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Monday, 19 July 2010

12th to 18th July 2010

Monday 12th and a much cooler day, mostly overcast and a bit of rain. We had an easy cruise into Ely. I checked the new alternator belt in the morning and found signs of damage already. I reckon one of the pulleys is wrongly machined and has too sharp edges which cut into the belt. Long conversations with Steve, mechanic at Debdale, who told me that both pulleys had been especially machined for us.

We went for an exploratory walk around the outside of Ely Cathedral including the Kings School buildings. Very interesting, I always assumed that choral scholars had their fees paid, but it seems they only get half paid, and that is only for so long as they are in the choir.

11miles & 1 lock
Tuesday 13th Checked belt fitted new on Sunday and after about 10 hours of gentle running it had no ribs left! More chats to Steve & I decided to fit a new belt with little tension, allowing the belt to slip a bit & get warm to increase its grip, like f1 car tyres, I adjusted the tension to stop excessive slippage. Collected 2 more belts in case but had to wait for delivery after lunch, and these were over £13 each!

Used san station in Ely and set off just as it started to drizzle very fast! Cruised for 1 ½ hours before mooring on EA moorings on river Lark. 5 miles 0 locks.

Wednesday 14th Belt was OK & we were away into Prickwillow, arriving at more EA moorings about ½ hour later. Went to see the Museum of Fen is closed Wednesday to Friday, if we’d got away a bit earlier the day before we could have got in! Looked through windows, lovely large old diesel engines in beautiful condition, we’ll try to get back another time, but not this year, shame.

Carried on to Isleham, mooring with our bows touching the lock mooring, no others really available. Large marina & chalet complex now on lock island, includes Elsan point, but beware they charge £2 & throw! (we didn’t pay, but did use it!)
Walked into Isleham and were pleased to get into the church, but before that we stopped at one of the pubs, Carol enjoyed her coffee & my bitter was lovely and we had a pleasant chat with the locals. The church was lovely with lovely carvings on the roof trusses. Apparently some more were there but Cromwell’s lot objected to the idolatry and discharged their guns at the carvings!

Close by the church was this lovely Norman Priory abandoned in 1254 but still intact thanks to being used for various purposes including as a barn. It was a bit of a walk to get the key but well worth it to get so close to history.

Isleham has various useful shops and 2 pubs doing food plus a garage. On the way back to Lily we did something I had never done before, picked cherries. We saw trees laden with ripe cherries in Huntingdon near our moorings but they were out of reach, these, though smaller, were close to hand. They made a lovely addition to our fruit salad but frankly we should have stopped longer & picked a load. It was another momentous event when Carol picked her first ripe tomatoes from the incredible bush we have growing on the roof.

We also saw loads of kingfishers, including this one that used a drain outlet structure as its perch. The weather was OK. 9 miles.

Thursday 15th and it was WINDY. Quite a bit of rain overnight and wind got plants on the roof rocking. Moved tomato plant & chilli plant below deck and moved other small plants onto rear deck seats. It took a lot of push against the wind to get off our mooring & into the lock. Like all these locks they are fully powered, even the “pointed doors” being powered. Cruised on the twisty & narrowing bit to the end at Judes Ferry, but frankly there was little to recommend it, though we understand the pub/restaurant alongside the winding point is good. Difficult winding through T junction layout & wind & weed.

Wind carried on blowing hard, rain threatened & then poured as we reached the end of the Lark, but the brolly helped to keep me dry. The Lark isn’t up to much, except we reckon Isleham is worth a visit.

Carried on to Littleport, mooring by the Swan, closed till 30th we understand, mooring behind Dutch Barge Moondahl, chatted about their crossing from Boston & up past Kingd Lynn. Pump out out of order and it seemed to have been so for a long time. Littleport is a smallish ?town? with a range of shops a pub & takeaways, and we experienced more heavy squalls as we walked back to Lily. We had a Chinese, not the best!

16 miles & 1 lock twice.

