Song of Audhn

21/11/2013 - 15:26



The Vikings named me Audhn – ‘of a bleak place on the moor’.

For long I have tumbled from that hill, towards a far flung shore.


Past ledge and fall, through gorge and vale my changing song is heard

 Roar & babble, gurgle & gush join the chorus of the birds.


In Spring I feed the verdant woods, the reeds, the ferns and all,

In Summer I pass the Rowan trees and each mellow waterfall.


Then the cloak of Autumn wreathes Oak in golden gown,

Til icicles and hoar-frost will bring forth my Winter crown.


Then, once more, I move as one - to the distant sea I bring,

Rains from the majestic moors, whose journeys make me sing


 (‘Song of Audhn’ by Phil Hemsley)




The River Avon of South Devon is more affectionately known locally as ‘The Aune’. The name Aune is derived from Old Norse word au{dh}n - meaning ‘wasteland’, or a ‘desolate place’ - which fits the description of the source of this river, Aune Head, - in a bleak and boggy mire to the west of Ryder’s Hill, high on the southern side of the moors, rather well.


From its lofty start at 460m a.s.l., it travels for a distance of 23 miles to reach the coast at the borders of Bigbury on Sea and Bantham.



(Surf kayaker Sy Rawles launch a 'boof' jump over an incoming wave at sunset, in the Avon estuary at Bigbury Bay - the journey's end for the river.)



Despite being dammed to form a reservoir high up on Dartmoor, it retains for much of the rest of its journey as sense of timelessness passing through Dartmoor National Park, past charming hamlets and villages and into the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.




Kayaking & Canoeing


Sections of the river are navigable by kayak & canoe (the upper whitewater sections are, however, very challenging!) with the estuarine section from Averton Gifford to Bigbury Bay being a very pleasant paddle – though do check beforehand that there is not a big ocean swell running, as the egress can be challenging for the less confident paddler in such conditions. Further information on the paddling can be found through the links below





Walks along the Aune


  • The tidal section of the river, through the South Devon A.O.N.B.,  also offers the chance for a delightful walk


Other sections that offer walks alongside the river, with the chance to wander down the banks to explore its flora and geology are:


  • From the car park at Shipley Bridge (Dartmoor National Park) going upstream  towards the dam – many places to scramble down and explore the rapids and waterfalls, though please be very careful (wellies will offer the best grip possible on the slippery ledges in wet or damp conditions, but it is still very precarious in some places). There are deep pools below some of the falls which would make for a good wild swim for competent swimmers, but only attempt this when the river is not flowing fast... it is always rather cool due to the natural shade of the trees, even in the midst of summer.

'Gold Rush'

(upstream of Shipley Bridge, Dartmoor National Park, in the autumn)


'The Narrator'

(upstream of Shipley Bridge, Dartmoor National Park)


'Falls of Aune'

(upstream of Shipley Bridge, Dartmoor National Park)



'Current Affairs'

(above first of the Aune's gorges'


(just upstream of Shipley Bridge - Dartmoor National Park)




  • Didworthy Bottom Wood (there is a path near the river’s edge but access points are tricky to find) – for views of a narrow and deep Grade 5 canyon that scares even the bravest whitewater paddlers, probably one of the most difficult sections of river to paddle in Devon... be careful down there!


'Quantum of Solitude'



(downstream of Shipley Bridge / edge of Didworthy Woods - Dartmoor National Park)



'The Beckoning'

(The entrance to a deep and narrow gorge in Disworthy Bottom Wood - Dartmoor National Park)





Golden evening light graces the rapids below Didsworthy - Dartmoor National Park.


'The Aune Supremacy'

(downstream of Disdworthy in late autumn, in the early morning light)




"The song of the river ends not at her banks but in the hearts of those who have loved her."

(Buffalo Joe)




  • Lydia Bridge (walking downstream from the bridge towards South Brent is very pleasant, offering views of the gorge, the ancient bridge, a place to picnic  near the bluebells in spring.


‘Into the Void’

(Lower Avon Gorge - from Lydia Bridge in Dartmoor National Park in springtime)


'The Aune Identity' - Lydia gorge in late autumn


(downstream of Lydia Bridge - edge of Dartmoor National Park)





  • Avon Cobbly Walk – a very charming short section of an ancient cobbled ‘green lane’ in the South Devon A.O.N.B. between the Old Toll House on Avonwick Bridge to the ancient Horsebrook Bridge. It was cobbled so that heavy loads of slate could be moved from local quarries. The route is lined with trees including ash, sycamore, beech and alder. The riverbanks have a wealth of flora such as hard-fern, English bluebell, wild garlic,mosses, lichens, great wood-rush, ivy and lots of primrose.


‘The smile of autumn’

(last light at the old packhorse bridge in Avonwick, South Devon A.O.N.B)


(near Avonwick in the South Devon A.O.N.B.)



"A river does not just happen; it has a beginning and an end. Its story is written in rich earth, in ice, and in water-carved stone, and its story as the lifeblood of the land is filled with colour, music and thunder."

(Andy Russell, 'The Life of a River')

































24/11/2013 - 09:33
The photos are beautiful. so is the poem. I wish I could follow the directions but they are a little too challenging for me.

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