Hire available Saturdays during season 4.45 Hours
From £45
Kemston to Cardington canoe and kayak and SUP Hire

Perfect for those who wish to paddle this quiet backwater down into Bedford, enjoy a cafe lunch stop and then paddle onwards to Cardington Lock where we will provide a complimentary lift to your drivers, (and group in quieter times). It is an ideal family trip with time of day to spot wildlife and enjoy the historic river town. Choose from kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards.

Summary
Available April - October on Saturdays only. This is one way trip paddling route from Kempston Outdoor Centre down onto Bedford's historic Embankment before crossing onto the lower river on Longholme Island portaging near Longholme Cafe providing a great pitstop for tea and cake or something more substanntial. Paddle around the back of Priory Country Park and finish at Cardington Lock.  This is a relaxed paddle for families of all ages
Options
Choose from canoes, kayaks and paddleboards when booking
Timings
Start at 10:30 am and finish 14.45pm
Included
  • Craft
  • Buoyancy Aid
  • Dry Bag
  • River Bank Instruction
  • Basic Map
Level
Grade 0: This means it is a flat paddle and should be within most people’s abilities.

Green and yellow kayaks on the river ouse

Route Description

Starting at Kempston Outdoor Centre on a quiet part of the River Great Ouse you paddle downstream through leafy tree lined river banks towards Bedford. Its tranquil and teeming with wildlife allowing you to unwind and relax and enjoy the river scenery.  Keep your eyes peeled for a Kingfisher (listen out for a ‘peep’ noise),  followed by a blur of electric blue as it flies on ahead of you as well as terns, cormarants and even the rarer Mandarin duck.  The river winds back and forth and you will be paddling through more beautiful countryside and will pass through a series of small islands where you can pass on either side.

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. On your left just after the road bridge is Viking Kayak Club and Star Rowing Club and then the Riverside North development with cinema, hotel and eateries. Viking Kayak Club is a great place to learn and progress your new found paddling skills with an active membership.

You are now approaching Bedford Embankment, built by the Victorians as a tree lined River Promenade. 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 multi arch Town Bridge made of stone (vehicle and pedestrian), and once famous for imprisoning John Bunyan in the gaol on the bridge. John Bunyan wrote Pilgrim's Progress. After the bridge is the iconic Swan Hotel on your left and 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 around the islands and you will pass Duckmill Weir, the Etienne Stott White Water Arena and the Bedford Lock. You are now heading towards a higher arch white suspension bridge just after the band stand.  Between the Suspension Bridge and the Butterfly Bridge is the portage to the lower river at the Longholme Cafe and schools boathouse.  The Longholme Cafe offers hot drinks and cake, more substantial meals and a place to refuel.

Once you have portaged onto the lower river continue downstream and under the pedestrian bridge and old railway Bridge (called the Brain line as it linked Cambridge and Oxford universities).  You pass by Oasis Pool and down past Priory Marina home to TV presenter Max McMurdo from Grand Desigs fame. You paddle a long straight and turn left on a longer bend and past Bedford Boat Club and moorings on the final leg of your journey. Its once again a quieter stretch as you paddle down to your finish at Cardington Lock.

You pass by the Kingfisher Hotel on the right bank and Cardington Artificial Slalom Course on the left bank one of the first slalom courses in the country. A few hundred metres later and you reach Cardington Lock where the team will meet you for the complimentary shuttle back to the start for your driver (and rest of the group when we are quieter).  Cardington lock is also a great bit of river history as it was built by Smeaton, known as the father of Civil Engineering. Smeaton was one of the original pioneering designers of light houses saving a great many lives.

This trip is just over 7km in distance and perfect for all comers, families, children and enthusiastic paddling types.


Location

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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