Friday, 31 July 2015

Ely and further north

After our relatively easy time in the last 4 days we need to start moving again.  We left Waterbeach at 9:20, descended Bottisham Lock, and cruised on up the Cam and then the Great Ouse for 13.5 miles finishing off yet again out in the wilds, some 3.5 miles north of Ely.  Very good sunny weather for the first time for over a week.

We are next to a railway line that follows the course of the river but are getting very little disturbance from it.   There is nothing to see apart from the river, the embankments, and the occasional passing boat,

Thursday, 30 July 2015

A quiet day in Waterbeach

We havent moved today as we are in no particular hurry.  We have plenty of time to visit the places we want to visit and meet various committed dates during August.  This morning we walked the 2.5 mile round trip to Waterbeach.  It's an interesting "proper" village with many old houses, two pubs, a butchers, a couple of general stores,  a village green and a old church which was heavily though attractively  restored in Victorian times.  Soon after we returned to the boat there was a heavy rain shower justifying our decision to stay.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Goodbye Cambridge

A useful 48 hour stay in Cambridge as we were able to get our laundry done and stock up with groceries for the next 5-6 days during which facilities may be limited.  Both nights we ate out, on Monday at the Waterman pub a short walk from our mooring which served excellent well presented food and small brewery beer - well worth a visit.  On Tuesday we went to the Hakka Chinese Restaurant, again not far from the mooring, which provides a wide menu with particular emphasis on seafood.  Again an excellent freshly cooked meal,  some of the best chinese food we have eaten for a long time..
Densie moored near Waterbeach out in the fens
After buying our groceries this morning we set off soon after lunch.  First stop was to fill up with water and pump out the waste tank - another precaution against limited facilities.  Then back downstream mooring at Waterbeach near Bottisham Lock.  We are really out in the countryside here surrounded by the flat fens.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Return to Cambridge

Approaching Bottisham Lock where there is a weir, a sluice and a lock (L to R)
Yes, we are back in Cambridge moored in almost exactly the same place where we stopped 2.5 weeks ago.  We left Popes Corner at 9am and made fast progress of 3.5-4 mph despite a fairly strong head wind for much of the 4.5 hour journey.  There were a few spots of rain but nothing to makes us want to stop.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

At the end of the Old West River and it's raining again

On the Old West River
Last night we planned most of the remainder of our stay in the fens.  The next step in our journey is a return to Cambridge for a few days to do the laundry and stock up again with groceries as the subsequent 2 weeks will give only limited opportunities for shopping. However the weather forecast for today was that heavy rain was to be expected by the end of the morning.  So our objective for today was to travel sufficiently far so that we could reach Cambridge tomorrow.

We set off at 8:45 in quite pleasant weather with light grey clouds and a light breeze and continued to make good progress like yesterday  The blanket weed which caused problems last time has disappeared again so we didn't need to stop to clear the prop.  By 10:30 we were passing the moorings at the Lazy Otter pub and the clouds were starting to turn a darker shade of grey. As those that seemed likely to cross our path in the immediate future were less threatening than the rest we decided to carry on to the junction with the Cam at Pope's Corner.  We arrived and moored up just as the rain was starting.  We estimate Cambridge is about 4-5 hours away so we are happy.   Well fairly happy given that the rain continues and the temperature is unseasonably cold.  We may even turn the central heating on for a while.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Back to Aldreth

Hemingford Grey Church overlooks the river

ST Ives bridge has a very rare medieval bridge chapel
After yesterday's early stop because of heavy rain and the other short journeys we have made recently we needed to travel some distance to fully charge the batteries.  We left at 9am and travelled quickly with the current and mainly with the wind passing through Hemingford Grey, St Ives and and the tidal section at Earith, where we saw the seal in the water, and back onto the Old West River.  Despite the recent heavy rain there was no obvious change in river levels.

Travelling with the current certainly helped our speed compared with a week or so ago.  The section below St Ives in particular was much more enjoyable as we easily doubled the speed.  Even the Old West River wasnt as bad as I painted it last time.

We moored up at 14:10 at Aldreth where we had moored last time.  In total a journey of 13 mile and 4 locks in about 5 hours - mission accomplished!

