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The 1996 Fens / Avon Cruise

Index


1. Harefield Marina to Ely, via Grand Union Canal, Northampton Arm, River Nene, Middle Level Nene / Great Ouse Link, River Great Ouse.

Friday 28th June was the start of one boat-moving weekend with Neil, Linda and the kids, Neil was going to carry on solo. We started off from Harefield Marina at 17.05 and got to just above Stockers Lock No82 at 19.30. 


Saturday 29th June we started at 9.30 and got to just above Winkwell Swing Bridge No147 at 17.30. It was a cold and windy day. That night we went to “The Three Horseshoes” pub, which was OK.


Sunday 30th June we shoved off at 8.20. Tring summit was reached at 12.35 and we spent 50minutes traversing the summit pound. By 14.55 we were down the seven Marsworth Locks and moored on the non-towpath side visitor moorings opposite the “White Lion” pub. (1999 – Most off these moorings are now permanent! There are some right up by the Aylesbury Arm Junction) Good old John Fleming had been booked for a lift back and he was soon there to take Linda and the kids back home


Monday 1st July Neil left Marsworth solo at 8.30 and arrived towpath side opposite Great Linford Church at 19.00 in torrential rain. Marsworth Locks Nos38 and 37 were negotiated solo. The boat was just put against the top gates and the locks filled. The boat was moved back slightly with the centre rope and then one gate opened. The boat was then motored in and then loosely tied on the centre rope. The lock was emptied slowly and the boat positioned with the centre rope. The single gate the same side of the boat was then opened and the boat pulled out. While it was still moving the gate was closed and the boat was jumped on from the lock wing wall. Good old Seabrook Swing Bridge No125 was the next tackled, this was known to be a pain as the bridge pivots on the non-towpath side and there is no offside moorings as such. This involved tying the boat to a thorn bush! The pound between Seabrook Locks 1 and 2 was dry and a roving B.W. bod helped Neil fill it and through Seabrook Locks No35 and 34. Neil worked all the other locks himself except Leighton and The Soulbury 3, where he paired up with another boat.


Tuesday 2nd July Neil was off at 8.30, at least it was a sunny if not blustery morning. Neil passed Cosgrove at 10.00 and arrived at Stoke Bruerne Bottom Lock at 12.10. Ian Scott was going to meet Neil here later on for a quick assent of the Stoke seven locks. Neil whiled away the time filling the water tank and washing the boat. Ian arrived on his bike, after cycling down from his car left at Stoke Bruerne. At 17.25 we were eventually on our way having unfortunately paired up with “Tarragon”. I say unfortunately because this boat was a small Springer with shear hull sides, the top of which took a few slices out of “Beatty’s” painted gunwales. The people on the Springer seemed unconcerned about this, so Neil informed them if they were going to continue to share with us they would be going in first! A festoon of fenders soon protected “Beatty’s” gunwales! We were moored at the visitor moorings near the tunnel at 19.00. The two John’s and Julian soon joined Ian and Neil in “The Boat” pub. Later even Danny, who lives nearby at Flitwick joined as well, after all this was a Tuesday night!


