Stage 3 Llanyblodwel to Melverley 13 miles, running total 22

Setting off just above the weir

This was a trip with two weirs, two confluences, three rivers, bridges for roads and railway, a fine canal aqueduct and all day sunshine. The river level had gone up after a few days rain but was back down to 0.75m. Just fine. I would still have liked to cop out of the weir but stage 1 on the Tanat with Sue and Brian taught me that fear just adds a bit if fizz to life if you face it head on. So whooooosh! following Amy’s line I’m down. The next picture shows it at a much higher water level than it was on the day just so you can share the thrill.

For a mile Amy, Duncan, Brian and I bobbed like a set of happy ducklings down the stream. This is “my” river yet I have never had the chance to explore it before. That gave me a real thrill and I was glad that Dave was there to share it as I know he has a fondness for what he calls “Welsh Ditches”. Does a silver waterway tucked between hanging alder and blackthorn fascinate us all? The Tanat reminds me of a book that I loved as a child called “The Little Grey Men. Down the Bright Stream”. This was written and illustrated by a naturalist called Denys Watkins-Pritchard under the pseudonym “BB”. The story recounts the epic adventure of the brothers Dodder, Baldmoney, Sneezewort and Cloudberry, the last four gnomes in England.  They live in a cosy burrow beneath the gnarled roots of an aged oak tree on the bankside of the Folly Brook in Warwickshire. Their lives are happy and tranquil until Cloudberry becomes obsessed with a desire to explore the wider world. BB was a naturalist. His writing was deeply embellished by his knowledge of the English countryside. I read this book over and over as a child living in tropical Singapore and have wanted to go down the bright stream ever since.

Dwarf Reading
So down we went, admiring soft clumps of primroses on each side and feeling relaxed until the sound of a low roar alerted us to the beginning of weir number 2. Colin and I had already walked this stretch and worked out that this would be a weir to portage. This weir is massive. There are three levels to it, two considerable drops, rusted iron posts at random intervals, broken concrete shelving and overhangs and a wash back at the end that would eat bigger boats than ours. Dave rather fancied running it until he saw the wash back. Colin and I had walked up past the magnificent ancient farm that towers above the weir. The farm is built partly on the site of Carreghofa Castle which was built here at the beginning of the 12th Century possibly to guard silver mines. We’d been given a good welcome by the farmer and his dog, both venerable. This kind man has lived at Carreghofa Hall all his life. He runs the farm in the old way with cows able to move from barn to yard over the winter but soon to be out in the field munching the new Spring grass. On the other side of the river is the modern face of farming: factory sized units. If you look at their website the cows live in bucolic bliss on the banks of the Tanat but there are no farm visits offered here. The fields on their side of the river are not for pasture. They support an endless succession of maize crops, the fields edges festooned with streamers of shredding dirty plastic, bedecked with empty plastic drums. We are a dirty lot. And these very fields once held a Roman fort. The whole span of history lies here.
Dave and Duncan survey the first step of the weir
After the weir the Tanat becomes a very well behaved little river. Perhaps the weir took all the frisk out of it. At any rate water has been taken out just below the weir to feed  a now defunct Mill and the Llanymynech canal system. The railways and canals indicate that this was once an important industrial area. Bronze was mined and smelted on Llanymynech Hill Fort in the late Bronze Age through to Roman times as well as lead and silver. Later limestone was extracted from the hill and thence the canal and railway: this was a transport hub! Without much ado our Tanat merges into the Vyrnwy and becomes a bigger, slightly messier river. It is more obvious here that the flood waters have only recently crept back. Massive oxbows entangled with logs and debris made the going slightly less easy but in all too short a time we had reached the handsome Newbridge Aqueduct below Llanymynech. This is where we intended to finish but none of us were ready for that. Duncan and Dave did a second car shuttle whilst Amy and I climbed up the embankment to the canal. There were cowslips in the grass and frogs making loud protest in the canal.
There be frogs in this canal!

Back on the water and a second confluence. Melverley Church is a treat to pass beneath then three Scots Pines lead to where the Vyrnwy meets the Severn.

Melverley Church
Vyrnwy Severn Confluence

From here to Melverley Bridge we see Admiral Rodney’s Pillar from every angle as the oxbows relentlessly loop us along. I’m becoming markedly less keen on Admiral Rodney. What is here there for? No-one knew. Later I read that the inscription on the pillar once read “”RODNEY’S PILLAR. The highest pillar will fall, the strongest towers will decay: but the fame of Sir George Brydges Rodney shall increase continually, and his good name shall never be obliterated.” Well they got that wrong.

Admiral Duncan steals Admiral Rodney’s thunder

It was with a great feeling of achievement that we reached “The Wooden Bridge” at Melverley. We had run three rivers in our short boats and from here on I would be in my sea boat, able to cover the miles much faster. We thought we had done at least 15 miles, maybe more but when Dave and I separately worked it out it turned out to be 13 miles. But what a day! Thank you to Duncan, Dave and Amy xxx

Melverley Wooden Bridge. Col says it is isn’t wooden.

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