Stand Up Paddling: Derwentwater

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I crossed the Cumbrian border into persistent drizzle. The car ploughed through runoff from the lofty fells; tumbling becks in high spate as a deluge of rainfall finally swallowed up the heatwave.

Windermere passed as a grey, lustrous smudge; Grasmere and Thirlmere too.

Visions of Greek-style, sun-drenched island hopping led me to Derwentwater, one of the most scenic lakes in the Lake District National Park.

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Knowing the meteorological characteristics of the area just a little, however, I had come prepared with all the paddling gear I own: drysuit, wetsuit, shorts and t-shirt.

I arrived at Kettlewell car park on the eastern shore of the lake, the only place where you can park close to the water’s edge. For this reason, it fills up very quickly with canoes, kayaks and boats of all kinds.

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Today’s chosen form of watery transport: a Starboard 10’ 5” Drive stand up paddleboard (SUP).

Not only is SUPing tremendously fun, it is the safest way to explore alone on large open water. Why? Self rescue is incredibly easy. You can fall off, and simply flop back on again like a seal.

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I paddled for the southern tip of the lake, into a moderate wind, facing the so-called, ‘Jaws of Borrowdale’ (a beautiful valley, not the local monster).

The breeze, and accompanying chop, slowed progress a little and I began to feel the burn in my core muscles. Every stroke taken on an SUP is like doing a fun sit-up. It is fantastic exercise, so much so that it is practised by image-conscious Hollywood stars such as Jennifer Aniston and Pierce Brosnan.

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The scenery was stunning, as I had imagined. A fiery mist hung beneath the wooded, rocky outcrops to the south; Skiddaw invisible in the north. A tessellation of purple tarnished, astroturf peaks enclosed the western horizon.

I eventually found shelter amid the rocky islets at the foot of the lake. Nearby Borrowdale’s lush, vertiginous topography could have been Borneo, or Brazil.

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Hugging the western shoreline, standing up yet dwarfed by tall pines, I gazed down into the near invisible water. Offshore, the lake’s remarkable clarity appears as jet black; the sun’s rays turned back by seventy-two feet of sheer, icy depth.

Using my body as a sail, I pivoted and ran with the wind and waves to St. Herbert’s Island, landing, Crusoesque, on a pebbly beach.

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Remnants of past visits abound, blackened rocks and charred sticks the ashes of countless campfires.

Derwent Isle grew larger before my eyes, the fetch building the waves until they gave helpful little pushes from astern. I judged this as an appropriate point to turn around, it was going to be hard work paddling back against the breeze.

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Utilising the wind-break of Rampsholme Island, I returned south. I would have come ashore here, but a wayward seagull took a strong dislike, and made repeated attempts to deter me with a string of low-flying swoops in my direction. I took the hint and carried on, as the unfriendly birds circled the treetops, guarding their territory.

During this drama, the wind vanished; the water turning glassy and rippled only by the wakes of the tourist steamers.

After practising a few flatwater tricks, I landed and drove five miles south into the heart of Borrowdale…

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STAY TUNED for my next adventure to Galleny Force, Borrowdale.

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