Monday, 22 June 2015

Great Ouse, Little Ouse, Lark. Brandon Creek to Ely.

From the EA moorings at Brandon Creek we went up the Little Ouse looking for the GOBA moorings that were marked on the back page of GOBA News as being at Botany Bay.  Just before the old stop lock there was a stretch of recently dredged river with a GOBA mooring sign, however when we pulled in we found the bank was far too soft and unstable to put hold a mooring pin. Give it a year or so for the dredged material to be stabilised by vegetation and no doubt it will be fine, but that wasn't much use to us then. According to all our maps and guides there weren’t any more official moorings till the end of the navigable river, so we had a go at pulling into a friendly looking bit of riverbank. That went as badly wrong as we should have anticipated; twenty minutes and a wet foot later we had Legend floating again and were able to continue.  Happily, half a mile further upstream, there was a beautiful GOBA site opposite the RSPB sanctuary at Lakenheath Fen.
Presumably that was the one the map was on about, just not where it said. Anyway, we had two very peaceful nights there, and a very educational visit to the sanctuary.
We really liked Lakenheath RSPB. The weather forecast was for showers all day, but the only real downpour came while we were in a hide watching a family of coots. During the day we managed to spot - and correctly identify - 2 Marsh Harriers, a Kingfisher, a Whitethroat, no end of Reed Buntings and a Cuckoo,
which neither of us had ever seen before. We also heard a Bittern, which we were very excited about.  
In the morning we had the side hatch open at 4:30 to hear the dawn chorus. We lay in bed listening to the boom of a Bittern, then went back to sleep till breakfast time.

At a more civilised time of day we woke up again, breakfasted and continued our travels to the most easterly point on the UK inland waterways network at Brandon Lock.

Actually, the navigable river continues for about a quarter of a mile beyond the lock to Brandon Bridge, but as Legend is 57’ long and the lock (or Staunch) is only 39’, our journey stopped there.

The forecast overnight had 45mph gusts, so we battened down the hatches and went to bed early.
The next day was quite windy too so we stayed put. About a month ago at Whittlesea, Dave had redesigned the big box so that the side panels came off, making it easier to get the bikes out. While we were at Brandon he put hinges on the end panels so that we can collapse it quickly and neatly for low bridges.

That evening we phoned Lauren as it was her birthday the next day. During the call, or perhaps shortly afterwards, we decided it would be nice to go down to Surrey to say happy birthday to her in person. Of course our car was still in Littleport, so the next morning, bright and early, we turned round - not easy with the wind going one way and the river going the other - and set off downstream with Dave on the tiller and Ann-Marie in the kitchen baking birthday goodies. Back on the Ouse we had a quick lunch break at Brandon Creek before mooring up at Littleport Station. After a quick shower we were in the car and heading south, arriving at Karen’s in time to go out for dinner with Lauren and all her immediate family.
Happy Birthday Lauren.

On the way home the rear silencer fell off the car; a quick search of the boot for something to improvise as an exhaust hanger produced a carrier-bag which, surprisingly, got us home. When we arrived we found Janet waiting for us. She’d dropped her daughter Katy off in Wisbech and had an afternoon to kill so she’d come to see us. We had a nice time catching up and swapping crafty ideas.

In the morning, after transferring the big tool box into the car boot, we moved Legend up the river a bit to the moorings outside the Swan Pub...
...walked back to the car and went off to Euro Car Parts in King’s Lynn for a new silencer. From there we went to Glen and Steve’s near Wisbech. Just before we left the boat we noticed that the warning light on our fridge was flashing, indicating an overheating controller. There wasn’t much we could do at the time so we kept our fingers crossed and drove away.

The reason for going to Glen and Steve’s was to pick up some tickets for the Ageon Open Tennis Tournament in Nottingham, which Ann-Marie had won in a prize draw, and we’d had sent to them because they were our closest friends. (Of course they are our closest friends wherever we are, but just at that moment they were geographically……oh, work it out for yourself.)

We’d also arranged - rather hastily the previous evening – to use their driveway to fit the new silencer. While Dave did that Ann-Marie, Steve and Holly watched some tennis on the telly in preparation for the tournament. When she finished work, Glen came home with a Chinese, so that was lovely.

