Canoe Days Out

Cambridgeshire - River Cam - Chesterton to Ely

This page was submitted by David Savage (E-mail this submitter)
How to get there - Chesterton is a small village about 2 miles (by road) to the north east of Cambridge. Zoom out from the map to see the full location.

For those with SatNav the postcode is CB4 1PA.

Get a map with driving directions to start or end (enter the postcode of your starting point at A)

Suggested Launch Site - Start at the small car park beside the river in Water Lane, Chesterton, just beside the Penny Ferry Pub (not recommended!)

General Description - Set off left - downstream!

You can either paddle as far as you feel able and turn round, or you could go right through to Ely in the day. If you do, then park your shuttle car by the river at the bottom of Willow Walk (see map). There is a small free car park there and no time restrictions. For those with SatNav a nearby postcode is CB7 4AT. Alternatively there is a cycle path all the way from Ely to Chesterton if you have a folding cycle to make the shuttle.

Do keep to the proper side of the river (right) to avoid collision with rowing boats.

1.8Km The Plough on the right hand bank. A pleasant riverside pub garden with food all day every day.

This is 'Long Reach', the location of 'The Bumps', a curious rowing tradition where a pursuing 'eight' has to 'bump' the boat in front to move up a place on the race ladder.

At the Plough you need to change sides on the river and paddle on the left side; all about visibility round the bend!

2.5Km Baits Bite lock - an easy portage on the left bank

4Km The Bridge, Clayhithe offers very good food - the best on the river and is totally non-smoking, even in the garden. Past the Bridge, look out for sailing dinghies at weekends; this is the Cam Sailing clubs reach.

5.2Km Bottisham Lock. Portage right. This is a horrible lockside made of giant cheese (or canoe) grater and a small wall makes the portage even trickier. It is good to help one another here!

5.3Km Bottisham Lode goes off on the right; if you want to explore the Lodes, they are all canoeable, but you will need the OS maps 154/143 to find your way.

7Km Swaffham Lode (right)

10km (right bank) Reach Lode and the 'Five Miles from Anywhere - No Hurry' Public House. Good landing and worth a visit

14Km Pope's Corner. Here the Cam joins the River Great Ouse. On the corner is the 'Fish and Duck', an ideal lunch stop on the way to Ely and a good place to watch cruisers failing to make the tight turn from the Ouse into the Cam!

Turn left here onto the 'Old West River' and you'll wend your way towards Huntingdon - another day!

Carry straight on towards Ely along a fairly featureless and exposed section of fenland river.

Ely Cathedral is on the horizon for a long time and eventually gets closer. As you enter the town.

21Km The Maltings restaurant. Pleasant, but our pub destination is just on the left, 'The Cutter'

Ely Waterside is busy with cruisers and rowing clubs; there is a slipway on Waterside (river left) but it is always foul with swan droppings and parking is limited, hence the suggestion to carry on through the City to Willow Walk, where you left the car!

If you fancy a weekend canoeing in Cambridge, then there is a canoeist friendly bed and breakfast right next to the launch area in Chesterton; details at

Comments on this trip

14 Aug 2021
Hello team, do we need a license to do this route Very keen to do it.

29 Jun 2018
The Penny Ferry (it was the Pike Eel for much longer before being renamed) no longer exists, replaced by housing. There is still some car parking by the river on Water Lane near where the Pike Eel was but there are rarely spaces now that the houses are there. Onstreet parking is usually available.The nearby Green Dragon pub is still open and reasonable, beer is OK, wide range of averagequality pub food. If you don't mind a few minutes' walk, the Haymakers is much better with very good beer and good pizzas.

Ageing Jogger
19 Feb 2018
A good challenge is to shuttle with a car and running shoes drive to Chesterton launch, canoe 5K, run back, drive to where you left the canoe and repeat until you get to Ely great summer's day out an enjoyable pint and a good kip afterwards! Beware the hogweed wash your legs immediately if you run through the stuff I burnt my legs badly (

Jennie Small
29 Apr 2013
My maiden voyage in my new kayak. It felt longer than it was due to the strong gusty winds that grew unexpectedly throughout my paddle meaning I had to work quite hard to stay upright! I made the shuttle by bike first but didn't find the cycle track. I was on a grassy footpath which was hard work for 15 miles!

geoff and ute
30 Jul 2010
A fantastic trip, with loads of amazing birdlife. We started on the far side of Cambridge, so had the added benefit of paddling though the city in the early morning. It is a long day out, though we paddled for 7hrs (in a Canadian Canoe). If you need any canoespares / gloves / gear I can warmly recommend Reeds of Cambridge (in the Ely Marina) who were really helpful with a shop full of amazing paddle gear.

John Starkie
29 Nov 2009
The Fish and Duck at Pope's Corner no longer exists.


Ely Cathedral
River Great Ouse
Bed & Breakfast
Car Park in Ely

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The last trip loaded was Great Haywood to Great Haywood (Circular Route) on the River Trent / Trent & Mersey Canal by Peter Robinson