Friday, 24 July 2015

Wet wet wet

It's raining at Houghton - view through the boat window
Bad weather was forecast but the early morning was dry and we had things to do.  So we left at 8:30 but almost immediately the rain started, fortunately very light drizzle.  Within half an hour or so we had cruised downstream to Hartford Marina where the rain stopped and we pumped-out the boat and filled up with water.  We were on the move again an hour later.  The rain restarted and steadily got heavier.  We moored up at 10:40 at the first opportunity at the official moorings just below Houghton Lock and will stay here until the rain stops - forecast for tomorrow morning.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Staying in Huntingdon

We havent moved today.  Denise spent the time cleaning the boat and shopping whilst I caught the train to Leicester to visit my father.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015


Just a short journey today - 3 miles and 2 locks in 2 hours.  We need to shop again, and this may be our last chance for perhaps 5 days.  We left just before 9am and travelled quickly and smoothly downstream, wind speeds having dropped since a couple of days ago, passing through Brampton Lock and Godmanchester Lock.  At the latter we met up with Mike and Jane on narrowboat Gamnel Princess.  We will be seeing them again when we return to Northampton as they are heavily involved in the Water Festival at the end of August which we will be attending.

Moored at Huntingdon
Around 10:30 we both arrived in Huntingdon planning to moor by the park.  Unfortunately all those moorings were full so we turned around and moored alongside Gamnel Princess at council moorings near the ancient (14th Century) bridge. They later moved on and so we are now moored directly by the bankside.

This afternoon we went into the town centre to do some of the grocery shopping - the rest can wait until tomorrow.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Nothing to report

We are staying at last night's mooring at Mailer's Meadow on the Great Ouse for another day.  The weather is very windy and we are both ready for a rest.  Not a complete rest though as Denise has washed our socks.

Monday, 20 July 2015

We didnt stay in Godmanchester

We spent half the morning looking around Godmanchester.  It is an attractive small town with a history going back to Roman times, or even earlier, It was formerly an important place and retains many fine old buildings.  However those days have now passed and half a morning was enough for us to see all we wanted.
Sharing Brampton Lock with Excaliber

Moored up for the night
So we changed our plans and set off again around 12:00 passing through Brampton Lock with another narrowboat, Excaliber, and stopped for the day a mile further on in very isolated moorings.  Its a pleasant wooded spot with many varied dragonflies.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

A windy trip to Godmanchester

On the Great Ouse near St Ives
We now ready to move on after our two nights in St Ives.  We left our moorings around 10am after filling up with water and headed upstream.  We have now left the fens and the surrounding countryside is easily visible from the water with no intervening high banks.  The riverside is mostly treelined making for attractive scenery but sadly the pleasure was much reduced by the very strong wind making steering the boat hard work.

After a few miles and a couple of locks we pulled into the large lake housing Hartford Marina where we filled up with diesel - 178 litres.  It sounds a lot but will last us a couple of months or so.  Then past Huntingdon and on to Godmanchester.

Moored at Godmanchester
Mooring at weekends can be difficult for narrowboats as there are a large number of smaller cruisers out for short trips.  As the picture shows we wereat least able to find half a mooring!

Saturday, 18 July 2015

A day in St Ives

Last night we ate out at the Welcome Chinese Restaurant which we enjoyed very much.  I was expecting the standard take-away menu but the food was much better than that - well spiced and very tasty.
Moored n St Ives

We are spending today in the town and taking a rest from cruising.  This morning we looked at the monthly farmers market.  Despite the advertising saying that it had won a national award the stalls seemed limited to me with less choice than our local farmers market.  The highlight was the vegetable stalls. I bought a kohlrabi and received advice on how to serve it from the stall holder and other customers.

Then round to Waitrose for provisions for the next few days.  We had thought that we would have a long shopping list as the fridge was looking pretty empty but we have roughly planned out the rest of our stay in the fens and expect to be in Huntingdon in a few days time.  So we can buy more then.

