Off The Middle Levels And Onto The River Nene

After our neighbour boat left for Stanground Lock this morning, we held back for about 10 minutes to give the boaters space. Think we left our mooring at Whittlesey about 8:45 am.

At the first ‘leg’ of the journey we travelled through a very narrow ‘drain’ with a tight 45 deg turn, I was dispatched to the bow on ‘look out’ in case we came bow-to-bow with another boat.

Weed Cutters, keeping the channels open for navigation

The nearer we got to Stanground Lock, the more dense the duck weed.

We arrived ‘dead on time’ (surprisingly) at the lock, and we were soon on The River Nene again.

We’re now moored on the moorings at Peterborough Embankment. Though we had a bit of a scare this afternoon; the moorings have a slight curve, so when the aft and fore is securely tied, the middle of the boat is about 10 inches or so away from the edge of the mooring.

We were inside having a cuppa, when there was a series of bangs on the side of our boat, then lots of screaming and shouting. It turns out a 4 or 5 year old boy had been playing around, possibly he was pushed by another kiddie, making him lose his footing, and he fell between the side of the mooring and our boat. Thank God his mum was near enough to grab him, He was tearful and shocked but otherwise non the worse for his soaking, if he’d have gone down under the water, he could have easily been trapped under the boat, or maybe he could have even got crushed.  Looking how the child was wet, he must have been in the water up to his neck. How quickly a tragedy can manifest.

A quick tour of Asda with the ‘granny trolley’ was needed to stock up on essentials. Trouble is, fresh fruit, veg, and salads don’t keep for long in hot weather. We might need to look for more supplies before we get to Northampton.

We’ve been planning where we’re hoping to overnight as we cruise along the Nene, and the conversation morphed into where will we be going after the Nene. Our next plan is to visit Stratford, with our aim being the Stratford Ring and The Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Our plan just might take us up to the end of Autumn.

Today we’ve travelled 5 miles and one lock.

It Pays To Complain

After quite a wet start to the day, by 9:00 am the sun was shining. By 10:00 am, Rusty had been walked (or run) in the park, we’d had our breakfast, and were ready to roll. We had a couple of quick duties to perform at the sanny nearby, and then we were on our way, heading to Whittlesey.

The water appears quite low in some areas, yet in other areas the water is crystal clear, making it very easy to see the fish swimming.

There’s another boat, moored in front of us, will be going through Stanground Lock at 10:00 am, our time is 10:30; which means we’ll be setting off tomorrow, about half an hour after the other boat has left.

Where we’re moored, at the top of Ashline Lock

John read an article last week about insurance. The article explained that insurance premiums are down this year by 11% on 2017 figures. Coincidentally we received a reminder that our boat insurance is up for renewal in a couple of weeks, and of course, the renewal cost has gone up. John wrote to the insurance company asking for an explanation why the renewal premium had gone up, when insurance premiums have gone down. John received an answer today, the insurance company underwriters had agreed to reduced the premium by about 11% – it really does pay to complain.

We moored alongside a park, one of Rusty’s favourite places.

Passing Through Marmont Priory Lock

Yesterday was a pretty dire day, not so much wet, but depressingly grey after being use to such sunny weather. We even had to run the engine a couple of times during the day to boost the batteries, quite a difference from last week where the batteries were on float for most of the day after being charged by the solars.

This morning we left our Upwell mooring around 9:30 am; after ‘borrowing’ the key for the water point from The Five Bells PH to brim Cyan’s water tank. We wanted to get Cyan’s bow as low in the water as possible. We had a bit of trouble going through the low bridges on the Middle Levels when we passed through a month ago. We’re not absolutely sure, but we think the Middle Levels have risen by an inch or so because of Friday’s storms, therefore it was essential we stripped the roof, making Cyan sit in the water as low as possible.

You can see in the pic below; there wasn’t much room to spare.

It wasn’t long before we arrived at Marmont Priory Lock, and we rang the bell as requested. Out came the lovely Maureen, the owner/lock keeper. While we were working the lock, she had me in stitches with her tales of being a lock keeper. I felt quite humbled that she helped us through the lock; what a lovely lady she is. She was rather made up with Rusty as she used to have two German Shepherds. To her credit, they were both 17 years old when they died. She kept wistfully saying that Rusty looked so much like her ‘Shadow’.

Maureen also mentioned the Friday storm, saying she’d never seen anything like it. The mini tornado that whizzed through Upwell, also visited her garden. It brought down a tree, and stripped the apples from her fruit trees. She lost electric, which didn’t return until after midnight.

