GUIDE TO THE RIVER RIBBLE
(Clitheroe to Ribchester)
NAME OF RIVER: River Ribble.
WHERE IS IT?: East of Preston, central Lancashire. This section runs from Clitheroe to Ribchester, roughly following the A59. OS Landranger sheet 103.PUT-INS/ TAKEOUTS: Put in just downstream of the B6243 road bridge over the Ribble (grid reference SD 7057 3861). Parking is available in a nearby pay and display car park (a 100m walk east along the B6243) which is opposite the leisure centre.
Take out at Ribchester Bridge (grid refernce SD 662 357), the B6245 road bridge which crosses the Ribble 1km east of centre Ribchester. Parking is possible in the De Tabley Arms pub car park...though I'm not sure if this is welcomed. Looking for alternative parking if the pub is open might be wise.
Alternative takeout at Ribchester, SD 6511 3509, with parking (and toilets) in the pay and display a short carry into the town.
APPROX LENGTH: 13km (8 miles). Gradient: 2 metres/ km (10 foot/ mile).
TIME NEEDED: Around 3-4 hours for a large group of varying standards. With paddlers who enjoy distance paddling and boats designed for this sort of paddling, the time would fall.
ACCESS HASSLES: Unknown. The biggest problem might be groups being indiscreet if they stop for lunch (the river runs through farmland). Parking at the get-out requires common sense since it's a pub car park.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: At the get in, the river flows over some shingle beds; if you can scrape, bounce and punt down these then the few rapids will be a scrape but paddleable. However, it is best to wait until you can float without scraping; otherwise you are open to the (scientifically dubious) accusation of damaging fish spawning beds.
Chris Bolton (March 2003)...'The approach markers for the dangerous weir at Great Mitton are potentially misleading. The bridge before the weir is an aqueduct not a footbridge [confirming the doubt raised in the comment in the photo caption]. It looks like a road bridge with no roads, but if you look up as you pass underneath you can see the water pipes. The horizon line is NOT a good indication of this weir; in medium/ high levels (such as in the photo) the drop is very small and the lethal stopper is invisible until you're very close. The best markers are the hut on the left and the wire across the river about 3m above the water. Plenty of opportunities to get out on the left bank provided you know the weir is there. The photo of the weir corresponds to about 1.5m on the Rivercall line, which I would call medium. In my experience the Ribble is a viable tour if the level at Jumbles is above 0.4m.'
GRADING: Mainly flat. There are a couple of rapids at grade 2 though they certainly aren't continuous.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: A potentially dangerous weir (grid reference SD722393). This is shortly after the first bridge you pass under (a footbridge on a left hand bend).
The weather and length are the most likely hazards.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: From the car park, walk west along the road to the river and put in downstream of the bridge. Seal launching off the footpath into the river can hurt the ankles in low water!
From here small rapids and longer flat stretches lead under a footbridge over the river. After a couple of hundred metres get out on the river left bank and inspect/ portage the weir. The weir is recognisable because of the horizon line; there may also be structures on the river left bank. The weir has a deep stopper with a long towback anywhere other than centre in low water; look and decide yourself. In high water it is probably a certain portage.
From here, there are endless flat stretches with occasional grade 1 rapids. There are also one or two larger, but straightforward, rapids at grade 2. Rescues are easy because of the flat stretches below rapids.
A final straight stretch leads to Ribchester Bridge. Get out river left below the bridge and walk up the bank to the road. You may have to pass boats over the wall.
OTHER NOTES: This section may perhaps be better suited to paddlers interested in touring than novices since in poor weather and low levels the river can be a long trip.
Other access points may be possible to extend or shorten the trip though access is questionable. There is more easy paddling upstream, and the river has a section of classic whitewater further upstream above Settle.
The above was written a long time after the two times I paddled the section; things may have changed in reality or in my memory since those trips!
Tom Ives (Dec 07)...'When really high the 'dangerous weir' turns into a peachy surf wave, one I've spent long enough on for a passing jogger to come back to check I wasn't trapped. As an indication the gauge in Ribchester needs to be 2.5m, assuming normal contributions from the Hodder and Calder. The rest of the river washes out at these levels, apart from Marl Woods which becomes a bit meaty. The De Tabley Inn is currently closed and for sale and has been for some time with the car park barriered off. The Pay and Display car park in Ribchester (~1/4 mile from the river) would be the next, and last, available point for egress. This would add a mile of shingle rapids to the trip described.'
CONTRIBUTED BY: Rob Byrne, also James Brunning, Chris Bolton and Tom Ives.