Friday 16th After topping up with water on the opposite side of river we set off to the Little Ouse, stopping at Little Ouse Moorings to top up with fuel at 75p self declared, but CASH ONLY, that was nearly an OOPS! Just had enough. They have a submersible wet dock for doing blackings, an interesting way of doing it.

We had intended to do the Little Ouse later, after going to Downham Market, but we had well over a mile from the fuel pump to a place wide enough to wind, so we carried on to Brandon at the end of the river. Despite it being a really windy day it was a wonderful cruise with lovely sun, the most beautiful river in this complex, very twisty but clear water and lots of birdlife

Saw this peculiar boat on way to Brandon 

Brandon is interesting, the lock is quite short so we moored just below it on the EA moorings. Walking into town via the Leisure Centre we walked over the old Saxon village where a large number of remains had been excavated, this being a raised sandy area amidst the fens. There was also a large Roman villa excavated in the ‘30’s and a farmer around then ploughed up a load of Roman silver. The place was the centre of the flint knapping industry and they still make flints for flintlock weapons! Useful shops & pubs, plus it is the centre of the BBC......the Brandon Brewery Company, whose beer I enjoyed at the 5 Miles Pub. I bought a bottle fermented beer from them, but I’m afraid it just doesn’t hit the spot for me like a draught pint does.               20 miles today!!

Saturday 17th Not quite so windy at the start & after getting the papers we were away by 10. The alternator belt has performed well, I have just tightened it slightly each day, but it definitely is lasting better despite cruising a t higher revs than we usually use. Day started with bright sun at times but clouds built up a progressively heavier showers arrived. The first didn’t affect us as after cruising about 4 miles we passé under the road bridge at Hockwold cum Wilton & were hailed. It was David & Liz on Hearsease who were about to set off to the Lakenheath RSPB reserve. They told us they came across a boat te day before brought to a stop by a rope around the prop that was attached to an anchor! They were about to get into the river to cut it free as David & Liz passed.

Pleasant chat whilst the showers passed & we bid them farewell cruising easily through the lovely waters we left the river after 4 hours cruising to cover the 16 miles, turning towards Denver Sluice. By this time the clouds had got black and we had endured the first downpour, but a longer deluge followed on the way along the Gt Ouse, along with very strong wind. I cruised on the lee side, the wrong side of the river, but there was no-one else cruising at the time, though we were passed by one nb that must have been doing the full 7mph permitted, if not more....Lily won’t do that speed!

After the deluge it brightened into a pleasant evening as we passed through the Relief Channel Lock down to Downham Market, tying up to the good pontoon mooring and walked into the town. We had covered 24 miles and 1 lock in 5 ½ hours, very fast for us.
Downham Market is quite interesting, good shops & pubs plus a station. The market was just shutting as we walked in.

Sunday 18th Fine day, windy again but mild and no rain. Decided to stop to watch the Moto GP and did some washing, having filled up with water from the tap on the pontoon. Ran engine to keep charge up, belt still fine, but stopped engine before end of GP. It wouldn’t re-start about an hour later with flat battery! It was a new battery just under 2 years before, not sure if it is at fault or the charging system, though the ammeter looks as if voltage is good. Hooked up battery charger from 240 volt system & rushed into town to try to get jump leads. Found the Tesco store not big but it had jump leads, and just 5 minutes before closing! Moondahl was with us & I’d borrowed a charger from him too, but with jump leads on, we were away.

Funny thing, before we came to the Relief Channel I was worried about whether it was wide enough for us to wind in !!!

Quick cruise to the Relief lock. At this lock you have to use a computer keyboard to clock into the channel, getting a 2 week stay, and on the way back we clocked out. Tipping the Elsans at Denver we carried on up river to Hilgay Bridge to the good EA moorings, the wind dropping as evening approached.

