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Welches Dam Lock or Welney

Accessible to all craft kept on the connected inland waterways

Silver Propeller Challenge



Visit Welches Dam Lock on the Old Bedford River by boat or canoe.

It has been chosen as a Silver Propeller Location to support the ongoing IWA campaign to re-open navigation through Welches Dam to Horseway Lock. A photo of your boat at Welches Dam will be the best proof of your visit, but Welney will be acceptable especially if the sluice gate is shut.

Complete our challenge by visiting 20 locations from our list, you will receive our exclusive plaque and goody bag.

History of the Old Bedford River

The Old Bedford River is part of the Middle Level network of waterways but predates much of the network. It was named after the fourth Earl of Bedford who instigated the works in conjunction with the local Commission of Sewers in 1630. Moreover, the channel diverts the waters of the Great Ouse towards the sea in a straight line rather than the meandering original line that stops flooding the surrounding low lying land. It took six years to dig by hand. Later on, constructing the New Bedford River took place 20 years later in 1650. It achieved fame in the 19th century when it was used in an attempt to prove that the world was flat, which lead to a famous wager in 1870.


Welches Dam is a historic lock constructed to allow navigation by Fens Lighters, which were 46ft by 11ft wide. Previously, before the restoration of Well Creek, the only route through the Middle Level to Denver Sluice was through Welches Dam. Meanwhile, the entrance was piled across in 2006 by the Environment Agency who are responsible for this waterway, making the lock un-navigable. Therefore, the sole means of access is from the river just upstream from Salters Lode. However, there is a pair of gates and a guillotine gate, which are not far enough apart to make a useable lock. Access is thus only possible during the short time when the tide makes a level and needs to be arranged in advance with the EA.

Photo: Campaign Cruise at Welches Dam Lock on the Old Bedford River by Mike Daines.

Old Bedford River Notes

Old Bedford River Dimensions

The maximum boat size that can navigate the canal is:-

  • Length – 62′ 0″ (18.9 m)
  • Beam – 14′ 3″ (4.34 m)xxxx
  • Height – 7′ 9″ (2.38 m)
  • Draught – 3′ 9″ (1.14 m)

Nearby Silver Propeller Locations

Canoeing & Boat Hire

Go by canoe on the Old Bedford River with an EA licence or British Canoeing membership.

Challenge Location

Welches Dam Lock or Welney

Access only available via Old Bedford Sluice, needs to be arranged in advance with EA.

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