River Tees Trip Day Two – Barnard Castle to Winston Bridge – by Hannah Bellamy

River Tees Trip Day Two – Barnard Castle to Winston Bridge

After a group meal out in the local pub on Saturday night, we had a leisurely start on Sunday. Everyone busied about eating breakfast, packing up their things and making sure the hostel was tidy before we met for a briefing with Stuart outside. The rain Gods had been again and low force was too big for all of us to run, so we set off to run a section of the Tees between Barnard Castle and Winston Bridge (made famous when Ray Hanna flew a spitfire underneath it at 250mph for a TV programme – woah!). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xf3UtmHLKUU

The water was quite fast flowing, wide and bouncy with lots of features – again quite like the sunshine run in the Alps! The autumnal colours of the trees were lovely as we paddled down in groups of five, chatting away.

The first feature was a weir, which everybody sailed over, and next came Abbey Rapids. As our group was first, we got out to have a recce. Fiona and I decided to portage, joining at the bottom to be ready to catch anybody if needed! John came down first, followed by Stuart and Sarah and then everyone else one by one, all picking quite different but equally successful lines down the two drops. The first swimmer of the day was John, when he slipped off a rock whilst pointing out the line – Sarah was quick to the rescue with her paddle shaft!

When everyone was through the feature safely, we carried on in our groups until we reached another weir type feature with a larger drop. We went over one by one, the trick is to keep straight, at right angles with the edge of the weir and to keep paddling. Leanne was caught out by a sneaky edge that you could only see once you had paddled over, but she was quickly back in her boat and ready for the lunch stop. When about half of us had paddled over and got out on the bank with our sandwiches, Keleigh and Craig took heroic dips just above the weir (I’m sure they only did it for the rescue demonstration). The rescue was impressive to watch as both paddlers were on the opposite sides of the river to their boats, and some of the rescue team already over the weir three foot below. Those of us on the bank stayed on the bank as we didn’t want to crowd, and there were plenty of paddlers still on the water. Well done rescue team, and to Keleigh and Craig, who tried really hard to roll up.

With everyone fed and watered and back in their boats we carried on, stopping to play on many waves (there was even a slide sort of feature made of lots of smooth pebbles which was fun!) to the get out just before the bridge.

It was a super river, paddled with super company – thank you to everyone for a great weekend!

Hannah Bellamy