On Sunday 9th of May five Nomads led by Martyn met in the car park opposite Tesco in Bedford to paddle the not very inviting sounding Great Ouse. It was warm but not very sunny as we put in to a beautiful little pond on a side branch of the river and headed down a narrow channel to the join the main river. The first half of the trip was upstream on the main channel to the centre of Bedford, but the flow was hardly noticeable as we paddled through bucolic countryside towards Cardington lock.
Before the lock we took a detour up a channel on the right to the bottom of Cardington white water course, which looked dry and forlorn as we imagined what it would look like with water in. Returning to the main river we paddled the short distance to the lock for our portage and wandered over to the bridge to look at the fast flowing weir outflow, which we’d missed on our way up as it was on another side channel. After David’s conversation with a greyhound owner whose dog had apparently been a very successful racer in Ireland we seal launched from the high bank to continue toward Bedford past two wild swimmers starting off in the same direction, apprehensive about the water temperature despite their full body wetsuits.
An open stretch followed past a rural marina on the right till we sighted the famous silver Bedford pyramid – likely a Blockbuster video warehouse according to Watford boy Simon – which indicated the entrance to Bedford and the town’s park. Another half a mile brought us to a couple of weirs and a very tame looking slalom course with not much flow where we decided to stop for lunch. A local slalom C1 paddler and her son were meandering gently round the slalom course and she informed us that normally pre-covid she’d be able to open the sluices and increase the flow, but for the moment for reasons of non-contact this wasn’t allowed. A pleasant lunch ensued, despite it clouding over a bit as we ate, and we decided on the way back to shoot the not very wet stepped weir above the slalom course, which proved particularly unexciting and a bit of a scrape. Four of us played around on the slalom course for a few minutes while David put back in, before we paddled back downstream through and out of the park to seek the concealed entrance leading to the ‘new cut’, our fast track back to the start.
Martyn gave us a quick safety briefing about the fallen tree before we set off down the fast flowing new cut, which as it turned out proved unnecessary because in the 3 weeks since scouting the trip a kind soul had removed it for us. The new cut was definitely the action part of the trip as we were carried by a probably 10mph current avoiding branches and a few low trees as we went. It took us much less time than the way out to arrive back at the main channel just below Cardington lock again with only a quarter of a mile back to our cars.
Thanks to Martyn for suggesting and leading the trip and to everyone for their good company.
Matt, trips officer