(Skerton Weir playspot)


WHERE IS IT?: Lancaster, Lancashire, by Lancaster rowing club boat house.

PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Skerton weir or Lancaster rowing club.

SD348346 463224 access from HALTON ROAD.

APPROX LENGTH: 15 metres. 300m wide.

TIME NEEDED: Couple of hours for play.

ACCESS HASSLES: Fine, paddled all year.

WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Very low/low summer levels, it gets a bit hectic with a bit of water coming down! To be totally avoided in spate...stay well away at high tides and anything more than a good dry spell. Watch the tide times.

GRADING: FUN! FUN! FUN! Or Grade 6. It's a weir, and it's usually extremely dangerous. If you can't confidently recognise when it's relatively safe or not, then don't go anywhere near it.

MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Its a weir, quite a big un. Lethal in high water. The weir has an island in its middle running downstream. Huge trees regularly get caught up on the weir and the island. Other hazards include the tide, the weir wall, huge recirculating waves and stoppers.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The top drop is OK to play in as long as you have a fairly quick/ decent roll, if you dont, you will be heading for the 2nd drop upside down and quite quickly.

The 2nd drop is a different kettle of fish however. It is large and unforgiving to any mistake, and plays usually end in spankings (unless you are pretty good). The ability to roll and to be able to cartwheel is essential as it is the only way you will get out of this baby. Having said that if you can cope with this it makes a good spot, especially for spectators sat comfortably in the swirling eddies. Again you will get punished if your roll is not good. If you cant roll 1st time every time, dont play in the second drop as chances are that there will be no time for a second roll, and it is definitely not a good idea to go over the 3rd/ last drop upside down.

The last person I saw stuck in the bottom drop had his fibre glass slalom boat smashed into pieces whilst he was sat in it. He was washed up on the island 100 metres below (after spending about 5 mins swimming in it) still sat in the remnants of his broken kayak (cockpit)!

OTHER NOTES: Not a play spot for beginners and although a few loopy kids occasionally swim down the top drop, the majority of them dont make the sides in time and are treated to a nice swim over 2 more 2-3 meter ledges and into nice big re-circulating stoppers, usually coming out sooner (or more often later) at the bottom battered and bruised and white with fear! It is true that a number of people have/ nearly have lost their lives in this weir, so be prepared and take a throw line. A good play spot for those with confidence and competence.

John McC's conclusion...'A nasty piece of engineering. not designed to be safe at low water level and asking for trouble when in spate. much nicer to playboat at Halton rapids. People have died here. It is a very dangerous spot. rescue services use Morecambe hovercraft and fire service to reach stranded people who manage to reach the island. Unfortunates who do drown often wash up a couple of miles downstream at Aldcliffe. The weir is not a favourite with rescue workers. Stay off it!'

CONTRIBUTED BY: Andy Clough, July 2004. Substantial extra notes from John Mc C.