Canoeing the wye
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Canoeing from Glasbury to Chepstow 

 

"Privateers on the Wye" (Click here) described our trip in August 2001 during the "Foot and Mouth" outbreak.  This page is an updated copy with those topical references removed.  It will be easier to use for people planning a trip.   The iGreen references remain because it's good for you canoeists to be exposed to some free market ideas.  :)

The river Wye, on the England/Wales border, is one of the least spoiled large rivers in the United Kingdom. 

 

In the 17th century an Act of Parliament removed riparian owners rights and confirmed it as a "free and open" navigation up to Hay and it became an important waterway in the early industrial era. Weirs of various degrees of permanence were built to allow large barges to pass and the river must have been fairly polluted. However with the development of canals and railways the commercial traffic disappeared and the river naturally cleansed itself. Over the last century fishermen have pushed to reduce pollution, followed more recently by a new constituency, canoeists. The following is a guide to finding camp sites and access for launching along the main canoe-touring stretch from Glasbury to Chepstow. Compiled from various sources and a river trip in August 2001.

 

It seemed pretty clean when I first canoed it as a child in about 1970, and was still so when I last did so in August 2006. In 2003 the smell from the sewage farm below Hereford was less than usual, but the river was high, so it may not have been a fair test. I will be reporting regularly on coliform counts and levels of particulates in future iGreen issues. I predict that with increasing numbers of canoeists caring about the river, it will steadily improve.

 

Safety

The Wye is fairly safe to canoe at normal water levels, but no river is ever completely free from danger.  Even a tiny stream passing under a badly placed tree can trap and drown an adult.  In April 2006 a young girl canoeist tragically drowned this way on this first stretch between Glasbury and the Hollybush Inn.   By all accounts she was properly equipped and supervised, just very unlucky.  

 

Don't let this put you off the river.  Canoe touring remains a safe sport - you take a greater risk driving to the river.

 

Getting back to the top.  

Monmouth Taxis 01600 775408 have been running a canoe transfer service for the last year or so, to take people (and a canoe on the roof rack) from the lower reaches back to wherever they left their cars. For Monmouth to Glasbury they charged £40 in 2006. 

 

Glasbury

glasburybridge.jpg (13500 bytes)

From here to Hay access is disputed but the current informal agreement is for canoeing between 10 am and 4pm, leaving the morning and evening for the fishermen. The normal launching point is on the left bank just above the bridge. A fee of 50p per canoe is payable to the post office.   Wye valley canoes, on the right bank just below the bridge, are friendly, have an easy launch site, and did not charge us.  Camp site: Mr G. H. Thomas. Brooklyn. Glasbury. Tel 01497 847673.  

 

Nov 2006 note.  The above phone no. no longer works.  If anyone knows Mr Thomas's current tel no. let iGreens know.

 

Hollybush Inn. 3 miles.

hollybush inn.jpg (18995 bytes)

Super camp site on the right bank mid-way between Glasbury and Hay. Look out for a fallen tree marking the landing spot, which is by a tiny stream in the middle of a wood and otherwise easily missed. Tel. 01497 847371

1 June 2004 update.  Chris Puddy, email him here, has taken over the Hollybush Inn, improved the launching point and put a sign on the river bank.   No excuse to miss it now.  £6 per person (2006).  Ask to camp near the river. 

4.5 miles - Broken weir.  Shoot right

 

Hay on Wye. 5.5 miles.

HayOnWye.jpg (227466 bytes)

Shallows below the bridge.

Good public access on right bank 50 yards below the bridge. The campsite has no river access but is about 300 yds from the left bank below the bridge. Mr & Mrs Davies. Tel 01497 820780 

Hay is the home of the largest second hand bookshop in the world as well as innumerable smaller ones, all congregating efficiently together under the influence of Adam Smith’s invisible hand! Penelope Chetwode, the writer (Two Middle-Aged Ladies in Andalucia) and wife of the poet laureate John Betjeman, lived nearby at New House in Cusop

Whitney Toll bridge 10.25 miles.

