River Wye: Wikis


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River Wye (Afon Gwy)
The Wye at Hay-on-Wye
Country United Kingdom
Parts Wales, England
 - location Plynlimon
 - elevation 741 m (2,431 ft)
 - coordinates 52°28′04″N 3°45′47″W / 52.467867°N 3.763019°W / 52.467867; -3.763019
 - location Chepstow, Severn Estuary
Length 297 km (185 mi)
Basin 4,136 km2 (1,597 sq mi)
The Wye at Chepstow, showing the castle and the road bridge linking Monmouthshire (on the left) with Gloucestershire

The River Wye (Welsh: Afon Gwy) is the fifth-longest river in the UK and for parts of its length forms part of the border between England and Wales. It is important for nature conservation and recreation.



The source of the Wye is in the Welsh mountains at Plynlimon. It flows through or past several towns and villages including Rhayader, Builth Wells, Hay-on-Wye, Hereford, Ross-on-Wye, Symonds Yat, Monmouth and Tintern, meeting the Severn estuary just below Chepstow.

The Wye itself is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and one of the most important rivers in the UK for nature conservation. Much of the lower valley is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Wye is largely unpolluted and is therefore considered one of the best rivers for salmon fishing in the United Kingdom, outside of Scotland.

It is also a popular river with canoeists due to the relatively slow flowing water, making it good for beginners. The Symonds Yat Rapids are more challenging. Walkers can enjoy the Wye Valley Walk which follows the route of the River Wye from Hay-on-Wye to Chepstow along a series of well maintained way-marked paths.

A viewpoint near The Biblins on the Wye is known as 'Three Counties View', the meeting place of the counties of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire. The lower 16 miles (26 km) of the river from Redbrook to Chepstow form the border between England and Wales.


The Wye's tributaries include the rivers Lugg, Elan, Irfon, Marteg, Monnow, Trothy, Ithon, Llynfi, Letton Lake, Tarennig (the Wye's first tributary) and Bidno.


The Romans constructed a bridge of wood and stone just upstream of present day Chepstow. The River Wye was and still is navigable up to Monmouth at least since the early 14th century. It was improved from there to a short distance below Hereford by Sir William Sandys in the early 1660s with locks to enable vessels to pass weirs. According to Herefordshire Council Archaeology, these were flash locks.[1] The work proved to be insufficiently substantial and in 1696 a further Act of Parliament authorised the County of Hereford to buy up and demolish the mills on the Wye and Lugg. All locks and weirs were removed, except that at New Weir Forge below Goodrich, which survived until about 1815. This was paid for by a tax on the County. Weirs were removed all along the Wye in Herefordshire, making the river passable to the western boundary, and beyond it at least to Hay on Wye. A horse towing path was added in 1808, but only up to Hereford; previously, as on the River Severn, barges were man-hauled. Money was spent several times improving the River Lugg from Leominster to its confluence with the Wye at Mordiford, but its navigation is likely to have been difficult. The Wye remained commercially navigable until the 1850s, when commercial traffic moved to railways. It is still used by pleasure craft.

Navigation and sport

The Environment Agency is the navigation authority for the river. The Normal Tidal Limit (NTL) of the river is Bigsweir and navigation below this point is under the control of the Gloucester Harbour Trustees as Competent Harbour Authority.

Kayaking near Hay on Wye

The River Wye provides for canoeing and kayaking as it has sections suitable for all ranges of skills and free access all the way downstream from Glasbury through Hay-on-Wye to Hereford and the Severn Estuary[2].

There are a wide range of canoe hire and supervised trips, as well as campsites at key points on the river. Symonds Yat has a particularly popular series of rapids that was purchased by the British Canoe Union in 2003 to preserve the rapids for recreational use[3].

There are three rowing clubs on the river at Hereford, Ross-on-Wye and Monmouth. Annual regattas are held at Ross-on-Wye and Monmouth for rowers and scullers of all abilities, next to the local rowing club.

Cultural references

The Romantic poet William Wordsworth includes an apostrophe to the Wye in his famous poem "Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey" published 1798 in Lyrical Ballads

How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee,
O sylvan Wye! thou wanderer thro' the woods,
How often has my spirit turned to thee!


  1. ^ I. Cohen. "The Non-tidal Wye and its Navigation (from Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists Field Club, 1958 pg 86-94)". http://www.smr.herefordshire.gov.uk/agriculture%20_industry/navigation_wye_twnfc.htm. Retrieved 2006-12-09.  
  2. ^ http://www.waterscape.com/canals-and-rivers/river-wye/boating River Wys boating (accessed 2008-04-270
  3. ^ BBC NEWS | Wales | River rapids sold to canoeists

Further reading

  • I. Cohen, 'The non-tidal Wye and its navigation' Trans. Woolhope Nat. Fld. Club 34 (1955), 83-101;
  • V. Stockinger, The Rivers Wye and Lugg Navigation: a documentary history 1555-1951 (Logaston Press 1996);
  • P. King, 'The river Teme and other Midlands River Navigations' Journal of Railway and Canal Historical Society 35(50 (July 2006), 350-1.
  • Wikisource-logo.svg "Wye". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911.  

See also



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