The Wye Open Boat Trip Easter 2010
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21/04/10 The Wye Open Boat Trip Easter 2010
The plan was set, a trip down the Wye over the Easter weekend for those short of time, or lasting well into the week after for those wanting to do the whole 251 km!
The trip is suitable for kayaks, but in the end all three paddlers (Ian B, Keith S and Mike A) chose to paddle open boats, taking all camping kit along with us. I was paddling 2 days, Ian 4 and Keith to the end of the river - or until he got bored!
Day 1 - Rhyader to Builth Wells (ish)
The group met
in the pouring rain at Rhayader to find a River Wye that was, to put it
plainly, rather high! Few, this meant that there was going to be a good flow
assisting us as we paddled the 26km to Builth Wells. Cars shuttled, we headed
out onto the river with hoods up (helmets on in my case) and were soon settling
into the rhythm of the trip as we paddled the grade 2 - 3 river through
the wild majestic that is this part of
It was a really claggy day, mist in the air and snow on the hills, but that didn't diminish spirits as we bailed both the river and rain water out of the canoes - point to me, remember the bailer! Point to Ian, remember to remind me about the bailer that I had just mentioned that I needed to remember! Lack of bailer aside, the miles cruised by as we switched from smooth fast flowing waters to the intervening rapids and back again, all the time accompanied by Kites flying overhead, squirrels darting along the river bank and otters eyeing us warily from the safety of their domain.
Suddenly the ominous roar of significantly larger rapids greeted us, and with discretion being the best part of valour, it was decided that we needed to get out and scout. I was soooooo glad, after kneeling for over 4 hours I needed the stretch. An interesting S bend rapid was lain before us through Builth Rocks, with a few holes to carefully navigate around - testing for our group of open boats. Keith ran first, a clean line through the rapid and over the final drop, but he caught an eddy and his boat struck a rock - CRUNCH, snap - his thwart suddenly broke with the impact. Ian was next and then it was my turn. Heart was in mouth, I haven't ran anything this big in an open boat before, but I was cleanly through and it felt FANTASTIC!
Down to Builth where we decided not to camp in the town car park, but rather to fix Keith’s boat - which he did rather well - and then complete the next days car shuttle, before getting back on the river about 7pm to paddle off and find a camp site. We found a nice ledge, and hoped the river didn't rise. It did, but luckily not enough!
Day 2 - Builth Wells to Hay on Wye through the infamous Hells Hole!
Morning brought sunshine as we woke, and then rain as we struck camp - Boo! Boats loaded it was back onto the fast moving Wye for today’s 36km of grade 2 - 4. Again we didn't meet anyone else as we paddled along, again switching from 1km long rapids through to smooth waters, always with the thought that Hells Hole was approaching, and that we were in fully loaded open boats.
We knew that when we saw a chain bridge then the Grade 4 Hells Hole would be fast approaching. I had paddled this section 17 years ago, so memory was a bit sketchy when the others asked if the bridge we could see indicated the approach to Hell Hole. I couldn't remember, but informed them that the big sign stating, "Canoe Inspection & Portage trail, exit here!" probably suggested it was. I don't know how they missed it.
All out to have a look and decide the two big questions, 1) Was it safe to run? and 2) where was the best place to take a picture from if it all went wrong? Sorry, that should have been where was the best place to set up SAFETY if it all went wrong? Keith decided that he would be official photographer / safety whilst Ian and I ran it, and then we would return the favour. It was noticeable however that the only bit of safety equipment carried by our safety provider was a camera. Hmmmmmm Hell Hole Video – You Tube……
Bouncing around, but avoiding the almost river wide holes Ian cruised the line and carved into the eddy - nice! I followed, again chuffed just to have stayed upright, and then finally Keith ran the rapid. Phew, all successful!
the river dropped its grade as we began the long run down to Hay on Wye.
Unfortunately just at that time whilst we paddled underneath the snow capped
At the purpose built get out in Hay on Wye we were met by an anxious canoe hire company owner, busy looking for some paddlers who had been loaned boats by a "rouge" company. He told us that following the fatality the other year most of the hire company's had decided not to load boats at this river level, but that one was lending whatever and they were concerned. But he hoped we had had a fun day, we had indeed!
I stepped out at this point believing that I had had the best the river had to offer at near perfect levels. Ian and Keith were continuing on as the river continued through its now long and flat meanders as it headed for the sea. I was sad not to be part of the ongoing trip but glad that I had enjoyed such a fantastic trip, in great scenery with great company. Look out for the upcoming tales of the ongoing journey
This is a fantastic area that most Merseyside based paddlers probably don't use enough. The two day section of the Wye could easily be completed as 2 day trips with numerous camping / accommodation options for groups or families. As to the Wye, think of all the best bits of the Dee and you get the idea. But there is soooo much more to the paddler who visits this area. As it is roughly the same travelling time as the lakes, but with more options, I am sure we will be back. Mike Alter
Mike having to leave us at Hay meant the need to consider the next set of car ferries so we could make best progress over the next two days before I would leave Keith to finish. So before departing Mike and Keith dropped Keith car in Ross before dropping Me back at my car in Buithwells on his way home. Whiles this all took place the other individual ate and rested. We then got back on water to drift downstream a short way to find a suitable wild camp. The river still high and running well. Before we knew it we had done another 5km or so and were near the Boat Inn. Shortly after we found a suitable piece of woodland which made a good camp site for the evening. Ian Bell More Photos from the trip……..
Day 3 Easter Sunday - Hay on Wye to
good night rest we had a leisurely start and were on water by about 9:15. The river had dropped slightly but still
had good pace although now a steady grade one and more open countryside.
We covered the next section to the impressive sandstone cliff known as the Scar in next to no time and were at the well kept National
Trust gardens at New Wire. We had
elevenses on the steps at the foot of the gardens and had to endure the
“Oh look dear there are some canoes down there, I wonder what their
doing"” comments of every tourist viewing the gardens ". This
meant that we had paddled the Monnington falls without really noticing
them. I only mention them
because the guide book does and say see inset instruction on p26. I guess from
what it says, it`s a tight channel at low water. I do remember seeing an
continued to paddle, passing though the medieval cathedral city of
Day 4 -
We woke early and with a forecasts of a change in the weather and river having dropped slightly made an early start on the leg to Ross on Wye. The wind having picked up and the valley being more open meant that at some point on this meandering section of the river we would be paddling into the wind. However, it was only occasionally and for short periods. This section is a steady meandering grade one with picturesque villages and remains of old railway bridges from the old
Before long we where approaching Ross-on-Wye and could hear the main road for the first time in two days. We saw rowers from Ross Rowing Club fighting their way upstream against the current as we fought our way down against the wind. We chatted to a local hire guide / Instructor who politely asked where we where from and how far we had come. He obvious only knew his bit of the river as he did not recognise the place names upstream. We landed at Ross by 11:30am, stored the boats securely (locked) against a tree and then undertook the last car ferry before I made my way home. It was a three leg trip. One from Ross back to Hay for my car, two from Hay to drop Keith's car in Chepstow for his finish on Tuesday or Wednesday depending on how it went. Three, back to Ross to drop Keith and pick up my boat before heading home. This round trip took all most three hours. I then left as Keith headed of down river towards Symons Yat, this his next target point.
home about 6pm to get sorted for work next day. As I sat down for tea I received a text
to say Keith had done well with good conditions that afternoon and was just
by Monmouth and all set to complete the trip on Tuesday, day 5 Ian Bell More Photos from the
Day 4 - Ross-on-Wye to Monmouth
We arrived early at Ross-on-Wye, secured the open boats with a padlock to a tree and threw the dry bags into the back of my car and headed off to pick-up Ian`s car at Hay. We drove down to Chepstow to deposit my car at the bottom of the river. With 5 hours of daylight left I said goodbye to Ian and headed off down river. With all my bags pushed to the front of the boat to weight down the bow to stop a freshening headwind spinning me around on every open stretch of the river.
The current sped me the ten kilometres down to
Day 5 - Monmouth to Chepstow
From here down to Chepstow,
the Wye marks the border of
From here on down the banks
consist of oozing mud, which is extremely slimy. At Tintern, it is possible to
access/egress into the car park and visit this splendid old abbey. The guides warned that at low water the
remains of ancient weirs may prove dangerous. At mid-tide I saw no evidence of this
and although any river current was now nullified by a rising tide I soon made
good progress over the final 12 kilometres through magnificent steep limestone
cliffs and gorges. Because of the mud you
should time your descent of this section to arrive close to HW or soon
after. (High water Tintern is
approximately four hours after high tide at
At Chepstow you pass under
the impressive ruins of
More Photos from the trip…….. More information on the River Wye……