GUIDE TO THE AFON GWAUN
(Llanychaer Bridge to the Sea)
NAME OF RIVER: Gwaun.
WHERE IS IT?: Pembrokeshire. It flows down into Fishguard Harbour.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: The take out is in the northern most end of Fishguard harbour, where the A487 crosses the river, SM963373. There's a small quayside here where parking is available.
The put-in is at Llanychaer Bridge SM987354. That's up the B4313 out of Fishguard.
APPROX LENGTH: 4 km.
TIME NEEDED: 1-2 hours.
ACCESS HASSLES: This is a pretty small river, We didn't think it would get paddled enough to be up to having an access agreement.
The take out and put in are directly from roads, and once on the river you're mainly away by yourselves until reaching Fishguard. Llanychaer Bridge is a very small place, so considerate parking and changing is important. We had 8 paddlers, which was really almost too many.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: It's quite a ditch, and will only be going in good spate. When we looked at Llanychaer Bridge it was brown water and obviously well up. You could paddle through all three arches of the small bridge there, though the water was only about 1 ft deep above the bridge.
GRADING: 2, maybe bits reaching 3
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Lots of trees, both overhanging and in the water. Barbed wire fencing at sides. One low footbridge.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: A nice fast little stream. The water never really gets much above grade II but is very continuous, and never drops much below that either. Watch out for trees. The whole run is through woodland, and there where plenty of trees either overhanging or in the water. There were also barbed wire fences down both sides of the river. These weren't a problem when we ran it, but should be mentioned.
There's one footbridge about 1km after the start that we just ducked under, but in higher water would be a nasty proposition. Only one tree required portaging on our trip, but after a high wind it could be ten. Towards the end there's a small broken weir that might provide a playspot, not it's not much.
OTHER NOTES: The trees would make this sucidical in really high water. Thats a strong thing to say about grade 2, but its true. Kind of like the Upper Guisane in France, only not a quarter as good. Not much to recommend it, but we did it because we were in the area with beginners and the surf was too big for them. The River Nyfer in the same area is much better.
The best of the river Gwaun starts at Cilrhedyn Bridge – the next one above Llanychaer. This section is currently free of trees and good quality paddling.
A good level indicator is in Lower Town, when the shingle bank alongside the slipway at the get-out car park is covered. We paddled when there were a few “bones” sticking out of this and had a good run. Don’t be fooled if it is High Water in the harbour – that covers everything even in drought!
There is an EA gauge at Cilrhedyn Bridge (SN 00515 34851); for our trip this was on .58 on thereabouts and rose to about .65. We had fairly continuous white water all the way to Fishguard. Chris Sladden’s guidebook calls this a spate run – be careful; in full spate the trees may give you more excitement than you bargained for and it is certainly not a river for people new to grade 2/3.
The gorge between Shortly after Cilrhedyn Bridge there is a straight, almost canalised section (SM 99986 35141); get out at the end of this as it’s best to inspect the next section for trees. This gorge was free of trees and top quality – highly recommended.
There is a three arched bridge at Llanychaer, the two river left arches were blocked but easily seen and avoided.
Below Llanychaer there were two tree portages and this may change on a regular basis. There are many blind bends so eddy hop with caution. A bit of caution will get you round the problems easily and make it a great run.