River Wye Day 4

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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.