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Thread: River Tweed summer scrape

  1. #1
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    Default River Tweed summer scrape

    Tweed 6/8/06 - 11/8/06 (grid references from memory-map so no idea what land ranger sheets they are)

    Good deeds are always worth doing.

    I did some cat sitting for my sister and her husband earlier in the year and they kept saying they owed me for it, and a lift to Peebles one Sunday and a pickup at Berwick seemed a great way to get to solo a river I used to run with groups years ago.

    Sunday

    We got to Peebles around 3pm and headed into town to grab a few supplies only to find I'd left my bank card by the computer after a bout of internet shopping, and only had a fiver to my name, so more repayment of the favour and a short term loan later I grabbed some milk and bottled water and headed down to the river.

    Peebles is a great access point (251402), there's a park right next to the river (south bank) with a car park 10-15 yards from the water. Unfortunately there was only about three inches of water running over the gravel and with a decent amount of kit to float and a brand new boat to scrape I decided that skipping the first couple of km would be the better part of valour and headed for a layby about 5km down from Peebles (301393). The layby is right on the river bank, and with a group from the local old folks home to scare by getting changed infront of them, it all seemed like fate!

    Onto the water and the first time in the new boat (see the Ranger 14 thread in the gear section for more details), I was happily absorbed in how everything felt when there's a splash ahead of me and looking up saw a kestrel fighting with something in the water! I've never seen kestrels fishing so all a bit of a suprise really.

    Innerleithen appeared quickly on the left with a great campsite, river left just before the old rail bridge (340365) but this was a solo trip so with no one to notice how badly I smell if I don't have a warm shower for a week it was onward over the weir (often forms a nice little surf wave but just a tiny stopper at this level) to first bivi on an island (402363). I settled down for the night watching bats over the water.

    Monday

    Aware of having plenty of time I took a late start and headed on down at the pace of the water, watching Buzzards and Kingfishers. As a little warning (and a landmark for the first rapid proper) there is a tape (possibly electric fence?) across the river at around (452331) on the bend before Farnilee rapid, I managed to duck under it but at other levels this may cause more trouble. Farnilee itself is worth having a look at before your first run, there's a little beach river left ahead of the bridge or an eddy just above the little drop for the more adventurous, it's no big deal, just a short drop on a right hand turn and then a bit of confused water for a little distance below (if memory serves me right).

    I set up camp for the night just below the A7 bridge river right(around 490324) not the wildest camp but hey.

    Tuesday

    Stopped at Galasheils for some bacon etc and after a brief stop to knock up bacon sandwiches on I headed. Apart from the main rapids and weirs I mention the Tweed really is a great touring river, regular sweeping, flowing grade 1 rapids that give no trouble from a paddling point of view but often have fishermen in the main flow, I had great fun taking a silly line trying to avoid disturbing one guys swim, but he seemed grateful for my efforts.

    Melrose cauld is the next notable feature, I've run it once before in far higher water and when I got out to inspect I couldn't see a real line down it... but being a bit stupid I ran it anyway.

    Everything went well until I ended up sitting on a rock right at the bottom reminding myself never to run anything I can't see a line down.

    I've camped with groups at melrose on a sort of village green that I think is owned by the rugby club but as ever, on I went with more Buzzards and a Red Kite spotted near Monksford.

    Near Dryburgh Abbey there are some islands with classic Tweed flowing stuff between them, be warned there is the mother of all strainers on river right as the flow sweeps between them, it's not hard to avoid but would be a nightmare to get caught in.

    I camped for the night just up from Mertoun Bridge next to a potato field (604323) and headed off in search of guiness, which took a while to find after getting distracted by old buildings, follies and a nice footbridge.

    Wednesday

    I began the day with a little walk to examine Mertoun Weir, I've seen an old work mate (more of them later) get trashed in the wave at the bottom so was prepared to walk this one but when I got there there was about 4 feet less water than I'd expected! If there's water running over the sides I've had success using the sleepers that run down the weir as a rail for my paddle to prevent ending up in the stopper at the bottom but in these really low conditions taking the right side of the main chute was no drama.

