Nature In Distress

As we left our overnight mooring by ‘The Ship’, we both commented how impressed and delighted we are by the variety of birds and wildlife on the Ouse. There’s always something to see, even if its fish swimming around just under the surface of the water.

Not far from where we were moored looks to be a nice mooring. We’ve made a mental note to stop here on our way back.

It wasn’t long before we came to Littleport, John and Rusty stayed on Cyan, while I set off with my ‘granny trolley’ to pay a visit to the CoOp. Littleport is a quiet little place, with a variety of big/small, new/old houses. I was rather upset with the CoOp as there were no strawberries on sale. It appears to happen every year, even when we lived in Spain, as soon as Wimbledon starts; strawberries become hard to find – or so it appears to me. Still, I did manage to fill the trolley with ‘other’ fresh fruit and veg, plus various extra bits to tide us over until we can get a Tesco delivery this weekend.

We were soon on our way again, and it wasn’t long before we turned left onto the River Lark. We passed a couple of GOBA moorings, and on hindsight we should have moored on them, but we wanted to moor by Prickwillow Bridge, next to Prickwillow Engine Museum.

At Prickwillow there are two EA 48 hour moorings either side of the bridge, though for some reason, the first mooring we came to is ‘out of action’. We didn’t see the ‘no mooring’ sign until we attempted to moor.

You can just about see orange plastic fencing along the mooring, with a notice saying “No Mooring”. The waterpoint at the end looks clear of the orange fencing.

It’s not obvious why the mooring is out of use, it looks perfectly fine to us, perhaps the mooring has become unsafe?

Sadly, about 200 metres before Prickwillow Bridge, there was a dead swan in the water. We don’t recall ever seeing a dead swan before, although they obviously do die. Just as we sailed under the bridge, there was another swan which was obviously dying. It’s mouth was opening and shutting as if it was gasping for air, it’s neck was down onto it’s back, and it kept shaking it’s head.

Not far from the bridge is another mooring. This time we successfully moored, and wasted no time trying to get help for the swan. Something must be wrong.

Despite not having a good phone signal, I phoned the Environment Agency as the Lark is one of their rivers. They couldn’t help, but they passed me through to the RSPCA….. Long story short, after no one answering the phone, redialling and phoning other numbers without success for an hour, we gave up on the RSPCA. We could still see the swan, in full sunshine, in a distressed state from where we were moored. John then took charge and phoned Cambridge Police for assistance. The lady on the other end of the phone obviously had an affinity with swans, and was sympathetic to our problem. She just said “Leave it with me.” She took our telephone number, and name of our boat.

About half an hour later, we got a phone call from an RSPCA Inspector saying he was on the bridge, and was looking at the swan. John joined him, to offer any help he could. The RSPCA inspector had been coming out of  court when the police phoned him, and he was still in his best ‘court clothes’.

Donning waders, and holding a hooked pole, he prodded the bank with the pole to test where he could step to get near to the swan. At one point the swan managed to swim towards the centre of the river, but soon gave up, leaving a small breeze to push her/him back towards the bank again, and close enough for the Inspector to ‘hook’ the swan with his pole. Once caught, the swan was placed in a special bag, making it easy to carry the swan without doing any damage.

The Inspector thinks the swan has been in distress for days as it was emaciated. His thoughts were that the swan, including the dead one, had been poisoned. Maybe not from any malicious act, but perhaps through a fungus brought on by the recent hot weather. He said that when he gets back to base, the vet will probably euthanize the swan, as it is so sick.  He’ll write a report for the Environment Agency, mentioning the other swan that had died. He doubted the Agency would bother with an autopsy to discover precisely how it died, as they are expensive.

We mentioned how difficult it was to get through to the RSPCA, and how we resorted to getting help via the police. The Inspector mentioned that due to the hot weather, they are extremely busy (dogs left in cars?).

Edited to say: Strange though, after being on the Great Ouse which is teeming with wildlife, there’s hardly any other wildlife here on the Lark. No ducks, moorhens, or even any other flying birds. Very strange.

We travelled 7.5 miles, and zero locks.

Topping Up Cyan’s Tanks

Last evening’s sunset was pure magic! ‘Our’ seal had returned to his (or her) spot on the mooring, and was literally zonked out asleep as I took the photo.

We left our mooring by Hilgay Bridge, but not before taking on water.

It makes life so much easier now the water tank gauge has started working again. After two showers, and with the washing machine doing a cycle, the gauge registered ‘2’ (full is 10). We took a measurement between the hard bank and the boat’s hull to see how low/high Cyan sits in the water when the water tank is practically empty, and between when the water tank’s full. John thinks the bow sits lower in the water by approx. 6 inches when the tank is brimmed. This obviously would make a big difference when going through the low bridges on the Middle Levels.

On our return, before we attempt the Middle Levels, we’ve made a note to stop at yesterday’s mooring to brim the water tank, and of course to see the seal one more time.

