River Dart “Railway Paddle”
The aim of the weekend was to do two day paddles on the Dart in sequence starting at The Dart Country Park and finishing in Totnes. This is traditionally termed the “Lower Dart” and “Lower Lower Dart”. Instead of fighting for parking at the muddy lay by or at The Salmon Leap Café, we egressed at Breara Farm Campsite, where we stayed on Saturday night.
Eight of us paddled solo canoe (Unfortunately two had to go home after forgetting some of their kit!). For some this was a first canoe journey on moving water and having a forgiving flow and shallow levels was ideal. The only difficulty was a lack of depth at times. This meant reading the river to avoid grounding was essential. We even managed a little poling. Despite a significant peak in water levels the weekend before, water levels were again low. The river gauge at Austin’s bridge was just above 0.5m and we would not suggest driving down to Devon if it were any lower.
The campsite was quiet (except for us) and some of us, who got up in the night, were treated to an amazing panorama of stars, owing to the lack of light pollution and the clear sky.
There have been some issues with the egress at Staverton and so on Sunday we continued to Totnes. After Staverton the river is a mellow grade one, with one broken weir above Dartington and then a large weir at Totnes. Once over this we were into salt water of the Dart estuary. Egress at the ramp by Totnes Rowing Club was easy.
We all drove back up towards Buckfast and had a cream tea at the Salmon Leap Cafe, before the drive home.