Passing the wind farm, I didn’t notice how high the turbines were when we passed through a month ago.

We managed to moor just before the bridge in March. There’s a Portuguese chippy right next to the mooring, which was too tempting to ignore. After lunch I took myself off to the shops.

One of the handiest ‘tools’ we use, is a long handled paint stick, the type you stick a roller on the end. We bought it after we saw another boater use a ‘paint stick’ as a hook when he picked up the end of a mooring chain, after threading it through a piece of armco. It ‘saves’ arthritic knees! We’ve had our ‘stick’ for a while now, using it for many jobs, such as hooking ropes from bows, and other items that are just beyond our reach. The trouble was, I’d used the ‘stick’ as a sort of ‘poker’ for the bbq, and managed to leave it on the side of the river bank. Therefore, I was on a mission to replace the stick as soon as possible. I found a great shop in March, the sort that’s full of all manner of interesting things. I bought two paint sticks (one that extends), spare water tap connections, jubilee clips, fly swats, elastic, sticky tape…. you get my drift. I also had a quick scoot round Tesco Express.

Tomorrow, after visiting the sanny station, we’re heading for Whittlesey. At 10:30 am on Wednesday we’ve booked our passage through Stanground Lock.

Today we’ve travelled 13.25 miles, and through one lock.

Two Tempests On The Ouse

What an evening we had last night! We’d been following the local weather at Denver Sluice, and saw the Met Office had issued not one, but two ‘Yellow Weather Alerts’ for thunder and lightening. After a lovely afternoon where the river was calm, and hardly moving, we suddenly found ourselves in a ‘mother and father’ of a storm. The wind got up, dark clouds formed, then we suffered thunder and lightening. Rain and hailstones hit Cyan with force. We were on deck securing the canopy, and forgot there were a couple ‘hopper’ windows open. It was shocking to see rain had been ‘driven’ into Cyan through the small window openings. The ceiling was soaked, as was the galley, and our laptops! The rain lashed on and off right into today’s early hours, as did strong gusts of wind.

We were rather worried (at least I was, if John was worried he kept it very quiet); we had a 9:00 am passage through Denver Sluice, and with today’s high winds, and strong gusts, it all looked very daunting.  Unfortunately, five other boats had also been booked to go through at 9:00, and we all turned up on the dot of 9! There’s really only room for one boat on the lock landing, which resulted in three boats breasting up together. The fourth boat turned around and managed to get into the only space available by ‘Jenyns Inn’ PH. As we were the last to arrive (still on the dot of 9), we were forced to try and seek a little shelter from the wind, near the back of the lock landing, all the time trying to tread water. It seemed hopeless…. eventually John managed to get Cyan’s bow into a short space at the end of the landing, where I managed to jump onto the landing, securing Cyan enough to stop her being blown off course by the strong winds.

By the time we were through Denver Sluice, it was 11:00, and without too much time to spare before the tide turned. A quick dash down the tidal stretch and John balanced the wind and tidal flow to swing Cyan into Salter’s Lode Lock entrance. I couldn’t see the lock and thought we were heading for a fence, luckily John’s eyes are better than mine, and he knew Cyan had to be manoeuvred behind the fence to line up for the entrance. Hairy moment, thankfully completed without any drama!

Leaving Salter’s Lode Lock

Chatting to Paul, Salter’s Lode’s lock keeper, it appears Upwell had a mini tornado go through the village last evening, causing quite a bit of damage. Part of the village had it’s power supply cut, including the Five Bells pub. Apparently the pub’s Landlord took orders for fish ‘n’ chips from his customers; picking up the order from the local chippy in Outwell, which still had power.

The journey to Upwell was quite a battle with the wind. Most of the time Cyan ‘crabbed’ her way through the water.

With four boats going through the lock before us, we thought we wouldn’t be able to find a mooring at Upwell. When we arrived we saw one of the boats moored on the landing, but there was also a Fox’s hire boat taking up two spaces. We stopped, and asked the ‘holiday makers’ if they would make room for us. They said they weren’t stopping, and after having a nice bit of a natter with them, they moved off, and we tucked ourselves next to the other moored boat. At lease if any boat needs to take on water, there’s now space.

We’d like to move on to March tomorrow, but the weather forecast looks abysmal. Perhaps we’ll hunker down, and wait for the better weather that’s forecast for Monday. There could be worse places to shelter from the stormy weather!

Today we’ve travelled 6.5 miles, and through two locks.

