Wednesday 27 June 2018

Stoke Ferry

Today's Navigations - Relief Channel, River Great Ouse, River Wissey

We awoke to find ourselves with rather grey skies but the first task this morning was to turn the boat around so that we could finish cleaning the other side that we did not have time for yesterday - it had been washed of the grass but still needed a final shampoo and polish. By the time this was done the clouds had vanished and we were back to bright blue skies and sunny temperatures. Luckily on the water we also enjoyed a sufficient breeze to keep us from wilting entirely.

Before setting off, Mike took a look at the Heron pub and also the tidal river.

The reach up to the mooring potion at Downham Market was uneventful and we arrived to find ourselves in the same spot and with the same neighbours that we left behind yesterday.  Christine walked to the first shops in own - although the principal reason was for a newspaper she did come back with a couple of mid-morning cakes from the small shop we looked at yesterday. (It is an inevitable rule of life that you cannot resist temptation if it is presented on two successive days!)

The narrowboat nearest to us set off before we left and so we were behind it at the lock. Christine had to close the top gates and then empty the lock before Mike could bring the boat in. It filled rather quicker (still not fast, although very gentle) than it emptied. It was so gentle that the handling ropes that Mike arranged were barely needed.

After leaving the lock we went across to the service pontoon more in hope than expectation. We really wanted to find an elsan station but had failed to find it when we arrived. (we were able to fill with water at the overnight pontoon) However, we tied up and after some searching, Christine found it in a toilet block that was otherwise very firmly closed up. This was very helpful as we now will not need to get as far as Ely quite as quickly as would probably otherwise have been needed.

All now tickety-boo we proceeded up the Great Ouse. We quickly discovered that there are two further visitor moorings that were almost empty - so the rather tense hassle for places on the Jenyns mooring on the evening we arrived was not really necessary! We might even have avoided the dreaded grass cutters.

On a small farm permanent mooring we spotted this splendid tug boat. We also wondered if it was used to take the two large water tanks down to the pontoon - how long would they take to fill?

After not much more than a mile we turned onto the River Wissey (at least we knew that we were heading in the right direction!) and quickly found ourselves in very different water.

The river does not flow very fast but it is deep, almost right to the edges and extremely clear. On the other hand it twists and turns as rivers with very little fall usually do. All  rather different from the straight and wide man made (or improved) navigations of the trip so far.

Quite soon we came to the first of the GOBA  moorings (we signed up before we left home) just as it turned 1 o'clock - obviously time for lunch. It was very quiet and peaceful.

The afternoon was taken up by continuing up the river until we reached almost the end of the navigable section where there is another GOBA mooring. This one is located next to an A road and also a caravan and camping park but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Landmarks are few and far between - even pumping stations are scarce. At Hilgay we failed to see where the EA public mooring is marked but we suspect it must be somewhere along this bank. There is supposed to be a water point as well.

After some time we began to see glimpses of the sugar factory through the trees. The Wissington sugar beet factory belonging to British Sugar is one of the largest plants producing sugar from beet which is grown in the local area. In addition they now have developed a bioethanol plant that converts the waste from the sugar production process into part of biodiesel.

Alongside this plant (but barely visible from the river) is an enormous 18 hectare glass house that is heated by waste energy from the sugar production. Originally it was for tomatoes and over 140 million are grown each year but two years ago they began to grow a non-psychoactive form of cannabis from which can be extracted the main ingredient of a new treatment for childhood epilepsy.

Just after the factory the river widens out into several lakes - we have not yet discovered how they were formed.

The next landmark we were looking for was the aqueduct over the Cut Off Channel that starts just above the Relief Channel Lock. Its principal purpose is to transport water via channels and tunnels to Essex. However, when we reached it we were in for a disappointment. The sides of the aqueduct are very high (presumably to prevent flood water going the wrong way) and there was no way to land so we failed completely to get a view of the channel below!

Even down the sluice connecting the river to the channel we could not see anything as the gate was closed.

Not long after this we arrived in Stoke Ferry. There are quite a few boats that have their permanent mooring here but just after the main road bridge we found the GOBA mooring with just enough room for us to tuck in at the end nearest the bridge.

Plan B would have been rather unwelcome as we had not seen anywhere, even a rough unofficial place, to moor for quite some distance. The site is attached to a caravan and camping site so we had to check in with our membership details to avoid being charged the £8 a night that casual visitors have to stump up. We have recouped a third of our membership already.

Christine was rather badly bitten during the afternoon and is blotchy and swollen in several places. Not nice!

15.5 Miles - 1 Lock

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