GUIDE TO THE RIVER AVON
(Great Somerford to Christian Malford)
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: Great Somerford: Find a sensible place to park, Great Somerford is only a small village and the river is easy to find.
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.
APPROX LENGTH: 9 km.
TIME NEEDED: Two 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 river bridge, read the section above for a description of the weir that follows one hundred meters later. A couple of miles of flat water perhaps with the odd small weir to stop you getting too bored leads to Dauntsey School weirs. The two weirs are identical and are about three feet high and about fifty meters apart, they both have horrid stoppers in high water, but you can sneak down the right hand side and miss them.
More flat water with more little weirs in the middle of nowhere, just to catch you out, then you'll come to Seagry weir. In high water there are two wide open sluice gates in front of you as you come down the river, we always take the right hand one. Please get out and inspect before you shoot it, especially if you are considering the left hand sluice gate which leads straight into a huge stopper up agaist a wall. During the next mile of paddling the river passes under the M4 and then to Christian Malford Weir. You can't really inspect this one, but it is pretty shallow underneath. We used to shoot it sideways in our snipes, but that was mainly to avoid damaging them either on the bottom or on the low bridge that goes over the top of the weir. A short paddle takes you down to the road bridge and the get out. Consider continuing down the next section of the river.
Jim Wallis adds...'A friend once holed a boat (Falchion 385) on Christian Malford Weir. There may be reinforcing rods sticking up towards the left of the main chute. Fortunately it missed his 'bits' and he only had 20 yards to paddle to the takeout!'
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 Jim Wallis.