By Sally Coleman - photographs from John, Jonathan and Tony
To conclude the sea kayak starter/returner programme, we planned a “Salty Sea Event” based out of Roa Island - across the way from Piel and Walney islands.
As only two participants from the spring programme based from Killington Lake were able to make the day, we invited the Cumbria Canoe Clubs to circulate the opportunity to get relatively inexperienced paddlers out onto the sea - the response was positive and we had 12 enquiries, which turned into a group of 8 paddlers.
As many of the 8 were unknown to us, we decided to invite them all to a Tuesday eve session on Killington lake, for us to meet and paddle with them and for them to meet us - John Soady Cumbria Canoeists sea kayak lead and Mike Sunderland sea kayak - coach/leader.
All went well on the Tuesday eve, until the light failed, so we agreed to meet at 8am on the Saturday morning to share transport and load up both the sea kayaks and equipment.
All went well and on time we arrived at our destination - Brick Kiln Lane (Ulverston) on the Leven estuary, as the wind conditions were too extreme to go to Roa Island.
Adventures are seldom planned, they just sort of happen and thus it proved when 13 of us, including coaches Mike, John & Mac launched our sea kayaks from the beach car park at the end of Brick Kiln Road near Ulverston. The original plan was to meet at Roa Island Sailing Club and paddle to Piel Island but a force four wind from the ENE necessitated a change of plan. Morecambe Bay, it seems, always has something up its sleeve.
After a briefing and explanation of the change of plans, Mike ran a short session on the gravel beach, highlighting the paddlers actions required, in case of a capsize. so we all sat around and practiced the heel hook roll in and shimming down into the cockpit - just in case of a spill.
As we set out, the incoming tide was running swiftly against the flow of the Leven Estuary creating tricky conditions – not a place for the inexperienced – so we spent some time in the small estuary of the Dragley Beck, practicing paddle skills beside strange cliffs of iron ore slag, with a white egret and flocks of waders for company.
By this time, the sun was shining & the tidal flow had slowed enough for us to paddle north up the coast to a bay just south of Hammerside Point where we stopped for lunch, keeping an eye on our kayaks & moving a few up the beach as the spring tide reached its fullest. From there, we rounded the pier at the end of the old Ulverston Canal, avoiding the fishermen’s lines, and paddled into the wind towards the western end of the Leven Viaduct with the lovely Coniston Fells as a backdrop.
A couple of trains trundled across the viaduct as we planned our next moves – first a ferry glide facing the viaduct to cross the tidal race created by the R Leven & ebbing tide and then a sloopy, wavy, slightly unnerving 15 minute downwind dash taking us to the north-east side of Chapel Island. We made a quick recce of the island, once the site of a chapel and a former base for fishermen but now a bird sanctuary. Large flocks of seabirds took off as we made shore, flying off in a big circle & returning. We launched again and paddled to the south end of the island, finding a colony of oyster catchers on the rocky shore. Not one to miss an opportunity, Mike had us practicing breaking into and out of the ebbing tidal race just offshore. Then Mac pointed out that if we didn’t start heading back to the cars, we’d be stranded on the sand banks!
It was only 1km back to Brick Kiln beach. But how best to get there with wind and tide against us? The idea was to paddle in our groups a little way north in slack water and then to ferry glide across the tidal race – simple! However, as we headed across, the wind and tidal stream together built in strength to around 6 knots and we were no longer able to hold our position against the shore. The instruction came to paddle straight for the shore. The stronger paddlers made it first and were then able to paddle slowly up the shoreline in a slight eddy. People were by now all over the place. Some had made it to shore some distance south of the car park and decided to carry their kayaks back along the beach. Others, like myself, finally gained the shore and were able to paddle very slowly back towards the car park. Everyone lent a hand carrying boats, and ensured that all of us made it safely back – phew! It took an hour to do that 1km! It was slightly reassuring when Mike told us afterwards it was one of the hardest ferry glides he’d ever done! Certainly the toughest ferry glide in Cumbria!
“ Thank you and your team for an ‘Amazing Brilliant Exhilarating… (many other interesting descriptive adjectives are available..!) time paddling.. Cant wait to get back……….”
“ Thanks for a memorable day’s kayaking”
Our grateful thanks to Alison and George for assisting and sharing the day with us all, chatting about their personal sea kayak journeys and involvements with Lakeland Canoe Club and Cumbria Canoeists.”
A HUGE thank you to Mike, John and Mac for their leading skills and coaching tips. We all enjoyed our Salty Sea experience – a memorable day out with a great bunch of people. And we have it on record that Mike promises to head straight for Roy’s ice cream van on the main Bardsea road, next time!
Pictures from some of our adventures