GUIDE TO THE RIVER OKEMENT
(Okehampton to Brightley)
WHERE IS IT?: Rises on northern Dartmoor to the South of Okehampton and subsequently flows through the town and into the Torridge. Map.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: You can start on the harder upper section. If you just want to paddle the lower easier section, the most commonly used put-in is Father Ford, which is immediately beneath the A30 viaduct.
Note that this put-in overlaps with the section described in the guide to the upper East Okement.
This trip can be started at Okehampton College (SX 589 949), the take-out for the much harder East Okement. However, starting further up at Father Ford (SX 603 947), reached from a small lane immediately beneath the A30 viaduct, adds another couple of kilometres of grade 3.
Take out below the town at a lay-by (SX 598 978). Turn off the B3217 at Brightley, cross the bridge and continue until the river comes close to the road.
APPROX LENGTH: 3.5km or 5.5km.
TIME NEEDED: One hour.
ACCESS HASSLES: There is no agreement, but we've never had any problems.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Needs plenty of rain, the run-off is quick. Spate levels not recommended, due to low bridges.
If you can float at Father Ford (0.4+ on the gauge), it’s on. In high water levels, inspect the gorge section in town beforehand.
GRADING: 3 (4).
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: The crux is a two stage weir followed by a tight section in the town. Worth viewing before you get on the water as there is a walled section leading up to it. In high water look out for the pipe bridge below the town! The whole of the upper is very tight, so break-outs could get a bit crowded with anything but a small group.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: This trip combines the last exertions of the East Okement with several kilometres of the Okement to offer a fast and committing adventure. There is only room for a small group...
The 2km from Father Ford is a fast toboggan run with small weirs, described in the East Okement
Below Okehampton College, the last few hundred metres of the East Okement through Okehampton get surprisingly serious. After passing beneath a low pipe bridge, the river narrows into a bedrock gorge; a steep stepped weir is followed by a series of natural slot drops...there are numerous sticky towbacks, and none of this is inspectable or portageable, once you’re in.
The river opens out, offering more breathing space; there are two more weirs and another low pipe bridge to negotiate, before the confluence with the West Okement boosts the volume. You are now on the Okement proper; the remaining 3km has continuous rapids, including a rocky weir. Unfortunately this stretch is marred by scrap and waste tipped down the banks. Take out on river left after the river bends right against a cliff.
OTHER NOTES: The upper section of the East Okement is well worth a trip if you are up to it. Worth combining with the nearby West Okement for an intermediate day out.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Mike and Pete Stothert, Mark Rainsley.