Ely to March

Trip Start Apr 26, 2011
Trip End Oct 31, 2011

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mon 5th September

Departed Ely fairly early with first stop half a mile downstream for the facilities unit for rubbish, water, and toilet. While we were there, some guy on a hire cruiser spotted our banner and started singing "Jesus wants me for a sunbeam". The banner attracts all sorts of reaction! Then back upstream to say farewell to Andy and Sue on Springwater before leaving the environs of Ely on the way to the River Cam.  We soon discovered that very strong winds were blowing so we took our banner down. At Pope's corner we turned left off the Great Ouse onto the River Cam, and at Upware we turned left again off the Cam onto Reach Lode, passing through the lock which lifted us up all of two inches.  At the EA mooring we saw Quantum Leap who had been there for two nights and was heading back to Ely.

There are three lodes here. To the left is Wicken Lode, straight on is Burwell Lode, and to the right is Reach Lode.  We opted for Reach Lode first, which goes for two miles and is very narrow, with reeds brushing the boat on both sides.  Assured by the guidebook that there is space to turn at the end and a GOBA mooring we continued to the end of the Lode.  We found that the mooring was only big enough for a very small boat, and there was also a sign saying “No mooring without the consent of Reach Parish Council”.  There was no phone number or contact detail on the sign. We managed to turn, and we moored opposite the official (too small) mooring, tying to trees. We went for a walk to explore Reach, which apparently used to be a Saxon port with several basins off the lode.  We found the end of what is known as Devils Ditch, which is a large earthwork, built by the Saxons for defence.  We also found a notice board with a list of parish council members and their phone numbers, but by then we were on the way back to the boat and didn’t want to moor.

We left Reach and returned to Burwell Lode, which was slightly wider, and had a decent mooring at the end, big enough for a whole narrowboat!  A very helpful lady on a widebeam boat gave us lots of advice about the village.

Tue 6th September

We went to explore Burwell village, which has several shops and a bank.  We found a Christian bookshop / second-hand book exchange called CentrePeace where we received a warm welcome and a cup of tea from volunteers Don and Diane. This is run by Churches Together and it seems the churches here are fairly lively.  We found a Baptist church, an Anglican, and one which was combined URC and Methodist.  None of these is in the BCF church directory so we took a few details.  We also found a windmill and museum on the top of a hill. This was a genuine windmill for grinding flour, and not a wind pump as many are in the fens.  We had lunch in a pub when it started to rain. There were earthwork remains of a castle nearby.

We left Burwell and moved on to Wicken Fen where we found two guys swimming in the narrow channel, which apparently they do most days. They work at the reserve. A boat called The Answer was moored up already, with a pleasant couple called Gary and Beryl.  A few days earlier they had moored at Paxton Pits, and a kingfisher had landed on the bows of his boat, and he had managed to take some excellent photos at close range.

Hugo didn’t realise Wicken Fen was a nature reserve and he caught three mice.

Wed 7th September

We rose early and walked to West Mere Hide and saw various water birds including kingfishers before setting off back to Ely. A strong wind was still blowing and we had our banner down. Our usual mooring by Bridge Boats was still available, and a short stroll revealed that Lady Blatherwick was back, and two other BCF boats were moored nearby: Avalon and Sunflower.  We went to visit Avalon first, with Archie and Jenny Ferguson, who invited us on board for a cuppa and we ended up doing a bible study together. We had met them somewhere on the canals a year or two back but no one could remember where! Then we caught up with Trevor and Pamela Thorn on Sunflower. Trevor had said hello when we were at Wicken Fen the first time, as he was prayer walking with some church members. This time we had more time to talk.  Later we had a visit on Gabriel from Brian Allen, ex BCF member whom we met again at the church in March six weeks ago.  A very sociable time in Ely.  We went to the Basmati Indian restaurant again for their Wednesday evening special deal.  Excellent food once again.

Thu 8th September

We visited the markets in Ely this morning before a rendezvous at the cathedral for coffee with Sally Ann Ford.  She has a busy schedule with meetings interviews and training events keeping her occupied over the last two days.