Longhorns, And Whales

We were on parade pretty early this morning, ‘time and tide wait for no man’! By 9:00 am we were ready for our ascent through Salter’s Lode Lock (can you believe that), climbing up onto the Gt Ouse, which is of course at sea level.

The Lock Keeper came to speak to John, and the other boater who was moored in front of us, for a quick pep talk. Although we’d taken off the flower pots from the roof as a precaution, the Lock Keeper was a little concerned at the height of our cratch frame, and suggested the other boater went through first allowing the tide to lower the water level in the river. He invited John to observe the Lock operation and to pick up a few tips on negotiating the river.

Waiting for a boat to come down the lock. Surprisingly we’d previously met the boaters as we shared a couple of locks together on the Nene. It appeared they had a great time visiting Ely and Huntington.

By the time our turn came to go through the lock, already the water was about a foot down, therefore we didn’t have a ‘height’ problem anymore.

Lock Keeper suggested Cyan pushes against the front gate to steady her. Opening the paddle, it really let the water in with a whoosh!

Soon the gate was opened for us to leave. You can just about see the ‘tide mark’ where the water was higher for the first boat.

So this is the Great Ouse. Cyan being put into a hard right turn, and we were out onto the tidal flow.

.

Lock Keeper watched us turn into the flow of the Ouse from his garden. A big thumbs up as we passed him. He (joked) awards ‘marks’ for helmsman ship to those entering, and leaving Salter’s Lode Lock.

The Lock Keeper was also on the lookout for a whale! The whale was spotted entering the Ouse at Kings Lynn at 8:00 yesterday morning, and is believed to be a pilot or minke whale.

Must remember the Lock Keeper’s advice when we return. He told us to turn into the lock as soon as we reach the ‘X on the pole’. Otherwise the current will make us ‘over shoot’ the lock entrance.

As soon as we hit the deep water, Cyan ‘picked up her skirt’ to ‘battle’ the current that was against her.

It’s a short distance to travel on the tidal stretch before we go through Denver Lock. The boat in the distance coming towards us had just left Denver Lock, and was making for Salter’s Lode.

Approaching Denver Lock, the Lock Keeper waiting for us with the gate up.

In Denver lock we dropped down to join the non-tidal Great Ouse.

Looking back to where we left Denver Lock. There’s another boat preparing to go in.

Jenyns Arms at the bottom of Denver Lock.

We didn’t travel far from Denver Lock, a mooring space was vacant at the furthest end of the first mooring we came across. A perfect place for us!

It’s been a hot day, and we’re looking forward to a BBQ when the weather turns cooler this evening.

As soon as we moored we were met by a Swan family. Already Mum and Dad are teaching their young to scrounge food. If swans can’t find enough food from this huge, and clean river then something is wrong.

No sign of the whale, but we watched this English Longhorn swim towards us, before settling for a rest on a bank of river mud. The water on this hot day must have been tempting.

Just as I started to worry that ‘someone’ should be alerted, thinking the  cow/bull couldn’t get out of the river, the beast climbed nonchalantly up the steep bank.

Baby Grebe having a ride on mum’s back.

The bank where we’re moored is rather low, making the under gunnel area of Cyan quite exposed. It’s a perfect opportunity to paint the starboard side of the hull with blacking paint down to the waterline. On Sunday if there’s space for us to go to the mooring on the opposite side of the river, we’ll do the same on Cyan’s port-side. We’d rather not be moving much over the weekend, leaving the river free for weekend boaters. But then again, plans may change.

Today we’ve only travelled half a mile, and through 2 tidal locks.

Mooring, Playing Safe

Yesterday was another day we didn’t cruise, instead we stayed on our mooring by Upwell Church. We left our mooring about 9:30 this morning.

Today we hoped to get near to Salter’s Lode/Lock for our venture onto the Gt Ouse planned for around 9:30/9;45 tomorrow morning.  Being a huge football addict fan, John’s desperate to get a good WiFi, or digital TV signal where we moor today.

England expects….

It was a super day for boating, the weather was glorious with just a hint of a cheeky breeze

We had two moorings to choose from, one was relatively nearby, and was on a 40 deg bend. This mooring was really too soon for us to stop, we’d like to get nearer to the lock.

Well Creek or Mullicourt Aqueduct between the bridges

Looking to the right while on the Aqueduct, we could see the Main Drain (this is the end of the Drain’s navigation).

A beautiful English Garden, delphiniums, roses, lupins growing with a background of different trees and bushes.

