The Medway Canoe Trail runs for 31km from Tonbridge to Allington nr Maidstone.
To download a FREE copy of the canoe trail map - click here
Over the last few years the Environment Agency has invested heavily in providing new facilities for canoeists. All of the locks now have new purpose designed landing stages so that canoeists can easily portage around each lock and there are also new launch points, weir passes (so no need to portage), toilets, showers and car parking. Some of these improvements can be seen here
The river is generally flat water paddling and can be paddled upstream or downstream in the summer months. The exception to this is when there is un-seasonal rainfall or during the winter months. You can check the status of the river whether GREEN (normal river flow and levels) or RED (strong river stream) by clicking here or if in doubt phone the lock keeper at Allington Lock.
Remember to paddle on the right hand side of the river going up or downstream. This is especially important in the section between East Farleigh and Allington as it can get quite busy with other boats.
If you are paddling the full trail or part of the trail, you may be able to use South Eastern trains to get back to your vehicle at the start point. There are stations at Tonbridge, Yalding, Wateringbury, East Farleigh, Maidstone West and Maidstone Baracks.
You could use a Maidstone taxi service for your shuttle. Try a google search on "Maidstone taxis"
Canoeing and kayaking are assumed risk water sports. As a canoeist you should be aware of the risks of paddling on any water body whether sea, lake or river. For this river the main hazards are the weirs. The weirs are highlighted by orange booms and you need to keep away from them. A typical example is shown here.
Please keep away from weirs like these.
It is strongly recommended that you undertake a canoeing or kayaking course before you buy your first boat. A list of course providers is shown here.
A good beginners guide to canoeing is also shown here
Leigh Barrier to Town Lock, Tonbridge (3km)
The launch site for this area is Tonbridge Slipway. Above this point you can paddle up to the footbridge just below the Leigh Barrier. Do not be tempted to travel above the bridge as the weir gates on the barrier can move at any time suddenly releasing extra flow. You can paddle around Tonbridge sports ground and also explore some of the smaller tributaries.
Downstream from the slipway is Tonbridge Town Bridge and Tonbridge Lock. At this point you will see a sign saying canoe pass with an arrow to the left. If your boat is unsuitable for the canoe passes, please use the canoe landing on your right. Keep away from the orange booms. If you have used the landing stage on the right, you will now need to cross the lock gates at the end of the lock and walk onto the purpose built landing stage.
Tonbridge Town Lock to Eldridges Lock (2.4km)
Paddle downstream under Cannon Lane Bridge and past the small launch point on the left (can be overgrown). The river now becomes rural as you leave Tonbridge behind. Pass under a girder bridge and eventually you come to Eldridges Lock. The canoe pass (new for 2010) is on your right-hand side. Alternatively, the portage platform is on the left hand side just upstream of the lock. Keep away from the orange booms and weir on your right. TEMPORARY NOTICE: Works at Eldridges Lock until June 2011. Canoe pass here is closed. Please use the temporary portage platforms on the left hand side.
Eldridges Lock to Porters Lock (1.6km)
Continue downstream and eventually you will see the orange booms of Porters Lock weir. Keep away from these and turn left towards the lock. At this point you have two choices. You can either carry on to the lock and get out on the portage platform on the left or you can slide down the new canoe friendly fish pass on your immediate right, just after the orange booms.
Canoeists using Porters Lock Combined Canoe and Fish Pass.
Porters Lock to East Lock (2km)
This section passes under Hartlake Bridge which is another launch point on the river. Carry on under the bridge towards East Lock. At East Lock you will see the familiar orange booms, go past these and you will see the portage platform in front of you. Alternatlivey, shoot down the new canoe slide just past the portage platform - still on your left hand side.
East Lock to Oak Weir Lock (1.2km)
This section is the shortest between locks, so it won't take long before you arrive at Oak Weir Lock. You will see the orange booms on the left hand side of the river and just ahead of that is the portage platform. When you get out here, you will find the lower portage platform is off to the left via a small path through the lock island itself. There is a large picnic bench here so it is a nice place to stop and or camp overnight.. Again there is a canoe pass here to save portaging around the lock.
The canoe portage platform downstream of Oak Weir Lock
Oak Weir Lock to Sluice Weir Lock (2km)
After 500m you pass under Stilstead Bridge, then the river winds it way onwards to Wagon Bridge which is a steel girder bridge. After this bridge you will see a wooden footpath bridge on your right. Under this bridge is access to the Hop Farm camp site. A further 500m downstream is Sluice Weir Lock. To the right of the orange booms is a steep canoe pass. For those not using the pass, you will see the portage platform ahead of you to the left, keeping the orange booms on your right.
Sluice Weir Lock to Hampstead Lock (3.6km)
After passing under two road bridges and a railway bridge, you will come to Stoneham Lock camping ground. If you are camping here, the best place to get out is just after you have passed though the lock on the right hand side.
After this, the river continues to Yalding. As you approach Yalding, you will see the distinctive orange booms in front of you. You have two choices here. Either get out on the right hand side just upstream of the booms, or continue around to the left with the Anchor pub on your left hand side. If you take the first option you will have to climb up the river bank then drop down the other side to a small stream (The River Teise) As you will see there is a good tea and cake stop here - this being Tea Pot Island. Once you have put your boat into the stream head to the left and you will appear into the weir pool. Carry on through one of the bridge arches and approx 50 metres further downstream is Marlin Canoe Club's campsite.
If you take the second option of turning left at the orange booms, you will see a low bridge in front of you. Pass under here minding your head. On your right hand side is Yalding Canoe Platform.
A further 500m on is Hampstead Lock. To portage this lock, use the standard portage platform on the right hand side just upstream of the lock and cross the upstream lock gates.
Walk across the island and you can see the downstream portage platform and slipway. Hampstead Lock is also another launch point.
Hampstead Lock to Teston Lock (4.8km)
Paddle past the moored boats and then turn left where the other part of the river comes in. This section passes Wateringbury marina with boats moored both sides. Next you will find Teston Lock this time with the weir on the right hand side (orange booms). Use the purpose designed portage platforms on either side of the lock. Teston Country Park is another launch point on the Medway.
Teston Lock to East Farleigh Lock (3.2km)
After Teston Bridge the river continues around a very slow right hand bend. Just after this and on the right hand bank is Barming Bridge campsite. Carry on past here and you will start to see moored boats from the marinas at East Farleigh. At East Farleigh bridge go through the second arch from the left (as directed) then lift out on the portage platform just the other side. The lower portage platform is just downstream.
Paddling under East Farleigh Bridge
East Farleigh Lock to Allington Lock (7.2km)
This is the last and longest section of river down to Allington Lock Slipway. This is the most urban section of the river and is also the busiest in terms of motorised vessels. Keep an eye open also for rowing boats as they cannot see you as well as you can see them. Your sign that you have finished the trail is the sight of Allington Sluice and the Malta Inn on your right hand side. By this point you will see Allington Lock slipway and canoe launch point on your left.
The end of the trail - Allington Slipway and canoe launch point