Sea Kayaking Cumbria: Barrow & St Bees

Barrow sea kayaking

Cumbria provides some great, though perhaps less well known, venues for sea kayaking.  This past weekend saw Steve taking private clients out round the North end of Walney Island following the fast flowing tide through the North channel past the nature reserve.  They were surprised by its unpopulated and wild nature even though being close to a large town.  Barrow provides many other excellent venues for a day out (image with Piel Castle) whilst Cumbria as a whole has plenty of good coast for sea kayaking:  St Bees has the only cliff coastline between the Great Orme and the Mull of Galloway and is festooned with cliff nesting birds in spring and summer; the huge sandy expanse of Morecambe Bay and the many river estuaries on the coast provide for fast tides and several tidal bores as the incoming water is concentrated in narrow spaces; the North Solway has 6 knot currents on spring tides to carry the adventurous northwards to return on the equally brisk ebb.  These and other Cumbrian paddling sites await those interested in broadening their kayaking horizons.  If this appeals to you Steve will be happy to advise and provide any support you need – just call 07796 213817 or email for a chat.

By |October 11th, 2021|Sea Kayak|Comments Off on Sea Kayaking Cumbria: Barrow & St Bees

Orcadian adventures

Sea Kayak Orkney

Steve is just returned from running his sea kayak trip to Orkney, though the weather did encourage some significant adaptations!  We did manage a paddle from Stromness to the Ring of Brodgar, a day surfing at Scapa Bay and an excellent round of Gairsay (image) where we had some great tidal conditions, archeology and a huge group of grey seals bow riding the kayaks and leaping out of the water.  We also had the opportunity to explore Skara Brae, Kirkwall and the western mainland of Orkney before very strong winds dictated a change of plan.

A check of the weather across Scotland showed the Moray Firth to be the calmest and sunniest place, so we relocated to Inverness and had three further excellent days paddling from Hopeman, on the Beauly Firth and at Fortrose from Chanonry Point to Fort George in the exciting tide races.  We did also manage a really enjoyable night paddle in near perfect conditions from Bunchrew.

Steve’s next sea kayak trips will be next year, one week of which he’s hoping to run in Jersey to make up for the week lost during the first lockdown.  The dates and venues will be advertised on the sea kayak trips page so please get in touch if you’re interested at steve@stevebanksoutdoors.co.uk or 07796 213817.

By |October 7th, 2021|Website|Comments Off on Orcadian adventures

Canoe Leader Award

Canoe Leader Open Water

With the new BC Canoe Leader Award structure now implemented candidates are coming forward for the newly separated open water and white water elements.  Steve ran an Open Water assessment last week in the Lakes which went very well.  It’s become quickly apparent that the majority of individuals seeking these awards are predominantly interested in the Open Water award as it tends to fit best with situations in which they will be leading e.g. outdoor centres and clubs.  The training and assessment for both elements now permit greater coverage of the required skills and knowledge to be an effective leader in these environments – this is a clear benefit of the new system.

The ability to focus on either discipline in isolation is proving popular, as the numbers enrolling on the specific training days has increased significantly.  If you are keen to further your qualifications to lead in either moderate or advanced open or white water in canoe Steve will be pleased to help you: his next Canoe Leader training courses are Oct 16th & 17th for open water and white water respectively, with further courses on the 6th & 7th Nov.  Get in touch for a discussion at steve@stevebanksoutdoors.co.uk

By |September 22nd, 2021|Canoe|Comments Off on Canoe Leader Award

Atlantic grey seals

atlantic grey seal

Last weekend saw Steve taking two private clients out sea kayaking from Roa Island with a specific request for wildlife encounters.  Paddling from Roa to Piel Island and then onto Walney Island meant we came across many birds including eider, dunlin, sanderling, curlew, sandwich terns and various gulls, though the highlight of the day was being surrounded by big atlantic grey seals which came to investigate us, nudging the boats and swimming beside us.

Atlantic grey seals (halichoerus grypus) are one of the UK’s two indigenous seal species (there are 33 species worldwide divided into 3 family groups).  Greys are one of 18 species of phocid seals which are often referred to as ‘true seals’ and ‘earless seals’ on account of their lack of a prominent external pinna.  Phocid seals are characterised by their slug-like appearance on land and the fact they use blubber for insulation as opposed to fur.  Atlantic greys are big animals with the bulls being up to 310kg, they join together on beaches in colonies and the males compete over the females.  Pups tend to be born in Autumn and Winter and have the classic white, furry weaner coat which harks back to camouflage in an Arctic past.  This coat prevents them swimming effectively for the first 2 to 3 weeks of life and makes them vulnerable on the beach both to external disturbance and from adult seals – particularly if they stampede for the water when spooked by humans.

It is very important with marine mammals in general to take care when approaching them so as to not disturb them or be perceived as a threat.  Steve was careful to advise his clients to stay well clear of the single mother with a young pup on the beach and to then drift and allow the inquisitive animals to approach – which they did in numbers!

If you’d like more information on seals or to engage with wildlife from your sea kayak please contact us for support.  Steve is both experienced and knowledgeable and will be pleased to help you.

