GUIDE TO THE AFON SAWDDE
(Three Horseshoes Pub to River Tywi)
NAME OF RIVER: Sawdde.
WHERE IS IT?: In the Brecon Beacons, OS map 160. It is a tributary of the River Tywi.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: You have the option of starting further upstream. If you are going to just do the gorge, or the water level is quite low, put in at the bridge beside a disused pub (Three Horseshoes) to begin this section. Takeout is either in the River Tywi or where the river comes close to the road near a big weir just before this.
Aidan Browning...'Paddled this section today (11/3/2006) was about 4 on the gauge. The three horseshoes pub is no longer disused and is now a private dwelling hence parking is now very limited (about 1 car) on the other side of the bridge.'
Nick Mawer (Feb 2004)...'An alternative get in to the Three Horseshoes gorge is Pont Aber on the Clydach. There is a pub carpark here. We couldn't find anybody at the pub to ask permission to park so we just did. If there is enough water, you can get in further up the Clydach.'
APPROX LENGTH: 3 miles.
TIME NEEDED: 1-2 hours.
ACCESS HASSLES: Unknown.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Can apparently be paddled days after rain. I have only paddled this in medium water levels.
GRADING: Grade 3.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Overhead pipes in the gorge would be a hazard in very high water. Two weirs near the end. Committing long gorge. Trees in the gorge.
Aidan Browning...(11/3/2006) 'Also about 100m up stream from the weir just after the house as you come down the river is a huge tree blocking the whole river. At the level we did you were ok to get out before and climb over the tree on river right but at higher levels a longer portage would probably be required.GENERAL DESCRIPTION: A lovely river which is a great introduction to paddling closed gorges...when you've done this you can try the Zanskar!
From the put-in you are into the trickiest rapid straight away. A slot and drop may produce backloops...have the camera ready! Unfortunately there is currently a dodgy tree in the river just below to add spice (Nov '99).
After this the gorge becomes 'closed in' and evacuation would be awkward (but not impossible). Enjoy the continuous small rapids and drops of the gorge which just keep coming. About halfway down is a play stopper, which forms a nice 'looping' spot.
In the second half of the gorge a dead tree crossing overhead would present a serious hazard in very high water...keep your eyes open for it! Eventually the gorge has to end and when the river has open banks, you pass underneath a pipe bridge which is partly blocked with trees and would certainly be a hazard in high flows.
You next reach a small gauge weir which can be 'played' in low water.
When the river emerges from the trees, begin looking out for a 1 metre weir drop. This was straightforward (but shallow) in medium water levels but would 'eat' you in flood...inspect. This is a good place to finish your trip (road is on river right)...before doing it again?
I have not paddled the last few hundred metres down to the confluence with the Tywi, and don't know what is lurking there; so if you carry on, be careful.
OTHER NOTES: I'll say it again...a lovely river. Also consider doing the river further upstream.
Caroline Day (paddled and lost her boat 14 Nov 2003)...'The middle gauge read 4 when we started and was 10 when we got off. It was cracking! Big, bouncy with standing waves and boily eddies. There were 3 trees which we had to walk around (between the bottom of the gorge and the Three horseshoes pub) but it was the next submerged tree that got me!'
CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley, also Caroline Day, Aiden Browning and Nick Mawer.