Wednesday 3rd July.  Ian who stayed the night, just to experience the Blisworth Tunnel, left at 8.25. It looked a clear run so at 8.28 Ian went full throttle into the tunnel! We did indeed have a clear run, coming out the other end at 8.49.30, a 21-minute passage! Ian left at Blisworth and Neil was left to his own devices. Neil turned right at Gayton Junction and had an un-eventful trip down the Rothersthorpe flight. Neil met only one boat coming up who enlightened him about the local’s method of dealing with the serious Nene Locks! He had a beak of 40 minutes just above Northampton G.U. lock where he feasted on K.F.C.! The River Nene was reached at 14.50. The first three Nene locks have pointy gates each end. The first of the guillotine bottom gate locks is at Weston Flavel. Neil arrived here at 16.45. The Northampton flood barrage being passed at 16.35. Weston Flavel caused Neil to experiment with his learned solo Nene lock technique. First the boat was moored in gear from the lock waiting layby, the centre rope securely tied around the wooden post bollards. These pontoons are for some perverted E.A. reason always on the opposite side, so the fenders have to be flipped from side to side while coasting up to the lock layby. They are also only about 35ft long! Next the bloody great guillotine has to be wound down. A handful of these are electric. Most of these electric ones are very touchy about having the top gates completely touching as some have microswitch cutouts, to stop the guillotine being raised when the pointy upper gates are open, when the lock is in control of boaters. The locks have to be left empty, so it is easy going out. When the lock is full and one gate open you motor in and then leave the boat in gear with the extended centre rope round the large upper bollard of the lock, this you have formed into a hoop. The four large bollards are fortunately positioned in the same place, unlike the Grand Union locks, where bollards are scattered with gay abandon in any spot! After the boat is positioned very close to the bottom guillotine the water is slowly dropped and all being well the water pouring over the top gates does not flood the boat! Next all you have to do is pull the centre rope hoop off and jump, up to 10ft down onto the roof of a moving boat! Weston Flavel Lock is also electric and it took Neil 10 minutes to fathom out which electric box you open, and how! This using your previously purchased Nene “Abloy” key. Another fun thing about the River Nene is that you are unlikely to meet anyone, fine if you are anti-social! Neil soon got into the swing of things and had a brief stop at Cogenhoe Lock where he had a chat to some local boaters who were intrigued to hear how an “off river” narrowboater had taken to a solo cruise on their home waterway. This was at 18.30. These were the only boaters seen during the whole traverse of the River Nene! Wellingborough visitor moorings were reached at 21.50. These are conveniently situated in a park full of couples bonking in cars that skid over the grass till the small hours and opposite a mill with a fan that sounds like a V2 rocket taking off!


Thursday 4th July saw Neil shove off at 8.25, not 100% refreshed, but glad to get away from that bloody mill fan! At Wellingborough Lower Lock Neil retrieved a huge inflated inner tube from the lock, it must have come from an earthmover and was blocking his entrance to the lock! It was a pleasant day. At 18.15 Neil passed Lower Barnwell Lock. Neil arrived at the wonderfully peaceful Fotheringay visitor moorings at 20.45 and was pissed off to still get caught by the farmer for the 2 mooring fee!


 Neil started off at 8.35 on Friday 5th July, his last day of solo cruising, for Colin, John Fleming and his brother Paul were meeting him On Saturday. This was going to be at Peterborough, but Neil had put the destination forward to March. The day soon deteriorated to driving drizzle, Wansford Lock was passed at 11.30. The long river moorings in Peterborough were passed at 14.55 an soon after the right turn under the railway bridge was taken into the secret world of the Middle Level. The keepered Stanground Lock was passed between 15.10 and 15.35. Neil bought a Great Ouse type windlass, which would also be needed for Ashline Lock, for it was no longer keepered. The rain was now getting rather fierce and stung Neil’s face as he plodded along the narrow King’s Dyke. The sharp Briggate Bend in Whittlesey was passed at 16.50 and Ashline Lock between 16.55 and 17.15. Not far beyond here the dyke widens and Angle Corner cross roads junction was passed at 18.05. Here the Whittlesey Dyke is crossed by Bevill's Leam, which then turns into the 20ft River on the other side. Fox’s Marina, on the outskirts of March was passed at 19.45 and Neil was moored up in the still pouring rain in March at 20.35. The last of four visitor moorings was taken, the other three taken by Fox’s hire boats. That night Neil feasted on fish and chips from the chippy just up the embankment.


