Easing into Eskdale

Rising on the rugged slopes of Esk Pike, from source to sea the Esk is arguably one of the most beautiful of lakeland rivers. In its clear waters I have bathed sore feet in icy pools after tramping across the high fells; I have dived into its deep green depths lower down the valley, gasping beneath the sudden force of thundering waterfalls; as a child I jumped from high stone bridges further downstream still and today, Chris and I paddled from its confluence with the Mite and Irt, reaching far upstream with the flooding tide.
On the sands that front Ravenglass, the quickly rising tide laps the bows of our kayaks, blue skies belying the day's icy cold.
Here at the estuary's mouth, oyster catchers and turnstornes blanket the shingle. Listening to their cries and the curlew's call I am reminded of spring; after the recent gales and incessant rain, it feels a little closer now, the sun finally warming cold muscles as we push out through the tide for a glimpse of the open sea.
A quick landing to change camera lenses and then we turn with the tide, heading inland.
The low fells of south west Cumbria are unmistakable and it is an area with which I feel a great affinity.
Warm now, we relax, pausing as often as paddling, easing into Eskdale, the high fells beyond still wearing winter's shades of brown...
...and the woodland's oaks still bare but somehow full of life.
The flood carries us rapidly on, overlooked by Stainton Tower, reputedly built as a sighting point for boats entering the estuary...
...and are soon swept under the bridge where the character of the river begins to change.
Reed lined banks crowd the narrow channel and soon there is little left of the tide. We carry on anyway, passing the Iron Bridge and up through shallow rapids whose swift clear waters are barely passable. The upstream journey ended at a deep pool, a favourite haunt of the salmon and sea trout for which this river was once renowned, made famous by the writer and broadcaster Hugh Falkus, a man who understood and cared for this river like few others.
As the sun sank the temperature plummeted and we turned with the flow, sighting a little egret for the first time. (These birds were hunted close to extinction in the C.19th and it was their decline which was in part responsible for the establishment of the RSPB.)
Passing beneath the railway, we entered the tidal lagoon as the sun finally sank beyond the dunes, a wonderful close to a beautiful day.


Philip Norris said…
Will, what a stunning place to paddle and beautiful photography.
Ian said…
Happy New Year Will! What a superb paddle that looks, it's too easy to forget the tidal sections of rivers - I really must try to do routes like this. The last image is a stunner, and sums up the last few days

Kind Regards
Will Herman said…
Happy New Year to you too Ian - and you Phil.
Thanks for your comments - It is a beautiful place, perhaps more of an esoteric gem than a classic paddle, but well worthwhile with many happy memories for me.
Dr Blug said…
Lovely trip is the Esk, done it many times myself. great pictures too.
Are you up for Seaquest later in the year?
Will Herman said…
Cheers - not sure about Seaquest - bit busy for me and I'll probably be hoping to paddle further afield by that time in the year, but you never know...will give you a shout if so.
ps said…
Nice to discover a great kayaking blog! Beauiful pics! Great mix of close paddling and more environmental pics. Are you using a DSLR from your kayak?


Peter Svensson
Will Herman said…
Hi Peter,

Thanks and yes - I'm now using a Pentax K5, which has been quite a change from the Nikon and Olympus systems I'm more familiar with - all good though!