Wednesday, October 04, 2017

An exciting prospect! (real-time)

Jess had to get to Bedford yesterday evening for a Said the Maiden rehearsal. (They're appearing at the Costa del Folk later in the month, a huge, international festival of folk music held annually, this year in Portugal.

Last year's festival in Mallorca
After that, they embark on a 21-gig UK tour to promote their latest album. Planning and rehearsal are high on their agenda!)

Jess was tired after a day's work, so we drove her to Hannah's flat for the rehearsal, and then went to the nearby Embankment Hotel for dinner (a lovely place with excellent service and excellent food - apart from the Banoffee Sundae which had far too much offee and far too little ban!) As the name suggests, the restaurant is on the embankment of a river - the Great Ouse - so after we'd eaten we went for an amble alongside the river for an hour or so.

It was beautiful. Trees and bridges were tastefully illuminated under a warm night sky, the moon peering through dramatic Gothic clouds from time to time. Autumn leaves covered the walkways. The broad river hosted myriad swans and geese, and not a few ducks.

Then we came to an information board that reminded us of the decades-long project to connect the Ouse at Bedford with a 20-mile canal from Milton Keynes. The project is still alive and well, and the board presented us with the whole vision and the story so far.

(photos courtesy of

We stood on the suspension bridge, and looked up and down the river, thinking about this project, realizing what a fantastic thing it would be to connect the River Great Ouse and the Grand Union Canal. The interest it would draw from boaters and gongoozlers alike - and from local businesses, too. And as we considered the river and its embankments, the parkland that's there now and the water-parks planned for the connecting route, we saw an excellent opportunity for the IWA to host there one of their annual Festivals of Water such as we attended at Pelsall last year. It would be the perfect venue, and I'm certain the people of Bedford would love it, too.

The canal link will certainly open up new travel opportunities to boaters. The current journey for us from Yelvertoft to Bedford would be 184 miles with 88 locks - about two weeks of relaxed boating. The new route would shorten that to around 60 miles and 22 locks in about five or six days. It isn't all about time, though. As the map shows, the link makes it possible to cut out the River Nene and a large chunk of the Ouse, with their dozens of (some say difficult) locks - not everyone's ideal cruising. And once on the Ouse at Bedford, a journey to Cambridge or Ely is a relatively easy possibility. We'd love that!

So all power to the Bedford & Milton Keynes Trust in their endeavours, and the greatest of respect for their vision and determination. This is indeed an exciting prospect!

(photo B&MK Trust)

(The Maidens had a really good rehearsal!)


  1. Hello, so pleased to read your appraisal of the Bedford riverside, which I walked alongside this very morning with a couple of friends. You've done an excellent job of promoting the case for the Bedford (River Great Ouse) to Milton Keynes (Grand Union Canal) link...
    We plan to bring our narrowboat Cleddau from north Cheshire next summer to Bedford for the biennial River Festival, a glorious free to all event that really maximises the river and the nearby parks.
    If ever you find other opportunities please talk up the prospect of the Bedford-Milton Keynes link.
    Best wishes from a fellow boater, Sue/Boatwif/nb Cleddau

  2. Hello! Thanks for the comment. I didn't know about the River Festival, but we'll be sure to visit next year. I'll certainly talk up the link whenever I get the opportunity. I've become a great fan of the Bedford river and parks, and would love to see its potential realized.

    We'll look out for NB Cleddau next summer!

    All the best!

  3. That all sounds very exciting indeed! I wonder if we'll ever manage to do any canal faring in the UK. If so, it would be lovely to do that too. My sister lives in a by the way. All the best to Said the Maiden!

  4. Sorry, Val, only just seen this comment of yours. I think you'd love the trip into Bedford to see your sister! The Great Ouse has a lot of locks, but then you guys are pros!