    This section is probably the most interesting for a day trip, put in at Mertoun bridge (there's a little track on the north side of the bridge, park up and carry down to the river, but be hyper polite as this is serious salmon fishing teritory)(610320) and take out at Banff Mill (little stream just below rapids on river left and across the field to the main road (766375))

    There are some great spots down here to practice ferrying and eddying in and out, but as I keep saying the water was sooo low it was all a little too tame to be bothered with.

    The weir below Rutherford lodge had changed a lot since I was last here (about 5 years or so) someones had the diggers in and to be honest they seem to have spoilt a great little chute by filling it with rocks. Maybe it's just my memory. I stopped for lunch and headed into the best of the rapids, Makerstoun (sorry bout the spelling mistake on previous posts).

    Makerstoun is really great at this level, full of little chutes between fantastic carved rocks. Do get out for a look, it's probably the most serious section (bottom of grade 3) it's nothing bad but it's worth going at with a plan.

    I landed on an island not far down from here to chill out and decided to stay the night when my old work mate floats past, ignoring my shouting until his group grabbed his attention. After a brief chat they all left again and I settled down to read my book, only to be joined by a kestrel that landed on a branch 5 feet from my head.

    Thursday

    More paddling than chilling out for a change I paddled down early through Kelso (another weir) and onto Banff Mill with a couple of Weirs and the only big wave of the week (and even that wasn't so big).

    At Coldstream (another campsite on the riverside for those who want a shower) it's river right at the weir just past the bridge and I started to chill out and look for a camp sight. I was watching a buzzard catching thermals when two roe deer appeared which had me back in a nature loving mood after a morning of concentrating on covering a bit of distance, so it really buzzed me out when less than a hundred yards further on I noticed a shadow moving under the left bank and pulling the binoculars out of my pocket it turns out to be my first wild otter! I've sat for hours at all times of day and night including a very cold six hour stint on Loch Awe last march trying to get a glimpse of an otter, the whole trip would have been worth it for that moment alone.

    Camped on Dreeper Island (879442)(go past it river left then go back up to nearly the top end up the little channel on the other side to find the only campsite on a mostly overgrown island) and was joined by what I think was a little fallow deer as I tucked into tea.

    Friday

    Probably the least fun day, hit a headwind and had to battle every time the river turned north. Tracked against the wind where the banks allowed and just had to put my head down and pull hard when they didn't. Trim and technique do help loads in strong winds but it's rarely a pleasure until you get to the end.

    Made the A1 bridge by about 2 and rather than battle the next strech north a quick call to my brother in law, and I carried the boat and kit up to the the picnic area, made lunch and settled down with my book to wait for the lift home.

    All in all a great trip, with a new boat I'm really pleased with, on a river it could have been designed for. I would still find it hard to recommend at that rediculously low level, you will loose plastic off the bottom of your boat and it can get frustrating not being able to get your paddle in without hitting the bottom. Leave it til Autumn, let it rain and raise the water table a bit.

    It's all doable in three days of pushing or four at a more sensible pace, I did it in five to make it easier on my brother in law, a four hour drive on a work night wouldn't be much fun.

    I have some (quite poor) pics (no wildlife just the main weirs and rapids) if anyone can explain how to get them on here.

    There you go Matto, it may be grim up north, but the rivers are great.

  2. #2
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    Thanks Saarlak, really enjoyed reading that. Followed you all the way with the OS online maps. How far do you think it was? Looks about 70-80Km on line, but probably a lot farther with all the meanders in the river.

    How fast is the water on the flat sections? I ask because I'm so used to paddling still water, where you have to paddle every single yard, I find it hard to judge how much help you get from the current on a long trip like this.

    As a little warning (and a landmark for the first rapid proper) there is a tape (possibly electric fence?) across the river at around (452331) on the bend before Farnilee rapid, I managed to duck under it but at other levels this may cause more trouble.
    Is that actually legal?
    Matto

    Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea.


  3. #3
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    Oh yes, this thread explains how to get pics on. The thread is a tad long, but the method is pretty straight forward once you get the hang ot it.

    And we do like pics .
    Matto

    Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea.


