GUIDE TO THE RIVER TORRIDGE
(Sheepwash Bridge to the Sea)
NAME OF RIVER: Torridge.
WHERE IS IT?: The River Torridge rises in the north west corner of Devon and flows in a large loop before joining the River Taw at Appledore, then flowing into the Bristol Channel.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Please only use the access and egress points described below except in dire emergency.
APPROX LENGTH: 27.5 miles from Hele Bridge
TIME NEEDED: Unknown.
ACCESS HASSLES: The season is 1st October - to - 28th February. Written permission from the LAO is compulsory. The river is important for game fishing so the importance of adhering to the Access Agreement cannot be overstated. Please only use the access and egress points described below except in dire emergency. Further information and permission to paddle is available from the Local River Advisors:
Icarus Fiona Edmonds
BCU - River Dart Access
01805 - 623140
(Mondays 4 - 6pm Thursdays 10am-1pm)
Information website: www.dartaccess.co.uk
The Old Post House
DEVON EX38 7JQ
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Unknown.
GRADING: Grade 2 mostly with weirs.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: It has few hazards other than some of the weirs, but at high water the speed of flow can provide exciting and demanding conditions.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The river is canoeable from Sheepwash Bridge (486058) at high water levels only. A more commonly used start point is Hele Bridge (540063) where access is gained on the left bank through a gate on the upstream side; cars can be left in the lay-by 100 metres towards Meeth.
Between here and New Bridge is about 4.5 miles of tame paddling, access at New Bridge is on the left bank downstream. A further 4 miles of gentle paddling brings you to Beaford Bridge (access: left bank upstream) and 7.5 miles later you will encounter Lady Palmer weir. This is usually best shot on the right, which is also the side to portage, but please do not land on the right bank below the weir which is a conservation area and should not be disturbed. There is no access here.
A further 2 miles downstream is Town Mills Bridge (500184) and Taddiport Bridge (488188) follows shortly after that. Access to both is on the right bank, downstream. Taddiport Weir is only a quarter of a mile further on; this is best shot down either of the two fish runs left and right or, if levels are high, down the face in the centre. This weir can be portaged on the left. Rothern Bridge (480198) is 1 mile from here; access and parking are on the left bank and a pub (the Puffing Billy) is over a small bridge on the right bank. If you started at Hele Bridge you have now travelled 18.5 miles so why not stop for a rest?
Within half a mile of Rothern Bridge is the notorious Beam Weir, which really must be inspected before shooting. It lies below the second of the two railway bridges so you must get out on the left before the bridge, it sounds easy but is actually very difficult! In low water it may be possible to get out on the lip of the weir on the extreme right but this is not advised for beginners or at high flows as a sideways shoot may follow - very nasty. Portage on the left, but watch out for barbed wire in the eddy. At present shooting is not recommended due to some very crude anti-scour work (i.e. great big rocks embedded below the weir face) and due to the difficulty of rescuing those caught in the fish steps. Avoid the wired-off section which is a fish counter, also rumoured to catch unwary otters.
Beam aqueduct (disused) one mile on, is the next access point (left bank, upstream) where parking is available in the quarry, but beware abseilers and loose rocks. Weare Giffard Water Treatment Works (access right bank, but difficult parking) is 1.5 miles downstream and is shortly followed by the tidal limit of the river, Halfpenny Bridge at Weare Giffard. 3 1/2 miles further is "Little America" where a large lay-by on the left bank on a bend makes a good start point for trips on the head of the estuary, and Bideford Bridge within a mile, channels the tide at certain levels allowing good slalom practice. At low tides most water is found on the Bideford side i.e. the left bank. Shortly after this is the Bank End slipway and car park which provides a convenient egress point from some 27.5 miles from Hele Bridge. If you go further beware of the water ski area at "Cleave Wrecks" under the left bank cliffs, where both ski boats and oarsmen habitually travel at great speed while looking backwards. Further on the hazards get bigger; catamarans, yachts, dingies and windsurfers will be found around Appledore, as well as a ferry and numerous moored boats. Parking is very difficult here in Summer due to tourists.
Beyond this point the river has the characteristics of an open sea, with strong tidal currents and a long swim to the next land, Lundy Island. You should not attempt to paddle here unless you are experienced at reading tidal data and dealing with strong currents.
Jen Jameson (Sept 2006)...'I used to live/work at Beam House (was/is a Multi-Activity Centre), which backs on to the Torridge at Beam weir..several of us used to go and play in the weir after work, (this was about '98). In high to med water you get a good wave that can be surfed and a good hole river left, the bottom of the fish steps makes for a good ender spot too, was plenty deep enough but watch the barbed wire in the eddy and bits of fence post. In v high water the wave /hole on the main face becomes a nasty chewy mess, stay well clear, until it drops or washs out.'
Additional notes from Kieron (March 2003)...'Sheepwash Br to Rothern Br (Puffing Billy Pub) 10 hours steady paddling inc lunch and coffee breaks at level 0.25 Sheepwash bridge gauge.
Helle Bridge to Taddiport Bridge about 6.5 hours. Rothern Br to Little America 2-3 hours depending on the tide. I paddled against the early part of the tide for 2 miles. I don't know if it gets harder as the tide gets higher. UKHO Tide prediction (Print version)
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Sheepwash Br. 0.25 was adequate, no scrapeing bottom.
GRADING: At this level, 0.25, its only a grade 1. The weirs are easy to shoot or line or portage.
Taddiport Weir: The right shoot is much wider and better for open boats.
Beam Weir: When the right lip is dry its easy to get to and climb over but scratchy (also it might be slippy) so I'll try portaging right next time. At higher levels care would be needed to keep away from the lip while getting to the right portage. I didn't see any get out point on the left before the bridge. Between the bridge and weir (3 metres) is a tricky get out point followed by a portage over a locked farm gate. This weir can be recced via a 1 mile walk on the Tarka Way from the Puffing Billy Inn.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Icarus Edmonds, also Kieran and Jen Jameson.
Popular river with touring beginners, please take care downstream from Torrington. The second of two bridges at the 'Puffing Billy' has two large trees blocking all arches right across the river, with further debris collecting there. Easily visible at low water, but with the potential to snare the unwary at higher water. The river is clear for the moment after this bridge and the put in here is still accessible, anyone intent on touring can paddle to the bridge and walk round the obstruction. Also recent work done on the bridge as slabs had fallen from the top.