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paddlesports advice...

The following information should give you an overview of what you need to know for your day on the water. We recommend that you do further research to ensure you have all the information and experience you need to enjoy a day on the water.

Access for canoeing and kayaking
Before setting out to use the water it is important you have all the information necessary and that you understand the access agreements. Always wear a buoyancy aid when participating in on water activities.

The Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) publishes Lake User Guides both in print and as downloadable pdfs. Use the link below to visit their website and download the guides. Information is also available on the byelaws for the main lakes.
LDNPA website (opens in a new window)

Lake users are asked to read and understand the lake user guides and bylaws for the main lakes before setting off for a day on the water!

It is also important to know what to expect when you go out on to the lake. We recommend using an activity provider or class to learn the basics.

The immediate influence on any open water is the wind: driving the waves, it can be too strong to paddle directly into and crossing the waves may result in swamping or even rolling over the boat. A ‘weather eye' on the wind strength and a retreat to paddle another day should be planned for. Paddling directly downwind can be fast and fun, but needs very good steering control to avoid being turned side-on to the waves.

The water temperature in the lakes is rarely warm, but is at its warmest by about August to September. Immersion at other times can be a chilly experience, best practised at the warmest times. A good rule is to dress for immersion, and then if it happens you will be in the best condition to effect self-rescue.

Commercial Launches and Steamers: Please do not occupy the water around piers and jetties where commercial traffic will collect and set down passengers: These boats are larger and much heavier than you!

Lake Maps

Coniston Water: download map

Derwentwater: download map

Ullswater: download map

Windermere: download map

Presenting low to high levels of challenge to the white water paddler, many of Cumbria's rivers are subject to some form of Access Agreement or accepted practice (while some have no specific agreement). These have usually been negotiated by BCU representatives (local paddlers) who have put the case for paddlers' access to water to the various interested parties operating on the estates and properties by the water.

Staying within the Access Agreement terms shows a responsible attitude to using the water for recreation. Going outside these terms may mean permissions are withdrawn and possible legal action by the landowners, or degradation of exceptional wildlife habitat.

Currently the BCU has a Rivers Access Campaign which aims to obtain rights to water for all, similar to the rights walkers have on the land. Visit www.riversaccess.org

Getting started on the river

Get skilled-up first. Find a provider to teach you the basics or join a canoe club.

Buy a guidebook. These are essential for the detail you need to plan descents of the rapids and weirs en-route.

Do your research and make sure you know where you can paddle! Consult the BCU Local Rivers Access contact for seasonal information, permissions, booking schemes and local knowledge via www.cumbriacanoeists.org.uk.

Use a map to accurately find the access and egress points.

Use an appropriate boat. Retailers are awash with technical designs for niche activities on the river. Most of the sit-on-top and inflatable designs available for ‘leisure' use are hardly suitable for Cumbria's shallow, rock-strewn rivers.

Go with someone who has proven competence and knowledge of the river's features. Several of the Access Agreements do not allow for stops on the river; you can only get on and off at the start and finish! Capsizing, then needing to empty out on the bank, may attract conflict with other interests.

Visit the various web sites that have details of river descents. You may get useful insights into the scenery, river features, problems encountered, best times to go. Safe paddling: Enjoy!

Getting started on the Sea
Cumbria's coast faces the Irish Sea and like all large areas of open water, the immediate influence on the paddler is from the wind. The other main difference to being on a lake is the cyclical motion of the waves at sea which means the whole mass is constantly on the move, up, down and side-to-side. Combine this with tidal effects and you realise there's a lot to plan for.

The water temperature in the sea often feels warm compared to the lakes but it's a big place to get back into the boat from if capsized, so a good rule is to dress for immersion then if it happens you will be in the best condition to get rescued by the others in your group and continue your journey.

Get skilled-up first. Find a provider to teach you the basics or join a canoe club.

Learn to interpret Tide Tables, inshore forecasts and plan well within your ability. Collect experience gradually.

Use appropriate boats. Most plastic sea kayaks and current estuary touring kayaks are seaworthy up to conditions of about Force 2-3, if you are. The skilled practitioner can operate beyond this range. Planing hull white-water boats are often excellent for surfing at the beach.

A group of 3 boats is the Coastguard's recommended safe minimum. You should carry recommended equipment for safety at sea.

Be aware that although access to the sea is free, there are certain places like nature reserves and firing ranges where launching and landing are restricted.

There's a lifetime of exploring and close-up wildlife encounters to be had on the sea. Treat with great respect!

Participation Statement
The British Canoe Union says "Canoeing and kayaking are assumed risk water contact sports that may carry attendant risks. Participants should be aware of and accept these risks, and be responsible for their own actions and involvement".

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