This river trip is a fantastic introduction to paddling, especially for those with younger children, as you are only in the boat for just over an hour each way, allowing them to enjoy a more manageable river journey, at a leisurely pace.
It starts on Bedford’s Victorian Embankment at a local café before heading off to explore Bedfordshire’s the rural countryside by canoe or kayak or SUP. The river banks are teeming with wildlife with birds of prey, herons, the occasional grass snake and flitting electric blue kingfishers.
There is just 1 portage point, at the half way point, where you can enjoy a picnic on the edge of the country park, before setting off back upstream to where you first started.
This paddle will begin from Longholme Island at the Boating Lake and Café, which is situated on the stunning Victorian Embankment in Bedford. You will see the site of the Victorian Boat Slide when you start, now converted into a water turbine for generating green electricity. Once on the water, your journey will take you downstream on the lower river, passing a little island (you can pass it on either side), before passing under the road and pedestrian bridge, about 500 metres from the start. On warm days people often report seeing turtles sunbathing in the trailing branches of the Willows on this stretch of water.
As you pass under the old railway bridge you will see the ‘Pyramids of Bedford’, which houses the Oasis Swimming Pool. 400 metres later you will see the New Cut (waterway) branch off the main river on your left. The access to this bit of water is restricted. As you round a bend in the river you will see the entrance to Priory Marina (housing some beautiful narrow and wide beam boats as well as one of George Clarkes Amazing Spaces creations). The river then opens onto a long (500 metres) straight wide stretch, a hotspot for swans and geese. You are now paddling on a loop around the Priory Country Park, which is a popular green space and lake.
As you make your way around the bend on your right there are large moorings and waterfront gardens. You will see a small weir on your left shortly followed by the Barns Hotel on your right and then a larger weir on your left which marks the Cardington Artificial Slalom Course, a white water feature. Continuing down the river a few hundred yards is a river lock and sluices. You will see large green buoys across the river, marking Cardington Lock, paddle up to them and there is a portage area on your left (with an upturned canoe sign). Once you have lifted your boats out of the water you have a chance to stretch your legs and have a picnic on the riverbank. When you have refuelled, put the boats back on the water and make your way upstream, finishing back the Archimedes Screw (water turbine) inlet. Once you are out of the boat, carry it back to the café (easiest way is turn right, following the path behind the boathouse, rather than back around the front and through the café)!
2 Man Canoe: £50.00
3 Man Canoe: £55.00
Single Kayak: £25.00
Double Kayak: £55.00
Stand Up Paddle Board: £25.00
Bedford (MK40 3PF) to Cardington Lock to Bedford: Slow Half Day
4 miles, approx. 3 hrs in canoes and SUP’s (slightly less in kayaks) and 1 portage
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