GUIDE TO THE RIVER TAMAR
(Horsebridge to Gunnislake)
NAME OF RIVER: Tamar.
WHERE IS IT?: It forms the border between Devon and Cornwall, flowing south.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Start at Horsebridge. Egrees at Newbridge, Gunnislake. Details below. Another alternative is to begin on the upper section..
At Horsebridge (SX 400749), there are several options for parking of which the best is on the river right side of the river. This trip finishes directly below Gunnislake New Bridge (SX 433723) where it is possible to egress on the river right bank up to a quiet lane.
APPROX LENGTH: Unknown.
TIME NEEDED: Unknown.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: See below.
GRADING: Flat water with weirs.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Weirs.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The Tamar is a pleasant touring river being wide and fairly predictable for most of its length, with quiet pools and small rapids interspersed with weirs ranging from 2 - 4 feet in height. These 'V' shaped weirs are usually best shot in the middle but demand extreme caution in high water when serious stoppers are common. They can be portaged on the left bank but care must be taken to avoid the fishing stands which are built out into the river and which can be serious obstacles when the river is high. It should also be noted that the speed and quantity of flow during floods can make it impossible or at least very difficult to 'swim' a capsized canoe to the bank; paddlers should therefore be of at least two star standard.
HORSEBRIDGE (400748) marks the start of a slightly more active river which can also be reached from LATCHLEY/LAMERHOO FORD (399733). At Horsebridge you can park on the roadside about 50m from the river on the Cornish bank and launch from the same bank just above the bridge. The steps at this access point were kindly provided by the Environment Agency. At Latchley Ford, which is approached from a very narrow lane through Latchley Village, you can park on the grass verge just before the river, but do not obstruct the lane.
There are several sets of rapids and three weirs of note between Horsebridge and Newbridge. The first weir is fairly straightforward, the second, known rather ominously as 'Coffin Weir' has a 3 foot drop and a holding stopper at high flows, and the third, Broken Weir, varies with changes in water levels and thus needs inspecting. After this weir is a 1/2 mile section known as the rock garden where large and small rocks cover the full width of the river creating obvious difficulties for inexperienced paddlers. Picking a route is fairly easy in normal water levels but high flows can make passage difficult.
Ross Wildman (Jan 2004)...'There are 4 weirs, the one which is not mention is called "pop-out" its good for doing moves in at a good level but at high level it's washed out. The weir has 1 main drop in the middle and a little flowing section on the left with a little standing wave. At high flow there is water pouring over the walls on both sides of the drop, causing a little bit of trouble if you get too close as it tries to pull you in (as I know). I have been paddling for about 3 years and this will be my 3rd year doing white water with my local club the "Tamar Canoe Association" and I have never found myself not wanting to do the trip and every time I go I always find a newwwwwwwww spot to try my new moves on.'
Egress is at NEWBRIDGE, GUNNISLAKE (433725). Approach via the track which runs beside the Old Toll Cottage on the Devon bank. Park and land where the track meets the river (called the swimming pool) and please do not canoe below this point.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Adam Box, Regional River Advisor, Devon and Cornwall, also Ross Wildman.