Wednesday, 18 July 2018


Today's Navigations - Rover Great Ouse, River Cam

It was quite dull when we awoke and when we set off there was just a hope of some sunshine as a small patch of blue started to break through at the edge of a weather system.

However, by the time we arrived at Fish and Duck Marina, Popes Corner, just over half an hour later, the sky had cleared and it was very much hotter. :perhaps some sun block would be needed after all!

We wanted an even more thorough service check than usual as a gas bottle had run out a few days ago. We fill;ed with diesel as we were down to half full and then topped up the water tank and emptied the elsan. Unusually, they charged for the water but not the elsan!

We now turned down the River Cam - rather than continuing past the marina which is where we went a  coupe of weeks ago. Although the Cam is more like the Great Ouse between Popes Corner and Ely, (and very different from the West River, the next part of the Great Ouse) it still has its own character. Initially this is helped by the flood banks being st well back from the water's edge sot hat there is a really open feeling. After a while we were overtaken by an EA maintenance and enforcement boat. No doubt they can outrun any attempt at evasion! Its name, Ouse II Know, rather amused us.

There were just a few pumping stations along this stretch but this one must have been felt  worth defending with its WW2 pill box.

What are these bananas doing here?

As we continued there was quite a mixture of boats moored either at marinas or on individual private moorings.

Bottisham Lock appeared and what is that in the lock? Oh, it is the EA boat about to leave - the staff on board have been making a small repair to the chains in the lock before going back downstream for a bit of enforcement work

We were now on water controlled by the Cam Conservators who, since we were here before, have started to levy their own charges rather than divvy up a part of the Gold Licence with EA. Perhaps we should have checked more closely online but the two EA staff indicated that we should buy our visitor licence from their offices about a mile down stream. However, when we called there the only member of staff no told us that we had to it on line - but he was quite relaxed about how long it took us to work how to do it!

We stopped for a  lunch break at the new GOBA moorings between Bottisham and Baits Bite Locks - this gave us a chance to stump up the fee for our visit.

As we arrived at Baits Bite Lock we could see a work boat right across the top of the lock. It turned out to be a weed cutter and by the time we were ready to exit the lock they had moved out of our way.

We were now rapidly encroaching on the outskirts of Cambridge - for a short section we had to navigate on the left rather than the conventional right. We could not see any particular reason for this but no doubt it is part of the history of this area.

Of course, Cambridge is noted for its rowing but it seems that not all craft live together as happily as might be! Rowers please keep your oars off  our paintwork.

As we completed the final mile up to Jesus Lock an increasing number of rowing boat houses lined the bank.

There appeared to be quite a bit of mooring space available although the signage concentrated more on telling boaters where they could not moor rather than where they could. We approached Jesus Lock (powered boats cannot proceed much beyond here except in the winter, as it is full of punts!) with some trepidation, but knowing we could return only a short distance to find somewhere. However, our luck continued and there was just a single narrowboat space vacant on the 48 hour moorings below the lock. As it happened, our neighbours were nb Knot on Call that we had met at Prickwillow, although they were not on board.

After mooring  we locked up and walked into the city centre to orientate ourselves. After walking across Jesus Green and along a narrow residential street we Schedar the busy parts by the Round Church. This unusual building is now a tourist attraction and not the hoped for infomation centre, they were at least able to point Christine in the direction she wanted and also sold here a guide map which kept us pretty much on track for the rest of the afternoon.

One thing that we were keen to find we found remarkable readily - a Bluetooth headphone set. Some people think that the boat is seriously under-equipped with not having such a device. The staff of this music shop were most helpful in ensuring that we could try out the one that they recommended - the particular member of staff uses it herself! And just to make sure that it was what we wanted they pointed out that it had been reduced from £100 to £30.

The river was very busy with punts - some of the 'punters' were expert but others had to retrieve lost poles with some hilarity. We were approached several times by the punt hire companies to see if we wanted to hire one.

We could, however, have taken a chauffeured punt. . .

We eventually found the Tourist Information Centre and picked up a number of leaflets and useful information. In particular we learnt about the range of open air Shakespeare productions performed in the grounds of various colleges.

The rest of the afternoon was taken up by meandering around the city centre and finding our return to the boat along the Backs.

