GUIDE TO THE RIVER DEE
(Llangollen Town to Ty Mawr Country Park/ Newbridge)
NAME OF RIVER: Dee (or Afon Dyfrdwy if you're Welsh...)
WHERE IS IT?: Llangollen Bridge (SJ 215 421) to Ty Mawr Country Park/ Newbridge, alongside the A539.PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS:
Put-In: From the car park in Llangollen next to the Ponsonby Arms (by the riverside, off the A539).
Take-out at Ty Mawr Country Park where you can use a public car park sited about a 5 minute walk uphill along a good footpath from the river. When egressing you will find steps on river left conveniently marked by a red lifesaving post at the end of the last rapid before the railway bridge (SJ281413). Follow the path uphill to the right of the fenced area and continue on where the path meets a rough roadway. This track leads to a gate which you can walk around and then up a further 100 metres or so to the car park entrance. It is possible to move a vechicle to the gate to ease boat collection and for more discrete changing. Important note: The car park closes at 7:30pm so use the car park space that you will find just outside the gates if you are doing an evening run.
For a shorter trip, but missing out a lot of the rapids, you could take out below Trevor Bridge (B5434, footpath accessed downstream of bridge, river left at SJ268421). This is however not ideal for parking and is also a jumping off point for the nearby private fishing beats.
Guidebooks mention another possible get out further downstream at Newbridge itself, up a steep bank to the road bridge. I haven't looked at this but from the map parking might be a problem as well as the climb up.
Map shows the egress points.
APPROX LENGTH: Llangollen to Ty Mawr Country Park: 9 Km (5 miles).
TIME NEEDED: 75 minutes to Ty Mawr Country Park.
ACCESS HASSLES: Excellent - you are completely unrestricted by an access agreement since there isn't one (http://www.sharedrivers.org.uk/dee/dee.htm). The section is readily accessed from public roads and footpaths. Unless you look especially carefully you probably wont even see the embarrassed small writing stating No Canoeing on the 'PRIVATE FISHING' signage at Llangollen...who knows if these words have any legal status any way? Refer to this for further advice.
This is a popular fishing river so be especially alert when approaching one of the numerous pools. The river is wide however, so you should be able to pass without disturbing anyone. On the other hand, even in the fishing season you might do the entire trip and not see a rod in the river. Unfortunately as the local fishing bureaucracy have devoted efforts to prevarication and avoidance rather than communication we ordinary canoeists have only general principles to go on as to ways in which our sports can coexist peacefully on the River Dee. If you have suggestions for sensible access advice specific to this section of river please email in an update!
I have now done 4 runs of this section, 3 in the evening at various water levels (1-4) and generally fine/light rain conditions. So far - 2 actual fishermen encountered, 1 friendly and both avoided without problems. The other may have been friendly but he seemed to be reeling in his line as we passed on the opposite side and I didn't want to provoke him with a cheery wave just a nod of the head was all I thought worth risking. Makes a nice warm up on Friday nights on the way to the Tryweryn.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Mile End Mile gauge gives a good measure of what to expect on this section. Get this information via the phone but ignore the subjective and misleading comment 8 and above on the gauge is good. Levels of 1600-1700 on the gauge (3-4 on the stick) both gave good runs, with all the rapids in
reasonable-to-good condition and without the complications of flood (which the Dee is heading towards once above 8 on the gauge). Even as low as 1400 (1 on the stick) the trip is worthwhile though it presents an increased challenge of navigation to avoid shallows.
GRADING: I/II (III).
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: The grade III is Trevor Rocks, though this grade is perhaps a little excessive at normal flows.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Put in down the steps upstream of the car park. Stay clear of the weir if you warm up here.
The river passes out of Llangollen as fast flowing grade I and continues in this fashion with occasional grade II drops. You pass a sturdy looking wall on the right hand side after about 3 miles and a little further on houses on the left bank of a right hand bend heralds Trevor Rocks. Thanks to published guidebooks this is well known as the site of the first UK canoe slalom competition in 1939. Let's hope it can provide good paddle sport for present and future generations too. A relatively easy grade III, I guess many would say grade II at lower water levels. A line from the centre down the right goes well in normal conditions, and in our case avoided disturbing a householder about his business on the left bank.
Just below at the tail end of the rapids is Trevor Bridge. As at April 2004 there was a large tree across the river right bridge support; easily seen at normal river levels and passed left or right. Downstream of the bridge, you can egress to the footpath on river left for a 4 mile trip. Continue on for some more rapids as you pass under the impressive aquaduct. You pass an intake station on river right and then the river takes a right into a short S bend.
The next flat section seems longer than the ones higher upstream but then the rapids pick up again as the railway viaduct comes into view and you enter a pool with a picnic area on river left. This is Ty Mawr Country Park and a good place to haul out for a break if you intend doing the next stretch.
If you are stopping at the country park then carry on down the next set of rapids, at the end of which on river left you will see the red life-saving station mentioned in the take-out directions. Up the steps and progress up the hill back to the car park.
OTHER NOTES: For a much longer trip at a similar grade, consider continuing or start higher up (you could always use the canal to avoid the grade III/IV or simply portage town falls via Llangollen high street).
Link to a picture of the River Dee upstream from Bont Bridge at Trevor (i.e. Trevor Rocks).