(Upper Section to Harford Bridge)


WHERE IS IT?: South Dartmoor. Landranger 202 - Torbay and South Dartmoor Area. This is the upper section to the classic Erme trip. Map.

PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Drive up to the water treatment works at GR 630613. The staff at this bleak location have not previously objected to small quiet groups using the car park at the end of the road. Do not however impede the works traffic.

Now comes the fun bit. Shoulder your boat and follow the track around the hill. After 1500 metres, you reach the river. If there are rocks showing here, launch at this spot for an enjoyable 2.5 km of grade 3+. If everything is covered, the river is grade 3+ above and solid grade 4 below. Ignore your group's whining and force them to keep walking. The track takes you up to a hut and weir at GR 640632. This is a good spot to launch as the track finishes here, although I have been a kilometre further.

This section ends at Harford Bridge (GR 636596), which is the standard start point for an Erme trip.

APPROX LENGTH: 5 kilometres +.

TIME NEEDED: About an hour for the carry, an hour for the descent....or maybe much less in spate!

ACCESS HASSLES: This trip happens in wild places and wild weather. You are highly unlikely to encounter an access difficulty.

The BCU River Adviser for the Erme is:

Bruce Daykin
319/320 Faraday Trade Park
Faraday Road
Tel 01752 600722
Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Spate conditions are ideal and you need to time this right; this will rise and fall in a matter of hours. Expect that the Erme's level will change dramatically whilst you paddle.

Gauge: Look upstream of Harford Bridge. If all rocks are covered and the river is full, perfect. If a few rocks are showing, a shorter trip is worth considering. See below.

GRADING: Grade 3+ (4).

MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Low trees on the second half. Exhaustion from the carry.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The Erme below Harford Bridge is well known but in spate there is actually a first-rate section of steep continuous action upstream of here. It requires an impressive amount of suffering to reach but if you pick the right conditions, every step of the carry-in is worth it.

If you have spate conditions, this is one of the most intense and continuous trips in the region. Do not be deceived by the moderate grade; this is as full-on and committing as any high water Dartmeet run. Lovely.

Launching, you will be surprised by how fast things happen. You will have noted on the trek up that there are few distinct drops. However, the gradient is considerable and there is absolutely no let-up right down to Harford Bridge.

You will notice a change in character once the track is left about halfway. The gradient increases, more stoppers lurk and your route choices are somewhat reduced by the appearance of trees along the banks. In spate, there is no stopping now! As you approach the final bridge, a series of natural ledges make surprisingly solid stoppers and you need to be able to think up good lines on the hoof.

Break out below Harford Bridge and take a long deep breath.

Pictures of the upper Erme.

OTHER NOTES: At optimum water levels for this section, the Erme below Harford Bridge may not be everybody's idea of fun.

CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley.