GUIDE TO THE RIVER RIBBLE
(Paythorne to Sawley)
NAME OF RIVER: River Ribble.
WHERE IS IT?: East of Preston, east Lancashire. This section runs from Paythorne to Sawley, roughly following the A59, East of Clitheroe. OS Landranger sheet 103.PUT-INS/ TAKEOUTS: Put in at Paythorne Bridge (GR SD831512). On river right, downstream side, there is a possible parking area but be sure to keep access clear to the farmer's gates that you will find there. For a shorter trip, you may be able to put on at Gisburne Bridge about a mile downstream (grid reference SD821496) but I suspect that access there will be more difficult. Either way, considerate parking and discretion is a must.
To get on at Paythorne, go about 30 yards along the Ribble Way (bridleway on river left, heading downstream). You will find a slope gentle enough to get your boats down and onto the river.
Take out at Sawley (grid reference SD777468). Suitable parking may be found on the public road river left, upstream of the Spreadeagle pub/hotel (where the road widens by the riverbank). Avoid the Spreadeagle carpark ('patrons only') unless you fancy your luck asking permission first. And keep clear of the entrance to the private road where the Yorks Flyfishers have some private parking.
To get off at Sawley - it is possible to exit on river left immediately after the first small weir and just upstream of the parking spot; you may have to cross a fence or low wall between the river bank and the private road (which is a public footpath, again part of the Ribble Way). There is a house and a fishing pitch near to this egress point. An alternative possibly more discrete spot is to paddle on to just below Sawley Bridge. Here, you can exit straight on to the Ribble Way which is by now on the river right bank. Parking is not good by the bridge so you're better carrying boats back rather than driving the car down. In the interests of harmony, do not exit between these two points (I draw this conclusion from the various signs thereabouts!).
APPROX LENGTH: 5 miles.
TIME NEEDED: 2-3 hours approx.
ACCESS HASSLES: Unknown but I was challenged by a landowner or bailiff on this stretch in 1994 or so, in the fishing season. You may have better luck (and higher water levels) November - February. For latest information, try the BCU Year Book or website - www.bcu.org.uk for the contact number of the River Advisor.
The signs around Sawley do not exude a spirit of welcome to fellow river lovers. Given the likely sensitivity and parking considerations, this is probably a trip best suited to small groups.
Ian McLean, August 2004...'Paythorne Bridge. "You've got no bloody right of way, no access rights whatsoever, go away. Where are you from?", raged the fisherman as he chased us off. Farmer had passed by seconds previously and didn't care. Fisher dude was just setting up and then he only walked along the bank and sat down. Very low water though - probably a hidden blessing. Gisburn Bridge. Private land. Access through Drug rehabilitation centre on locked car park. Workers/owners of centre supportive. Landowner lived a mile away and couldn't see through the trees. Good o. The workers from the centre even brought chairs out to watch us.'
James Brunning (June 2003)...'beware of problems at Sawley. Some suggestions about egress before Spread Eagle hotel but this is a disputed part of the Ribble Way. The landowners have kicked up and got the path MOVED! Try getting out near the hotel but tact is important! Good luck - it's a lovely, gentle paddle.'
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: This description is from a trip at low winter levels; you may scrape some of the shingle rapids but mostly it's paddleable. 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.
GRADING: Mainly flat, with occasional grade 1, and a possible grade 2.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: None at the time. High water levels might bring trees into the equation. There are some weirs at Sawley; check them out for yourself.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: A relaxing peaceful paddle, punctuated by the occasional riffle or scrape over shingle rapids. One brief flutter of excitement as the river course narrowed over a few yards of rocky rapid before reverting to type, a mile or so from the get out. We passed over one or two small weirs just before the get out at Sawley.
OTHER NOTES: Not a trip for adrenalin junkies but a peaceful river ramble not spoiled by the encounter over access. However, you might want to consider further downstream as a better alternative at similar grade.
Sorry I can't remember more detail but this was a long time ago! Feel free to correct or add more detail. Anyone done the Ribble source to sea?
The river has a section of classic whitewater further upstream above Settle.
James Brunning (June 2003)...'Look out for arecently depleted herd of Sika deer (a local farmer's got a new gun for Christmas!), lots of herons and fishy things. Otters are rumoured to have returned but I've not seen any.'
CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Benson, also James Brunning and Ian McLean.