GUIDE TO THE RIVER RIBBLE
(Helwith Bridge to Settle)
NAME OF RIVER: River Ribble.
WHERE IS IT?: Yorkshire Dales. Runs into Settle.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: We put in at Helwith Bridge, turn left off B679 if heading towards Horton, go over the bridge and there is a picnic spot right by the river downstream of the bridge. It's possible to paddle from Horton but this just looked flat and the car park was very convenient. Toilets near by.
Takeout: Settle. Go through Settle (coming South) past the naked man - good cafe - as you come towards the end of the town centre another cafe the '' Settle Down Cafe'' or something like that; turn right, follow road until you see Lorry signs, turn right through small industrial estate/ lorry depot, keep going till the road runs out and you will end up in an old mill right by the last fall - Municipal Fall - foot bridge- and easy access. Change discreetly as local houses overlook the parking area!
APPROX LENGTH: 4.5 miles.
TIME NEEDED: 2 hours no playing!
ACCESS HASSLES: We had no real problems except at Twin Bridges rapid where two farmers approached us very purposefully (we had run the rapid 3 times), so we moved on! In fact the locals were very friendly, indeed coming to chat and watching in droves at the weirs. We got the feeling that they did not see many paddlers! I then talked to Mark at Brookbank Canoes (shameless plug) and he added that there have been problems, he had never run the river due to being stopped from parking and followed around by the river baliffs. So I think some more comments/ knowledge may be useful if anyone has better information?
Gill (April 2006)...'We were approached by two farmers at twinbridges rapids who insist that there are no navigational rights on the river and get very annoyed if you mention the "White Water Lake District Guide"! They saw us drive past with boats on the roof and came looking for us! There is a no canoeing sign which they put up at the start - it's on the island in the middle of the river behind a tree...having said that they did allow us to carry on paddling after we apologised lots and promised never to do it again! Also approached a couple of times at the egress by locals. One told us we could park as long as we went right down in the corner near the bridge and another who said he would wheel clamp us if we were still there when he came back in ten minutes.'
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Needs to be bank full, we did it on the 3rd of Feb 2002 when everywhere had masses of water. A good indicator at the get out is Municipal Falls, if it's big with a huge haystack on river left it's up, when we arrived you could have paddled river right as well but by the time we got down 3 hours later the river right option had a boulder just visible. I guess the river had fallen a couple of feet, still paddleable. The other and best indicator is Two bridges rapid which you can see on the drive up, a small layby on your left overlooking river. It was not quite fully covered when we did it in fact we eddy hoped all but a 100 metre stretch. On the way back it was much lower but still paddleble.
Andrew Clough...'Ran the river Ribble nr. Settle on Sunday 05th July 2004. (good old English rain) Stainforth Falls had about 3-4 foot more water in it than in photo. At these levels the fall looked pretty horrendous. The top two drops had merged into a big diagonal stopper pushing river left into a huge deep circulating enclosed stopper which was also pushing leftwards away from safety cover and into the undercut. Not a place to swim due to potholes also. Probably V+ due to seriousness of swimming which seemed certain. The river above was a blast though. Below the fall we ran the first weir but portaged the 2nd as we couldnt see the left hand run and the right hand side was fairly shallow and had quite a meaty horse shoe stopper across the rest of the river. Met a fisherman on the river (by the 1st weir) who was not bothered about canoeists. We asked if he wanted us to portage around him and put on below as not to disturb his fishing, his answer was not to bother as we were not disturbing him and were welcome to canoe right past him! An excellent day. One of the blokes we were paddling with lived only 60 seconds walking distance away from the egress. Handy or what! Dont know what his neighbours thought of two semi naked canoeists getting changed on his driveway though?!
Also did the Roeburn and Hindburn on Saturday 04th July 2004. The Hindburn was tonking, but by the time we reached the egress of the second river (Roeburn) it was a scrape, although the Hindburn still had water in it.
GRADING: Grade 3-4. Stainforth Force grade 5.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Trees at start. Stainforth Force grade V and very dangerous. Two weirs, one at Stackhouse and one as you come into Settle - Settle weir! We ran both but they need inspection.
Andy Plimmer (Dec 2003)...'I would like to make people aware of the potential drama that they may encounter in shooting Stainforth force. What most people don't see is the large undercut cave that exists behind the curtain of water that forms from the bottom drop. A double stopper exists which if you happen to end up in would be very difficult to escape from. The cave goes back a considerable distance so beware of being back looped into the fall. If in doubht have a look in dry weather. Best of luck.'
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Trees at put in, then river goes right around a small hillock; just big and bouncy no technical diffculties, grade 2/ 3.
Then the lead in to Two Bridges rapid 200 metres of grade 3ish, river left to right.
The next rapid, Two Bridges isbetween two railway bridges! It is about a Kilometre long. Terry Storry says 'The best rapid in England'. We ran it on sight down the middle. There are good eddies on river right after the main drop. It's grade 3/ 4, it felt about grade 3 but just big. The shorter boats got pushed around, the bigger boats cruised it. When we did it you would not have picked up bits untill the next bridge, about 100 metres after the rapid.
Then, bouncy with some good holes and surf waves. River eases until a small footbrige signals Stainforth Force; huge with a massive stopper and tow back when we were there. Portage river right and get in just 100m before a wall.
Good surf wave and then just below a good stopper for 360s (I wish). Grade 2ish down to Stackhouse weir Grade 3, beside buildings and just before a pipe bridge, portage and inspect river right. We shot it 20 ft in from the right with no problems. The next weir is Settle weir, grade 3/ 4? It's much nastier; again portage river right. Storry gives it a 4 and says you can paddle the fish ladders river left; not on the day we were there. We paddled extreme river left very hard.
Then, straightforward through Settle until Municipal falls, grade 3. Run them river left and egress river right straight away. Carry over the footbridge to the car and hence the Naked Man for Fudge cake!!
Video of the Ribble, including Stainforth Force (Windows Media, about 2 megs) - from Nick Clendon
OTHER NOTES: These notes are from my failing brain and I did not go with the intention of keeping track so the description may be a bit vague! Excellent trip, good play potential. I'm not sure about 'the best rapid in England', I'm sure the Upper Dart would have something to say! I would check out the access situation!
Jonathan Swale (16/02/02) adds...'Stainforth Force - the footbridge mentioned is actually a high-arched road bridge on the one-track road from Stainforth to Knight Stainforth. It's worth driving over just for the experience - six feet between the parapets, one in four slope up to the top so no visibility and a right angle bend at the eastern end. The fall itself is probably only grade 3+ at medium flows but a definite killer in high flood.
Settle weir - don't even think about it in less than full flood. It's a six foot plus vertical drop onto rock. No pool. The fish ladder is possible in these conditions, possible being the operative term.
Municipal falls - It's actually called Queen's Rock (at least it was when I learned canoeing there thirty years ago).'
There are gentler touring sections of the Ribble further downstream below Clitheroe. Has anybody paddled the river between Settle and Clitheroe?
CONTRIBUTED BY: Rory, also Jonathan Swale, Andrew Clough, Gill and Andy Plimmer.