Friday, 17 July 2015

South to St Ives

Artistic view of the Old West River
Our plan is to spend the weekend in St Ives.  It's likely to be busy so we started travelling early today to have a good chance of finding a mooring space.  After leaving our mooring in bright sunny weather at 8:10 we carried on west on the somewhat tedious Old West River to Hermitage Lock which took us up to the tidal Great Ouse at Earith.  The lock is manned as it is vital for flood control.

Seal at Earith

Waiting for Brownshill Staunch Lock, Densie can just be seen on the right had side 
 On the main river the strong headwind made steering the boat difficult and tiring.  But it was more interesting than the Old West River - in particular seeing a seal on the river's edge as Earith is some 40 miles from the coast at Kings Lynn.  Beyond Earith we ascended Brownshill Staunch, a "staunch" was a single gated barrier across the river, normally opened when the tide level permits.  These days it is now a standard lock with a guillotine gate one end and swing gates the other, but the name remains.

A couple of miles after Brownshill Staunch beyond the attractive riverside village of Holywell the river becomes very shallow and narrow and so not only were we fighting a headwind but also the increased flow of the river and the increase in resistance arising from the lack of depth of water.  Our speed slowed from 4 mph to little over 2 mph which added to our displeasure.  However after a further couple of miles (1 hour!) the river widened again and we reached  St Ives Lock.  Two cruisers had entered the lock before us but they kindly waited and arranged themselves so that we could fit in as well.  One must bear in mind that cruisers are thin fibreglass whereas we are 15 tons of solid steel.

Then into St Ives by lunchtime under the historic bridge with its Chapel in the middle.  There were no moorings available at the obvious places but from our previous visit we knew of further moorings at the other end of the town just off the main river which proved to be nearly empty.  So we are happily set up for the weekend.

In the afternoon we walked into town for some immediate shopping and found a Waitrose which sold everything we needed and a Chinese Restaurant which looked suitable for our first meal out since Peterborough two weeks ago.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Leaving Wicken Fen - towards St Ives

We left our delightful mooring in Wicken Fen at 8:40 this morning - we saw what we came to see and it is now time to resume our travels.

Back slowly along Wicken Lode, then through the guilotine gates of Upwell Lock onto the Cam.  The river is very wide from here to the junction with the Great Ouse at Popes Corner and so we made good progress.  Turn left onto the Old West River, part of the Great Ouse, and then somewhat to our surprise we were faced with a totally different waterway - shallow, narrow and rather weedy.  So our speed slowed from nearly 4mph on the Cam to around 3mph.  Rather tedious, made much more so by the scenery, or lack of it.  Most of the way the river is enclosed behind embankments  and so there is little to see.
Densie moored on the Old West River about a mile from Aldreth

View from the embankment with flat farmland stretching nearly to the horizon
By 13:30, after lunch on the move we were both feeling tired so we decided to stop for the day at an isolated mooring far from anywhere in particular.  This gave me an opportunity to climb the embankment to see what lay beyond.  Nothing - well not quite nothing but flat arable farmland with very little else in view.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

A day in Wicken Fen

We havent moved today, just a 2 hour birdwatchmg walk in the morning around the fens.  We were happy to see marsh harriers, a bittern, a redshank and a sandpiper.  In the afternoon we were on the boat reading.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Wicken Lode into Wicken Fen

This morning was dry so we set off at 10am on the journey into Wicken Fen, just two miles away.  Wicken Fen is a nature reserve of many years standing going back into Victorian times now run by the National Trust.  It provides one of the last remaining examples of the Fens as they were before intensive farming took over.

Cruising along Wicken Lode
Just down the Cam from our mooring we turned right then through a lock onto Reach Lode, a narrow navigable drainage channel.    A half mile further on we turned left onto Wicken Lode, an even narrower channel which took us to moorings in the centre of the Fen at a speed of less than 2 mph, limited by the extensive vegetation and the shallowness and narrowness of the watercourse.
Lizard at Wicken Fen
After lunch on board we walked around the fen's reed beds hoping to see its most famous residents - the very rare marsh harrier and bittern.  Unfortunately both were keeping their heads down today, but we were pleased to see a range of other birds, a few orchids and a lizard.

Densie at the moorings
We will spend the night here in fairly splendid isolation apart from another narrowboat which arrived shortly after us..

