Sunday 24 June 2018

Upwell but not Outwell

Today's Navigation- Middle Level

We had planned to go to the nearest church, St Peter's, just a short distance along the main street. Its service was at 11 am do there was time for Christine to pop to Sainsbury first for another loaf of bread.

As we walked to the church we saw the old Town Hall, a most imposing building that speaks of wealth and importance!

The service was a straight forward communion service and preacher and celebrant was Canon Mike Booker, the Ely diocesan market towns adviser, visiting just this Sunday. He was an especially good preacher with lots of detailed insights.

Opposite the church is the town museum - the building was originally built in 1851 as a girls grammar school - see here.

Back at the boat we changed quickly, made a very short trip across to the service block to empty the elsan and then we set off properly. Our overnight mooring was the short one in the distance. Although overlooked by trees, it proved very quiet and safe.

The edge of the town is marked by the railway line that runs from Peterborough through Ely to Cambridge. And, yes, trains do run here on Sundays!

As this photo shows, it was a wonderful sunny day. Initially we found a gentle breeze that left us a bit more comfortable but it was not strong enough to power the turbines of Reed Fen. As we passed them one or two weer being asked to make an attempt at generating but when we looked back, all had come to a stop once more.

OK, so we were making quite good speed along this stretch, or at least for a narrowboat. Cruisers can go faster!

In the distance on the skyline beyond the turbines we could see a large plume of black smoke. It first all that we could see was a dark cloud and wondered if the weather was about  to break but soon we could see that it was probably quite some fire. Later a local person told us what it was as she had just been into Wisbech. The Eastern Daily Press shows a close up picture of the blaze.

We passed through Low Corner which is where we turned off a few weeks ago on our way to Three Holes, the Sixteen Foot Drain and then to Bill Fen.

Almost immediately we noticed a difference in the navigation - not only a little narrower and shallower, but with a wide swathe of lilies growing from the banks on either side of the central channel.

We arrived at Marchmount Priory Lock quite a bit earlier than we had expected when we phoned Maureen, the lock keeper, yesterday. She was at the lock with daughter, grand daughter and grandson - operating the locks, especially at weekends, is very much a three generational business, They were expecting a small cruiser from the opposite direction and so asked if we would mind waiting as the lock was set for the craft coming down. The length of the navigation from here to Salters Lode is effectively a summit pound and is kept filled by pumping from the Main Level at Mullicourt Aqueduct. This meant there was plenty of time for a chat - but we were rewarded when we eventually left with a gift of a back of freshly picked red currants!

After about 40 minutes there was still no sign of the cruiser so the four keepers (plus Christine) emptied the lock and let us pass through. Of course, as the lock was finally emptying the cruiser appeared. They would now have quite a wait as Maureen wanted to pen them through together with a Fox day boat that was expected 'shortly'. Since we did not pass it until we were at the outskirts of Upwell, they too would have had a good chance to chat!

As we passed one garden a chap called out to Christine - it turns out that he is a fellow contributor to Canalworld Forum.

The houses of Upwell line the banks of the former river and there are numerous interesting designs.

This one just has OFFICES inscribed over the main door - but offices for what we could not work out!

Nearer to the centre this row of houses looked most imposing.

We were delighted that the moorings outside the church and the Five Bells pub were entirely empty! As Mike tied up, Christine went to see whether the advertised Flower Festival in the church was worth visiting. She returned to say it was and that they were also serving tea and cakes.

The folk inside were most welcoming and we learnt some of the history and why Upwell is definitely not Outwell. It seems that their churches were founded, way back in medieval times, by different cathedrals and were for long in different administrative counties!

Some very impressive face carvings alongside the old porch have no doubt kept many a miscreant at bay in the dark!

The flower arrangements were excellent and had been assembled with some considerable skill.

The church has a gallery along both the West and the North sides, added in Victorian times to accommodate growing congregations. Alas, today the numbers attending regularly are much less.

Back at the boat the local lady who tends the flower beds alongside the mooring was out weeding and watering. She is very proud of her work - until last year when she took it on as a project it had become rather neglected. Not something that could be said today. She later came and offered us the chance to pick some of the herbs that have been included in the planting!

Close to the main bridge is a village sign that includes a picture of a railway loco. With a cowcatcher on the front it looked at first as if it was American - why? Later we discovered this info as well as the usual Wikipedia page for the Wisbech and Outwell tramway. Although it looked very much as a conventional railway, the regulations at the time specified that the locos had to be fitted with cowcatchers!

7.7 Miles - 1 Lock


  1. Yes we saw the smoke from the fire when we were approaching Ashline Lock. It's so helpful to read your post, we'll be following in your wake tomorrow, and are hoping to stop at the Five Bell mooring too. I've heard the bridge before the Five Bells is quite low, hope our flowers can survive. Hope to see you both and wave. Best regards, Jennifer and John NB Cyan

  2. Yes it is low but not quite as low as you have already passed under. White Fen Bridge is just 50mm lower.

  3. That's reassuring, thank you Mike. Jennifer