GUIDE TO THE RIVER AVON
(Bath to Bristol)
WHERE IS IT?: The river Avon flows from above the ancient town of Malmesbury through Wiltshire and Somerset to the Severn Estuary and Avonmouth near Bristol.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Bath: Don't bother it's impossible to park, it's best to use Bathampton.
Keynsham: I think you can park at the marina, just off the A4175.
Bristol: Get out at the docks, if you follow signs for the SS Great Britain but carry on a bit further along the main road you should find them.
APPROX LENGTH: 16 km.
TIME NEEDED: 3 hours.
ACCESS HASSLES: In most cases there are no access problems with this river, apart from a couple of cases mentioned in the text below. The River Advisors are: Julie Simson, 35 Gooch Street, Swindon, Wilts. SN1 2BA from source to Bath; and Alan Gallop, 12 Broadcroft, Chew Magna, Bristol, BS18 8QC from Bath to Avonmouth.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Take a look at some of the weirs on the section that you intend to do to get an indication of water level.
GRADING: Flat with weirs and occasional boulder dams and faster moving water.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Weirs, and trees on the upper stretches.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: It's best to skip Bath and start at Saltford. There is another weir in Bath besides Poultney but I don't know much about it. At Saltford by the Jolly Sailor Public House there are two small weirs about half a mile apart, both are easy shoots.
Andy White adds...(2/10/01) 'Currently the flume that runs down the centre of this weir is closed as the BCU and BW are working to eradicate a problem here leading to the erosion of the bank and crashing hire boats! Side effect is that the flume will be adjusted hopefully providing a better playspot for Kayakers. If they are not able to solve the problems above, then it will likely be closed completely killing the only half decent playspot on this stretch of river. There is no timescale for the completion of this work according to Alan (River Advisor) but I get the impression a month/6 weeks is likely.'
There is another at Swineford, but I haven't shot this one, it's another near vertical one which would probably go though. At Keynsham there is a large vertical weir and most of the water goes over a deeper portion in the centre with a nasty stopper. We took the chicken shoot option over the shallow portion of the weir to the right, easy enough really. At Hanham there is a small weir which comes and goes because the river is tidal from here on down. I think there is also one more larger weir just after passing the entrance to Bristol docks. Below here you are in the sea...
OTHER NOTES: A flat touring river which is better suited to canadians and novices than the white water canoeist. Some of the weirs are playable but most are just straight drops. The upper sections are best done after some rain otherwise they are a long slog. The section from Bradford on Avon to Bath makes a good summer or low water trip. It is probably possible to paddle above Malmesbury, but I have little knowledge of this part of the river.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Martin Harrall and Andy White.