GUIDE TO THE AFON IRFON
NAME OF RIVER: Irfon.
WHERE IS IT?: Mid Wales - Wye Tributary.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: At Llanwrtyd Wells take the road up the true right bank of the river. Cross the river twice and turn left at Abergwesyn. The road rises and, after a few km comes back down the moor quite close to the river. Put in here, below the Camddwr Bleiddiad Gorge.
There are a number of possible take-outs. We usually choose one of two: a footbridge c.2 km upstream of Llanwrtyd Wells (in this case, it's best to leave most of the cars in the town and only one in the layby at the bridge); or a forestry commission picnic site in the Pwllbo below a lovely class 4 drop with a large pool and grassy banks below. Note that this is not the main picnic site, but further down stream - layby on both sides of the road, c.2 km downstream of the forestry bridge.
APPROX LENGTH: 8 km or 13 km depending on take-out chosen.
TIME NEEDED: 1.5 - 2.5 hrs.
ACCESS HASSLES: Don't know - but we've never had a problem.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: The Irfon rises and falls very quickly but needs big rain to really make a difference. There is a pipe across the river @ GR877472 - if the water is more than c.4' below this, it's probably too low to paddle. Touching the pipe and you're in for a wild ride!
Chris Fawcett (Jan 2004)...'The pipe mentioned is on your left hand side when driving up towards Abergwesyn. It is underneath a footbridge. Having arrived at the river and finding the water approx 5 foot below the pipe we still elected to paddle as the river looked "runnable". Maybe a better indicator is the bridge at Abergwesyn if doing the section described here.'
GRADING: An easy 4 at low levels - a hard 4 (5) with lots of water.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: The opening section of this run has numerous falls, slides and tight rapids (one in particular is a probably portage). Once under the first road bridge the rapids are bigger volume but slightly less frequent than before.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The Irfon is a fine river - and relatively seldom paddled.
The upper section, flowing off the moor is reminiscent of the Upper Tawe - but not as extreme. It is steep, continuous and technical. From the put-in below the gorge the river falls away quickly, the first major rapid appearing just around the first corner - inspect and portage if you don't feel up to it. It then continues in much the same vein for the next 4 km as far as the road bridge at Abergwesyn.
The second half, below Abergwesyn is less intense and completely different in character. The river here is wider and more powerful, the rapids are less frequent, but longer and more distinct and every bit as challenging as those above.
Below the first recommended take-out, there are some long flat sections. If the river is high then these don't matter too much, but if you're paddling at low levels then it's probably best to take out here.
OTHER NOTES: The road follows the river fairly closely for much of the time, so bank support is fairly easy.
Chris Hudson adds...(30/4/01) 'The upper section of this river is quite possibly the best section I have ever paddled, it feels remote, there is never much time to get bored, all the drops run at about grade 4, but most can be inspected from your boat and none needed portaging. The lower section is completely different in character, trees are a nuisance, there are long sections of flat between a couple of drops, uninspiring drops, it would be much better to get out under the second bridge in the forestry car park and go do the Twyi just over the tops if you were after a full days paddling.'
Jeremy Masters adds...(Dec '01) 'Re: Chris Hudson's comments, the last 4 rapids are well worth doing and a great finish to the river. The flat sections aren't that bad and are a good work out (and you still have enough time to get over to the Twyi!)'
At low/medium levels would recommend getting on at the bridge/carpark between Abergwesyn and Llanwrtyd Wells and off after the last significant rapid as the grade 4 sections here are worth the trip and easy to protect/re-run.