GUIDE TO THE RIVER LUNE
(Rigmaden Bridge to Kirby Lonsdale)
NAME OF RIVER: Lune.
WHERE IS IT?: It flows down from the Pennines and Eastern Lake District towards Lancaster. This is a middle section of the river, beside the A683 towards Kirby Lonsdale.
Map showing first 5 miles from Rigmaden Bridge.
Map showing final section from Underley Hall to Kirby Lonsdale.
The latest British Canoeing access guide (March 2015) can be found here.
Please note that the Rigmaden Estate are presently (April 2015) not permitting access across the field at Rigmaden Bridge without permission first being obtained. Details of how to apply for this permission and the restrictions that it entails are included in the access guide. This describes a public right of way access to the river at a bridleway just downstream of the first rapid below Rawthey Confluence; using this to access the river extends the trip without raising the grade and avoids any trespass at Rigmaden.
It is possible to start further up from the Rawthey confluence.
The section described starts at Rigmaden Bridge, which is on the road signposted 'Old Town' off the A683 (SD616847). Park on downstream river left. If you have managed to negotiate access across the land here (see above), then you get to the river via a path through a gate on downstream river right.
Take out is between Devil's Bridge (the older, footpath bridge) and the A65 road bridge (SD615780). There are options to park either side of the river but the most convenient for access and toilet facilities is the car park on the North-West side of Devil's Bridge (not marked on map). To drive to this car park, assuming that you are approaching from the south, take the first right immediately after crossing the A65 road bridge. Egress from the river can be done on river right just after Devil's Bridge.
A longer trip, giving an extra 10km, can also be undertaken to Loyn Bridge (SD580698).
APPROX LENGTH: 6.2 miles (10 Km)
TIME NEEDED: 2 hours at a moderate pace with a good water level.
The latest British Canoeing access guide (March 2015) can be found here.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS:
(Added Jan 2004)...'At higher levels (recent heavy rain, gauge at Rigmaden Bridge around 3ft 3ins) one or two of the lesser rapids will be washed out, the rest are mostly improved. At this level boils and cross-currents make themselves felt - the exit from Devil's Bridge rapid being quite interesting.'
Can be paddled for a long while after rain. It's still quite a good trip in low water, though this will involve a scrape on some sections and make the trip less interesting. Even if it is very low then some sections will still be fine.
Example of indicators when the river was at a good level after several days of light, showery rain, for which the description below was written. By my estimation the level could have been several inches lower or a foot or two higher and still been an enjoyable run suitable for a well lead novice run...
1) Fields along the river were waterlogged
2) Where river is flowing between grassy banks it was generally up at the base of the banks.
3) The rocks that form the gorge wall by the bridge were largely uncovered. The rocks in the main channel were covered.
4) Gauge on Rigmaden bridge support, river left was showing about 1 ft 10 ins.
GRADING: Grade 1-2.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: No major hazards.
As this is an ideal section for novices, it's worth noting that there are numerous trees along the banks and some of these will pose hazard to the unwary especially at higher water levels or when occupying the back of some eddies.
The riverbanks are subject to flood erosion and are high and steeply wooded in places. From time to time large trees fall into the river, perhaps lodging across one of the narrower channels. One tree - or rather the remaining trunk of it is lodged on the left hand side of the Devil's Bridge rapid. At low-medium levels it is visible and easily avoided. At some level between medium and high, it might form a nasty surprise just below the surface of the main current.
Fences line the top of the left bank especially. These should only form a hazard in flood conditions but might conceivably end up as high water hazards if part of the bank collapses.
Oh and bridge-jumpers and re-surfacing divers at Devil's Bridge I kid you not.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The section starts with a gentle though typically fast flow from the metal bridge at Rigmaden. You soon hear the first rapid approaching, a grade I on the first of several bends in the river. Further straightforward grade I/II rapids follow, each on a bend as the river winds a convoluted course at this point. On the last bend, you will see Holme House on river right.
The river now divides around a shingle island; the river right route seems broad but shallower and river left seems like the better choice for lower water conditions. After here, the river then straightens for a while and a couple more grade I rapids follow.
The next significant left-hand bend heralds another grade II-ish rapid just where the road comes close to river right. This is a simple shoot down the righthand side of the river. About 50 yards below here Barbon Beck tumbles in on river left.
The river continues in similar vein, until a left hand bend when Underley Hall Bridge comes into view, standing on a private road within the Underley estate. Just below is perhaps the best rapid of the trip so far (grade II, maybe), and below there a cliff face causes the river to take a sharp right hand bend into a deep pool. This is soon followed soon by a couple more grade I rapids, the second of these more pronounced, punctuating the river's smooth flow below the tower of Underley Hall above the steep bank on river right. The river then bends gently left into a second, deeper pool.
A fast shoot exits this pool but around the next bend the river seems to slow a little and apart from one short grade I section it flows sedately past Ruskin's View and St. Mary's church high up on river right. However, the fun is not yet over. The river sweeps left around Kirby Lonsdale and a large shingle island comes into view. The right channel may be shallow or obstructed (perhaps fronted by a weir, we didn't look too closely). The left channel is straightforward at perhaps grade II; you may need to duck your head or take action to avoid one or two low hanging trees.
You shortly start to see signs of the next approaching rapid and you will sense that it is a little more complex and longer than anything run so far. Grade II+, this rapid requires a little more manoeuvring in order to avoid going over (or through) some potential pinning rocks that extend from river left into part of the main flow, half way down the rapid. Breaking out into the large eddy on river left some way above these rocks makes for good practice and allows time to get the right course. To get the most out of this rapid, you can break out below the main drop on river right or left.
From here, continuing down through the tail-end waves, you immediately see Devil's Bridge come into view and just above it, the final rapid, a grade II 'S'-bend. At time of writing there is a large tree trunk jutting from the left bank, some way into the main course of the river. It is easily avoided though has more dangerous potential if the water level is high enough to conceal it. The strong currents at the end of this rapid make for an interesting practice area, with a ready made viewing platform on the bridge above.
Exit just under Devil's Bridge, on river right where a path leads up to the car park through a narrow gap in the wall.
OTHER NOTES: This is a good trip for open canoes and using tandems will put more people on the river within the boat limit of the access agreement!
CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Benson, access updates from Barry Curley.