GUIDE TO THE RIVER AVON
(Bradford on Avon to Bath)
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: Bradford on Avon: Follow signs for the station and park right at the back of the car park (pay and display). The river is best accessed beneath the railway bridge.
Bathampton: Park at the pub by the toll bridge, but ask first, it's always polite to pop in for a pint afterwards too.
Bath: Don't bother it's impossible to park, it's best to use Bathampton.
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: From Bradford on Avon down to Bath there are weirs every one or two miles, but aside from that the river is flat. The first weir is at Avoncliffe. It is a five foot high near vertical drop which is best shot close to the old mill wheel house on the right. The local marathon racing club at Bradford on Avon use this part of the river a lot and used to have trouble with the owner of the house on the left, hence the shoot on the right. The house owner claimed that he also owned the weir and that he didn't want people damaging it by either shooting it or portaging up and down it, sad man. Bradford on Avon Racing Club have checked the situation with the water authority and they say that it's OK by them to use the weir.
Continue down the river under a leaky aqueduct and past the confluence with the River Frome on the left, a great paddle in it's own right. After about a mile you will reach Limpley Stoke Weir. From above you can see where most of the water is going, shoot the weir here. The broken sluice gate next to the building sometimes has a playful stopper in it. One hundred yards down from the weir the river passes under a road bridge with four arches, beneath each arch is a small step and each one has either a stopper or a wave to play in.
A couple of miles further on down is Warley Weir which is also a five foot high drop. It is very shallow beneath the weir so take care if you shoot it. We often portage around it. There is an island between the river course and a disused lock cut, this is a good place to stop for lunch. The island used to be popular with nudists in the summer, so don't be alarmed if you see lots of white flesh. Don't make the trip down the river just to see the nudists though, I haven't seen any there for many years, not that I go there often you understand. Erm, perhaps I should just shut up before I dig an even bigger hole.
Bathhampton Weir is again about a mile downstream and is yet again a five foot high drop, this is where we normally end our trip. You can of course paddle on down into Bath itself and shoot Poultney Weir but parking in Bath is a total nightmare and Poultney Weir is dangerous being the site of two deaths of canoeists in recent years. Poultney Weir is a three stepped horseshoe which has an undercut beneath the bottom step due to water erosion, this is where you could end up if you swim there, nuf said.
If is possible to continue down the next section of the river.
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.