To Ely

On Wednesday night we went for an evening cruise out to Ely, hoping to get a spot somewhere central for the Aquafest on Sunday, where the Ouse Washes LP has a stand. We set of from Waterbeach as soon as James returned from work, and made our way out of town. It was a beautiful evening to be boating, after a very hot day it was cooler on the river.

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Ely is often extremely busy, especially in the summer at weekends and so with the Aquafest on Sunday we’d been a bit worried that there would be nowhere to stop. However, we were pleased to find a Willow-shaped space just down from the Cutter!

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OuseFest 2015

I started a very exciting part time job this week, for the next three months. I’ve joined the team at the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership to organise the OuseFest, a fortnight of events celebrating the Fen landscape and communities. I’m based at Cambridgeshire ACRE in Littleport for the admin side of things, but will be all over the Fens, helping with events and manning stalls.

OuseFest logo - 2 string strap

The event I’m most looking forwards to is the Denver Sluice Festival on  Tuesday July 28th, which I’ll have a big role in organising. It’s the first time that such a festival has been held at Denver, and there will be loads going on, from food stalls to art installations, angling and rowing tasters, theatre and tours of the Denver complex itself. I’m looking forwards to learning exactly what all those sluices do for the Fens and beyond, it should be very interesting!

Denver Sluice Phil Bancroft

Denver Sluice (c) Phil Bancroft

We plan to bring Willow to Denver and I’d love to get lots of boaters to join us there! There are loads of new and improved moorings at Denver so there will be plenty of space, and the Jenyn’s Arms will be open for beer (an essential component of any boaters’ get together). Do get in touch if you’d like to come!


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The Odessa Files: 3

31 miles, 14 locks Islip – Ferry Meadows

A beautiful day for boating, beginning with sunshine over misty water and far less wind than the day before.

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The sun burned off the mist soon enough, and the day turned out bright and crisp. At Barnwell, we stopped and filled Odessa‘s fuel tank as well as picking up a few bags of coal for Kate from fuel boat Bletchley.

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12th century church at Wadenhoe

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Fotheringay church

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Water Newton lock, our favourite Nene lock

At Alwalton lock moorings we saw our friend Richard, on historic converted BCN dayboat Squire, who has spent the summer exploring the Fens but is now on his way back to home waters of the Grand Union.

We’d arrange to meet Kate at Ferry Meadows just outside Peterborough, to leave the boat on the lake moorings there until the following evening, as we needed to be back in Cambridge for my mum, aunt and sister to visit. We’d said we’d be there at 7, and we were there by ten past! We’d never stopped at Ferry Meadows before so it was exciting to travel across the lake to the moorings in the dark! We’d decided that this was a better place to leave the boat unattended that the rowing lake moorings or the city centre (I had also contacted Peterborough Yacht Club but although they were happy to have the boat there overnight they said we’d not be able to leave the site!), and thankfully it was quite safe there until we returned the following night for the last leg we were doing to Salters Lode

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The Odessa Files: 2 (and a plug for Friends of the River Nene)

Northampton – Islip 26 miles, 20 locks

A 7:30am start from Northampton Marina then we were through the city in record time due to all the V-gate locks being in our favour. It was a very windy day, so we took to opening both of the top gates on the locks to make getting in that bit easier.

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The weather was very strange, with ominous black clouds looming, the drenching us with rain before disappearing as quickly as they arrived, leaving rainbows in their wake.

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The aim for the day was to get halfway along the Nene to Islip, where we hoped to try out the first mooring established by the newly formed Friends of the River Nene group. The group was only formed in September, with the aim of improving the facilities along the river. They’ve begun by securing access to and clearing three moorings so far at Islip, Ditchford, and Woodford with several more in the pipeline.

We (and Odessa) had the honour of being the first visiting boat to tie up on any of the Friends’ new mooring spots, when we stopped for the night at Islip.

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They’re not kidding when they say “no pedestrian exit” though, we were thwarted by electric fences and ditches in our efforts to go for a walk, so stopped on the boat instead.  Aside from that it’s a lovely mooring though, we heard lots of owls and very little else overnight, and it’s deep enough to get into the edge without needing a plank.

If you’re interested in joining the group, either join the Facebook group where you can download the form, or email me and I’ll send it to you. Cost is £10/year. The Nene is a beautiful river, but it desperately needs more moorings, so I’m very pleased that this group has been set up and is doing so well!

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The Odessa Files: 1

Recently, Kate, a friend of ours bought a narrowboat to live on – her name had come to the top of the waiting list for a mooring in Cambridge. Unfortunately, the demands of her job meant that she didn’t have the time to move it herself. So we offered to move Odessa for her, from Crick to Denver where she wanted to take it the last leg herself. We reckoned we could do this 112 mile, 70 lock journey in 4 long days, all being well, and so it proved!

Crick – Northampton Marina 22 miles 31 locks

We’d gone up to Crick the night before so we would be ready to set off on the boat as soon as the boatyard had filled her up with diesel and the snags (toilet bowl leak being the major one!) had been fixed. We set off at 10:30, Kate happy at the helm of her new boat, through Crick tunnel, down Watford and Buckby locks.

