Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The River Tweed: Galashiels to Coldstream

From Galashiels to Coldstream was the second stage of my recce of the Tweed. This trip was a little while ago now, the week after I came back from my trip north of the Arctic circle to be specific... I have yet to write up a report from that trip, which will tell you that I have been doing other things. The other things are of course, working, walking, paddling, eating (plenty) sleeping (plenty) and other more mundane stuff not worth mentioning. But despite my tardiness in putting the details and photos down on virtual paper I've been getting out and about a fair bit, with a trip to the lakes, one to the Trossachs, a couple to the Tweed valley and one to the Isle of Arran (always a joy). As I want to spend a bit more time detailing the trip to Norway, and also because this report will follow on nicely from my last one, I've decided to briefly ramble on about a weekend on the Tweed, and save the slightly more dramatic pics from Norway for Next week.

It was getting late when I arrived in Galashiels, but when I got to the river's edge, to precisely the point I had egressed on my last trip on the Tweed, I judged there would still be enough light for a short paddle down river. Mainly I was keen to get on the move downstream because to camp right on the edge of a town isn't fun. And bivvying under a bridge daubed with graffiti really blurs the boundary between camping and 'sleeping rough'. Of course, Gala is a nice Borders town filled with (I'm sure) nice borders folk... but still, I wanted a better camp site and was sure one would be in reach. I found a spot a couple of miles downstream and made camp as it was becoming dark. I woke up surrounded on all sides by sheep.

I set off down river after a bowl of porridge and a cup of tea (of course). The current was reasonably solid and although I was paddling only gently I was making good progress.

The picture above is of the Eildon Hills receding into the distance. The Eildons are a group of three small but prominent hills which can be seen for miles around (from lots of tops in the borders). They feature Iron age earthworks as they served as hill forts for the ancient types who lived in these parts.

I portaged the grade 3 Markestoun rapids (pictured above) despite their less than menacing appearance. The water levels on this trip were still relatively low, clearly, and I'm sure these rapids are more rabid in full flow.

Before getting back on the water I ate lunch in this rather sweet fishing shelter. I imagine this is a popular (read 'expensive') beat, as the tranquility was blessed and there were some whopping fish jumping completely clear of the water's surface.

After the Markestoun rapids the river broadens significantly. And as it broadens it also slows. In the late afternoon when on occasion I stopped paddling to just float, I was only barely making progress downstream on the light current.

I finally quit the river for the day as the sun was sinking in the sky.

It was a pleasant campsite. After dinner, a cup of steaming tea and a large dram of single malt I was treated to the sight of a trio of swans taking flight. Sounds a little mundane? It was magic.

And then not one but two Otters floating and yelping (quite loudly) in the river beside me. I was so chuffed by my brief sighting of an Otter on the Tweed during my last trip that this really made my day. Below is the best picture I managed to take. The others were to blurry to be recognisable.

It was an enjoyable enough jaunt downstream and I enjoyed the wildlife. But a packraft is wasted on a trip which only follows a river and misses the hills. There must be a real variety of opportunities for proper trips in the area of the Tweed, Ettrick and Yarrow valleys. This weekend just gone I took another trip down the Tweed from Peebles to Innerleithen (on impulse in the evening on Sat night) and then followed a far longer loop on foot via the hills to the south of the river back to Peebles. That kind of trip s more what a packraft is for. Still, a source to sea trip down the Tweed is still on my mind as part of a longer backpacking trip. And I'll get around to it. When I have the time.

In the morning, after breakfast, I paddled the last mcouple of miles or so downsteam to take me in to the quaint village of Coldstream. A wild weekend it was not. Enjoyable, though.

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Grid North by David Hine is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.