The East Anglian Fen waterways have a unique character, quite different to the canals which can be found elsewhere in the country. Whilst we often head out to the canals when we have time off for boating, it’s worth remembering just how lovely our home waterways can be. Next year we may not have the chance to dash off to the canals again, so we’re planning a few local jaunts around the Fens. With this in mind, here are our five favourite Fenland places to stop:
For idyllic countryside peace and isolation
On the Brandon Creek/Little Ouse, there is a fantastic GOBA (Great Ouse Boating Association) mooring, accessible only by boat, in the Lakenheath wildlife reserve, a reclaimed wetland run by the RSPB, perfect for when you want to tie up and enjoy a spot of birdwatching on a quiet summer evening. It’s also a great place for a dip on a hot afternoon! (Very occasionally the peace here is shattered by a passing F15 from RAF Lakenheath but that really will be the only thing to disturb you, and I love watching them fly past!)
For interesting industrial heritage
The EA mooring at Wansford on the Nene is another favourite of ours, and if there’s no room on the pontoon, there is always space on the opposite bank the other side of the railway bridge. It’s that railway which makes this spot extra special – the Nene Valley Railway runs through here, so you can stop and hop on a steam train to Yarwell or Peterborough. (As a bonus, a short walk along the road takes you to a 24hr truck stop greasy spoon cafe off the A1 which serves great value breakfasts!)
For shopping and eating out
Ely is a one of our favourite Fen places – a fantastic town, with its imposing cathedral (known as the Ship of the Fens) set on one of the few hills in the area. There are some great places to eat, including the award-winning Peacock’s tearooms, and we always have to pop into Riverside Antiques as well as the excellent bookshop, Toppings, who serve free tea and coffee to customers! Plus, if you time it right, and arrive on the 2nd or 4th Saturday of a month, the farmers market sells a huge variety of local produce.
For pretty village walks and churches
The twin villages of Upwell and Outwell (on the Middle Level navigation Link Route) are unusual in that the channel runs down the middle of the high street with roads on either side. There is a lovely little mooring staithe below St Peter’s Church, maintained by the Well Creek Trust, and planted beautifully with flowers and edible plants, from which it’s worth a walk around these pretty villages.
For a decent pint and a meal
The Ship Inn stands at the junction of the Brandon Creek with the Great Ouse. It’s a really friendly boaters’ pub, with its own moorings as well as a set provided by the EA so there’s always space. New owners a few years ago have done wonders for the pub, making it a very good place to end a day’s cruising with a meal and a drink (or two!)
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Fox Narrowboats: Narrowboat Holidays and Day Boat Hire. Check out their new blog to find out more about the Fens and get boating tips, advice, stories and news. http://www.foxboats.co.uk/category/blog/