5 miles & 1 lock

A Question:- Why is the single track line through to Kings Lynn electrified when they can’t afford to do any of the East Midlands Main Line? Mad

Monday, 12 July 2010

5th to 12th July In Cambridge

Monday 5th and when I went to check the engine first thing the main alternator belt was ruined again so I fitted my spare, there should have been 2 spares but one is hiding. Since we last replaced one at the Pike & Eel we have hardly cruise & have not used high revs at all, there is clearly something dramatically amiss, I'll have to get more spares when in Cambridge & after our planned visit we are going to return to Debdale so they can sort it.

The day started bright & with less wind and occasional cloud, the Old River was shallow in places. We stopped at the old Streatham Pumping Station which is open on the 2nd Sunday in the month & occasionally steams the old Butterly Engine....such a shame that the firm that built this engine, St Pancras Station and even the Falkirk Wheel closed about a year ago, you would have hoped that a company with such a history & that had proved able to adapt to changes in demand would have been able to carry on manufacturing in this country. I suppose if it had been a bank it would have been bailed out!

The EA plan showing facilities on the rivers was proved erroneous again as te Fish & Duck at Popes Corner where the Old River & Cam meet is now no more than a layer of gravel, and there were no facilities available, but that might have been because work was on-going to improve the marina. So we carried on towards Cambridge, calling into Upware Marina, where there were no visitor facilities at all. We tied up outside the 5 Mile Inn alongside the marina where they very kindly let us run a hose to fill up. There is an EA water point alongside the Upware Sluice, but it is downstream & the chamber is about 10 feet shorter than Lily.

I went for a walk down to Wyken Fen to hopefully see some of the rare birds living there, or even to hear a corncrake, but all I saw was a kite, but it was interesting to see the undrained land. On the Ea moorings near the lock I counted only 12 out of 20 boats displaying valid licences!! We ate in the pub off the £6.95 for 2 courses on Monday menu and enjoyed it.  We saw this upturned old barge where it is undergoing some re-plating, except I don't think anything has been done for a while, looking at the weeds around it.

I also decided to put additional ventiation into the cupboard holding the inverter so sawed through the steel, foam lining and thick ply liner with a small blade on my Stanley took quite a while but is now hiding behind a brass louvre, but it does seem to be keeping down the heat level.

Tuesday 6th started bright & with a good forecast and we enjoyed a lovely slow cruise for the 10 miles & 2 locks into Cambridge. There are visitor moorings for 48 hours at Jesus lock where there is a good sanitary station, but we stopped alongside Jesus Green, opposite rowing club boat houses & where it is supposedly only for boats that pay an annual mooring fee, except that there were few boats there that had paid up, most were tied up alongside walls further downstream where there was nothing to pay! We decided that we would happily pay a fee for overnight stops with the lovely meadow alongside, complete with grazing cows and only about 1/2 a mile from the city centre!

We wandered in drank coffee bought a map, considered what to do & then went to Evensong in Kings College Chapel. What a lovely place, glorious choir and the place was almost full too. When we got back we were able to supervise the finishing line of a rowing race against the clock with over 40 crews rowing over 2000 metres. They were set off in roughly fastest first order at 30 second intervals, but even so there was some overtaking.

Wednesday & Thursday we carried on being tourists & falling in love with the place. If you go do go to the Botanic Gardens and the Scott Polar Institute is interesting too. The gardens had some very interesting areas including an area of created fen and also a dry garden which showed just how much you can grow in a garden without watering. They also had several areas showing the changes in plants over the years, the one for grain crops was interesting as was the walk showing the plants introduced in each 20 year period since around 1500. The other lovely thing was the way that large areas around trees were left to grow with wild flowers and long grass.

We loved Cambridge, lots of green spaces right up to the centre of the city and despite it being outside the University term there were so many cycles that cars went very slowly. We took advantage of a 2 courses for £10 at Loch Fynne restaurant and very good it was, as was our Wetherspoons curry, though yet again some of our favourites had been removed from the menu.

