every 12 hours.'
There's an online EA Gauge. Calibrations are roughly - Low: 0.30m, Medium: 0.60m, High 0.90m.
GRADING: Probably Grade 4, but there are in fact surprisingly few technical difficulties at most levels.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Scrap metal lurking in the river bed on at least one rapid (see below). Hugely undercut gorge walls. Several small waterfalls. A weir.
The Kent hit record levels in the first week of Feb 2004 - see the pictures.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: A great trip, almost always reliable when other rivers are dry! I've even paddled this in sub-zero masochistic temperatures when the gorges were full of huge icicles and all other rivers were frozen dry.
In the centre of town, there is a big and exceedingly dodgy weir which can be run in low water but must usually be portaged river right. This portage may not be straightforward in high water, look before paddling if unsure. Below the weir, the river is walled in and speeds through town with various small stoppers and waves to play in. Leaving town, the river flattens and reaches Scroggs weir which can usually be shot down an obvious slide. Further easy water eventually leads to Natland Bridge and here the real fun begins...
Above the bridge the Kent Gorge begins with a small fall. Beware of heavily undercut banks on this and all following sections.
The gorge leads on to a long Grade 4 rapid which has some big stoppers lurking around in high water but some dubious scrap metal stuck in the riverbed in low water. The this rapid has some nice surf waves and a cartwheelly playhole.
George Ulrich (Spring 2004)...'the nice fast green wave half way down the rapid gives possible air, blunts, spins.'
A weir that you really don't want to run except in VERY low water. Where you see a footbridge and a nice house on river left, get out above the bridge (river left), carry over it and slog your boat down to below the weir.
Howard Sunderland adds...'The weir itself, while dangerous in that it has a closed ended stopper, is runnable in high water as long as you get a lot of speed up and make a good boof hard right (I haven't paddled left so I'm not sure if that goes). The crux of the weir is to NOT run the middle line, which looks like a nice chute but is in fact a very nasty fish step. If in doubt inspect it - it's not difficult from the right bank.'
Nick Burton...'We paddled in high water and boofed it on hard river left without any problems. Definitely not a weir to go playing in though.'
A fall above Sedgewick Bridge which pushes you towards the undercut river left bank. You need to inspect the section below the bridge BEFORE you run this fall. Get out on river right.
Below Sedgewick Bridge, the Kent thunders over an L-shaped natural weir. It can develop a huge tow-back, be warned. Choose a route for yourself but you probably don't want to drop into the corner...
Jake Brodie-Steadman (Jan 2004)...'The L shaped drop is actually very easy and safe if you know how to do it, all you have to do is paddle hard left to avoid the corner of the L (which you definitely don't want to drop into)and paddle as far as you can along the side until the water gets to shallow then you shoot the drop. (if you have gone far enough there won't be any stopper at all). But if you are a complete nutcase and want to try and kill yourself run it hard river right under a massive undercut.'
Dave Bradshaw (Feb 2004)...'I have always run the L-shaped weir under the undercut. It has never gone wrong (yet), and is more demanding than going over the side. I have always considered that going over the side was a bit of a cop-out, and takes away all the fun of doing this fall.'
The river divides either side of an island with small drops to negotiate. Take the river right channel round island as EA want paddlers to avoid damage to fish counting weir.
before reaching...the final fall, called Force Falls by some. There are fish steps on river right which should not be run as EA have law against using fish steps. The real fun is the fall on river left, a superb 3 metre plunge. I've run this innumerable times and know that the stopper at the bottom never gives anyone problems...so why do I always get that bottom-clenching feeling?
Take out directly downstream of the dual carriage-way bridge, on river right as described above by Nick Mortimer.
OTHER NOTES: I've had endless runs on this river when I lived in Lancaster, but it never gets dull...a personal favourite!
Great pics of the Kent being run by open boats.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark R, also Howard Sunderland, Dave Bradshaw, Clive Williams, K Holdway, Mick Wood, Nick Burton, Nick Mortimer, Darren Chapman, George Ulrich, Tom Botterill, Jake Brodie-Steadman and Peter Croft.