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    There are so many different flavours of flat water on the Tweed it's hard to say how much current helps, some bits are reasonably quick but others feel like treacle. When the wind hits on a flat stretch it is still the major factor. You do still need to paddle if you were thinking you could take it really easy, but it's a lot easier to cover distance on the Tweed compared to the Lochs I've been paddling recently.

    The Scotish touring book recons it's 110km from Peebles to the river mouth, take 10-15 or so off that for the bits I missed at start and finish, I wasn't really counting to be honest, not being at work is what really mattered to me.

    I'm not sure about the legality of stuff across the river, I have a feeling it was there last time I paddled it, many years ago, I have a feeling I've gone both under and over it at different times (my memory is very fuzzy, I used to be working ninety hour weeks back in those days so I just remember being knackered all the time).

    Working late tonight so I'll see if I can get some pics up in the next couple of days.

    If you've not paddled something like the Tweed you really should, I believe the Tay is similar although I've not done it (I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong), I live on the banks of the Tyne which is quite similar too (although nowhere near as long), but plagued by access agreements.

    Just out of interest, does anyone know what the longest practical river tour is in the UK (no portaging over water sheds, just source to sea)?

  5. #5
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    You do still need to paddle if you were thinking you could take it really easy, but it's a lot easier to cover distance on the Tweed compared to the Lochs I've been paddling recently.
    No, I was just trying to get a feel for the kind of distance you could cover, as compared to my normal flatwater paddle speed. I haven't done an multi day trips yet, so it's always interesting to think about distances compared to water speed. Only one way to find out of course. I've a pretty good idea what I'd be comfortable with on the rivers I know.
    Matto

    Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea.


  6. #6

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    This picture was taken on one of the weirs on the Tweed!

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    Quote Originally Posted by dyson View Post
    This picture was taken on one of the weirs on the Tweed!
    You call that a weir ? (Gulp!)
    Matto

    Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea.


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    Great Blogg ,must get down to have a look at the Tweed.

    And my Aunt lives on the route, haven't seen her for ages
    'There is no wealth but life itself.'

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    Ok, lets give this a go......


    Melrose, and a severe lack of a real line.


    Mertoun, I'm more used to water flowing over the sides.


    There's lots of sky to go with the water.


    Just below Rotherford, I'm sure this used to look different.


    The top of Lower Makerstoun.



    Lower Makerstoun rapid, very low water.



    Lying with my head where the BA is, a Kestrel settled on the branch above!


    Banff Mill, and the biggest wave of the trip, wish it would rain.


    This is about as dry as I'd previously seen it, the middle of Lower Makerstoun, from many years ago. (sorry about no air bags, work had just bought some new boats and they needed testing)

  10. #10
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    Great pics Saarlak, thanks for posting. Only makes me want to paddle it more. I know its low water but somehow it looks very appealing like that. Fun but not too intimidating to the inexperienced.
    Matto

    Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea.


  11. #11
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    Very interesting blogg. Easy reading - you take us along with you. Thanks for sharing!

  12. #12
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    monkey_pork is offline a wind age, a wolf age - before the world goes headlong Super Moderator
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    Scary lack of water this end of the summer tho ...

  13. #13
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    Default Thanks!

    Hi.

    Just wanted to say thanks for you post and pictures. I'm thinking about a trip for about 4 days for late September / early October, and I'm considering the Tweed - your description and photos give a far better "flavour" than the bare-bones info in the Scottish touring book.

    Definitely on the shortlist!

    Ben

  14. #14
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    No problem m8, just do me a favour and bring back an extra bag of rubbish.

    This was the last time I'll post grid references on a blog (not that I blog that much), the state of the first campsite when I was back in Feb was awful, carried two carrier bags full of cans and food wrap off the island that had just been left by a tree and filled another bag making the site nice enough to wake up to.

    Don't let it put you off though, I used different sites after the first one and there's no shortage of nice spots to bed down.

    Just to make you jealous, I'm working again for the company I used to do this trip with and I'm on at least two trips there this summer! Get to use proper campsites with warm showers, get fed, paddle a nice river for a few days and they pay me for it! Sometimes life so sweet !

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