Symonds Yat trip report

On the weekend of the 11th and 12th of September 8 Nomads and a friend travelled to the river Wye at Symonds Yat in Herefordshire for a camping weekend and two days of kayaking led by Matt. About half of us arrived on the friday afternoon and pitched camp at the River Wye Caravan and Camping park in good time for the following day then retired to the nearby Old Court pub for dinner and drinks to await Martyn who arrived later. A pleasant evening was had before turning in to a sound night’s sleep.

Getting up was leisurely and breakfast very hearty for some (well done Darren!) and our remaining members arrived in time to allow us to depart almost on schedule to the Kern Bridge put in, where we left our boats and shuttled all the cars bar one back to the campsite. The weather forecast was mixed for the day, but it was sunny as we stopped for a short safety briefing before putting in to the low looking river Wye amongst a couple of dozen other kayakers and canoeists in groups.

We were all in kayaks apart from Martyn (pictured) who’d injured his knee the past week and decided the sitting position in his canadian would aggravate it less. That was his story at least, but anyone seeing the later photos might think he just wanted to surf the Symonds Yat rapid in his canadian! The pleasant sunshine continued as we started down the river, taking the opportunity to catch up with others in the group and checking our three less trip experienced paddlers, Jayne, Tom and Amie could keep up, which they did admirably.

The river was quite low, which seemed to make for a faster flow and it wasn’t long till we came across our first feature, a very small rapid, which we took the opportunity to surf to death.

Well done Tom for getting the hang of rapids early on!

The river then continued more sedately for a while, as we enjoyed the fabulous Welsh borders scenery with the fringes of the Forest of Dean on our left. Still we were keen to find as many ‘rapids’ as we could for our newer (and older) members with frequent reminders to “keep away from the trees” coming from Matt. A pleasant stretch past a hamlet on the left furnished another rapid challenge and a few rocks, which we started using for breakout practice, remembering what the latter part of the day held in store for us – Symonds Yat rapid.

As well as breakouts we thought it wise to practice a few support strokes in preparation too, leading to our first swimmer of the trip, Amie, who definitely tried hard enough and despite some good support strokes eventually overcooked it with the leaning. This IS the only way to learn, so we all congratulated her and made sure she was warm enough before continuing past the picturesque Welsh Bicknor youth hostel toward our lunch stop on a pleasant if not particularly sunny beach.

And Tony took the opportunity for a quick lie down in his inimitable style (see previous trip reports).

After a filling lunch we continued on past cliffs on our left and underneath the Yat Rock viewpoint and the peregrine falcon eyrie to start the huge left hand river loop which in a few miles would bring us back directly the other side of Yat Rock. By now most of us were starting to feel the mileage with the knowledge we’d also need to save some energy for the rapid at the end. A more leisurely pace ensued as we half paddled half drifted past some swans and a dead sheep, easily mistaken by some for a swan dabbling for food – apart from the fact it didn’t move.

We passed our campsite and the Old Ferry Inn on the way to the rapids and just as we arrived at Symonds Yat east and its pubs and hotels met a hen party coming the other way on paddleboards with the bride to be taking pride of place as passenger at the front of the lead paddleboard. Where they were going upstream we had no idea.

We paused above the rapid to don helmets and for a further briefing to hear the game plan, which was for us each to take the first eddy on the left we could manage to breakout into. Matt led off with an immediate breakout after the first wave as the group mainly made it into eddies with a only couple of swimmers. We then regrouped at the bottom of the rapid for demonstrations of ferry gliding and eddy hopping which everyone attempted according to their capability.

Martyn showed us all how to do it by ripping up the rapid in his canadian.

Tony trying for that elusive upper eddy!

Tom doing a great job ferry gliding on his first real rapid. Next time – break-ins!

Amie and Dan likewise!

Simon and Britta…


And Jayne

After and hour or two on the rapid it was getting a bit crowded and we were getting a bit tired so we called it a day. Tony here discovering he’s now got a variable feather paddle for the price of a normal one 😉

At this point we headed back to the campsite leaving Simon and Tony to play a short while longer on the rapid. We’d all got showered, changed and were ready for dinner when they finally arrived back at the campsite – next time we’ll know better than to make jokes about stopping at the pub on the way back!

The Old Court rejected us that evening for not booking in advance, so we all wandered across the bridge to the Spice Tandoori in Whitchurch, which was mysteriously empty, for a hearty meal. All of us that is except for Dan who’d remained at his parents’ place to watch the tennis. No problem with the food though which was delicious.

The next morning we woke to a mist that filled the valley but quickly cleared with the sun and more fabulous breakfasts from Darren. The less tired of us headed back down to the rapid for a second helping while the rest stayed in the campsite or went for a walk.

Britta and Tom meanwhile carried on past the rapid down to Biblings campsite and the suspension bridge where they also discovered a new seal launch they just had to try out.

Those of us on the rapid found our energy flagging around lunchtime after the previous day’s paddling. Darren at least had an excuse because of the playboat he was paddling that day and Tony finally gave up on reaching the upper eddy so we all headed back to the campsite for a leisurely lunch before breaking camp and heading home.

Thank you to everyone who came for making it such a fun weekend and well done to everyone, both new to Symonds Yat and the improvers, and to Britta and Tom for the photos.

Matt, trip leader

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