(Mells to Oldford)


WHERE IS IT?: Somerset near Frome. Map.

PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Get in at Great Elm downstream of Mells village. A narrow road heads down into the bottom of the valley. There is ample parking on the other side of the bridge. To access the water, follow the muddy path downstream past the first weir. Please dont get on the water above the weir in the pond. This is a popular fishing lake and you will upset the locals if you access on the pond. Below the weir it is a steep climb down a bank to reach the water, ropes may be needed.

Egress on the left after the road bridge at the creamery at Oldford, just outside Frome. There is parking for a few cars near to the road bridge. Note: The weir at the creamery is to be avoided in all but the very lowest water levels. It is a closed in box weir and has the mother of all towbacks!


TIME NEEDED: 2 hours.

ACCESS HASSLES: Good providing you dont access the water via the fishing pond at the start of the trip. You might even get friendly waves from some of the landowners, we did!

WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: None, but this needs a lot of water to run. Other rivers in the area will be close to flood conditions before the Mells is worth paddling.

GRADING: Grade 1 with several weirs.

MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Low trees. One very low bridge, see description, and the weir just after the egress point, see above.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: A little spate tributary of the Frome running off the edge of the Mendips. A good beginner/improver trip, no harder than the Frome but the faster water and low trees can unnerve less confident paddlers.

The river starts off narrow and shallow with plenty of overhanging streams. The gradient is steeper than most of the other local rivers such as the Frome, Semington Brook and the Marden, and the flow carries paddlers along at a reasonable pace.

The first weir is a slot to the left. It is a small weir which is crumbling away a bit, there may be some debris to avoid, a low bridge follows which thankfully has just been replaced. The corrugated iron thing that was there before was low and nasty!

There is a gauging station at the aptly named Bedlam shortly followed by a very low bridge. The stopper on the gauging station looks white, fluffy and friendly but it is also totally closed in. Shooting is easy but going back in to play would probably result in an early bath. Take care at the bridge shortly after this weir, it is very low and in high water is impassable.

The next weir is small with three steps and lies within private grounds. This weir is fairly dry as much of the water is bypassed an re-enters shortly below the weir through two large concrete pipes at water level. These can produce good sport.

The remainder of the river continues with small weirs including: a shallow one below a road bridge and a slightly larger at about four feet where the landowner gave us a friendly wave from her garden, and a small broken weir in open farmland is a reasonable play-spot for beginners. Just after the confluence with the Frome there is a nice sloping weir, breaking up in areas but not dangerous. It can be shot almost anywhere, but there are low branches to the right. The grounds to the left as you are facing downstream belong to a private house. Continue on down a short distance to the egress point at the creamery. Remember, the weir below the get out is very dangerous, stay well clear of it, its not worth it.

Pictures of the Mells

OTHER NOTES: This river is good as an introduction to white water but also has a couple of more interesting bits for the more experienced paddler.

CONTRIBUTED BY: Martin Harral, paddling on this occasion with Wilts Youth CC.