The Dee (Lower), Llangollen to Ty Mawr
Not, The Severn, Newtown to Abermule
Written by Clive Edwards
Saturday 25th March 2023
“The river was choppy, full of small wavelets and plenty of sections with larger waves but no rocks”
“To be honest I never saw the two of them capsize but they did seem to get very wet.”
“Shaun decided to have a splash and the children were encouraged to throw stones at him.”
I had some concerns about going on this paddle, heightened by a change in venue to the lower Dee, because of high water levels. The trip was basically described as medium competency level which is ok, but I’ve done the upper Dee a couple of times and know it’s at the limit of my competence (as is any river that has a protuberance of more than a pebble, is more than 1m deep, has any bends, can’t be seal launched and doesn’t have some mechanical means of getting me out of a kayak). I was taking the Ethos kayak which hates rocks more than I do!
Purely by chance I linked up with the main group at the services of the M54 so drove in convoy during the last part of the journey. It was interesting to follow Neil in his Tesla and see how little he had to brake due to regenerative braking. The downside is that he had to peel off to the get-out/finish point because the triple A batteries wouldn’t get him home if he did the whole journey.
The start was at the convenient car park just below Town Falls, in Llangollen, with a nice easy get on into the fast flowing(!!) river. There were 7 paddlers (including Neil), 3 kayaks, 2 canoes and a paddleboard (could be a Christmas carol). A quick bit of organising and we set off to the get-out point to leave our cars and pick up Neil. The car park, which was under the railway viaduct is equally as impressive as the aqueduct, was £1 for the whole day. That’s a bargain so I bought two tickets.
Back to the get-on point and, when we were ready to launch, Scott (ably assisted by George) talked us through the day’s paddle emphasising the safety aspects of the trip. The kayakers were George, Neil and myself, Shaun on the paddleboard, and Paul in a canoe, with Nathan and Scott (mentor and mentee) doubling up in (sometimes in, sometime not in) a canoe as well.
Due to the flow there was little flat water and a limited number of eddies to pull into. Following Scott’s advice, we stayed in the main flow getting the feel of things. The river was choppy, full of small wavelets and plenty of sections with larger waves but no rocks (yes). Shaun was soon standing up on his paddleboard, Paul was very serene and looking very balanced and the lead was changeable as Scott enabled us to make our own way. When the river became visibly wavey we stopped either mid-stream or in a slow-moving eddy to assess the situation. One of the interesting coaching/guiding concepts here was Nathan getting Scott to describe what he wanted us to do in no more than three instructions (follow me, stay in the middle, keep right etc..). Clear and concise.
I will again emphasise how close this trip was to Scott’s description of a step up from flat water. The main feature of the whole trip was the many sections containing waves. Not massive, although a couple were pretty big. There was a need for positive paddling, getting the basics of the whole blade in the water, reading the waves, and the direction of the flow. At times the flow moved from one bank to the other following a bend, possibly going under the overhanging trees, so there was a need to read/look ahead what was happening and to change the angle at which you were going to cut through the waves. There was a least one point where the water appeared flat but there was a lot of activity under the surface making it difficult to select a line.
This is the only paddle I’ve ever been on where the leaders try to ease the way for the group, by reducing the water level by filling their own canoe with water. This led to a few minor delays as the canoe was emptied (at one point a paddle was lost) and Scott standing up precariously in the canoe to adjust something under his dry suit. To be honest I never saw the two of them capsize but they did seem to get very wet. Perhaps it was due to two big men being in a canoe, only 50mm between the water and gunwales, and a lot of kit!
Lunch was in a very conveniently placed fisherman’s shelter, protected from the wind, but perhaps next time we could use the adjacent flat shore to get out rather than trying to scramble out up the steep bank. Did make for a good seal launch though.
After lunch it was more of the same as we passed under the aqueduct and, the viaduct came into view. The get-out was a used family spot where children have a little space to throw stones into the river. As we got out, Shaun decided to have a splash and the children were encouraged to throw stones at him. Unfortunately, their parents stopped it.
The final challenge of the day was getting back to the cars. It was an uphill slog around a fenced path (no chance of being able to cut straight through), and so after carrying for a while I resorted to dragging my boat until I was out of view, and then resorted to using “The Force”. There was a closer portage point at the bottom of some steps, but it would have meant climbing The Eiger directly to the top of the hill.
Thanks to everyone who made this worth the journey, even the weather improved from a drizzle to sunshine. Scott has got to be proud of George who paddled well, often taking his own route through the waves. Paul seemed to take it all with ease despite only just having returned to paddling. Shaun showed me what can be done on a paddleboard and Neil gave me confidence in paddling the Ethos. That just leaves the Morecombe and Wise duo who provided an element of fun whilst maintaining their leadership role.
A final thanks to Scott for introducing me to a car air freshener called SexWax. I think I’ll stick to trying to look innocent or muttering “It’s Wanlip” if I feel the accusatory glare of my No1.
Thanks for reading,