GUIDE TO THE RIVER AVON
(Melksham to Bradford on Avon)
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: Melksham: Drive into Melksham from the roundabout where the A350 meets the B3107. Follow the one way system around keeping to the left, this will take you over the river bridge. Take the first left into the car park, remember that it is pay and display (not Sundays). Find a way through the railings to the river.
Andy Thorpe ... (2007) 'You can put in Melksham at Kings School car park, there is access by car right to the rivers edge where there is a purpose built canoe launch and also great for Canadian canoes, there is a sign which says no unauthorised access, but I have made enquiries, and I have been told as long as you drive your car there for unloading then park in the the school car park which is free it's fine to use. Also, if you park in Sainsbury car park(free) and go through bushes you can get access to the river from here.'
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.
APPROX LENGTH: 13 km.
TIME NEEDED: 2.5 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: The Melksham to Bradford on Avon stretch has three weirs. The first, Melsham Weir is probably best portaged on the left, see the previous section for a description. Four miles further down is Staverton Weir, which is a five foot drop that can be shot anywhere. It is three miles further down to Bradford on Avon Weir and then a short paddle into the town from there. Bradford on Avon Weir is another five foot drop which is best taken left of middle in low water but on the right in high water. It is difficult to inspect or portage as there are high walls on both sides, and a new housing estate makes the long portage even longer. You can also continue below on the Bradford on Avon to Bath section.
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, also Andy Thorpe.