Written by Peter Stobbs
I think it was a Tuesday and I think I had the day off work or perhaps it was the whole week, I can’t remember, but what I do remember was being very disappointed that I’d missed a great trip down this river during the previous week.
It had rained for forty days and forty nights, or it seemed like it, and the reservoirs at Widdop, Gorple and Walshaw had been spilling, so some of the guys decided that it would be rude not to go for it. Unfortunately I hadn’t known about that trip but with hindsight it was probably for the better as I wouldn’t have been able to justify doing it on this later occasion, with George and Martyn Eddy, when as it happened conditions were “stonking plus plus” and a bit more.
I’d planned to meet George in Trawden and I remembered wondering before setting off whether to call it off as there didn’t really seem to have been much rain since I’d put the call out for interest. As we drove down past Widdop I looked across at the stream and was pleasantly surprised to see it was bank full plus and with very few eddies. My concerns immediately evaporated; I’d never seen it that good before.
Having done the shuttle and met Martyn at Blake Dean, we decided that we would run the river from where the Pennine Way crossed the stream (Graining Water). After an exciting drop in, we were immediately hurtled along, roller coaster style. Passage was technical and fun, with lots of rocks to dodge, and big standing waves offering refreshment. With very few opportunities to stop we descended Indian style until on rounding a bend we encountered a ravine-wide blockage caused by a fallen tree. A short portage dealt with the problem and we were soon off again on our “wide awake club” ride. At one point George must have decided that he wasn’t wet enough and took a brief journey to the underworld before rolling up looking a tad startled. As we approached Alcomden Water the rocks got bigger and picking a line through became more technical. This was the case for quite some distance. When inspecting a section from the bank due to line of sight issues it was discovered that the main flow free of overhanging branches passed under a large tree trunk stuck across the river, presumably having been left there by higher water at some time. Having established that the tree would be difficult to avoid, George rather sensibly decided to portage the section, while Martyn and I chose a route that went river right and involved some bushwhacking. George’s discretion paid off since he didn’t cut his nose and I did. The fun continued as we sculled for support on our sides to pass under footbridges, shot weirs, avoided trees, rocks and some quite large holes and bounced crazily over standing waves. Having passed through Midge Hole (without stopping for one at the Blue Pig – yes you read that right, though Martyn did put up quite a struggle) things became a little more urban, with the river now canalised between high walls. With less trees and rocks, the main interest was provided by bouncy stuff and weirs eventually leading to Hebden Bridge centre where the locals were both intrigued and bemused. Now at this juncture I have a puzzle for you; it concerns changing. How many got changed at the bottom and which one was less than discrete (good job it wasn’t a Sunday afternoon)? Answers to me via email.
If it sounds like I’m bigging this trip up, I’m not. Ask anyone who’s done it and they’ll tell you it puts an ear to ear grin on your face while you’re paddling and for several days after too. You’ll also become a Hebden Water bore into the bargain. Seriously though, this river has continuous interest throughout, and it’s on our doorstep. Are you up for it? Allow 3 hours for the trip and extra time for shuttles, faffing and indecent exposure at either end.