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Monday, 14 June 2010

7th June to 13th March to St Ives

After 11 days away courtesy of the train we returned at 6 on Sunday, relieved to find the freezer still frozen, & Carol's plants on the roof looking pretty good too. Our water bed was cold having been unheated for 11 days so the boiler did its stuff getting it reasonably warm in a couple of hours. On Monday we filled up with fuel at 60/40 split (no options) at a cost of £163, something over £1 a litre! We then moved just over a mile down the Dyke to moor in the centre of March. Useful shops & reasonably large Sainsburys and some interesting buildings. It seems that once March had amongst the largest railway sidings in the wonders why? It is now a quiet railway backwater.

Our aged copy of Nicholsons told us the church of St Wendreda demanded a visit. It was just over a mile from the river & the key can be picked up from the nearby pub, but it wasn't there!! There was a funeral, so we waited in the old graveyard till it was over, and it was worth the wait because the hammerbeam roof was incredible with the beams being decorated with wonderfully carved angels on them...more later.

The moorings in March were 36 hour limit & when we arrived there were at least 2 of the moored boats that I thought had been there a fairly long time, but I was wrong, both of them moved off during the first afternoon. One lady arrived later on in an older ex hire boat with a broken window. She had obtained new glass and fitted it the next morning, and she warned of mooring alongside the park opposite the pump out station in March. 1 mile 0 locks and we were moored alongside a pub (not visited) & an Italian restaurant where the menu looked OK.

Tuesday 8th dawned after heavy overnight rain and some thunder during the day we were off after getting papers & fresh fruit. Our journey through the levels was highlighted by seeing several Kingfishers, including one that we observed hovering much in the way that hummingbirds do.

The channel became narrower & weedy after Pophams Eau. It was wet by the time we reached Marmont Priory Lock which is manned by the family that own the lock house. They do not get paid for doing so, apart from getting their phone bill paid.

After this we cruised slowly into Upwell & moored on the mooring provided by the Wells Creek Trust (the navigation was restored by the Trust in 1975. Saw this on a house along the cut.

Small village a few pubs I think 3 butchers (& the beef we got from the one by the mooring was wonderful!!) plus a general store.

I had never seen a mobile Post Office before, it emptied its till at Upwell.

And so to the church where again there are loads of carved angels on the roof hammer beams. What made this more unusual was the fact that the church still has its wooden galleries that enable you to get up & close to the carving.

A builder was doing some work in the church & he drew our attention to these large "boat hooks" that were fixed to the gallery. They were over 12 ft long & I can't think what they were for, they had metal rings fixed on them at places along their length. Any ideas?

Alongside the church was a large house, Welle Manor House that dates from 1202 and, Nicholson says,is a "rare example of a fortified medieval prebendary manor house." Yes...with a new large conservatory, but mostly engulfed by Victorian extensions.

We liked the village, moored outside the pub, & again I didn't visit but the A1101 was alongside & did a 90 degree turn alongside.

Wednesday 9th away slowly through shallow waters, & beware the bridges are low too. We intended to tie up at Outwell a mile away to see its church roof, but the moorings were occupied by 4 little cruisers, so we cruised on, its something for our return trip. Close by was an old pub (my old Nicholsons shows loads of pubs that are no more) where the house owner has renovated the wonderful plaster sign on the gable end. It reminded me of the brewer whose fare I drank on a summer holiday tour in my old Austin 7, Bullards...a name no more.

We were booked in at Salters Lode lock at 3pm and had 7 miles to cover & 4 1/2 miles to cover it! The weather brightened and we tied up for lunch at Nordelph. Nothing here, the pub is a house, the church was being demolished & this is the stubbiest old windmill I've ever seen!

The old petrol pump stopped at 50 1/2 p a gallon!! Derelict boats abound as the Middle Level Commissioners do not charge a licence fee.

Carried on shallow & slow to Salters Lode Lock where we tied up with 2 others waiting the tide, and it clouded over & started to drizzle slightly. Lock keeper arrived and Lily was locked through first & we tied up below it waiting for Weasel to join us. We then set off upstream with incoming tide behind us and Denver Sluice Lock was open for us BUT there was a small plastic boat on the pontoon mooring below the lock and there was a big swell flowing from the weir driving us onto it! It took full power for several minutes for us to get away from the plastic and into the lock, during which time we shredded another alternator belt!! Locking up with Weasel we then used the services before moving on to the excellent moorings above the lock.
7 miles & 2 locks.

Thursday 10th after a quiet night it was overcast with a cool wind and rain forecast we set off up the Gt Ouse & then took the first left into the river Wissey. A lovely river, banks not too high, deep water, twisty course and we tied up at Hilgay for lunch. We then carried on to just beyond the sugar beet factory where the river widened to a small lake, turning & returning to Hilgay for the night. Good local council provided toilets & Elsan point plus water. Simple church & a great butcher cum general store & newsagent with lovely home made pies (good pork pie) but the worst pub I've been to in years. Real ale was off & the keg John Smiths didn't taste too good either.
About 8 miles & 0 locks....hard work.

Friday 11th Overcast & then fast fine drizzle so washed off 1 side of the boat waiting for it to brighten....but no. We had a gentle easy run back to the Ouse intending to turn next left into Brandon Creek but about an hour after setting off there was a funny noise & a burning smell! It wasn't the alternator belt, I checked, it was the inverter that had gone bang! Rang Debdale, contacted a marina in Ely & got a couple of nights there with mains power. I spoke to Aquafax, & in particular Keith, about repair to be told that our inverter contained coils made by a firm that had gone bust & Mastervolt was unable to get/make spares so we had to replace it! Also we couldn't get the same size of inverter so we have had to downsize a little, 3kw to 2.5kw. Most amazing was the fact that Keith keeps his boat on the river not far from Ely & that he would take our new inverter there for us to meet up over the weekend.

The afternoon brightened up and Ely Marina was very helpful (at £30 a night they should be) and we loved walking up into the "city" which has some lovely buildings & a fabulous cathedral. Every night there is a choral evensong in the Lady Chapel and we went to it on Friday. The sound in that room was incredible and it is a wonderful place. There is even a Wetherspoons next to it!
9 miles 0 locks.


Saw this post near level crossing by station.

Saturday 12th and a bright day with a cool wind. Re-provisioned at Waitrose (Tesco near Station) and Carol had her hair cut before we went off to take a guided tour of the Cathedral and a gentle wander around the town. We will return. Arranged to meet Keith at the Pike & Eel towards St Ives on Sunday.

Sunday we had to wait till 10.15 to get our £50 key deposit back & we set off at a fast lick. The river was wide & deep and we cruised fast, slowing as we entered the Old River where there is a 4mph limit on the narrower river. It was a lovely cruise and we saw Kingfishers, a Barn Owl and an Egret plus an Oyster Catcher as well as numerous other birds. The weather was good though the wind cool. We reached Hermitage lock, 4th in the queue waiting for 2pm & the start of afternoon working. The river Ouse the other side is slightly tidal the other side & we were told to look for seals but saw none. On we cruised to Brownshill lock which we shared with a smallish plastic boat, all electric with guillotines, but Carol noticed oil on the water near our stern. Once through we tied up on the landing stage & I found that our hydraulic oil had expanded out of the header tank with the extended fast cruising!

We met Keith shortly afterwards and tied up at the Pike & Eel & plugged into the mains & I started mopping up the oil! We had covered 17 miles & 2 locks in under 6 hours.

Not a good week as far as Lily was concerned, but the scenery is lovely.

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