GUIDE TO THE RIVER YARROW
(Yarrowford to General's Brig)
NAME OF RIVER: Yarrow.
WHERE IS IT?: Flows into the River Ettrick near Selkirk, Scottish Borders.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Drive out of Selkirk on the A708 until you reach Yarrowford. After crossing the bridge park up on the left hand side of the road next to the phone box. The get in is right there, as you are parked literally 10 yards from the bank.
The get out is about 2 miles further down the road, where a bridge "General's Brig" crosses the river, heading for the Ettrick Valley.
APPROX LENGTH: 3.5 km/ 2 miles.
TIME NEEDED: 30 mins - 2 hours.
ACCESS HASSLES: No issues as far as I know.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: The Yarrow is quite a small river so it fills up quickly, but also drains quite fast. If you look at the river either at the get in or the get out and it looks scrapey, the rest of the river will not be any better. A rough guide would be that the river runs well after a few days of rain. The river can be run very high, but then
there is a serious risk of strainers and I have seen fairly large bits of trees washed into the gorge section.
GRADING: 2/ 3
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: The Banana Slide (gd 3). Also beware of trees, as the river is very overgrown in places.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: From the get, in the river flows swiftly out of the village, with the first real playspot appearing just above the first road bridge. The river continues in much the same fashion for about another km when you can see Newark Castle high above the right bank.
Just after this there is a small grade 2/3 rapid with a decent playhole about 1/2 way down if you can catch it.
From here, the river flows under a footbridge into a gorge section which is again grade 2/ 3 - there are lots of small eddies, rock dodging, and a few small play spots. Towards the end of the gorge you come across a horizon line - there is a cliff on river left, and a large boulder in the centre. Most of the flow goes to the left of the rock, then curves back to the right giving this grade 3 it's name - the Banana Slide. There is a hole at the bottom will tip the unwary, but will not hold a swimmer or boat. After this, the river widens again, and meanders its way to the get out, about half a km from the end of the gorge.
Actually getting out can prove entertaining, as the banks are steep, and there is a wall up to the bridge. Don't worry, there are footholds cemented onto the bridge wall, and hauling boats up to the road will warm you up after the trip!
OTHER NOTES: At very high water levels, much of the river washes out and becomes a fast flowing burn with lots of overhanging branches. The gorge and Banana Slide section however become much more entertaining.
I have never done the rest of the Yarrow, but about 1.5 km below the get out it runs into the River Ettrick, which can be paddled down into Selkirk if the fancy takes you. Alternatively, the trip can be easily combined with the upper section of the Ettrick.
Douglas Rae of Heriot-Watt CC, April 2004...'If the water level is high and the gorge to dangerous for novice paddlers then the upper yarrow can be paddled(grade 2), simply carry on up the yarrow valley until you get to a bridge signposted over to the Ettrick Valley, there is a car park in the middle of the road here which can hold about 3/4 cars. From here it is a simple paddle down to yarrow ford (takes about 1 hour at the very most).
The trip down from the generals bridge to the Ettrick is an easy paddle with one grade 2 on it. The Yarrow joins the Ettrick just above Ettrick weir and from there you can continue down to Selkirk.'
CONTRIBUTED BY: Iain Bethune, Edinburgh University Canoe Club www.eusu.ed.ac.uk/clubs/canoe/ . Also, Douglas Rae of Heriot-Watt CC.