GUIDE TO THE RIVER SPRINT
(Near S Bends to River Kent Confluence)
NAME OF RIVER: Sprint.
WHERE IS IT?: South Cumbria, flowing down Longsleddale into the Kent.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: There are various possible put-ins. I've paddled from several miles above the S-bends, but getting to the river is not easy (across private land) and the river is grade 1-2 until the S-bends.
Stuart Millar (author of Lake District Whitewater)...'Cocks Close is not an access point. There are in my opinion only two places to access the Sprint and that depends on whether you wish to runs the S bends. The S bends are an awkward grade 4 with pinning potential. If you wish to run it is best to drive up to the church and large car park 4km up the valley. It is only laziness which stops paddlers going this extra distance and this is not a trait Cumbrian farmers admire in tourists. If there is not enough water to travel down these upper reaches swiftly then there is really not enough water to paddle the S bends. The only other place to access the river which I have found is 150 metres below Cocks Close where the river meets the road beside the entrance to an old water works building. This does mean there is only limited parking where the road is wide by Cocks Close but please, please resist the temptation to walk into the garden and walk back down the road 150m.'
Take out at Sprint Bridge (513961) or better still, carry on down into the Kent to make a superb long trip.
APPROX LENGTH: 4 miles.
TIME NEEDED: 2 hours.
ACCESS HASSLES: Unknown. Longsleddale is not a big place, don't upset the locals with inconsiderate parking and changing.
David Richardson...(March 2004) 'Got in at the waterstation...15 locals watched from the bridge. I have got on through the garden on river right next to bridge by invite (some locals are friendly)'
Jake Brodie-Stedman (14/12/03)...'Kayakers beware of the abusive farmer who wouldn't think twice about attacking a 14 year old. We were getting our kit ready on the road when a farmer stopoed his car and asked us who had given us permision to run the river. We said sorry and told him that we read in a BCU guide that there was access to run the river. This is when he started to get abusive. I informed him that we were allowed to paddle the river and started to walk down the road to another access point. This was obviously too much for the abusive farmer, who than walked up to me waving his fists and telling me he would sort me out. This behaviour is disgusting, especially considering the group consisted of 3 14 year olds. After this I told him that I was calling the police and walked off. You would think that this would be the end of such an episode, but no he started to follow in his car. The group now started to get very worried and we decided to make a dash for it to a friend's house and call the police. We later found out that his wife (who had been there) was actually a police officer.'
Additional note, from Mark Rainsley...'I would not normally include such personal details, but I feel that group leaders need to be aware of the specific danger here...this sounds like a potential child protection issue. If you receive threats of any kind whilst paddling - violence or otherwise - you must call the Police. If you feel that youngsters in your group were at risk, additionally make sure that you write down everything that happened. I recommend taking at look at this website for further advice. If threatened on the Sprint, it sounds like you may be better off reporting the incident to a police station outside the local area.'
In recent years, access to the Sprint has become more problematic as the number of paddlers have increased. Landowners in the Longsleddale valley especially, object quite rightly to indiscriminate parking particularly when it blocks access to their land. My advice would be to park in the car park by the public toilets about 2 miles up the valley from S bends. From there, a short carry down the road brings you to a widening in the road (you can unload here) which is adjacent to the river. If the river is at a level worth doing, the 2 miles give a nice warm-up on swift flowing grade 2 water and allows you the full benefit of S bends. (Get out river left after the approach rapid to inspect)
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Needs heavy rain to be worth doing. If it looks bank-full under Sprint bridge then you should be okay, also look at the weir upstream of this bridge. Terry Storry suggests 2 on the gauge is good and Mike Hayward suggests 0.6m as a minimum, but I'm unable to confirm this, as I've never checked myself...anyway, it shouldn't be rocket science working out whether there is enough water to float at the get-in or not. I haven't paddled this in very high water levels.
There's an online EA gauge for the Sprint which seems to correspond to the physical gauge above Sprint Bridge. Calibrations are roughly - Low: 0.5m, medium: 0.6m, high 0.7m.
GRADING: Grades 3 and 4.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Weirs, overhanging trees.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: A great trip, especially when combined with the Kent. The S-bends are a quite technical rapid where a good memory is required ("um. left here, right here, left...") as there are rocks everywhere, particularly in low levels. An interesting warm-up! Below here, there is a small weir to slide over (may be dangerous in very high water?) before the approach to Garnett Bridge Falls. The only real way to inspect this small drop is from the bridge before you paddle the river. The river left route isn't entirely attractive and has a tendency to suck the less experienced towards it. Below the bridge, the river squeezes through a narrow gap with some surfing potential if you are feeling brave! From here on the river is continuous grade 2 or 3 with harder rapids. These, in order, are...
A short twisty chute which drops at the end into a stopper, known as 'Rock and Roll'. The route is straightforward (indeed, no choice!) but this deserves respect as paddlers have hurt themselves capsizing in this chute....a lady paddler with us on one trip staggered ashore reeling and insensible after bashing her head on the bottom, and I met a paddler in Scotland with a big head scar apparently gained here!
A long narrow section with stoppers and waves leading to where the river splits either side of a boulder and reconverges to fall over a small drop.
After you pass Gurnsall bridge and a small weir, look out for Sprint Mill Falls which is quite tricky in low levels and has big stoppers in higher water...it looks not unlike two weirs in quick succession.
Below the Falls, a longer rapid leads under a pipe bridge and ends in a good playhole beside a cottage on river right. Trees overhang into the river on this rapid.
The last obstacle is the above-mentioned weir above Sprint Bridge, which can offer a good surf wave at certain levels. Exit at the bridge or carry on into the Kent.
OTHER NOTES: I think this is one of the best trips in the North of England at the easy end of grade 4, especially when combined with the River Kent. I've heard that there is some waterfall 'hairboating' up at the very head of the valley.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley, also Jake Brodie-Stedman, Stuart Millar, Greg Bartlett, Alison Burns, Derek Burdett and David Richardson.