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At the bottom of Buckby Kate had to head back to Cambridge, and we carried on to Gayton junction. We wanted to get to Northampton Marina in order to stay on our tight schedule. It was still light when we got to the top, and as we know the flight pretty well we decided to descend. The first few locks were all in water and we flew down.

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Then at lock 5, I was just commenting on how much water there was (mistake!) when I looked ahead and saw that pound 6 was empty. Dry in fact. Up I went to run water down from the Grand Union. When I returned a C&RT van can haring down the towpath, towards lock 12. I went down to find out what was going on and to let them know that I was running water down. I arrived to find some boaters getting a bit of a talking to from C&RT. The story came out that they had attempted to ascend the locks heading for Sheffield the day before, but got only up as far as lock 7 before they got stuck fast and had to call C&RT out. The boat is called Safest Haven but we have been told it is the back end of GU butty Pavo, normally based in Ely. Unfortunately it has spread, resulting in it being too wide for the locks. A crane and a lorry is their only hope of getting to their destination now. As it is only 40ft or so they had winded and started back down. By the time we came along behind them the following day, they’d only managed to get down to lock 12, and had flushed themselves out of every lock, draining the pounds on the way, and leaving all the bottom paddles open. When we saw C&RT arrive, Pavo’s crew had just called them out for a second time and the two blokes who attended were not in the best of moods, hence the talking to they were getting! C&RT basically told them that it was too dark to continue safely and ordered them to tie up.

We struggled down behind them, attempting to restore some order to the mess, and made gradual progress. By the time we got to them they had stopped between locks 12 and 13, and we were finally able to overtake. Thankfully a full moon improved visibility and we carried on with no further issues, arriving at Northampton Marina at 10pm. Our fourth visit to the marina in a year: we’ve got a bit of a habit of stopping there, it’s great to be able to book in and know you’ll find a safe place to tie up.

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Day 37: Ely – Cambridge

17 miles
2 locks

The home stretch. We set off at just before 9 and made good time, with both locks in our favour we were in Cambridge by 1pm.


We were particularly pleased to find that our old spot was still vacant. Our mooring licence only gives us the right to moor somewhere along the public green spaces so we don’t have a designated spot but simply one space that we have taken a liking to! Thankfully whilst we were away no one had taken it so we were able to slip in between nb Bümba (previously nb Light Enough to Travel) and nb Suzi Q.


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Day 36: Salter’s Lode – Ely

15 miles
2 locks

The low tide at Salter’s was at 11:45 so it was a late start. It was Paul the lock keeper’s birthday so although he was about because he lives next to the lock it was a relief lockie who worked us through.

It was a very low tide so we had to wait outside the lock on the mud for a while before it was deep enough to go through to Denver. But once there the lock was open ready for us.

We made good progress up to Ely -the river is wide and deep, tying up on the park moorings and going to see a friend for a game of Settlers of Catan followed by a drink at the lovely Liberty Belle micro pub, owned by the same people who run the Lynn Union trip boat.

There wasn’t any Internet signal on the moorings hence the very late post! Today we’re going home….


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Day 34: Wansford – March

24 miles
5 locks

We were booked through Stanground Lock at 1pm today.  I’d spoken to Tina and let her know that we’d need the levels raising to get through. When the relief lockie had let us through last Easter he’d not been able to do this so we’d had to go in backwards and stern haul.

We arrived in Peterborough at about 11am, and stopped at the water point where we met the new owner of a boat, Barkley, which had been in Cambridge for years and is on its way to London.


I called Tina to see if there was any possibility of coming through earlier and she agreed to let us through. With the level raised and by sitting in the middle of the lock where it’s deepest we were through quickly.

Brigatte bend posed no problems then it was the long chug to March, in persistent drizzle.


We’re now at Fox’s marina having paid £7.50 for the security of a guaranteed mooring! The tide at Salter’s Lode is too early for us to make it tomorrow so we’ll be back on the Ouse on Wednesday.

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Day 33: Irthlingborough- Wansford

32 miles
18 locks

We set off in convoy with Bletchley again but after the first couple of locks they had to go and serve customers in several marinas so after topping up with diesel we carried on without them. It was a beautiful sunny day and we made good progress.


The very last stretch to Wansford was in the dark, arriving about 8:50pm to breast up with another boat on the pontoon.

I’ve spoken to the middle level lock keepers so we’ll be through Stanground tomorrow and back on the Ouse on Wednesday probably.

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Day 32: Northampton Marina – Irthlingborough

18 miles
16 locks

Today was good fun. We shared the Nene locks with fuel boat Bletchley, the crew of which know these waters and are an efficient bunch. With Alan, Alex and Daniel’s help we made record time, getting to Irthlingborough two hours ahead of the canalplan estimate. They cycle ahead where possible and we hardly touched a  landing stage.




Now we’re tied up at Rushden and Diamonds waiting for our take away curry to arrive!

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