GUIDE TO THE RIVER WEST OKEMENT
(Meldon Reservoir to Okehampton)
NAME OF RIVER: West Okement.
WHERE IS IT?: North Dartmoor, flowing into Okehampton which is near the A30. Map.PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: There is a large car park near the dam at GR 563917. From here, carry your boats several hundred metres down the footpath to access the river through a convenient gate.
Take out just above the footbridge at GR 585944 where there is a car park which serves Okehampton Castle.
APPROX LENGTH: 5 km.
TIME NEEDED: Unknown.
ACCESS HASSLES: The West Okement sees few descents and no access problems have been reported.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: The flow of the West Okement is impeded by the dam of Meldon Reservoir. The dam does not usually fill until late winter and this is unlikely to be paddleable before then. Water flows from the dam after plenty of rain; this may remain in condition for some days after the rain has passed. This may still offer manageable paddling when other intermediate rivers are too high.
It should be easy to gauge whether there is sufficient flow to paddle by taking a look the takeout or in the centre of Okehampton.
GRADING: 3 (4-).
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Trees. Barbed wire.
Rachel Turner...'We ran this river on 11/1/04 when everything else was too high (Dart at 6.5-7'). A short while after the railway bridge high up there is a left hand bend and a tree blocks the line down the rapid and after 100 yds a tree goes right across the river that is a definite portage. Later after the A30 road bridge another tree is right across the river but at this level could be sneaked on the LHS. Other than that a good river (well top half at least) but avoid the trees.'
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: A good intermediate level run which offers entertaining technical paddling in a quiet and little visited corner of Dartmoor.
The West Okement begins with continuous grade 3 which is enjoyably technical. There are one or two low trees to duck but this an enjoyable section of water. After the bizarre looking railway bridge is passed under, be on the lookout for three ledge drops in succession; these mark the start of a grade 4- rapid with two tight slots needing inspection.
Be on the lookout for a barbed wire strand across the river directly below the A30 bridge high above. The river now eases to continuous grade 2 which can be enjoyed right down past Okehampton Castle to the takeout.
If you carry on into Okehampton the river becomes canalised over small weirs and finding a takeout is difficult.
OTHER NOTES: Worth combining with a visit to the castle.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley, also Rachel Turner.