Part of the way was along the narrow streets between different colleges.

13.6 Miles - 2 Locks

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

A Day in Ely

We were wanting to go into Ely for more than a fleeting visit and, in view of the mooring shortage we opted to travel in by bus from Little Thetford. Is is an hourly service and by the time we were all ready we had just insufficient time to catch the 10:10 so it had to be the 11:10, given that it is a 20 minute walk from the boat. By the time we reached the bus stop, Mike discovered the live times for Stagecoach and that the service was running around 6 or 7 minutes late, nearer 10 by the time it finally arrived.

After the bus passed Sainsbury we were a little worried that it was heading out into the country again - this particular service goes on from Ely to March. However  a more knowledgeable fellow passenger reassured us - apart from wanting to give as much of the city a chance to catch the service, it also has to take into account the one way system in the centre. Finally, it dropped us where we expected  in market Street. From there it was a short walk to the cathedral.

Alice took a keen interest in the same sculpture that intrigued Christine a few days ago. By now we knew that it was part of a summer-long exhibition by Helaine Blumenfeld, originally from New York but who has lived in Cambridge for over four decades.

However, our priority was a drink and we sat out on the green with our coffee or Rose Lemonade from the small refectory cafe.

Inside we spend a long time just wandering around,taking in both the large scale and grand structures as well as the more intimate and small scale items.

But first a number of the Blumenfeld sculptures - they all have a consistent style, some from marble but others from wood or clay.

The nave greets visitors from the West End with sheer grandeur. After taking in the main view, a mirror allows those of us with less flexible necks also to see the amazing ceiling.

Today, the main focus of worship is normally the Octagon, with its modern altar and podium

This contrasts with the older, more closed in and darker choir stalls which come from an age when most of the ordinary congregation were kept at a distance, something that also affected Oliver Cromwell as we would discover this afternoon.

Above the pulpit is a modern sculpture, carved in oak by Peter Ball and covered in copper, brass and gold leaf. The note alongside says that it reminds preachers of their responsibility not to expound their own ides but to point to Christ.

There are endless memorial tablets, many of them to former bishops, deans or other church dignitaries associated with the running of the cathedral. Some have particular stories to go with them. Dean Henry Ceasar (dean from 1614 - 1636) left a large sum of money but unfortunately it was lent to Charles I at the beginning of the Civil War and was never repaid! (Perhaps he never had the head for it!)

Both the large Lady Chapel and (here) a chantry have intricate designs to their ceilings.

Behind the High Altar is a reredos design by George Gilbert Scott (of st Pancras fame?)depicting the events of Holy Week.

Another tablet remembers William Lynne of Bassingbourn. His widow married Robert Cromwell and one of their sons was Oliver, later Lord Protector.

This sculpture by David Wynne captures the moment when Mary Magdelene recognises Jesus on the morning of his resurrection.

Dean Charles Merivale might remain rather unknown were it not for the fact that he devised and rowed in the first Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race in 1829.

Outside we noticed this bright sun dial.

Time then for lunch - service from the same cafe was rather slow - it seems that we made the mistake of ordering paninis as the staff really don't like having to maker them! We would have been more in their good books if, like a queue of others, we had gone for sandwiches! A family of ducks with three very small  ducklings searched for food as Alice sat on the grass. Cafe staff came out with some proper duck food for them.

On then to Oliver Cromwell's House, just a short walk away. He moved here after growing up in St Ives and Huntingdon and gradually left his modest background behind him, helped bu an inheritance from a wealthy uncle. Within fours years he was elected as a Member of Parliament which set him on his collision course with the King and courtiers around him.

Cromwell had already been through a significant religious experience that left him convinced that he was called by God to something special. Initially he had no idea what that might entail. He also developed very specific religious practices which placed a strong emphasis on the individual believers and the reading for themselves of scripture. Soon after he entered parliament, Charles I started on a  very different course which some felt more like a return to Roman Catholicism and betrayal of the Reformation. Cromwell had found his vocation.

There are few depictions of Cromwell made in his lifetime but this portrait was commissioned as a 'warts and all' painting.

The house is now set out as museum to the life and times of the Civil War and each visitor carries an audio guide which we all found very helpful and allowed us each to look at things at our own pace. Alice was particularly keen to visit here as she has recently been studying Cromwell at school.