Monday, 13 July 2015

Back to Upware - a very short journey

This morning we had planned to travel from Clayhithe into Wicken fen, a well known nature reserve connected to the Cam via a narrow drainage canal with moorings at the end.
Clayhithe - Denise wiping down Densie after the ran (or not)
When we awoke the weather was very wet so we stayed put til mid morning when conditions improved.  Denise used the cessation of rain as an opportunity to clean the side of the boat.  However she had just completed that work and we were ready to go when the rain started again.  It continued on and off until mid afternoon when the boredom of being stuck in the boat and slightly better weather encouraged us to try again.

Of course the rain restarted soon afterwards but after several "shall we", "shant we" discussions and decisions we finally set off at 3PM.  Mostly the 2 hour journey back down the Cam to Upware where we had moored on Thursday night went well with only a few short showers.  However arriving at our intended moorings we found 2 boats already there with just insufficient space for us.  So much disappointed we were resigned to carrying on.  Fortunately Steve on Mayfly, one of the two boats, had seen us and called out offering to let us moor against him.  Much gratitude and relief!

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Left Cambridge, now at Clayhithe

Densie moored at Jesus Lock, Cambridge
We had an enjoyable 2 days in Cambridge and have restocked with groceries as we will be out in the wilds for a few days.  We left our moorings after a leisurely start to the day at 11:40 and went across the river to fill up with water and to take advantage of the cheap pump-out facilities.  On the move again at 12:30 we were now travelling with the flow of the river and a tail wind we were able to make a reasonable fast speed of 4mph despite the need to avoid the fair number of rowers on the water.  We arrived at the public moorings at Clayhithe, a journey of 5.3 miles and 1 lock, around 2:30.  Just in time as it turned out as within minutes there was a downpour.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Into Cambridge

Last nights mooring near Upware

On the Cam going south

Sharing Bottisham Lock
We started at 8:15 this morning to arrive at Cambridge with a reasonable hope of finding moorings there.  The Cam is a narrower, shallower, and more natural watercourse than the Great Ouse and we enjoyed our 3.75 hour, 9.5 mile journey southwards through more varied scenery than we have been used to in the past few days.  Up a couple of electrically operated locks, one of which we shared with a cruiser going into town for shopping.   Then into the city to moor near the centre at Jesus Lock. where we had a choice of 2 empty spaces.  We plan to stay here until Sunday.

During the afternoon I walked around the city centre which I knew very well 40 years ago.  Very sad, many things from my time there have gone.  Replaced by trendy fashion shops and chain restaurants. Where is the Arts Cinema where I first saw 2001, Elvira Madigan, Clair's Knee, Last Year in Marienbad?  What about the two Greek Restaurants?

Thursday, 9 July 2015

From theGreat Ouse to the Cam

Yesterday's mooring on the Great Ouse

Internet abuse - Ely acts!

Riverside pub at Ely
We want to be in Cambridge for a gathering on Friday so an early start today gives us a chance of a mooring in the city if we can get there on Friday morning.  Set off at 8:30, then an uneventful and to be honest unexciting journey through the fens.  The weather was very pleasant with sunshine, but not too hot and not too windy for the whole 18 lock free miles via Ely and onto the Cam to moor at Upware at 1:30.

Our mooring here is attractive and the water is very clear so we can see small fish swimming around the boat.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

The Great Ouse

Passing over the Middle Levels Main Drain

We left Upwell at 9:30.  On the way we passed over the large Middle Level Main Drain, a modern drainage channel that unfortunately isnt available for navigation.  The difference in the levels between the old Well Creek and the new channel shows the general drop in soil level that has occurred in the Fens since they were drained and the underlying peat started to dry out and compress. Well Creek itself was once a drainage channel but is now higher than the surrounding farmland and is protected by high banks.

