GUIDE TO THE RIVER FROME
NAME OF RIVER: Bristol Frome (a small section of), not to be confused with Somerset Frome.
WHERE IS IT?: North Bristol - although it can be paddled from further upstream, this section flows through a public park and is the part of the river of most interest.PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Take M32 off M4, exit immediately at Junction 1 - turn left (east) along Bristol ring road (A4174). Turn right at first roundabout towards Downend. 800m later turn right at the first mini-roundabout and proceed another 800m to Frenchay bridge at bottom of hill - park carefully and put in downstream of bridge.
Put-in - Frenchay Bridge (ST 640772)
Take-out - Snuff Mills Car Park (ST 623765)
APPROX LENGTH: 2 km.
TIME NEEDED: 20 mins in high water, 70 minutes will allow for playing etc.
ACCESS HASSLES: No known problems for this section.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Can be done to below measuring device at most times during the year. A couple of days decent rain needed to do the whole section enjoyably. The larger weirs need portage in less than medium water. If you estimate the flow under Frenchay Bridge at greater than a fast walking pace then it will be fine.
GRADING: 2+ with more challenging vertical weirs.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Lots of weirs.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: 300m below put-in is a 4-foot sloping weir with minimal towback, can be shot along its length, including over a broken section on river right. 100m below this is a water measuring device, which funnels the water into a rather messy play wave with strong eddies on either side. This is good for practicing ferrygliding, surfing, crosses, squirts etc. At high water, the eddies are vigorous and recirculate back to the main chute. Hazards to watch out for are some wire cages supporting the bank on river right and a strand of barbed wire on river left (keep meaning to do something about that...). In general this spot is fun for all the family.
If you can see rocks protruding from mid-river here then there is not much point proceeding down the river (walk back up the path on river left). If the rocks 40m below the wave are covered with a good flow then proceed. After a few hundred metres, a small island appears, go left. Then there is a flat section before a 9-foot? vertical weir. Shoot it over the middle to right part. The water is only a few feet deep here so don't land vertical in a long boat. Portage river right if worried.
600m later, the river passes under a footbridge and over a 9-inch! weir with a surprisingly long but not very strong towback. A few hundred metres later comes the last feature, another 8-9 foot vertical weir, with a relatively shallow base so some pace is needed to shoot it. Exit immediately up some steps on river right and walk along the path to Snuff Mills Car park.
Dave Musgrove... (November 2002) 'I have now paddled the aforementioned, and I can confirm that my original impression was correct - it is a bit grim. The description is pretty much accurate, the thing is flat except for the weirs. The water was pretty brown so I guess reasonably high, all weirs runnable in the level we did it (1.8 on the gauge, it was pretty shallow all the way down though there was just enough water for flat water wheels in most parts). It would be extremely naff with less water, and the weirs would get painful on landing.
Very little play potential, all weirs are vertical drops with not much water going over them, and no stoppers to speak of. The water measuring shoot does make what could be generously described as a wave but very little fun to be had there. As far as whitewater goes, there are some ever-so bimbly bits at the bottom of the weirs so it is a grade 1-2. The largest weir is about 8ft and is very briefly amusing to paddle over though the freefall experience doesn't compare to, say the Sogndalelva. On the downside, the water quality was a little distressing and there were some extremely unpleasant foam pile-ups to contend with (see pic) - that's where the river splits in two, both sections were blocked by trees, sh*t and foam - though we dragged ourselves over the right hand side pile-up without getting out of boats.
It's quite scenic along the river, and if you're absolutely desperate, you could paddle it and say you've done some whitewater. I don't think it'll achieve 'classic run status' anytime soon.
More interestingly, the river does carry on into Bristol and in the middle of St Pauls, it amusingly disappears under a car park and doesn't come out again until it flows out into the docks just next to the Waterside - apparently it has been boated, though one slight problem strikes me - the outflow is blocked by a river-wide metal grille. I couldn't quite tell when Ilooked but I think you might be able to roll under it and get out into the docks, though that would necessitate putting your head into a whole world of ugly looking sh*te and I couldn't guarantee that the grille doesn't go all the way to the bottom of the river, in which case you'd drown. I don't see any reason why you couldn't carry on down the Frome after the Snuff Mills car park - the map says there are more weirs and you'd be paddling through some pretty seedy 'burbs but if you could resolve the outflow issue and finish the trip with an underground adventure, that would be kinda fun.'
CONTRIBUTED BY: Laurence Doddy, Bristol Canoe Club, also Dave Musgrove.