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Welches Dam Lock or Welney, Old Bedford River

Accessible to all craft kept on the connected inland waterways

Silver Propeller Challenge


Chatteris, Cambridgeshire

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 (part way along the Old Bedford River) will be acceptable especially if the sluice gate at Welney is shut and not passable.

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

About the Old Bedford River and Welches Dam

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.  The channel diverts the waters of the Great Ouse towards the sea in a straight line rather than the meandering original line, and this is intended to prevent flooding the surrounding low lying land.  It took six years to dig by hand.  Construction of 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.  Prior to the restoration of Well Creek, the only route through the Middle Level to Denver Sluice was through Welches Dam and along the Old Bedford River.  The entrance to the lock was piled across in 2006 by the Environment Agency who are responsible for this waterway, making the lock un-navigable.  The sole means of access to the Old Bedford River is from just upstream from Salters Lode.  However, this entrance has a pair of gates and a guillotine gate, which are not far enough apart to make a useable lock for longer vessels.  Access for longer boats is thus only possible during the short time when the tide makes a level and needs to be arranged in advance with the Environment Agency.

[The photo shows an IWA Campaign Cruise at Welches Dam Lock on the Old Bedford River  –  by Mike Daines]

Notes for visitors


Postcode: PE15 0NF

What3words /// clinked.mainland.butterfly

Boat Dimensions

The maximum boat size that can navigate the Old Bedford River is:-

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

Canoeing, Trip Boats and Boat Hire

Canoeing is encouraged on the River Medway with an Environment Agency licence or British Canoeing membership.

There are no trip boats or boats for hire in the vicinity.

Challenge Location

Welches Dam Lock

Old Bedford River

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