Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Fen Tigers

Perhaps it is only when you have left a place that you realise how special it was. The Fenlands is an area of lowlands with a town called March at its centre. It is vast, from the shores of the Wash roughly between Kings Lynn, Peterborough and Cambridge. 80 miles by 40 miles known generally as the washlands of East Anglia. The two main rivers Nene and Great Ouse either side take the water out to sea. Between the two is the 'Middle Levels'. Manmade drainage systems have dried out the majority of the wetlands which are about 2 meters below sea level. Just like in Holland, a Dutch man helped to design and create the weirs, dams, drains and sluces. The resulting land is rich and fertile.

Before it was drained it consisted of peat bog and marshes with a number of islands of dry land. One of these is Eel Island or Ely with its wonderful Cathedral. The local inhabitants lived lonely natural lives and were known as Fen Tigers because they defended their way of life ferociously. They ate birds, eels and fish and kept warm and dry by burning dried peat. Cromwell was a Fen Tiger and when King Charles I wanted to drain the Fens, Cromwell had his head off!

But the Romans came and the Danes came to invade our land and made us what we are today, Anglo Saxons. Now in modern times it is the Polish who have invaded here. But they come to work for us. Growing vegetables a plenty on the rich fertile land.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A bad day

Some one said to me "a bad day on your boat is better than a good day in the office! Our bad day started the day before when the batteries went 'low'. Most of them were very thirsty. 'Don’t work too well with pure acid in the cells'. As they are the original batteries they must be at least 3 years old and just like 'No Problem' are due for retirement. Should get a new set before the winter. A bad internet connection left me hanging in the bank. Some good news from Phill at Wharfhouse Narrowboats in Braunston. Batteries cost £50 and as one purchased earlier had failed prematurely it's a case of buy 4 and get one free ?

When the girls returned from the shops in Thrapston we set off. A bridge just before Islip Lock proved to be lower than the 2.4 m clearance due to the water being higher. It took our Sat dish off the roof and it dangled on its cable. Only an inch but that angle iron just bent it as I was in 'full astern'.

two by two

It was at least a dry mild day as we travelled with 'No Problem'. Through 6 locks to Rushden & Diamond moorings where 'Balmaha's, Mo and Vanessa greeted us. After a cup of tea the lads sorted out the dish so we could watch the news.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Middle Level

Now on the Middle Level in a 'shallow ditch' The surrounding landscape well below the high tide. As we progressed the 'link' became deeper but there are some very low bridges. So low that Ann had to keep an eye on the chimney, removing it when required. Then it rained all the way to March. Sue & Vic went on ahead. "See you in March" they said. 'That's odd. It's September now!'.

The Middle Level Link is a mixture of original river and man made channels so while in the river bit we were able to get a move on the next day in a sunny day. The Commissioners don't charge for the use of the link but a contribution to both lock keepers is appreciated.

Back on the Nene

We rushed through Peterborough on the very wide deep river Nene heading for Ferry Meadows. A Saturday and 'public' were out and about. As we approached Orton Lock I saw a boat and several fishermen on the lock landing which should be kept clear. 'No Problem' was waiting in the lock. A lot of water was rushing over the weir pushing Moore 2 Life sideways as I slowed on the approach. Missed that boat as the fishermen frantically pulled in their lines. 5 locks and several bends in the river later and we arrived at Elton. There waiting for us and helping with the mooring operations was Mo and Vanessa from 'Balmaha'. We all sat outside enjoying a late afternoon in September while consuming tea n cake kindly provided by Mo n Vanessa. Then Mark and Lorain arrived to join in the 'Blog Circle'.

A 'Blog Circle'

Waiting for the tide at Denver

We were up early and waiting for the high tide at 9 o'clock. Three boats to go through. The guillotine went up and the first boat went in and up on the tide and was away. One boat on the tide coming towards us went into the open lock. The water rushed out as the boat came down to our level.

Waiting at Denver

 Now it was our turn, in with 'No Problem'. I elected to go first as it was only one boat at a time in to Salters Lode Lock. A sharp bend round to the left across the tide stream, starting to go sideways as the tide was already going out. Banged the bow against the concrete side of the entrance channel. "Nearly right" said the watching lock keeper, "more wellie next time". There is only an hour of useful high water as the sand bank is now higher than the Middle Level waters.

