GUIDE TO THE RIVER PLYM
(Shaugh Bridge to Bickleigh Bridge)
NAME OF RIVER: Plym.
WHERE IS IT?: South Dartmoor, not so far from Plymouth! The section described is directly after a harder upper section.PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Put-in is at Shaugh Bridge (SX 533637). Limited parking is available at Shaugh car park and Bickleigh Bridge (SX 527618, one car only here). 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. Take-out is at Bickleigh Bridge (SX 529618).
APPROX LENGTH: Shaugh Bridge - Bickleigh Bridge: 3kms. Drop from Shaugh Bridge - Bickleigh Bridge: 70 metres.
TIME NEEDED: One hour.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Water level is best judged at Shaugh Bridge; at low levels this section is very tight and technical, and the upper section pretty much unpaddleable. At high water levels both sections are exciting. If most rocks are covered above Shaugh Bridge (very high levels!), the upper section will be extremely difficult but paddling this section below the bridge is recommended; continuous big Grade 4 if all rocks are well covered above the bridge.
GRADING: 4 initially, becoming easier progressively. In full spate, it's continuous Grade 4 to the end, with little stopping - pray that there are no downed trees...
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: There are a large number of trees in the river, forcing some frantic manoeuvring to avoid. 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.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Shaugh Bridge (SX 533637). Put in at the River Meavy confluence above the bridge. The section begins straight away, with the hardest rapid directly below the bridge. If you prefer to portage the first rapid, use the gate next to the bridge, river right. This section is initially quite steep and technical, and the volume is often much higher than that of the upper section, but after the first corner it is easier and the rapids are separated by long flat sections.
Beware of trees in high water. The take out is a distinctive rocky beach on river right (SX 529618) 200m above Bickleigh Bridge. Carry boats etc. up the steep path to the gate, then fetch the car and bring it up to the boats before changing and loading up. Please do not paddle right down to the bridge and do not antagonise the owners of the cottage by carrying your boats to the bridge or changing there; they tolerate canoeing but are less supportive of naked canoeists! If there is a roof rack on the car left at this bridge you may find a note on the windscreen warning you not to paddle there. Take it away with you but don't worry, as long as you have taken out at the correct place there will be no further action.
Update from Dave Francis....'We've run the lower Plym on a couple of occasions when the upper section has been too high to run ( for us anyway!!). We took one look at the last hard drop on the upper section and decided against it! On this sort of level try paddling the River Meavy from Goodameavy to add about 1.5 miles to the lower section.'
OTHER NOTES: Recommended in high water. If the level isn't too high, consider doing the upper section also?
The following section makes for a lovely wind-down.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Contributed by Adam Box, Dave Francis and Mark Rainsley.