14 Days Anywhere! 29th June

Burlow Lode EA Mooring to Stretham Old Engine GOBA Mooring, Old West River

Time to do some boating again and leave the Loades behind.


What a grey morning! The waterproofs were at the ready. After a long chat with the fishermen who’d set up behind us about the National Trust wanting to flood the land, how bad the fishing was and how much the house across the way was on the market for (£1,050,000, it comes with a building plot with planning permission), we were ready to push off.

Slow going again until the way ahead got wider, followed by the Terns again.


Is this a hovercraft sat in the field?

Labradors at the ready

At the two bridges there were several dog walkers, one lady on one side of the water another two opposite, they were waiting for us to pass before getting their dogs to swim across to each other. The dogs were being very patient and loving it at the same time.

Looking up Wicken Lode

NB Ivy May turned out from Wicken Lode a short distance in front of us, they’d had two days moored at the end and really enjoyed it. Today there was space on the EA mooring despite some overstayers, but who knows their circumstances.

Following NB Ivy May

A boat was moored in the middle of the lock landing which is also a water point. NB Ivy May just about managed to get in front of them and we did our best to squeeze in behind, but had to stick out across the cut as we were about four foot too long for the gap. Our next water point wouldn’t be until Friday, a load of washing had just finished, so we needed to fill the tank. NB Ivy May disposed of rubbish and then made their way through the lock whilst we filled with water. Eventually the boat in the middle moved up after Mick had suggested that the owner may believe he can moor anywhere for 14 days even water points, but that it was very selfish to other boaters requiring to use the services. He didn’t have a hose and was going to fill up using jerry cans, I also suspect he didn’t have a key either as he looked a touch perturbed when he returned to see the water point closed and us heading off into the lock.

The water point above the lock

By the time we reached the lock it had reset itself. The top gate almost closed, letting a small flow through and the bottom gate open that bit more. It took a little while for me to work out what was what as you can see next to nothing of the lock from the controls at either end, but we were soon through and on our way again.

Goodbye Lodes

Straight on past the pub, the river view tables all full, people waving as we went past. A narrowboat came towards us, quite a long way over and heading for a big willow, thankfully the two dogs on the roof managed to stay onboard.

Ely and gulls

The heavens opened as Ely Cathedral showed itself again on the skyline.

Popes Corner, time to turn towards the west and onto the River Old West. There are several EA moorings on the first bend but we had our sights set on the GOBA mooring at Stretham Old Engine, hopefully there would be space for us and it be a suitable place for a supermarket delivery.

Good lengthy EA mooring

Another speed check, we were well within it at 42 seconds. Plenty of others were going that bit faster!

The chimney of the old engine showed itself, then the mooring. One boat and a handful of fishermen, but plenty of space for us. We pulled in and settled down for the rest of the day, making amendments to our big shopping order.

Bookend pigeons

A little walk round late afternoon we had a little nosy at the museum. Sadly it is only open on Sundays, maybe every Sunday or maybe the second one each month! Too long for us to hang around to see inside.

Our mooring for the night

Stretham steam engine replaced four windmills that had been trying to drain the surrounding fens for years, they’d struggled to cope with flooding and were at the mercy of the weather. The engine was built by Butterleys in 1831 costing £4950 and it scooped water up into the Old West River. The coal to drive the engine arrived by barge, chunks of 2 to 3ft piled high in the yard, these had to be broken up before they could be burned, the engine using a quarter of a ton an hour. It was one of only three drainage beam engines left in the Fens. It was used for over a hundred years and then was replaced by electric pumps. What a shame we won’t see it running.

1 lock, 8.05 miles, 2 straights, 1 left, 1 shower to be missed, 14 days! 1 full water tank, 1 empty wee tank, 0 rubbish,1 order completed after 12 goes, 1 closed museum, 1 fishing tennis fan, 1 looping the loop Spitfire.


Not The One In Wales. 28th June

Burwell EA Mooring

Our neighbours were off before we’d even got our cuppas in bed this morning, heading off to make the most of being on a boat for a week. We weren’t tardy either this morning and found ourselves waiting for the No 11 bus towards Cambridge at 10am.

Sitting on the top deck gave us great views, it’s almost hilly round here! There are interesting buildings in many of the villages and plenty of thatched roofs to admire whilst passing at their height. If we had more time it would be interesting to have a look around St Cyriac and St Julitta churches, both share the same church yard. The Maltings in Burwell with it’s quirky roof line. Burwell Museum and Windmill, only open Thursdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays. Or walk round Lode where numerous thatched cottages require there to be boxes of chocolates on every street corner. Sadly they all passed too quickly for photos, well except the later where the bus has to do a three point turn to continue on its route!

