Canoe Days Out

Hertfordshire - River Stort - Bishop`s Stortford to The Watermill, Harlow

This page was submitted by Colin Southward (E-mail this submitter)
How to get there - Bishop`s Stortford is 3 miles west of junction 8/8A of the M11.

For those with SatNav the postcode is CM23 3AH.

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

Suggested Launch Site - The suggested launch site is from Sainsbury`s car park in Waterside which is adjacent to where the A1250 bridges the River Stort in the very centre of Bishop`s Stortford. As this is a one way trip you can either leave a second car at Harlow or catch a train back to the start.(See map)

General Description - This is a nice trip of about 12 miles. Start by parking in Sainsbury's car park in the centre of Bishops' Stortford, free on sundays and Bank holidays. Leave the car here. There are nine locks to negotiate, but there are some interesting alternatives. The town is soon left behind and the first lock is reached, home of the local canoe club. There is not a lot of traffic on the canal and it feels very small and intimate. Some of the portages involve crossing roads as the canal goes under some small bridges.

As you approach the third lock, which is an easy portage, you can take a right and lift over the fence and take the weir on the side, this cannot be run, but is more fun. We did this in August and you can see the growth of hyacinths and the limbo dance you need to get under the bridge. We came to a dead stop in the growth, but forced a passage between the bank and the weeds. There was some nice clear water after this. After this, and before you reach the next lock (number4) take the left hand turn into the small marina. At the end of the marina, short portage right onto what was the original river.

Be prepared for some hard work through the reeds, though if you had stayed on the canal, you would have missed the fun. It took us nearly 30 minutes to get through the reeds. After this you come to the start of Sawbridgeworth. After the first lock and past the road bridge, there is a large old factory with a cafe inside if you need refreshments. The next lock takes you out of Sawbridgeworth. you have to cross the road here, so be careful.

You now approach Harlow. At the first lock, you can get out and have more refreshments at the large pub and catch the train back for the car, or one more lock to go, three km and you can finish further down stream next to the main railway station and return for your car from here. There is a big pub here, The Watermill, and you can lift out straight into the carpark. (See map of Station)

Comments on this trip

Keith Day
28 Jan 2012
British Waterways is the navigation authority for the River Stort Navigation from the River Lee (Lea) to the navigation terminus at Bishops Stortford. As such you will need a British Waterway licence (You can contact their customer Service department by phone on 01923 201120). If you are a Canoe England member your membership fee will include a licence to paddle all Environment Agency and British Waterways rivers and canals plus many others. You can find out about it here. Upstream of the navigation the situation is less clear. Whist there is no licence requirement as such there may be those who would dispute your right to paddle at all.

Emma Brown
23 Jan 2012
What licence do you need to paddle the River Stort

Peter Nash
20 Dec 2011
Fancy a paddle on the Stort or Lea but do not have all the equipment to invite your friends? We are now providing boats for trips on the Stort and Lea at We now have a Shops and flats on the carpark but can now park at the far end of the station car park. Access river by footbridge (a little bit technical)

Keith Day
23 Sep 2010
I understand that the car park at the start is no longer there. If you are unable to find alternative parking at Bishops Stortford I understand an even better start is two miles downstream at Twyford Lock. (A nearby postcode is CM22 7PA.) There is a public car park and an easy launch immediately downstream of the lock.

David Wilson
05 Feb 2007
We found some of the portages overgrown in late summer. Take a stick to knock down the nettles?


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