Canoe Days Out

Norfolk - The Little Ouse - Thetford to Brandon

This page was submitted by Alan & Jean
How to get there - Thetford is mid-way between Cambridge and Norwich on the A11. Turn off the bypass at the Brandon Road roundabout into Thetford on the A134. Go ahead at the main traffic lights, then take the first left into Bridge Street. Turn right immediately before the iron bridge and park in the free car park.

For those with SatNav a nearby postcode is IP24 3AQ.

Since this is a one way trip you will either need to leave a car at Brandon (For thos with SatNav a nearby postcode is IP27 0AY) or make alternative arrangements. Returning by train is an option.

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

Suggested Launch Site - There is a slipway onto the water at the far end of the bus station, facing the law court.

General Description - Distance about 8.5 miles, downstream. There are two weirs, both of which can be portaged around on the right hand river bank. The route passes a picnic site at Santon Downham where there are public toilets and a bridge that featured in "Dad's Army", and finishes in Brandon. There is a slipway on the R immediately upstream of the main road bridge, and a jetty immediately downstream from it on the right belonging to a friendly restaurant. Also a nice micro-brewery on the left side of the road towards Brandon within a couple of hundred yards of the bridge.

The railway station is close by to return to Thetford to pick up your car to recover boats. Trains run at approximately hourly intervals and current off peak cost is about 3.10.

Comments on this trip

06 May 2018
Beautiful paddle from Thetford to Brandon May 2018. 2ximpassible trees down nr Thetford Power Station, but stretch from Santon Downham to Brandon now clear unlike last year.

Lazy Paddler
15 Sep 2017
Paddled from Great Barford to Thetford.Brandon to Thetford, quite an effort.Lots of trees down and heavily weeded, although someone has cut access through some of the downed trees. Thank you.A very beautiful landscape and worth the effort.Wanted to get up the Black Bourne to Honington but advised it was impassable so out by the Travel lodge and collection. A wonderful adventure

Paul and Kim
11 Jun 2017
We paddled from Santon Downham to Brandon, the settings and the scenery where idyllic with wildlife and birds.The only down side is the amount of fallen trees along the route, most of these where passable by squeezing under or going around except for one where you have to get out, there is no other way but to attempt to get out and crawl up the bank as you try to drag your kayak and getting back in is also a pain.!!Also with all the fallen trees they are collecting all the rubbish and debris that goes down stream making a paddle through sometimes quite an effort.Apart from that a good five hours paddle and 7 miles done.

11 Jun 2017

11 Jun 2017

30 May 2017
We did it with a 2y1/2 boy and wife on 27 May 2017 on a canoe. I J stroked alone for 90% of it while my wife was entertaining our son, a bit tiring but OK.I found it picturesque with lot of light and surprisingly grassy/weedy edges for a forest. There were some good places with gravel and very rarely sand to rest and go in the water.The second weir was a bit of a pain for the canoe as it was all concrete with a big jetty which is not ideal to slide the vessel without scratching the hull...But the main issue I encountered was on one of the 10 trees that were across the river. For all of them we were able to go below or aside but half way through the journey one of them had its only passage packed with 2 feet of algae over the surface level and I had as only solution to dig it all otherwise the toddler crew would have tested the nettles! All in all if you are a bit of a soft nature warrior then I greatly recommend!

Quentin SF
14 Aug 2016
This is a lovely stretch of river. Having read comments about fallen trees, we put in at Brandon and paddled upstream to the bridge at Santon Downham, then turned round and went back, so not sure about the current state of fallen trees higher up.We encountered two on our stretch, which almost caused us to turn around earlier, but they both proved to be passable in our twoman inflatable with a bit of effort!(See https// and https// )Many thanks for the recommendation we'll come back and try the full stretch soon!

Martin G
19 Jul 2016
Tried this from Thetford to St Helens today. Sadly the river is now impassable due to fallen trees about 800 yrds after the second weir out of Thetford. Had to turn back and finish at our start point, The environment agency has a lot of work to do here.

Nick Dennis
13 May 2016
I have done a there and back from Brandon but the flow and the weeds make it slightly more difficult. The Bus Station in Thetford is currently being redeveloped so access in the centre of Thetford is currently restricted. We have done it as a one way trip before getting out at Brandon and then leaving one member looking after the gear at the nearby pub whilst the other gets the train back to Thetford to collect the car. A 4 hour river trip, 8 minutes back on the train then 15 minutes back in the car. If you get your timing correct it all works well.

Keith Day
30 Mar 2016
There is no reason why you can't paddle back upriver it's just that it was submitted as a one way trip.

james lee
10 Aug 2015
Why is this a one way trip, why can't you paddle back the way you came

16 Jun 2015
Paddled from 2Mile Bottom Scout camp to Thetford and back today. Lots of waterfowl including several swans swimming with their signets, and 3 blue herons. Several sections, especially near power plant, were clogged with weeds across the entire width of the river. Between Abbots Heath Weir and the A11 there were no weeds at all. The river needs to be cleaned or it will become unusable.

05 Apr 2015
Paddled today. Clear all the way through from Thetford to Brandon although two tree obstacles that are easily passible. 2 kingfishers and some mandarin ducks seen, as well as numerous swans, mallard and rooks. Woodpeckers heard hammering at the scout camp at Santon.The Wissey and Nar Kayak Association

13 Jul 2014
a fallen tree currently blocks the river between brandon and santon downham

30 May 2014
Planning to stay at the campsite at Santon Downham in June 14 and do a couple of return day trips ie SantonThetfordSanton and SantonBrandonSanton. Is each one a fairly straightforward day trip

Marky B
05 May 2014
Weed is still there, possible to push through but pretty chocker in places. Majority of river is okay just isolated patches which are difficult.

Paul Fi
20 Jun 2013
We did Brandon to Santon Downham and back. Absolutely gorgeous and very quiet, perfect, but sections of the river are clogged with watercrowfoot, making it very hard work to push through in places. A local told us there had been a cutting machine on the river clearing it, so maybe the problem is being sorted.

Rob and Sue
02 Sep 2011
An excellent paddle. At the first weir there is a slipway on the left steps down so you can easily slide your canoe down. Watch out for a series of submerged posts coming out from the right bank after Santon House. Lovely wildlife. When you take your canoe out at Brandon you can safely leave it while you sit at the pub on the other side of the road and wait for your partner to return with your car.

23 Aug 2011
14 of us did this paddle in our kayaks this weekend and had a fantastic time...we never had to get out of our paddles to walk, perfect place to get in at thetford bus station and get out at back of brandon as suggested.


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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