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Cardington White Water Course

Cardington is probably the UK’s most beginner-friendly WW canoeing course and has been the inspirational start to many top paddlers’ sporting journeys since it opened in 1982.

Expand Overview & Location

Overview & Location

Overview

Located on the River Great Ouse just outside of Bedford, the course is 120m long and has movable boulders such that users can set up different course configurations.

The course is available for use by canoeing groups and is also the venue for canoe slalom events held by Bedford’s Viking Kayak Club and hosts the annual Inter Clubs slalom event. The course is also used as training venue by local Fire & Rescue.

Location

The course is situated at the south east of Bedford’s Priory Country Park and is accessed via Stannard Way (part of Priory Business Park) which is just off Bedford’s A421 southern bypass. Follow Stannard Way until you see a left turn with a brown sign to Priory Country Park.

The course is just 2.5 km downstream from Bedford town centre and about 4km from Bedford’s Viking Kayak Club. If you wish you can tour on the River Great Ouse, one of the cleanest low level rivers in the UK, through the Bedfordshire countryside and there are lovely trips both upstream and down. 

Click here for the location on google maps.

OS Grid Reference TL076487

Nearby Postcode MK44 3RZ

Expand Usage

Usage

The Cardington course is available for use by canoeing groups and the artificial boulders can be arranged by the user group to their designs. It is used by recreational groups (clubs, county associations, scouts etc), for slalom competitions run by Bedford’s Viking kayak club and for fire & rescue training. For bookings, please contact cardington@britishcanoeing.org.uk

It's a 120m long concrete channel, 9m wide with movable boulders, similar to those at Lee Valley Olympic Course, which can be moved to make different river patterns. It offers safe moving water for paddlers at any level, and it's a good choice for new paddlers. It seems to give an advantage to smaller competitors! The maximum drop is 1.7 meters, but it’s enough for a good white water training facility and you can warm up on the main river.

If you wish you can tour on the River Great Ouse, one of the cleanest low level rivers in the UK, through the Bedfordshire countryside. The course is located just 2.5 km downstream from Bedford town centre and about 4km from Bedford’s Viking Kayak Club. 

The course is situated within Priory Country Park which is a beautiful location teeming with wild life - deer, otters, foxes and many different bird species. Camping and caravanning are available on site by arrangement, and there is drinking water and an Elsan disposal point in the car park. Flush toilets (not very reliable) are available in the car parks, and arrangements can be made to hire portable toilets.
The course also holds two national ranking canoe slalom competitions per year at up to Division 2 level, and is the host to the annual Inter Clubs Final, which pits teams from all the top canoe slalom clubs against each other for an overall trophy. Running all weekend with camping overnight, the Inter Clubs is the largest canoe slalom event in the UK (by number of participants), a great social event for the sport and one of the highlights of the UK slalom calendar.

If you wish you can tour on the River Great Ouse, one of the cleanest low level rivers in the UK, through the Bedfordshire countryside and there are lovely trips both upstream and down. 

Expand History

History

Cardington was the first artificial white water canoe slalom course in the UK when it was completed in July 1982, having been first discussed in 1972 as a joint initiative between local paddlers, councils and the water authority.

Located adjacent to Cardington sluice on the River Great Ouse, within the grounds of Priory Country Park and approximately 2.5 km downstream from Bedford, the course has a dual role as both a flood control structure and a white water course for canoe slalom training and events.

The course cost £273,000 and was funded by a consortium of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Anglian Water (now the Environment Agency), the Sports Council (now UK Sport) and local councils and was seen as an excellent example of the relatively low cost adaptation of a necessary structure to provide a facility of national significance.

The structure consists of an automatically controlled drop-leaf control sluice, at the head of a 9 metre wide concrete-lined channel which connects the upper reach of the river to the lower. The channel is 120 m long with a bed slope of 1:100. To create the required water flow pattern, artificial boulders (like Lego bricks) are secured to the base of the channel. The maximum head is 1.7 m with a maximum water capacity of 15 cubic metres per second.

Originally seen primarily as a training venue, the course also holds two national ranking canoe slalom competitions per year at up to Division 2 level, and is the host every year to the Inter Clubs Final, which pits teams from all the top canoe slalom clubs against each other for an overall trophy. Running all weekend with camping overnight, the Inter Clubs is the largest canoe slalom event in the UK (by number of participants), a great social event for the sport and one of the highlights of the UK slalom calendar.

This site is managed on behalf of British Canoeing by a group of local volunteers via the Cardington Management Group (CMG), a sub-committee of British Canoeing Eastern Region.

For further information or to contact the Cardington management team, please contact cardington@britishcanoeing.org.uk