When we got back to Legend, the warning light on the fridge was still flashing and things in the freezer were beginning to get soft. We pulled it out, cleaned all round it, switched it off and left it for half an hour then switched it back on again. Thankfully it started up with no problem, but we need to do something to stop it doing that again whenever the weather gets hot. After a search round the internet and some questions on a couple of facebook groups, we think the answer is to drill one or two holes in the floor behind it and fit a computer fan to draw cooler air from under the floor up behind the fridge when it’s running. So that’s on the list.

We’d planned our next move to Prickwillow on the River Lark, but after moving the car and walking back to Littleport we decided that it was too windy for boating, so we watched all the stuff we’d downloaded on the iplayer instead.

The next morning it was still quite breezy but nothing we couldn’t handle, so after filling the water tank we pushed off through the bridge and continued up the Ouse to the Lark. That makes it sound like a relatively smooth operation doesn’t it? Alas Dear Reader, the truth is not quite so rose coloured. Because the wind was keeping us on the mooring, we decided to swap roles; Ann-Marie took the tiller and Dave was on the front with the big boat pole to push us off. Dave however, forgot that along with relinquishing the tiller, he’d also relinquished command of the vessel, and made the unforgivable mistake of pushing off without the Skipper’s say-so. Didn’t even wait for a nod. In fact the Skipper hadn’t even started the engine or untied the back rope before he had the front right out in the river. There were some sharp words and a severe amount of grovelling.

It was a lovely day boating up the Lark and through Isleham Lock.


At the end of the navigation we found about 30’ of space on the end of the jetty outside the Jude’s Ferry pub.
It was a bit old and doddery, with one very small mooring ring, to which we gingerly tied our centre rope. We half expected to wake up in the morning on the other side of the river with big chunk of jetty still attached to the boat, but all was well, and despite being in a pub garden we had a very peaceful night.
After dinner we had a stroll further up the river bank towards Mildenhall.


The original head of navigation was at King’s Staunch.
In the morning we impressed quite a few other boaters by turning our 57’ boat in a river that was barely 40’ wide. We managed it by sticking the nose up the slipway so it wasn’t quite the magic trick it sounds, but it looked good all the same.

On the way back down Ann-Marie took the boat through Isleham lock...

...then we carried on down the Lark to Prickwillow, where we'd left the car..
It was a Monday so the Fenland Drainage Engine Museum was open. That was a fascinating place to visit with lots of history and some very big shiny diesels.

Also, as it is positioned between the land drains and the river, with windows at either side, it highlights how far the land is below the river level and how important the water whole pumping exercise is to the survival of everything in this part of the world.

The next day we went to Nottingham for our day at the Aegon Open Tennis Tournament. We’d expected to be wearing hats in order to keep the sun off while eating strawberries and ice-cream. However, we found ourselves wearing everything we’d brought including the emergency blanket, in order to not freeze. A task at which we failed. The tennis was really good though; our free tickets were for seats in centre court, right behind the umpire...
Dave waiting for the rest of the crowd.
...and we loved every minute of the four games we saw. We must confess that as we were so cold we bailed out a bit early and went in search of a chippy, but it was a really good day.

Back on the Ouse we moored at the Queen Adelaide EA moorings for a couple of nights before doing a car move and then boating into Ely itself. We arrived in the city with perfect timing; mooring is always a bit tricky in somewhere as popular as Ely and we’d come in hoping to use the sanitary station before mooring up, but there was already a queue for it. While we hovered in the river for a couple of minutes deciding what to do, the boat that had been on the water point pulled off and two plastic cruisers took its place. Never ones to miss an open goal, we decided that as we still had half a tank of water we could forgo the sanitary station visit and neatly snuck in where the cruisers had been...

...three boats away from the tap and less than 100 yards from the car. Bob-on!

The next day Anne was competing, along with other members of her firm, in the annual Dragon Boat Festival at the Peterborough rowing lake, so we went along to support her. Despite the intermittent drizzle it was a brilliant day. There were about 20 teams competing and each team had three races.  Anne’s firm was fielding two teams and her team were in the first race, so they didn’t get to see anyone else go beforehand; as a result it was a bit chaotic, not helped by Anne having the paddle in the wrong hands.
By their second race they’d sorted themselves out, they were beautifully co-ordinated and they did a lot better.
Unfortunately just after the finish line their boat capsized, but happily everyone got rescued.
Their final race was against the other PSF team, so it was very competitive and neck and neck at the finish. Terribly exciting stuff! We did lots of cheering! There was also free food all day, which made it ever better!

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