The ultimate Cambridgeshire canoe trip
In a canoe on a sunny weekday in June, we share the Great Ouse river with a handful of swimmers, sunbathers, kayaks and a few pleasure yachts. We have the water to ourselves for most of the route between Houghton and St. Ives in the county of Cambridgeshire.
Dragonflies decked out in royal blue hoover against a background of butterflies fluttering in the reeds and bobbing water lilies. Ducklings, coots, moorhens, families of swans, vultures and cormorants compete for our attention.
Whilst admiring the natural beauty, we are trying to navigate the river bends and overhanging tree branches. Finally, some near-collisions later, we reach our pit stop, a bridge from the 15th century in the village of St. Ives. Before we return to the Houghton Mill, we refuel with a sparkling glass of white wine at one of the riverside terraces. The return journey takes about four hours.
Enjoyment in a canoe on the water is for all ages.
Being on the water is one of those small pleasures in life. There are no dramatic landscapes here in this peat area. So if you plan to go white water rafting, you are in the wrong place. Despite its name, the Great Ouse, it is a rippling river on this stretch of the water. The most exciting thing you will experience here is navigating locks. However, it is entirely possible to avoid these locks by lifting the canoe over land.
Boomers and boats and such
That’s why such a canoe trip is ideal for people of the silver-haired age. The silence on the water is interrupted only by the birds singing away. Whilst quaint villages and colourful flowers adorn the shores.
Enjoy lunch in one of the riverside pubs. Alternatively, make it a multi-day trip and sleep in one of the hotels along the river. You get waterproof bags to carry your gear when renting the canoe in Houghton.
Sailing as a family with small children
By the way, this is also the ultimate family-friendly activity for small children. In most places, the water is less than a meter deep. You will get life jackets when renting the boat. No harm is done in the unlikely event that your offspring tumble overboard.
Stop along the way for a picnic on the riverbank.
Boat trips for the youth
The young, teenagers and students, also get their money’s worth here. Because in addition to canoeing and kayaking, one can also go punting. Punts are boats with a flat bottom. The ship moves as the helmsman pushes away from the riverbed using a large, long pole of approximately five meters. The more one crashes into the shore or falls into the water, the more fun. And don’t forget to stop for a pint or two along the way.
Weather and water
The sailing pleasure naturally increases in direct correlation to the temperature. Therefore, some planning flexibility helps make your holiday more fun. For example, if it rains, go ahead and find a pub and while away that wet afternoon. Otherwise, any temperature above 20°C is acceptable on the water.
River Great Ouse
The Great Ouse is a 230 km long river in eastern England. From Syresham in Northamptonshire, the Great Ouse flows through Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk before emptying into the Wash and the North Sea at Kings Lynn.
Its most famous tributary is the Cam which runs through Cambridge and Grantchester. The Great Ouse flows through Cambridge, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk and runs through the Fens, also known as the Fenlands. This is a naturally swampy region with rich biodiversity in eastern England.
- The Houghton Mill – St. Ives section takes approximately two hours to canoe. Sleep or eat at the oldest pub in England, the Old Ferry Boat in St. Ives.
- Houghton Mill – Hemingford Gray is a bit shorter. Sleep at The Lodge at Hemingford Gray House.
- Or go the other way: Houghton Mill – Huntingdon – Godmanchester or Brampton Mill. Sleep at the quintessentially English Old Bridge Hotel in Huntingdon for British chic and eat at Brampton Mill.
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