2 Days
From £129

Please note if a date is unavailable then it is fully booked. For midweek camping view our Kempston routes.

Our bestselling woodland camping trip. Perfect for a quick weekend getaway.
Choose from canoes or kayaks for this straightforward route and river to paddle. Bedford to Matchstick Woods is approx 6 miles and includes 2 portages. Dogs are welcome as long as they are kept under control and to your campsite clearing. If you bring your dog you will need to book a canoe.
Depart at 11:00 and arrive back by 14:30 the following day after a digital detox.


Important Information


Each clearing has its own campfire circle. Using deadwood is prohibited because it is important to the woodland ecosystem. Please bring some firewood or purchase a bag of firewood from us when booking.


To make your trip even more enjoyable, you can pay for our Luggage Service, where you leave your luggage with us and we drop it off into your private clearing and collect it the following day. That way you get to paddle a nice light boat. You can also hire our campfire kitchen equipment (Grills, Kettles, Dutch Ovens) to enable you to cook over the campfire without ruining your best camp stove pots and pans! All these options can be added when booking.

Pack Light!

Canoes are designed to carry luggage but remember you are only camping for one night! Our advice is to pack light as the woodland has wild camp vibes. Those looking for places to eat or drink check out The Crown Pub or the Danish Camp.

  • Craft & Paddles
  • Buoyancy Aid
  • Dry Bag
  • Riverbank Instruction
  • Basic Map
  • Campsite Clearing
  • Long Drop Loo
Not Included
  • Tent or Hammock
  • Fire & Cooking Equipment
  • Food
  • Water
  • Firewood

Route Description

If you have booked the luggage service, we will put your selected camping equipment in the vehicles. We drop it off (a pick up) at your campsite clearing 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 have some dry bags available ready for your day on the river. You will be sent booking instructions on where to park and meet us.

After some bank tuition, it’s time to hit the water! You depart from around the corner to the café the Victorian Boat Slide (to the right of the inlet), now converted into a water turbine.

Your journey will take you downstream along the side of the island, passing another little island (you can pass it on either side), before passing under the road bridge, 500 metres from the start. On warm days people often report seeing turtles sunbathing in the trailing branches of the Willows on the water. As you immediately pass under the old railway bridge you will come round the bend in the river and see the Pyramids of Bedford, which house the Oasis Swimming Pool. 400 metres later you will see the New Cut (waterway) branch off the main river on your left followed by 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. As you make your way around the bend on your right there are several 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. You will see large green buoys across the river, paddle up to them and there is a portage area on your left (with a sign).

Once you have lifted your boats out of the water there ‘put in’ point is directly across the grass (10 metres) to a smaller part of the river. To your right is Cardington Lock. As you paddle out from the lock area you will be surrounded by countryside again, with heavily reeded riverbanks. This is a great area for wildlife as you are paddling around Priory Park, and bordering its extensive nature reserves. After 2 km you will approach Castle Mill Lock. As before, 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 the boat is out of the water, you will carry it along the top of the riverbank and then down the pontoon to the furthest point, as there is a specifically lowered area to help you when getting back in the boats.

You will paddle under the road bridge before reaching the country park on your right closely followed by log cabins on your right (1.5 km after Castle Mill Lock). After a few hundred metres, you pass under the quarry bridge then shortly afterward there is a little viewing platform/pond dipping pontoon on the right Elstow Brook joins the River Great Ouse. You will paddle up Elstow Brook, passing initially under the bridge where the River Great Ouse meets Elstow Brook and then continuing on upstream, passing another low pedestrian bridge before coming around the bend to see the portage into the campsite on your left. Pull the boats out using the steps and put them on the left-hand side, allowing easy access to the ‘loo with a view’ on the right. Then make your way into the camp, using the map to find your own clearing for the evening, ready with a wood store for your well-earned campfire, under the starry night sky. You will have your boat ready on site for the following day, so you can get back on the water and enjoy some time with nature. The next day, make your way upstream on the River Great Ouse, back to Bedford.


Woodland Canoe and Kayak Camping


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