WhitneyToll.jpg (395103 bytes)

Land a few yards before the bridge on the left. £1 per canoe. Also camping. Mr Huxtable. Tel 01497 831669

Oh how iGreens love toll bridges. Just imagine the environment if all roads were toll roads!

Click here for more

Boat Inn 10.5 miles

¼ mile downstream of toll bridge on left. Camping. £4 pp.  Showers. Tel. Carol or Rob 01497 831223 

 

Locksters Pool 12 miles.

The first sharp left hand bend below Whitney. This camp site on the right bank is open all year.  Mrs S. Mason. Tel 01497 831373  

I've never stayed there but readers report this as a great site, i. e. basic.  Just a tap.  It's easily missed. The river is wide at this point and you can wade across at normal summer levels. Be careful if you swim here.  The pool itself on the bend is deep and has strong currents.  Some visitors in August 2006 reported being refused permission to camp, perhaps because the field had been booked by a group.  As of Sept 2006 it is still open.      

Turners Boat. 16 miles.

Camp site open all year. Mr D. Price. The Weston, Bredwardine. Tel 01981 500396

 

Bredwardine. 19.5 miles.

Bredwardine.jpg (396288 bytes)

Launching/landing point below bridge on left but ask permission first from Prue Cartwright 01981 500229

 

Bredwardine parish was the last living of Francis Kilvert before his death, a few weeks after he finally married.  Peritonitis, not marriage was to blame.

Brobury scar 20.5 miles

brobury scar wye3.JPG (16355 bytes)

Sharp left hand bend beneath sandstone cliffs.  These are the lower old red sandstones, known locally as  the Raglan mudstone formation.

 

Moccas Court 21.5 miles Right bank

 

Byecross 22.5 miles.

Land on right bank as you round the bend towards Monnington falls. Look out for a posh house and a STRICTLY PRIVATE sign. Byecross is the next stretch of land. As soon as you see the Monnington falls island in front of you, land right. Byecross campsite, now owned by Tony and Sharon Fenn has toilets and a shower.  Road access to river and orchard.  £5 per person.  Open fires allowed as long as you use drift wood.  Pub 3/4 mile. Tel. 01981 500284 mob Tony 07885709505.  Sounds fabulous.

 

Monnington Falls 22.75 miles

Land on gravel bank left about 50 yards above the rapids to inspect.   The usual route is left of the island.  Beware of fallen trees obstructing the route.   Right of the island is only shootable in very high water.  

 

Preston 23.5 miles.

Half a mile below the falls on the right bank. Campsite basic, just a tap, and a Portaloo from April-Oct, but great site (like Locksters Pool) if you like peace and quiet. £3 per person.  Mr J. Price, New Court Farm. Tel 01981 500349. Open fire allowed so long as you only use driftwood.  Pub.   

 

NOTE Unless you are prepared to camp on an island or to use the Hereford Racecourse site, which is well back from the river, the next campsite is 20 miles downstream at Holme Lacey.

 

Byford 23.75 miles

Free landing and launching on left bank 200yds below pumping station. No permission required but narrow road with no parking space.

HerefordFootIron.jpg (220795 bytes)

 

July 2006 - Jase says beware of the giant hogweed if rough camping between here and Hereford.  It can cause blistering if the sap get on your skin.  Click here for more. 

 

Weir Gardens - 28 miles

wye weir gdns.jpg (7852 bytes)

There is no weir here.  These are National Trust gardens on the left bank.  Easy landing.  A good place for a picnic.

 

Hereford 33.75 miles.

hereford BridgeandCathedralLarge.jpg (29592 bytes)

Land right below the old road bridge. This is a public park with plenty of pay and display car parks. No permission required to land or launch but the nearest camping is at Hereford Race Course two miles from the river on the other side of town. Open April to September. Tel 01432 272634     

Colin Wilkinson reports "Hereford Rowing club allow camping in their field, best to call first. You get use of their showers, pay at the bar, though they're not sure of the price, we were charged £5 per head, the next couple £5 per tent. Excellent, as very close to town".

