If you’re ever in Hay-On-Wye or anywhere near the Brecon National Park you have to try a canoe adventure along the River Wye. Its 135 miles of meandering channels follow the Wye Valley - during our particular adventure we explored just 5.25 miles of it and had a great time. With a canoe adventure on the River Wye you can go off on your own voyage discovering hidden parts of Wales (or England – depending which side of the river you are on) then get picked up and taken to the start again. By arranging the route to finish at a local pub we think Want to Canoe might just have created the perfect trip!
Every time we go away the first thing we try to find is something that’s different, gets the adrenaline pumping, and is an off-the-beaten-track adventure that we can hopefully complete without Simon injuring himself or falling off a cliff. During our visit to the Brecon National Park we just so happened to stumble upon a completely different type of adventure that we hadn’t even thought about. Plus, the best bit about it is our dog Liquorice was able to join us in getting his paws a little bit wet.
We had booked to stay in a lovely Shepherd’s Hut just on the outskirts of Hay-On-Wye so we could spend a weekend walking in the Brecon National Park and also recharging with some fresh country air. We had two days to cram in as much adventuring as possible, while also keeping it dog friendly for Liquorice. If we had left him at the base all day he’d probably walk back home and never speak to us again. Our hosts at the campsite mentioned that just two fields away at the bottom of the valley there was a canoe adventure company and they might just be able to fit us in last minute. We called up Clare at Want to Canoe and luckily they could fit us in. Clare was fantastic, making space for us and organising it so that we could head down anytime in the morning at our leisure and they’d squeeze us in. So the plans were set, a day of hiking up to Pen Y Fan on Saturday then becoming pirates and invading islands on Sunday!
After a long day of hiking the day before, a relaxing day along the river was just what we needed. We made the short walk from Racquety Farm across the fields to the base of Want to Canoe, which is located just opposite the town of Hay on Wye on the North East bank of the river. If you’re driving there it’s a signposted turn off the B4351 just by the bridge and there’s plenty of parking spaces on site, alternatively it’s also a lovely location to get to on foot.
We received a warm greeting from the team who checked us in and offered us a lovely cuppa, this really is a nice touch and made us feel at home. They’ve created a welcoming base with an old style fire pit, log benches and seats plus a range of canoeing information packs and books for those looking to learn more about the sport. We were then given the briefing of what to expect along the river and which way to go to prevent becoming grounded, as the river changes from quite shallow wide stretches to deeper portions so this guide was really useful. We did however still manage to get grounded a few times as you’ll see in the video, along with other Genius Travels mishaps. Along the way we were briefed on the wildlife to look out for and also some of the local sights.
After the initial briefing we were given our equipment and fitted out with life vests - they even had one for Liquorice, who at this point was just happy we weren’t climbing another mountain. Those with electronics and personal items were given a waterproof barrel to place them in. We then headed down to the banks for our lesson in how to paddle, steer, and hopefully not capsize the canoes. The canoes themselves are Canadian-style open canoes, which are perfect for groups of people and offer a relaxing expedition experience.
The canoes were then lowered into the river for us and held while we boarded. Such a broad range of people had decided to try this adventure, ranging from families with young children to groups of adults on a weekend away. Soon it was our turn to jump in so Jenny took the back, shortly followed by Liquorice who found his sea paws quite quickly and then Simon in the front. We were given a gentle push away from the bank and we were sailing! Or canoeing! Anyway we were on the water and that’s what mattered.
The route took us gently down the river, passing through fields full of grazing sheep and more overgrown areas with trees casting their shadows over the river. Some stretches of the river became deep enough that it was impossible to see the bottom, while others were so shallow that our canoe scraped along the riverbed. The shallower areas usually contained faster flowing water, but there weren’t any points where we felt out of control. For most of the route we took the lazy option of letting the current carry us along, steering every so often in an attempt to avoid getting beached or crashing into the banks (notice I used the work attempt – we were pretty laid back about this which lead us to getting stuck a couple of times).
En route we passed the ruins of an old castle, several large houses, and a few walkers enjoying the river banks, but other than that the river was wonderfully calm and peaceful. Bear in mind also that we visited on a very sunny bank holiday weekend, so if it was quiet then we can only imagine it’s deserted most of the time! It took us around two and a half hours using our lazy paddling technique to reach the pub that was our pick-up point. After enjoying a tasty lunch we boarded the Want to Canoe? minibus which carried us back to the start point, towing the canoes in a trailer behind us. The bus shuttles back and forth all day, so you can spend as long as you like resting at the finish point and enjoying a drink or two.
Back at the base we thanked the Want to Canoe? team for a great adventure and headed back up the hill to Racquety Farm. We’d highly recommend trying it for yourself if you’re ever in the area – Check out our video for more information or contact the Want to Canoe? team via this link.