GUIDE TO THE RIVER BRAY
(Leeham Ford Bridge to Newtown Bridge)
NAME OF RIVER: Bray.
WHERE IS IT?: North Devon, western rim of Exmoor. OS sheet: Landranger 180.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Launch below Leeham Ford Bridge (SS 677 399), above or below the weir as taste dictates. Egress at Brayford (SS 688 347) or three kilometres downstream at Newtown Bridge (SS 694 323).
APPROX LENGTH: 10 km.
TIME NEEDED: 3-4 hours.
ACCESS HASSLES: None encountered.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: High levels should be avoided due to the tree hazard. This can still be floated for a day or two after rain has brought the river up.
4 on the gauge at the put-in weir correlates to paddleable low water.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Trees.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: This surprising river offers mild but continuous rapids through a hidden valley on the western fringes of Exmoor.
What you get from the start is pretty much what you get throughout; constant gradient and easy rapids through quiet and remote woodlands. This trip is almost a classic, but low branches necessitate some ducking and dodging. In February 2014, a number of recently fallen trees required portaging and a barbed wire strand required ducking. Below Brayford, the river eases in gradient but rapids continue, with only a small weir to break up the swift flow.
OTHER NOTES: There is more of the same sort of thing downstream, if so required...
The nearby River Yeo also seems worth a look.
CONTRIBUTOR: Mark Rainsley.
After a quick inspection on Saturday when the Leeham Ford Bridge gauge was 6 and rising, we got on Sunday morning with the gauge at 4.8 (the river was probably falling after peaking much higher overnight) This was plenty of water and the narrow river was very quick, we did not encounter many rocks, just multiple other hazards. We took 3h 20m with a small experienced group of 4.
Mark's description is very accurate, this is indeed a delightful grade 2/2+/3- river with pretty continuous rapids in very attractive countryside, but the hazards are considerable so you need a experienced small group to paddle it safely.
On the descent there were 2 strands of barbed wire, the first comes up mid rapid and is very difficult to see from above. Luckily after a warning from our leader we were prepared and all able to duck under. The second is more obvious, one of group exited and held the wire up for us to pass through.
Secondly there were 2 river-wide stock fences which required a portage, one very low bridge required limbo dancing skills and so many trees that necessitated staying on line and ducking to get through safely.
Lastly there were 4 trees which presented an unacceptable risk to passage and we opted to portage. One of which comes up around a bend and requires a very quick stop above.
There are enough eddies above the hazards for a small group , 4 would be a maximum, and the river leader does require considerable scouting skills.
The locals in Brayford seemed very friendly as we changed in the bus shelter to escape the driving rain.
Yes a great "alternative" river to the Barle, at this level it was G2+ , but with G4 hazards.