Canoe Days Out

Hertfordshire - River Lea & the Lea Navigation - Hoddesdon to Broxbourne Mill (& return)

This page was submitted by Colin Southward (E-mail this submitter)
How to get there - Hoddesdon is just off the A10 about 10 miles north of Junction 25 of the M25. Follow the map to the Fish & Eels pub in Dobb's Weir Road.

For those with SatNav the postcode is EN11 0AY.

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

Suggested Launch Site - Park in the public car park opposite the Fish & Eels pub at Dobb's Weir in Hoddesdon. You can either launch over the bank into the canal or portage about 80 meters to the east down Dobb's Weir Road and launch just beyond the weir

General Description - This is a short run, taking about two hours, but well worth the effort.

Park in the public car park opposite the Fish & Eels pub at Dobbs Weir in Hoddesdon. Meals can be had in the pub or the excellent cafe in the car park. There are public toilets here.

You can get straight onto the canal or a short portage of 80 mtrs takes you back over the road and you can get in just below the weir. If you choose to get in the canal, you have a paddle of 300 mtrs before you have to portage round the first lock. Getting in at the weir saves this. Presuming you get in at the weir, you paddle down stream until you get to the end of the caravaning and campsite. There is a small turn to your right which follows the edge of the campsite. If you choose to paddle down the canal to the first lock, you need to turn right back up the river for 15 mtrs, and then left down the river.

You are now on the river. At first it is quite narrow, but there is enough current to push you along. Through the remnants of an old bridge and you then turn left. In the summer the river can be quite overgrown with duck weed and lilies which can slow you down, but give the river a pleasing and pleasant outlook. With no canal boats to churn the water, it is usually very clear and you can see fish and other river life. I am sure we saw crayfish at one point. We definitely saw Kingfishers. You could turn right and go upstream for about 3/4 mile, but the river becomes very narrow and stops at a grating.

Canoing down the river, you are never more than 20 mtrs from the canal, though the vast amount of undergrowth makes it hard to cross from one to the other. The river seems to be blocked in one or two places by overhanging trees, but I had no problem getting past them in my Canadian and it added to the fun. They do have the effect of slowing down the river and duckweed accumulates in great swathes which can make the going quite slow.

Eventually you come to a very small caravan site where the river turns away form the canal through a right and left hand bend, again with more overhanging trees seeming to form an obstruction. On the right hand bank, hidden, is an industrial estate. You can hear the noise, but the river is quite well hidden. After this stretch, brickwork arches signify a more direct connection with the housing around you and this is quite near the halfway point. Canoing under the railway lines, there is now a small park on your left. The get out point is on the left, 5 mtrs before an overflow channel on the left. This is a vertical drop and after another 30 mtrs the river flows into an old mill through a metal grating.

This is the site of the old Broxbourne Mill and sat weekends the mill wheel can be running, though it is now made of man made materials. There is a small information board about the mill. At the get out point, the obvious get in is immediately on your left. Follow this and you have to get out again and negotiate Blake's boatyard on the canal. Better to carry the canoes about 80 mtrs to some holiday chalets just past the old mill and get in there. There are public toilets here.

You very quickly rejoin the canal, turning left and heading back upstream.There is a pub on the right selling drinks and food. You now go past the boat yard where narrow boats and day boats can be hired. The canal is quite wide and not as interesting as the river, but there is no current to paddle against. At Carthegena lock, portage on the right. It is worth walking onto the island (ice creams can be purchased here) and walking round to the weir. We saw dozens of large fish, presumably carp, just underneath the foot bridge.

Carrying on up the river, you then come back to the first lock at Dobb's Weir, which can be portaged on the right or continue back up the river to the weir itself and portage back over the road to the carpark.

Comments on this trip

14 Jun 2022
Lovely trip but the river part of the return trip (Mill Stream) is blocked in several places by trees and we were kindly informed that we were trespassing. June 2022

21 May 2018
We tried this trip yesterday evening (20/05/18) and there is a tree obstructing the route on the river portion of trip. It was a shame as it was a lovely little stretch of water up until then.We were in an inflatable canoe so reluctant to risk hitting sharp branches etc. But honestly, the tree was so low that I'm not sure a hard hull canoe would get until either. We ended up heading back and then down to the lock on canal which was still very nice....

andrew king
11 Mar 2015
Had similar experience last year Was told by ranger couldn't get out at mill.Pointed out I had no way of seeing signs as they face the shore.Another incident at Dobbs weir told by a very rude man purporting to be lea Valley park that no one is allowed to paddle that stretch without their permission.Have heard since that Lea valley park are negotiating rights for fishing that stretch and seem to be discouraging canoeists from using it.

Nick Dennis
22 Jan 2015
On Saturday 17th January 2015 I paddled this route. At Broxbourne Mill we found the slip blocked and a sign saying that access was only for those who had hired from Lee valley Canoe and Cycle Hire. We were told that we are not allowed to paddle down the old river course (Mill Stream) from Dobbs Weir to Broxbourne, Both the Canal Rivers Trust and lee Valley park deny control of this section of water.

Nick D
17 May 2011
Did this trip on 14th May 2011. Put in in Dobbs Weir and went down the river and back up the canal. A fantastic 2 hour paddle but I would suggest to probably avoid the fishing season. Thoroughly recommended. Cafes, loos and ice creams at either end! You could be anywherein the country but a reality check is when a tube train rattles by!

05 Oct 2007
Tried to do this trip in mid September (2007) and tried to put-in just below the weir. However the guy who sell permits to fisherman said that we weren't allowed to canoe there anymore. Not sure if this is true or not (I suspect not) however we weren't going to get into an argument about it so put-in above the weir and did a trip in the opposite direction. Very nice it was too. May try the above trip again soon though.

05 Oct 2007
The River Lea and River Lee Navigation are owned and operated by British Waterways. This leaflet confirms their ownership and details the licence required for unpowered craft. If you are a member of the British Canoe Union your membership will cover the use of this waterway. If you are harassed or prevented from exercising your legal right to navigation please report the details to British Waterways at British Waterways,1 Sheldon Square, Paddington Central, London, Postcode: W2 6TT, Telephone: 020 7985 7200, Fax: 020 7985 7201, Email:


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