My quest to paddle the meres & waters of the Lake District
By Katie Houghton
The seed was planted when a friend suggested a one way paddle on Ullswater Lake, leaving a car at each end. The three of us (plus one dog) paddled the length of Ullswater one very windy October day last year.
Ullswater is not a straight lake and so each section was characterised by its own wind system. We set off kneeling with a strong head wind, thinking we were never going to get there. After we turned the first corner, it was much easier and we could stop without fear of been blown backwards. Lunch break on the beach and around the last corner to the home stretch, welcomed with a tail wind to blow us to the end. We made the 12.6k with only one of us falling in, luckily not me, but I had carried my RED Original Pro Change Robe just in case.
Next up was the big one, Lake Windermere, something I’ve wanted to do for years but just never quite got round to it. During a particularly hot week this August, me and my Dog Rhyder left our house, walked down to Fell foot park at the south end of Lake Windermere.
Rhyder wears the RED Original Dog Bouyancy Aid, it lifts his back legs to align his spine while swimming, this makes swimming much more relaxing for him and I notice a big difference from when he is not wearing it. It also has handy grab handles on it so I can help him climb back on board from the water.
Carrying the RED Sport Paddle Board I’d borrowed for the day and my deck bag over my shoulder with all our snacks, I’d checked the wind and as it usually does it was blowing in a South to North direction up the Lake. I chose to use the inflatable RED board today as I have a hard board which doesn’t allow me to attach a bag of any sort, I also thought it would be more comfortable for both of us, especially if I needed to paddle from my knees for any time. I noticed Rhyder was particularly settled on the RED board, very relaxed, I wondered if it was more stable.
I’d set a goal of a break every 4k for snacks and a chance for Rhyder to have a play in the water to cool off. The deck bag is perfect for storing everything I needed, food, drink, phone, and really easy to access the contents due to its rigid form.
We paddled up the east shore of the lake as it is a little quieter. We made great time and the 17k took us 4 hours of paddling, 5 hours including breaks. We were greeted at the other end in Ambleside by my other half and a well earned Sourdough Pizza.
A few days later to make the most of the heatwave we were having. We (myself, my husband Dave and Rhyder) paddled the length of Coniston water, the 9.5k felt like a doddle after Windermere. I then ran back along the shore to collect the car. This was great training for an upcoming triathlon I was doing in September, my first one. This one really appealed to me SUP BIKE RUN, I’d booked it 3 years ago and like most things during Covid it had been put on hold.
In the run up to the triathlon I’d been concentrating on faster short paddles as the Sup section was only 3km. Having never had a Sup lesson, but picked up a few pointers on the Red paddle out back in May. I’d started looking into it a bit more and watching a few tutorial videos as I had been experiencing a bit of lower back pain. I think this is linked to a hamstring strain I picked up paddling Windermere, it didn’t really bother me too much at the time, but every time I went out in the weeks following I noticed it. After researching the correct body position I think my legs had been too straight. I worked on some warmup exercises I could do before going out and this helped a lot. Race day came, and I had so much fun! I competed with my big brother, I’d bought him the entry as a birthday gift, and this was super special for me. The event was really well run, relaxed and welcoming to newbies. To my surprise when the results came in I was the fastest woman on the standard length course. I was over the moon with this, I’ve never won a sporting event before, my jack of all trades master of non finally paying off. I’ve entered some more of their events next year.
Back to paddling longer distances could resume now the race was out the way. Unfortunately with weather being particularly windy this autumn and hamstring physio, no more lakes have been completed just yet. I had tried the hamstring out on lap of Grassmere end of Nov and it was feeling better, but not quite up for a long paddle just yet. Since then I just haven’t been brave enough to freeze my toes off.
We did most of Derwent water in the summer, but need to do an end to end to tick it off. Then I still have Wastwater & Loweswater to complete. Buttermere, Crummock water and Bassenthwaite require a permit, which require a bit more planning.
I was in no particular rush to tick all the lakes off and its nice to have a to do list, it brings more purpose and adventure to my paddle boarding. Paddling the same water can get stale, but the convenience to get out for a quick hour from my doorstep overrides this. I’m very grateful I can make the most of perfect conditions whenever they occur, nothing quite as calming and peaceful as a float on the water.
The threat posed by Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS) has increased hugely over recent years.
“Invasive non-native species cause serious environmental problems that can be irreversible, and interfere with the activities you enjoy by clogging propellers, damaging boats, blocking up waterways making it hard to fish or use them for paddling, and increasing the risk of flooding.” (www.nonnativespecies.org)
As water users, your actions impact hugely, and there are some steps you can take to ‘STOP THE SPREAD’:
- check your body and hair for bits of weed
- check your equipment prior to and after any water use in the Lake District
- West Cumbria Rivers Trust recommends you use a disinfectant if at all possible on equipment, they recommend Virkon.
- Don’t forget to dry your equipment, as INNS can survive for extended periods in damp conditions.