GUIDE TO THE RIVER NETHAN
(Holmhead Farm to Crossford)
NAME OF RIVER: Nethan (lower gorge).
WHERE IS IT?: Crossford, South Lanarkshire, OS Sheet 72 (Upper Clyde Valley). Map.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Holmhead Farm, Tillietudlem (GR 813, 456) park and leave the car on the wide section of road at the steep tight bends and walk through the field (RoW) to the old ford / weir in the river.
Get out at the A72 road bridge in Crossford (GR 824, 470).
APPROX LENGTH: 2.9km.
TIME NEEDED: 2 hours.
ACCESS HASSLES: Its Scotland! That said, the right of way at the get in is hard against the side of one of the farm buildings. Its better to cross the field from the top of the hill and be considerate.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Needs to be wet. Look over the road bridge in Crossford, if its brown and no rocks are visible, then the gorge is a goer. We run this when the gauge at Garrion Bridge (on the Clyde) was at 3. Dont know what it is like at other levels.
GRADING: 3 4 (with one portage at present).
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Trees and strainers. A large strainer currently covers the entire width of the river across the last fall.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: From the get in there is a 1.5km stretch of constant grade 2 water which provides an excellent warm up until the river banks begin to steepen. With Craignethan castle looming high above, a small man-made?/ bedrock weir creates a tame river wide stopper and marks the entrance to the gorge. The river turns sharply right with the first small fall immediately around the corner (Gd 3). A 1m bedrock shelf with broken rocks at the base and overhanging tree. Shoot left down the ramp.
Constant grade 2/3 waves and stoppers for the next 400m until the river again turns sharply right with a tight (Gd 3+) fall immediately around the corner. Most of the flow heads towards a large strainer on river left. Overhanging trees protect the entry to the chute down river right. Large waves and holes below are good fun.
Continuous grade 2/3 leads swiftly to the next bedrock shelf (Gd 3). This long diagonal shelf has a meaty hole on the right hand side. Shoot left over a shallow 1m slide.
The gorge then begins to get narrower and more intimidating with several large grippy holes and a distinct horizon line. Make sure you pick an eddy in plenty of time to get out and have a look, as a wrong line on the next fall Hades Gate, (Gd 4) could be severely punished.
The essence of this drop is a long bowl shaped slide, with a large meaty hole in the centre. The best line is hard river right which offers a clean slide but you have to work hard to get it. There is an option of a shallow slide river left, but there is a large boulder near the base and another strainer to the left. A swim on this would need swift rescue as the next fall (currently 5+) follows after approx. 50 60m of confused and messy water with several large boulders strewn across the river before the river piles into the next drop.
On its own this fall, Death on a stick, would be a challenging 4+ with tight and twisty drops through huge boulders which have fallen from the gorge walls. River right looks to run best. The problem however is that the last drop has snagged a couple of very big trees and lots of wood debris to form a river wide strainer. Currently this sieve would trap any paddler attempting the fall. Portage river right. The strainer appears to have been here a while and we can only hope it is promptly removed by mother nature as this fall is the last of the major rapids in the lower Nethan gorge. Grade 2 leads swiftly to the A72 road bridge and the get out.
OTHER NOTES: The gorge is very steep sided and when inspecting rapids it is easy to lose perspective of the height of the falls and some rapids have a bigger drop than can be appreciated from the bank.
There is a middle gorge and more open upper section.
Its worth having a look at the old road bridge over the Clyde in Crossford as there are several good stoppers under the bridge which form in high water and make a great place to play at the end of the trip. To get there, continue on the Nethan until it meets the Clyde and paddle up stream for about 250m. Ferry across and follow the riverside walkway up to the bridge and play spot.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Gavin Millar Don MacLean.