At the 2nd of our choice of moorings, we decided we’d give the mooring a miss. We weren’t sure if the wooden planks would take our weight, and the last thing we needed being miles from anywhere, was an accident. We decided to take our chance at Salter’s Lode.

The pic below is of Newton’s Bridge (no 29), we believe this to be the lowest bridge on the Creek. The picture was taken seconds before the pot of flowers near the bow was (sadly) knocked off! Luckily the other plant pots just skimmed under. On our way back, we think we’ll remove the tubs to the cratch for safe keeping, if only for the sake of our nerves. In the ‘Middle Level Navigation Notes 2018’ given to us by the Lock Keeper at Stanground Lock, there’s a list of low bridges; this bridge isn’t on the list.

It wasn’t long before we were at Salter’s Lode. We just managed to squeeze, with the help of the boat in front, onto the mooring.

There’s no Digital TV signal here, but WiFi is relatively good, though it did hiccup a few times during the football match. John remains pretty up beat about England’s World Cup chances despite losing by one goal to Belgium. He says Southgate played his 2nd best players for the game as England had already passed to the next stage, saving his best players for the next round. Some battles/games you lose, so long as the ‘war’ / ‘World Cup’ is won!

We travelled just under 6 miles today.

Through Marmont Priory Lock

As we’d booked to go up Marmont Priory Lock at 1:00 pm, we weren’t too sure how long it would take us. Plus there were sanny duties to attend, and a quick trip to the shops for fruit and salad before we left March.

The plan was to start as soon as we could, with perhaps stopping along the way for breakfast. At 8:00 am we pushed off from our mooring after Rusty had been walked, and we’d showered. The sanny station was around the corner, probably a couple hundred yards away. Elsan chores, rubbish dumped, and the water tank topped up – we were very glad of the full water tank…. more later.

From the sanny station, Cyan ‘hopped’ sideways to a mooring on the other side of the river by the library. I dried my hair, and tidied up for a visit to the shops. While passing a postbox I posted Direct Debit authorisation to the ‘Great Ouse Boating Association’ [GOBA]. We’ve been advised to join (£23 per annum, plus £2 registration fee) GOBA to access their moorings along the Ouse.

Shopping was soon done, and by 10:30 am, as planned, we pushed off from our mooring; leaving March behind.

There’s not much to see on the Fens, although we marvel at the engineering

We even got ‘excited’ by the wind turbines. John had a good question, why are there no maker’s signage on the turbines?

It was 12 noon when we arrived at Marmont Lock, the lock was empty, and we could see an elderly man on the lock beckoning us to enter the lock. I thought he must be a boater that is waiting to come down. After disembarking at the lock landing to help, and climbing up the bank to the lock, I was a bit confused. Surely our slot was 1 pm, were we allowed to jump a queue? Stupidly, (thinking the man didn’t know the ‘rules’) I asked if he’d come this way before. The man laughed…. and said “I’ve been living here for 60 years, and I’m the lock keeper’s husband!” Thank goodness he saw the funny side; he’s a sweetheart with a great sense of humour. I was so scared of doing something wrong! 🙂 Got a feeling John wont let me hear the last of this.

Leaving Marmont Priory Lock

Something we didn’t realise; the Fens are lower than sea level. Though we’re on our way to join a tidal part of the River Ouse, we had to climb up Marmont Priory Lock; it appears weird!

The area from the lock, to our now mooring was very pretty, the villages appeared unspoilt and timeless.

“Wine Down”

We were told last evening by a member of a boating association in March that the bridge by the Five Bells Pub, and the Church is low, and as we sail through the bridge, it gets lower towards the other side. After a ‘comment’ exchange with Mike on NB Alchemy who passed this way a day or so before us, he reassured us that if we passed under “White Fen Bridge”, we’d get under this bridge. Cyan cautiously sailed under the bridge, and she just about managed to limbo under, though the flowers on top of Cyan brushed along the roof of the bridge, but no damage was done. At the time of writing this, I’ve just realised; I don’t think we passed under “White Fen Bridge”! 🙁

We were pleased we’d topped up Cyan’s water tank before we started our journey today, resulting in her sitting lower in the water. Otherwise we might have had to remove the plant pots from Cyan’s roof so we could get under.

The low bridge.

Our mooring’s are lovely!

We’ll be phoning Salter’s Lode Lock tomorrow for our transit onto the Ouse. Think they will want 24 hours notice, therefore we’ll be staying here tomorrow. A good look-around the village is planned.

Travelled 8 miles, and through 1 lock today.

Through The Deep, and Straight Dykes

Once again we had a day off yesterday as we’re not really in a rush.

