We just got back from a great overnight wild-camping trip on the River Wye. Weather was good, but very windy on day one which made the mailes hard going at times, but it cleared beautifully in the evening for our camp. We knew heavy rain was coming early the next morning so set about getting good tarp-rigs up for some protection, which worked great. Here’s some photos from the trip.
The Land Rover loaded up for the trip.
Nice tarp-rig: we were expecting rain in the night
A sudden down-turn in the temperatures in mid October didn’t put us off a planned canoe trip on the river Wye. We set off for a short trip with an overnight wild camp on the river, Autumn sunshine and the trees just beginning to turn, we had a brief shower once we got on the river, but sheltered under a huge oak tree, with acorns dropping all around us as the squirrels above were busy feeding before winter. There were a lot of pheasants around too, and we saw them scatter as the sound of a Goshawk called loudly from the tree just above us, something I’d never heard before – I still haven’t ever seen one of these elusive predators, even though the Wye valley and the Forest of Dean are one of the best places to see them, they are making a great comeback in recent years after being persecuted, like many birds of prey to the verge of extinction in the UK in the past. But the pheasants certainly know about them!
We canoed downstream in the most beautiful sharp autumn light late in the afternoon, the shower brought out the best rainbow I’ve ever seen, reflected in the river and reaching right across the sky. Arriving at our camp spot as dusk drew in, the temperature was dropping sharply, so with one strike from the firesteel on some birchbark and dry twigs gathered along the way we had a fire going, and set about organising the camp. With a bit of rain still in the air Hawkeye set up his usual tarp rig as a back-up, but we planned to sleep out until any rain came. In fact the sky cleared completely during the evening, but that meant the temperature really began to drop fast – with the fire roaring we were warm but a little apprehensive about how cold it would get during the night. The owls hooted all around the valley in the dark, and the sound of the fire crackling and the river running past made for a fantastic evening around the fire. We ate strips of rump steak on sticks over the flames, and big roast potatoes cooked straight in the embers – the best way: the ferocious heat in the embers cooks the potato much hotter than an oven, and really brings out the best sweet flavour, we both agreed that you need no more than potatoes cooked this way with some butter for a great camp meal. They were in about 40 minutes, then pulled out to cool: the surface turns to a kind of charcoal egg-cup, once cool you can hold that, break open the top and scoop out the soft potato inside, your hands get a blackened, but holy smoke it’s worth it!
Rainbow reflected in the water...
Getting the fire going and the camp set up at dusk
The stars were soon out, full moon rising too over the treeline, and later we retired to the swag and sleeping bags with the fire still providing plenty of warmth. I fell asleep with the freshening air, looking up at a billion stars, with the sound of the owls and the river, an unforgettable magical experience.
Sure enough during the night it got very cold: I pulled the canvas swag over my head to keep off the breeze, and slept soundly, perfectly warm and dry: still nothing better for me than an australian canvas ‘swag bag’ and sleeping out, no tent required. Worst case if you get heavy rain a small tarp over the top would do the trick, but unless you get heavy rain you can sleep right out there in the open, in comfort too.
Hawkeye woke early, and got the fire re-started from the remains of last nights logs, then poked my swag with a stick to wake me so I wouldn’t miss the most beautiful morning scene on the river I’ve ever witnessed: the cold meant a thick mist was swirling around over the water, shifted around by a light breeze, the river and the forest around was stirring. H had the Kelly Kettle on too so I had no excuse but to jump up, get some clothes on quick and enjoy some hot tea by the fire, just watching the day begin. The cold was such that a thick frost had formed on most of our gear, and it felt like a winter trip rather then autumn! Warmed my hands on the fire as they were getting numb it was that cold, definitely sub-zero by one or two degrees.
The Kelly Kettle fires up for some hot tea on a cold morning
Cold morning camp scene
The sun begins to wake up the valley...
After some coffee and hot porridge on the fire cooked in the trusty crusader mugs, we got into the canoes and pushed off to explore up river, paddling quietly through the swirling mist, the forest all around – a magical experience I’ll never forget.
Canoeing through the mist...
So here’s the video of the trip… watch it full screen if you can, hope you enjoy it.