Salters Lode Lock  - waiting for the gate to rise and let us out onto the tidal river
We reached Salters Lode Lock just before lunch time.  This lock takes us up (yes up!) to the tidal Great Ouse and passage through the lock is limited to periods when the tide is high enough for boats to travel on the river but no so high that the waterway is blocked by a low bridge and general lock superstructure.  At 13:45 conditions were right and we ascended the lock and travelled for half a mile up the tidal river to reach Denver Lock which took us down (yes down!) onto the controlled part of the river.
Family of Great Crested Grebe on the Great Ouse
Cruising up the Great Ouse
After a further very enjoyable hour of fast cruising on this wide deep river we stopped for the night at an EA (Environment Agency) mooring some way from anywhere in particular. As I write this the weather has turned wet and miserable so we are glad we stopped when we did.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

A day of two halves

March - on the old River Nene
We had planned to get the laundry done this morning having been out for 3 weeks.    There was a laundrette in March only 10 minutes walk from the boat with a service wash so we deposited our clothes there at 8:30am and returned 3 hours later and picked up the bags with everything clean and dry.  What hadnt been planned was my visit to the dentist.  I have had an increasingly wobbly wisdom tooth for a few weeks and now was the time to do something about it.  A shop selling excellent ice cream had told us where to find a dentist so I walked there and fortunately was able to get an emergency appointment for 3 hours later at lunch time.  The dentist said she strongly recommended it to be removed which she then did.  Problem solved though at private patient rates - one of the problems of nomadic life.
Boat passing wind turbine
Everything complete we left March at 1pm and travelled onwards through the fenland landscape in windy weather.  We passed right by a large windfarm (26 turbines I think) - the picture shows the size of one of these structures compared with a passing boat.  At 4pm we moored up at the village of Upwell which together with its adjacent village of Outwell  stretches for over a mile along Well Creek as two rows of houses, shops etc on each side of the waterway.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Onto the Fens

On the Middle Levels
After an enjoyable weekend in Peterborough we are on the move again.  We left the Nene at 9:30 and locked down onto the Middle Levels on a course which will take us across the fens to the Great Ouse. The scenery is definitely an acquired taste, flat farmland crossed by mainly straight waterways. Visibility is often constrained by high embankments either side of the waterway, its main purpose being water control rather than navigation.  However there are frequent good views of windfarms the fens being an ideal location with lots of land, continuous winds, and few people around to object.  I find they are an enhancement making up the the absence of any other striking features.

Moorings are limited but we have found somewhere to stop in March, a rather busy little town, which has the advantage of a Launderette not far away.  After 3 weeks our clothes bag is rather full.

Friday, 3 July 2015

We reach Peterborough

Milton Ferry Bridge

Typical Nene scenery on the way to Peterborough

Densie moored at Peterborough's Town Quay
Yet another journey in good weather through attractive scenery.  And we saw our first kingfisher of the year!  We set off at 8:45 and cruised quickly and comfortably along this increasingly deep and wide river.  The scenery has now changed from the wide flat flood plain of previous days to a course alongside a range of low hills, the river side being lined with mature trees.  We reached Peterborough at 12:00 and have moored at the City Quay intending to stay for the next 2 days.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Onwards down the Nene - cooler weather

Fotheringhay Church across the fields from the River Nene
Very much of a routine travelling day.  I am sure the scenery was just as good as the past couple of days but it all looks different in the cloudy weather.  On the other hand the cooler temperatures made for a much more comfortable journey and the forecast thunderstorms never happened.  Main point of interest was the spectacular but oddly stunted Fotheringhay Church.  It was I think formerly a monastery building which was reduced in size when its status was changed to the village parish church.  The river is now much wider and deeper so we were able to make fast progress - a total of 14miles and 7 locks.  We are moored next to Wansford Railway Station on the privately run Nene Valley railway.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Defeated by the heat

Yesterday we were moored against Wandering Canuck with a crew of Canadians as the pub moorings were full - many thanks to them.  The meal in the evening was excellant as was the beer.  So we can recommend the Red Lion at Wadenhoe to all passing boaters.

Beautifully situated Lilford Lock

Little Egret

Common or Arctic Tern
Even warmer today.  We set off just before 9am and only cruised for 2.5 hours before the heat got too much as we have no shelter from the sun whilst cruising.  A very pleasant 5.7 miles and 4 locks with increasing numbers of red kites, good views of little egrets and very pleasant scenery.  We moored at 11:30 desperate for some shade at the useful unofficial moorings above Ashton Lock.