We used the lovely fruit & veg stalls in the 6 day market, had some lovely asparagus too, plus right near the centre there was a reasonably sized Sainsburys, Tesco being a bigger store but further out.

This is Carol's garden at the moment.

Friday and we moved to by Jesus lock as it was a bit nearer to the shops & we had to buy food for visitors over the weekend. I had also been chasing delivery of some more alternator drive belts & got 3 in the end, but a bit of a walk. A good job too as the one we were using managed a great 22 hours running before it was just about shredded! That running was almost all at below 1200rpm as we hardly cruised & used it for charging. I've looked closely at the pulleys & I reckon they have been wrongly machined which is something we can't get sorted without getting back to Debdale.

Anyway after shopping we used the very good sanitary station, for those with a pump out it is only £3, and filled with water, before realising it was 4pm, so we went back to our previous mooring, can't go cruising too late! Each morning rowers were out on the river from around 6 & we often heard oars rubbing along the hull.

Saturday 10th and we put up the parasol & cruised slowly to Waterbeach. This cruise was especially slow as there were umpteen rowers & scullers populating the river. One young lad decided to "spin" just before we arrived, I slowed rapidly & gave him a bit more room & went hard aground on a shoal of gravel! It took at least 20 minutes to get off, even had a chap on the bank offering to wade in & give us a push!!

We moored at Waterbeach, on good moorings and shared them with nb Eleanor from Peterborough & Gemma from Cambridge. Both crews were lovely and we nattered aplenty before our Bbq.

I haven't mentioned the weather, well it has been really hot, reaching 30 degrees, and we were really glad of our Worcester windows where we were able to lift out the whole of our windows to get a good draught.

Sunday 11th and our friends arrived in good time for us to cruise back into Cambridge for lunch, plus recording of the British GP, lots of chat and a really pleasant day before we returned to Waterbeach.

Waterbeach is a quite pleasant place. The pub by the river isn't actually in Waterbeach, if you are thinking of eating there, go on-line & read the reviews. There are 2 pubs on the green in Waterbeach, plus a chinese Take-away and a couple of general shops that seemed to sell all you might need. There are several quite intersting buildings, though the church is nothing special, but what made my walk into the place special was the traction engine that was in steam & being tinkered with at the garage. Lovely smells & they were happy for me to look, but I didn't have my camera!

I was a bit worried lest this buoy had floated into this garden in Waterbeach as the garden must have been over 20 feet above river level.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

28th June to July 4th on way to Cambridge

Monday 28th June

Another day of incredible weather. After our hard working weekend (!) we set off and cruised under the A1 and winded just before Roxton Lock. Didn’t seem any point in going further as Cardington & Castle Mills locks were shut until 2nd & we had to be elsewhere. Stopped at Anchor for a beer & a coffee, all quiet on riverside of pub and A1 rushing past the other. Not up to much. Tootled into St Neots. 5 miles & 1 lock.

Moored behind The Beez Kneez, Bob Morrison who we had seen in Peterborough, Whittlesea & elsewhere. Had a Bbq, first this year, on the staging. I was worried as to how hot it would get under the coals so stood it on a wet rug, but needn’t have worried, the rug was still soaking wet & cool as we finished cooking.
Tuesday 29th Fine bright & warm & our new inverter to arrive at 6pm & I had to get the other one out & looking pretty. Went to town for coffee & then to see the museum. Quite interesting, especially to see desks I used to sit at till the end of my schools days seen to be exhibition objects!!

New inverter arrived on time & I had it fitted & running within the hour, but it is a bit big for the cupboard! Went to the Priory for their curry & pint at £4.99, but it was not much cop. Bob rates the Pig & Falcon for good beers.

Wed 30th & we had friends Paulene & John with us. Their journey from Harborough was quick & a day’s parking was only £2. Lovely weather again & we cruise downstream to GOBA mooring near Gt Paxton for lunch. A good spot & good food. Cruised back & Paulene & I went for an amble around the town before Carol’s scones made a good nibble before they went home. Lovely to see them & show them this lovely river. 6 miles & 1 lock twice.

