Christchurch to Iford Bridge SUP
A SUP that gives you a bit of everything. A waterside priory, million pound properties, boats galore, historic bridge and lush vegetation lining the river banks.
≈ Quick Facts:
- River Name: River Stour
- What is the distance: 4 miles round trip
- How long does it take: 2 hours at a leisurely pace
- Shelter from wind: Any direction if light
- Best Tide: Slack tide
- Pay To Park: Yes
- Parking Distance: 30 second walk
- Do you pay to launch? No
- SUP Rental: No
- Wildlife: swans
- Eat & Drink? Yes
- Toilets: Yes at the Captains Club
- Hazards: In/outgoing tide & boats
≈ Location Guide:
Where to park & launch a SUP in Christchurch?
The river Stour – You have 2 options, you can either launch next to The Captains Club in Christchurch or Iford Bridge at the other end of the river. Launching from the public slipway next to the Captains Club Hotel, there’s a car park with no height barrier right by the ramp, ideal for SUP van drivers (£2.90 for 4 hours) and no long walk with your gear. There’s a huge public park area right next to the car park as well with an excellent kids play area, ideal for SUP widows with kids in tow. Launching the paddle board from the other end at Iford Bridge is free! There arn’t as many spaces available at the Iford end so you will have to rely on a bit of luck to to get parked up.
Best time to launch?
Like any river, you must get the tide right, I would avoid an outgoing tide as you will be going backwards, The locals have a well deserved nickname for the Stour’s outgoing tide, it’s called “The Run”, you have been warned. The ultimate time to launch is an hour before high tide so you get a small push up to Iford Bridge and then take the return paddle back to the Captains Club with the outgoing tide. I have paddleboarded up to Iford Bridge 4 hours before high tide before and it was only marginally harder to paddle back to Christchurch against the gentle incoming tide, might be tougher in Springs though?
What is there to see?
At the launch site by the Captains Club hotel there is also a rowing club and the Wick Ferry which can take you across the river to the elongated park area opposite in about a minute. There is a decent grass area overlooking the river to the right of the slipway tucked under the trees, where you can enjoy a picnic while watching all the activity on the river.
Grass area next to the slipway at Captains Club
We paddled in March and found the river pretty quiet, only a few boats passed by and they were all very considerate, giving plenty of room to pass, many saying hello on their way through. Once you have passed the Captains Club you will then pass a long line of expensive waterfront properties, many with boat berths as well.
There are also lots of boats moored all over this part of the river for you to weave your way through. On the opposite side of the river to millionaire’s row is a park and a cafe (Tuckton Tea Gardens), people sit in the park and watch the boats go by while enjoying a picnic or a walk. You then paddle under a road bridge with a large pub (The Riverside) next to it overlooking the river with plenty of outdoor seating. The waterfront houses come to an end after here. The remainder of the river paddle is a mix of trees and reeds at the water’s edge with the odd bit of housing of different styles to gawp at.
My lovely wife cruising past huge willows
There are 2 more bridges to pass under, one being a train bridge where they fly through at great speed. We last paddled the river in March, it was so peaceful, no traffic noises etc. total escapeism, except for the Spring chorus of birds shouting their heads off in the surrounding trees, sometimes I had to stop and just listen, great for the soul. There is a small sandy beach at about the midway point if you want to stop for a breather. After going round a few more shallow bends, the river doesn’t meander all that much, the Iford Bridge comes in to view. It’s an impressive sight, a grand old bridge with four stone archways and a lot of history.
Extra 1.5 miles round trip up river from Iford Bridge
You can only paddle under the arches at high tide as there’s a series of jumbled rocks blocking your path, but it’s easy enough to jump off here and walk through if you want to continue on up the Stour. There is a sign on the second bridge which is another 100 feet up the Stour (see pic below) warning “No Boats beyond Iford Bridge”. What this is referring to is motorised craft, SUPs are permitted to paddle up river for another 3/4 of a mile.
You have to turn back at the weir, there’s a clean stony beach here on your left, and ideal spot for a breather.
View of the weir stood on the beach
This stretch (Iford to the weir) is frequented by fisherman so my advice is to do the decent thing and give their lines a wide berth.My experience is that they are quite a friendly lot, should’t get on your case at all. If you don’t want the worry of getting tangled in fishing lines then choose a time of year when fishing is banned. I generally turn at Iford Bridge when I SUP from Christchurch.
Where can I leave the river at Iford Bridge?
There is a small gravel beach right by Iford bridge with a small slope up to a free car parking area backing on to the road, plus more spaces along the road.
There is a nice little cafe that does takeaway coffee and ice cream cones right by the bridge or there is also a trendy pub if you want something a little bit stronger. A perfect place for a pit-stop while waiting for the tide to turn, for the return paddle back to Christchurch!