GUIDE TO THE RIVER TAVY
(Tavistock to Denham Bridge)
NAME OF RIVER: Tavy.
WHERE IS IT?: On west Dartmoor, flowing down to the sea past Tavistock.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: This trip begins in Tavistock where there are all sorts of parking possibilities. A good option is a large car-park on river right just downstream of the main town bridge and a huge weir. Also consider beginning on the Upper Tavy.
Take out at Denham Bridge, the first bridge outside Tavistock (see a map), near the village of Buckland. You'll know this spot as there is a small cliff on river right above the bridge with houses on it. Also consider the Forestry Commission car park just downstream.
Colin Greaves (Dec 06) ... 'Access to the river in Tavistock is via the main central car park (river right) ... we used the smaller long stay section (5-50/day). Toilets plus coffee shop opposite. We launched down the bank at the car park but you could also walk up to the town bridge and drop down some steps on river left ...just below the weir if you wished. My photos.'
APPROX LENGTH: 6 miles.
TIME NEEDED: 2 hours or more.
ACCESS HASSLES: The situation is apparently quite annoying with an anti-canoeing solicitor being a landowner on this stretch. We have not however encountered any objections (or even attention) on this stretch in numerous trips.
The BCU River Adviser for the Tavy is:
319/320 Faraday Trade Park
Tel 01752 600722
Update 2008 - endless numbers of paddlers have been harassed at Denham Bridge by the powerless but clearly bored and frustrated barrister. Note that he has no jurisdiction over river access or parking at Denham Bridge, but he has been irritating people by taking their registrations, photographing paddlers etc. Politely grin and humour him but do not be intimidated; he has been making baseless legal threats for years which he presumably knows perfectly well amount to nothing legally. For larger groups, if you continue another couple of hundred metres past Denham Bridge down to the Forestry Commission car park river right, then you can get changed with less interruption.
Andy Walker...'Tried to paddle down to Denham Bridge today (10/3/06). Within 30 seconds of arriving at Denham Bridge the barrister was over the bridge saying that we could not paddle the river. He alleged that he had only agreed to use outside the fishing season, which he said was 1st March to late October. He appeared to be looking for a confrontation and was very critical of college groups with large numbers, went on about it also being the bird nesting season and so on. He did then rather contradict himself by saying that there weren't any fish of any size worth catching anyway. Even though there were only three of us and we were clearly not going to be causing any of the issues he was concerned about he was adamant we couldn't paddle. He seemed quite proud of being referred to as the "cantankerous old git" somewhere on one of the canoeing web sites. If anyone is thinking of running the Walkham or Tavy down to Denham Bridge, bear in mind that he is evidently keeping a sharp look out and may cause a problem. Even if you drop cars down without being noticed, expect a possible ear full as you get off. We were courtesy itself.'
Adam Box (BCU Southwest River Advisor) notes...'The barrister who owns land and fishing rights on the lower section has made heavy handed threats to take legal action against anyone who paddles the river.'
Graham 'Bertie..' Beckram...'I paddled this over Xmas 2004. At the final small sloping weir, we stopped for a final play. We encountered an angry Gent who appeared to come from the houses on river left. He informed me the river was 'not navigable at this point'. I politely informed him we'd be on our way (it was late, this was our third river of the day and the pub was calling...). He walked off, apparently appeased, but I think he then realised I meant we'd be continuing down the river, so he stopped and started to have another go, by which time we'd all drifted off and were out of earshot.'
Mark Harris (December 2002)...'We were approached by the Landowner Solicitor as we were dropping off a car at Denham Bridge. We asked him if he had any objections to us paddling the River and we were rather pleasantly surprised when he said he did not mind at all and told us to go ahead! He said what he objected to was people paddling the river in the summer when the fishing was at it's best, He said he had no objections whatsoever to people paddling it in the winter outside of the fishing season. He did specifically ask that we did not leave any litter behind saying he was fed up with picking it out of his river bank.'
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: If you can paddle the small rapids below the big weir in Tavistock beside the car-park then the rest is on. This seems to be paddleable for several days after rain. I've paddled this in major flood (on a day the Rivers Erme/ Plym etc. were way too high) and it was still an enjoyable and safe trip.
GRADING: Grade 2 with one grade 3. The type and quality of the rapids are not dissimilar to the Dart Loop; but this trip is perhaps a little easier. In spate, this trip offers continuous bouncy grade 3.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Weirs. Somewhat remote at the Grade, for the purposes of evacuation.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The section described begins directly at the end of the Upper Tavy guide, in the centre of Tavistock. Putting on BELOW the big weir, fast easy rapids take you out of town. Watch out for a stopper lurking under one bridge in high water. A series of chutes (in low water) form a Grade 2 rapid as you pass the last houses. Below this, the Tavy winds through woodland away from civilisation and roads, with frequent Grade 2/ 3 rapids (and some great surf waves in high water). Groups inexperienced on white water will love this; as mentioned, it has similarities to the Dart Loop, only without the crowds or people asking to see your tickets! Eventually the more interesting River Walkham enters from the left and a little way below, you encounter the biggest rapid on the river. This is where you see a house high on a cliff on river left and the river flows out of sight around a series of bends. Inspection and protection (river right?) is a good idea for those unsure, but don't worry; it's not too hard, a Grade 3 slalom through big rocks...which mysteriously vanish in high water! A mile below this rapid, look out for where the river backs up behind a big weir. You can inspect and portage on river left, we've always run this but it never looks entirely safe. The final mile has big continual waves in high water. Just before the takeout bridge is a tiny sloping weir which produces a good surf wave/ stopper in all levels. After you see Denham bridge, get out directly below on river left.
OTHER NOTES: This is a great paddle at the grade. There is some river left between here and the sea...has anyone paddled it?
Another easy but unusual paddle nearby is the canal taking water from the Tavy at Tavistock...
Lower River Tavy photos are available at http://picasaweb.google.com/chgreaves
...help yourself (they are my photos).
I paddled the lower section from Tavistock to Denham bridge last Saturday (16th Dec'06) with a few mates. Excellent run, lots to do for beginners plus a few interesting drops/rapids for the more experienced. Similar level of difficulty to Dart Loop just more spread out and the best bit ...there were no other paddlers. At the exit we did not meet any "grumpy old men" which was excellent ...possibly he was doing his Christmas shopping in Tavistock!
All the best Colin Greaves
CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley, also Adam Box, Andy Walker, Graham Beckram, Colin Greaves and Mark Harris.