Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Up and down the Lark

This river is only about 7 miles to the lock at Isleham with a further 3 most of which is un navigable past the lock.
It took about two hours to get there near the 4 MPH speed limit or 1,500 RPM. There are flood banks either side of this ruler like river.
We passed several pump houses on the way with huge pipes bent over the bank to pump water out of the productive fen lands below. Turned at the lock and stopped a while for lunch. Ann took Molly up the bank and attempted to walk back along the ridge. It was not long before a rescue had to be made because walking was impeded by thick over growth.
Once back at the new Mile End EA mooring we settled down for the evening.
Next day we both walked along the flood bank with Molly to one of those pump houses. A new installation of three electric pumps Set at the end of a ‘drain’. They were out in the open while the old diesel or steam engines are in a brick building. Outside lies the remains of the old steam boiler tanks. The drain is a few feet below the field, the road is several feet above the field and the banked river is several feet above the road. The top of the bank is also several feet above the river. So I suspect the water is pumped up at least 20 feet. The river then takes the water eventually to the sea. Without the pumps the land would just be under water. As it is the farmers are busy harvesting. Tractor loads of onions, straw bales, grain and root crops coming off the fields.
The old wooden wind pumps could manage to raise water a few feet on a windy day using a scoop wheel. Steam powered beam engines using a scoop wheel could manage 20 feet. 19 Steam engines did the work of 250 wind pumps. Gradually the scoop wheel was replaced by the centrifugal pump and then electric motors replaced steam and diesel power units.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Bank holiday

While in Ely we got that diesel this time at the marina for 95p per litre. Luckily, as we approached the pump a boat moved off. Ely is now full of boats on the river as they have come out for this long weekend. We set off down river to Littleport and about 6 cruisers followed us out of Ely. It was not long before they had all passed us with their big engines and bow waves spreading out behind them. Thankfully there was one space over on the left shore at the Environment Agency moorings while the moorings on the right were full with two narrow boats and three cruisers.
It only took 15 minutes to get into the village which has a few shops including Co op, Hardware, Pharmacy, Butcher and gifts. But there is no Post office. The information board at the mooring told us about the local history. William Harley lived here and in 1860 went to New York in the U.S.A. There his son met the Davidson brothers and created the iconic motor cycle.

This is a stainless steel representation of the original design. A shrine for all those who admire that Harley – Davidson bike. In 1944 the Oxford and Cambridge boat race was rowed on the Great Ouse from near Littleport to Ely. I wonder which University won that year. The river has no bends so it would have been a strait dash to the finish.
When we returned we moved the boat up to the end of the mooring as a boat had left. Just as well because a faulty pump out machine behind us was a bit smelly. By the end of the day more boats turned up filling all available spaces including double parking by the water point! An Environment Agency launch was seen on patrol. They have FM radio communication with most of the other boats and get to know about ‘overstayers’ and undesirable boats on the river. You can imagine the chin wagging going on between the owners of cruisers looking for available moorings. The net result is that there are very few rubbish boats on the rivers. Although EA & BW both get their grants from the government EA do seem more efficient.
All moorings are limited to a stay of two nights so we move off down the river Lark on Monday and hope that at least some boats will be heading back to the marina. The Lark was quite wide in places and the first set of moorings were full.

However we were able to stop at Prickwillow and moored half on and half off at one end accompanied by an abandoned boat in the middle! The other end was shallow with a rocky bottom where the water point was sited.
We paid an educational visit to the Drainage Engine Museum here. Old steam and diesel engines lovingly restored and run on occasions. The fens are now kept dry by electric pumps scattered about the system of drains, lodes and rivers.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A family visit

Now we are spending time above Hermitage Lock. Up a few feet above the tidal waters at Earith no less than 28 miles from Denver. Sue n Vic on No Problem have gone back south for a while with family on board. We had our 2 grand children and their parents stay a night. All fed and watered at the Lazy Otter before heading for Ely. Once there we did some shopping and looked inside the cathedral. The children helped make some bread in our machine. Measure out the ingredients, put it all inside and press the button. An hour later out pops a small loaf of lovely fresh bread. Stopped on the way back for a late lunch on board before continuing back to the Lazy Otter where our guests returned home.
A feeling of loss and loneliness overwhelms us now as we wonder what to do next after all that activity. Some essentials like getting diesel, gas and restocking with food will keep us occupied. Mo on Balmaha rang to tell us that they have shot down the New Bedford River on a tidal wave effectively bypassing us and Ely. So we won’t see them for a while. It has been raining a lot this month, not unusual for August so apparently the river Nene is rising.
An idle mind wonders about cause and effect sometimes getting it the wrong way round. The propeller pushes us, but if the water did not move from front to back we would not go forward. Like being stuck on a mud bank? The past is behind us and the future in front as we travel on.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Olympics

It had to be said. What a wonderful show the opening was that Friday the 8th of August 2008. 08 08 08 are lucky numbers for the Chinese. But the date is a measure of time since the birth of Christ. We watched it all, the artistry, the creativity, the activity, the quality, the style and the history of a nation. So many people were able to perform as human ‘pixels’ creating waves patterns and characters. Reminding us that it was the Chinese who were the first to invent paper, printing and fireworks. The Chinese have shown us what they want us to see. There are 204 countries of the world competing in 302 sporting events as friends. Doing their best to go further, faster and higher. And Nicole Cooke won the women’s cycle race getting her Gold Medal competing in ‘Team UK’.

We are still moving north on the river Ouse. Now past St. Ives, travelling in the morning and watching Television in the afternoon after storing enough power in the batteries. On the way popping into the village of Houghton for supplies and again found lovely thatched cottages with well kept front gardens. It has been very windy these last few days and finding places to more difficult with shallow, soft and low edges.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Cruising down the river

Well we continue travelling down the river Ouse, the end of its navigation at Bedford now far behind us. Met up with Sue n Vic on No Problem at St. Neots and did some shopping. We took our two animals to the vet for a check up and medication. Tara was confirmed blind. We had noticed that she gets about the boat slowly and carefully but is not now interested in going outside. She is however quite healthy for her age.
Near Barford
The river is wide and winding and lined with trees and shrubbery so there are not many places to get off. There is a clearing just past Paxton where we got the bow of one boat and the stern of the other near the bank. The Ouse Valley Way path leads round the gravel pits and lakes to a large Nature Reserve with hides from which to observe the wild life. Despite the damp conditions we did manage to get there for a look round and get a warm drink at the centre before returning.