Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Up the Creek…

Brandon Creek, that is. AKA the Little Ouse.

We moved down to Ely yesterday, arriving at around 10:30 and finding a mooring spot opposite the marina.

Leaving Little Thetford EA mooring, a little quieter now.IMG_5976

The entrance to Soham Lode, un-navigable. IMG_5978
Or is it? If anyone’s had a go, it would have to have been the Tuesday Night Club! They made around 1½ miles…

Jersey cows, Fens cathedralIMG_5979

IMG_5984And again. 

You can see why they built it there. It’s pretty awesome to 21st century man, imagine the impact on 12th century man. Of course, the railway station wasn’t there then. That would have made an impression too!

Moored on Ely waterfrontIMG_5989

I spent part of the afternoon shuttling to and from Sainsbury's to top the cupboards up, another hour or so investigating the source of that annoyingly intermittent coolant leak on the engine, then a fruitless hour walking around town checking out every likely source of a bit of hose. Yes I found it, finally. A dribble from where the top hose runs from the thermostat housing to the header tank. Not easy to spot with the hose fitted…

Looking on the front of the engine, the top hose removed. You can see the dribble on the front of the header tank.
The stub was crusty with oxidation, so both were thoroughly cleaned with a pan scourer, coated with Blue Hylomar and the original hose refitted. There was actually nothing wrong with the hose, but I thought that while it was off I’d replace it anyway. It is 9 years old, and I had to change the hoses to the calorifier earlier in the year. I’ll get one ordered, as well as the two long ones that connect to top and bottom of the skin tank. Then I can change them at leisure.

This morning we were away at 09:30, but just timed it too late, arriving at the service point just as another boat pulled on in front of us. Thirty minutes and a pump-out later we were on ourselves to fill with water and empty the loo cassettes and rubbish. Another was waiting to come on as we left…

A last over the shoulder look at Ely CathedralIMG_6013

Different styles, a steel truss bridge carries the Norwich railway line, and the decorative concrete Queen Adelaide Road Bridge to carries the B road to Prickwillow.IMG_6014

Lonely river this morning…IMG_6015

We pulled in for lunch on the EA moorings half a mile south of the Ship Inn, then headed for the junction at the pub…

…and turned right into Brandon Creek.IMG_6019

It’s slow going for a start, Little Ouse Moorings stretch for a mile from the junction, but then it’s wide, fairly deep and good going for the next six.

It’s called Busted Flush, loosely styled on a Mississippi riverboat.IMG_6021
I did say loosely…

The steel supports of Iron Bridge at the hamlet of Little Ouse straddle the earlier timber posts.IMG_6022


Lakenheath Lode takes a weedy route off to the south east. IMG_6030
RAF Lakenheath is off in that direction too. The occasional rumble of jet engines and the distant sighting of aircraft show that they’re taking advantage of the fine weather.

The fairly straight first five miles gives way to a few twists and turns as the waterway threads it’s way between shallow meres, then we arrived at the GOBA moorings about half-way to Brandon, expecting them to be empty.IMG_6034
They weren’t, nor were they very deep. We finished up with the fore-end as close as possible but still a couple of foot out, and the stern stuck well out. Still, we’re secure and it’s only for one night.

Although the consensus of the two crews already here is that Brandon isn’t worth the trip to the end of the navigation, we’ll go anyway. We’ve got this far…

Hi, Naughty-Cal. I think Wicken Lode would be deep enough for you, it’s just the width if you meet something coming the other way!

Hi Lesley. Yes still on the Great Ouse and still enjoying it. Off to the ML next weekend, though.

Hi Ellen and Phil. Sorry about the misnaming! Maybe we should have joined you, it was a bit busy out on the river! Glad to have met you, we’ll look out for you next year on the cut.

Locks 0, miles 19¼ (two days)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A fine day brings the boaters out!

It’s been a bit manic out on the river today, lots of boats of all shapes and sizes out and about. There were just two boats down on Wicken Fen last night, though, us and a lovely couple on a boat who’s name escapes me but it’s not relevant anyway as it’s getting a new one!
Phil and Eileen cruise through the summer months then lay the boat up and return to the land for the winter. We had a good chat this morning before we left.

Eileen, Phil and the dog Ria

Wicken Fen moorings.IMG_5963
We should have spent more time here, there’s lot of fine walks in the area. Meg and I went up towards the village this morning to have a look at the windmill.

Wicken windmill, still grinding flour since 1813.IMG_5950


Crystal clear water on Wicken Lode.IMG_5961

We cruised gently back along the lode, luckily only meeting one small boat on the way, and turned back onto Reach Lode under that Cock Up Bridge. IMG_5967

I think I know where the name came from. It’s easy to make a mess of the turn in or out!

We pulled in on the lock pontoon to fill with water as a boat was leaving Upware Lock. By the time we’d topped up the lock was resetting to act as a sluice, red lights flashing and sirens wailing warning boats not to enter. I was going to leave it to sort itself out before setting it for use again, but a local told me you can interrupt the cycle without problems. So we were through quicker than anticipated.

After the lock it was a right turn out onto the Cam and point the fore-end north towards Ely.

