This is the ideal canoe and camp trip for those with a limited amount of time or simply keen get a taste of adventure.
To make your trip even more enjoyable, why not opt for our bag drop off and collect service, so your bags will be waiting in your clearing upon your arrival. We will meet you at Cardington Lock, bordering Priory Country Park and Nature Reserve where you can hop into your canoe and make your way through the leafy Bedfordshire countryside before arriving at Matchstick Wood.
You will get your own private clearing in the woodland, complete with long drop loo, log store and most importantly, a campfire, to sit round under the starry night sky. Once you’ve pitched your tent, have the campfire roaring with the wine/ beer cooling in the brook this trip will seem like the ideal tonic to a busy life, allowing you to spend some quality time in the great outdoors. You will have your boat ready on site for the following day, so you can get on the water and enjoy some time with nature on your way back to Cardington Lock.
We will meet you at Cardington Lock, where you will receive some bank tuition ready for when you take to the water. If you have booked the drop off/ collection service, we will put all your camping kit in the vehicles so we can drop it off at the campsite ready for your arrival and leave you free to enjoy a lighter boat. If you have decided to go ‘native’ and carry your kit, we shall put it into waterproof barrels and bags ready for your day on the river. Once in your Buoyancy Aids, you can grab a paddle before hopping into your canoe and paddling downstream through leafy Bedfordshire. This stretch takes you through beautiful meadows, teaming with wildlife, giving you a chance to get back to nature.
You will pass under a railway bridge that carries the Route 51 national cycle route. The river flows gently on and you will see moorings for GOBA (Great Ouse Boating Association). After 2 km you will approach Castle Mill Lock. There will be large green buoys across the river and you portage on the right-hand side. There are steps to help you get out. Once your boat is out of the water, you will carry it along the top of the riverbank (about 50-60m) and then down onto the pontoon to the furthest point, as there is a specifically lowered area to help you when getting back in the boats.
You then paddle under a road bridge, usually flanked by sheep happily grazing in the riverside fields. A few meandering river bends later and you will reach a little community of log cabins on your left (1.5 km after Castle Mill Lock). This area is known as the Grange Estate (a huge Country Park with cycle paths, fishing lakes and our woodland campsite). After a few hundred metres, you pass under the quarry bridge then shortly afterwards there is a little viewing platform/ pond dipping pontoon on the right, where Elstow Brook joins the River Great Ouse. This is where you will turn up Elstow Brook, passing under 2 bridges before coming to the portage steps on the left. If you reach the Danish Camp (a single large log cabin café) you have just missed Elstow Brook so turn back around and paddle 100m back upstream.
Once the boats are out of the water (leave them on the left after the portage steps, with a Loo on your right but take your paddles and buoyancy aids with you), using your map of the woodland you can find your specially reserved clearing, which are all named for your ease.
You can setup your camp, by choosing where to pitch your tent in your clearing and by having a look at the long drop loo and getting used to the exhilarating idea of a ‘loo with a view’ around your own secluded bit of woodland. Once the campfire is roaring, the beers/ wine are cooling in the brook; it is time for some dinner. Whether you have packed your own or you are visiting the nearby café or pub, the evening will be rounded off by sitting under the starry night sky, with your fairy light tree adding the finishing touch and hearing to ‘toot’ of the resident owls.
After a refreshing night’s sleep (hopefully our resident deer hasn’t woken you by barking at your tent) you can get the breakfast cooking over the campfire, before packing up your tent. With all your kit packed, you are ready to hit the river. Once back in your boats, paddle down Elstow Brook to where it meets the River Great Ouse and turn LEFT, to paddle upstream, and the way you came the day before. Once at Cardington Lock you will have completed a great adventure and full of great memories.
Day 1: 2.5 miles Cardington (MK44 3JW) to Matchstick Wood (1 portage) 3 hrs Slow Half Day
Day 2: 2.5 miles Matchstick Wood to Cardington Lock (1 portage) 3hrs Slow Half Day
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