Monday, June 22, 2015

Time for a U-turn

After the weekend on the splendid moorings at Hemingford Grey, we decided on one more day heading upstream before turning around.

The Hemingfords, Grey and Abbots, are delightful villages. Between them they must keep the local thatcher busy…

St.James, Hemingford Grey, with the cropped steeple.IMG_5751

They were one settlement in Anglo-Saxon times, established as “Hemma’s Ford” at a crossing on the river. It was split into two parishes in the 9th century, the western part falling under the control of Ramsey Abbey. In 1140 Payn of Hemingford built the Manor House on land near the river, claimed to be the oldest occupied private house in the country.

The Manor House and Gardens, H - GreyIMG_5753
The house and gardens are open to the public, for a fee.

In the picturesque stakes, though, Hemingford Abbots must take the prize, especially the Axe and Compass pub.IMG_5756

Animal figures on the ridge were thought to ward off evil spirits, now they’re more the thatcher’s signature.

And yet more thatch
If it wasn’t for the tarmac, white lines and cars you could be forgiven for thinking Elizabeth I was on the throne…

That wind is back, making the day cool even though we had good spells of sunshine this morning.

We were away at around 10, passing Hemingford Abbots set amongst the trees.IMG_5764
The church, St. Margaret of Antioch, dates from the late 1400s, making it nearly 200 years younger than St. James in the neighbouring village. But it’s still got it’s steeple. Is there such a thing as “spire envy” I wonder…

About 20 minutes from the moorings we came to Houghton Lock, open for us as a boat had just passed.

Houghton LockIMG_5766
I‘m getting used to these oddball locks with a guillotine gate at one end.

Just above the lock we pulled in to Hartford Marina, in need of water and elsan disposal. Both were provided with a donation to the RNLI, so I bought a container of loo blue as well. Nice people.

A huge expanse of water, Hartford Marina.IMG_5770

The floating lodges are mobile homes on rafts…IMG_5769

With tanks replenished or emptied as required we continued on along the broad river to Huntingdon.IMG_5771

The river at Huntingdon is crossed by three bridges, the medieval stone one dating from around 1332, the modern concrete one from 1975 and a more recent footbridge just upstream of the older one.

Huntingdon Bridge(s)IMG_5774

Until the opening of the 1975 bridge all the busy A14 traffic had to cross the 600 year old span, a tribute to the quality of it’s construction considering it was built to carry horses and carts.

Just downstream of the Old Bridge, Riverside Mill, now apartments, was built in the mid-19th century to produce animal feeds. Before closure in 1975 it had been used as a hosiery mill. A small studio apartment in the building, with less floor space than our boat, recently sold for £72,000. Leasehold.

It’s a shame money hasn’t been invested in this sad looking property…IMG_5776
I feel a bit sorry for Huntingdon. Once a county town, it was downgraded in status during the county boundary changes in 1965 when Huntingdonshire became part of the short-lived Huntingdon and Peterborough County. It’s suffered more indignity since, it’s now part of Cambridgeshire. Still, it should be reconciled to government reform. Oliver Cromwell was born here in 1599… 

We’d decided to pull over around Godmanchester, to try to avoid the forecasted rain this afternoon.

The Gods were smiling, a boat was just pulling out of Godmanchester Lock as we arrived.IMG_5781
The boat was NB De Nada, the crew blog readers. Thanks folks, have a good trip.

The backwater above the lock has moorings along the parkside, and a short length just alongside the lock. I tried to reverse down, not sure that we could turn around above the sluice, but only got as far as the first, EA, length. The wind was making it very difficult. I gave up any attempt to go further down, and pulled in on the end of the EA mooring. A bit Katy-cornered, but it’ll do.

The forecast was right, we’ve had rain most of the afternoon, although Meg and I did manage a dry hour for a walk around the adjacent Portholme Meadow.20150622_164011
The 257 acre meadow is the largest flood meadow in England, usually inundated in the winter and used for hay in the spring then grazing in the autumn. It’s also an SSSI, containing several rare plant species. The name Portholme isn’t a reference to a port or dock. It’s Anglo-Saxon in origin demonstrating the historical importance of the site. Port means market town, and holme means meadow, therefore Portholme is literally town meadow.

If we want to have a look up the River Lark on the way back to Denver we’ll have to make this the furthest upstream we get this trip. So we’ll be heading on back to St. Ives tomorrow. You never know, by the time we’re back in this neck of the woods again the Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway link might be open. It’s proposed to link the top end of the Great Ouse Navigation at Bedford with the Grand Union Canal at Milton Keynes. It would provide an alternative route from the canal network to these East Anglian rivers.

Hi Mark. Do it, you’ll have a fantastic day! I did a bit of a summary on this post, it’ll give you an idea of what’s involved. If you want any more info, phone numbers etc., feel free to drop me an email.

Locks 2, miles 4½


Steve and Angela said...

If you have limited time then I'm sure No Problem, who knows the area better than we do, would probably say that the Little Ouse and the Wissey and some of the Lodes might be better options than the Lark. The Lark does have high bankings and is very straight for long stretches, though we do love living along here.
We would be delighted to see you though. If you do decide to try the other options we could still make contact by car to say hello.
Steve and Angela

Sue said...

Yes you would have been OK turning at the end of Godmanchester parkland there is plenty of room down there.

Last time I crossed that meadow with the girls I was up to my knees in water.. It sure does flood!

Naughty-Cal said...

I think Godmanchester will be about the furthest upstream that we will get to visit as well. We want to see the Lark, Wissey and Little Ouse as well on our 7 day whistle stop tour. Think we will be putting in some long cruising days!

Chas and Ann said...

Just enjoyed reading your blog. Reminding us of the good times we were there traveling with No Problem.