GALLERY: Bedford’s River Great Ouse is looking lovely today

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The River Great Ouse, Bedford: The Swan hotel and the town's famous swans.
The River Great Ouse, Bedford: The Swan hotel and the town's famous swans.

The River Great Ouse in Bedford is looking lovely today. We took these quick pictures on a walk this morning (14 May) and thought we’d share them with our readers.

The river enters Bedford Borough near to Turvey, about ten miles from its source at the village of Syresham, Northamptonshire.

It then follows our boundary for a short distance, acting as a natural ‘border’ between us and Northamptonshire.

Just below Carlton it enters the Borough fully and heads towards Harrold where it then flows east winding around and between the villages of: Odell, Felmersham, Sharnbrook, Radwell, Bletsoe, Milton Ernest, Pavenham, Stevington and Oakley.

It then passes trough Clapham before turning back on itself and heading to Bromham and Biddenham and then onto Kempston before entering Bedford town centre.

Historically, in Bedford town, the River Great Ouse was used as power for corn mills at Duckmill and Newnham. It was also used as a trade route to the Wash on the North Seas.

Despite the railways adding to the decline in river maintenance, as they were no longer a primary route for trade, there was still plenty of traffic transporting sugar beet traffic up until 1959.

The river route to the sea sadly fell into further decline and the river became derelict to the east of Bedford and was no longer navigable.

But, thanks to the Victorians, leisure boating had been popular along Bedford’s Embankment since 1904 and this proved to be a driving force in a campaign to get the river re-opened.

In 1978 the River Great Ouse to Bedford was reopened and is once again navigable to the sea.

Over 300,000 people still celebrate this re-opening at the bi-annual Bedford River Festival, the largest free two-day event in the UK, and the 3rd largest event in Europe.

The Victorians have a lot to be thankful for in making the River Great Ouse the jewel in Bedford’s crown.

They rebuilt The Embankment after a great fire destroyed much of the market and buildings alongside the river, transforming it into a beautiful tree and flowerbed lined promenade.

Read: Bedford’s dynamic Victorian duo are honoured with new plaque and exhibition

The River Great Ouse is also once again supplying power too. A hydro power plant has been installed at the former Victorian boat slide, next to the Longholme boat house.

Leaving the town centre, the river runs into and alongside the Priory Marina, before heading out of the Borough and into Central Bedfordshire between Willington and Great Barford.