GUIDE TO THE AFON TAWE
(Upper Section to Glyntawe)
NAME OF RIVER: Tawe.
WATER LEVEL, ACCESS AND HAZARD UPDATES: Here. http://www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=73562
WHERE IS IT?: South Wales, flowing off the Brecon Beacons near the A4067 Swansea Brecon road. The put-in is on a side road...use a map.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: Put-in for this section is at GR 852210 just beside the road...the river flows through open moor here and is really just a mountain stream at this stage. It's highly recommended that you carry on into the next section of the Tawe, but you can take out near Glyntawe, just after passing a large pub (and carpark) on river left.
The following notes came from Ambrose Hearne ....'Some time ago a National Park Warden told me that above the strange weir at the start of the gorge the river is on land administered by the Brecon Beacons National Park, who have a policy of free and unhindered access to non-motorised members of the public. A kayak should count as such, I'm sure. Thus access to this stretch of river is possibly less problematic. I still remove roof-bars etc, and try to make the car look as little like a boatie car as possible. Better still is to shuttle the car down to the bottom of the river before you start the run, but this needs a non-paddling driver, or a person prepared to cycle back up and hide the bike to be collected later, a good trick for solo runs.
Safe parking (for taking out on the lower section) can be had in the OAP home close to Abercraf Bridge, but ask first. We've never had problems parking there, or lower down in the little residential road in Pen-y-Cae. This may be pushing it though, it is the heart of 'Angler Country'. The anglers are VERY possessive about the river, and I have received all manner of threats in the past. The secretary? (he drives a dark coloured foreign 4X4) tries to be very persuasive indeed.'
APPROX LENGTH: 3.5 miles.
TIME NEEDED: 2 hours.
ACCESS HASSLES: Not too good. This is one of the few rivers I have been challenged on, and it wasn't polite. The 'landowner' sounded as Welsh as Pat Butcher. It's recommended that you keep moving on this river and minimise your vulnerability and visibility. On the bright side, the put-in isn't exactly a centre of population so you should be able to get on the river without attracting attention.
The WCA website says this in October 2002...'WCA has successfully negotiated an Access Agreement to sections of the River Tawe and its tributary the River Twrch with the Angling Association that owns the riparian rights. The Agreement Allows Canoeing on these two rivers during the closed fishing season between the 18th October and the 28th of February. There is no agreement for canoeing outside these dates, and there is no agreement for spate paddling outside theses dates. Please adhere to these provisions, as paddling outside the allotted dates will jeopardise the agreement.'
Laurence Jones, Secretary to the Tawe and Tributaries Angling Association (5/02/03)...'My name is Laurence Jones and I am the Secretary of the fishing club in the area described and I would like to point out that the information given is inaccurate. In October 2002 the angling club reached an agreement with the Welsh Canoeing Association which then allowed canoeing on our waters during the closed season for fishing. Therefore there will be no hassle from the anglers providing that canoeists abide with the terms and conditions set out by the Welsh Canoeing Association. These can be obtained from Richard Harvey who is the development officer for this association. The Welsh Canoeing Agency will also be responsible for policing the waters and will take action against any canoeists breaking the conditions reached.'
Rick Plummer adds (March '00)...'To add to the access situation for the lower section of the Tawe, A group of us paddled it over the weekend and at the get out, we found that some fishermen had let down three of the four tyres on our car which stranded us. A kind local helped us out and did the shuttle for us and he said that there had been a lot of problems. A couple of fishermen also told us that it was illegal to paddle the river once the fishing season had started but I don't Know the reliability of this claim, do you?'
Again from Ambrose Hearne...'Bad but bearable. Being local or speaking Welsh does not seem to help one bit. I suggest small and discreet groups, moving sensibly.'
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: I've paddled this in medium-low conditions (scrapey on first few drops) and high bank-full conditions, where all rocks were well covered. The latter level made tremendous, but tough and committing paddling. Both times were directly after heavy rain. Very high water (out of it's banks at the put-in?) would probably be a suicide mission.
GRADING: Grade 4+ in the medium-low levels described above. Grade 5 in high water. Presumably grade 5+/ 6 in very high water.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: A large amount of trees jammed in the gorge. A 15 foot rocky waterfall which will probably need portaging.
John Leyland...'All trees remain as in main description as of Nov 2005 and none look like moving.'
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: A fantastic river, among the best anywhere in the UK. The river starts right up on the hillside with a series of three drops beside the road which take you off on a blast downhill, with a long succession of slides and falls through open moorland. The river is picking up water all the way as you go. In high water you practically fly down this stretch!
The banks close in and trees appear on the banks as you approach a small weir with a metre high slot to drop over. Soon you reach a tricky rapid where the river squeezes through a narrow gorge with a rock (or boils in high water) in mid-current to slalom around.
Shortly after the river bends sharp right without much warning and thunders straight over a big waterfall (Grade 5), giving you a choice of, a 15 foot straight drop into a tiny pool or an uncomfortable pinball down rocks. HOWEVER the choice is taken out of your hands as (Nov '99) two large trees block the river directly below, forcing a portage around the falls. It is possible to portage on either bank but the river right option is pretty awkward.
You are now in the Tawe gorge, and a splendid place it is! Plenty of small drops and blind corners keep you guessing...as mentioned above, you wouldn't want to be here in very high flows! Unfortunately, there are several tree portages to make. You'll just have to see where the trees are when you arrive. Be warned, they aren't always in convenient places.
You will no doubt recognise the two metre fall where the river drops sideways. The best rapid appears directly below a footbridge. The river drops off the edge of the world for a short distance with an Alton Towers-style ride down drops and slides into a large pool...you'll know it when you see it! The pool leads straight into an intimidating fall below a pipe which needs inspecting as the rocks are all where you don't want them to be. I've backlooped and touched the pipe!
The gorge carries on with some easier falls (and several tree portages) until the banks open out. Some Grade 4 falls above and below a bridge mark the end of the difficult rapids and you can start looking out for Glyntawe if you're planning to take out there. BUT I can't imagine why anyone would not want to carry on.
OTHER NOTES: It's highly recommended that you combine this with a trip on the next section of the Tawe...there is plenty more to come! Let us know if you have paddled this in higher water or if you have an update on the tree situation.
CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley, also Rick Plummer, Laurence Jones, John Leyland and Ambrose Hearne.