Thursday, 16 August 2012

Summer Pootle Day 18: Weed like a clearer prop....

Hemingford Grey GOBA moorings - Ely Maltings Moorings

24 miles, 4 locks

We were woken at 7am by a "clonk-splash!" sound. The plank, which we'd put between boat and bank as the moorings at Hemingford Grey were shallow, had fallen into the river as the boat moved in the strong wind. We needed more food, as stocks were running low, and plan on visiting the Museum of Fenland Drainage on the river Lark just north of Ely on Sunday, so planned on having a longer days cruising and making it to Ely.

We set off down the Ouze towards the Old West river. Amy worked inside whilst I steered; although it was very windy, it was mostly a tailwind on this stretch, so nothing to worry about.

Traditional Fenland craft - an Osier collecting reeds by hand from a shallow punt, using traditional hand tools. However, his punt was aluminium with an outboard motor, and he and his wife and son on other punts were taking the reeds to a Land Rover and trailer, so some things have definitely changed from tradition!

Lovely moorings by the pub at Holywell. Full on the way up, and totally empty for the way back. The temptation to stop was very strong, but we resisted....

 The New Bedford river. We were going to head down it, but the low neap tides at Denver Sluice, together with the 3,000 tons of sand in the wrong place in front of the lock, which the EA are trying to dredge out - and another Fox hire narrowboat stranded high and dry on the sandbank, the second this week (!) - mean we'll save that adventure for another day.

We shared Brownshill Stauch lock, down onto the short tidal section at Earith, with a hire narrowboat from Black Prince. The hire company have gone into partnership with Bridge Boatyard in Ely, and have brought a few narrowboats into the Fens. We'd not seen a Black Prince liveried boat since on the Grand Union last year, it's a nice little link to the canals.

It's worth bearing in mind, if sharing Brownshill Staunch with another narrowboat, that although the lock pen itself is 14' wide and easily capable of taking two narrowboats side by side, the entrances are only 12' wide and the walls narrow in from some distance before the gates, and we nearly jammed on the "safety" chains and had to pull the Duck backwards before the gate was raised to make sure the two boats didn't jam together.

Once through the short, two-mile tidal section, and onto the shallow and weedy Old West River, progress was very slow. We picked up many bladefuls of weed, and I had to "chuck back" into reverse many times to clear the prop.

Once around one corner, we came face to face with these two Berkenheger weed harvesters from the Environment Agency, clearing away weeds. I have to say that the free-floating blanket weed that they'd dredged up, some of which was left behind them, was more troublesome than the rest of the weeds! 

I also resisted the urge to sing at them as they went past....

Once passed Stretham and onto the main river, we passed lots of fellow bloggers.

Kev and guests on wb Avalon, who we met up with in Ely

We also passed Matilda Rose and Harnser, but unfortunately were travelling in opposite directions so could do nothing but go into reverse and trade a few quick hellos.

Once in Ely, we moored in a small space under a willow tree, where we moored last year, but later were able to pull the boat forwards into the sun and a vacated space.

After stocking up the store cupboards in the new Sainsbury's (and very shiny and new it was too) we had a nice evening in.

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1 comment:

  1. With regards Salter's Lode/Denver Sluice, I have nightmares about bringing a boat through there for the first time (if/when I buy boat!) And seeing a photo on CWDF of the Fox's narrowboat stranded high and dry, it sent a shiver down my spine. I was hoping that, as they allow hire boats through unaided, it couldn't be all that difficult!

    Glad to see you're both enjoying your pootle. :-)