We’ve been asked a few times about our views on inflatable canoes, and in particular the open varieties like the Sevylor Colorado or the Back Country by Stearns – the ones that try to emulate a true open canoe. Well we really had to shrug our shoulders as we hadn’t actually tried any of them. So time to change that then!
We decided to start with a video trip report of the Sevylor Colorado with a canoe-camp visit to the Upper Wye. We’ve produced some photos of the Colorado in action and a video – the highlights of a great 2 day trip where we learned a lot about this craft. See the video review for how it pumps up and also how it paddles.
What were our thoughts then on the Sevylor Colorado? Well we were much more than pleasantly surprised! It was a great, fun boat to live with, tough and durable, makes no noise when paddling, easy to lift and of course folds up in the back of a car at the end of a trip. It was much quicker and easier to inflate than we expected too. On the water it handles very differently to a hard-shell canoe, and is basically slower, but more maneuverable – it’s not for speed: but the flexibility it offers of putting in anywhere, transporting easily, and even storing easily makes it a phenomenal product for the relatively low price tag. The idea of being able to just bring your canoe along in the car “just in case” you decide to Get Out on the water is a great one, and it really is a reality with this boat. I’ve heard it used from the beach in the surf and around the coats of Dorset for which I think it would be excellent. Kids are happy in it too, as the inflatable nature of it makes them feel more secure. Inflatable open canoeing now fits in our plans for the future, particularly when travelling on quick overnight camp trips and going ‘minimal’. The canoe itself makes a fantastic camp bed with just a tarp pulled over it. It doesn’t handle anything like an open canoe, although it was great fun in the little rapids we encountered, but then it’s not meant to replace a real open canoe – it’s meant to fill another need: ultimate portability on the river… and it does that perfectly.
The Colorado ready to go
The Apache Canoe
We like our tech - solar charged!
Colorado and Apache - some difference in speed though!
The Colorado makes a great bed!
A Canoe and a swag - what more do you need?
Go to www.canoesandkayaks.co.uk for a great Colorado deal
Here is the first installment to our Sevylor Colorado video review. This sequence is shortened a little, but even if we include filming, this canoe is river ready in under 15 minutes. Enjoy this video, the full review write up will be coming soon with the boat in action video.
Took a trip to the River Wye at the end of May with our Australian visitor “OZMan” to show him what it’s like in a country that has rather more water and lush growth than they get down under. A fantastic trip again in gorgeous late spring weather, OzMan even took a dip in the river and climbed tup to the top of Yat Rock, he was really struck by the beauty of our English countryside. I lent him one of our genuine Australian swags so he’d feel right at home! Somewhere along that lazy river as the evening drew in towards dusk I spotted a rare “Hobby” falcon flashing over the surface of the water catching bugs, something I’ve never seen before – a really beautiful bird, with a very distinctive agile flight full of twists and turns as it races after dragon-flies and moths, eating them on the wing. As the canoe drifted silently on the water we came very close, right under a branch where it had stopped to rest for a while, so I could see that striking red underside and dark moustache features. But it’s in flight you want to see this bird – a really magical experience, and one you’d be unlikely to see except from down at the water level in a canoe, approaching silently on the water.
Just returned from a Wye canoe and wild camp – my first ever solo trip of this kind. It wasn’t supposed to be solo but my buddy couldn’t make it last thing, so I went for it alone as I was already in the valley. Just a ‘one nighter’ although an amazing experience to do on my own – it didn’t feel lonely although I was alone.
Plenty of company from the local wildlife though. Highlights were observing amazing aerial displays from the Symonds Yat Peregrines, also as many as 4 Greater Spotted Woodpeckers sighted, loads of jumping fish, as many as 12 deer really near the river bank and the first ducklings of the season were out too.
A fairly chilly wind meant the fleece stayed on and at times the breeze in my face made it difficult to progress with Old Red without a 2nd paddler, putting in effort too. I nearly tipped the canoe by not paying attention to a large rock just under the surface, given away by the rippling water over it. At the time, I was letting the canoe lazily drift sideways and got a hell of a shock to find myself tipped sideways on the rock as Old Red struggled to stay upright, in the middle of the river. Luckily, I just managed to push myself off of the rock with the paddle before the situation got worse. There was a second or two when I thought I’d be tested in the cold water with an unexpected swim! Phew. Was a wake up call for me and I will learn from that. The tough nature of the Old Town made handling it on my own, on and off the car and in and out of the river easy enough. They can take quite a bit of dragging around, given their robust build quality.
