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Old Bedford River

Opened in 1637, one of the earliest navigations in Britain is the Old Bedford River, which formed part of an attractive cruising ring until Welches Dam Lock was blocked off in 2006.

Things to do nearby

Campaign cruise at Welches Dam on the Old Bedford River.

Welches Dam Lock

Closure of Welches Dam Lock in 2006 has made navigation of the river difficult and sometimes impossible to access. The Old Bedford River is a statutory navigation controlled and managed by the Environment Agency, and IWA’s Peterborough Branch has been campaigning to reopen this historic waterway route.

Welches Dam is one of the more challenging locations for IWA’s Silver Propeller Award and it will appeal to experienced boaters with a pioneering spirit, an ability to reverse and a willingness to contend with mud, weed and bumps.

The two most likely routes to the Old Bedford are from Denver lock (part of the River Great Ouse managed by EA) or from Salter’s Lode lock (part of the Middle Level Navigations managed by the Middle Level Commissioners).

Waterway notes

Maximum Boat sizes

A campaign cruise organised by IWA Peterborough Branch in 2017 confirmed that it is possible for boats up to 50 ft long to enter the Old Bedford from the tidal sluice at Salter’s Lode, travel up to Welches Dam lock, turn there and leave by the same route. Longer boats may not be able to gain access due to the tight bend in the narrow tidal channel below Old Bedford Sluice.

Navigation authority

Environment Agency

Useful info

  • Any boater wishing to use the Old Bedford is advised to notify the Environment Agency with the proposed dates. It’s also a good idea to check tides times with the Middle Level lock keeper before you notify the Environment Agency (EA).
  • Both Denver lock and Salter’s Lode lock are operated by lock keepers who supervise all lockings.  Lockings should be booked in advance.
  • Locking times vary each day as the waters between Denver and Salter’s Lode (the normal crossing) and into the Old Bedford are tidal. Advance information about locking times is available from Denver lock (tel 01366 382340) and Salter’s Lode Lock (tel 01366 382292).
  • Contacting EA to let them know that you wish to navigation the Old Bedford River can be done by emailing: Fay Summers, Waterways Support Officer AND Rachel Rudd, Waterways Support Officer AND copying to Paul Separovic, Waterways Manager

Local activities