After leaving the museum we walked to Tesco, where we knew that there was a stop for the buses back to Little Thetford. Just as we arrived we saw one bus just passing so that meant we had an hour. We had come here in order to look for a pair of headphones but alas they were awaiting new stock. However, somehow we still managed enough items to carry on the long walk back to the boat but a pot of tea helped to pass what time remained.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Little Thetford

Today's Navigations - River Lark, River Great Ouse

Today we aimed to get as far as we could up the River Lark before returning tithe Great Ouse and back down to Ely where we could replenish one or two items from our larder (especially milk and cold drinks) that were running rather low.

The cloud was bright blue once again and already when we set off the day was rather warm. Occasionally we found a bit of breeze but for much of the day there was none at all.

The first part of the River Lark was straightened and is wider than we expected. Pumping stations can be seen at frequent intervals - one surprise however was that the design of the connection between the drain and the river is distinctive. Perhaps this dates back to when each navigation and fen had its own authority.

Just one of the original wind pumps remains - now converted into an unusual dwelling.

Although we saw very few moving boats after leaving Prickwillow there are surprising numbers of long term moorings as well as those at Isleham Marina.

There were even fewer movements in or out of RAF Mildenhall but we did capture this ungainly beast - presumably one of the fuel tankers that have used this base for several decades but are due to be moved elsewhere very soon. (Later a passing aviation expert told us this is a cargo carrier but the other one we saw an hour later might have been a tanker! Also, Mildenhall may be reprieved for longer than at first announced)

After a long, almost completely straight, stretch we arrived at the only lock on the River Lark at Isleham, alongside the only marina. Unusually, the bottom pointed doors are electrically operated along with the slackers.

Just above the lock we could see an EA worker opening a sluice to let water from the river into the adjoining field.

From here the navigation reverted to its natural state, narrow and very winding. Our speed dropped considerably and we began to hope that there really was a suitable winding hole at the end and that we would not have to reverse several miles!

Towards the end of the navigable river there was little more width than a single boat. Luckily we did not meet anyone coming the opposite direction. If we had then a trip into the reeds would have been a necessity for at least one of us.

The end of our journey was at Judes Ferry Bridge where, if needed, there is a pub with its own mooring - but otherwise no public mooring. Our map and guide were correct and there was more than adequate room to turnaround even if it did need multiple movements back and forward.

With nowhere to stop we simply had to head back the way we came and have our lunch on the run.

After descending through Isleham Lock again and completing the long straight sections we passed under Prickwillow Bridge.

At the end of the river is a road bridge where we turned out onto the Great Ouse and headed towards Ely.

The city centre moorings were full and despite an attempt to squeeze into a couple of spaces we were just a bit too long. Christine and Alice went off as soon as possible to walk around to Sainsbury whilst Mike hovered until he could move onto the service mooring and complete the usual tasks - slowly! The last item - water tank - was just coming up to the full point when they returned, heavy laden.

Although we suspected that several boats were only there for the afternoon, we could not stay any longer and swapped to Plan B, a trip down to Little Thetford where we moored a couple of weeks ago. As we came through the moorings we could see The Maltings.

This building was originally, in 1868, part of Ebenezer William Harlock’s brewery. Today it is an entertainment centre with cinema, restaurant, conference facilities and the ability to hold weddings.

We continued up the river after leaving Ely, its railway bridges and new bypass. The Soham Lode entrance told us that we were not far from our planned destination. As the photo shows, by now a thin layer of cloud covered much of the sky but did little to diminish the heat.

We were following another boat that came through just as we were leaving the water point - it cruised just a little slower than our normal rate but we did not want to overtake in case there was only one space which they were hoping to use.

Just before the moorings we spotted that Little Thetford Pumping Station was actually lifting water from the field up gto the river - must be a little unusual in these weather conditions.

In fact, we need not have worried as the long mooring space was entirely empty - the other boat went to the far end and we tied up where we had been before. Not long after came a narrowboat that had been in Ely and whose space we would really have coveted. But here is very pleasant, rural and extremely quiet. Much better than being right outside a pub, which is what can happen in the city.

24.6 Miles - 2 Locks