Thursday 1st another superb hot day and we used the excellent market in St Neots for more lovely fresh fruit and I also noticed there was a new M&S Meal & wine for £10 deal was on so we got this too. We had to get to Buckden Marina for Friday 8am so Hotpoint could repair our washer/dryer so around 2.30 we set off slowly downstream. After cruising for an hour or so we had a call from the Hotpoint man who was in St Neots & had finished his work for the day.....Hotpoint said they couldn’t possibly come to a mooring it had to be a marina. We speeded up & arranged to see him ½ an hour later.

Carol went to the clubhouse for a coffee whilst he & I set to on the machine, with him switching it on & trying to get it to repeat the flashing lights we had seen, but it just worked perfectly. We plied him with tea & cakes, he acknowledged he had not seen us & I rang Hotpoint to cancel the next day’s booking, saving over £100!!

Best bit about this was whilst I was emptying the loo Carol, started talking to two couples on nbs Heartsease & Kearpawni and we arranged to carry on down river a mile or so to the GOBA moorings for a drink. The moorings were lovely & all 6 of us got on so well that we ended up chatting drinking and eating till gone 10.30, finding we had mutual acquaintances too. What a great way to end the day! Thanks Tim & Wiggy, David & Liz, we look forward to meeting you again. Our drinks session was made more special by a Spitfire giving us an aerobatic display.....such a majestic sight and stirring sound from the engine. All this after a busy cruise of 7 miles & 2 locks!

Friday 2nd we said goodbye to our new friends who were going on up to St Neots whilst we tootled into Huntingdon & stopped. Wimbledon was doing big things, but I went and had a look round Godmanchester which we started on a drizzly evening a week or so before. One or two interesting houses and buildings, but the church was locked & there was not much in the way of shops. Weather was great yet again and we tried out our new washer/inverter combination & it worked fine! 4 miles & 2 locks.

Saturday 3rd and another lovely day. We set off at 12.30 and topped up with fuel at Hartford Marina as well as emptying & watering. Refuelling was awkward as they had a stupidly short hose, but we were able to self declare, I did 20% propulsion, but that might have been generous to HMRC. Fuel here is not cheap at 82p domestic, but the marina in St Ives would only do 60/40.

Continued downstream through 3 locks, sharing some with pretty unruly day boats. Breeze got up during afternoon and there were quite a lot of boats moving, unusual for this river. We tied up at 5 on a bankside mooring near to the Pike & Eel. Lovely spot after 10 miles & 3 locks.

We love to see young sygnets hitching a ride

Sunday 4th dawned bright but with a strong wind & we worried if we’d get off the bank, but it worked out fine, especially as the river was wide enough for us to wind where we had moored. Some people star early, it was barely 7 before the first boats passed us, we were away at 9.30. Next lock was Brownshill Staunch & the river becomes tidal for a mile or so here. Tide was out & the range only seems to be about 2 feet. There was a sanitary station & water point on a pontoon by Earith but we were OK so carried on to see these seals just downstream, they obviously like river fish.

Swans taking off on the tidal bit and Carol keeps trying for pics of Herons. She succeeded here.

Very helpful lock keeper at Hermitage told us the river level was low & offered us a Towpath Talk. The Old West River was lower than when we passed the other way 3 weeks before but compared to canals it was almost oceanic in depth, but there was a lot of weed. A lovely cruise ended with us tying up at the GOBA moorings at Aldreth High Bridge. These GOBA moorings are generally in lovely spots, though some of them were a little short for a boat of Lily’s length. Well worth joining them if you are going to cruise these rivers. 7 miles & 2 locks, but we had to stop for mens finals!

So ended another lovely week, much better because we now have an inverter that is up to the task and didn’t have to pay for the washer to be repaired. Hard cruising too doing 39 miles & 12 locks in the 7 days!