When it comes to the great outdoors, there are few things more relaxing than meandering along a waterway, listening to the ripples from your bow as you take in the sights and sounds of nature. Britain is made for boating enthusiasts, with a wonderful variety of waters to choose from.
Take, for example, the River Wye, one of Britain’s most scenic and unspoilt rivers. From its source
deep in the Welsh mountains, the
Wye passes through spectacular countryside and delightful market towns. It supplies a little white water excitement too, as it tumbles over rapids at Symonds Yat, before continuing its journey through Monmouth and Tintern until it finally reaches Chepstow, where it joins the Severn Estuary. For novice paddlers, the Wye Valley offers excellent opportunities for instruction and day trips.
Wild world from the water
Taking to a canoe is a spectacular way to explore Britain’s rich tapestry of differing landscapes. Spring is a particularly pleasant time to be on the water, as the land begins to re-awaken after the darkness of winter. Gliding through calm waters, you can enjoy the rhythm of paddling while taking on board the nuances of nature, observing and recording the landscape –
all at your own pace.
As an internationally important protected landscape, the Wye Valley contains some of the most beautiful lowland scenery in Britain – its irresistible attraction lies in the quiet wooded glades, spectacular viewpoints and towering historic ruins.
Depending on which stretch of water you paddle, you may be lucky enough to spot some of the special wildlife that inhabits the area. The river supports good populations of the elusive and largely nocturnal otter. In other areas, peregrine falcons fly above their cliff ledge haunts. You can also commonly see kingfishers, herons and dragonflies from
Between Kerne Bridge and Chepstow, you pass through a predominantly wooded landscape that supports rare species such as goshawks and lesser horseshoe bats. The majority of the trees growing along the riverbank are species of willow or alder: both important habitats for wildlife.
Messing about in boats
There is no time like the present to climb out of the armchair and into a canoe seat, most of which are bolted into the boat, offering some welcome stability. It is natural for novices to have a
fear of tipping over.
Although you will undoubtedly feel wobbly at first, have faith in your craft, as canoes are stable, sturdy and reliable. Although most novice paddlers feel comfortable sitting on the seat to begin with, kneeling off the seat offers a more stable position, lowering your centre of gravity and giving you more control.
So, whatever your level, there is no excuse for not taking to the water and experiencing nature
at its finest.
HOW TO GET THERE
Situated in the heart of rural Herefordshire, Ross-on-Wye is within easy reach of the Wye Valley and the Royal Forest of Dean. Serviced by excellent road links to all parts of the country, the M50 motorway ends at the edge of the town.
FIND OUT MORE
Wye Valley and Forest of Dean Tourist Information
British Canoe Union
18 Market Place, Bingham, Nottingham NG13 8AP
0845 370 9500
Saracens Head Inn
Symonds Yat East,
Ross-on-Wye HR9 6JL
Popular with canoeists, the inn occupies a unique position on the east bank of the River Wye. Offers bed and breakfast accommodation, and has a reputation for locally sourced, quality food.
Tintern, Monmouthshire NP16 6SE
0870 042 4595
One of the greatest monastic ruins of Wales, the Cistercian Abbey lies off the A466, 21 miles south-west of Ross-on-Wye via Monmouth.