Saturday, 28 June 2014

From Salters Lode to Denver Sluice

1 mile 2 locks

It may not have been far, but it was an adventure.  By 09:00 the dog had been walked, breakfast eaten, washing up done and we were ready to go as the tide would be ready around 09:30.  A walk had been taken up to the other side of Salters Lode lock to check on the water levels.

Taken last night

And again this morning

For those of you who are not familiar with this part of the world (it is all new to me and please accept my apologies if I have any technical details wrong) to get from the Middle Levels onto the Ouse we have to go through two locks – first out of Salters Lode, hard right turn against the current and then into Denver Sluice and out onto the Ouse, but this can only be done at certain times depending on the tides.   I had been told it could be ‘interesting’, ‘exciting’, ‘an adventure’, so I was not really sure what to expect. 

First to go was nb Kingfisher who is only 50 foot long and not too high – the little ones always go first.  Height wise we would never have made it – the tide had to fall a bit more.

All went well and they made it through, round the bend and on their way to Denver Sluice.

Next a boat came up from Denver Sluice and made it safely round the bend into the lock mouth.

The Captain and Boatwif are ready waiting for the signal to go once the above boat had come out of the lock.

 They are on their way

Monty says farewell

 They are in 

On the diagonal as this is the only way boats over about 55 foot can get through.  The very long boats have to wait until the water is pretty much level and both ends and then they almost get pushed through.  Sometimes there is only about a 10 minute window.

They are safely through

Full power on

Round the bend

 And safely off to Denver Sluice

It was back to Tentatrice for us to move to the landing stage to wait for the next boat coming from Denver Sluice.  It was about 10:25 when we got into Salters Lode lock.  The lock keeper is a mine of very good information to ensure everyone travels safely.

We were in

And then out again

Monty and I stayed in the bow and he made his discomfort known in no uncertain terms.  The lock keeper thought it was a bird screeching!  There was no more time to think of taking any photos, so I am glad we had the chance to observe nb Cleddau.

Then it was off the short stretch (about half a mile, if that) to Denver Sluice, which is big and can easily take two boats if need be, but today it was singletons.  This allowed those coming from Denver into Salters Lode to feed in one at a time.

Denver Sluice is huge.  We were heading for the lock on the left. 

 Once in you feed ropes round big steel poles front and back of the boat to keep the boat under control and to our surprise we went down when we all thought we would go up!  In no time at all we were through and onto the large and stately River Ouse.

Go round to the left the very helpful lock keeper told us – your friends have gone to take on water.  Sure enough there was Boatwif waving to ensure we knew where to go.  They are looking after us very well.  Round the bend and the heavens opened!!  Nothing we could do, but get wet.  Thunder as well, but we made it to breast up at the water point safely.  Water was put on both boats. We had a cuppa and waited for the rain to stop.  The whole journey from when we cast off before Salters Lode to when we moored at the water point only took about 45 minutes, but they were very busy minutes.

Looking back at the water point on the left and more sluices in the middle

The decision was made to moor up on the EA moorings down from the Jenyms Arms and not move on until tomorrow.

Domestic and boat duties were performed.  Then we adjourned to the pub for a snack (the open sandwiches were very good). We have decided to go back for dinner tonight – well it is Saturday.  Monty stayed on the boat (no dogs in the pub) and the stress of the morning must have worn him out and sent him into a very deep sleep as Chris managed to get back in the stern doors, through the galley and into the saloon to find Monty on the dinette!  Caught out big time!  He had cuddled up in my old fleece which I had discarded in favour of something a little tidier when we went for lunch.  As I type it is pouring with rain again and we are hoping it eases, so Monty can have a relatively dry walk.  Tomorrow I think we are going down the River Lark.

Total stats for this trip so far:
170.5 miles, 182 locks

Friday, 27 June 2014

To March, Upwell and Salters Lode

 Another big catch up I am afraid due to dodgy internet:

Wednesday 25th June 2014
To March
15 miles, 2 locks

A quick postscript from Tuesday’s Peterborough’s blog – we had left Bromsgrove in lovely sunny weather to make the journey to Peterborough via Bedford.  It stayed that way until we were nearing Peterborough when the rain started.  It had stopped by the time we arrived, but it had been very wet – sandy mud everywhere.  Around half a dozen very heavily laden trips from car to boat saw everything safely stowed on board.  We got inside, were about to retrieve Monty from Cleddau when this happened 

Monty had to wait until it eased as did the return of the hire car.  We were very lucky that we were spared a soaking.

