GUIDE TO THE RIVER LUNE
(Beck Foot to Rawthey Confluence)
NAME OF RIVER: Lune.
WHERE IS IT?: It flows down from the Pennines and Eastern Lake District towards Lancaster, beside the M6 for some way.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: You can start upstream near Tebay where there is a Grade 4 section. The usual put-in starts at Beck Foot (SD 6198 9629) in the general vicinity of M6 junction 37. Consider a short paddle on Low Gill, the stream that enters here!
Takeout is at any of the bridges described for a short trip, or just after the River Rawthey confluence. Please avoid crossing the private field and instead egress at map reference on OS map 97 at SD 630 891 onto the public bridleway. The latest British Canoeing access guide (March 2015) can be found here, which gives a more detailed description.
To help avoid congestion along the narrow lane at Beckfoot please park under the old railway viaduct or on the verges of the B6257 and carry boats down to the river in order to make life easier for the residents of Beckfoot.
APPROX LENGTH: 8 miles or 5 miles from Beck Foot.
TIME NEEDED: 2 hours.
The latest British Canoeing access guide (March 2015) can be found here.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Can be paddled for a long while after rain, even weeks. If it looks like you can float under the bridge at Beck Foot then the rest will be fine. It's still quite a good trip in low water. I haven't paddled this at very high levels but understand that it all 'washes out' and that trees become a hazard.
There is an online EA gauge at Killington. Calibrations are roughly - Low: 0.40m, Medium: 0.60m, High 1.00m.
GRADING: Grade 3.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Weirs (see below).
Paul Mason (Jan 2007)...'A close friend of mine was tragically killed on the New Killington Bridge section of the Lune at the start of the month. The river level was running at just above medium and the group were paddling open boats. One open boat capsized and both paddlers took a big swim just before the Killington gorge. One person made it to the bank but the other disappeared under the water and the boat got pinned.
No trees were projecting the surface but there was a small wave just near the narrowest part of the gorge. The paddlers took this to be a rock on the day of the accident, on returning to the spot in lower water, it was clear that the small wave had been formed by the highest part of a tree trunk sticking up. After numerous rescue attempts the boat was unpinned, but the body of paddler was not found until the next day.
Please please could you warn people about the dangers of taking a swim down this section when the rivers is running a good medium level. At this level the section looks straight forward with large amounts of flowing bubbly water, There is vary little surface indication of what is underneath. I hope this information helps save a life.
I've attached some photos which were taken at a later date at a lower level.'
Kevin Walker (Sept 2006)...'A bit more info on the picture showing the tree hazard on the river Lune above Killington bridge, picture taken Nov 2005 The picture shows the pinned canoe mentioned earlier. The tree covers most of the river but the picture shows a line through on the far river right. The main problem is you dont see the tree until you are upon it. When we ran it two canoes got pinned and we rescued a kayaker whos kayak vanished under water, only to appear 45 minutes later, a sobering thought. take care.'
Adrian Cooper (Feb 2006)...'I noticed your recent updates for the Lune in Cumbria advising of the tree in the river just above Killington bridge. We were there on Saturday 25 February 2006. Someone has taken a chain saw to the tree and removed all the branches. The tree is still there but passable with care by competent paddlers (even open boats!) using the river left eddy . There is a further tree in the narrowing just after the one reported which cannot be seen on the approach to the rapid. This also has been trimmed and is passable. As reported in the earlier posts, caution is advised.'
Mike Robson, Dec 2005...'Along with 6 members of West Yorkshire Canoe Club we have run the Lune from the Crook of Lune down to the Rathay confluence with no problems regarding access on the 27 Dec 2005. The river level was about 25cm below the yellow paint on the gauge at the Crook of Lune. The strid section was impassable in a kayak.
We would just like to warn others that there is a large tree obstructing the river 150m up from Killington Bridge. This tree is jammed across the flow and is a major hazard. At this level it is at head height and there is a large rock immediately behind it. At higher flows this could be potentially dangerous if somebody decided to try it and the front of the boat dipped it would be taken underneath the main branch.'
Owen Jackson, Leeds University Canoe Club (Nov 2005)...'There is currently a large fallen tree blocking the whole flow in the section leading into Killington New Bridge (the gorgey section below the Strid). It can't be seen from the top of the rapid so keep your eyes open and be prepared for a quick eddy-out on river left. You can get under it in very low (scrapable) water with a lot of extreme limbo and some tree-hugging but it's not recommended! In anything but very low or very high water, this is a serious pinning hazard and a definite portage over the rocks on river left.'
Jonathan Potter (November 2005)...'There is a tree jammed in the narrowest section at the bottom of the gorge leading down to Killington New Bridge. Until it is moved this will probably require a portage to get safely round. There was a Canadian wrapped round it this afternoon that didnt look like it was about to come out. The tree isnt visible on entering the rapid above.'
