I like everything about the River Torridge. It’s a great name, it’s my local big river (although I actually live just over the hill in the Tamar catchment), and it conjures up images of wild places with its link to Tarka the Otter, the novel written by Henry Williamson in 1927. No, I didn’t know the date off the top of my head, I’ve just Googled it.
The seventeen mile section between Hatherleigh and Torrington has so many twists and turns that you have got absolutely no idea of the direction in which you are pointing, and to add to the sense of adventure some of the tangled woods through which you pass are so dense that they could easily act as cover for a pack of hunting Orcs.
My paddling companion today was Mark and we set off from just below the bridge at Hatherleigh.
The water was quite low so there were lots of little gravelly beaches to lure us in for the odd coffee break.
After Beaford bridge until the outskirts of Torrington (11 miles) there is really very little sign of the existence of humans, apart from the occasional fishing hut several of which look like something out of Hansel and Gretel.
We found a good beach for lunch but we were getting slowly but surely colder so didn’t dither about too long. I got a sandwich blockage in my gullet from eating too quickly but succssfully shifted it with an orange club and swig of coffee.
The wildest part of the entire trip is Long Wood and it important to have a complete noise ban here because there is always the chance of seeing an otter.
On today’s paddle we didn’t see any otters at all, although to compensate we saw a load of birds: 25 Dippers, 15 Kingfishers, Goosanders and Mandarin ducks and Mark saw what was probably a Mink running along the bank (black and furry!).
Here’s a pic and video clip of previous otter sightings on the Torridge:
This cub looked like it was thinking about jumping into my kayak (it was a classic otter day..they seem to love the rain):
The first weir to negotiate is a couple of miles above Torrington: Lady Palmer weir. We didn’t fancy getting wet so portaged down the face.
The second weir is outside the old milk factory in Torrington and is easily shootable using the salmon ladder on the right hand side. Mark makes it look effortless:
Exit is at Rothern Bridge beside the old railway station at Torrington.