A KAYAKER said that his group escaped drowning in a river 'due to luck alone' after encountering a wire fence placed in a dangerous position underneath a bridge. 

Tim Watson was kayaking with four other whitewater kayakers on the River Clough from Garsdale Head when they came to a bridge carrying the A684 over the river. 

Kayakers often encounter sheep bridges, which are highly-visible wooden structures placed along the river bed to prevent sheep from escaping a farm when a river is low.

The 42-year-old said that whitewater kayakers are trained to spot these and leave the river when they encounter them. 

But Mr Watson said that this fence was no such structure. 

Cumbria Police said that they were aware of the incident. 

The Westmorland Gazette: The bridge across the River Clough with the words 'KEEP OUT' visible on the up-stream sideThe bridge across the River Clough with the words 'KEEP OUT' visible on the up-stream side (Image: Tim Watson)

He said: "The lead kayaker paddled under the bridge and, unbeknown to him, straight towards a wire fence which had been erected across the whole river. He was not able to stop but as he met the fence, managed to pull it over his body and escape the situation, still in his boat. The rest of the group, apart from one kayaker, managed to stop in time, as a result of the lead kayaker’s signals.

READ MORE: Former primary school site on market for £1 million

"One member of the group was not able to stop and approached the fence. He was not in a position on the river to do the same as the lead kayaker and, seeing the situation develop, capsized, exited his boat and swam under the wire fence. Due to extreme good luck, he was not caught underwater and drowned. His boat and paddle were washed downstream and lost. 

The Westmorland Gazette: Mr Watson's diagram of the fence Mr Watson's diagram of the fence (Image: Tim Watson)

"Once the kayakers were all in a position of safety, we began to take a closer look at the situation. We saw, painted in capital letters on the upstream side of the bridge, ‘KEEP OUT’. The wire fence was erected across the downstream side of the bridge."

Mr Watson, from Laxton, East Yorkshire, added: "At spate [full] flows, anyone paddling the river would be caught up in the lattice of wires. The fact that no-one drowned was due to luck alone. If the fence is not removed, it will cause a fatality, perhaps several."