We’ve now changed our destination, and will be turning around at Isleham Lock on the River Lark. We’ve managed to book into a marina at Isleham Lock for £20 a night, electricity included! Marinas appear to be expensive in this area, we even met a boater the other day who paid £35 a night at one marina. We have also arranged to go by train from Ely to Cambridge to avoid the £75.00 return taxi fair. Being a tourist is an expensive business!

After a bit of a shuffle around because a boat had breasted against us, we headed towards Ashline Lock. As I worked the lock I found it rather awkward, the windlass is worked using the same motion as ‘stirring a cake’. If the windlass was dropped it would be lost, and so would we!

Some of the bridges are quite low. The one in the pic below was quite deceiving; I saw the bridge approach, yet because the sun was in my eyes, I didn’t realise there was a metal girder beneath. It was John that suddenly realised I hadn’t seen the girder at the last minute, and yelled for me to duck. Seriously think this girder should have red and white stripes on it.

Whittlesley Dyke was quite boring, couldn’t see many landscape features being down below the dyke.

Leaving Whittlesey Dyke, and onto ‘Old Nene’

Twenty Foot River Junction. Not many turn in that direction with a 1.6m headroom!

“Fer lob a dob”

We had thought we’d find a ‘wild mooring spot’, but that proved impossible. Nothing for it but to continue to March.

John was getting a bit agitated as 1.00 pm was approaching fast – the England vs Panama game. He did manage to hear the first two goals on the radio, before we eventually found a 48 hour mooring on the edge of March. We frantically moored. The air turned a deep shade of blue for a while as the digital TV reception, and the wifi connection wasn’t too stable. Still, all was well in the end, thanks to the endless replays!

Edited to add today’s diary (25/06/2018)

Once again we’re having a ‘day off’ from travelling. The sun is glorious, and John’s busy polishing Cyan. At least one side of her is looking pretty smart.

Tomorrow we’ll be moving through March, and through Marmont Priory Lock, we’ve booked a 1:00 pm passage with the lock keeper.

Yesterday we travelled 10.5 miles, and through 1 lock. We’ve 34 miles, and 3 locks until our present journey’s end.

Hello Middle Levels

We left our mooring on the Embankment at Peterborough, moving a short way to use the sanny service, top up the water tank, and to dump our rubbish. We’d planned our journey to leave for Stanground Lock at 9:30 am, to arrive at our 10:30 am slot. We shouldn’t have rushed as we arrived at the lock half an hour early.

We shared a mooring in Peterborough with a boat that was moored next to us at Overton Lake. After a chat with the boater he shared a website link he’d been given (by the owner of the website) which is brilliant. The website shows where mooring, and potential moorings are, services, locks, and lots of other information. The web address is boatsatnav.co.uk/. Access to the guides/maps can be via an app on mobiles phone (sorry not a windows phone), and tablets. On a laptop or desktop you don’t need anything other than a web browser.

What does it show?
  • Lock positions
  • Junctions
  • Services – fuel, water, pump out…
  • Moorings
  • Winding holes
  • Winter & emergency stoppages
  • Shops, post offices, cash points
  • Pubs, restaurants, take aways
  • Bus and rail connections
  • Surgeries, chemists, pharmacies

And we’re adding new information all the time. Eateries for instance will soon have food hygiene ratings shown, and, because all of the data is online, it’s quick and easy to keep it up to date

It’s free, and it’s a continuous project. I understand the owner uses information given to her by other boaters. It’s a brilliant website, which is basically boaters sharing information with boaters.

When we return back this way, we’ve a plan to continue on the Nene (instead of turning right for Stanground Lock) to visit Wisbech.

UK’s own Little Venice

At Stanground Lock we had to tread water as there was a boat on the landing waiting to go through before us, which meant there was no room for us to temporary moor. We didn’t have to wait long, before Cyan was tied to the lock landing. John went to meet ‘Tina’, the very pleasant and helpful Lock Keeper, and to purchase the services key, and windlass we’ll be needing. Tina also gave John two free pamphlets (one for him and one for me) about the Middle Levels.

It wasn’t long before we were through the lock

We were impressed on our first view of the Middle Levels

The water is ever so clean

At the end of King’s Dike, we cruised through quite a narrow channel

With the sun in our eyes, Cyan turned right at a very sharp 45 deg turn, and onto Briggate River (Drain)

That was close, we just managed to squeeze round

It wasn’t long before we moored for the day at the mooring just before Ashline Lock.

Today we’ve travelled 5 miles, and through one lock.