Hire available all week 5 Hours
From £38

You start at Kempston and paddle downstream through picturesque river meadows with lots of wildlife to see.

Available March - October. Out and back trip, so you can go as far or as little as you like. Ideal for seeing the countryside and a lovely paddle to the Victorian Embankment.
Choose from canoes, kayaks and paddleboards when booking
Start at 9:45 am
  • Craft
  • Buoyancy Aid
  • Dry Bag
  • River Bank Instruction
  • Basic Map
Grade 0: This means it is a flat paddle and should be within most people’s abilities.

people hiring kayaks and canoes at kempston mill

Route Description

Whether you are looking for a leisurely lily dip or more of a workout, this trip can be whatever you make it, as you are free-range! If this is your first time on the river, this is the ideal trip for you. Perfect for those with young children, or perhaps you want to see if your 4 legged friend will enjoy a trip before you try something for the whole day or even a canoe and camp trip. We have a range of canoes, kayaks, or SUPs available for hire on this route. The recommended route to Bedford is a peaceful and fun paddle down a stunning wide river. We provide a simple and easy-to-read map and a waterproof dry bag for your belongings. Highly popular among friends, couples, families, and groups.

You set off from Kempston Outdoor Centre, where there are often 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 on either side. On the right-hand side is more parkland adjacent to 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 people's 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 its 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 baptised 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 portage to the lower river 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, ice cream or a sandwich and the best place to stretch your legs and start thinking about making your way back upstream


Frequently Asked Questions

Why can't I select a date to book?
We run many activities throughout the season (April to October). If a date is unavailable then unfortunately it is fully booked.
What's the difference between a kayak and a canoe?
If you're not sure of what each craft is, then read our guide here.
Are the trips guided?
There are no guides or instructors needed for hire. This is simply a hire where you paddle out and back to our launch point. We recommend our preferred route, however, you are free-range and able to explore the river.
What if it rains?
Unless you hear from us then your booking will run on the day agreed. Canoe Trail runs watersports, paddling, and adventurous activities throughout the year with people enjoying the river and our woodland campsite during the different seasons. On rare occasions (it only happens a couple of times a year) we may move or change your booking. This will be in freak weather conditions such as extremely high river flows in spate or during heavy storms with lightning. You can read our full FAQ here.
How does the booking process work?
We use a live booking system that will assign you the relevant craft and resources. Once you have confirmed your booking date, it is not then transferable and non-refundable in the same way you book an airline seat. Bookings are to be paid in full at the time of booking and are non-refundable. There will be no refunds for early returns, poor weather, or non-usage as per our general terms & conditions.

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