GUIDE TO THE RIVER WEST DART
(Two Bridges to Dartmeet)
NAME OF RIVER: West Dart.
WHERE IS IT?: This trip is high up on Dartmoor, close to the road between Princetown and Dartmeet.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Get on at Two Bridges (SX 6078 7500) by the hotel if the river is very high, or at the outward bound centre by Prince Hall. This trip finishes where the river joins the East Dart (SX 6719 7318) to become the main River Dart, just downstream of the get-in for the Dartmeet section.
APPROX LENGTH: 5 miles approx.
TIME NEEDED: Unknown.
ACCESS HASSLES: Paddling the West Dart or East Dart is seemingly not liked by the National Park or local Environment Agency officials. Of course, they have no legal jurisdiction over the navigation of Dartmoor's rivers whatsoever.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Only worth paddling in flood conditions; when it's outstanding!
GRADING: 3, finishing at grade 3-4. Pretty continuous towards the end.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Remote in places.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Initially a small meandering moorland stream, it quickly grows into a steep grade 3 river with a good grade 3-4 stretch in the last mile. Very remote in places, with excellent scenery and extensive wildlife.
Initially a flat meandering moorland stream with the occasional rocky fall (some of which are tricky and worth recceing). The river expands and steepens into a pleasant steep grade 3, with some long continuous boulder strewn falls similar to an easy upper Dart. After Hexworthy Bridge the river drops steeply for the final mile. This section has some excellent grade 3-4, and is worth paddling as a warm up for the Upper Dart. It is normal to continue down the Upper Dart to Newbridge, but it is possible to get out on the left bank below the confluence, and walk 50 yards upstream to the carpark.
OTHER NOTES: An alternative start point, in very very high water, is the Black Brook flowing from Princetown.
The Swincombe also makes an interesting start in spate conditions.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Simon Dawson, www.simondawson.com.
We are asking for the assistance of all water users, including fishermen, dog walkers etc. to help the river recover. For canoeists this would include careful entry into and egress from rivers, paddling in good flows only and avoiding contact with river beds wherever possible. We also encourage canoeists to only paddle where there are agreed access arrangements in place.
We are currently trying to establish the extent and cause of the disease affecting rivers across Devon and Cornwall. Until we understand more and are able to implement any suitable measures, our only option to limit the impact of this disease is to protect the surviving salmon and sea trout and their spawn sites. Fish will potentially start to spwan from late September and eggs remain in gravels until around April, so this is a particularly sensitive period.
Thanks for your understanding and co-opertaion on this matter.
We had no problems and were quite surprised at the damage to the boats as there was lots of water in the river.
I met with Tom Stratton, the Manager of the Dartmoor area Duchy of Cornwall, to discuss canoe access on the West Dart. It was clear that the river was paddled in higher flows, although not with his agreement. He had not received many complaints from his tenant farmers, if any in recent times. He acknowledged Canoe England’s stance on access as specified in the CE Position Statement, but did not accept its argument about legal uncertainty.
His concerns had been based on the ‘attitudes’ of some paddlers; we know there have been altercations in the past, largely as reaction to quite aggressive challenges to paddlers. The main concern was about parking at Prince Hall or Hexworthy Bridge, where narrow roads were easily obstructed for agricultural vehicles. The other concern was about possible damage to the environment, including salmon redds and bank erosion. It was conceded that there was no evidence of these.
Tom was not willing to add the West Dart to the Dart Fisheries statement (see earlier link) but was content with the ‘status quo’. This can be taken to mean that provided the issues above did not result in complaints, he would not be taking any action to prevent paddling. If you choose to paddle this section, it will help to ensure this understanding for shared use is maintained if vehicles are always parked with consideration for others and you only paddle when water levels are adequate to avoid the risk of grounding.
It has been suggested that if people choose to paddle this section of the Dart, then access be made downstream of Two Bridges, where a decent layby (GR 612749), on the south side of the road, can give access through a gate and a short carry down to an S bend in the river. In normal flows, this section is unpaddleable and the river would need to be in semi-spate at least. With the connection to Dartmeet, none of the issues identified as problems are likely to be created.
"Simon Westgarth" wrote:The EA's