GUIDE TO THE RIVER PIDDLE

(Cuckoo Pound to Wareham)

NAME OF RIVER: Piddle. Yes, you heard right.

WHERE IS IT?: This is a small rural Dorset river flowing from near Tolpuddle (as in, the Tolpuddle Martyrs) to the Poole Harbour past Wareham. Map.

PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: The bridge near Cuckoo Pound (GR 865906) is the start point to this section.

Take out anywhere near the earthen town walls of Wareham; find somewhere to park on the other side of the walls. Best spot is probably just past the Hospital, a parking area at a gap in the walls overlooking the river. This necessitates a carry across an open field.

APPROX LENGTH: 7-8 km.

TIME NEEDED: 2 hours.

ACCESS HASSLES: The Piddle sees few paddlers and no disputes are known of. However, it passes through plenty of expensive private property and past fish farms so only small discreet groups are recommended. Avoid shallows as you may be disturbing spawning beds.

WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: It is possibly paddleable year-round. However, it is clogged with weed and rather low in summer. Normal winter levels are fine. Avoid high water, as it'd be a horror story, having many low bridges.

If there is enough air space under the put-in bridge to float an empty boat under, fine. If there isn't, it may be too high for comfort.

GRADING: Grade 1 with some enjoyable weirs.

MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Numerous Weirs. Low bridges.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Most of the numerous small weirs on this trip are runnable - but take a look for yourself.

Directly below the start you pass right infront of a large Country Club on river left. You have to quickly portage a low footbridge, then you can run the small weir infront of the house. Shortly after is a second weir and soon the river splits into two channels. I took the left channel over a small weir and this seemed correct; the other channel is smaller and passes through fish farms in the next few kilometres.

The left channel leads under a number of low (duckable) bridges and eventually enters a lovely section; a long straight with numerous miniature weirs. Some of these have small playwaves and stoppers; a good place for whitewater novices to play?

After the channels converge again, the river flattens and the plain opens out. The remaining kilometres are a bit of a chore, winding around endlessly.

After you pass under the railway bridge, the river slides over a large (diffiicult to portage?) sloping weir with a wave waiting at the bottom. This may have potential as a park-and-playspot in high water...??

You then pass under the Wareham bypass and the town walls are on river right. Where did you leave the car?

I have not paddled below this point. There is a weir/ sluice beside a mill just downstream which looks harmless to run. Below is a winding tidal channel leading to Poole Harbour.

OTHER NOTES: This is surprisingly pleasant and would suit open canoes, touring paddlers and perhaps even whitewater novices.

There is also a more strenuous section upstream of this. Also nearby and flowing into Wareham is the larger River Frome.

CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley.