My interview for BBC Radio Wales went out today across the country. Feel free to have listen to it here;
Finally, we’re completing the river wye journey. This has been a very tough challenge, and a very demanding one.
Today we had to do the final leg of the journey from Monmouth to Chepstow where the river meets the sea.
I woke early today, the plan was to paddle the last section from Hoarwithy to Ross on Wye. We got up and it was still raining. I’m not a fair weather paddler, but I don’t necessarily enjoy getting wet for the sake of it either.
I had a wander around the campsite taking pictures of the various collection of tents and boats and the river. We then had some breakfast and packed up camp.
Today was going to be a tough one. Our plan was to do the Hereford to Ross-on-wye stretch of the river. On paper it said it was 31miles of flat and peaceful river. Therefore the plan was to go from Hereford to Hoarwithy today (20.5miles), camp over and then go from Hoarwithy to Ross-on-wye tomorrow (10.5miles).
We loaded up the van and set off. We drove to Ross on Wye where we met Uncle Mike, who was joining us for this leg of the journey. It’s been great doing this adventure, especially with the support of my family and friends – it just makes it fun to do.
After meeting uncle mike, we drove to Tresseck Campsite which is where I am camping tonight. We left all the camping kit there and also uncle mikes car. We then got into the van and drove off to Hereford.
We arrived at the City of Hereford with all of its cultural stuff, including the old but huge cathedral and its cider museum. There was a beer and cider festival going next to the boathouse where we were going to launch from, which dad fancied visiting, but didn’t as we have a big days paddling ahead of us. However that festival wouldn’t allow us to launch there so we drove just down the road to the Bunch of Carrots to launch instead.
We pulled into the carpark of the bunch of carrots pub where we were going to leave the van. We unloaded everything into the car park and then after sorting it all out, we carried it across to the river bank. The problem with this was that the access was through a wooden kissing gate – our 17ft kayak didn’t really fit through it, so as I carried the paddles, dad and uncle mike struggled with the boat. However, they made short work of it and got the kayak to the top of the embankment.
We had some food from our packed lunch and a can of pop before we started off.
There were several steps cut into the banking which led down to the river’s edge which we slipped our way down, eventually getting the boats into the river. Dad and I shared the kayak and uncle mike had his small kayak that he was going to use.
We lugged all the kit down and then I jumped into the kayak and dad got in behind me having squeezed all our supplies into the boat and then we set off.
The river was quiet, not a lot of people were on it and once we had started there wasn’t anywhere really to stop. The river wound away from the city centre and followed the leisurely flow of water as it meandered its way through the village of Hampton Bishop on the left and on downstream.
The river meandered its way through tree lined banks and after a mile or so the River Lugg joined us from the left. Where the two rivers joined, for a brief moment, the river sped up as the extra water flowed into the Wye, but all too quickly it settled down again. The Wye is a broad river for the most part and quite shallow today. Therefore there wasn’t much speed to it. At times we were able to pick up rocks from the bottom. Even the reeds growing in it were taller than the depth of water. This made it a hard slog to paddle.
We eventually came to a large road bridge that spanned the river. At this point we had been going about an hour and a half so we stopped on the small pebble beach and had a play and drink. I had a go in Uncle Mikes kayak and he jumped in with dad. As we continued down the river, uncle mikes boat was hard work as it is a small play boat and therefore didn’t cut through the water easily. So dad attached a tow line to me and towed me a bit, the problem with this is that it made the play boat spin a bit – I didn’t like that at all.
So I jumped into the kayak with dad, siting on his lap, as uncle mike attempted to climb back into his boat, however he failed drastically and ended up in the water soaking wet. Dad and I laughed a lot and watched as uncle mike attempted to get back in his boat. He kicked and flapped and almost made it when he capsized again. I shuffled forward along the deck of our kayak and slipped back into my seat. Dad then held mikes boat tight against ours and uncle mike swung his legs up and into the boat so then we could continue. Just after this we saw a lot of people swimming near Lucksall Campsite. I fancied a swim, but didn’t.
From here we relaxed and paddled together enjoying the scenery and serenity of the river. It was a very peaceful and beautiful stretch of the River Wye where many varieties of wildlife lived in the banks and skies surrounding us. We saw sand martins, herons, red kites, buzzards, peregrine falcons, dragon flies and much more. At times we saw salmon leaping out of the water and we saw many swans, some friendly and some, well let’s just say Uncle Mike isn’t a big fan of them anymore ha ha!
As we paddled on, we saw loads of swans nesting so we gave them a wide berth. At one point, there appeared a swan, its partner and some singlets. Dad and I went through with no issue, although the male swan did curl his rear feathers which are what they do when they are angry or being protective. As uncle mike came through, the male swan assaulted him from behind, attacking him and making him scream. Using his paddle he had to fend off the attacking swan and try and stay afloat – it was quite funny to watch although uncle mike didn’t think so.
We passed Mansells Ferry. This isn’t a boat which is what I thought it was, until dad explained that Mansells ferry is a cottage that was built in the 1800s, where the ferry man lived who had operated a wooden ferry across the wye. What is left now is a small stone built, tiled roofed building with a stone bread oven and large chimney breast.
After the cottage the river took a huge sweeping turn through the countryside where a blanket of trees to our left hid the steep slope that led up to Capler Hill Iron age hillfort.
As we were paddling, we approached a small group of islands. Just beyond this we paddled through what appeared to be a scene from Lord of the Rings as huge rock pillars rose out of the river into the sky. Dad said it was an old disused railway bridge.
As we paddled towards the village of Hoarwithy, our campsite and food, we could see the spire of the church of St Catherine’s nestled in amongst the picturesque country cottages on our right – it was very pretty. The river continued past this and underneath an old iron single track Road Bridge which held a welcome sign saying that the camping site was two hundred yards beyond this point.
We paddled under the bridge and, with great effort, onto the small beach at Hoarwithy. We got out of the kayaks, aching and very tired. Uncle mike took some pictures of me and dad and then we dragged our kayaks up the slope into the fields. Dad paid the campsite lady for the night and then I chose a spot where we could pitch our tent.
We all mucked into setup the camp and very quickly we had the tent erected and everything ready to spend a night here.
To round off this section, we headed with uncle mike to pick up the van from the starting point, grabbed a drink and some chips before heading back to the campsite for the night. After the chips, Uncle Mike and I headed back to the campsite. Once we got back we built a small camp fire just next to our tent, and using the upturned kayak as a seat, we cooked some hotdogs and had some supper. After supper, it was getting late so we went into the tent and settled down to sleep. As I fell asleep the sound of rain started as it bounced off the tent.
After yesterdays amazing paddle down the River Wye, I wanted to go kayaking again so dad chose a place called Resolven Canal in Glyn Neath.
We went and picked up the kayak from our stores along with the other kit that we needed and headed off down the road. I had my I-pad with me so I played on minecraft whilst dad drove.
After a short drive we reached the start of the canal. The water was a lot calmer than yesterday and I felt more confident because of that. We drove to the drop off point and took the kayak off the roof. I carried the paddles and kit bag and dad took the kayak.
At the waters edge we put the kayak in and I climbed in as dad held it and then he got in to. I had my sports camera mounted to the front of the kayak filming the trip so that was good. Maybe I’ll put a video up soon.
We started paddling and went past some old walls and then past a building which had canoes outside that people could rent. The building sold drinks and ice cream, so I asked if we could have one on the way back later to which dad said of course.
The canal was well kept and had little growth in it initially. After a while we reached a lock gate .We paddled into the lock and it had really high walls. We were not allowed to close the gates so we had to portage the kayak around the lock. Dad carried it and I took the paddles and kit bag. Once we got passed this first bit, there was a broken floating drill type machine in the canal that we got back into the river next to.
We carried on paddling up this stretch of the canal but all too soon this ended as well. Again we carried everything past this lock and onto the final stretch. This part was good initially but soon filled up with overgrowth. We went under several bridges and also across a viaduct (I found out that this is a bridge that carries water). Once over this the canal ended up very overgrown and we couldn’t paddle on any further. As such, we turned around and paddled back down the canal .
It was really good fun, we did about six miles and I loved it. I wasn’t scared or worried today as it felt a lot safer than yesterday.
After the paddling we had our ice creams and a can of coke before we headed to the marina where our yacht is. I didn’t want to go out on the yacht so we played in the marina and I used a net to try and catch some fish swimming around the yacht. I didn’t succeed, but it was lots of fun.
We then headed back home, even though I didn’t want to. A really fun day with my dad, doing the things I love to do.
