Linda Smith and Andy Garland set off on an inland adventure the length of Wales along the England-Wales border. They sent us over this report to give us a flavor of how it all went and any issues they faced.
In May 2022 we embarked upon a trip that we’d mulled over for a few years: canoeing a route broadly following the length of the England-Wales border from Ellesmere Port close to the Mersey estuary in the north, to Gloucester at the head of the Bristol Channel in the south. Our route choice was determined by the desire to follow the border as closely as practicable, with no higher than grade 2 paddling. We settled on an itinerary paddling the Shropshire Union, Llangollen and Montgomery Canals, followed by the rivers Vyrnwy and Severn.
Logistical matters, such as the location of riverside campsites, wild camping options, toilet, water and food re-supply points, weirs and lock locations were marked up on a map for reference during the 12-day journey. Besides the usual lightweight camping gear, essential kit included a trolly for boat portage, a Canals and Rivers Trust (CRT) key to unlock toilet/water facilities (purchased online) and British Canoeing membership to allow use of the canals and the River Severn locks.
Our 200-mile journey was undertaken during early May 2022, a month that gave us little rain but thankfully sufficient water in the rivers. There were three main segments of the journey, each with its unique highlights and challenges:
Ellesmere Port to the River Vyrnwy (4 days, 60 miles)
We launched onto the Shropshire Union canal at the National Waterways Museum and headed south through the lovely city of Chester, before crossing the Cheshire plains. The Llangollen Canal was joined at Hurleston Locks and the Montgomery Canal at Frankton Locks, leading us out of Cheshire and into Shropshire with its beautiful hills and views towards Wales. Portaging the innumerable locks/low bridges presented a major physical challenge. However, a 5-mile portage along a stretch of the Montgomery Canal awaiting restoration was avoided thanks to a shuttle provided by Kieran of ‘Hire A Canoe’.
River Vyrnwy and the upper River Severn to Stourport (4 days, 85 miles)
What a contrast to the canal section…the tightly meandering River Vyrnwy (watch out for fallen trees!) took us along the Welsh border to its junction with the River Severn. Paddling through Shrewsbury, Ironbridge and Bridgnorth was delightful, with a number of fun but gentle grade 1 rapids. The grade 2 Jackfield Rapids downstream of Ironbridge were run in an unladen boat after portaging our heavy gear 300m downstream.
Lower River Severn from Stourport to Gloucester (4 days, 55 miles)
This wide section of the river, used by motorboats, involved use of the Lincomb, Holt, Bevere, Diglis, Upper Lode and Gloucester locks. The CRT “River Severn Navigation – User’s Guide” was essential reading for trip-planning. Our British Canoeing membership number was phoned ahead to each lockkeeper for lock access – a canoe feels very small in these automated industrial-sized locks! Finally, after 200 miles of paddling we arrived at Gloucester docks on a bright sunny day, ready for a celebratory beer.
After a very satisfying and highly recommended journey on the water, we embarked upon a 180 mile walk back home via the Offa’s Dyke Path, but that’s another story.
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