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Saturday, 30 May 2009

Plodging Ashgill and the South Tyne Gorge

Taking advantage of the sudden warm and sunny weather, I visited Brian at Nenthead and we had a little sunny day adventure.
Soaping the insides of our trousers with washing-up liquid, we donned wetsuits, abandoned a car containing dry undies at Garrigill and drove to the top of Ashgill Force. There, we forced ourselves through the window (mentioned in a post some time ago) and had a quick look at the waterfall and the deep pool at the bottom and then commenced a descent of the very lovely limestone gorge below Ashgill Force. This contains half-a-dozen or so deep plunge pools, bathed in sunlight and scented with May blossom and each one a small test of nerve. We paddled and swam and sat and ate and paddled and swam till we joined the River South Tyne in a deep flat-bottomed gorge paved with Carboniferous. Limestone slabs. Not much water here, though. – We were slightly taken aback by a sudden discovery, stuck on the bank, of a balloon in the shape of a human which rocked and swayed as if in pain or distress. Slightly disturbing…..
So we walked till we found deeper water and, slipping and sliding we made slow progress down stream. As the water reached the thighs, we found it quicker and safer to float and push ourselves along the bottom by hand. After an hour or so of this, we finally reached the Crossgill Bridge. After the bridge, the stream is only three or four feet wide, but very dark and deep with a gentle current and we turned off our minds, relaxed and floated downstream. By this method we came across the Dipper. Then we crept up on the Dipper’s chick, standing on a ledge, dipping (as dippers do) we got within a foot or two before it flitted of downstream, only for us to repeat the approach. Two heads floating slowly and silently with the current. Not people, just heads!
Finally we were at the Garrigill ford and exited the stream, in the traditional manner by squeezing through the water pipe under the ford.
Removing wet suits is an undignified business, but we heaved them off each other, got the dry stuff on and , after collecting the car from Ash Gill, repaired to the Miners Arms at Nenthead for a light libation or two.
When the soapy legs get wet, the boots start to foam by the way. It’s a great conversation starter when meeting new people.
2.2 kilometres downstream in three hours! No ascent to worry about.
The water was warm(ish)
Not too many pics as the camera was safe inside a waterproof box most of the time.
Good fun, though – shouldn’t be allowed, really.

Plodging, by the way, just means "paddling" in water or mud, or similar wet stuff.


Anonymous said...

A really novel report Mike...thoroughly enjoyed it! Did wonder where it was going with the soaping of the inside of the trousers...but I just had to read on.
A bit like "car crash" blogging.

As I've spent the best part of 25 years on bridge maintenance I was trying to imagine the scenario as I discovered 2 heads floating past me as I was clambering about the underside of a bridge!

The last photo is what I spend most of my time trying to avoid (lol)!

Great stuff!

mike knipe said...

My thought was, if I drown during this expedition, at least I'll have clean legs. Its also a new approach to wildlife photography, in my idiotic opinion...