Lopwell Dam is a large weir that’s situated on the River Tavy and it’s possible to drop down the flowing slope in your boat. At certain times the water cascading down the weir will give you a hefty shove while at lower waters you’ll be scraping the rocks with your kayak.
The weir at Lopwell is a good introduction to white water/river paddling that closed cockpit boaters regularly participate in. Unless the water is particular strong flowing, it’s perfectly applicable to the sit on kayaking crowd. Even though it’s hardly the most extreme drop in the world, it’s still good fun to huck yourself over the ledge.
Designated a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) due to abundant wildlife that frequents the area, Lopwell is a big draw for many. Outdoor enthusiasts visit the site for various activities – the area wouldn’t handle too many boaters and the peace and tranquillity would be severely disrupted with large crowds of paddlers.
For those looking at covering a bit of distance then Lopwell Dam to Stonehouse is a pretty good route. Launch off the slipway next to the dam and then go with the tide under the multi arch bridge that bears left. You’ll end up close to Devonport Dockyard where there’s a lot of heavy boat traffic that you’ll need to steer clear of. You’ll also pass Torpoint ferry terminal which you’ll also need to avoid – for obvious reasons. A good tip is to aim for the wake of a passing boat and then paddle like the clappers.
Further along on the left you’ll end up at Royal William Yard, a group of grey buildings that signals another left turn. You then follow the creek up to Admiral’s hard slip and your final destination. This is also used by the Cremyll passenger ferry, so be aware!
Whether you choose to play about at Lopwell Dam itself or make the trek along to Stonehouse, this area of Devon is a great spot for paddling and you’ll no doubt have plenty of après stories for the pub after your session.
How to get there:
3 miles from Plymouth. Head out towards Dartmoor. Bere Alston/Lopwell Dam well sign posted.
A café serving light lunches, snacks, hot drinks and refreshments is right on site. From here you’ll get a good view of the river and, if you’re lucky, you may even spot a seal or otter swimming about.
The café is set in the Old Pump House which has an exhibition about the building and surrounding area. Kayaking, relaxing and learning – it’s all possible at Lopwell.
Paddling on any form of moving water has dangers – a lot of which may not be immediately spotted by the uneducated or inexperienced. Being caught in a recirculating body of water can be hazardous and difficult to free yourself from.
If you’re visiting Lopwell and unsure of your abilities or the conditions then always ere on the side of caution – if in doubt, don’t go out.
Lopwell is also a very Popular Fishing site so watch to not get yourself tangled on a fishing line – inconvenient for both yourself and the person whose line it is!
Ins and Outs:
There’s a small slipway that you can launch from making it easy to put in. There’s some carrying of your gear to get to the slipway though so may be worth packing light and bringing the trolley.
If you visit Lopwell Dam for a paddle then you’re in a prime location for other kayaking adventures. The South West Lakes Trust, which maintains the Lopwell area, has an number of other inland stretches of water to choose from. And don’t forget either the North or South Devon coasts for more challenging open sea conditions.
Lopwell Dam isn’t so much a stretch of water suitable for kayaking as a feature that paddlers head for when water levels are up and in the mood for a bit of adrenaline.
On the face of it the dam/weir at Lopwell is a beast of an obstacle although this shouldn’t put anyone off. Lopwell Dam is fine for those with sit on kayaks and an intermediate level of skill.
The area is tidal with the weir sitting at the upper mark of the River Tavy, three miles from Plymouth and seven from Tavistock. The dam is in a nature reserve that has several different habitats –saltmarsh, freshwater marsh and semi-natural woodland. Roe Deer, otters and Atlantic grey seals frequent the area and as such this part of Tamar-Tavy estuary is designated a special area of scientific interest.
Lopwell Dam is also a cracking place for bird watching and visitors who fancy a spot of walking. For cyclists; you’ll also find the Bere Peninsula cycle route close by and the Tamar Discovery Trail begins at Lopwell.