Saturday 6th July the lads were not due to arrive until the afternoon, so Neil tried out his Middle Level Key on the March sanitary station. Here was a reputably good free self pump-out machine, but it proved bloody useless, unable to lift the gunge out of “Beatty’s” roof mounted hole. The water point did work OK and a thorough clean up and out of “Beatty” was taken. Linda dropped off the lads at about 13.00 and we all had another fish and chip meal. We finally pushed of at 14.30. Marmot Priory Lock was assisted by the lady lock keeper and her daughter. We arrived at the “Basin” at Outwell at 17.40. The basin is a slight widening where the branch to Wisbech used to go off, with room for one narrowboat! That night we wandered up to the “Old Mill” restaurant and pub and had an OK meal.


Sunday 7th July we set off at 8.45. The dyke was now quite weedy and we had to slow a few times for an Arlidge on the move de-weed session. Two Fox hire boats were in front, but at Mullicourt Aqueduct we soon dispatched them, as they could not cope with the weed. We had booked a passage out of Salter’s Lode Lock, onto the tidal River Ouse and up To Denver Sluice at 14.00; we arrived there at 10.55. Nordelph was passed at 10.15. During the wait we wandered around and looked at the tidal doors entrance into the Old Bedford River. At 14.15 the friendly Locky, who used to work at Vauxhall’s in Luton before he “dropped out” locked us out onto the Tidal River Ouse in it’s last stage of flood with one of the Fox hire boat’s. We passed another pair of narrowboats going the other way; this was all getting a bit busy! We were soon through the Large Denver Sluice Lock (14.40) as Neil had already bought a Great Ouse License for the princely sum of 90 for a month. The Great Ouse was fast and wide, we passed the River Wissey junction at 14.55 and the Little Ouse junction at 15.55. Littleport junction was passed at 16.30 and the River Lark junction at 16.50. We finally moored on the lower Ely visitor moorings, getting the last spot where you could moor a 50ft narrowboat. That might we went into town, but found it completely dead, the half decent looking Chinese and French restaurants were closed, Hobson’s choice being an OK Indian. This was the “Surma” in Broad Street.


Approaching Salter's Lode Lock 0n Well Creek, Middle Level. First view of Denver Sluice across fens and Old Bedford River.

Arrival at Salter's Lode Lock. Well Creek, Middle Level.

Salter's Lode Lock. Well Creek, Middle Level.

Looking back from Salter's Lode Lock. Well Creek, Middle Level.

Salter's Lode Lock. Well Creek, Middle Level.

Narrowboat locking up onto tidal River Great Ouse. Salter's Lode Lock. Well Creek, Middle Level.

Salters Lode Lock Locky on radio to Denver Lock, synchronizing with another boat coming down. Salters Lode Lock. Well Creek, Middle Level.

The incredibly slow guillotine gate begins its accent. Salters Lode Lock. Well Creek, Middle Level.

The return traffic. Salters Lode Lock. Well Creek, Middle Level.

Our walk up the banks of the tidal River Great Ouse, opposite Denver Sluice. Looking downstream

Our walk up the banks of the tidal River Great Ouse, opposite Denver Sluice. The tidal River Great Ouse in flood.

Our walk up the banks of the tidal River Great Ouse, opposite Denver Sluice. Denver Lock.

Tidal entrance to Denver Lock. River Great Ouse, from October 1995 exploratory walk.

Denver Lock. River Great Ouse, from October 1995 exploratory walk.

Tidal entrance to Denver Lock. Looking up New Bedford River. River Great Ouse, from October 1995 exploratory walk.

Our walk up the banks of the tidal River Great Ouse, opposite Denver Sluice.

Our walk up the banks of the tidal River Great Ouse. Non tidal side of Old Bedford Sluice. Silted up tidal entrance to Old Bedford River.

Our walk up the banks of the tidal River Great Ouse. Non tidal side of Old Bedford Sluice. Silted up tidal entrance to Old Bedford River.

Our walk up the banks of the tidal River Great Ouse, opposite Denver Sluice. The tidal doors at Old Bedford Sluice.

