River Avon: Nafford Weir
NAME OF RIVER: (Warwickshire) Avon
WHERE IS IT?: Nafford, in Worcestershire, a couple of miles from Pershore, between the villages of Eckington and Birlingham (SO 9407 4193).
PUT-INS/TAKE-OUTS: There are a couple of options. The most traditional is to park in a small lay-by on Nafford Road. As you enter the village of Eckington, at the main crossroads turn left (if coming from the north) or right (if coming from the south) onto Nafford Road. The lay-by is roughly a mile on, just opposite a footpath gate. Do not use the anglers car park a few yards on! Then it is just a case of following the footpath down, cross the canal, and then along another overgrown footpath until you reach the weir.
A second option, which saves the moderate walk to the weir, is to come through the village of Birlingham. Turn right by the church along Broadway and follow the road until a junction by a right hand corner. Turn right down the smalll land, and then right again at the next junction. Follow this road, which then turns into a very rough track (careful of your suspension!). Keep going until you come to a small parking area normally used by bird watchers and walkers. I was told that this was an anglers car park, but this does not seem to be the case (the anglers here generally have a key to the gate and drive across the field track to a paring area next to the main part of the river). Clubs and paddlers have been using this parking area for years without any challenge. The weir is literally just through the stile by the footpath that branches off to the right.
In both cases once you get to the weir, the put-on is on the official Canoe egress/ingress point on the small beach there.
APPROX LENGTH: It’s a weir.
TIME NEEDED: As much time as you have the energy for.
ACCESS HASSLES: None that I have ever encountered. The pool is often fished, but I have always had friendly chats with the anglers, and I have often helped them retrieve lines when they have become stuck or broken. They never fish in the weir itself or the main outflow, so it is easy to co-exist there. Just make sure to say hello to them and have a chat!
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: I prefer to go there since the online gauges do not account for the sluice gates on the primary weir just around the corner. Depending on their setting the weir can run higher or lower, so it is best to view in person. If there has been a lot of rain and the gauges are reading well above average then don’t bother.
Nafford usually always works in all but the highest levels. A good indication is by looking at the eddy between the bridge stanchion. If there is a big eddy there it is quite low. The smaller the eddy, the higher the water level and the more sticky it is. If there is tiny eddy it can still be fun, but if there is no eddy at all, might be best for the pub (there’s a great one in Birlingham by the way)!
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Very occasionally and rarely logs coming down from inconsiderate bank work above! Weir outflow can be very shallow so make sure your helmet is good and fits well!
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Nafford weir is a great place for beginners, or for experts who may be bored of no water anywhere else. The weir itself is a 45 degree slope, which then abruptly flattens out to a gentler slope, before going flat under the water. It is in a picturesque location and is generally very quiet. It is on a footpath, so you will often get an audience. There’s a large pool area which is great for flat water practice or freestyle, and then the weir itself, which is broken into two sides. Both have great outflows. It is a fantastic place for introducing beginners to white water skills, with plenty of safe area to pick up bits and pieces.
The River right side can offer better surfing for some depending on the level, but be careful of the rock/brickwork just below, which creates the fantastic jet wave, if you go over! This side is fantastic for practicing jet ferries, and in fact the whole location is often used by local slalom groups to set up gates as a result of this type of outflow.
River left is the most popular side for surfing. You won’t be doing loops or cartwheels at Nafford due to the shallow nature. But for beginners it is great for practicing their first spins and front surfs, even at very low levels.
As the water level rises Nafford can offer some more interestingly feisty side surfs and spins. It does take a fair amount of water before the weir becomes dangerously sticky. I have been on it when it is high enough to roll back up in while remaining on the wave. It was quite sticky at this level, but not impossibly so, although it took a bit of effort to get off it! Spins at this level can become hyper speed!
OTHER NOTES: Lots and lots and lots of shellfish shells! The entire beach is made of them! Bits of wood, sometimes with nails, or ripped metal cans washed from up stream (be vigilant while bare foot).