Headquarters of Bulmers cider. Market demand is leading the world’s largest cider company to promote organic cider and to encourage local apple farmers to change to organic methods.

 

Railway bridge 34.5 miles

 

Bartonsham sewerage outfall 35 miles

In 1988 this treatment works run by the Welsh Water Authority was the subject of questions in Parliament for failing pollution standards. Since privatisation it has been substantially upgraded and effluent quality has improved.

Wye Invader 37 miles

Look out for this 150ft Dutch barge beached on the right bank, a sharp reminder of the downside of a communal navigation right. It was somehow brought up river in 1990 to act as a floating restaurant. The process took nearly a year and would never have been allowed by private riparian owners. However it could not be stopped because of the ancient right of navigation. The owner even persuaded Hereford council that it would bring economic benefits to the river. In 1994 a group or motor boaters calling themselves the Wye Restoration Trust actually bid for £85M of EU and lottery money to dredge the river and install locks and weirs to repair the navigation. Fortunately such mad schemes have been stopped for the moment, but there will always be some danger when ancient right of navigation mix with loony councils who get captured by motor boating interests.

 

The river cuts into the St Maughans formation of old red sandstone at two sharp left hand bends under cliffs at 40 and 41 miles.   Holme Lacy village lies at the top of the latter cliff.   

St Maughans sandstone at Holme Lacy.jpg (46900 bytes)

Between the two bends the river has recently moved but the old cliffs mark its old course

Wye downstream of red cliff abandoned river bank.jpg (45989 bytes) 

Confluence with river Lugg 42 miles

 

Holme Lacey Bridge 42.5 miles.

HolmeLaceyA.jpg (167916 bytes)

Good landing point in the small orchard 100 yards below the bridge on left bank. It is for those using the camp-site, but the owners are very friendly so long as you ask nicely. Lucksall Caravan site has camping and all the showers, shops etc., anyone could want. They even do a special deal for canoeists. Open Easter to October. Tel 01432 870213

 

Hoarwithy 51 miles.

HoarwithyA.jpg (129162 bytes)

Two campsites here.  

Tresseck farm (Tel 01432 840235 email bookings@tresseckcampsite.co.uk) reopened in 2003.  £3.75 per adult (2007).  Landing steps on right below the bridge.    Portaloos.  Open fires allowed with driftwood.   Click here for their wonderful website with fine pictures of the river access.   A grand site.  

 

Mr. Jenkins 400 yards below the bridge on the left is another super site but a longer walk into the village.  Tel 01432 840223.  To reach the village directly land on the right immediately below the bridge. It’s rather steep. ¼ mile to Hoarwithy.  The New Harp Inn is a wonderful friendly pub.  In 2003 the landlord let us camp for nothing so long as we drank his beer!

 

Look out for the infamous water bailiff  who patrols the river (both banks) just upstream of the Hole in the Wall. Very courteous to canoeists just as long as you don't try to stop, at which point he gets very excited.

Hole in the Wall 57 miles

Canoe centre with access on left bank just above rapid. Looks like you should be able to camp here but I’ve never tried.

 

Ross on Wye 61.75 miles.

The main landing point is on the left bank below the Hope and Anchor pub but this is a public park and you can’t camp there. 

 

Geological note: Many thousands of years ago the Wye took a different route at Ross.  It went left (east) around the present town and to the east of Penyard Hill and rejoined its present course at Kerne bridge.   The picture below shows the old valley viewed from Goodrich castle.  The pylons mark the approximate course.

old course of wye from goodrich.JPG (279111 bytes)

There is a campsite ¼ mile upstream from the new road bridge on the right bank. 

rossWyeBypassC.jpg (123218 bytes)

Mr. and Mrs. Brewer. Open April to October. Tel 01989 563900.  Access is up a very steep bank and you have to carry all the gear about 250-300 yards across a field to the camping area near the farm buildings. Smelly Portaloo!   It takes about 20 minutes to walk into the centre of Ross from the Brewer's site.   You can also usually camp at the rowing club ¼ mile below the new road bridge on the left bank but do ask first. They’ll make a small charge if they remember what it is!   The final option in Ross is the White Lion Inn just below the old Wilton bridge. Tel no. 01989 562785. £5 per tent.  Sometimes busy as the canoe hire firms use this site.