Anglesey Abbey

We alighted and walked round the corner to the entrance of Anglesey Abbey. Not an abbey and not in Wales, but a rather fine house cared for by the National Trust. With huge gardens and access into the house we were to have a busy day. The offer of a garden highlights tour soon to start was not to be missed and we’re glad we went along as we’d have had no idea what we were looking at.

Wild flower meadow

Jean was a very knowledgeable guide who first took us to see the wild flower meadow. The meadow is left alone for much of the year, the paths cut frequently but the main area only getting one cut a year once all the flowers have set their seeds. She pointed out Common Birds-Foot-Trefoil, known as Eggs and bacon due to its colouring, Knotweed in amongst the grasses.

Pyramid orchids and a rare Lizard Orchid that has appeared in the gardens this year.

Mothy webs

We paused at a shrub covered in cobwebs, competing with Miss Haversham’s table covered. This was caused not by spiders but by a moth that weaves it’s silk, the caterpillars eat the shrub beneath before turning into small white moths. Today a few of the adults flitted about, a resting one on someone’s finger. This looked very much like the little things that have been appearing on Oleanna’s cabin sides over the last few weeks. Inside the cratch we’ve had incredible webs, that we’ve been putting down to new very keen spiders, but maybe we’ve got moths in there!

We walked through avenues of trees all given celebratory names, Coronation, Jubilee. Then areas of wood with perfectly positioned statues.

Into the rose garden, just finishing it’s first flush of blooms. Here we heard how the roses were cared for, planting in cardboard boxes is a new method to try to ease the influence of the soil in the beds, far cheaper than replacing all the soil every time new roses are planted. We took in the aromas from the blooms, very reminiscent of childhood making rose petal scent.

Around the exterior of the house we were shown the trained pear tree and then on to the herbaceous border garden where delphiniums towered high at the back of the flower beds. This was the garden currently in it’s prime. I could name loads of the plants but I can’t remember them all so photos will have to do.

The Fairbourne brothers who owned the house from the 1930’s loved gardens and the whole layout would have one garden coming into bloom as another passed it’s best. The next garden over had recently been planted out with Dahlias which would take over as the display garden in a couple of months time.

What amazing flowers

A very worthwhile tour to have done, one that will change through the seasons.

The Oak Room for after dinner drinks influenced by Coe Hall in Long Island

Anglesey Abbey started out as a hospital in 1135 and by the early 13th Century it had been converted into an Augustinian priory. Of course when Henry VIII came along (1536) the priory was dissolved. The ruins of the priory formed the core of the present house, which was built in the early 17th century. The house changed hands many times through the centuries, with not much changing.

Queen Elizabeth II bed

In 1848 the Reverend John Hailstone bought the house and made various changes to it’s fabric, removing Jacobean dormer windows and creating the stable block. It was probably him who changed the name from Anglesey Priory to Abbey, the latter sounding far grander.

Urban Huttlestone Rogers Broughton (Lord Fairhaven) and his brother Henry bought the house in 1926. They had inherited £1million each when their father died, their family were very very wealthy Americans from oil refining. Urban was granted his Fathers Barony and became the 1st Baron of Fairhaven. The brothers agreed that the first to get married would sell their share to the other, so when Henry married in 1932 he sold his share to Urban. The house and estate complimented their horse stud at Barton and being close to Newmarket. Now they could enjoy the races in the summer along with shooting in the winter.

Between 1926 and 1930 the brothers altered the house, adding a new porch, spiral staircase and engine room. They also converted the stables into garages. In 1937 Lord Fairhaven extended the service wing and built the Library and in 1939 he added the Tapestry Hall. Money being no problem meant that anything that took Fairhavens fancy could be bought. This makes for an eclectic collection of objects and works of art.

Numerous paintings line the walls, collections giving rooms a theme. One corridor is filled with paintings by an artist Etty known for his historic nudes.

Numerous tapestries hang in corridors and down staircases. Some are old, others obviously commissioned with images of the house. There were one or two that seemed a little bit familiar as though elements had been included from the Marlborough Tapestries at Blenheim.

The Opening of Waterloo Bridge

But all eyes are encouraged towards the Library. A large high ceilinged room, books line the walls, desks each end and sofas by the fire. Opposite hangs the main feature. A couple of months ago the largest known painting Constable painted returned from being cleaned. The Opening of Waterloo Bridge 1817, now reveals crowds waving from buildings and one figure is thought to be the Price Regent as it is the only figure wearing a wig. The volunteer in the room was obviously very proud as he talked about it.

