Tyne Tour - November 2019
Written by Clive Edwards
Saturday 2nd November 2019 was the start of the Tyne Tour and the ‘weather gods’ smiled down on us, giving us some sun with a hint of warmth. The River Tyne was running high, initial levels being 0.9 then 1.6 and even 1.8ish.
Lynne and I were up in Hexham for 9.00am and PaddlePlus were on the move; vans were loaded and off we set to the launch point at Wark. A quick unload, group photo and we set off en masse towards Barrasford, the half way point. We encountered some choppy water, big waves and fast flowing weirs. Those of us who are relatively new to white water were perhaps feeling a little pleased with ourselves – WE CAN DO THIS. It took about 45 minutes to cover this first 7 miles.
We stopped for lunch just before the rapid at Barrasford and after lunch we all walked down to view options for running it. Consensus was river-left hard, river-right easier.
Next, I made a mistake and apologise to the group and group leaders, particularly Neil. I got on the water and sat with another group who were talking through the river-right option. On it went and I thought to myself "Just get on with it". They set off and I thought Josh had tagged on behind, so I set off behind. No problems, I got down safely but then I realised that it wasn’t Josh at all. I eddied out and waited for my own group. Sorry everyone. The up-side was that it boosted my confidence in making my own decisions on the water (see later).
On we paddled, more big waves and weirs - all going well. We stopped a couple of times, the last being just before Warden’s Gorge. Nathan called us together to give us some advice and split the big group into 3 smaller groups. Group 1 set off and set up rescue at the end if needed. Group 2 followed, and then my group.
From here it’s my view of what happened. You will hopefully have seen some of the photos which in a way don’t do it justice, but perhaps makes the water look a bit more chaotic than it was. If you were there you know what it was like.
We (Group 3) eddied out on the right and looked for an eddy on the left just above the Gorge to make our next move, there we got hemmed in by another group. Dean broke out with Lynne and made it over to another eddy. There was a bit of a time gap, then Jamie and Mark went, followed by me. I saw Jamie capsize on the eddy line and Mark must have had a similar experience. I eddied out into quite swirly water pushing back upstream and was joined there by Neil. I’m not sure where Naomi ended up. Mark climbed out of the water and went to help Jamie get out (I think Jamie’s kayak had done a runner). Someone came by and threw us a paddle which could have been Jamie’s. Mark’s kayak passed us in the eddy going back up stream and was emptied by another group. All a bit confusing.
Neil and I watched a kayak go over the lip into the unknown, reappear, disappear, reappear upside down and then gone. The lady on the SUP (not in our group) came next standing up and quickly got into the kneeling position as she went over the lip - see the professional photos to see how the SUPs got on. Mark got back into his kayak. Neil told me to make sure to ‘brake out hard’ and get well over the eddy line before turning in the flow again. Dean and Lynne went, and I followed, making sure I took Neil’s advice. By the time I’d turned, Dean and Lynne had gone. Oh no, no one to follow!!
Well on my own now. I picked the centre line over the lip and found myself facing BIG, BIG WAVES. I focused on the flat water I could see ahead. Relax, let the kayak float and paddle to keep pointing into the waves, don’t get turned. Up and down, up and down, ignoring all the noise from my left from people on the bank (I can’t hear well as you know). Suddenly back into flat easy water. I’VE DONE IT.
Most paddlers had gone down on the left and there seemed to be a lot of swimmers and empty kayaks. I ferry glided across and got out of my boat for a stretch - found Group 2 who had all made it. Nathan was walking back upstream towards the top carrying his kayak, Mark had apparently lost his paddle. I chatted to people and chilled out until eventually the whole group assembled to complete the paddle back to Hexham.
It is difficult to describe Warden’s Gorge. Lynne said if she had looked at it before-hand she wouldn’t have tried to paddle it. I’m not sure if Dean and the team knew what it would be like with this level of water, however we all made it, in one way or another.
The reality is that PaddlePlus coaches had spent a lot of time with us new paddlers, at different venues, giving us the experience of white water, encouraging us to play not just paddle. Look back and you can see the positive ‘can do’ attitude of the team.
Thank you to everyone there - Nathan for his team talks, Dean for organising, the van drivers and all the smiley faces at the end of Warden’s Gorge. In the evening we went out for a meal, very pleasant and then to the Ceilidh - Finishing on a high, I’m pretty sure I was the only one who managed to pull! A very nice young man who wanted to dance with me. Ah well one last wave to ride..
TYNE TOUR 2020 - if the ageing body holds up..