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GUIDE TO THE RIVER PLYM

(Cadover Bridge to Shaugh Bridge)

NAME OF RIVER: Plym.

WHERE IS IT?: South Dartmoor, not so far from Plymouth!

PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Put-in is at Cadover Bridge (SX 556646) and this upper section finishes at Shaugh Bridge (SX 533637). Vehicular access to the put-in and take-out points is good, but these are the only places to join or leave the river. Sadly, there have been many break-ins to cars parked at Shaugh Bridge, so do not leave valuables in a visible position in your car.

APPROX LENGTH: Cadover - Shaugh Bridge: 3kms. Vertical drop: Cadover - Shaugh Bridge: 110 metres.

TIME NEEDED: At the very least two hours for the upper section...although local experts 'race' it in under 30 minutes...hardcore!

ACCESS HASSLES:  The land on both sides of the top section is National Trust property and they have no objection to canoeing as long as it does not cause disturbance or undue environmental impact. The river is only suitable for small groups. The fishing close season is 16th December until 31st March.

WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Water level is best judged at Shaugh Bridge; at low levels the lower section is very tight and technical, and the upper section pretty much unpaddleable. At high water levels both sections are exciting. In spate the upper section is extremely serious, and inadvisable unless you are carrying full whitewater emergency kit and know how to use it.

If most/ all rocks above Shaugh Bridge are covered, the river upstream will be extremely difficult; perhaps best left alone?

GRADING: The difficulty is directly linked to the water level...Grade 4 in low paddleable levels, continuous Grade 5 in flood, reaching Grade 6 in really high levels.

MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Very dangerous, with potentially lethal pin-spots, siphons, trees and stoppers. After heavy or prolonged rain the river can rise several feet in a couple of hours, and the speed and force of the water becomes colossal. There is usually wood and other debris littering the river, and this could form lethal obstructions on any of the numerous small drops. Inspection is not difficult, but because there are so many drops per mile you can get cold and tired trying to cover them all, and it will take you ages to complete the section.

Dr Paul (Nov 2006) ...'During winter of 04/05 it seems that something changed in the nature of 'the slot' ie the final hard rapid just below Dewerstone. It is well known that water sumps under the large rock, on river left, that guards the rapids exit. It has always been easy to run either a fully river right line or left line passing easily past the opening to sump. Over a short period of time several boaters, including Plym regulars ended up being forced dramtically right to left into the sump regardless of their initial trajectory, requiring extracation {or a scary swim through the sump in one case}. It seems likley that some smaller boulders have moved down onto the upstream side of the central rock, pushing most of flow hard left, regardless of water-level. This is potentially now a really serious issue as lots of timber can collect in this sump so make a thorough assessment before electing to run this drop and consider adequately protecting the sump.'

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The Plym at Cadover Bridge is an unimpressive flat, bouldery stream, but a little further on it enters a gorge and the volume and difficulty increase. The paddling becomes extremely technical, and the gradient is colossal. Below the Dewerstone the gradient begins to ease, and a little way below Shaugh Prior and the Meavy confluence it flattens off dramatically.

Cadover Bridge (SX 556646). Put in at the car park, which is right next to the river, having first walked a few hundred metres down stream to see what you are letting yourself in for. Just below the start are a couple of easy drops and rapids, followed by a flat section.

After this it gets hard, being extremely technical and steep and becoming ever more continuous. There is a serious danger of pinning in many places. In medium/high flow it is a fairly committing grade 4; in flood much of it is continuous grade 5 and very dangerous, with potentially lethal pin-spots, siphons, trees and stoppers. After heavy or prolonged rain the river can rise several feet in a couple of hours, and the speed and force of the water becomes colossal. There is usually wood and other debris littering the river, and this could form lethal obstructions on any of the numerous small drops. Inspection is not difficult, but because there are so many drops per mile you can get cold and tired trying to cover them all, and it will take you ages to complete the section. Hopefully this doesn't put you off!

Two falls to look out for are a long Grade 4 boulder garden which ends by feeding right under a big undercut rock, and a riverwide ledge fall with a shallow landing. But there is plenty more!

A detailed description is pointless. You will probably recognise the Pinball rapid which drops off to the right and is shortly followed by a sticky riverwide hole.

The last difficult 'slot' rapid is just downstream of the Dewerstone (SX 537638).

From here on the gradient is much less steep. Take out at the car park upstream of Shaugh Bridge.

If you attempt this section in high water levels, please take it seriously. Although only two miles long, it seems much longer and can take several hours to complete. Short boats are best and elbow pads make sense too. Expect to damage your boat, or yourself and you'll be in the right frame of mind. In an emergency the nearest houses are at Shaugh Prior; go downstream on the river right bank, then left at the road. Nearest 24 hour casualty department is at Derriford (SX 499595).

To summarise...

1. Three easy drops.

2. Ledges! Ledges! Ledges!

3. Ledges! With boulders!

4. Boulders! Boulders! Boulders!

5. Portage!

6. Boulders!

7. Breathe!

OTHER NOTES: Consider continuing down on the easier but enjoyable lower section?

CONTRIBUTED BY: Written by Bill Mattos. Additions by Adam Box, Simon Westgarth, Dr Paul and Mark Rainsley.