A sunny, wind free day hasn't been very common recently so as soon as we saw a good forecast during the Easter holidays we headed out to the New Forest for a paddle which has been on the to do list for quite some time now. This was a great opportunity to test our new allrounder 10'6'' Elite Pro Art and our firm favourite 12'' sports touring art paddleboard. The river Beaulieu is a small river which runs for a total of 12 miles from it's source near Lyndhurst to its tidal estuary in the Solent at Needs Ore Point.
Unusually this river is privately owned with the river bed being owned by Lord Montague of Beaulieu and access is limited to license holders launching at Bucklers Hard Yacht Harbour (SO42 7XB). The yacht harbour is located fairly centrally along the tidal section of the river so you can choose to paddle up river towards Beaulieu village or down the river along the estuary and into the Solent. Due to the tide times on the day we went out we decided it would be best to head up the river to the village.
A couple of things to note before arrival. Firstly access onto the river is strictly from Bucklers Hard Yacht Harbour and not from Bucklers Hard village so make sure you head to the correct location. Secondly day passes need to be booked online and we found that the internet signal was poor when we arrived so to save time (and to save yourself driving up and down the road with your phone out the window attempting to get signal) book your pass in advance. During the summer the fee is £10 per vessel which includes parking. Once you have booked your license you will be emailed the gate code to the Yacht Harbour gate. Head down the drive and once you reach the end we were directed to parking on the right with the slip way being through another electric gate which is signposted.
If you are heading towards Beaulieu village then turn left out of the Marina and follow the river upstream. Once you get past the boat berths at Bucklers Hard Yacht Harbour the waterway becomes very quiet and tranquil due to the nature of the private river. We only passed a couple of other groups of paddlers on the river on the day we headed out on our paddleboards. As you follow the river you will continue to meander your way upstream past manicured gardens nestled among the woodlands and creeks.
Once you come into the village you see the green and Beaulieu palace on your right. There is a weir ahead of you and you are unable to continue any further than this. Although you are unable to land in the village this is a nice and flat area of water to stop and float and have an onboard picnic! Once you're ready to head back follow the river back to the Yacht Harbour. The paddle on this section of Beaulieu river was about 9 kilometres in total and took us about 2 and a half hours at a leisurely pace.
Once you get back to Bucklers Hard Yacht Harbour you can continue a little further down the Beaulieu river and you will reach Bucklers Hard village. This hamlet was once the location of a thriving ship building yard with over 50 wooden ships built for the Royal Navy some of which were used during the Battle of Trafalgar. From the water you can see the old slipway, ship building barn and the workman's cottages.
River Beaulieu is a site of specific scientific interest as it is a habitat for some very rare birds and endangered wildlife. For this reason you are unable to land along the river once you set off and there are some restricted areas. Along the river there are creeks, ancient woodland and protected areas where an abundance of wildlife lives. These areas can be found on a signed map at Bucklers hard so you know which areas on the river to avoid.
Once you are back at your car and your kayaks and paddleboards are packed away it is possible to walk along the riverside footpath into Bucklers Hard Village if you want to take a closer look at the shipwrights work shed, chapel, cottage or stop for a drink or bite to eat in the garden the Master Builders House overlooking the river.
Before you go:
- The only launch point on the river is from Bucklers Hard Yacht Harbour so check out the licenses ahead of time.
- Whilst the majority of the paddle was in unobstructed water paddling through the harbour does entail paddling past a number of moored boats with lines in the water so we would suggest wearing a quick release waist leash
- We experienced the river getting quite shallow in places and the regular centre fin scraping on the river bed so if you have one pack your river fin or try and stick to the centre of the channel if not.