The River Lea, Hertfordshire
This is a short run, taking about two hours, but well worth the effort.
Start by parking in the public car park oppisite the Fish & Eels pub at Dobbs Weir in Hoddesdon. Meals can be had in the pub or the excellent cafe in the car park. There are public toilets here.
You can get straight onto the canal or a short portage of 80 mtrs takes you back over the road and you can get in just below the weir. If you choose to get in the canal, you have a paddle of 300 mtrs before you have to portage round the first lock. Getting in at the weir saves this. Presuming you get in at the weir, you paddle down stream until you get to the end of the caravaning and campsite. There is a small turn to your right which follows the edge of the campsite. If you choose to paddle down the canal to the first lock, you need to turn right back up the river for 15 mtrs, and then left down the river.
You are now on the river. At first it is quite narrow, but there is enough current to push you along. Through the remnants of an old bridge and you then turn left. In the summer the river can be quite overgrown with duck weed and lillies which can slow you down, but give the river a pleasing and pleasant outlook. With no canal boats to churn the water, it is usually very clear and you can see fish and other river life. I am sure we saw crayfish at one point. We definitely saw Kingfishers. You could turn right and go upstream for about 3/4 mile, but the river becomes very narrow and stops at a grating.
Canoeing down the river, you are never more than 20 mtrs from the canal, though the vast amount of undergrowth makes it hard to cross from one to the other. The river seems to be blocked in one or two places by overhanging trees, but I had no problem getting past them in my Canadian and it added to the fun. They do have the effect of slowing down the river and duckweed accumulates in great swathes which can make the going quite slow.
Eventually you come to a very small caravan site where the river turns away form the canal through a right and left hand bend, again with more overhanging trees seeming to form an obstruction. On the right hand bank, hidden, is an industrial estate. You can hear the noise, but the river is quite well hidden. After this stretch, brickwork arches signify a more direct connection with the housing around you and this is quite near the halfway point. Canoeing under the railway lines, there is now a small park on your left. The get out point is on the left, 5 mtrs before an overflow channel on the left. This is a vertical drop and after another 30 mtrs the river flows into and old mill through a metal grating.
This is the site of the old Broxbourne Mill and sat weekends the mill wheel can be running, though it is now made of man made materials. There is a small information board about the mill. At the get out point, the obvious get in is immediately on your left. Follow this and you have to get out agian and negoitate Blakes boatyard on the canal. Better to carry the canoes about 80 mtrs to some holiday chalets just past the old mill and get in there. There are public toilets here.
You very quickly rejoin the canal, turning left and heading back upstream.There is a pub on the right selling drinks and food. you now go past the boat yard where narrow boats and day boats can be hired. The canal is quite wide and not as interesting as the river, but there is no current to paddle against. At Carthegena lock, portage on the right. It is worth walking onto the island (ice creams can be purchased here) and walking round to the weir. We saw dozens of large fish, presumably carp, just underneath the foot bridge.
Carrying on up the river, you then come back to the first lock at Dobbs Weir, which can be portaged on the right or continue back up the river to the weir itself and portage back over the road to the carpark.
|Fish & Eels inn.||Get in point||Dobbs Weir with various instructions||River turning at end of caravan site|
|Blockage||Wild Flowers||Duckweed||Small caravan site|
|Limbo dancing||Road & Railway arches||Get out point||Broxbourne Mill|
|Information board||Restart||Turning left back onto the canal||Carthagena Lock|
Back up the Canal