The Library was made from reclaimed ash from Waterloo Bridge

If you peek through the leaded windows behind the desk you can make out graffiti, etched by Fairhavens guests. Several of the royal family’s names appear here, sadly my photos didn’t come out, Elizabeth R is there.

Down below stairs the kitchens are open for viewing. An old range is accompanied by several electric cookers. Behind the bars in the safe sit shelves of crockery and a bust of Winston Churchill.

When Fairhaven entertained, three guests his preferred number, dinner would be served at 8.03 in the dinning room, giving the guests three minutes to walk from where they’d had pre-dinner drinks. Then every evening just before 9pm a radio was brought through to the dinning table on a sliver tray so that the news could be listened to.

A house that went on and on, room after room filled with such an eclectic collection of alsorts and then a garden that stretches on for what feels like mile after mile and then some more. What a place, what a very rich chap!


After the house we retired to the cafe for a jacket potato each and a pot of tea. Another walk round the grounds, taking in the Mill this time, sadly it’s closed at the moment. Then it was time to walk back to catch the bus back and give Tilly a head nudge or two.


0 locks, 0 miles, 2 buses, 1 huge house, 1 even larger garden, 2 avenues, 56545378 moths, 1 lizard orchid, 8ft Constable, 1 cat up high, 1 parrot, 1 replica ceiling, 2 jackets, 1 mill, 1 very good day out, now it’s time to go boating again.

Amazonian Cruise. 27th June

Reach GOBA Mooring to Burwell EA Mooring

Would we be able to escape? Mick tentatively walked the plank to retrieve the bow rope from the tree, the plank only just having enough solid ground under it. With the stern rope back on board he engaged reverse, thankfully there was movement and we slide off the bottom. Now all we had to do was wind!

What’s all the fuss about? Plank walking is easy peasy!

Mick decided to reverse back and swing the bow round meaning it would head towards a big willow tree which really was in an awkward place. Where we ended up meant there was little room both for and aft to get us swinging round. The bow got totally embedded in the willow. I stood in the well deck passing branches over the top and around the cratch.

This was before the amazon totally took over the cratch

STOP! There were two thick branches, one close to the cratch window the other hanging low with roots attached under the bow fender which had the potential to rip the fender off. All hard to explain to Mick from my green jungle position, but he needed to do nothing for a while as I climbed out onto the bow with nothing to hang onto, I did have my life jacket on just in case.

The first branch by the cratch window was easy to sort as it broke off in my hand, the stump of it a handy level to push the other branch away from under the bow. More dangling branches were moved, me back to safety and Mick could try moving us again. This is where bow thrusters do come in handy, although there were times where he needed to stop and let me clear the branches again that were getting caught on the tunnel light and the horns. Then thankfully we were free and pointing in the right direction.

We retraced ourselves back through the narrow Amazonian channel, a sheep coming over to check us out, I don’t think many boats venture down here!

At least we know where we’re going

At the junction with Burwell Lode waterlilies grown in the centre of the triangle where few boats go. Here we turned right, the wider deeper water meant we almost got up to normal cruising speed.

Far more open than the rivers

We were soon joined by two Terns making use of our wake to fish in, the proximity they flew in to Mick’s head at times was quite alarming. They dived in so close to the prop, but this seemed to be worth it as they’d immerge with a catch in their beaks most times.

Pretty horses with a black stripe down their backs

The view was different here, over damp grass land where a herd of cattle grazed, in amongst them Koniks, horses the closest breed to the wild horses that would have inhabited such areas. They are sandy in colour with darker mains and were very busy doing what they do best, eating!

A lufted lift bridge

A bridge, no two bridges! One a foot bridge the other a lift bridge, usually kept open.

We were making good time now, until we reached a depot on the north bank where the channel got narrower, our pace slowed down again.

Cosy neighbours for lunch

Finally our goal came into view and the mooring with enough space for a narrowboat was occupied. As we came alongside I asked through their hatch if we could breast up. They were having lunch and then would be on their way again. We winded, tied to them and had our lunch, then did a do-ci-do when they left. Cat health and safety check, we were a hedge away from a farm yard and was that Giant Hog Weed that the mower had cut? Mick didn’t think it was, but I was unsure, so the verdict wasn’t one Tilly wanted to hear, ‘Not today Tilly, sorry’.

