River Dee

What was originally a weekend trip to the River Dee turned into a day trip as the number of people available slowly dwindled to five: Simon, Liam, Joe, me (Jen) and Clare – our newest member.

We loaded all the boats on Saturday night so we would get some extra time in bed on Sunday and met at 6am to bundle off to Wales. As it was only a day trip we managed to fit all five paddlers and their kit in one car, and since this was Simon’s car we managed to rock up Llangollen at only 8.30am, despite threats from Google that there was traffic around Birmingham. After making such good time we scouted out the river level on the bridge at Llangollen and noted that while the river was up and Town Falls was pretty impressive, it wasn’t quite as high as the last time we had visited when uprooted trees were following the most insane paddlers in the flow. Still unsure of the official access position despite calls and emails to various ‘officials’ we decided to go to JJs and see what the water was doing further up the river, plus see what their thoughts were on the Serpent’s Tail given the recent rain. With non-paddlers manning the shop they didn’t really know, so we decided we should go and check it out for ourselves to be sure so we drove up to the Chainbridge Hotel and scrambled down to the water’s edge to see a huge stopper at the bottom of the Serpent’s Tail which would have probably munched anything that went near it. We checked out a couple of lines which allowed us to run the first part and then drop off down a chicken shoot just before the big stopper.

Confident that we were going to have a good day we headed back down to Llangollen to get into our kit. Of course it was here we realised 1. that it was going to be a very, very hot day, 2. That Simon had only brought his full dry suit to save space in the car, 3. I had forgotten my dry cag which matched my boat. Disaster! Liam decided that we would be mad to paddle in cags since it was so hot so donated his to me, Simon kept his dry suit unzipped until the last moment and we all piled on the sun cream!

We had off up the canal since we had no shuttle car, this would then bring us to the top of the river section we were running while having the added benefit of a gentle warm up...not that we needed warming up! Poor Liam in his tiny boat seemed to have made a good call on not wearing a cag.

We portaged over to the main river and set off into the flow. We rode wave trains and played our way down to the Serpent’s Tail where we all got out to inspect the rapid which has apparently increased in size since earlier that morning. We swapped in and out of boats so there were people on the bank with throw lines just in case, but Simon and Liam shot right through and made the break out with Joe, me and Clare following them.

We bumbled on along the river down various small drops and eventually came to JJs where we had a play on some waves and basked in the sunshine, before slowly making our way down towards Town Falls, which you could hear before you could see it, the water was thundering down it so much! Assuming it was the same as we had seen in the morning we set off only to find it wasn’t quite the same, and we were pushed about all over the place as the water poured down the main flow and in from the side too. Clare and I got flipped and ended up taking a swim. Lucky we had our helmets on because there are more than a few extra scrapes on them! After some fine rescuing from everyone we all arrived back at the car park with our paddles and boats in tact (mostly) and had a lovely lunch in the shade before loading up and heading home for a take away in the sunshine. A fab day’s paddling and hopefully there will be more to follow!

- Jen

Photos by Jen.