Thursday, 29 July 2010

Walking with the Satmap

Courtesy of a tax rebate John has a new toy!  It's called a Satmap - a GPS (Global Positioning Satellites) with Ordinance Survey maps!  Very High-Tec eh??  This is so he doesn't have to buy paper maps for everywhere we go.  He insists it's a space-saving, necessary device.  Also, we can still get lost BUT we will know WHEN we are!!!  It's going to take a long time to pay for itself!!  Like any new gadget, it takes practice to learn how to use it so today ................. we practised!
We went for a six mile walk around the villages of Hemingford Grey, Hemingford Abbots and Houghton - all near St Ives.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves ............. a taste of Cambridgeshire ..................

The  church at Hemingford Grey.  The 'spire' is unique apparently.  It's sort of 'chopped off'!  I don't know whether it was meant to be like that or the builders ran out of money!

The pub at Hemingford Abbots - "The Axe & Compass"  Fancy a pint here, Rodney?

A selection of local property.
Love 'em or hate 'em, they're what adorn the boxes of chocolates and tins of biscuits at Christmas time!      


Houghton Mill - the last working mill on The Great Ouse.  It is now owned by The National Trust and is open to the public.  Flour is still ground in the traditional way.
There was a large touring campsite near here - it looked a really
nice site.

We are coming across more and more of these as opposed to wooden stiles - brilliant:-
  • excellent for middle-aged women with dodgy knees
  • excellent for dog walkers - especially those who own big dogs!

And ......................... narrow boaters with a great sense of fun :-

Finally - good news!  "The Royals" have had their technical problems fixed and ........... are on their way!
Just as well because Ken is responsible for providing and cooking Sunday lunch!!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

"As I was going to St Ives ......"

Cambridgeshire, not Cornwall that is .................

Yes, we are at St Ives and it could possibly be one of the loveliest small towns anywhere in England.  There are lots of old, interesting buildings and in the wide market square is an impressive statue of Oliver Cromwell - hero or villain I'm not sure yet - I'm going to visit the town museum to help me make up my mind.

This chap figures largely in this part of the world - he certainly got about!  
Lots of places boast that he lived there for a while - Ely, here in St Ives and certainly in Huntingdon where, apparently, he was born.

St Ives has lots of individual (albeit expensive) shops and there is no shortage of restaurants, pubs and fast food outlets.
How much would a cut and blow dry be here??
You might end up thinking, Sandra, that Ely was a bargain after all !!!

The bridge over the river is special not only because it is so old but also because it is one of only four in England that has a chapel included in it.  Why, I don't know - perhaps I can find out in the museum.

The old C15th complete with chapel.

There is quite a generous amount of mooring here - some at the town quay, some in a backwater at Waits Quay and some E.A. moorings opposite a hotel.  We have managed to squeeze "Ellen" in at Waits Quay.  The town is a popular place to stay and narrow boats soon swallow up the available mooring space!

Town Quay mooring.


A by-the-by ....................
Yesterday we had a torrential downpour and we got caught in it!  It was the most rain we have had for weeks.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Invasion of the Plastics

"Schools out for Summer" and the cruisers have emerged on mass - both private and hire boats.

On Friday "The Royals" left us to continue going up the Cam to Cambridge - they wished they hadn't bothered as apparently visitor mooring there is a disgrace. We met some other boaters that day  who said exactly the same thing.  Ken & Sandra didn't stay!  Unfortunately they also developed a problem with their alternator and have gone back to Ely to get it fixed.  Hopefully it won't be too difficult to put right.
John has repaired another window so that is now 4/9.

We went onto Reach Lode so that we could fill up with water and moored for the night at the junction with Wicken Lode which is very narrow and quite weedy.  We walked through part of Wicken Fen as far as the Visitor Centre.

The entrance to Wicken Lode and Wicken Fen Nature Reserve.                                                                            

We had a very social weekend!  We just about managed to squeeze onto the GOBA mooring by the Lazy Otter pub on the Old West River section of the Ouse and, on the Saturday, we were joined by two of John's old school pals - Gerald Cole and Brian ("Mac") McIvor.  Mac and John have not seen other for about 35 years!!  Mac's wife, Lynn, came as did Sam and Jenny - Gerald's son and daughter-in-law who only got married a week ago!!  We had a really nice day.

We stayed put and on Sunday Rodney, Gill and Will came to find us bringing post and for me ............... a new carpet sweeper because, as a result of having an O.C.D. about carpets .............. I've worn the old one out!!  We had lunch in the pub and, again, had a really nice day.  In a few weeks time Gill and Will are coming to stay for a whole week!

We have moved on upstream a little towards St Ives.  The Old West River has been narrow and shallow and hardly flowing because of the shortage of rain we have had.  The muddy shoreline, however, has been popular with liitle egrets which a few years ago were really quite rare in this country.  They have successfully re-colonised throughout the U.K.

