The Navigator's Way

The Navigators Way

A 7 mile walk based on the River Ivel Navigation between Shefford and Stanford. The route of The Navigator's Way is defined by signposts and waymarker posts bearing customised Navigator's Way waymarker discs. Using the map and directions provided in this leaflet, in conjunction with the waymarking, will enable you to follow the route with ease, in an anti-clockwise direction.

How To Get There by Passenger Transport

BY BUS - Shefford is on several routes between Hitchin and Bedford. Contact Bedfordshire Bus Information line: 01234 228337 Mon – Fri 8.30am – 5pm or Travel Line: 0870 6082608, 7 days a week, 7am -10pm
BY TRAIN - Arlesey Rail Station is approx 3 miles from Shefford. National Rail Enquiries: 08457 484950 24 hour service
Click here for the National Rail Enquiries website

How to Get There by Car

Shefford is situated in mid-Bedfordshire and is 9 miles south east of Bedford along the A600. There is a car park at the beginning of the walk and two more on route.

Short Cut

The walk starts from North Bridge a few yards down the road to Bedford from the centre of the town. Grid Ref TH393143.

Access and General Information

Distance: 7 miles
Time: between 3 and 2.5 hours.
Access Information
Surface Types:
ranges from hard and firm stone paths to grass or uncultivated earth paths with some ruts. There are no paths across cultivated ground
Linear Gradient: A mostly flat route with a few slopes of up to 1:6
Cross Falls: Some long stretches of cross fall up to 1:9
Width restrictions: min 850mm
Steps: 200mm steps to cross bridge near Stanford Lock. An alternative route is possible.
Barriers: One kissing gate with a 1000mm restriction
Refreshments: There are several public houses, shops and cafes in Shefford. The Green Man near Stanford and the White Horse in Southill are marked on the map and near to the route.
Public toilets: in Shefford
Picnic tables: none recorded
Seats: None recorded


Point 1. The Navigation channel and the walk start at the meeting point of the Rivers Hit and Flit in Shefford, reached via the riverside paths from North Bridge and South Bridge Streets. Following the riverside path, the walk takes you out of Shefford towards Clifton.

The Navigation channel was constructed along the old course of the River Flit. Shefford's main wharf was sited just downstream of North Bridge, with a smaller wharf near South Bridge which served the town's tannery. Looking across the Navigation you can see an old tower mill. The 40ft tall windmill ceased working in the 1880s and since then it has been used as a fruit store.

Point 2

At Stanford Lane, turn right and follow the roadside verges into Clifton, watching out for traffic. With the introduction of the railways in the mid 1800s trade on the Navigation rapidly declined. With growing debts the Navigation channel was closed in 1876 with the 'River Ivel Navigation Abandonment Act' and some sections of the channel, such as here at Stanford Lane were filled in. The road into Clifton crosses over the original course of the River Flit.

If you wish to take a short cut at this point, turn left along Stanford Lane and left again after 300m to enter Stanford Wood. To rejoin the Navigators's Way, head northwards, crossing the B658 and passing the Green Man Public House on your right. Care should be taken when crossing the main road. Rejoin the route at point 8.

Point 3

Turning left at the cross-roads in Clifton, follow Church Street, which turns into a track, towards Driftways Wood.

Baulk Wood is owned by Mid Beds District Council and was once a rubbish tip. The site is now a woodland and wildmeadow. With the help from local volunteers the site is now a relaxing and pleasant place to visit.

Point 4

On reaching Driftways Wood, turn left and follow the path along the hedgerow.

Point 5

Turn right and cross the river, follow the path to meet Mill Lane.

Stanford Lock was one of 5 locks on the Navigation between Biggleswade and Shefford. The locks allowed the lighters to be lifted up and down the 10 metre gradient between Biggleswade and Shefford. Stanford Lock may also have had an additional purpose as a wharf, serving Stanford Mill.

Point 6

Turn left and follow Mill Lane for 450 metres.

Looking to the west of the route at this point you can make out the old mill pool of Stanford Mill. The mill pool and out-houses are the only evidence of the large water mill that stood on the western side of the pond until it was burned down in the late 1920s. It is believed that a mill had stood on this site since the 12th century.

Point 7

Turn right and follow the cross-field path and Old School Lane. Care should be taken when crossing the main road through Stanford, before following the footpath between the houses and continuing along the cross-field path.

Point 8

On reaching Stanford Road, turn right heading northwards for 200 metres and then turn left to follow the road gently uphill, towards Southill Park.

Point 9

Turn left off the road and along the field edge footpath which follows wide grass verges, ditches and small areas of historic woodland. At the southern end of Cockshoot Hill Grove you can take advantage of one of the best views within the Ivel valley. Follow the path around the field boundary and down the hill towards Shefford.

Point 10

Turning right along Stanford Road into Shefford and left at the mini roundabout brings you back to the start of the walk.


The walk takes its name from the River Ivel Navigation channel which was built between Biggleswade and Shefford in 1823, as an extension to the navigable waterway from King's Lynn along the River Great Ouse to Biggleswade on the River Ivel. Horsedrawn barges or lighters brought coal and timber inland, delivering to the many wharves on the way, and returned with flour, grain and vegetables. Shefford was the most southerly point of the Navigation channel.


The Navigation channel and its banks support a wide range of wildlife. The water of the Navigation which flows from the Rivers Hit and Flit is very clean and provides habitat and food for many species of fish, insects, birds and mammals.

The old willow trees which line parts of the channel are managed by the traditional method of pollarding -removing the crown of the tree to stimulate vigorous new growth. The largest of these willows are over 100 years old and can support up to 450 species of plant eating insect.

Otters once common across the rivers of Bedfordshire, are now returning to the area, encouraged by the healthy fish stocks and dense bankside vegetation. The banks and surrounding land are also inhabited by smaller mammals including voles, stoats and weasels. Kingfishers have nested along the banks of the channel and provide a great treat when seen diving for fish in a flash of blue and orange. Many birds, insects and flowers are also seen in the hedgerows and copses along the route of The Navigator's Way.


This leaflet was produced by the Ivel Countryside project which is an initiative of the Bedfordshire County Council, Mid Beds District Council and the Wildlife Trust to enhance and promote enjoyment of the countryside. For more information, email:, or phone 01767 626326.