Our walk up the banks of the tidal River Great Ouse, opposite Denver Sluice. Looking up the Old Bedford River. Non tidal side of Old Bedford Sluice.

On the way back from Denver Sluice to Salter's Lode. Locking out of Denver Lock on to the tidal River Great Ouse.

On the way back from Denver Sluice to Salter's Lode. We have locked out of Denver Lock on to the tidal River Great Ouse.

On the way back from Denver Sluice to Salter's Lode. Approaching Salter's Lode Lock somewhat fast to get steerage, as going with a serious flood tide. This was after having turned further down steam. Tidal River Great Ouse.

On the way back from Denver Sluice to Salter's Lode. Entering Salter's Lode Lock at full tilt! Mike Berthoud told to "Get ******* down" as this part was NOT a pleasure trip! Tidal River Great Ouse.

On the way back from Denver Sluice to Salter's Lode. Surprise welcoming committee, Wendy, Linda, Peter and Salter's Lode Locky. Salter's Lode Lock. Well Creek, Middle Level.

Leaving Salter's Lode Lock, on the way to the River Great Ouse system. Well Creek, Middle Level.

Leaving Salter's Lode Lock for Denver Sluice. Fox Hire Boat following. Tidal River Great Ouse.

Leaving Salter's Lode Lock for Denver Sluice. Fox Hire Boat following. Tidal River Great Ouse.

On our way to Denver, passing Old Bedford Sluice. Tidal River Great Ouse.

On our way to Denver, passing narrowboat going the other way. Tidal River Great Ouse.

On our way to Denver, passing the tidal New Bedford River. Tidal River Great Ouse.

Approaching Denver Lock (To left). Tidal River Great Ouse.

Safely in Denver Lock, Fox Hire Boat just pulling up. River Great Ouse.

Nearly ready to exit Denver Lock. River Great Ouse.

Leaving Denver Lock, Denver Sluice, River Great Ouse.

Leaving Denver Lock, Denver Sluice, River Great Ouse.

Denver Sluice to left, Relief Channel Sluice to right. River Great Ouse.

Entrance to the River Wissey. River Great Ouse.

The Blues Brothers, Paul and John.

Captain Arlidge's fridge paranoia, is that lager getting warm?

Fridge list-o-meter detects slight ballast in balance.

Ouse Rail Bridge. River Great Ouse.

Hilgay Toll Bridge and the "Windmill" pub. River Great Ouse.

"Ferry Boat" pub, Southery. River Great Ouse.

Southery. River Great Ouse. 

Junction with Brandon Creek / River Little Ouse to left. River Great Ouse.

Littleport Bridge. Mr Fleming in his "lectern" reading position. River Great Ouse.

Visitor Moorings, then The Boathaven, Littleport. River Great Ouse.

The "Black Horse", by Sandhill Bridge, Littleport. River Great Ouse.

Sandhill Bridge, Littleport. River Great Ouse.

The final long straight before Ely. River Great Ouse.

Entrance to the River Lark. River Great Ouse.

Adelaide Bridge and Ely to Norwich Rail Bridge. River Great Ouse.

The sugar beet factory at Queen Adelaide. River Great Ouse.

Typical Fens pumping station at Ely. River Great Ouse.

Final approach to Ely, first view of Ely cathedral. Will we moor up before the storm? River Great Ouse.

"Ship of the Fens", Ely cathedral. River Great Ouse.

Muckhill Railway bridge, Ely. River Great Ouse.

Our moorings at Ely. River Great Ouse.

Bernard Henderson's Fox built narrowboat, "Summer Wine". Ely. River Great Ouse.

Ely. River Great Ouse.

Ely. River Great Ouse.

Ely. River Great Ouse.

Our diesel top up at Ely Marina. River Great Ouse.

Ely. River Great Ouse.

Ely. River Great Ouse.

Leaving Ely. River Great Ouse.

The tour continues...


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