The Ouse, paddling and me do work….
Having moved back to Bedford when I was pregnant with my first child I quickly found the benefits of living so close to the Embankment, as it went from walking a crying baby to soothe with the sound of the weir, to bike rides along the river I had never thought to actually get on the river until Lockdown.
The first time was courtesy of a friend who had just bought inflatable kayaks to keep her children entertained. On a balmy summer’s evening we met at the back of the Longholme and took to the water heading east along the Ouse. We were a group of 3 kayaks and a SUP, and it can only be described as idyllic. Yes, I had not had moments away from my children in weeks which added to the idyll but paddling along the water under the boughs of the trees, spotting the Heron I felt transported to a different place. On the two-hour trip we got as far as The Barns – even with a Gin in a can stop on the water – and felt very much like we were Toad, Batty, Mole and Badger. It felt quite different to see such familiar land from a swan’s view and whilst naturally uncoordinated I wondered how I’d fare, but it was surprisingly easy to find a pace.
Last week I went out again with Canoe Trail. Hiring 2 boats (1 adult and 2 children per boat) for the day, we embarked at 9.30am and were briefed to return at 2.30pm. Paddling with 2 children was slightly harder and in my vessel we did brush with branches a few times…but the children loved it. Docking at Cardington Weir (which took about 45 minutes from the back of the Longholme) we stopped for a snack and a swim, before continuing over the water (you need to lift the boats at Cardington Weir and over to the smaller waterway so you can bypass the lock).
It gave us all some much-needed calm and inspired the children to go fishing with ‘Grandad’ the following day. Having never felt the river was accessible for me, I’ll definitely be making time for it from now on.