GUIDE TO THE AFON IWRCH

(SJ120291 to Bridge at SJ 134267)

NAME OF RIVER: Afon Irwch.

WHERE IS IT?: The Berwyn Mountains, between Bala and Oswestry. A tributary of the Tanat. Map.

PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Heading up the valley on the road on river right, you'll pass an obviously very steep section and the river then comes close to the road. Launch just upstream of a weir; there is a helpful layby nearby.

Take out at the next road bridge (a mile from the centre of Llanrhaeadr) or continue 2.5km down to the Tanat.

APPROX LENGTH: 3 kilometres.

TIME NEEDED: 2 hours?

ACCESS HASSLES: Rarely paddled, presumably.

WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: There is a gauge at the top of the weir; it read 4 when we paddled, the top of the gauge. At this level, the river was out of its banks a few km further upstream. Perhaps another six inches (i.e. filling/ spilling the stone walls above the weir) would probably be needed to clean up the steep Grade 5 drops.

GRADING: Grade 4 (5, P).

MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Weir. Low trees. Barbed wire. Heavy going portages. Sheep barriers.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The river begins with some easy rapids, but be careful as it suddenly drops away into a very steep section.

The steep section looks clean and runnable from the road. Unfortunately, when inspected close up, a couple of problems become clear; firstly, some of the bigger drops are fairly manky with piton-y rocks halfway down them (maybe needing silly amounts of water to clean up, as noted above); secondly, fallen trees mess the whole thing up in any case. Irritatingly, the most appealling drops have the most awkward trees. You'll probably portage most of this on river right, quite heavy going. An alternative (but one which misses out on the adventure) is to access the river at the bottom of this section, walking downhill from the road.

The next kilometre or so is great, continuous fast frantic grade 4 with small horizon lines to keep you guessing. Splendid ditch fun.

The gradient then eases, and the quality goes downhill; firstly an intimidating metal barrier (some kind of sheep fence?) needs portaging, followed by various fallen trees, a log barrier under a bridge and two wire strands at body height. Keep your eyes open and be prepared to break out quickly! All can be portaged on river right. The river is only Grade 2 through all of this.

The takeout bridge also has a wire strand underneath, don't miss the last eddy above and take out on the right.

OTHER NOTES: An adventurous couple of hours in a beautiful area; go visit the impressive Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall afterwards, just a few miles away. The river below (Afon Rhaeadr) looks great, but is chocked out with fallen trees.

CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley.

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