RossWiltonXL.jpg (172434 bytes)

 

Wilton bridge built in 1599.  

It replaced an earlier wooden bridge. as well as at least one ferry.  There was also a ford on the same site.  It was originally a toll bridge.   :)

   

In my humble opinion the next stretch of river, Ross to Tintern, is the finest stretch of canoe touring in the world. 

Goodrich castle right 67.2 miles

goodrichcastlefromthewye.jpg (99375 bytes)    goodrichcaastle from the wye2.jpg (24917 bytes)   wyefromgoodrichcastle.jpg (32817 bytes)

When I first canoed past here in the 1970s the castle stood on a grassy hill.  I cannot find a picture from that time but others have confirmed my recollection.  The hill is now so heavily wooded that views of the castle from the river are rather obscured.  Just one example of the re forestation in Europe and North America (click here). 

Kerne Bridge 67.5 miles.

Don’t try landing at the bridge.  The famous Kerne bridge duck race takes place every year on August bank holiday from the bridge to the pick up point.  Turn up and sponsor a duck for charity. Click here

kerne bridge1.jpg (127732 bytes)

Picture Arthur Cornwell

Excellent access point and picnic site ¼ mile below bridge on left bank.  W.C. Pub. Parking. Honesty box.  

 

About here the river starts to cut a deep gorge, first into the harder upper red sandstone and after a short distance into the carboniferous limestone of the forest of Dean.  

kerne bridge from goodrich wye enters yat gorge.JPG (455872 bytes)    limestone bed welsh bicknor.JPG (165636 bytes)

Lower Lydbrook 69.5 miles.

Access point, picnic site and car park on left bank just above the rapids. W.C. Pub. Honesty box.

Oct 2006 update.  Landing is no longer permitted at Lower Lydbrook.  Click here to read why.  

lydbrook rapids.JPG (629854 bytes)   lydbrook rapids2.JPG (463864 bytes)

 

Welsh Bicknor 70 miles.

Camp site/Youth Hostel. March to October. Tel 01594 860300. 

Lovely campsite owned by the Youth Hostel. Lisa Alexander, the new manager is very friendly and lets campers use the YHA facilities.  Some claim the campsite is a bit pricey but it is full at bank holiday weekends so they must be wrong.J   On the other hand it is often nearly at other times so perhaps it's a bit overpriced for midweek non holidays.  For about £60 per night you can stay in one of the teepees with a fire inside and sleep six.

welsh bicknor YHA and church tower.JPG (257626 bytes)   welsh bicknor yha campsite.JPG (347627 bytes)   welsh bicknor youth hostel.JPG (463535 bytes)

Three lovely old walnut trees next to the church.  If you get there in June take a few for pickling and let me know how you get on.  Click here for more.

welsh bicknor church.JPG (440286 bytes)    walnut tree welsh bicknor church.JPG (627648 bytes)  

 

On our 2003 visit we pushed on from Welsh Bicknor late one afternoon and camped on the left bank about a mile downstream - a magical spot with no road or human habitation visible in any direction.  

 

Some people object to rough camping on the Wye, but it would be sad if we could never camp outside a formal site.  Don't spoil things for others - creep in silently at dusk and slip away at dawn, leaving no trace.

 

In the film "Shadowlands", Anthony Hopkins who plays CS Lewis, describes this view of the Wye from Symonds Yat rock as a "View of heaven".  

wye symonds yat.jpg (39471 bytes)

Our campsite must have been just over the river from the site where Halifax bomber V9977 crashed on 7 June 1942 killing radar pioneer Alan Blumlein.  Click here to read more. And here to see the memorial window in Goodrich castle.

 

Huntsman's bridge 74 miles

huntsmans bridge.JPG (250367 bytes)

 

Symonds Yat West 75.5 miles.

