Dinosaurs – long necks and small brains – Gwyrfai grade III

Dec 30th, the shed-loads of water everywhere had receded a little, so we headed to the Gwyrfai, the closest to our hut and a grade III. Claire, Sue, Higgo, Helen, Alison, Ruth in kayaks and Aussie Dave in C1.

The rather cryptic description in Welsh Rivers mentions “wasps-nests and dinosaurs”. As we found throughout the weekend, the guidebook descriptions are very accurate, but its not always clear until afterwards why. In this case, we realised that dinosaurs with long necks would have a big advantage, as they can peer round corners.

Right from the outset, there were a lot of trees, quite a narrow river, and so a big need to go very slowly and cautiously with plenty of communication. Trees, trees, trees, trees, trees. Really have to keep your wits about you.

The run is 4.5km long. How long would you imagine that might take? Hmmm?

Well, 4.5 hours. (!)

I enjoyed this river very much, but would hesitate to recommend it – with any beginners it would be an utter nightmare, downright dangerous, and the need to be constantly on-guard is quite tiring. Some of the rapids are lovely though.

Big thanks to Sue and Higgo, who river led most of the way, and everyone else for looking out for one another on this “shared experience.”

“Features” of the trip;

  • At one point, a tree trunk laid across the river as a makeshift bridge requiring extreme limbo skills, or for all of us unsupple creatures, compulsory rolling – Yay, great C1 roll from Mr. Coote.
  • Many portages – at least 4 I think – as well as umpteen places where you have to take a lot of time to determine that you don’t need to portage.
  • A couple of harder drops. One early on, which we watched Higgo and Sue tackle with varying degrees of elegance, and then portaged, one later on which everyone styled, and one large drop near the end, which none of us fancied – might have gone, but we all portaged or picked the chicken-shute.
  • In total, 2 swims by our C1 hero – this was very cheering for the rest of us, to see Dave relegated to more like our level for a change. “To be or not to be. To know where one wants to go, and yet to not be able to go there. To suffer the slings and arrows and low hanging branches under which a kayak can sneak, and yet to know that one is 8 inches taller and going to get garroted” etc etc etc. He did do some successful rolls too, nice one.
  • A weir at the end – we had to portage this – see logistics section.


Get-in: We put in in the village of Waunfawr. This was fine, but we had to clamber over the bridge wall and pass down the kayaks. There are public loos where you can get changed so that you don’t scare the locals.

Weir: There is a weir upstream from the bridge in the take-out village (Bontnewydd). Inspect it using the path/road on river right – if its looking nasty, find a get-out upstream of here and park in the village.

Lower get-out: If the tow-back on the weir does not put you off, and you are planning to run it, then might as well head 500m or so downstream of the village river right as your get-out – where the road next goes near the river, there is a quiet lay-by away from the village for getting changed.


4 Responses

  1. hmmm this does not inspire me. It was a river on my tick list to do as it sounded quite fun. I’ll leave it for a day when I feel like tree bashing.

  2. I did enjoy it, wouldn’t do it again and I wouldn’t recommend it to my friends…

  3. … I am not a tree hugger… I will brush off, duck under, roll under! boof over, or walk around…

    I really enjoyed this river and the extra obstacles the trees presented some fun challenges… I’d recommend it to a small group who do not find trees too evil and are happy to edy out and portage at shot notice 🙂 and maybe going a bit faster than we did it.

  4. […] the dark and twisted ways of the Grywfrai the day before, we thought we’d pick one of slightly lower grade and rather more guidebook […]

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