By |September 6th, 2021|Environment, Sea Kayak|Comments Off on Atlantic grey seals

Orkney sea kayak trip

Orkney sea kayak trip

Steve’s next sea kayak trip is to the Orkney Islands with paddling days from the 27th September to 1st October.  There’s also the opportunity for some free additional days as a client on Sea Leader assessments (depending on competence) after the paddling days.  The trip is definitely running, barring unforeseen issues getting in the way, there are still a couple of places available if you’re interested in joining.

As well as away trips and personal guiding and coaching days Steve is also now putting on his normal range of courses for those seeking qualifications in outdoor activities.  He’s doing this whilst still being very mindful of the Covid situation.  We’ll still be being vigilant to protect ourselves and clients from exposure to the virus and have no intention of letting our guard down.

By |September 2nd, 2021|Sea Kayak|Comments Off on Orkney sea kayak trip

Family caving day

Family caving day

Steve ran a fun, introductory, family caving day in the Yorkshire Dales in ideal conditions.  A great time was had by all as the venue allowed for wandering along easy cave passage enjoying the environment or, in the case of one 10 year old aspirant caving ‘connoisseur’, the opportunity to delve into every small space they could find!

Caving does offer experiences of all levels to match with individual interests.  There are plenty of venues where straightforward walking and easy scrambling underground is the norm.  If this is an environment you’d like to experience get in touch and we’ll be pleased to help.

By |August 31st, 2021|Cave|Comments Off on Family caving day

Steve’s recent research article, published in Human Movement Science , has been cited and linked to by Distinguished Professor Gabriele Wulf in her pre-Olympic article in The Conversation explaining the importance of an appropriate focus during skilled performance.  Professor Wulf has led the field in attentional focus research for the past two decades and has had a significant impact on the understanding of how performers and learners, as well as those assisting them, can best focus to optimise their movement outcomes; she has also inspired many others, including Steve, to join in this exciting and critical field of work.

The Conversation is an internationally recognised news source for the dissemination of high quality academic research knowledge and its application to all of us.  Steve’s research, using wildwater kayak racing as a medium, is one of six papers cited to highlight the range of accurately measured benefits achieved with an external attentional focus. Steve is currently writing up a further paper on attentional focus which will hopefully be released later this year.  Gabriele Wulf’s article is available by clicking on the image to the left.

By |July 31st, 2021|Skill Acquisition|Comments Off on

Shetland Sea Kayak trip

Steve is just back from a fabulous sea kayak trip to Shetland which was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.  The sun shone most of the time and we were able to paddle ten different pieces of coastline including spectacular highlights at Eshaness, Hillswick, Ronas Voe, Sand Voe and, as a grand finale, a stunning day out with a view over Muckle Flugga.  As ever, Shetland supplements such excursions with fabulous wildlife: we had wonderful, up-close views of many species of flora and fauna rare or absent on mainland UK both from our kayaks and whilst exploring on land.

We met lots of friendly and helpful folk during our time in the islands, in particular, Claire at Braewick did a great job of looking after our camping needs, whilst George at Noonsbrough was very kind and helpful as we tried to find a suitable parking and launching point- even making a dovetailed wooden momento which he gave to Steve after our paddle.

If you’d like to get a flavour of our Northern adventures click through the images on the left, all taken on the trip.  If you are interested in future trips to Shetland, sea kayak trips in general or any of the other adventure excursions Steve offers, please get in touch and he’ll do his best to help you.

By |June 28th, 2021|Sea Kayak|Comments Off on Shetland Sea Kayak trip

Where Eagles Dare

We are just returned from a spectacular, remote and committing trip to the Hebrides where Steve ran a six day canoe journey into the loch-ridden interior of Lewis.  For five straight days we did not encounter another human being – that’s difficult to do even on our Canadian trips – and provides an insight into just how little visited an area it is.  There are reasons for this of course: it’s challenging with long paddling days on exposed open water; variable and rapidly changing weather; difficult ground for camping and, of course, it’s not without its portages.   Notwithstanding this, and bearing in mind the famous Canadian canoeist Bill Mason and his quote “… you get a better class of paddler after the first portage”, we endeavoured to live up to his ideals ensuring we left no trace of our passing through, save for a few footprints in the sand.  Our reward was a unique trip in a fantastic landscape full of wonderful views and amazing wildlife: we had regular encounters with sandpipers, cuckoos, grouse, snipe and divers, though these were upstaged by the almost constant presence of eagles above our tents – at one point we had four circling overhead, then landing and taking off again close by to soar with a backdrop of the snow capped peaks of Harris’s mountains.

This trip will live long in the memory.  Thank you to everyone who came to join us on the journey.

By |May 26th, 2021|Canoe|Comments Off on Where Eagles Dare

Cumbria Sea Kayaking

Steve’s first paddling course since the easing of Covid restrictions was a three day Sea Kayak Leader training course using St Bees, Walney Island and Roa Island.  The course culminated with a great day for everyone at Roa Island, starting with a launch into a flooding 10m spring tide flow and surfing on the wave crossing the jetty by the lifeboat station.

A serendipitous encounter with Mark Tomlinson of MT Headspace led to him filming us with his drone and the production of the adjoining video clip.  Depending on your screen resolution it can be played picture in picture or full screen in HD.

Steve’s next Sea Kayak Leader course is the 11th & 12th May on the Cumbrian coast.  If you’re interested in this course or sea kayaking at any level please get in touch with us and we’ll do our best to help.

By |April 30th, 2021|Sea Kayak|Comments Off on Cumbria Sea Kayaking
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