LOCATION: Symonds Yat (West) to Brockweir
DISTANCE: 16.7 Miles
PADDLING TIME: 5 Hours 16 Minutes
START: River Wye Camping
FINISH: Brockweir Bridge
STRAVA ROUTE: https://www.strava.com/activities/3811723683
With the private landing area closed until 09:00 and us keen to move on as soon as we could we snuck down some steps; loaded our boards whilst standing in the river and were paddling by 07:30. Almost immediately after passing the Saracens Head on the left bank you come to Symonds Yat Rapids. The river splits in two by a small island with the man made (or man enhanced) rapids on the left and an all but dry trickle to the right. Having heard various reports on their strength, ferocity and danger we stopped short and inspected the water by foot before progressing onwards. With the water level low it was clear where the main channel ran through and, bar a tiny kink at the start it was a straight paddle through that didn't cause us any issues (just lots of smiles and whoops!) Not something to be undertaken by a complete novice but to anyone with some good experience the rapid is a short burst of speed and fun.
Having avoided any serious headwinds for the first 4 days, our final day started to make up for it. Two straight sections heading due south west were in direct line of the prevailing south westerly winds making progress slow and giving us a good work out as we inched our way forward. When approaching Monmouth the rowing club on the right bank has good access to/from the water and, on the left just after the bridge there is a flat stoney bank with a short walk to Lidl if any supplies are required.
From here the river turned and the hills provided shelter from the winds for the rest of the day. Still flanked by hills on either side we pushed on to Bigsweir Bridge where the first sections of the river becoming tidal can be felt. The colour of the water changed from clear to brown. We were now sharing the river with a carpet of wood, seaweed and debris; pushed in by the tide as it now rapidly makes its way back to the ocean.
When paddling this final section of the river it is vital to have checked the tide times. Ensure you don't arrive too early so you're paddling against the incoming tide or arrive too late meaning the water level has dropped and it is not possible to safely exit the river. Our initial plan had been to paddle through to Chepstow but the tide times did not match up with our schedule so our finish point was to be the quayside at Brockweir Bridge. From this point onwards the river is severely tidal and even arriving only 30 minutes after high tide the water level had dropped considerably and climbing up steep stone steps caked in mud was not a simple operation.
When approaching Brockweir Bridge the old quay side is located on the left bank. Make sure you have river shoes with you to help grip on the slippery, muddy slope. Once out we packed out kit away as rain started to fall and had a taxi (with trailer) booked to transport us back to the start point to collect our vehicles.
The river Wye is a super accessible, beautiful river to paddle with sections suitable for all abilities and time frames. There are plenty of locations to launch from if you have your own boards and many companies along its length that can provide kayaks, canoes and paddle boards.