St Mary’s Burwell

We’d heard about St Mary’s church and been told we had to visit. It is one of the finest perpendicular churches in Britain, a wonderful example of 15th Century architecture. Reginald Ely is credited for creating the church, he was a master mason for Kings College Chapel in Cambridge. It is said that he and his workmen honed their skills at Kings before doing their best work at Burwell.

Very light and airy

Lofty, with a timber ceiling, possibly the kind that was originally intended for Kings before the fan vaulting was built. Carved animals line the roof line and vast tall windows fill the nave with light.

Green, a bit like being in a swimming pool

Through the choir screen all the glass has a green tinge, meaning that by the alter seems cold and I suspect many a bride and groom have looked a touch nauseous on their happy day!

Dedicated in 1934

Two colourful stained glass windows date from the early 20th Century adding colour to the scene. By the north door is a large painting of St Christopher, worshipers would have stopped to pray below him on entering the church.

Butterflies flying up the tower

Around the church were masses of butterflies, the tower outside has a cascade of them. Made by locals for the Jubilee there are simply thousands of them, all different shapes and sizes, all very jolly.

Back in the long linear village we spotted a windmill behind houses. A fox on a newly thatched roof. Pound Hill where stray animals used to be impounded until a fine was paid. A plaque remembering 78 people who died in a barn fire during a puppet show in 1727. I always knew puppets had an evil side to them!

A thatcher’s fox

This evening we have gained a neighbour, a Black Prince hire boat with a family from California. They are over on their second boating holiday, the last one was in Scotland. Today they picked the boat up in Ely and this was their first stop. They are very quiet neighbours think they were tucked up in bed by 9.

0 locks, 4.67 miles, 1 reverse, 1 fracas with a willow, 1 escaped boat, 2 lodes, 2 neighbours, 4563 butterflies, 2 pints milk, 1 very long village, 4 welcome to moor alongside posters,  1 new lodger booked, 1 quiet evening, 1 missing episode of Sherwood.


Fens and Flutterbys. 26th June

Wicken Fen GOBA Mooring to Reach Lode GOBA Mooring

Wicken Fen

Time to dust off the National Trust cards, today would be their first outing since before the pandemic when we visited the Back to Backs in Birmingham.

Wicken Fen visitor centre

Wicken Fen is 254.5 hectares and is a SSSI protected by international designations as a Ramsar wetland site of international importance. It is one of the oldest nature reserves in the country and the first to have been looked after by the National Trust after it was donated by Charles Rothschild in 1901.

Natural fen

Here you can see an area of natural fen land, no pumping out of water to dry the land for agriculture here, in fact at times water is pumped in to help maintain the land. Where we are moored at Monk’s Lode, water is pumped under Wicken Lode and into the fen by a modern windmill (on the left).

The last surviving wooden wind pump (on the right) in the Fens sits proudly over looking the swaying grasses and sedge. It was built around 1912 and was moved from Adventurers’ Fen and restored in 1956. The windmill sails still have sheets wrapped round them ready to to be stretched out to catch the wind, the round shape at the back is where the wheel is to lift water from the drain into the fen to help maintain a high water table.

There are several walks around the area, we chose to walk the Boardwalk and then the woodland walk. Easels are located at places pointing out plantlife, dragonflies, damselflies, birds and in the woodland butterflies. Most of the time living examples wizz past.

In a hide we settled down, quieter than a mouse to watch to see what might happen. The bird feeders attracted a lot of Goldfinches, I think at one point we had about six of them vying for the seed. Such colourful birds the air filled with only their song. Sadly the noise of some people coming into the hide sent them all flying away until the new observers settled down, but only a brave couple of birds returned.

Brimstone hiding

Parts of the fen have changed due to drying out. More plants have taken hold and in some areas trees have taken root. The woodland area a haven for butterflies. There were numerous easels about them. We spotted a Brimstone that flew by and then politely hung from under a leaf, showing off it’s perfect camouflage, if we’d not seen it fly in we’d have never have known it was there.

A Ringlet?

Flittering White wings occasionally haphazardly flew past us, the odd Peacock and Red Admiral all butterflies of child hood. Then there were masses of small brown butterflies, few wanting to take a rest long enough for the camera to focus upon them. A Speckled Wood, but plenty more without obvious markings. All we could see at the time was a yellowy cream outline to their wings. Later on studying the photos black dots could be seen meaning that they were Ringlets.

We walked out across the fen spotting Meadow Sweet that will soon be filling the air with its fragrance, a smell I will always associate with the Chesterfield Canal. We’d been told to look out for orchids, were these some?

That’s a nice narrowboat over there!

Back round to where we’d started after a pleasant walk. You could spend several quiet days walking the fen, seeing and hearing all sorts of nature.

