GUIDE TO THE RIVER AVON
(Christian Malford to Chippenham)
NAME OF RIVER: Avon (Wiltshire/Somerset).
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: Christian Malford: The B4069 between Chippenham and Lyneham passes over the river at Christian Malford. There is room to park one or two cars next to the bridge, or there is a layby towards Chippenham.
Chippenham: There are plenty of places to park in Chippenham but most of them are pay and display. The best places are either: At the public car park near to The Technical College, follow signs for the station. The river is down the hill in the park. Or take the new bridge over the river off the A4 Avenue la Fleche, there is parking on both sides of the road and the river and Chippenham Weir are nearby.
APPROX LENGTH: 12 km.
TIME NEEDED: 2 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: Get on at the bridge and paddle downstream for about half a mile to a sluice gate and fish steps in the middle of nowhere. The fish steps are a little too narrow to shoot, and the sluice gate is one of those big swinging metal jobs with a big counterweight on it, so this is of little interest. It's best to just portage it and move on down the river. Another mile or two of flat water and you will reach Kellaways Weir, a straight forward steep shoot, about four feet high. A couple of hundred meters later the river passes under a road bridge, this is probably a better place to get on than at Christian Malford, because the river moves faster and is more interesting from hear on down to Chippenham. The river narrows and picks up speed for the next two or three miles, it twists around a lot and there are often trees across the river. There is only one boulder dam just before a footbridge, but otherwise no major obstacles between Kellaways and Chippenham. About one mile upstream of Chippenham, the River Marden meets the Avon on the left and the river becomes suddenly much wider and slower, it continues like this down into the town. Consider continuing past Chippenham.
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.