GUIDE TO THE RIVER ERME
(Harford Bridge to Ivybridge)
NAME OF RIVER: Erme.
WHERE IS IT?: South Dartmoor.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: This section starts at Harford Bridge (SX 636596). There is space for only a few cars beside the bridge. The locals at Harford have always been patient with canoeists; don’t abuse this by blocking the narrow lane. The trip finishes in the centre of Ivybridge. Take out just upstream of a weir beside the Leisure Centre (SX 635560). In high water, the upper Erme is well worth considering.
APPROX LENGTH: 3.5 miles.
TIME NEEDED: Plenty first time down (3 hours+?).
ACCESS HASSLES: None.
The BCU River Adviser for the Erme is:
319/320 Faraday Trade Park
Tel 01752 600722
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Don't bother unless it's rained heavily and recently. Look at the weir-like falls under the main bridge in Ivybridge. If it can be paddled, so can the river. The degree of 'scrapey-ness' of this fall gives you an indication of how much you will scrape up at the put-in. If the first ledge is well covered, upstream will be a serious and powerful trip...grade 4 with some 5? If all these falls are WASHED OUT, as we observed in Oct 98, go elsewhere or die.
GRADING: To some degree, this river gets progressively harder as you head downstream. It is grade 3-4 in very low water, grade 4 at most levels, getting much harder with higher water levels until it becomes 5-6!
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Plenty of tree jams along the upper section of the river still remaining from the Oct '98 flood. The most serious section of the river is the final gorge, which can be portaged easily. In high water the narrow slot is a portage.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: A brilliant trip! Directly below Harford Bridge, the Erme starts off with a bang, dropping over a series grade 3-4 ledges and bouldery falls. The river then loses gradient and mellows to grade 2-3 with the occasional small drop. There are about three tree blockages in this section (Dec '99), two of which can probably be bypassed at water level. One is a definite portage. After about a mile, the river begins to steepen again. Keep an eye out for when the river drops over a 50 cm ledge....directly downstream the river narrows without warning into an undercut narrow slot. This is paddleable at low water levels but generates plenty of back-loops and swimmers! When the drop into the slot has 'filled up' in higher water, a huge back-tow appears and this innocuous looking slot becomes unpaddleable. Portage on river right Below, the river becomes progressively harder with big stoppers to 'enjoy' in high water; steep and continuous grade 4, but with a few falls you will no doubt recognise...
A grade 4 ledge fall directly below the slot on a left-hand bend, followed by several long natural ramps.
A long ramp on river right where the river drops sideways to the left...a great boof if you get it right!
A series of drops where the river splits around a big midstream rock, with a dangerous rock blocking the obvious route.
A rocky weir with a steep left hand chute...plenty of pinning potential here?
The Erme Gorge must be inspected on river right for tree blockages. When you are in, it's fast, narrow and committing...a swim would be long and probably lonely. There are two sharp right-hand bends leading to drops into undercut grottos...the 'doglegs'.
After the gorge, you may feel very mellow, but don't wind down just yet...the final falls in the centre of Ivybridge are surprisingly steep and have pinning potential. In higher water levels, you have a big stopper to avoid at the bottom too. I've seen this hole achieve the impossible...it dented in both ends of a Spud! The take-out is just below, when you reach a footbridge. Beware of carrying on over a dodgy weir beside a Sports Centre.
OTHER NOTES: I've had umpteen runs on this river, but it never gets dull...a personal favourite!
Downstream the river is easier, but still continuous.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley, also Steve Brooks, Dillon Hughes, Anthony Reed, Paul Bray and Andrew Crompton.