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GUIDE TO THE AFON ELWY

NAME OF RIVER: Afon Elwy

WHERE IS IT?: South of Abergele, North Wales. OS Landranger Map Series No. 116 – Denbigh & Colwyn Bay. Flows East to St Asaph / Llanelwy.

PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Put in next to the public car park upstream of the two bridges in Llanfair Talhaiarn (SH927703).  Take out Bont-newydd (SJ012708).  Parking is very limited at the take-out; there may be room for a single car by the bridge, or park on the verge ¼ mile along the road towards Henllan.

APPROX LENGTH: 9 Miles

TIME NEEDED: Around 3-4 hours, depending on water level and playing time.

ACCESS SITUATION: There are “No Canoeing” signs in Bont-newydd and fishermen and estate workers have been less than friendly – this is a fly-fishing river.  However, it is regularly paddled and the other villagers in Bont-newydd have gone out of their way to make us feel welcome.  Despite an incident a few years ago with a large, messy and noisy group camped by the river, there should be no problem for small groups who park and change respectfully.

WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: If you can float at the put in the rest of the river should be alright.  The river can hold a lot of water, but more than bank full could create difficulties with trees.

GRADING: Grade 2/3

MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Several weirs, two of which can be dangerous at high levels.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION:Put in by the public car park in Llanfair Talhairn.  The river goes under two bridges before the first weir is reached, ¼ mile from the put-in.  This is gently sloping and easy on either right or left, just avoid the salmon steps down the middle.  As the river picks up speed there are a series of three more natural weir steps, easy grade III with good surf waves at the right levels, before the confluence with the Aled is reached.  Most of the rapids are grade II from here down, but at low levels can be more technical and rocky.  There is a mini-gorge, steep sided on the left with some sharp bends but the serious rapids expected never materialise.  Just below Pont y Ddôl (SH986726) is a diagonal weir, built with particularly sharp capping stones.  At higher levels the line must be chosen with care as some sections have a strong tow-back; combined with a sideways flow and a tree half-way along a bank inspection is helpful.  Egress on right above the bridge!
– a single stone arch spanning the river with a second arch in the field on the right – at most levels there is a convenient grey shingle beach above the bridge.  Below the weir the rapids continue at grade II until just before a triple-step weir (SJ006715), seen by a very obvious horizon line.  At high levels this is a definite portage – there is a well-walked path on the right.  At low levels it can be shot in the centre, or portage the first two steps on the rocks on the left and shoot the final step.  The river is easy to the egress, on river right just before the bridge with a convenient path up to the road.

OTHER NOTES:Scenic river with a mixture of interesting rapids, several weirs and a short gorge.  The Aled flows into this river.  Anyone paddled the section above this?

CONTRIBUTED BY:Donna and Andy Boothman, www.midlandcanoeclub.com