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On 25th July 2011 Jamie & Alastair Drummond set off on a 500 mile journey:
 'Do the BIG loop'
Ten & half days later they were HOME

Do the Big Loop

A 500 mile journey by kayak, bike and foot, from Shrewsbury Weir and back to Shrewsbury Weir
The journey starts by kayaking down the River Severn to the Severn Estuary and on in to the Bristol Channel. It then continues around the Pembrokeshire Coast, into Cardigan Bay and on to Aberystwyth Harbour.
At Aberystwyth the kayaks are traded for bikes and the journey continues to Plynlimon. From here it is by foot to the summit of Plynlimon and on to the source of the River Severn.
The river is then followed on foot through the Hafren Forest. The journey is then resumed on bikes, to Welshpool where the bikes are traded once more for kayaks to complete the Big Loop from the head of navigation of the River Severn to the Shrewsbury Weir and HOME!!!!.


Day 1     25/07/2011

We started at Shrewsbury Weir in the early afternoon with laden sea kayaks to begin the long paddle down the Severn, through Ironbridge and Jackfield rapids and on past Bridgnorth.
Fading light forced an overnight camp at the Unicorn Pub, Hampton Loade.
A low river had meant a hard afternoon /evening of paddling.

Day 2     26/07/2011

Back on the river at Hampton Loade, to finish the natural part of the river to Bewdley and on to the canalised section. Thanks go out to a couple of helpful lock keepers who locked us through. We shot one weir but did have to portage a couple of locks, which made for extremely hard work, due to poor egress provision for small craft.
We bivied just below Hawbridge, well on our way towards the lower reaches of the river.

Day 3     27/07/2011

We continued on, over the final weir onto the tidal stretch of the River Severn. We followed large meanders through enormous sand flats and awesome scenery and into the Severn Bore territory
We had a quick stop off at Newnham to stock up with water, then back on the river. We could see the first Severn Crossing in the distance, the tide changed and forced an urgent ferry glide to avoid a rapid return to Gloucester! Miles of sand flats flooding within minutes.
We sat out the flood tide and then carried on to the first Severn Bridge with the out going tide camping the night under the bridge.

The public access / egress under the first Severn Crossing right bank is under threat from Forest of Dean District Council.  It is one of the few places you can knowingly & safely get off the Severn Estuary.
Help save Beachley Slipway. Sign the petition now!

Day 4     28/07/2011

After a surprisingly peaceful night’s sleep under the Severn Bridge we had an early start to catch the tide to flush us down the estuary towards the Bristol Channel. Passing under the second Severn Crossing, this was the last of the 40+ bridges we had travelled under since leaving the Weir at Shrewsbury.

We almost managed to paddle  around Sully Island before the tide turned; no competition, the tide won - time to retreat behind the island for a break. We recommenced paddling in late afternoon, in strong winds and a rough sea, making it to Aberthaw  Power Station. A square concrete sea defence provided a perfect bivvy spot for the night.

Day 5     29/07/2011

With another early start to catch the best of the tide we headed across Swansea Bay, in poor visibility but calm seas. We finished the day just passed Worms’ Head in near darkness, at Rhossili Bay. Having covered a lot of miles, we finished with a wet end to the day, paddling through the surf to bivvy in the dunes beyond the beach.

Day 6      30/07/2011

Leaving Worms' Head behind today brought our biggest open crossing of the journey so far: Carmarthen Bay, avoiding the military no go zone, enforced by the border control boat. We caught sight of porpoises which was a pleasant break in the hours of paddling. We eventually finished the crossing around Caldey Island, and ended the day camping on a secluded bay just shy of Milford Haven.

Day 7     31/07/2011

Rough seas, wind and low visibility gave rise to an anxious crossing of Milford Haven. In big swell and avoiding the tankers in and out (!) we paddled on through  Jack Sound Skomer, just before the tide turned against us, into the relative calm of St Brides Bay.

Crossing the bay was rough – very rough! A lone puffin momentarily joined us to inspect our slow progress towards Ramsay. We passed through Ramsay Sound (the infamous bitches) into White Sands Bay for a well earned break.
Sorry no photographs due to both hands needed on the paddle to stay upright.

We finished the day in slightly calmer seas, paddling past spectacular sea cliffs and caves, to camp at Abereiddy – cold, wet, tired and hungry.

Day 8     01/08/2011

In calmer seas we negotiated Strumble Head with relative ease, entering into Cardigan Bay and following the coast line into Fishguard.  All the while we were followed by a solitary seal, which must have been in tow for several miles.

We stopped briefly to replenish supplies and energy, before continuing but first a long trek out to sea due to the low tide. Onwards in poor visibility, which thankfully cleared to reveal some spectacular sea cliffs. It was a long day, that finished near Aberporth, making camp on a sandy beach.

Day 9     02/08/2011

The home straight - well, for the salt water leg of the Big Loop at least. This comprised a mornings paddle into Aberystwth Harbour, with splendid sea cliffs, dolphins and crazy sheep grazing on near vertical grass slopes overhanging the sea.

The afternoon was spent sorting and drying kit (at last!), followed by fish and chips for tea – by the sea.

Day 10     03/08/2011

Time to get the legs moving – we cycled from Aber Harbour up the long incline to Eisteddfa Gurig. On reaching the summit we parked the bikes for the dash up to the summit of Plynlimon and then on, by foot, to the source of the River Severn. We then followed the Severn Way to Nant Melen, where we remounted the bikes and continued on to Welshpool, following the river fairly closely all the way.

We camped overnight at the Green Dragon Pub, with good pub food and a decent nights rest.
 

Day 11     04/08/2011

Up and away early on our final day we started with a further than desirable portage to reach the river. Once on the river we commenced the final long haul into Shrewsbury. We were interrupted by several tree blockages that required negotiating, in the early stages of the day. This seems to be a feature of the river in these parts in more recent years.

We continued on through very familiar waters, and paddled around “the loop of Shrewsbury”  - the original inspiration behind DO the BIG Loop, which we finally did as we paddled up to Shrewsbury Weir at 4pm that afternoon.


Many thanks to:
Drummond Outdoor for providing us all the resources for the expedition.
Sue, Roger & Irene for their support along the way.
Grace, Kirsty, Rob & the Girls for keeping things ticking over back at base.

Equipment used:
Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 Sea Kayaks
Lendal Paddles, Carlisle split paddles
Palm PFDs, Palm spraydecks, Palm jackets & apparel.
Terra Nova Laser Light tent, MSR Hubba HP tent
MSR Bivi Bags
Therm-a-Rest Prolite sleeping mats
MSR Pocket Rocket stove
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp



More photo's on our
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A useful Guide for our trip was
Welsh Sea Kayaking  £19.99

Jamie said “The journey was hard work and required a lot of commitment, but it certainly had its rewards”. As we made our way across St Brides Bay in marginal conditions we were greeted by a lone Puffin who flew around our heads a few times and disappeared. This brief encounter helped to lift the mood”.
“In Cardigan Bay we had the privilege of paddling with a school of Dolphins”.  
Alastair commented “A great journey through outstanding scenery and wildlife. It proves you don't have to travel to far flung places as adventure may just start on your own doorstep".

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