GUIDE TO THE RIVER DART
(Holne Bridge to Buckfastleigh)
NAME OF RIVER: Dart.
WHERE IS IT?: The classic SW paddle, this trip is on Dartmoor, would you believe it, not far from Ashburton and the A38 Plymouth - Exeter road.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Put-in at Holne Bridge or the River Dart Country Park.
Egress this lower section on Dart Valley Railway land, river right after the A38 Bridge. On med low flows you can egress river right just above a weir. On high flows egress just after the A38 Bridge. There is ample parking for cars in a large car park by the Butter Fly Farm via a very low bridge. For high vehicles and parking for accessing the river on high flow runs, there is a smaller parking area left though a open gate between the caf and the main station building, follow access road 300m until you arrive at an open space just after the railway yard.
Richard Elliot from Dart Railways has been very helpful over allowing us to use this facility. Please act politely and park sensibly, all Richard asks if the caf is open go in and have a coffee.
APPROX LENGTH: 3 miles.
TIME NEEDED: At least an hour and a half.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: It should be easy to judge whether this is paddleable by peering over the take-out bridge. If the upper sections are paddleable then this certainly is.
GRADING: Grade 2 for most of the river with a few weirs posing difficulties. I have not paddled this section in high water but given that the weirs deserve respect in lower levels, assume that they will be very dangerous.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS:Weirs.
Chris Green (September 2002) - "I am nearing completion of the feasibility study that I am preparing on the proposed refurbishment of the weir at Buckfast Abbey. As people gear up for the forthcoming White Water season on the Dart, and in the light of my investigations, it may be worth reviewing the guidance given to canoeists using Furzleigh/ Abbey Weir. The fish pass on the left side of the weir is an extremely tempting route, especially in medium to low flows. I have shot it myself many times. But, the action of shooting each drop in turn leads boats to turn sideways and run slightly right and into the fast channel that forms the interface between the fish pass and the main weir face. In this channel, there is a 1m deep undercut at the right hand end of the third wall that is invisible to canoeists. I found it by wading around in the pools at low flows and poking about with a range pole. A colleague of mine in Teignbridge Canoe Club had a very nasty pin in the undercut a few years ago, but I only understand the danger that he was in now after carefully inspecting the weir as part of my work for the Abbey. I would be grateful if you could pass on this to other canoeists using that section of the Dart and urge extreme caution to anybody considering using the fish pass as a route down the weir."
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Holne weir which is only 200 metres below Holne Bridge must be taken with extreme caution at medium and high flows as the stopper and towback are fierce. Under these conditions it is best shot on the extreme left or it can be portaged on either side. Another tiny weir follows shortly afterwards; this has been developed into a playhole by Riverdart Adventures who own the land around.
After Waterworks Bridge, there are some one-off Grade 2 rapids to enjoy, the most notable being where the river funnels right past a small ledge, and where it drops steeply through waves and stoppers to the left of a big island. Eventually you see Buckfastleigh Abbey come into view on river right and this heralds the approach of Furzleigh Weir. Get out well above on river left above this huge weir...you have the choice of a long slide or a series of awkward steps down a fish-pass...or a portage, which is probably what you'll want to do in anything other than low levels. See the 'hazards' section above.
Note that there is another potentially dangerous weir not far downstream of the bridge...read the guide to the next section for details.
OTHER NOTES: Consider carrying on below Buckfastleigh...
CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley, also Chris Green, Stuart Woodward and Dart Access.