Wednesday, 11 July 2018


Today's Navigation - River Great Ouse

The day began rather grey but by the middle of the afternoon blue patches were beginning to show and the evening was glorious. We were scheduled to leave the marina today but we did want to see one of the staff who was investigating something for us. We did the usual disposals and then drove into Buckden village to pick up a paper and a pork pie from the butcher. The paper was easy but Christine was rather disappointed that the pie which was specifically recommended to her was out of stock! refusing to leave empty handed we did buy a chicken and ham pie.

Back at the marina the person we wanted to see was still not available so we prepared the boat ready for departure. A further check at the office and we had to ask that he forward his findings to us by email as we really did need to leave.

Just after midday and we were emerging from the marina entrance having bid farewell to our mooring.

Just before the junction we spotted this swan busily making a nest, fitting all the bits which her mate had brought, into a satisfactory structure. Seems to be rather late in the season so perhaps they had an unsuccessful clutch earlier.

We had only been going about ten minutes down river when we arrived at the construction site for the new bypass bridge. We were faced by a string of brought orange buoys both just before and just after the bridge. As we hovered a few metres from the first string a banksman in a small boat name and explained that it would not be open until one o'clock and then, after a short opening, be closed all afternoon.

There really was nowhere for us to go so we just pushed the bow into the vegetation at one side and put a rope around a bunch of reeds.

On both banks there were workers in hydraulic platforms sticking our across the water and then, before very long, a lift of the next steel girder began. This was carefully guided into place with a combination of the care operator and the workers in the platform. For some time we could hear loud banging and other mechanical sounds - no doubt it was taking its time in agreeing to be secured into its proper place. In the end it was after 1:30 before the banksman removed the buoys and let us, together with a couple of other boats that had arrived at the other side, pass through.

We had our lunch whilst waiting so as soon as we were released we pressed on to the next lock - Brampton Lock. This was perhaps the only one which today we had to ourselves.

After leaving the lock we saw the mill that we described in the upstream blog a week or so ago - but this time the ferry from Godmanchester was just arriving with two passengers.

At Godmanchester Lock we had to wait as two boats completed their passage upstream - they too had not heard about the closure for the bypass work. Although the river was but exactly busy there was still a steady stream of boats.

The existing first A14 bypass bridge is much closer to the town and the northbound traffic
was almost at a standstill, We did seem to be moving faster than they were.

Soon after we passed under the old bridge.

In between the new and the old was this sadly dilapidated house looks very forlorn. We could not see why it may have been so abandoned.

Just after the old bridge is the large former Oil Cake Mill which has now been smartly renovated for other purposes. At one time it had its own railway connection but that line has long been closed and it is hard to find traces of it.

On the edge of the town we passed Hartford Church, one of several that we would see in the next stretch that are very close to the river.

We saw this amazing lawn on thew way up but there is only one point at which it is possible to capture the view - even the second shot was offline. How long does the grass cutting take? Bet that a ride is seen as a necessity!

After passing the entrance to Hartford Marina we saw a couple of strange boats - caravans or mobile homes mounted on pontoons. No doubt they are comfortable and that their owners have good reasons for preferring them over 'proper' boats.

At Houghton Lock there was a number of onlookers including a family from New Zealand. The youngsters were pleased and enthusiastic at being offered the opportunity to help with both top and bottom gates. As we left everyone waved us farewell.

As we approached Hemingford Grey we spotted this splendid thatched cottage.#

Rather less commonplace we just a short distance along - a thatched boat house!

We have pictured before the church alongside the river but here is a close up of the invitation to next Sunday's special Waterman's Service.

Beside the church is a large and imposing house, which appears to have been significantly extended at some time. On current maps it is described as Hemingford Grey House but we had expected it to have been a Rectory. We had to go back as far as the oldest maps available to us online that date from the very end of the 1890's to find it labelled Rectory. Even by 1900 it was the Old Rectory and thereafter it is shown with its present name.

St Ives gradually filled the skyline and by now we had the sunshine that stayed with until sunset.

We passed under the old bridge and make no excuse for yet another photo!

This converted old building just downstream of the bridge was originally a corn mill with its own short arm for loading and unloading.

On then to St Ives Lock where the main road bridge again had very slow moving traffic.

We were aiming for Holywell (a small village at the end of a cul de sac road that terminates at the edge of the river) for our evening mooring. There is both a public and a GOBA mooring so that felt as if it upped our chances of finding a mooring - we had noted that the previous few moorings were uncomfortable full as we passed them.

We need not have worried and we took a look at the public mooring which is against a well built piled edge with proper mooring facilities. However, it is close to a pub and we were a little concerned about being overwhelmed by chip frying odours!

So we went on about 200 metres to the GOBA mooring. These are never plush but the depth at this one was rather varied. Much shorter cruisers would probably have found satisfactory lengths to pull alongside but we struggled a bit - but persevered as it was a splendid location. In the end we had to accept leaving our stern well away from the bank and needed the gangplank for safety at the front. (Apologies for the huge shadow of the photographer but the sun was shining really brightly so we had no option)

13.9 Miles - 5 Locks


  1. There are a number of these houseboats at Hartford and they had a long running legal battle regarding their status. EA tried to charge them as vessels despite them being fixed to the bottom.

  2. Thanks for that detail. I think I now recall the case but I thought that those were inside a marina or a bywater. Of course, elsewhere houseboats (defined in much the same way as these cases are) are specifically covered in legislation. And there was me thinking that it was only Church legislation that was so complicated!