What a fantastic day! This was meant to be our day two from the adventure we started over Easter, but because I was ill we had to have a break and have now picked up the challenge again.
We took our tandem kayak for this leg of the adventure and after putting it on the roof of dad’s van, we drove to the start of this leg of the adventure which was at Glasbury.
There is a lovely pebble beach along the side of the rive, just at the main river bridge. We got the kayak off the roof of the van and I carried the paddles and our kit and food in the waterproof dry bag and dad carried the kayak. At the waters edge, dad reminded me of how to hold the paddle and the right way to do it, we then loaded all the kit into the kayak and dad jumped in and off we went.
We glided under the Glasbury bridge without any incidents and all around us were tourists and groups that were in Canadian canoes all heading down the river.
We passed an island on our left as two other canoes started to go the wrong way, they corrected themselves and we paddled past.
The river meandered around this way and that, at places it was shallow and other places it was deep. Dad told me that we could tell when the river was deep and shallow by the way the water moved on the surface. The flatter and calmer looking the water the deeper it was, and the choppier it was, the shallower it was with obstacles under neath causing the choppiness.
At one point there were two women in another canoe and they asked us directions so we told them to take the easiest line through the obstacles and to get out on the right hand side at the Hay on wye bridge.
After a few miles we came to a natural weir in the river and a few people were on a pebble beach looking at it, dad guided us into the right hand end of it which was quite rough and we shot through it. The water rushed over the front of the kayak and splashed into my lap. I was little scared but I enjoyed it a lot.
After we shot through that a few canoes came through it behind us and one of them capsized and the people in it were suddenly in the water screaming. Looking back at them, I was glad it was them and not me lol.
After another short while we came into Hay on Wye. A lot of people were getting out here but we paddled on. It was shallow in places, but we managed to get through it without getting wet.
After another few miles we saw the ruins of Clifford castle on the right which used to be an important castle on the border between England and Wales.
After passing the castle, we paddled on enjoying the lovely sunshine beating down on us and I splashed dad with the water on my paddles, although I pretended it was by accident so dad didn’t splash me back me haha.
After 10 more minutes, we reached a small hamlet called Whitney on Wye and saw the a wooden toll bridge. The stanchions were made of timber and the bit the cars drove on was also made of timber. Just before it was a place to get out and get ice creams, but we kept paddling.
Just after the toll bridge we came to to a pub called the Boat Inn and some low level rapids, They were fun and easy to paddle through. I paddled and dad steered, I liked the rapids as they were fun and made the journey more exciting.
I was tired at this point so we stopped and had a break on a pebble beach, enjoying a sandwich and a drink whilst I explored some washed up trees on the beach.
We had passed several little islands in the river but the river narrowed after a short while and there was an Island which we passed on our right and the channel led into a series of fast and fun rapids leading to the bridge at Bredwardine.
Dad lined us up and I paddled hard and it was over in about 10 seconds, but it was bumping and splashy. The river carried on a bit faster for five or so minutes and then it eased up and we were back to normal speed.
Just after this we saw a large reddish coloured cliff which I liked and dad told me it was called Brombury Scar and was red because it was sandstone. I knew that sandstone is a soft stone made of compressed sand.
We kept paddling, taking it in turns to paddle, sometimes I would paddle and sometimes dad would whilst I rested.
I saw my first heron in a river – it was pretty huge, it looked like a pterodactyl. I also saw a black kite which was also large and had a lovely v shaped tail feathers, which is how I knew it was a kite. Dad thought it might be a red kite but I told him it was a black kite because of the white and black markings under its wings.
Just before we reached the end of the river at Bycross, we saw another ruined bridge across the river.
This was a lovely day and I felt nervous and a tiny a bit scared at the start because of the waves. But by the end of the day I was pleased with my achievement but I was tired.
We then had to wait for a bus to take us back to the start where we had left the van so we left the kayak on the edge of the river and took our bags with us on the bus. Whilst we were waiting for the but I had a lovely ice cream which I told dad I deserved and bought myself a small fishing net for trying to catch tiddlers with.
We got back home late and I was tired. My Mamgu (editors note: Welsh for grandmother), had made us a roast chicken dinner so dad and I ate that before watching Barcelona and Juventus in the Champions League final before I went to bed exhausted.