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Thread: We're all off on a Summer Holiday - Ardeche etc

  1. #1
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    May 2006
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    Default We're all off on a Summer Holiday - Ardeche etc

    Laurence and I are off to the Massif Central this Summer looking for some fine food, excellent wine and crystal clear water to paddle in - not necessarily in that order Fancy coming along?

    Trip style:
    The idea is to pop over on the ferry from Dover, drive straight down (about 10 hours driving), camp on some quiet sites and paddle on some of the real jems of the area. We live not far from Dover and can accomodate folks driving down from the other end of the country before the ferry crossing. Likewise we can probably park a few cars and bring a big trailer if there are enough folks interested - it may even be possible to accommodate a boat for anyone who can't drive down and wants to fly to Nimes instead. It would be good to have two or three vehicles amongst the group to allow flexibility with shuttles if the numbers work out right for this. I certainly don't want to organise an itinerary etc. and plan to make some sugestions but leave it open to everyone what they actually do down there - we don't have to all be doing the same thing all the time and, if the group ends up at all large, it may not be a good idea to do so anyway.

    When to go and for how long:
    Some time in the summer holidays! There is actually a climate change on the 15th August where the weather deteriorates markedly so it is advisable to be before then. Being used to the vagaries of the English weather I laughed when I first heard this theory - but strangely there seems quite a bit of truth in it. Last year we went for a week but this year intend to have a fortnight - although if that doesn't suit coming for a single week should be possible to sort out. Getting the dates sorted out is probably the most important thing and I propose Leaving on Saturday 28rd July on the Dawn Ferry (Norfolkline are the cheapest) and returning on Sunday 12th August around mid day.

    What to do:
    Taking in the Tarn, Allier and Ardeche, three of the most spectacular limestone gorges in the Massif Central sounds a good plan. The good news is that all three of these should have good water levels even during the summer, The Ardeche and Allier have controlled dam releases to maintain levels throughout and the Tarn seems to maintain good flow because of the nature of its catchment.
    The Tarn is a deep limestone gorge but does have a road running alongside making shuttles easier. It seems ideal for canoe camping with many sites and it would be possible to do a 4/5 day trip just down this. Much of the water is grade 1-2 with an interesting 2(3-) section from Les Vignes to Le Rozier. (grades in brackets refer to short easily portageable sections).
    The Allier is much wilder scenery and the grades a bit harder. There are deliberate attempts to preserve the wild nature here and keep commercial groups off the river, parties of more than 4 have to pre-book and there are strict rules to restrict numbers to two in a canoe - to keep off rafts I believe. It is quite rightly described as 'The Jewel of the Massif Central' and provides enough water to spend a week or even two just doing a single canoe camping trip on if you wish. There are sections at grades 2(3),3-(3) or even 3(5) if you are keen. There again there is a long stretch of very accessible water with 120K of water at 1-2+.
    The Ardeche is much more commercial and busy, but still spectacular and well worth doing. Despite the huge number of boats going down it is amazingly wild now - even more so than it was a few years ago. The gorge itself goes at 2(3) but that doesn't stop hundreds of complete beginners going down each day - they often get wet but in the summer that is a decided advantage and you will be stopping to relax, swim and cool down at frequent intervals anyway! There are another couple of days worth of slightly easier paddling upstream as well.

    Yes, but what are we actually going to do?:
    You tell me As you can see there are countless opportunities from longer expeditions to day trips picking some nice whitewater sections. If there are a few of us there we can choose our options, help each other out with shuttles a bit and meet up for some meals if we are on different water during the day. I'm not suggestion anyone else has to have the same itinerary but our tentative plans are as follows:
    Week 1 - to Paddle the Gorges du Tarn as a warm up followed by the Allier.
    Week 2 - to pop down to the Ardeche and stop at the (wonderful) naturist site at the 'Plage des Templiers'. This is half way down the gorge and from there we intend to spend the week mainly climbing (or caving) with some paddling on the Ardeche rapids in the heat of the afternoon - the site is right on the river. I appreciate not everyone may fancy the naturist site but there are alternatives and/or we could provide ovenight accommodation for anyone coming down the gorge on a two day trip and not wanting to carry gear.

    To get an idea of what is available the classic reference to this is 'White Water Massif Central' by Peter Knowles which covers just about all of the rivers that fall into the friendly (1-3) category and which have good water in the summer. If you are planning a trip earlier in the season there is even more choice. Also there is the famous 'Map number 905" showing all the canoeable rivers of France, their grade and several hundred campsites and canoe hire places - yes really, they do know how to do things over there

    To whet your appetite a little here are a few piccies from last year:


    First view of the Ardeche Gorge


















    Last edited by gwing; 21st-January-2007 at 01:43 AM. Reason: Pictures not appearing
    Happy paddling ,
    Rob.


  2. #2

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    tempting.

    Could conceivably get Sian on the water down there if it's warm enough, altho I can't see here going au naturelle tho
    Obscured by Clouds

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  3. #3
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    Jun 2006
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    wil do my best to persuade my wife that this would be an excellent holiday and perfect for getting her into canoeing





    nature is m X-box

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
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    Morecambe Bay Lancashire
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    If you're taking your own canoes are you aware that Seafrance don't charge for anything carried on the roof as long as you let them know when you book. We carry bikes vertically.
    Last edited by Heron; 21st-January-2007 at 09:14 AM.

  5. #5
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    We are off to the Massif for the second May bank holiday. This year my wife is coming so we will be paddling more easy rivers, centred around the Allier at Langeac.

    I have been to this area a couple of times with groups of stronger paddlers doing the hardest stuff in Pete Knowles' book. It will make a change to do something more relaxing.

  6. #6
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    Oct 2006
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    I should be working on the dordogne this summer, if i can get some time off i might be able to meet up for a day or 2 and paddle

    Stuart

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by pollitt View Post
    I should be working on the dordogne this summer, if i can get some time off i might be able to meet up for a day or 2 and paddle

    Stuart
    That would be good Stuart. As things firm up I'll keep you in the loop so you know what the plans are and we'll sort something out.

    Rob.
    Happy paddling ,
    Rob.


  8. #8
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    Apr 2006
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    West Sussex.
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    I am interested in a possible trip. Dates depending. I am already going to Canada and the Alps so time away might be a challenge. i may have to fly to Nimes to shorten the travel time. keep me posted on your plans.

    Bushcraft Survival and First Aid Training.

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