RIVER AVON (Malmesbury to Great Somerford)

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Mark R
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RIVER AVON (Malmesbury to Great Somerford)

Post by Mark R » Sat Sep 13, 2008 9:44 am

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Re: RIVER AVON (Malmesbury to Great Somerford)

Post by Wren » Fri Jan 07, 2011 8:40 pm

Decided to try this out last summer.... one canoe, one kayak and a distinct lack of rain meant any river/ditch was looking tempting. Maybe not the best choice for a June paddle. A few shallow spots around Malmesbury to the bypass bridge meant the kayak had to be evacuated and dragged for a few sections. Where the foot bridge is below the weir in the long stay car park - if rocks are showing dowstream of the bridge - the first section is going to require dragging at times.

All weirs easily portaged up to Little Somerford. The large Env. Agency Weir looked to be surrounded by private garden. There seem to be smaller weirs further down - we portaged via footpath on the left bank onto Mill Lane then magically flew with our boats until we landed in a ditch back onto the River.

Not sure if the weir is easily portaged without garden trampling - google satellite (which I've looked at afterwards) shows a couple houses, a series of low bridges/garden developments around the mill streams/river - looks like a garden feature rather than a paddling route... curses....

If anyone has successfully snuck around the weir and paddled through the gardeny bit - I'd love to hear about any encounters etc.

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Re: RIVER AVON (Malmesbury to Great Somerford)

Post by Landypaddler » Sun Mar 24, 2013 5:18 pm

Re River Avon (malmesbury to great somerford) Paddled this section today, great fun, very cold, levels at 0.68 on the EA gauge. All take care though, a couple of serious tree blocks. One of which was was impassable. Safe portage river right will post some pics when camera defrosts. Steve

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Re: RIVER AVON (Malmesbury to Great Somerford)

Post by mharrall » Tue May 10, 2016 9:27 pm

A recent email trail between myself and a gentleman called Hugh, glean what you can from it.

On 9 May 2016 12:03, Hugh wrote:
Hello Martin Harrall,
I'm in Bristol, and have been slowly exploring upriver. So far, I've got as far as Melksham. I've found your Avon Blog invaluable - though I'm a slow old bloke in an open, and tend to paddle in warmer months, so some of the information isn't quite right for me. So, I go on reconnaissance first. Yesterday I looked at the weirs between Malmesbury and Great Somerford.
The most important point, is that about 100m below the small weir in farmland above Great Somerford, someone's put a barbed-wire fence across the river. This is a single strand, but double towards the left bank. The strand was about 300mm above the water, with the river level at 0.33m (Great Somerford measuring station). I don't know how best to warn paddlers! I was not able to inspect the rest of the river in this area: I'm suspicious that there may be other similar fences.
For Cowbridge Weir at Malmesbury, I think things may have changed a bit. The mill site is now a big, and rather upmarket, housing development. The actual weir was totally dry, with the water level a couple of inches below the lip of it. Portage there would actually be quite difficult in low water, due to reed growth, steep banks, nettles, etc. I think it would be simpler to branch right along the mill leat; pull out left shortly before the new flat low-level footbridge; then a short carry along the lane which goes over the underfall sluices, to put in just below these. The river is almost choked by fallen trees and reed, just below the main road bridge.
For Little Somerford (Kingsmead Mill), I also can't see any way round it - except by portaging across the gardens a bit. Do you have any information about actually doing this, attitude of the present owners, etc? I see that it was sold a few years ago by that Dyson chap for £4.5million, and the current owners are probably the family who developed Lava Lamps....
For Dauntsey, I wasn't able to view the two weirs by Dauntsey Park House (not to be confused with Dauntseys, posh school near Devizes). I can see from photos etc that the upper weir, nearer the house, is easily portaged right. But the lower weir, with the leat going to the hydro-electric generator screw, looks as though it would be a long drop from the bank into the water - even for a seal launch, which of course I don't do. Do you have any more information about this?

On May 10, 2016 7:52 AM Martin Harrall wrote

Hi Hugh,

Wow, sounds like things have changed a bit since I last checked out that far upstream.
For warning paddlers of hazards I would suggest that telling me is a good first step as I can pass the information on when asked. You could also post some updates to the river information on the ukriversguidebook website which is a popular resource.
Portaging around little somerford is likely to be a problem. The last known decent of that section was by a local club several years ago, I was told that the house owners response to a portage request was mixed. The gentleman they met was fairly relaxed about it but his wife wasn't. They were allowed through but asked to move on straight away. The left hand option is possible but very long winded especially with a solo open boat! I generally suggest that paddlers start their trip at Great somerford to avoid any hassle so I'm dismayed to learn of the barbed wire.
I wasn't aware of the various hydro developments but unfortunately these are springing up all over the Avon and its tributaries spoiling a lot of local paddling trips.
I'd like to update that blog but in all honesty I doubt I'll find the time for quite a while.


Unfortunately my tech skills are very limited, and I don't know how to put stuff on ukrivershandbook....
As to the fence, note that this is at the small weir a mile or so upstream of Great Somerford - so it shouldn't affect anyone starting at Great Somerford itself. I'm pretty sure the land ownership is different - the style of fencing etc is very different, as very 'professional' around GS, but very 'thrown-together' where this obstruction is. So, I think that a GS start, should still be good advice. What a shame we don't have military-level satellite survey equipment, or super drone-flying surveys, to check on this sort of thing...

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