River Great Ouse at St. Ives in Cambridgeshire

The River Great Ouse at St Ives

A view upstream of the River Great Ouse looking towards St Ives, the Quay and the ancient bridge with the Chapel of St Ledger

A view upstream of the River Great Ouse looking towards St Ives, the Quay and the ancient bridge with the Chapel of St Ledger in the middle of it. This picture was taken from the Harrison Way by-pass bridge.

St Ives River Guage


The whole reason for the existence of St Ives is the presence of the River Great Ouse. Hundreds of years ago this was the last place the river could be crossed prior to the Great Anglian Fen, a vast swamp that extended from here to the coast 80 miles to the east. The river therefore has played an important part in the development of the town and it still does. Fundamental to the river and St Ives is the St Ives River Bridge and the Chapel of St Ledger that sits upon it. You can read all about them and view the collection of images by following the two previous links.

We begin our tour of this section with an illustrated historical summary of the River Great Ouse and the effects that it has had upon the development of the town of St Ives. The pictures in this section are from the collections of the Norris Museum in St Ives or our own extensive collection of local images.

The southern bank of the river facing the town is undeveloped flood-plain. This vast expanse of open and unfenced grassland is Hemingford Meadow and a short history of Hemingford Meadow by Bridget Smith explains how it came into being and why it is still here today.

Within the locality of the town access to the river on foot is easy with footpaths on each bank for most of its course, however if you really wish to see the river then there is no better way than by boat. It will give you a whole new perspective on the town and some great photo opportunities. On sunny weekends the St Ives Electric Riverboat Company operate 1 hour trips directly from the town quay.

You may wish to arrive in St Ives by river and there are notes on how to do that in the section Grand Union to St Ives by boat. This section has a map illustrating the many branches of the River Great Ouse in its course to the sea at King's Lynn and details about our local marine services.

In 2007 St Ives and Hemingford Grey played host to the IWA (Inland Waterways Association) National River Festival and hundreds of boats and thousands of people flocked to the town for a long weekend. Although it started a bit wetter than we would have liked due to the rain, the sun finally came out and we all had a grand time. You will find literally hundreds of photographs recording the event in the 2007 IWA National River Festival section.