This is the perfect river journey by canoe, kayak or stand up paddle board as it blends rural countryside with Bedford’s stunning and historic Victorian Embankment.
You start just below Bromham Bridge and rapids and paddle downstream through picturesque river meadows with lots of wildlife to see. You will portage (carry your boats around a weir) once which is a great place for a rest and a picnic.
Once back on the river the gentle flow will take you towards Bedford town centre with its tree-lined embankment and promenade. You pass under several historic bridges before finishing at the Longholme Café, a great place to reward your paddling endeavours with tea and a slice of cake.
This trip begins in the tranquil village of Bromham and starts just below Bromham Rapids. The meeting place is at the beautiful 17th Century bridge, which spans the River Great Ouse. The medieval Bromham Mill is located on the West side of the bridge, we meet on the EAST side in the little gravel carpark (at the Bedford side of the Bridge). There is further parking about 300 yards towards Bedford in a small cul-de-sac just before the Bromham bypass.
Once on the water you will be paddling through beautiful countryside, with a meadow on your left and gardens on your right, this stretch is a favourite for our resident otters, so keep your eyes peeled. You pass under a road bridge about 300 metres from the start before you follow a couple of bends. There is a tiny island along this stretch and the main flow passes to the left hand side. You can pass on the right but this might be a bit more like an adventure and you will need to squeeze through the branches of the Willows and reed beds. You will now be coming to a long open stretch (a kilometre long) where the river widens, with thick reed beds on your left, teaming with wild fowl. This section can feel a bit like hard work when it is windy so be prepared to put your head down and paddle hard for 5 minutes.
You will now see Box End Park, with wakeboarding lakes and water skiing on your right-hand side. Just over another kilometre, you see the church spire on your right before passing under a second road bridge and approaching a meadow on your left. A few minutes later there will be large green buoys across the river marking the top of the weir. The markers stop you and river debris from paddling over the weir. Weirs can be dangerous, particularly in flood, hence why we walk around. Paddle up to the portage (steps out of the river) on your left and you will be in the meadow. Once out this is a great place for a snack to refuel yourself ready for the next chapter in your journey. You have completed 2 miles of your river journey and are about a third of the way.
A quick look along the riverbank, just after the weir will show you a worn path where boats can be slowly slid down the grassy bank to reach the river (one person at the bottom to guide the boat onto the water and the other person lowering it at the top, makes short work of the ‘put on’). Once back in your boat, the next section will see you paddling around the outskirts of Kempston. 400 metres downstream from the weir, you will come to Kempston Mill and a pedestrian footbridge, where there are often large groups of ducks and swans hoping for a bite to eat from the dog walkers.
The Riverside path will be with you all the way into Bedford. The water is shallow and faster here with gravel beds and again there will be thick reed beds full of wildlife. This is a great place to spot a Kingfisher (listen out for a ‘peep’ noise, followed by a blur of electric blue as it flies on ahead of you). For the next 3 km you will be paddling through more beautiful countryside and will pass through a series of small islands where you can pass either side. On the right hand side is a more parkland adjacent the river.
You will then reach the first of several bridges marking your arrival to Bedford. The first one is a wooden pedestrian bridge, with the Riverside path on your left and peoples back gardens on your right. The second bridge is the railway bridge, followed by another pedestrian bridge and then a road bridge. From the railway bridge downstream you need to paddle on the right hand side and you will probably see other river users such as motorboats and rowers.
You are now entering Bedford Embankment, built by the Victorians as a River Promenade. On your left just after the road bridge is Viking Kayak Club and Star Rowing Club. Viking Kayak Club is a great place to learn and progress your new found paddling skills with an active membership. You will notice the beautiful red brick buildings that Bedford has, with excellent examples of various ages of architecture. The next bridge you see is the stunning Town Bridge made of stone (vehicle and pedestrian), with the iconic Swan Hotel on your left as you pass under the bridge. On the right hand side you will see the popular Park Inn Hotel and Bedford Rowing Club. This section of the river is at is widest with a series of large islands where the River Great Ouse splits.
You stay on the top river as you pass Duckmill Weir now named the Etienne Stott Whitewater Arena, on the lower River, (after our town’s Olympic Gold Medallist from canoeing at London 2012). The Lower River here is where John Bunyan, author of Pilgrims Progress was batpized in 1655. Once past this you will see the Suspension Bridge (a high arching Victorian pedestrian bridge) enabling people to access the islands, along with Town Lock and then onto Archimedes Screw (a water turbine producing Green Energy).
The islands are called Mill Meadows and Longholme Island, the latter is where you will finish your paddle at Longholme café on your right in front of the white Butterfly Bridge. The Archimedes Screw and turbine is located next to the Schools Rowing Boathouse and Longholme Café. This is a great place to reward your calorie credits with cream tea, icecream or a sandwich. We will collect you from here and shuttle you back to your vehicle at the start.
2 Man Canoe: £50.00
3 Man Canoe: £60.00
Fantastic 4 Man Canoe (4 adults): £75.00
Fantastic Boat Canoe (2 adults + 2 children under 11): £65.00
Single Kayak: £30.00
Double Kayak: £55.00
Stand Up Paddle Board: £30.00
Bromham (MK43 8LP ) to Bedford (MK40 3PF): Slow Half Day
6 miles, approx. 3 hrs in canoes and SUP’s (slightly less in kayaks) and 1 portage
Rachel Hagland - 5 Star Review
"Did the Bromham to Bedford stretch today. Was an awesome afternoon. Thank you for the hire Canoe Trail will most definitely be doing it again soon"
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