No rain came at night but I had a pretty good tarp rig set up and had a great night sleep despite the owls, really close, doing their Tawny thing. The river was full of May Fly early evening flying up in huge numbers. No other canoeists were seen on the trip although I did get up at 6am and left my wild camp spot, with no traces at 7.30am so I was the early bird.
I had no matches, lighter or gas burners as back up – just good ol’ Kelly Kettle and a striker with a few bits of shavings and Birch bark in my pocket.
Birchbark for getting the fire started, using a firesteel.
I collected a few bits of dry twigs on the journey down river. Pleased to say my fire lighting skills are fairly good now with a tidy little campfire going in no time giving hot water for tea and towards something to eat. Great bit of comfort, that. Same, in the morning. I didn’t bother taking a camp chair or stool. I just lay out on my sleeping bag by the fire until 1am listening to the wildlife and the Wye before getting in under the tarp. Cool.
Tarp & Canoe set-up
It was a clear night too. I felt as comfortable as I would be in any hotel! I had everything I needed really and I didn’t have noisy people in the corridor at 2am trying to find their rooms and get their key cards to work! And anyway, who wants a ‘five star’ bill when you can have a ‘million stars’ for free?! Get Out, Stay Out.
On Saturday 24th, we took ‘Old Red’ (our newest canoe, an Old Town Discovery 158) on its 3rd trip, on another ‘over-nighter’ on the River Wye. The river was quite low with the recent fine weather and Spring has now properly arrived at last. We didn’t see the Peregrines this time but were treated to a lengthy sighting of a Stoat, hunting alongside the riverbank.
Stoatally Different from a Weasel...
It moved quickly in the cover but we could see the distinctive white chest and black tip of the tail clearly – How to tell a Stoat from a Weasel? Just remember this old rhyme: A Stoat is Weasily recognised, as it Stoatally different from a Weasel!
I rigged up an improvised shelter with my tarp as we expected some rain at night and sure enough, at around 3am, the showers started.
Spring had Sprung in the Valley for our Camp
Simple but effective Tarp & Canoe Rig for a wild camp
Light Rain on the Tarp in the Morning...
The birdsong took over from the rain at 6am and it was incredible to hear this chorus again. The protective Canada Goose we’d seen on the last trip left us alone as we passed this time – he seemed a bit more relaxed about canoeists. Mrs Goose was still up on the nest as he eye-balled us from the other side of the river. Only a few Buzzards this time and the Owls were fairly quiet – and no visits from the Mink at camp – all in all, a Stoatally different trip!
“Wild Camping” meaning camping out amongst nature away from a managed campsite, is one of the most fantastic and wild experiences you can have, without having to journey to Africa or the Arctic Circle. It’s the best way to really tune in to nature, experience the seasons changing and the wildlife around you, and for canoeing there’s no richer experience than paddling your own way along a river or lake, stopping to camp over night under the stars, and then waking up surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature before you move of on your journey the next day. But what are the rules and laws you need to know about?
When it comes to rivers, there’s an advantage in that as the river level changes it will expose the river bed, which makes it possible to have a “no-trace” wild camp. In practice you can wild camp on the shingle beaches anywhere along the navigable parts of River Wye (because landowners are so used to recreational paddlers) but this is also true on other rivers subject to local conditions. We’ve been doing it for 20 years on the Wye without ever having any problem even though technically, legally you probably need to seek permission from the landowner, but of course finding out who’s the landowner is not easy, but if you do know then of course stop to ask. Remember trespass is not an offence, only trespass causing damage.
If you can find an actual island in the river it’s case that’s counted as the river bed so no permission needed; but there’s no need to go hunting for an island, as it’s really no problem provided you always follow some basic rules:
no trace left
A Simple Wild Camp, with minimal impact.
