Ely to St Neots
Trip Start Apr 26, 2011
27Trip End Oct 31, 2011
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After a peaceful night at Little Thetford moorings, we discovered that Andy and Sue had arrived back during the night and were on their boat Springwater. They hadn't realised in the dark that we were moored there as well. We caught up over teas and coffees on board Gabriel. It was almost midday when we left, and went past Pope’s Corner, the junction with the River Cam, onto new territory, further up the Great Ouse. This section is called the Old West River, being the original course of the Great Ouse, before Vermuyden cut a straight channel from Earith direct to Denver, called the Old Bedford River in 1637, followed by another parallel channel called the New Bedford River in 1651. The Old West still has high banks to contain the river in flood conditions. We passed Stretham Old Engine, a steam engine built in 1831 to lift water up into the river, and still working until 1941
Tue 16th August
We completed the rest of the Old West River, arriving at Hermitage Lock, where there was a queue for the lock, as it is only about 13’6" wide, just too narrow to take two narrowboats side by side. The New Bedford River starts from Earith, just above the lock, making this next section nominally tidal. We paused at Westview Marina for water, elsan and rubbish
Just after the Pike and Eel Inn, we noticed some lovely GOBA moorings, with grassy areas and trees providing shade and shelter from the wind. Sadly they were all taken, and we spotted Meandrine and Pipedream there. A little further on there was another GOBA mooring where we stopped next to Balmaha. It was much more exposed and windy.
Wed 17th August
An early start (0740) brought us further West past Fen Drayton nature reserve. We discovered there is no place to moor on the same side as the reserve, so we couldn’t stop. At Holywell we took a photo of some thatched cottages, and later found that the picture includes a kingfisher sitting on a branch. St Ives Lock widens out in the middle, so that two boats can get in side by side
Thu 18th August
We had to reverse out from our mooring, as there was insufficient room to turn
Fri 19th August
Meandrine and Pipedream passed by at 0805. They had been at Hemingford Grey. They must set off at 0800 every day. We went through Houghton Lock on our own, and then called in at Hartford Marina to empty our cassette. We also needed water, but knew there was a tap at Huntingdon, so we refrained from using their hose. Later at Huntingdon we were to regret that, as the tap was nowhere to be seen. We shared Godmanchester Lock with another narrowboat, and then we turned down the backwater to the public mooring on the park so that we could explore the town, which was historic. A 70ft narrowboat called Olive moored just beyond us, and it turned out they are Christians working amongst Muslims in North Africa. Interesting discussion then, as James has recently been reading the Qur’an. We spotted Balmaha just before Brampton Mill, and stopped to "borrow” his photos of us at Earith
Sat 20th August
We had planned to go to the GOBA mooring at Paxton Pits so that we could visit the nature reserve there. We found that there was only space for two boats, and two were already there. As there was no other mooring, we carried on. Plans are there to be changed! St Neots lock was already in use, with some boats in front going up. This lock is quite deep, and the guillotine gate is extremely slow, so it took some time to get through. At St Neots we moored opposite the town, on the meadows. This was fine for Hugo. We spent some time in the shops. We noticed some equipment being set up on the meadow, and discovered it was a triathlon the next day.
Sun 21st August
We were up early to watch the triathlon, which started at 0800 with about 200 swimmers setting off downstream, and returning again, to jump on a bicycle and disappear for a while. Then they returned, jumped off the bike and ran two long laps round the riverside park. The first to finish had a time of under an hour, but the last took over two hours. Each to their own is what I say! We walked across the bridge to the Priory Centre opposite where a New Frontiers church called Open Door had their meeting at 1030. Lots of people came up to make us feel welcome. The musicians were good, and taught us another new song which we might try. The talk was about entering into God’s rest, and finding peace. We had a meal at a Wetherspoons pub afterwards. It was a very hot day and we returned to the boat and set off back the way we had come to try once again for a mooring at Paxton Pits. Back through the very slow St Neots Lock, and after an hour we arrived. There was one boat there, and just room for us as well. Apparently another boat had left the mooring 15 minutes earlier. When the day cooled down we had a walk round the reserve, which was lovely. One of the hides overlooks a gap between two lakes, and we had close up views of birds in flight going from on to the other – cormorants, swans and Canada geese. Back at the boat, Hugo was in hunting mode, and caught two mice.