Pick-up/Drop-off point (fee). Pub. W.C. Camp/Caravan Site. Good site.  All facilities, but often fully booked and they may not take single night bookings in summer.  March to October. Tel 01600 890883

A garish funfair, some sort of children’s maze, and motor boats plying tourists up and down the river rather spoil the splendid natural beauty of Symonds Yat for me. I don’t think we can blame the government for the funfair or the motor boats directly, although the maze is Lottery funded!

Symonds Yat East 76 miles.

Good launching/landing point on left bank before the Saracens head ferry, at Wyedean canoe centre. Also camping. Mr. and Mrs. Howells 01600 890129. However, a recent report Sept 2004 says they are not returning calls.  Pubs B&B's Hotel, WC   Parking £5 per night if you're planning a long trip and car shuttle.

A word to the wise.  Don't try to drive to Symonds Yat East on a fine summer w/e - the road is single track and traffic is terrible.  Use the ferry.  

Symonds Yat rapids 76 miles 

Pretty straightforward for those touring canoes who plan to go straight through.  The main hazard are the squirt boats zipping across the main stream and practicing their breakout moves. 

symonds yat rapid.JPG (382144 bytes)    Symonds Yat Rapids map.jpg (43248 bytes)

This stretch of river was purchased by the British Canoe Union (BCU) in 2003 for £125,000.  The taxpayer (the Environment Agency) contributed £50,000 L.    The BCU is now busily putting rocks and other obstructions in the river to create a slalom course.  They say that if this was not done the rapids would disappear.   

 

I have mixed feelings about the whole thing.  One part of me wants the river left as nature intended.  Another says that if people are prepared to pay for artificial rapidsm, who am I to stop them.  I even discovered that I had contributed to the original campaign to buy the rapids!  Keeping hundreds of canoeists bunched up in the 100 yard stretch probably improves the experience for tourers elsewhere.   

 

Biblins camp site right 77 miles.   Footbridge

 

biblins footbridge.JPG (251175 bytes)

Biblins is an adventure centre site geared to youth groups.  It's not really suited to family campers.

The Seven Sisters right 79 miles

 

3 of 7 sisters.JPG (458537 bytes)      3 of 7 sisters2.JPG (356318 bytes)

The river is now cutting through carboniferous limestone.  

Monmouth 82 miles. This is the Wye bridge

wye bridge monmouth.JPG (226447 bytes)   wye bridge monmouth2.JPG (263273 bytes)

Excellent Pick-up / Drop-off point adjacent to the rowing club on the right before the Wye bridge. Car park. Don't attempt to land at the Monmouth school rowing club on the left back just above the bridge - they are not welcoming.  

Consider Monmouth Taxis 01600 775408 if you need a lift back to where you started - they will take a canoe or two on the roof.  Camp site on bank of river Monnow at Monnow Bridge. 01600 714004. Click here for Monmouth canoe centre.

Bigsweir bridge A466

Bigsweir398.jpg (205131 bytes)

This was originally a toll bridge.  Here's the old toll house.

BigsWeirToll403.jpg (208707 bytes)

 

Brockweir Bridge 91.5 miles.

Land on left bank just upstream of bridge.   Beyond here the river is tidal and muddy. Experts only. 

 

Tintern Abby 93.5 miles

Landing at the abbey - right hand side, just before the abbey and car park, in front of small houses. Easy to miss, muddy, slippery steps and metal platform to pull boats up on. Free parking and easy access for pick-up vehicles, lovely public loos nearby, tea rooms further up village. 

 

Chepstow 100 miles.

Landing point.  Car park (fee).  Camp site 2 miles from river: Mrs M. Cracknell, Beeches Farm, Tel 01291 689257

 

Compiled by Jim Thornton Sep 2001.   Updated 1 Sept 2004, and Sept 2006  Enjoy your trip!   Tell me about mistakes and updates.

 

Thanks to Peter Thornton, Gary Biles, Christine Baker, Colin Wilkinson, Jane Hughes, Arthur Cornwell, Chris Puddy, Ben and Justine, Jase, Matt Wallis, Nigel Parrish and many others I've forgotten, for update information.  

 

Vote in the river Severn weirs poll

 

 

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