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Thread: Great Ouse, not so slow

  1. #1

    Default Great Ouse, not so slow

    I had a solo paddle down the Great Ouse from Great Barford to St Neots yesterday, a trip of about 8 and a half miles. This is a river I always believed to be the slowest in England, but yesterday despite it looking tranquil it was still high and brown from recent rains and was moving along at quite a lick. A paddle I reckon to take a leisurely 3 to 4 hours to do could have been done in two hours without any sweat!

    I have some photos of the trip on Flickr

    Downstream from Great Barford was very quiet with little wildlife although I did get seen off the river for an enforced portage by a very aggressive male swan at one point. Despite me reassuring him that I meant no harm there was no way he was letting me past his nesting partner without a fight !

    The portage and snack stop at Roxton weir near the confluence with the River Ivel came up very quickly.

    After that it was past the old lifeboat, now a home for someone, and downstream past Tempsford A1 road bridge, and on towards Little Barford.

    In this stretch I saw two pairs of red kites, a kingfisher and several types of geese plus some grebes.

    Aproaching Wyboston Lakes there seemed to be a hot spot for cormorants, and I saw three green woodpeckers in the space of 15 minutes.

    I stretched my legs at the edge of Wyboston Lakes golf course, where the bank was extremely soft wet and muddy.

    A short paddle brought me to Eaton Socon lock and the trickiest exit for a short portage, (over on the left in the picture, up the brick mooring edge) and then a one-handed dance with the canoe and the sprung gate across the path by the lock before getting back on the water.

    Downstream towards St Neots the trees were looking particularly fine.

    Shortly, the footbridge at the start of the St Neots Riverside Park came into view.

    As I arrived next to the park near the road bridge crossing the river at St Neots,I had another "discussion" with a male swan who eventually thought he had made his point and swam off downstream allowing me to get to my exit point.

    As I pulled the boat out I was rewarded with the sight of a procession of younger swans giving me a "swim past".

    Not a bad day at all.

    I will do this trip again soon, and also the longer trip from Bedord to St Neots.
    If anyone out there is interested in making it a SotP meet let me know.
    Last edited by UsedtoPaddle; 18th-April-2018 at 10:38 AM.
    ........... But where are the open boaters in the East of England ?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    south cumbria


    I am not seeing the photos, just a message from photobucket "3rd Party Hosting has been temporarily disabled"

  3. #3


    Cursed photobucket.
    I'm contemplating a 2 or maybe 3 day paddle on the great Ouse. Where would you recommend launching to maximise river flow but minimise fighting through intense jungle? In other words what is the highest practical entry point?
    I'm always interested in swan behaviour and the extent to which on some rivers they are very aggressive and others extremely nervous. Sounds like the great Ouse has the aggressive type.

  4. #4


    My apologies. I haven't used Photobucket before, and I don't think I will again !
    I have added the photos back in.
    ........... But where are the open boaters in the East of England ?

  5. #5


    Not sure what the highest realistic point on the great Ouse is. I know it will be way way above Bedford. I have paddled the Ouse from Bromham to the Wash and back on a canoe camping trip in days long gone by. If you want suggestions for a couple of sections I'd go for :
    1/ Bedford has lots of easy access, and the paddle from Bedford to St Neots makes for a nice day paddle, and there is a campsite (or B&Bs / Pubs etc ) at St Neots.
    2/ Then St Neots down to Godmanchester or St Ives is a pleasant day out.

    Alternatively search the Forum, there are a few trip good reports on here.

    As for the swans, almost all of them were fine, but a couple of males were (naturally) very aggressive at this time of year in protecting their nesting mates. Later on they will calm down again.
    Even though I wasn't anywhere near the nest sites they both came at me wings up and hissing ready for a fight. I don't like to disturb them so if they won't calm down by me talking to them
    and steering a wide berth then I tend towards taking a portage as I don't want to have to fend them off. Only one of them came at me "running" across the water wanting to hit me; so I only had one detour on the bank. Don't let the swans put you off a pleasant quiet paddle.

    I have been on the end of a full blown physical attack (on the River Lea) and it's not something I want to experience again. At the time I was teaching an inexperienced group and I couldn't get them off the water quickly enough to avoid a particularly aggressive male who came at us from about 600 yards away, so had to do the right thing and let him get at me first. The best part was when I had capsized and he was jumping up and down on the hull of the boat trying to get at me ! The Great Ouse swans are docile by comparison.
    Last edited by UsedtoPaddle; 17th-April-2018 at 02:51 PM.
    ........... But where are the open boaters in the East of England ?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2015


    Haven’t met a swan that angry so far fortunately!

    Unless you are prepared to pay Photobucket, they won’t allow you to share your pictures. Many have flipped over to Flickr, which works in the same way but without the financial penalty.
    "I'd far rather be happy than right any day"..........Slartibartfast

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Shefford, Central Bedfordshire


    Have you tried Google pictures ... Photo... what ever it's called. Pretty easy to use
    Simms ..

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Kettering Northamptonshire


    I’m sure I could see photos when I looked the other day?
    Google photos works well for me too.
    Ive paddled the Great Ouse from Tyringham and hope to extend that to/from Milton Keynes and Newport Parnell soon.
    Most recent blog here
    A ship should not ride on a single anchor, nor life on a single hope - Epictetus

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