Across the way sat an old cottage with a colourful garden. In the open door way an invite for you to take a peek inside. Nobody had mentioned the cottage and barns, but we did as invited and took a peek. A cockerel came over to show himself off. An outside privy, just as you’d expect except that the newspaper to wipe one’s behind is now photocopied!

Boats used for catching eels with wicker traps, nets for plovers (lapwings). So much crammed into a few barns that we’d nearly walked past.

This could be Reach Lode or Wicken both narrow and amazonian

A late lunch and then we were ready to push off, more Lodes to explore. The cruisier behind had left earlier thank goodness as the wind was going to make it hard for us to wind, the bow constantly being pushed over and the stern heading straight for the bank. Eventually we got round and aimed in the right direction, soon meeting the trip boat coming back to drop off it’s visitors.


The going was slow again, I headed to the bow to spread the weight more evenly which helped a touch. A family filled a canoe and so many dragonflies flitted about like fairies. Or do fairies flit about like dragonflies?

Back at the junction

We got almost to the junction before we were caught up by the last trip boat of the day. Mick had considered pulling in here to moor but there was still no space on the EA moorings, so we turned eastward had a discussion as to which Lode we’d venture down first, Reach came out top.

A Tern followed our every move

Now deeper, or so it seemed for a while, the going was a touch quicker. The Lodes are higher than the surrounding land and without flood banks you actually get a view.

Bloomin blanket!

At the fork we turned to the south east towards Reach, reeds started to surround us, swaying in the stiff breeze. Then masses of blanket weed, the sort that tangles props up really well. Mick knocked us out of gear to glide through such sections. Was this only to get worse the further we progressed? We were now just that bit to far along the lode to reverse out again, so onwards we went, thankfully the blanket weed gradually diminished.

A bridge!

At Reach the lode splits in two, well it looks like it used to. Signs warn that this is the end of the navigation and permission should be sought to moor from the Parish Council. Just beyond there were the GOBA signs. Was there space for one or more boats, would there be anywhere in full sunlight? There was space for two or three, but it all looked rather shallow. We tried pulling in where there was less tree coverage, here would have been good last week for the 32C day. The depth prohibited access to land, we backed up and tried again. All the time the stern getting stuck on the bottom. We eventually made it back to the start of the moorings, the bow almost came into the side, just enough to get off, then Mick powered Oleanna round. The ropes were wrapped round trees, we were moored, our plank only just long enough to reach land. This however wasn’t a problem for Tilly!

Plank required!

We hope that tomorrow we’ll be able to get ourselves free again, as it may be some time before anyone else ventures down here!

0 locks, 4.08 miles, 1 wind, 1 left, 2 rights, 1 big fen, 2 windmills, 6531 butterflies, 431 damselflies, 311 dragonflies, 1 canoe, 1 cat tip toing along the plank, 6ft plank only just long enough, 1 very shallow mooring, 0 sight seeing from here, 1 supermarket delivery moved back.


Slowing Right Down. 25th June

Waterbeach GOBA Mooring to Wicken Lode GOBA Mooring

The Geraghty zoom this morning included discussions on rust treatments, interviewing conductors and a quick whiz around Kath’s new home. So good to see her smiling face this morning.

Just before we were about to push off a rowing VIII came past bedecked in Ukrainian flags, obviously a fund raiser row. Bottisham Lock is just around a bend so we couldn’t quite see what was happening, were they turning to return to Cambridge? Were they going through the lock? Were they just taking a breather on the lock landing? Zooming in with my camera I could see oars being moved around over head, then the guillotine gate began to close, they’d be going down in the lock, the lock landing free for us to pull into.

Sure enough it was a fund raiser to help support families displaced by the war, the group were rowing to Ely and back today. It took quite a while for them to pull their boat out of the lock by which time we’d been joined above by a sailing dinghy.

Sharing the lock

By the time I’d reset the lock the crew on the dinghy had dropped their mast, there was plenty of space, so no danger of us getting a touch too cosy with them. With the strong winds they thought they’d catch us up and maybe even over take us on the way to their lunch date at the Five Miles from Anywhere Inn at Upware. Going back later however would be a different ball game, plenty of tacking required! They didn’t manage to catch us, but their sail was seen.

We pootled our way along past the asymmetrical cows again.

Upware Lock approach

Reaching Upware we turned right into the wind at the junction heading for the navigable Lodes. Here a shortish lock sits, 61ft 4″. This is used to help regulate the water levels in the Lodes, the lock resets itself automatically with bottom gate open top closed, the height difference only being about 4″.

