GUIDE TO THE AFON ALWEN
(Betws Gwerfil to Dee confluence)
NAME OF RIVER: Alwen.
WHERE IS IT?: North Wales near Corwen.PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Put in: Small layby upstream right of the bridge at Betws Gwerfil (Grid ref: SJ028464).
Take Out: At the end of the minor road that comes off the A494 and A5 Junction (just after the bridge over the Dee, West of Corwen) . Follow the road to the end (around the farm)and park where you can by the riverside (GR-SJ058428).
APPROX LENGTH: 5/ 6 kms depending where you started
TIME NEEDED: 2 hours (add time for playing).
ACCESS HASSLES: There is an access agreement currently being formulated for this river so my recommendation would be to wait and see what the WCA and Castell Rug Estate come up with. We have had correspondence with the Estate manager and the future does look positive.
Tasha (feb 2006)...'We did not have any problems with access, although seeing the problems of the past we did get changed before heading to the river (a uni group so more than usual faff involved!). The portage at Pen y Bont weir was fine - the home owner saying it was fine to cross her land after we asked politely.'
Update from Andy, Feb 2005...'Ran the river with a group of novices last weekend. It was a really nice level with no wire or tree hazards at all. We put in upstream river right of the Bridge at Betws Gwerfil where a local chap told us to, saying that it was common land and the usual put in. Whilst we changed some people sat in their car and watched us from the bridge and we we returned to the cars at the end of the run there were pieces of paper under the windscreen wipers saying that the land was private and that there was no navigation on the river. Obviously not all the locals are canoeist friendly.'
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: If it looks runnable from the A5 road bridge then it will go. If it is stonking then there may be tree problems higher up, it will be a bouncy ride and the gorge will be exciting. The river is dam released though and what you see may all be coming from the Ceirw (tributary). You can check this on the way to the Put In.
GRADING: Grade 2 (3) farily continuous at the grade though.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: On the section given there are no major hazards APART from the KILLER Weir at Pen y Bont (GR045437). This can be viewed, by a slight detour, on the drive up and is easily portaged along the left bank. Don't let it put you off.
The second drop is the nasty bit and although it looks like it will go on the far right I wouldn't recommend trying. It's a real pity as the wave just above is really nice, don't be tempted though as you are then committed to the bottom drop or a very awkward (maybe impossible without ropes and helpers) climb out.
Tasha (feb 2006)...'There were 3 trees across the river, (all at different locations), fully blocking the flow, but were easily sneaked, even by our beginners. The levels were quite low, (Llugwy Pont to Browns would have been a real scrape), so maybe in higher levels it would be a problem? Look out! There was also 2 rows of barbed wire, about a boat length apart, 3 sets on each post which were un-sneakable, we portaged this bit easily. All above hazards were above the confluence with the Ceriw. After the barbed wire there were no more hazards and the run was do-able even when the Llugwy was not, (although it was by no means 'full').'
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The section is pretty much continuous grade 2, full of small waves and drops until the confluence with the Ceirw when there is a nice easy grade 3. After this it flattens right off until the weir and below this is again flat until you go under the A5 road bridge where there is a 2+ rapid with play potential in places.
OTHER NOTES: We actually ran the river from a lot further up at Llanfihangel. This is not reccomended. I have never paddled a river with so many over hanging trees, strainers, barbed wire fences, low bridges and annoyances as this river has. To cap it all we passed a local woman emptying the contents of her freezer (still in it's packets) into the river. I managed to grab a pack of sweetcorn and throw it back. If it hadn't been for the last 6 Kms it would have been a really crap day.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Andy Wilson, also Tasha 'Little Miss Yaker'.
There is also a new channel\slide just to the left of the screw.
As a lot of the water is now being funneled down the new channel\slide and through the screw the weir's characteristics have changed. Still nasty on the mid-left on the second drop but I ran the first drop on the right which I didn't fancy the look of last year.
After running it a hydro electric bloke in orange hi vis spoke to me telling me it was a silly idea to run it as there is a "60 foot cavern" on the right hand side just below the first drop. I couldn't see any evidence of this but did notice he waited for me to run it before mentioning it.
Also the bridge just above the weir I used to use as a warning of the upcoming weir is...............missing............
Three were walk rounds the rest sneekable, would be a nice section with out the trees. Also one collapsed footbridge impassable.
Most of the trees are easy to spot except for one on a sharp right bend, its just out of sight from the top eddy, round the bend so who ever is scouting is committed to a steep climb out! Portage on river right. It is just above the bridge at Cefn-ceirch SH018468.
Bottom section couple of sneekable trees.
Put In sh976455 which has parking for 3-4 cars and is more discrete than Betws Gwerfil, but the road to it is very narrow.
Get Out SJ050435 there is good parking here on the old A5.
Water Level Live Gauge Reading It was 0.7m and rising on the day. It was a bit of a scrap at times but mostly ok, I would not recommend doing it below this level.
Hazards A couple of trees down, but ok at this level, one maybe more of a problem at higher levels, Barbed wire across the river, but that may have gone now ;)
Access No problem, didn't see anyone all day.