It had all cleared by the time we got up Wednesday morning and another warm day greeted us.  The camera had still not turned up, so it was decided that it had gone – where we had no idea, but definitely gone.  Boatwif kindly offered to guide me to John Lewis to purchase a replacement, whilst the men moved one boat and then the other to the service area to perform the necessary services.  It did mean I got a slightly closer look at the Cathedral and a small feel for the town (I liked what I saw), but no camera to take photos.  As we were approaching our target my phone vibrated, but I failed to extract it out of my bag in time to answer.  I was investigating who had phoned and any possible voicemail message when Boatwif’s phone trilled – the message – the phone had been found!  It was behind the toilet and Chris had discovered it when preparing to empty said receptacle!!  A couple of other bits were bought in JL and a small rucksack and fishing net were purchased on our way back to the boats, so not a wasted journey, but huge relief that I was saved the cost of a new camera.  The near loss did make me grateful that I download photos on a daily basis!

The upshot of all that was a late start to what turned out to be a very long journey. 

First stop was Stanground Lock, ‘Gateway to the Fens’ where we were booked for 13:00 and 13:15. 

There was one other boat ahead of us, but the lock keeper was very efficient and in good time we were through and away.  Whilst chatting there (as you do!) we discovered that the lock keeper was born in the house by the lock, has lived there all her life and took over as lock keeper from her Father.  We were finally free to join the Fens

To find miles of this

Then it narrows

You go under a bridge

 This is all you can see

There is a very tight bend

We made it round

To find another thatched cottage

Next stop was Ashline Lock where we found one boat waiting with another trying to get into the lock – our first traffic jam!  To say it is a slow lock would be the understatement of the year! Eventually Cleddau made it through

Followed by Tentatrice
We had made it through with another boat coming up between the two of us.  The 'lock labourer' from that boat informed me it was his first ever lock, so he was not surprised by the weird lock mechanism – horizontal rather than vertical, but Chris and I were!  We had been told by Boatwif and the Captain to expect a surprise, but they did not want to spoil it for us!  By my counting I think they took between 61 and 83 (I confess to being a compulsive counter) turns to open and close!! 

As we emerged yet another boat came along – good timing for them!  The four boats encountered at the lock were the only ones we saw all day!  In total it took us around 1.5 hours to get both boats through this our second and last lock of the day.  We were now 10 feet below sea level.

Onwards we pressed.  Passed Bill and Ben

Another pillbox - a definite feature round here

More miles of this

And then we crossed the Greenwich Meridian line!  We are truly in the East now!

We approach Ferry Meadows – it iwas getting late (17:45) – will we get a mooring?  Sadly not, despite being marked as moorings it appears that they are all private.  Shame as there were a lot of spaces.

On we go and the excitement levels rise as ahead we spot some wonderful empty moorings, however when we arrived we noticed the sign!
 On again until we finally arrived in March

Past lots of boats and lovely gardens

 Garden rooms


A rather precarious ladder

Lots of metal work, but what it is for?

A very blue house

Until we finally arrive(around 19:00 which is very late for us!) at the moorings by the park where we find there is just room for the two of us, thanks to very considerate mooring by the boat ahead of us.
Monty enjoyed the freedom of the park, but was not keen on the skates and scooters – something new and perceived as threatening to him.  More training required!  Bikes he completely ignores, but those he sees most days along the tow path at home.  An easy meal and we fell into bed!

Thursday 26th June
To Upwell
4.75 miles, 1 lock

First job for us this morning was a walk along the river for Monty whilst Boatwif went to explore March. 

We thought this was a wonderful way to start a lovely warm summer's day

The second job was to remove the cratch as there are a couple of low bridges to negotiate today and we have quite a high air draft.

Then we were off past yet more lovely moorings

And this fantastic retreat – a place to curl up with a good book maybe?

Under a decorated bridge (please excuse the rather inexpert cobbling together of two photos)
 Past the rather grand Town Hall

To the moorings by The Ship Inn and some rather colourful shops

And on out into the countryside to find a gun – Russian I am told
 And legions of wind turbines – they seemed to go on for ever the colour changing from dark grey to white depending where we were in relation to the sun and clouds.

 Yet again many miles of this

Until we reached Marmont Lock (we had phoned ahead as instructed!) with a very chatty and helpful lock keeper

There was a boat ahead of us so it took a while – to say the lock is slow would be the understatement of the year, so nb Cleddau went through first and went ahead hoping to secure moorings.

Does anyone know what these are?  I meant to ask the lock keeper, but got distracted and forgot. 

Easy does it to the other side.  He does not like this sort of bridge and with water visible I thought he might refuse, but no, he did it without a murmur.

This was spotted as we approached Upwell – is someone living in the little hut whilst they build a new home we wondered?

