GUIDE TO HORNER WATER
(Upper Section to West Luccombe)
NAME OF RIVER: Horner Water.
WHERE IS IT?: North Exmoor, near Porlock. See map.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Epic steep lanes bring you to the highest road access at SS 875447.
The takeout is 150 vertical metres below, anywhere before the village of West Luccombe, as the river flattens out alongside the road. There are plenty of parking opportunities.
APPROX LENGTH: 5 kilometres.
TIME NEEDED: One hour.
ACCESS HASSLES: Horner Water has is rarely paddleable and has seen too few descents to generate any access difficulties. Horner Wood is part of a National Nature Reserve and care should be taken not to damage the surrounding banks; as always.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Horner Water has a small catchment and a small dam impedes its flow; very heavy (and current) rain is needed to turn this tiny stream into a credible paddling adventure.
There is a gauging weir visible beside the road, a little way upstream of West Luccombe. There are three gauges alongside and below the small weir; the third gauge should read '1' as an absolute minimum; ideally you want much more. The river should be overflowing its banks at the put in.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: If you can bring yourself to take it seriously, Horner Water offers an entertaining run in spate. Despite being very steep and fast, there are few technical difficultiessimply hang on and keep and eye open for eddies! Do not be deceived by the grade; this is fairly unforgiving when it's running.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Horner Water is a true ditch at the access point; be assured that it quickly picks up some volume and becomes wider en route downhill!
If you don't like the rapids you see at the start, don't bother; what you see is what you get all the way to the bottom of the hill, with constant even gradient. There is only room for a small group and they need to be awake; there were only two tree blocks in October 2002 but you didn't want to miss the eddies above. If the river is running at the spate levels it requires, you'll arrive at the take-out about five minutes before you started.
Dave Snook (Jan 2004)...'Two of us recently paddled Horner Water (Jan 2004). The trip took just about an hour and a half, this included a few portages. If the river is blockage free, it would take less than an hour. If you are a play boater, don't bother, there is nothing for you here.
The river is graded at 3-, and whilst I would agree with this, it is a very committing paddle at the grade, as tree blockages can lurk around blind bends, and many do! If you are not able to read and run, again, this is not the river for you. All that aside, this river will make you grin for the duration of the trip.
From the get in the river is constant, eddy hopping above blind bends is a good survival tactic, there is a nice strainer within the first 500 yards which woke us up to this. Most portages are not hard, and the trees are visible well in advance, but it is worth scouting 50 yards downstream before you put back in, as twice we got caught out, and we were back on the bank literally yards after launching.
The river and scenery is far from featureless, but there are very few land marks to let you know exactly where you are unless you are a local. This aside, about half way in to the trip, there is a small island with a tree on, immediately followed by a sharp right hand bend; portage at the eddy above the bend as a nasty strainer lurks in the drop below, this could be serious if missed.
The next obvious landmark is a small wooden footbridge crossing the river, there is a nice eddy river left below, get out there, if you missed it, you will know where you are as "East Water" joins from river right (don't bother paddling this river, we've tried it twice and it is dire), if you have not portaged yet, hurry up, because another huge blockage lurks on the left hand bend.
From here down all other trees are passable with care, one pushes you through a holly bush, which is nice, all the others have obvious routes, but the crowning glory of obstacles awaits you at the entrance to the Scout campsite, you will see an old fashioned bridge crossing the river with what appears to be a river wide gate hanging underneath it, luckily this is only fixed at the top, and the gate rises with the level of the water, I managed to miss the eddy above and got pushed backwards into the gate, which luckily opened with the assistance of my head! From here it is an easy paddle to the get out at West Luccombe. We got out just below the stone bridge and walked down the track. You can park here, but in the interest of keeping the residents happy, we always park in the free car park around the back of the village. Please change discretely as several houses and one business overlook the car park.
I have paddled this river twice, but I still have not paddled the last bit of the river to Bossington, and I am not aware if anyone else has either?
In summary, the opportunities to paddle this are rare, and it is not an epic, but as it is fairly local to me it does provide an interesting spate run.'
OTHER NOTES: Somewhere to consider if the East Lyn is too high?
Ian Morris (Sept 2003)...'If you want to paddle all the way to the sea there (which is only another hour or so and comes out at Bossington bay) there are a few things to be aware of. Firstly I read yesterday that the Scout campsite after the dam/ wooden strainer is private and all the gates are padlocked...so do what you will but be careful of gun toting cubs. Also past Luccombe there is a gate across the river with lots of barbed wire, as well as a weir which isn't big but at pushy levels could leave you in a nasty situation, have fun.'
CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley and Dave Snook, also Ian Morris.