GUIDE TO THE RIVER BISS
(Trowbridge to Bradford on Avon)
NAME OF RIVER: Biss.
WHERE IS IT?: Trowbridge, Wiltshire.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Access - Trowbridge (GR 862 577), Clarendon Avenue off West Ashton Road.
Egress left hand bank under railway bridge, Bradford on Avon (GR 824 607). This is the back of Bradford on Avon railway station car park.
APPROX LENGTH: 4.5 miles.
TIME NEEDED: 2.5 hours.
ACCESS HASSLES: Frome CC have been paddling this stretch of river for several years without incident. River Advisor Michael Hill (see below).
Also phone Bob Alexander on 01225 766211 for permission to shoot through Lady Down Mill.
B.C.U. Local River Advisor
12 Ash Drive
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Needs recent rain to be worthwhile.
GRADING: Flat with small weirs.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Small weirs, tree blockages, lot of shopping trolleys.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: A small tributary of the Avon which runs through Trowbridge and meets the Avon just downstream of Staverton. Generally flat with a number of small weirs, the last of which is a larger stepped weir. The put-in is pleasant enough, just off a riverside walk and below a rocky weir which is approximately three feet high. It is probably possibly to put in above this weir and shoot it, but water levels were too low to make this worthwhile. The river gently flows further into Trowbridge and soon bears the evidence of the proximity of Tescos and Asda. Shopping trolleys and other debris litter the bed of the river, some of which create quite challenging obstacles of a spiky metallic nature.
A small rocky slide is the first major feature, this would probably be washed out in higher flows though. A little further on the first of three small weirs with about 200
metres between each is a tiny drop (1 foot high) with a surprisingly grippy stopper. Shoot anywhere, but watch out for more shopping trolleys, this goes for all weirs through the town. The second weir is again only small but this one is a gentle slope and has a very friendly stopper to play in. The third is the town weir which is immediately before a low arched bridge ( A366). Centre arch is best, the weir is about 18 inches high.
The river runs on through more industrial land past the Bowyers factory which smells like sausage rolls and makes you hungry, and then under the A363 where a tributary enters from the left. The river gets very twisty here and progress is slow. Progress doesn't get any faster when you reach an iron bridge totally clogged with trees. A portage is almost certain here unless you are really good at limbo. there are still a few houses visible as the river passes behind an estate and then on Lady Down Mill. This is a stepped weir beneath a low bridge. The weir also bends left as you descend and would probably be pretty chunky in high water. Inspection is impossible as you are with the mill owner's grounds, so you'll have to go for it blind. The first two steps are very close together and in low water you will hit the nose of your boat on the second step. The mill owner (Bob Alexander) should be contacted before the paddle to gain permission to shoot through the mill.
Further downstream the river passes under the Kennet and Avon canal and then meets the river Avon, there are several tree blockages requiring portages on this short section. The banks of the river are very muddy and soft making portaging difficult.
Turn left on to the Avon and paddle 1.5 miles to Bradford on Avon weir, shoot left of middle unless the river is high in which case shoot far right.
The get out is another 1/2 mile downstream beneath a metal railway bridge.
OTHER NOTES: Only worth the effort if you are in a pioneering mood and want to paddle something you've never paddled before. An otherwise pleasant little river which has been spoiled by huge amounts of rubbish and several fallen trees.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Martin Harrall.