The Great Ouse cut-off channel expedition – Introduction

A long winded introduction and rant

There are those on the web who lament the lack of opportunities for adventure, “everything has been explored” they complain, while the more optimistic suggest increasingly wacky approaches to adventuring, “let’s skateboard across the Sahara, walk backwards across Antartica, swim the Amazon with one arm tied behind one’s back” etc etc.

Okay, so I exaggerate ever so slightly but you get the gist.  Adventure as defined by these fine fellows must be BIG and EXTREME, the more so the better.  Okay, well that’s fine and well if you like that kind of thing but to me it demonstrates a paucity of imagination.

In my book, adventure is all about imagination and is one of the main foundations supporting the concept of adventures close to home (or ‘microadventures‘ as defined by Alastair Humphreys).

Anyhow, this is a rather long-winded (and quite possibly pompous) introduction to my Great Ouse cut-off channel expedition.

As far as I can tell, the 25 miles or so that comprise the (overland) walk is virgin territory for exploration by the hardy hiker (at least there is no evidence on the web of previous expeditions).   The are hardly any marked right-of-ways along the banks of the channel (Environment Agency land), no photos appear on Google maps/world,  there is no nearby public transport to take one home from the main stage of the walk (which can mean only one thing – wild camp!)

In short, it is ripe for adventure.

Ouse Cut Off Channel - near Downham Market
Ouse Cut Off Channel – near Downham Market

About the Cut-Off Channel

The cut-off channel was built in the 1950s/60s and serves two functions:

  1. To relieve the River Great Ouse from the threat of rising floodwater
  2. To deliver excess water to reservoirs in Essex
The channel runs across 35 miles of fenland from Downham Market to Mildenhall where it goes underground until arriving in Essex.
Route of the Great Ouse Cut-Off Channel
Route of the Great Ouse Cut-Off Channel

While it is an exciting prospect, I do not propose to follow the channel from Mildenhall to Essex, maybe another time with a lilo or somesuch (note: this is a joke)

The stages

  1. Downham Market to Hilgay (5 miles)
  2. Hilgay to the River Wissey  (10 miles)
  3. Stoke Ferry to Lakenheath (10 miles)
Hey ho! Let’s go!


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