We hadn’t gone very far on our journey when we spotted the seal in the water. He (or she) was swimming with about a foot long fish in it’s mouth. By the time I’d grabbed the camera he was practically out of range. Though I did manage to watch him roll in his back with the fish, as if he was playing with the fish. I expect he’s lonely, though he looks quite happy and healthy.

This is a pic from the Internet, which looks exactly as we saw ‘our’ seal today.

Babies are growing fast!

At Brandon Creek Junction, or The Little Ouse Junction, we turned left, making a note that it would be nice to visit ‘The Ship PH’ when we return.

We wanted to visit ‘The Little Ouse Moorings’ to top up with diesel. The diesel tank was topped with 72 litres of diesel at 89p per litre. As we bought diesel the owners let us use their Elsan point, and dump our rubbish which had grown into a small mountain. Turning at the service mooring, we made our way back to The Ship PH, turning left to be on the Great Ouse again, and mooring just after The Ship on an EA 48hr mooring.

Our plan was to push on to Littleport for an essential visit to the CoOp, our fresh vegetable/fruit stocks are not just low, they’re now non existent. When we get to the marina on Saturday, we’re hoping to get a big Tesco delivery.

The weather was hot, and as we were passing a pub, we moored, and popped in for a couple of cool beers, and a very tasty, crispy battered haddock and chips.

Today we’ve cruised 4.5 miles, and no locks.

Seals!

We’re dragging our heals rudder a bit as we’ve got 17 miles to go until we reach our destination on the River Lark by Saturday. Since reaching the Great River Ouse, the weather has been glorious. Some might say it’s too hot, but I wouldn’t like to be negative about it; it could change all too soon.

Saturday morning was hot, yet very calm, with the river hardly moving. We’d planned to black paint the hull of the boat, and paint the gunnels with ‘Andy Russell Gunnel Paint’. Loads of ‘hay’, from long mown grass along the mooring was put on the water between the bank and the boat, just in case there were drips. It wasn’t long before one side of the boat was looking sharp and tidy. It was dry within half an hour. The ‘hay’ was gathered up and disposed of.

In the afternoon we moved Cyan to the other side of the river to paint the other side of Cyan. We never managed to paint it though; while we were there the wind got up, and kept blowing the protective ‘hay’ away. We didn’t like to take the chance of dropping any paint into the river, preferring to defer the job until we’re sure there’ll be no accidents.

Leaving our weekend’s mooring yesterday morning.

Passing a Grebe family. The little ones are diving as good as their parents. Their head’s are stripy.

River Wissey to the left.

House with a Dutch influence

It wasn’t long before we were at our planned mooring, just after Hilgay Bridge.

During the afternoon, we couldn’t believe how lucky we were, a seal was swimming around our boat.

For about 30 minutes the seal was giving us quite a show, it was fascinating how agile, and fast it could swim.

The boys (top right corner) had been jumping off the road bridge and diving into the water, showing off how fearless they were. As soon as they saw the seal swimming around, they decided it wouldn’t be a good idea to upset the seal.

The seal then became quite interested with the mooring bank.

Eventually it ‘jumped’ onto the bank.

A local dog walker said the seal has been in this area for about two years, and it’s been known to perform for people. She said often she’s sat on a seat by the river with her dog, and the seal’s come along and splashed them.

The seal enjoyed drying out in the sunshine. Amazing how it’s coat changed from a texture quite ‘slippery’ looking, to something quite fluffy.

I’m pretty sure I can see something of a smug smile.

The seal didn’t appear to be bothered by us at all. 

Rusty isn’t too well at the moment, he’s got an upset tummy again. We think it’s because he drank from a bucket of Ouse water. We had a BBQ on Saturday night; just in case as everywhere is quite dry, we kept a bucket of water close by. Or perhaps it was the treat of a few pieces of cheese which made him ill – such is his dodgy constitution. Since he was poorly several months back, he now doesn’t have any pig meat. There’s something in pork that upsets dogs, and you never see dog food with pork added.

We were moored at the end of the mooring, where the pathway comes to an end. Therefore we had to walk past the seal with Rusty; Rusty was desperately trying to make us understand he needed to go out. With the seal being just a few feet away, John held onto to Rusty’s collar tightly, keeping him as close as possible to the wooden railings. The seal just looked, but there didn’t appear to be any fear. Rusty obviously hadn’t seen anything like it, and he was definitely stopped from investigating.

At 2:30 am Rusty woke us wanting to go out, John got out of bed to take him, and again John kept him tightly away from the seal. Annoyingly Rusty didn’t ‘perform’ – probably Rusty’s curiosity was worrying him and he wanted to be nosy. At 4:30 am Rusty started crying again; this time it was my turn. When we got outside the seal had gone!

As Rusty’s tummy is still upset, he’s not eaten anything today, we thought we’d have another day here (what could be worse 🙂 ).

PS…

‘Our’ seal’s back again! 🙂

We’ve travelled just under 3 miles.

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.

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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.