A boat was waiting to come down, the lock in our favour. The chap meant well as he chatted away about flashing lights as I was trying to read and digest the instructions on the panel, regarding the flashing lights. The lock worked for us and once we were clear it looked like it would work for them also despite the flashing lights meaning not to use the lock.

Getting narrower all the time

Narrow and slow, passing moored boats. An EA length of moorings at the junction with Wicken Lode were full, we’d not be able to return to moor there if all spaces were taken at the end. We swung under the wooden bridge the navigation now even narrower and shallower and very very slow going!

We’ll get to use our membership cards soon

It is 1.5 miles to the end of the navigable section, our guide book suggests it should take half an hour, Waterway Routes suggests an hours cruise, we just about managed an hour twenty five, it was very VERY S L O W going. All the more time to admire the views, the dragonflies and waterlilies that lined the narrow water.

Just wider than Oleanna

At first the route wiggles back and forth, how would we manage if something was coming the other way? Our progress slowed to slower than walking pace, engine off to check the weed hatch. There was weed, luminous bright green tagliatelle weed in 8 inch lengths.

Once the wiggles were out of the way we could just about make out the straight course of the Lode ahead. Walkers sped past us, binoculars at the ready. We discussed changing a supermarket delivery we’d booked for a few days time, nudging it by a day or two as we might still be battling our way back!


A Marsh Harrier, a tall bird hide, a black and white windmill all came and went.

Then up ahead we spotted a few heads, a National Trust trip boat out from Wicken Fen. They pulled to one side and waved us on. Would they catch us up on their return journey? Of course they did, but the wind was too strong for us to be able to keep Oleanna’s bow in for them to pass, so they followed us to where Wicken Lode meets Monk’s Lode.

Cheery chap at the helm

Here a cruiser was on the GOBA mooring, a look of panic in their eyes. They were about to set off, wanting to get moving before they’d be in the way of the trip boat on it’s next trip. All was fine, we pulled up just past them, the trip boat headed to it’s landing and the cruiser managed to wind and head off.

Once moored up the doors were opened and Tilly headed off avoiding the many walkers and woofers, plenty of friendly cover to keep her busy.

Not a bad mooring

Being a sheltered place we decided that we’d get the barbeque out, burgers and buns were defrosted, kebabs made up and some cabbageslaw made. We were joined early evening by a cruiser who also had the same idea. What a wonderful mooring, still quite busy with walkers into the evening. Soon after we’d eaten dark clouds came overhead, so we retired indoors to avoid the possibility of rain.


2 locks, 5.3 miles, 1 right, 1 left, 1 shared lock, 8 rowing, 1.5 miles very very slow, 1 missing D, 1 happy cat, 4 kebabs, 2 burgers, 1 bowl of slaw, 1 lovely mooring, 55.5 today.


Topping Up At Jesus. 24th June

Fort St George to Waterbeach GOBA Mooring

Jesus Lock and weir

Another night of fireworks and music into the early hours, thankfully the fair shuts down promptly and we didn’t get too much footfall past Oleanna afterwards. This morning it was very much time to move on, we’d stayed an extra night and had only just managed to tick off the top things on our list. We may need to return as there is the Fitzwilliam Museum and a David Hockney exhibition to go to amongst other things, oh and some more chilled medication needs sampling!

Booze from a punt

A top up shop was needed from the nearby Co-op, once this was stowed we pushed off and headed up towards Jesus Lock to do the necessaries, water and yellow water. We’d been pipped to the post by a hire boat, so we waited and watched the daily trip by the chaps with a bar on a punt, two fridges packed with beers, Pimms and Gin and tonic.

Once we’d finished our chores we pushed Cambridge away, winded and headed down stream. Novice crews sat in rowing boats being shown how to move their oars. The fair had it’s shutters down, resting before a busy Friday night. Tilly took up position on top of our washing that had been drying under the pram cover.

Heading downstream was that bit quicker. We swapped sides by Fen Ditton, the moorings at the pub filled with the two local hire boats. Cormorants sat drying their wings, they just look so evil to me!

Going down Baits Bite Lock

Baits Bite Lock was in our favour so we just slid in and I stepped off, closing the guillotine gate behind Oleanna and then lifting the bottom paddle to empty the chamber. If you are coming to Cambridge in the next few months it looks like there will be a sculpture trail along the river bank which might be worth keeping an eye out for.

