How to get there - From the A421 roundabout on the east of Bedford take Standard Way into Priory Business Park. Go straight over the roundabout and turn left into a road leading to a riverside car park.
For those with SatNav a nearby postcode is MK44 3RZ.
You will need to leave a car at Great Barford (see End Map) where there is roadside parking. Alternatively you can ask at the Anchor pub where you are likely to have a drink at the end of your trip.
For those with SatNav the postcode is MK44 3LF.
Get a map with driving directions to start or end (enter the postcode of your starting point at A)
Suggested Launch Site - From the car park portage across the footbridge and launch from the platform just downstream of the lock.
Description - A nice trip for a short afternoon, though two cars are necessay for the start and finish. It takes about three hours including the stop at the Danish Camp.
Starting at Cardington Lock, then paddling downstream. not much to see, but Priory Park and the Finger lakes are up to your left. Very quickly you come to the old Bedford to Sandy railway bridge, now a national cycle route and worth doing on another day. On the left there are several small side channels worth a short exploration. You can see the one we went up, which unfortunately came to a dead end, but worth doing all the same.
Castle Mill lock is next and demands a portage on the right (you can see the weir), after which you pass under the new road and the aptly named Castle Mill Viaduct. The river now is hidden from the road and becomes more interesting with lots of small bends and even in the summer, a little current. At one point you pass some fabulous weekend retreats, as you can see. The river is little used by boat traffic and we only saw three moving boats on the Sunday we descended the river.
After the holiday home and just before Willington lock, there is the Danish Camp, for a welcome stop, especially on a hot day. You can also look back down on the river from the balcony. The lock at Willington is next and if there is enough water, it is easily run in both kayaks and Canadian canoes, though you can see one of my group took it a bit to far and ended up having a little swim!
After rescuing the canoe we paddled on down stream to where you can see the beginnings of an old lock on your right. This is easily run in a canoe and a welcome diversion from the main river. Shortly after this, you can see the bridge at Barford, with the new additions built on top of the original bridge. It is now a Grade 1 listed ancient monument and still used by traffic today. If you leave the river on the left there is welcome pub for a final bit of refreshment.
[In the right conditions aand with the right experience this trip includes weirs which you may be able to shoot. If you are not certain of the conditions and your abilities the only sensible thing to do is portage the weirs and wait until you have had appropriate training or are under the supervision of a suitable specialist].
Comments on this trip
Jennie Small 28 Apr 2013
The entry point for paddlers has now changed. It is not at the same landing point as for river boats, which will be far too high for paddlers. You need to go over the little bridge at the lock and the portage point is now just down the little tributary on the right as you go over the bridge. It's hidden but it is there! It's to aid those portaging having come from Bedford.
Lynne 24 Aug 2012
Paddled from Cardington Lock to Danish Camp and back in early August 2012 first trip in a while, beautiful journey and refreshments at Danish Camp very welcome! Saw kingfishers and heron, amazing dragon flies and tiny fluffy moorhen chicks. Found the current more than expected on return, and getting in and out at Cardington slightly more difficult than anticipated, so a bit achy in the evening, but a great trip.
Alan 18 Apr 2011
Went here on the weekend, just to the first lock and back again.That took us just over 2 hours in our inflatable canoe at a slow pace. Not much current at all so was just as easy coming back.Easy free parking, not far to carry gear, clearly marked, easy entry point, directly in front of you as you cross the bridge.If you get out at the first lock, go past the metal platform as its too high to get out, lower wooden one hidden just behind.Saw mink, herons, swans, moorhens, coots lots of ducks.
Dave Morris 22 Jun 2010
Went on this route today, lovely 26 degrees centigrade. Only went as far as the first lock, (Castle Mill). As an inexperienced Kayaker this was enough for me, I still struggle going in a straight line! Easy entry into the river from Cardington Lock loads of wildlife and a very quiet stretch of river. Thanks for this site and info. Travelled from North London and it was well worth it.