Canoe Days Out

Bedfordshire - River Ouse - Harrold to Radwell

This page was submitted by Colin Southward (E-mail this submitter)
How to get there - Harrold is 10 miles North West of Bedford. Take the A 428 north-west from Bedford. At Turvey turn right onto carlton Road and then at the crossroads at Chelington turn left. The launch site is at the bridge as you enter Harrold.

For those with SatNav a nearby postcode is MK43 7DS.

As this is a one way trip you will need to leave a second car at Radwell just before the bridge, on the left. For those with SatNav a nearby postcode is MK43 7HT.

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

Suggested Launch Site - The launch site is at the bridge as you enter Harrold. As this is a one way trip you will need to leave a second car at Radwell just before the bridge, on the left. Getting in at Harold is easy. There is an off-road car park by the bridge and next to the Country Park. Walk through the trees to the river and launch here.

General Description - This trip is best done outside the fishing season and in particular there is a local agreement involving the BCU, local canoe clubs, the fishing clubs and more importantly the Environment Agency that this water will not be paddled in the period between the start of May and the start of the fishing season (June 16th). This is essential in order to protect the fish spawning grounds and the Environment Agency will therefore be enforcing this agreement rigorously.

There is quite a swift current here. We saw kingfishers, lots of swans, various reed warblers, fish and lots of dragonflies, though it was quite a hot day. The water is very clear if not in flood. It takes about an hour at an easy pace to reach Felmersham. No portages. Idyllic.

Have a rest at Felmersham. There is a good map of the river and a description of the area. The five arched bridge was built in 1818 and can be covered during flood times. After this the river meanders on. You go underneath the main Midlands railway bridge from St. Pancras. An impressive structure about 60ft above the river. Interestingly, near the end you go under the railway again, but at this point it is only 15ft above the river.

The only weir on this journey is shortly after the bridge. Get out on the RIGHT and portage round the weir, which is a near vertical drop of about 5ft. The river now goes round in a great loop and you almost head back on yourself before turning south. You go underneath the railway again and the end is quickly upon you. Either get out before the bridge on the left, or use the 2nd left arch and immediately get out on the left. This bridge was built in 1766 and has seven arches with a raised footwalk to it on the flood plain side.

From Felmersham to Radwell is about one hour, giving a total time of 2-3 hours depending on your pace.

If you require further advise on the access situation on this part of the river email Brian Stanbridge, BCU River Advisor - Great Ouse - Olney to Bedford.

Comments on this trip

Nick Carla
18 Jun 2021
We paddled this route 18/06/2021. The river was high after extremely heavy rainfall. We saw several herons, a buzzard, glimpsed a kingfisher and heard a cuckoo. We portaged the weir through thick nettles. Several fallen trees required us squeezing under them. A good day.

Nick Jenny
01 May 2021
We paddled this route in kayaks on 30/04/2021. Weather was bright and warm. There was plenty of water in the river. We saw Red Kites, Buzzards, Herons, Woodpeckers and Kingfishers. The river was partially blocked in several places by fallen trees but it was possible to squeeze or push through the branches. At Sharnbrook Weir we exited on the right and walked over the bridge. There were no locked gates previously reported on here. A very good couple of couples paddling.

24 Dec 2020
Paddled the stretch from Felmersham to Radwell this summer. The easiest way past Sharnbrook Weir is to get out on the LEFT bank going donwstream, not the right. One of our party scrambled up the bank with a rope then it was a quick job to haul each boat up into the large car park. Easy put in on the other side. There are lots of stingers on the bank at some times of the year though.

03 Jul 2020
Hi, I was one of those fisherman. The landowner charges thousands of pounds for fishing on this section of the river and does not want or allow canoeing. Hence the locked gate and fence you ignored and then trespassed on his land. There is no agreement with the EA, this is totally inaccurate and in fact, they are not at liberty to make such an agreement unless they are the land/riparian owner.

Nick Deb
23 Jun 2020
Hi paddled this route today, not sure we would get the whole way as post quite old. No issues Harrold bridge through to Felmersham quite a lot of reeds and some narrow parts bit easily navigable and we are beginners. Past Felmersham bridge and into the wooded section water quite low and had to get out as got caught on the rocks waded a few yard with Kayak and all ok. Towards Sharnbrook there are some obstacles to be negotiated, branches and quite thick overgrowth in places. The portage at the weir an issue due to locked gate but we climbed over and hoisted kayak across and there is a path so reentered down a steepish bank just after the weir warning sign on the right bank without too much difficulty. Easy paddling after that again apart from a couple of branches all the way to Radwell bridge where we exited on the left as described. Took us 3 hours but we were not working that hard so could easily be done quicker. Thanks for blog we thought on the whole an excellent stretch of the Great Ouse and empty apart from a couple of Fishermen.

23 Jun 2020

Joanna Bright
06 May 2018
I canoe from Felmersham to Odell (good for upstream going, downstream coming back). River currently blocked by fallen tree just upsteam from Felmersham. Tricky to negotiate when river high, will be very difficult as river dries.) Who do i contact to report this. Also, do i need a licence to canoe this stretch and also downstream from felmersham to Sharnbrook Mill

Radwell Sharnbrook below is wrong
19 Sep 2016
The EA have no issue with canoes using this stretch. It is the Landowner!

Radwell and Sharnbrook
24 Aug 2016
Folks, please be aware that neither the Riparian owner or the EA allow canoeing through Radwell and Sharnbrook. Please avoid.

Jamie Hunt
16 Aug 2016
A friend and I did Harrold to Sharmbrook on 15th August 2016. What a fantastic journey. The river started shallow a developed into a wide channel then suddenly you had to negotiate a fallen tree. At times the channel was so shallow we had to carry our canoes only to be confronted by a landowner telling us this was a private part of the river as he had had problems with theft and vandalism. We were sympathetic and asked if we could carry on; and we did! Loved the journey. There are a lot of things to consider before making such a trip , but worth every minute!

Pam Groom
09 Jul 2016
Did this route today and was halted at Sharnbrook weir as Environment Agency have erected signs stating no canoe access as it's private land. We were able to get out up the bank and picked up at carpark at Sharnbrook theatre just on the other side of the river across footbridge. The old access point is now only a fishing let. It's a lovely route from Harrold, though trees have fallen making interesting paddling! Couple of tiny rapids to navigate today too!

Nick Carlisle and John Buckee
04 Apr 2014
Did the trip on 4th April 2014. Very mild weather. Plenty of water in the river. Saw lots of herons, swans and several distance glimpses of kingfishers. Walked around the weir at Sharnbrook. Good day.

Nick and Bethany Carlisle
28 May 2013
Did this trip on 28th May 2013. Very quiet stretch of river. We heard a cuckoo and saw a mink. Plenty of water in the river which was moving at a comfortable and easy pace.


Colin`s Canoeing Page
Canoe Camping Club

Advise me of new trips

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