The River Medway is a popular river for canoeing. The river has a length of 120 kilometers, but the navigatable non-tidal part runs from Tonbridge to Maidstone and has a length of 29 km, the Medway Canoe Trail. From Tonbridge you can make an extra round trip of 4 km upstream. This round is very popular by local people. You can paddle the full 29 km in one day, but most people do it in 2 days and camp on the way. Also it is posible to start at Maidstone and paddle upstream, as usually this is a very slow running river. After a period of heavy rainfall the water-level and current may increase, so always check before you go. The actual situation can be seen at the website of Allington Lock. At all locks there are good kayak piers.
PermitIf you're a member of BCU, you don't need a licence (display the membership sticker on your kayak). If not, you can obtain a licence for a week at:
- Allington Lock in Maidstone.
- Tonbridge Tourist Information Centre in the castle near the city center. (open Monday to Saturday from 8.00 am till 5.00 pm, Sunday 10.00 am till 4.00 pm.
- Bow Bridge Marina in Wateringbury, Maidstone.
- De Environment Agency.
Kayak rentalsOpen canoes at: Kent Canoes, New House Farm, Kemsing Rd, Wrotham, Kent TN15 7BU. Tel: 01732 886688. (not along the river)
- The Hop Farm is a very large campsite with all facilities including toilets, showers, washing up facilities, campsite shop, and pub. The site is easily accessed from the Medway if you are paddling the canoe trail or is the perfect location to act as a base to explore the Medway from. Always advisable to book in advance and please mention that you are canoeing so that they can allocate you a spot nearer to the river.
- Barming Bridge Campsite, just a quiet field along the river. It is run by Mr Taylor. Tel. 01622 720263 or 07788 890569. GBP 10 for a 24 hour stay (2010).
Camping along the way:
Starting point Maidstone:Exit the M20 (Folkestone - London) at exit 5 (roundabout above the highway) towards Maidstone. At the next roundabout take the first exit, and at the next roundabout you take the second exit continuing on London Rd. Turn left at the second side-street (Castle Rd). Keep going straight on until you come at a T-junction at the gate-house. Turn left on the narrow road. At the end is Allington Lock. You'll have to pay (GBP 2,50 in 2010) at the lock-keeper for entrance to the parking place. Usually he is in the house on your left, or walking around. The barrier opens automatically on the way out, so you don't need to return at a certain time.
At Allington Lock there is a good kayak pier at the slipway. Also there is a toilet and for a coin (1 GBP) you can take a shower. The lock is the end of the non-tidal river. If you would go on the tidal part you don't need a licence, but access is only possible at high tide. So you go with the tide, and return with the next tide. Information about tides can be found at Easytide. There is a footpath across the weir to the riverside pub The Malta Inn (no kayak pier). From Allington Lock you paddle upstream and after a short distance you pass through the center of Maidstone where you can see the 14th century Archbishop's Palace. After 7.2 km you come at the first lock: East Farleigh Lock. Between here and the next lock Teston Lock (3.7 km) there is a campsite. I'm not sure if there are any facilities. From the river it looks just like a field where you can put a tent up. At Teston Lock there is a public toilet. After the lock there are many boats moored at Wateringbury, so this is not a quiet part of the river. I went as far as Bow Bridge and then returned to Maidstone. At the next lock Hampstead Lock near Yalding (4.8 km) you're about halfway to Tonbridge. There is a riverside pub The Anchor Inn, and a teapot museum: Teapot Island where about 3500 teapots are on display. At the lock there is a limited parking space along the road opposite the kayak pier.
GPS Maidstone Allington Lock: Lat. 51.2951 Lon. 0.5046
GPS Hampstead Lock (Teapot Island): Lat. 51.2233 Lon. 0.4187
GPS Tonbridge Lower Castle Field: Lat. 51.1974 Lon. 0.2713
Allington Lock in Maidstone, end of the non-tidal part of the river.
Archbishop's Palace at Maidstone.
River Medway at East Farleigh.
Starting point TonbridgeStarting point is at the slipway at the Lower Castle Field car park in the city center (off the Slade). At the entrance there is a height-barrier that is sometimes down. If so, turn left and drive passed the swimming pool to the other end of the car park. In the far corner to the left you'll find the slipway. On Sundays it is advisable to come early, as there often are activities in the park and swimming pool.
The slipway is along a side-river of the Medway. You can either go left to the main river, or go right and go on the main river further upstream. This is an extra round of 4 km through the forest, very popular by the local people on a nice Sunday.
On the Medway you pass through the town and after 0.5 km you come at the Town Lock. Like everywhere there are good kayak piers. Only this one is a bit more difficult because you have to portage across the lock. After the lock the river is very quiet and beutiful. On the first half of the journey to Maidstonde there are quite a number of locks. After Town Lock you come at Eldridges Lock after 2.6 km, then Porters Lock 1.6 km, then East Lock 2.0 km. Then Oak Weir Lock 1.2 km. Then Sluice Weir Lock 2.0 km, then Hampstead Lock 3.6 km. At Hampstead Lock near Yalding you're about halfway to Maidstone. There is a riverside pub The Anchor Inn, and a teapot museum: Teapot Island where about 3500 teapots can be seen. At the lock there is a limited parking space along the road opposite the kayak pier.
Starting point at the slipway in Tonbridge.
At the slipway in Tonbridge.
Upstream from Tonbridge.
Tonbridge Town Lock.