We set off early afternoon first calling at the facilities block, and then heading for the Little Ouse, where we arrived at the GOBA mooring opposite Lakenheath Fen at about 5.30pm.  We didn’t see the cranes this time or any bitterns, but we saw a marsh harrier, a barn owl, a little egret, two sandpipers, and a tree pipit.  We also had a lovely sunset.

Fri 9th September

Back down the Little Ouse to the boatyard for some fuel (we took 128 litres, our record), which is still 85p per litre.  Then onto the Great Ouse, going downstream to Denver where we paused for lunch.  We then visited pastures new as we went through the lock into the relief channel. This lock has the inspiring name “Relief Channel Lock”. This channel takes water from the Great Ouse, plus the cut-off channel, which diverts water from the Wissey, the Little Ouse and the Lark, and allows it flow into the Wash near King’s Lynn when the tide is low.  Some of it is also piped to Essex as a water supply.  There are three mooring pontoons: Downham Market, Stowbridge, and Wiggenhall Mary Magdalen.  The whole thing is shown on the map as being about 2.5 miles, or about 30 minutes.  It took an hour and a half with very strong winds. We moored at Wiggenhall for the rest of the day and looked round the village. We were debating where to go for church on Sunday. The Anglican church there had no service, going to another church in the benefice instead.  We considered going to Downham Market where we had a good experience at the Christian Fellowship. However the mooring there backed on to a busy road and we would need to keep Hugo in. We checked online and found another church at Stowbridge, where the mooring was better so we decided to moor there on Saturday evening, have a meal at the pub, with church on the Sunday.

At Wiggenhall we met Peter and Nicky on Paramour who helpfully gave us a bus timetable, as we wanted to visit King’s Lynn.

Sat 10th September

We realised that the buses were very infrequent from Wiggenhall so we left our mooring there, doing a circuit in the wind and going fast under the bridge to get through the weed which had accumulated. We returned to Downham Market, which took an hour and a quarter. It was then that we realised that the scale on the Imray map was wrong and what was shown as 2 miles was in fact about 7 miles! Oh for a Nicholson Guide!

We caught a bus to King’s Lynn and looked round the maritime quarter – some lovely old historic buildings.  Back by bus to Downham Market where we visited Morrisons for some of their excellent bread.  We saw on the news that hurricane force winds were forecast for Sunday and Monday, so we revised our plans.  Instead of staying on the relief channel, which was wide and windy, we decided to leave there and the Great Ouse and get onto the Middle Levels before the worst of the wind arrived. We went back through “Relief Channel Lock” and first called at the facilities at Denver. This was challenging in high winds, and we were in danger of being blown onto a large weir at the end of the Great Ouse. We managed it successfully, and then had more high jinks as we moved onto the lock bollards by Denver Lock.  A boat called Sunflower (another one) kindly moved along for us.  There were enough bushes to keep Hugo happy, and we could cross the bridge to get to the Jenyn Arms for a meal, which was very pleasant.

Sun 11th September

No church for a change this morning as we were going down in the lock by 8.30am onto a fairly full tide.  The turn into Salters Lode was not as bad as everyone had made it out to be, and we should have turned normally as we came level with the entrance. However, we had been told to start the turn early which we did, and we ended up having to reverse again as we would have reached the bank too early otherwise. We had to duck as we entered the lock as the tide was high.

Back once again on the Middle Levels, we continued to Marchmont Priory Lock, where Maureen the lock keeper was on duty.  Last time she was not there and we had no windlass, so we made do with a piling hook to turn the spindles. On then in the high winds to March where we found Springwater on the town moorings. They weren’t around so we passed their boat, and found quieter moorings further on by the recreation ground where we had moored previously.  We went for a Sunday roast at Wetherspoons in an old cinema.  Later we revisited March Evangelical Fellowship for the evening meeting and we received a warm welcome once again.  James was asked to speak about our experiences since our last visit there.

When we returned to the boat we found a very wet Hugo, and pools of water along the corridor.  He must have fallen in – that’s three times this year!  He always seems to get himself out OK.
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