There was space where we’d moored at Clayhithe but we hoped for a space at the GOBA mooring where we’d met NB Cleddau last weekend. As we approached we could see one, then two narrowboats and a cruiser. We knew you could fit three narrowboats along the mooring so Mick called out to the chap in the middle to see if he’d mind nudging up. He pulled back, the chap from the cruiser in front came and took a rope from the bow then hammered in a spike for us at the front as the bank was very uneven to get off with any ease. Brilliant we’d got a space, just a shame it was going to be too windy to have a barbeque!

Might there be enough space for us?

Shortly after we’d moored up, Tilly was allowed out. The covers on the boat next door look interesting so she needed to be discouraged in her calculations. Then the smell of the woofer next door brought her inside, just as I was putting down the covers. I heard a sploshing noise, had Tilly fallen overboard? Had she tried jumping onto our cratch cover and fallen in? I looked round, no sign of her in the water, maybe she was under the hull? But there were no ripples in the water. I turned round to see her standing in the doorway Some people have no faith! It was the water tank overflow, even I knew that! But what was more worrying was the two Toms heading straight for us aided by their big blue sheet!

Beware Toms with sheets

Once Tilly had got past the flood bank we didn’t see her for the remainder of the day until DingDing time. I got on with writing up blog posts, it’s hard to find the time when there is so much to see and do, in fact I’m writing this post before the one before!

It smells of woofer!

1 lock, 5.92 miles, 4 meals planned, 1 full water tank, 1 empty yellow water tank, 1 wind, 1 windy day, 2 gaps made into 1, 1 swimmer, 1 Kamikaze dinghy, 1 Friday night roast chicken, 1 blog post still to write.

For this mornings mooring


A Tale Of Two Colleges. 23rd June

Fort St George, Cambridge

When in a University city such as Oxford or Cambridge we feel we should visit a college or two. With a lot to choose from we chose two which couldn’t be more different from each other.

The choir

First was the tourist attraction of Kings College. I wanted to visit the college as it is where a chorister kicks off Christmas Eve singing Once in Royal Davey Daddies City. To be honest I hadn’t come across this until Mick came into my life, now every year either the TV or radio are on for us to listen. The chapel is also quite a visual treat.

The way in

Entrance is best booked in advance, if you can book a week in advance you’ll get £1 off your ticket. The entrance is down Senate House Passage which leads to the north door of the chapel.

Just look at that!

As soon as you walk in the ceiling and stained glass grab your eyes. I love fan vaulting so I was always going to enjoy our visit. A sit down was needed to appreciate the pleasing structure way over head. One area caught the eye, a very smiley sun just off symmetry, a helium balloon that someone had lost grip of. I wonder how long it will take for it to loose it’s attraction to the ceiling?

King Henry VI laid the foundation stone in 1444, King’s one of his two ‘royal and religious’ foundations, the other being Eton. Both the school and college were to admit a maximum of 70 scholars drawn from poor backgrounds, boys from Eton were guaranteed entry to Kings. From his original plans only the chapel was ever built and that took almost a century. Subsequent Kings took on the college, it’s building paused during the Wars of the Roses.

Lots of light and detail everywhere

The anti-chapel is overwhelmingly carved. Half crowns stand out from the walls, back lit. Tudor heraldic emblems fill every space left around the stained glass windows.

The west window

The dark oak screen which houses the organ was a gift from Henry VIII and bears his and Anne Boleyn’s initials. It’s not as elaborate as many choir screens, but not many date back to this time. He also commissioned the stained glass windows for the north, south and east sides of the chapel, split in two with Old Testament at the top and new Testament below. Sitting looking up at them there is a lot of bright blue sky.

You get big choirs in Cambridge

The choir stalls line the sides, seats going on forever, no wonder the choir is famed.


Below the East window stands The Adoration of the Magi, painted by Rubens in 1634. During my A level Art I studied Rubens, I think the best essay I ever wrote at school was about his portrayal of naturally curved women.

Dodgems at Dawn

You then get the chance to walk around some of the outside areas. Today the Front Court was off bounds as the May Ball was being cleared away. It appears that this years thing is bumper cars, we came across them elsewhere in Cambridge today too. The gatehouse and screen, separate the college from the city’s streets and it’s people, the architecture ornate and delicate dates from the 1820s.

Flower meadow

Behind the court lies the Back Lawn, the majority grass. Don’t stand on it whatever you do! Then directly in front of Kings Chapel the grass has been sewn with wild flowers, a sea of waist high daisies with paths leading down to the River Cam. Very pretty and tasty for the bees.

As we crossed over the Bridge we looked back, the whole place shouted MONEY at us. We’d done THE tourist college with it’s spectacular ceiling and old masters, and Keep of the grass signs, now it was time for something very different.