Entrance to Salters Lode Lock

Into the lock and down into the muddy waters to wait for 'No Problem' to do the same. The lock is only able to take one maximum length 63ft boat as it is not now possible to open both gates to pass through on the tide. An average of 9 boats can pass through on each daily tide.

Getting away

Firstly we rang Josh to wish him a happy 4th. Birthday.

Mooring at Ely

Filled up with diesel and we were off with 'No Problem' following through Ely for the last time looking back at the magnificent cathedral. 15 miles of just wide deep river to Denver, getting more remote as we progressed. Not many trees now, the railway on one side and road on the other. It was a warm sunny day with not a cloud in the sky but a southerly wind made a choppy river.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Disposal / Recycling ?

Disposal of the 'unwanted' to proper recycling sites should be free to the disposer. In many cases it is not. A responsible disposer will transport the 'unwanted' to a recycling point. The main reason for not doing so is personal cost. It seems stupid for a local council to charge the disposer. Then end up clearing the countryside at considerable cost. It is extremely hazardous to the environment to dump unwanted cars, batteries, oil, electrical goods etc. There must be a lot of irresponsible people about because we do see so much unwanted in the countryside.

Staying in Ely

Our plan was to stay a weekend but now that has been extended to a full week. Sue n Vic have been nursing their engine and finally discovered that it needs a major repair. Unfortunately the head gasket has failed after only two years of the reconditioned engine's life. So without power we are providing support and keeping various batteries charged up. It also seems that some of their domestic boat batteries have failed. Luckily a local boat yard are able to do the work, all be it between looking after the 'Bridge Boatyard' hire fleet. The shops of Ely have been handy for getting in some Christmas presents for grand children and the local Tesco is providing us with food.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Bloggers meet again

While at St. Ives Mo & Vanessa on NB 'Balmaha' arrived then Sue n Vic on NB 'No Problem'. It always amazes me how friendly we all are with the common interest in boating and inland waterways. Several other boaters, already here, were so helpful catching our ropes and helping to moor up. It is here at St. Ives that the IWA boat gathering will come next year. Plans are being made to improve the moorings on the field opposite. September is always more settled with less rain than August and we were able to enjoy another BBQ and eat outside. Then we were invited on board 'Balmaha'.

The next day we all headed for Ely. 'Balmaha' got there first while 'Moore 2 Life' and 'No Problem' stopped a night at Aldreth on the Old West River. Between Brownhill and Hermitage Locks the river is slightly tidal being fed from the New Bedford River which comes directly from Denver and the sea at Kings Lyn. As we go down, leaving the Bedford Ouse behind, the short stretch between the locks is very exposed on this windy day. There is a water point between the locks and while waiting for a boat to clear, we got spun round by the wind!

Hermitage Lock has a keeper who opened the lock as we approached. We went in and exchanged greetings as he took our name and number. "Thanks very much" says I, "No problem" says he, "That’s the boat before me" says I. A road actually goes over the lock and the keeper has to cross it to open the other end. Now we go down on to the Old West River. In Roman times this river was a meandering stream. Now it continues to the Ely Ouse at Pope's Corner where the River Cam joins, once more becoming a wide river. It was not long then before we got to Ely which is full of boats! Just past the first road bridge we squeezed in beside 'No Problem' as a fisherman left the bank.

Near Aldreth

Then a Blog reader came to say hello with a bag of 'Sugar Iced pastries'. Thanks Steve from us all. Then Mo &Vanessa found us!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Going down river

Sue n Vic went back to St. Neots so Lucy could have another operation, while we met our Grand children and parents at the campsite by Brampton Mill. They stayed for the weekend and enjoyed a trip up and down the river Great Ouse during a lovely sunny day. Sue suggested that we could meet again down river at St. Ives. This would give Lucy some quiet time to recover. Both Lucy and Molly get so excited when they meet. So for the first time we travelled on our own down river. Only one lock to be done on our own for we were joined by other boats at the next two.

Hemingford Lock

Took two days to get to St. Ives having stopped the night by Houghton Mill at the quiet EA Island mooring.