Silver Propeller Challenge Notes - Kempston Mill

Created on 31/10/2018

Launched earlier this year, our Silver Propeller Challenge is designed to encourage waterway users to visit waterway locations that are infrequently visited by boats and other craft.

The challenge is already having an impact by helping us highlight problem areas that we can raise with navigation authorities. IWA's Campaigns Officer, Alison Smedley recently visited Kempston Mill following our Festival of Water nearby.

Kempston Mill upstream of Bedford on the River Great Ouse is the current head of the Environment Agency's navigation responsibility and is accessible to all craft kept on the connected inland waterways - in theory.

The location is significant because it's near where an exciting new waterway, the Bedford to Milton Keynes waterway park will leave the river, slightly upstream of the current limit of navigation. With this in mind we are keen to encourage as many people as possible to use the top end of the river. It is a delightful trip from Bedford town, with islands and wooded banks, and we urge anyone in the area to head upstream to Kempston.

The Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterways Trust had some dredging carried out in the latter part of 2018, to enable their John Bunyan trip boat to reach Kempston Mill. Following the Festival, Alison and her family took their historic narrow tug Sandbach to find out how much difference the dredging had made, with members of the Trust turning out on a rainy Saturday to offer support and take photos. Unfortunately the channel wasn't deep enough for a deep draughted tug, and Sandbach ground to a halt a couple of hundred yards short of the footbridge below Kempston Mill. It seems that not quite enough material had been removed to enable deeper draughted boats to get past the shallows.

Photo: Historic tug Sandbach not quite at Kempston Mill. Photo by Alan Mayo of BMKWT.

Shallower draughted boats shouldn't have a problem, although navigators should be aware that the headroom under the last bridge is very low.

For the purposes of the Silver Propeller Challenge, a photograph showing your boat as far upstream as you can get beyond the last island will be fine until more dredging is carried out. Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterways Trust run public trips on the John Bunyan trip boat up to Kempston, and day hire boats, canoe hire and canoe trips are also available in the area , so there are opportunities for everyone to get to this particular Silver Propeller location.

We have raised the issue of the lack of depth up to the limit of navigation with the Environment Agency.

Some Navigational Notes for those heading upstream from Bedford:

  • Watch out for rowers as you come out of Bedford Town Lock, and head over to the far side (right) heading upstream
  • Be aware of low headroom under the railway bridges in Bedford
  • Keep to the left of Honey Hill Islands
  • Keep to the right of the next island, just after the concrete landing stage on the left.
  • Shallower drafted boats may make it to the formal limit of navigation at Kempston Mill, subject to getting under the very low bridge just before it. Deeper drafted boats may not get far beyond the island before running out of depth, although BMKWT have had some dredging carried and hope to get some more done.
  • On the way back watch out for the channel to the right of Honey Hill Islands, which is under the pylons but you can't see until you are close (sign on island obscured by vegetation). Be aware of a protruding horizontal telegraph pole on the upstream end of the island.
  • Watch out for small craft throughout.


Find out more about how you can take part in our Silver Propeller Challenge.

Photo-top: Kempston Mill - limit of navigation.


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Tags: Silver Propeller

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