They take care of their ducks in Upwell providing a duck sized tree to use as a sun shade

 And a place to cross the road for those ducks clever enough to read

On we went past the Methodist Church to the first of the low bridges – would we make it? 
We did with ease.

Just a bit further along there was Boatwif on the second low bridge with the Church and The Five Bells Pub behind her.

We made it through to moor on the other side at Church Moorings 

Where boats have priority over anglers

 Which were really well kept (by a retired Middle Level Commissioner we discovered on Friday) with a good selection of herbs

Some beautiful flowers 

A memorial bench

A special anniversary maybe?

Once moored I only had one thing on my mind (and no it was not a visit to the pub) – was there a hairdresser in town?   My hair had just got to the stage where I was desperate to get it cut, so off I went.  I spotted a young Mum with a twin buggy and two more little ones trailing along behind – she was sure to know.  Yes there is one about a mile away – go down the road past the church and take the second left (Lister/s Road) and there is one, maybe two to be found.  Off I went and went and went - I did eventually come across a house with a sign indicating it was a hairdressers.  I knocked on the door to no avail, so I rang the number displayed on the wall.  A young lady appeared – she was sorry she was closed today and had no vacancies until Monday.  There is another hairdresser at the other end of the village I was told – just by the fish and chip shop.  I followed her directions, but ended up back at the boats.  A young man was asked where the fish and chip shop was – go along there, turn left and it is about half a mile away.  Off I went again and eventually reached Outwell.  I was about to give up (I had seen a bridge across the river and had decided to head home down the main road as that appeared to be quicker if less pleasant than the back streets) when I spotted the fish and chip shop and lo and behold to the right was the promised hairdresser - the half a mile was rather inaccurate.  It was now nearly five o’clock, but the sign said ‘Open’, so in I ventured.  I apologised for being so late, but wondered if he could trim my hair in the morning?  'Well', was the reply ‘are you free now – the lady that was due has not turned up’!  Someone was looking down on me and smiling, so my long (45-50 walk was not in vain).  Suitably coiffured I returned to the boat via the main road which took less than 20 minutes.  Eleven minutes in to my walk I came across another salon (presumably it was once the local cinema)

 before getting back to the boat and this great view of the church.

What else did I find on my walk around the village?

A lot of pretty gardens

I wondered who lived here

And what these two were guarding who live next door?

And what was Chris up to whilst I was away - he had scrubbed the front deck and laid the Kampa matting we had brought back with us on Tuesday and very smart it looks too.

We all adjourned to The Five Bells for dinner – the people were lovely, the beer was good and the food was pub grub food – nothing flash, but perfectly adequate.

Friday 27th June 2014
To Salters Lode
6 miles, 0 locks

For once we were neither a day early or a day late, but bang on time.  St Peter’s Church 60th Flower Festival began at 10am and Boatwif and I were there as they opened.  The theme was ‘A Good Read’.  The floral displays were amazing and I can only show a few and the photos do not do them justice.
Wind in the Willows - a book I love 

Charlotte's Web - a book that was one of our daughter's favourites - there was a spider in the top left of the frame - just not visible due to the window behind the display

Two books I do not know, but loved the arrangements:
The Colour Purple

and the Nutcracker and the Mouse King

 Boatwif and I enjoyed a very pleasant hour with lots of chat and information.

The church is spectacular with or without the flowers and well worth a visit

And an unusual side gallery

There were some spectacular windows

The lectern is, we were informed, possibly unique in that it is a cockerel rather than the usual Eagle.  It has three feet as the ‘cock crowed three times’

Prior to setting off some supplies were acquired.  Joe’s Nose Bag can be recommended – they make sandwiches to order.  The bread is fabulous, the ingredients are fresh and the price is good – a very full sandwich for just £2.

I also went to the butcher for some sausages (not tried yet) and found some interesting cheeses as well – a couple jumped into my shopping bag.

Then it was off.  Now we know why we are called ‘Ditch Crawlers’.  Progress was painfully slow.  The water is shallow for the most part and very muddy.  The sign to ‘Watch your speed’ as we left Outwell did not seem very appropriate! 

It took us 15 minutes by boat to reach my hairdresser saviour from yesterday – only a little bit quicker than walking.

The cratch had been removed again before we set as there were low bridges to contend with, but we just snuck under - thankfully nothing as low as the M5 culvert at Droitwich

More miles of water, but check out that cloud

Will we outrun it?

Chris gets prepared just in case

And was just in time – 30 minutes before we moored

Just before Salters Lode and as we moored the sun came out!!

 A quick explore to see what is in store at Salters Lode tomorrow.  Our start time is 09:30

We have been promised interesting times tomorrow!

Total stats for this trip:
169.5 miles, 180 locks