GUIDE TO THE AFON DULAIS
(Crynant to Aberdulais)
NAME OF RIVER: Afon Dulais.
WHERE IS IT?:In South Wales between Port Talbot and Neath just off the M4 and head for Crynant on the A4109.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: In the Village of Crynant find the scout hut. The put in is on the left side of the road by the bridge over a small wall and can be a bit slippery (OS GR 793063).
The take out is in the village of Aberdulais (OS GR 774996) park in the estate above. The take out is on the river left after the old foot bridge and is a real scramble up a steep slope, throwlines can come in very handy!
APPROX LENGTH: 9 km.
TIME NEEDED: 2-3 hrs at most.
ACCESS HASSLES: No one I know has had any problems with access at all.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: The level can't be judged from the water colour, it is always a rather murky grey or brown. If there is enough water to float at the get in then it should be ok. You can also check the level at the hardest rapid Devil's weir by turning off the A4109 a couple of miles from Aberdulais towards Crynant. If this looks too low to run, then the whole river will be low and scrappy.
GRADING: 3 with one rapid 4-5.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Devils weir is a grade 4 that can go up to a grade 5 apparently if there is a lot of water, this is an easy portgage though. No problems with trees or fences but watch out for the community of feral fridges. There are three other drops where inspection is recommended.
Anonymous update (28/01/02)...'I paddled the Dulais at the weekend. The gauge at Devil's Weir read just below 8. To my eye it looked like a good 4+/ 5 at this level, and the easiest route on river right is obscured by branches from a downed tree. The stoppers after the weir looked as they would hold you for a while. The towback at the foot of the weir was substantial and escape would be problematic to say the least.
Some idiot has strung two pieces of heavy duty (about 3/4 inch) metal cable across the river about 1 km from the put in. At the levels I paddled it at the weekend the top piece of cable was at head height and the lower piece was just out of the water. The cable has been ratcheted tight around a tree and could be lethal. Also...there are a number of trees in the river now, none of them warrant a portage although one drop in particular requires care where a downed tree river right obscures the easy line around a hole in high water, while a downed tree river left blocks escaping from the hole on river left. I had an unwelcome ride in here before I could escape out the back of the hole. The pollution on the river has worsened. To add to the fridges we saw TV's, a car, numerous black bags containing presumably household waste, small bikes, an electric organ and all kinds of other crud. Although this is a good continuous river in higher flows, it is ruined by people dumping all their rubbish in the river.'
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: As soon as you get on the river there are some small rapids but nothing too tricky. After a mile or so you reach the first drop (3-4ft at most) which is easy to shoot hard on the left but can be shallow at some levels.
Then, there are some more grade 3 rapids in a mini gorge that include some nice "nursery" playholes which presumably improve as the level rises.
You will then reach a second drop (4ft) which it is best to inspectas there are large stone blocks in it which could, and nearly did, trap a paddler. This is also an easy shoot on the left though.
More fun grade 3 follows for a short while until you reach a third drop which is a technical grade 3 and definitely needs inspecting - at the level it was paddled at there is a drop into a 1-and-a-half boat width slot on the left.
After this there is another short but fun rapid and some flat water before you see the railway bridge at the start of the Devil's weir rapid. Get out near this on river left to inspect, set up protection or portage this 200m long grade 4 rapid which can apparently reach grade 5 in big flood. Although this rapid can appear intimidating it isn't too technical, although the stopper halfway down can play with you for a while if you're not careful! The small drop at the end can be run on the left (again) and it's worth having someone handy with their throwline as the stopper formed looks like it might hold a swimmer.
A few more smaller rapids take you downstream to the get out in a small dell. The get out is on river left after an old foot bridge. Further downstream is Aberdulais falls so check the get out before you get on the river.
OTHER NOTES: A good trip to introduce paddlers to leading and river playing but some of the locals do treat it as a convenient dump for fridges, washing machines and the like. My mate JC took an interesting line down the second drop and found himself caught between a very large stone block and the drop before extricating himself somehow, all from getting too near the edge while trying to inspect it from his boat.
This was written from memory so I may have mixed up the order of a couple of the rapids so run the river and correct me. Handy for boaters in Cardiff and Swansea. Other rivers in the area include the Tawe, Clydach Brook and the Nedd Fechan.