Viking Kayak Club was established by a group of paddling friends in 1961 and has provided tuition, equipment, river access and friendship to our members ever since.
We offer an easy route to having fun on (and in!) the rivers of Bedford, in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Our years of experience and the hard work and enthusiasm of the club committee & volunteers have earned us the reputation as one of the best family clubs in the area.
The club is always evolving as the needs of our members change and as new opportunities are created in our area. We are committed to success and having fun. We are proud of our club and work hard to help members achieve their goals.
We support members who wish to develop their paddling and provide opportunities for skills development through trips and training sessions. We coach, compete and organise competitions in three disciplines: marathon, polo, and slalom.
Several of our paddlers have gone on to greater success in competition, through coaching or just as more accomplished and confident paddlers.
In 2009, our efforts were recognised when we became British Canoe Club of the Year and also Runner Up in the UK Sports Club of the Year (photo below is us as Bedford Sports Club of the Year 2008).
We also achieved Top Club Gold status which is the highest level of sports club accreditation, from Sport England and Canoe England, recognising our openness to all, our child welfare and the coaching and breadth of activities we offer.
The club is a Community Amateur Sports Club (CASC) and is affiliated to British Canoeing. It is run by a club committee and holds an AGM every year in November/December. The club produces a member newsletter called ‘The Paddler’ which is distributed to current and former members and friends of the club.
The club is open to all from the age of eight, depending on if they can fit in one of our kayaks, upwards and welcomes families and adults of all ages to take part in canoeing and kayaking, sport and recreation. All forms of paddling are supported.
The club has equipment available to beginners and runs a range of courses from beginner level through to more advanced paddling and even for those wishing to become a coach. We also run specialist training in slalom, polo and racing as well as the opportunity to meet with like–minded people and go on trips at weekends etc. From around Easter through to the Summer each year, Viking runs a Kids Club and Academy based on British Canoeing PaddlePower scheme.
The club’s name is named after the Viking raiding activity that is known to have taken place on the River Great Ouse at what is now Bedford. For centuries the river has been used to transport goods and people but by the twentieth century the river was increasingly used for leisure.
Canoeing and kayaking have taken place in Bedford for many years and in the early 1900s, open canoes were available for hire alongside punts and rowing boats from commercial boathouses along Bedford’s riverside.
Canoes started to be used in races and in May 1951, the first Bedford to St Neots canoe race took place to encourage the restoration of navigation between the two towns which at that time was impassable by most boats.
The race was the first of its kind in the country and is still run annually, as the Bedford Canoe and Kayak Marathon. It now takes place on a circular circuit around the Victorian Embankment in Bedford’s town centre and is part of the Eastern Region Hasler marathon series, generally taking place at the end of April or beginning of May.
In 1961, following the success of the Bedford to St Neots race, Viking Kayak Club was established by canoeing friends including Brian Sidaway, David Green and John Mathers and moved in to premises shared with Star Rowing Club.
From the start, Viking members have also used the white water created by Bedford’s weirs and in particular Duck Mill sluices, in Bedford’s town centre, which is ideal for white water training. National ranking slalom competitions have also been held here and this was the first venue at which 5 time world slalom champion Richard Fox competed. Duck Mill has also been the setting for Viking’s annual Boxing Day Roll, which has been taking place annually since 1964 and sees the return of many former Viking paddlers each year.
From 1972 Viking members collaborated with the water and environmental authorities to develop a plan for a combined scheme allowing improved flood relief with the UK’s first artificial slalom course. Opened in 1982, Cardington Artificial slalom Course was originally seen primarily as a regional training venue.
Now, the course also holds two national ranking canoe slalom competitions per year at up to Division 2 level, and is the host every year to the Inter Clubs Final, which pits teams from all the top canoe slalom clubs against each other for an overall trophy. Running all weekend with camping overnight, the Inter Clubs is the largest canoe slalom event in the UK (by number of participants), a great social event for the sport and one of the highlights of the UK slalom calendar.
Since 1981, Viking has taken part in the twin town Sports Festival held every four years between Bedford and Bamberg, Germany, competing against their counterparts the Bamberg Faltboot Club (BFC). In 1994 BFC member Jurgen Hoh paddled all the way from Bamberg to Bedford in a traditional folding kayak (faltboot in German).
Viking has a proud record of producing some excellent paddlers, including current GB squad member and many times British C2 Slalom Champion Etienne Stott, who with partner Tim Baillie won Bronze medals at the 2009 European Championships and came fourth at the 2009 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships in La Seu d’Urgell. Etienne and Tim also won team medals – Silver at the Europeans, Bronze at the Worlds – with the other UK C2 boats. Etienne was named Bedford Sports Personality of the Year in 2008.
Viking Kayak Club is very conveniently located in the centre of Bedford. We are on Heron Quay, off Commercial Road and we share our clubhouse with Star Rowing Club.
Poynters Boathouse, Batts Ford
If you are travelling from the M1
Take J13 and head for Bedford on the A421, at the roundabout by the ASDA Centre head for Kempston and the Bedford Hospital. Pass the hospital on your right and go straight over the lights, straight over the bridge and turn left onto Prebend st (toward the railway station) and over County Bridge. As soon as you cross the river look for a no right turn into Commercial road – go to the next roundabout and come back and turn left into Commercial Road. Just before the kids’ playground is a right turn into Heron Quay and follow it to round to the left to get to the clubhouse.
From anywhere else
Head for Bedford High St then St. Paul’s Square, bear left around St. Paul’s and into Horne Lane. Look out on your immediate left for the new Riverside North development.Go straight over at the roundabout into Commercial Road. Just after the kids’ playground is a left turn into Heron Quay and follow it to round to the left to get to the clubhouse.
To use the car park a valid sticker needs to be shown in the vehicle. Stickers can be obtained from the Membership Secretary for £5. They are valid for the calendar year & are available from November.
There is an agreement between Viking and Star about the car park. Viking’s Wednesday club night and Star’s Thursday club night are protected and members will be asked to respect car parking priorities of members of the other club on respective nights between 6-10.30pm. Please return their courtesy by not parking in the clubhouse car park on Thursday evenings. Use the public car parks.
There is now 2 hours free parking in all Bedford town car parks on a Saturday. Ensure you get a ticket from the machine in these car parks.
Car parking at Prebend street is currently under review so ensure you pay if you park in this car park.
The council have agreed that Viking & Star Club members can park in the Prebend Street car park (car park information) at no charge after 6pm on weekdays & at all times at weekends. You must display a valid VKC car park sticker or you will be fined. It’s a pay & display car park; other people pay per visit. There is a height barrier at the entrance so watch out when you have boats on the roof. You can walk under the road bridge & launch onto the river from the bank opposite the clubhouse.