Tonight we are quite literally 'stuffed in the reeds'!  Tomorrow we will move on just a short distance to Hermitage Lock and Earith so that 'The Royals' can catch us us ............... should they want to!!!!
Maisie is missing Ken!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

"Right" said Fred - or should that be Ken?

Leaving the lovely Ely behind we decided that we would head towards Cambridge on the River Cam.  Shortly outside of Ely there is a junction where boaters can turn off onto two smaller waterways:- Reach Lode leading strangely enough to a place called Reach (!) and Wicken Lode leading to Wicken Nature Reserve - these are dead ends but we have received glowing reports of them both.
"Right", said Fred Ken, "let's go!"
Trouble was there's a lock to get through to enter Reach Lode ..............................

"I can't be certain, John but that lock doesn't look big enough to take this boat!"

"Have we got any dimensions?  The Imray Guide says nothing about length!" says Ken.
"Well this free EA map says the lock is 18.7 metres," says Ange.
"Kessandra is 65 feet" says Sandra," - what's that in metres?"

Oh dear!  19.8 into 18.7 won't go!
We tried moving the decimal point and adding a 0 but that didn't work either!

"What about positioning her diagonally?" suggests Ange
"Good idea," says John "- that's Pythagoras's  Theorem!"  

That didn't work either and, having done the maths to work out why (!) it was because the width of the lock needed to be 6.4m and it is only 4.3m - an insufficiency of 2.1m!!!!

"Oh well, there's only one thing for it," says Ken.  "Reverse!"

Off course we should have worked all this out before turning into Reach Lode.  SO - two narrowboats were seen reversing the 1/4 of a mile back to the junction!

A happy ending though - we soon found a lovely mooring where we were able to sit and contemplate.............

about all the maintenance jobs we could ......... and would ........ be getting on with!
But not just yet!!

"Ellen" is 61.5 feet.  According to my reckoning that is 18.8m!  On their map EA say the lock is 18.7m ........ but then states that at the end of Wicken Fen you can turn a boat 63 feet long!!!!! ?????????
How many metres is that?  
I'm confused!  

Well, on the homeward run we will attempt to take "Ellen" to Wicken Fen ......... watch this space""

Tuesday, 20 July 2010


We are now in Ely and my first impressions after a bit of a walk around is that it's lovely!  I have to say that getting here on the river from Jude's Ferry (the end of the navigation of the River Lark) to here was quite boring because of the high banks.  Ely Cathedral soon shows itself across the fens to approaching visitors.

The waterfront at Ely welcomes visiting boaters - there is plenty of mooring in nice surroundings but I guess there needs to be as this is very definitely on the tourist trail - we have already had Japanese visitors photographing themselves by our boat!

We have had a walk around the town and it is bigger than we thought it would be.  It has lots of individual shops, caters for all sorts and has lots of atmosphere.  Apparently Ely used to be an island.  One of the old ways to earn a living was to catch eels and there were plenty of them in the fens.  This lovely steel statue of an eel is in a park near where we are moored.

Part of the cathedral has a special octagonal tower and this is illuminated at night.

We are permitted to moor for 48 hours.  Altogether a really nice city - the smallest in England.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Wind and Waves

We are now on the River Great Ouse and the weather is back to being normal for a British Summer - we now have wind, waves and plenty of wet stuff!

Crossing the Fens
Little snippet of information for boaters:-  24 hours, free, on-line mooring at Floods Ferry.

March:-  I guess the town is considered to be the Capital of the Fens.  It is quite large and, even on a Tuesday, was quite busy and I quite liked it!  For me it had an old-fashioned feel about it.  We were, however, advised not to stay on the twon moorings overnight so we moved on to the next mooring opportunity - at the village of Upwell - near the church and opposite the Post Office.  The village of Upwell "runs into" the village of Outwell.
An interesting arrangement!  Well Creek runs between two parallel roads (one busier than the other) a vast mixture of styles of housing line both roads - homes range from old to new; tiny to grand.

Outwell to Salter's Lode
This was the most scenic part of our Fenland Crossing because you could at least see across the landscape for miles and miles both ways.  There are vast acres of cereal crops and ............... cabbages!
At Salter's Lode the lock takes you through onto the tidal section of the Ouse.  As the lock can only accommodate boats up to 60' we had to wait for what they call 'level water' - when the tide on one side levels with the waters of Well Creek on the other.  When this happened the lock keeper opened both gates and through we went.  It was a tricky manoeuvre turning upstream against the current and there was a definite moment when our bow seemed perilously close to exposed mud!  Half a mile later, however, we were safely in the lock at Denver ready to join the non-tidal Ely Ouse.

Caught off guard.
Twenty years ago I hired a cruiser from a boatyard at Ely and myself, Megan, brother Graham, niece Helen and my mum and dad had a week on the Ouse.  My dad loved boats and the water and fishing and he could no longer walk very far.  It was the last holiday he had.  As we came out of Denver Lock I was unprepared for the wash of memories and emotions I felt.  All those years ago never would I have dreamed that, one day, I would return in my own boat.