Well disciplined cygnetsIMG_5968

And a mess of greylag and Canada geese near the Fish and Duck MarinaIMG_5972

The local boater we spoke to at Upware said that we’d be unlikely to get a mooring at Ely today. On fine weekends the local marinas disgorge boats to head there for the day, so it’s likely to be full. So we planned to stop a couple of miles short, on the EA moorings at Little Thrapston. They were empty on the way up… but not so today. In fact, if a large cruiser hadn’t pulled out ahead of us, we’d not have got on here either. As it was we just slotted into the spot. Depending on the provision situation we’ll hang on here till Monday.

Locks 1, miles 5½

Friday, June 26, 2015

A cruise of contrasts…

Compare this…

…to this!IMG_5934

We left the Old West River today at Pope’s Corner, but instead of turning north for Ely we turned south towards Cambridge.

Duck and Fish Marina
The aptly-named riverside pub has been demolished, though.

We’re now on the Cam, 12 miles or so to Cambridge itself. But we’re not heading there this trip…
It was cooler for a start this morning, in fact we even had a little light rain just before 8 o’clock as I returned from my morning run.
The Cam runs wide and deep to Upware, passing under the concrete bridge at Dimmock’s Cote about half-way there.
Just under the bridge there’s a Dutch barge with a tall wheelhouse. I thought “there’s no way that will go under the bridge”. A closer inspection reveals that it telescopes vertically. Neat huh?IMG_5924

Angus grazing…
…and Kes huntingIMG_5920

At Upware, Reach Lode branches off to the left, around the corner and into Reach Lode (or Upware) Lock.

The Lodes are ancient channels, possibly defensive ditches of Saxon origin, but more likely Roman drains. Lode is a medieval name for a waterway and there are 5 in Cambridgeshire, three of which are navigable to some extent. Burwell Lode has the longest navigable stretch, at 3¼ miles, Reach Lode is just under 3 and the shortest is Wicken Lode, leading to Wicken Fen National Trust nature reserve and the village of Wicken.

Mags comes out of Upware Lock, after I’d figured out how to operate it!IMG_5929
It’s used as an automatic sluice, so self adjusts to maintain the level in the Lodes. When we arrived both guillotine gates were slightly up, an absolute criminal offense on a canal. But we’re not on a canal…
Flashing lights and clamorous sirens warn of an impending automatic adjustment, apparently. All quiet today though, so after closing the upstream end we locked through as normal. It would reset itself if there was no boat traffic for 15 minutes. 

Just above the lock there’s a length of private moorings, then EA 48 hour ones just before what’s known as a cock-up bridge.

Looks alright to me…IMG_5931

It’s a tight turn in, but we’re about the longest boat you’d want to take up here anyway.

The lode is narrow and shallow, anything much above tickover and the wash would damage the bankside flora. And there’s a lot of it!


We were dismayed to see three boats at the end already, two were breasted up, it's tight for space. But then one chap said they were leaving, and another would be following in an hour so we roughly tied up with the fore-end stuck out till we could move to a better spot after lunch.

Moored at the end of Wicken Fen

I shared my lunch with a damsel fly…

…while a Brown Hawker watched from the other side of the channel.IMG_5940

We came up here on the recommendation of Sue, NB No Problem. Thanks Sue, it’s everything you said!
We can’t stay more than tonight though. Back to Ely tomorrow.

Locks 1, miles 5

Thursday, June 25, 2015

To Hundred Acres

Not the wood, we don’t expect to meet Pooh Bear here, we’re at the 100 Acres EA mooring near Pope’s Corner.

It’s been an uneventful trip today, warm and muggy with light cloud cover rather than the clear blue skies of yesterday, but still dry.IMG_5867

Dobbin walked down to see us off, but not soon enough for the promised apple!IMG_5865
Next time, mate.

Soon after Aldreth Bridge we had to deal with the shallow winding section where a ran aground twice on the way up. Pleased to say no such trouble today.IMG_5872

There are quite a few Little Egrets along here, and I tried unsuccessfully to get a picture last week. They just don’t stay still long enough!



Bullying, swan style

After Twenty Pence Bridge we’re back on the straighter, deeper, more artificial section of the Old West. Unfortunately the flood banks are higher, too.

One that didn’t make it into the marina…IMG_5888

Bosky bit, unusual for this river, near the Lazy Otter.IMG_5892

Back to wide open spaces alongside the small marina. Good GOBA moorings here.IMG_5893

We pulled in at Stretham Old Engine to have a look, but it’s staffed by volunteers and therefore only open on Sundays and Bank Holidays. There’s not much to see if the doors are locked…

Even Meg was bored!IMG_5897

You’ll need to click-to-zoom to read thisIMG_5898
Quick summary – The Fens are flooded marshland, drains cut and wind pumps installed to shift the water into the drains. Drying out land shrinks and drops below sea level and floods again. Flood banks built, better pump engines installed, bob’s your uncle.

Meg had a comfort break and a bite to eat, as did the human members of the crew, then we moved on, just over a mile, to where we are now.

You wouldn’t have thought that this guy…IMG_5906

…will grow up to look like this.IMG_5903

Aaah, cute coots!
“♫ There once was an ugly cootlet… ♫”

Locks 0, miles 7½