Campfires & Firewood
Having a campfire is a key part of the experience of camping and wild-camping where it’s allowed, especially in winter to keep warm of course, and for cooking. Clearly conduct a risk assessment in terms of vegetation and fire risk and observe any local guidance. Don’t burn waste (plastic, paper wrapping, litter) – the fumes can be harmful and the residue may be impossible to clear up. Be aware when collecting firewood that deadfall wood is a key provider of nutrients to the ecosystem, via fungi and insects; don’t ‘harvest’ from one spot in woodland or on the vegetation on the riverbank – washed up driftwood is what should be used. Always burn off any logs before you go rather than leaving half-burnt wood around which lasts for years – don’t throw half-burnt logs into the river either as they’ll just float down and end up somewhere else. Don’t have a bigger fire than you need, extinguish the campfire with water, then spread and tread the ash well into the stones, until you can barely see anything, and you’re ready to go. One point: be aware that either wet stones or stones with air pockets in can explode in the heat of the fire – it’s only happened once to me in the last 10 years, but it can happen – take a first aid kit.
Remember water levels can change rapidly depending on weather upstream in the mountains, so be aware of whether the river is going up or down and keep an eye on the river level webcams before you go, and on the river itself and skies when you’re out. Be ready to change your plans if the weather changes significantly.
Don’t fish either as you’ll be raise unnecessary and very real concerns of poaching; and don’t wild camp in an area that is clearly managed for fishing specifically, it’s not welcomed there.
Keep to no more than 3 people/boats in a group at one site, find separate sites if necessary. Use a swag or bivvy and tarp or a small natural-colour tent rather than a monstrous orange tunnel tent if possible! Best to keep a fairly simple camp and not spread all your gear around either, particularly anything that could look like litter – plastic bags, bottles etc. keep them stowed out of sight. Don’t stay more than one night in the same spot, because it’s not your land for a holiday – arrive late in the day and leave early.
Sometimes the landowner will come down to take a peek in the morning, or late at night, and if you follow the rules above you’ll get nothing more than a friendly wave or a chat about the river and the weather – they can see you are respecting the environment and their land, and just enjoying the outdoors.
(Necessary Disclaimer: we’re not legal experts so read up online yourself if you’re concerned and seek out the local knowledge in your area; publishing this guide doesn’t make us responsible in any way – enjoy the wilds of our wonderful country! Thanks.)
‘Old Red’ our new Old Town Discovery 158 canadian canoe had its 2nd outing on Sat 10th with an overnighter involved. The usual and amazing magic of the Wye Valley featured again on this trip. Daytime temperatures were up to 17 degrees on the Saturday with quite a chilly 5 at night as we lay out under the stars in the Swags. The trees still looked very Wintry and they’re late this year, but up close, you could see the buds of Spring bursting out everywhere. Another few warm days and that should make a huge difference.
We heard the Peregrine Falcons calling in the distance and soon after saw one of them zooming down the valley like a jet, and disappearing over the trees. We also encountered a very defensive male Canada Goose who wanted to fight anyone that passed; to keep Mrs Goose safe. We met him two weeks ago on that trip and he was fairly touchy then to any passers by. We kept away both times to give them some space. Countless Buzzards soured in the warm air and a Sparrowhawk darted around the trees just yards from Old Red as we drifted silently. In the morning, we were awake by 6am listening to what sounded like hundreds of birds singing at the same time. At camp, I was pleased with my improving skills with a striker and small pieces of Birch bark shavings to get a small camp fire going, for directly boiling the Kelly Kettle and cooking some meat that I propped on a sharpened green stick.
During the night, I lay there listening to the Tawnys and my eyes had adjusted quite well under the fairly bright night sky. I heard a worrying noise on the pebbles and stones about 20 yards from me and picked up the outline and profile of a large Mink bounding towards our spot, closer and closer.
Midnight Mink... poking around the camp
The Mink then stopped very abruptly, sniffed the air, and did a ‘I just smelt a bloke’ kind of U turn back to the river. As he raced away, he tore up stones behind him, like a car doing wheel spins! I heard the splash as he hit the safety of the Wye again.
On day 2, only 3 other canoeists were seen by us so it really felt like we had the Valley to ourselves which was a great feeling on that warm Sunday morning, as the lambs skipped on the banks along side us.