Moored on the wet and windy Ouse just outside of Denver Sluice.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

The Middle Level

This is an area of Fenland linking the rivers Nene and Great Ouse.
It is criss-crossed by numerous man-made drains or dykes - akin to those in Holland or so I'm led to believe.  It's all very different cruising from anything we have so far experienced.

There is a recommended route which takes you:-
*  Along King's Dyke to the town of Whittlesey
*  Along Whittlesey Dyke to Floods Ferry Junction.  Here you can go
                                                          off on a bit of a detour to the town of Ramsey if you wish.
                                                      *  Along the old course of the River Nene to the town of March
                                                      *  Along Wells Creek to the villages of Upwell and Outwell.
                                                      * On to Salters Lode Lock.

Weed growth can be prevalent during the Summer months but, so far, we have been relatively lucky as the weed cutters have been out working ahead of us.

Yes, the dykes are straight and yes, the banks are high and they do restrict the views across the flat, intensively farmed land but the skies are 

The wild flowers growing in the banks are stunning.

The number and variety of dragonflies are mesmerising

                and .................

as you go along you can watch hundreds and hundreds of different freshwater fish in the weeds.

The whole area is managed by a group of people called The Middle Level Commissioners.
Unfortunately, mooring opportunities are limited to the few provided by the town and village councils.  Failing that, you can pay to go into one of the marinas.

We chose to take the diversion to Ramsey and have gone into Bill Fen Marina for the weekend.  It is really nice.  I have sourced a vet in Ramsey to get Maisie's routine jabs done on Monday. 

It continues to be really hot.  This can't be England .................. can it?

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Time Flies when you're having Fun

Where has this week gone?

Today we have reached a place called Ferry Meadows on the outskirts of Peterborough so, from Northampton to here, we have covered approximately 55 miles of the River Nene.  We have been blessed with lovely weather every day so we have seen the river at its most beautiful.  Like the Severn and the Warwickshire Avon, it has the reputation of flooding easily and, as a consequence, the banks are not really developed like much of the Thames.

Mooring up at Ferry Meadows.

Meadow land surrounds - used mostly as pasture for cattle and hay-making it would seem.  Everywhere is so rich in wildlife.  There are literally thousands of dragonflies and damselflies and soaring red kites are now common as a result of the reintroduction programme undertaken at nearby Rockingham Forest.

Lots of grazing cattle - I think they might be destined for the butchers!

The hay harvest is well under way .. and it's only early July!!

The Locks!!
Predominantly these have guillotine gates at one end and are electronically operated.  Those that remain manually operated, however, (too many!!) have to be wound up and down by spinning a large silver wheel!  REALLY HARD WORK!!  It's certainly how to develop muscles like Popeye without having to eat the spinach!!

Sandra - exercising her muscles!

Lovely towns and villages follow the course of the river but tend to be about a mile or so away.  The little town of Oundle felt like something out of a movie set.  All the shops (with the exception of the Co-op) are individual and exclusive and sell lovely but expensive things!  The villages are full of thatch and local stone buildings.

Fotheringhay Church!!  How come something so magnificent is here?!

Old stone bridges abound.  this one is at a place called Thrapston.

As do mills.  Some have been restored and converted into private dwellings and one at least is operating as a restaurant/guest house.  Others, sadly, remain derelict but the swallows are making good use of them as summer residences.  In times gone by, some of these mills were paper mills and others corn mills.

Entering Water Newton Lock - here the old mill has been converted into a private dwelling and the whole area is just stunning.

During our down-stream journey we have been confronted with three over-riding problems:-
1.  Where to moor.
Moorings are SO limited.  In an article I have, it says that any mooring on the Nene is a good mooring.  They are not kidding!  Our plank has been well used as have the shears!

2.  Weed!
It has been worse in certain sections but John has been having frequent intimate moments with the propeller down the weed hatch!

3.  Where to get rid of household rubbish.
There has been no-where since Northampton!  The hot weather has exacerbated things too!  An E.A. worker had the misfortune of meeting Sandra and I at a lock today and ended up taking our rubbish away with him!  He was aware of the problem and sympathetic about it but ....................... !!!!!

We have continued to travel with Ken and Sandra and they are now both sneaky, ruthless Canasta players .... as are we ............ so the evening entertainment sessions have been eventful!
Maisie has learned to swim - voluntarily - and Maggie is getting braver and braver by the day.

Shortly after Peterborough the Nene becomes tidal and flows into the Wash.  We, however, will be turning in at Stanground Lock and going onto the Middle Levels for the next part of our 2010 adventure.
Any boater who has not yet navigated the River Nene ........................ what are you waiting for?   It really is Ab Fab!!