'Currently there are 3 trees down in the river. The first two present no or very little problems. The third is between the last two road bridges and will present a problem in medium to high water.' Mike Robson of West Yorkshire Canoe Club, Dec '01.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: At Tebay, there is a short Grade 4 section. After that, the river is Grade 2 all the way down to Beck Foot.
From Beck Foot bridge, easy water meanders for a mile or so and allows you to take in the splendid view of the Howgill Fells.
The first notable rapid is a grade 3 gorge where the water accelerates between bedrock walls. A second similar gorge takes the paddler at speed towards an easier stretch before a footbridge is reached with a small looping stopper just above it.
Next landmark is where a large viaduct crosses overhead (I've abseiled from this in paddling kit...it's a long story). After this, a long grade 3+ rapid takes the paddler through stoppers and past a large central rock known as 'John's Stone' (anybody know why?) towards Lincoln's Inn Bridge, SD 6284 9232. The rock is undercut and paddlers have been known to briefly vanish under it when the river is low!
Andy Clough (October 2005)...'John's Stone is the name Lancaster District Canoe Club used to use many moons ago in the crap old days of dancers and fibreglass snipes. John was an unlucky chap who used to always get stuffed on this rapid. So there you go, now you know!'
Below the bridge, it's not far until the most notable drop on the river...a grade 3 rapid leads to a pool above 'The Strid'. This is a narrow twisting slot, which drops a couple of metres into a large pool. If you swim in the pool, keep your eyes open as there are several new karabiners of mine on the bottom somewhere. NOTE: this rapid has been a source of conflict with the landowner (river left) due to people inspecting the rapid (en masse). It is strongly recommended that you exercise discretion here...CONSIDER PADDLING IT BLIND, it's not half as bad as it looks.
Comments from West Yorkshire Canoe Club...(Dec '01) 'Having recently paddled the Lune with a group of experienced paddlers in low condition I would not consider paddling "The Strid" without inspection in these conditions. At water levels where you regularly scrape the bottom of your boat on the gravel beds all the way from Beck Foot bridge the Strid became a blind left hand bend followed by a large rock in the middle of the stream which was virtually impassable. Apart from that is was a enjoyable and challenging paddle with several of the section having drops which dragged back and flipped boats making sure that the temperature of the water was tested (It was Dec 22nd 2001). N.B We portaged "The Strid"'
The next section is another narrow gorge with easy rapids, before you find yourself at Killington New Bridge, SD 6226 9081, a possible egress. The river below the bridge becomes a bit scrappy. First is a weir with a dubious stopper...inspect and protect. Not much further on is Stangerthwaite Weir, a highly dodgy affair which can be run but which is rather risky...odd bits of stopper, concrete and metal spike all compete for a piece of your flesh. Portaging it isn't straightforward either in high water.
Additions to the advice on Stangerthwaite Weir, contributed by Dave Bradshaw...'This weir is dangerous on the main weir face in anything approaching even moderate levels. We had a paddler stuck in there for quite a while, even after he bailed out. He finished up with some nasty bruises, and a healthy distrust of artificial weirs. In moderate water there is a route on the left, which involves bouncing off a shelf in the corner of the weir, which avoids any close inspection of the main stopper. In very high water there is a route even further left, over some boulders. This becomes a very good grade 4 fall, starting with a couple of big waves, and ending in the biggest hole!'
The rapids below the weir offer some small playspots, before the river descends through a long wavetrain to where it meets the River Rawthey coming in from the left. Egress up on the left trough the trees after this point.
OTHER NOTES: A great intermediate difficulty trip with some excellent paddleable tributaries around; consider Borrow Beck, the Rivers Rawthey, Clough, Dee, Hindburn and Roeburn. Paddling the river at night makes for a bizarre experience. Allegedly. Downstream of the section described, there is worthwhile paddling.
These comments from Kevin Carruthers add a historical perspective...'I really enjoyed reading your guide to the Lune. I have paddled it many times over the last 32 years. I lived for 21 years at Stangerthwaite Farm which is situated just below Stangerthwaite Weir or Broadraine Weir to give it it's proper name. I think it was an early guidebook that made the mistake and since then canoeists have called it Stangerthwaite Weir. The fall above Lincoln's Inn Bridge was known as "The Boat Wrecker" for many years, due to the number of fibreglass boats that were wrecked on it. Perhaps "John" was one of the unfortunates to have his boat wrecked here and had the rock named after him! We used to have a 2nd Div. slalom every year at Stangerthwaite Weir until the farm was sold. My mother still owns the field by the river with the two caravans in it.'
CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley, also Kevin Carruthers, Paul Mason, West Yorkshire CC, Jonathon Potter, Kevin Walker, Mike Robson, Andy Buckle, Mike Robson, Scott Rudkin, Andy Clough, Andy Clifford, Adrian Cooper, Owen Jackson and Dave Bradshaw.