Tuesday 4 August 2015

River Great Ouse. Old West River. Ely to Aldreth Drain.

A Teasel on the river bank near Aldreth.

Our one goal and the only fixed point on our calendar for this year has been to have Legend in Ely for the weekend of the Ely Folk Festival. Over the past 6 or 7 years we’ve been to this lovely event by car and camped and it has become a firm favourite. It coincides with our wedding anniversary and we’ve promised ourselves that if we only do one music festival a year, Ely will be that one.
All the official EA, GOBA and council moorings on the Great Ouse have a 48hr limit, so we had to up sticks and clear off for a week. We didn’t go far though,...
...Little Thetford had plenty of space and we could get the car right to the other side of the flood bank by going over a self-operated level crossing.
Terribly Exciting!

During the week Diane came over for a visit and we went for a cruise down the river to Ely where we had a walk round the city and lunch at the Tea For Two café before coming back.

We also went back to Anglesey Abbey to see the bits we’d missed on our first visit and to buy some more of their stone-ground wholemeal flour, which we think we’re now addicted to.

On Thursday afternoon we lost count of the number of boats passing us on their way downstream, so we were quite apprehensive about finding somewhere to stop when we set off on Friday morning. As it turned out we were fine. We accosted the crew of the first boat we passed on the Ely moorings and they were happy for us to breast up with them on the way back if we couldn’t find anywhere else. Which, in short, is what happened. However about an hour later someone pulled out behind us so we backed up and slotted in there. When we’re in places where mooring spots are at a premium we put a “Welcome. Moor Alongside” notice in the window, so it was no surprise, when we got back from shopping, to find another boat on the outside of us. We had a quick chat with them and discovered that they had a permanent mooring about five miles away at the Lazy Otter and had brought the boat into Ely to go use as a base while they were at the folk festival.
The festival, as usual, was brilliant! On the Friday night we watched the Demon Barbers and Threepenny Bit, after which we went to Marquee 2 for a manic midnight ceilidh. Whilst our fellow revellers crawled back to their little tents and caravans we strolled through a sleeping city down to the riverbank and crept on board our beautiful boat, where we sat on the bed and stuffed ourselves with ham rolls at 3am. We hadn’t noticed our neighbours at the festival site; in the morning we found out they hadn’t gone up there as ‘that sort of music wasn’t their kind of thing’. When you’re breasted up, any movement or noise goes straight into the other boat, so we apologised for being so late home, but they said they’d not heard us come back and we hadn’t woken them up.
On Saturday we immersed ourselves in the folk music and dancing that took over the town. First we caught up with Bourne Borderers, the side we both used to dance with, outside the Maltings.
They’re such lovely people and we got lots of green face-paint hugs. Then went into the city and watched the morris parade...

 before going to find Pig Dyke Molly; Ann-Marie’s old side, who’s first dance spot was just down from the chippy.
 So that was lunch sorted then. We caught the festival shuttle bus to the site just in time to catch Les Barker, our favourite poet take his turn on stage...
 then went back to Legend for a sit down. In the evening Mike joined us and we mostly sat outside the main marquee on a picnic blanket.
Later on a little gang of our folky mates joined us and we spent the evening chatting and listening to the music. We had a slightly earlier night than the previous one and were home with a hot chocolate at half eleven.
At just after midnight Legend was set rocking as our neighbours came home and trotted across our back deck. There is a way of crossing boats without setting up a pendulum action; you step as far into the middle as you can reach, wait a fraction of a second while the boat recovers, then step onto the next one. Our neighbours clearly didn’t know this. One by one, with uncannily perfect timing all four of them went from one side of our boat to the other. By the time the last one had got off, we’d nearly fallen out of bed. Luckily, nothing crashed out of cupboards or fell of the sides, so we just chuckled to ourselves and went back to sleep…..Nearly.
10 minutes later they obviously discovered certain facts. Facts that are well known to, and form an integral part of the lives of, continuous cruisers and others who live off grid for long periods.

A.  Batteries do not have an infinite lifespan.
B.  Hot water doesn’t stay hot forever.
C.  Cruising for five miles 36 hours ago will not change A or B.

Upon discovering the above to be true and, quite probably, after a session in the beer tent which had numbed any sense of appropriate behaviour, they started their engine. We looked at each other in disbelief, then Dave opened our side hatch and hammered on their boat. When a head appeared Dave pointed at it and shouted ‘NO! Not at midnight! That is bang out of order!’ The head muttered ‘Sorry, I didn’t know you were in.’ and disappeared. The engine was promptly silenced and we assume they went to bed dirty and in the dark.
Where on earth they thought we’d be in Ely at half past midnight is beyond us, but more to the point, we were surrounded by other boats in a City centre. There is a well-recognised protocol of quiet after 8pm. No engines, no generators, no loud music.
Maybe if you only go 5 miles once a year nobody tells you these things. Well they certainly can’t use that excuse anymore.

In the morning we went back up to the site for a Witchmen Morris workshop, which we pretty much managed to get right and thoroughly enjoyed, and by the time we got back our neighbours had scuttled off back to the Lazy Otter.

From Ely we went up the Ouse once again to Pope’s Corner, turned onto the Old West and stopped at Goldmere. We had promised to help Mike with an oil change, but he got held up at work, so we’ll pop in on the way back and do it then.

Tuesday was our wedding anniversary. We had a beautiful boating day up the Old West to the Lazy Otter surrounded by riverside wildlife, after which we watched our wedding DVD. Ahhh. Lovely.

We did a car move to Earith the next day and walked back along the flood bank to the Otter. That didn’t go quite as well as we’d hoped. As the day wore on the weather got hotter and hotter and the nettles and thistles got higher and higher. The old adage that ‘the existence of a right of way does not guarantee the existence of a path’ popped up and bit us just after the Twenty Pence bridge, when both sides of the river seemed completely impenetrable. We finally got back to the boat, scratched, stung, knackered and hungry, where we wolfed down a very late lunch and set off up the river.
As a kind of compensation, Karma gave us some lovely baby grebes and ponies to look at...

and Ann-Marie found a pet calf.
Back at Twenty Pence bridge, strategically placed to take our minds off the giant blood-thirsty thistles, there was a grass snake swimming in the water. Well we assume it was swimming, but it might just as well have been drowning after falling in.
We didn’t get all the way to Earith that evening; there was a very tempting GOBA mooring at Aldreth where we stopped and spent the evening in the well deck watching the sun go down while rubbing Savlon on our ravaged shins.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Would be good for publishing in our Winter 15 issue of GOBA News, 'Members Write'.

Any problems, let me know.

Bev Jenisis
GN Editor

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