Murray Edwards College

On the north west side of the city, up Huntington Road lies Murray Edwards College. Originally founded as New Hall in 1954, the first year had just 16 women students in buildings on Silver Street, it set out to try and address the low number of women undergraduates at Cambridge University . It was able to relocate to Huntington Road when the Darwin family donated their home The Orchard. The college buildings were opened in 1964 with the capacity for 300 students. In 2005 the college was renamed after it’s first President Dame Rosemary Murray and Ros and Steve Edwards who made a large donation to the college.

Fountain Court

Architects Chamberlain, Powell and Bon had designed the Barbican and Golden Lane Estates in London, they were chosen along with the builders WC French who had built the original motorway bridges on the M1. See, I told you it was completely different.

The Dome

The dining hall known as The Dome is made up of precast concrete, 4 inches thick, flanged so that they overlap each other with glass panels in between. The dome soars high above the first floor, your eye naturally pulled to it’s centre. Four staircases spiral down to the ground and lower floors, one in each corner.

More of the Fountain Court

Large wooden glazed doors invite you into rooms where the texture of the concrete has either been left ruff almost like the sea bed, or polished smooth. Cream brickwork on curved walls surrounds the Fountain Court with its blue lined troughs of water and of course it’s fountains.

Long glazed corridors with large windows, many open today for fresh air create open walkways from parts of the college to the next. For me this was reminiscent of parts of York University and parts of the house my Dad built as our family home.

The Porter was very friendly, gave us both a sticker for the Women’s Art Collection along with a big white folder with details of where we could go and the artworks held within the college and it’s 14 acres of gardens, and yes we’d be allowed to walk on the grass!

The collection is formed of modern and contemporary art by women, the largest of it’s kind in Europe. It was founded in 1986 and has expanded since then with donations and loans from artists. The college houses more than 500 works, including pieces by Barbara Hepworth, Tracy Emin, Rebecca Fortnum to name just a few. Every corner you turn there is another work, at the bases of staircases sculptures sit.

As we left we turned round, numerous potted plants sitting on the front steps a black cat lurking in there somewhere, we decided that we preferred it here to Kings. More inclusive, relaxed, warm, arty, airy, grass between your toes friendly. Well worth a visit and it’s free! Thank you Bridget for pointing us in the colleges direction.

Todays Menu

We now walked back into the city, one last thing on the list of essential things to do in Cambridge to tick off the list, Jack’s Gelato!

That’s better!

The queue was far shorter late afternoon and it was just the right length to have made the very hard decision of which flavour to have. To save any bickering between us we both chose Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt. Mick had a standard waffle cone, I paid the extra for a gluten free one, a rare thing! We sat down on the wall outside King’s College our backs turned towards the money and enjoyed our well earned chilled medication.

0 locks, 1 walked over twice, 0 miles, 7 miles walked, 2 colleges, 513 years apart, 1 spectacular ceiling, 1 mesmerising ceiling, 1 organ screen, 1 walkway of roses, 1 Ruben, 2 Tracy Emin and a Barbara Hepworth, £11, £0, 2 chilled medications well deserved.

Sitting In His Dad’s Seat. 22nd June

Fort St George, Cambridge

Last night Cambridge was treated to a firework display, sadly we could only just make out the wizz bangs and flashes from behind the trees on the common. This was soon followed by what sounded like a concert somewhere in the city. Maybe Bruce Springsteen!? If it was he did a bad cover of Live and Let Die, the other songs were unrecognisable as we tried to drop off to sleep with the aim of getting up early. The May Balls in Cambridge have started.

The No 7 bus was late arriving, in fact it was embarrassed of the fact and came incognito as the No 5, changing itself whilst we weren’t looking! As other people headed to the bus who’d also been waiting we went to check, managing to stop the driver from heading off without us. Then we wanted a Cambridgeshire Multibus ticket which the driver had never heard of, so this took another five minutes at least to sort. Would we make our connection? The answer to this was no! By the time we reached Sawston we’d missed the 7A by at least five minutes. What to do now? There was still quite a distance to go and there was over an hours wait for the next service.

Thankfully the next bus got us that bit closer, dropping us off in the village of Duxford. From here we found a footpath that took us across a field, from where we could see our destination, a very large hanger on the other side of the M11. After a mile and a half walk we’d arrived walking underneath the wings of a Spitfire at the gates of the Imperial War Museum Duxford.

Lots and lots of planes

With some birthday money Mick had decided to treat us to a visit to the airfield. The museum is vast as you’d expect being on an airfield, stretching out almost as far as we could see. Today would be a long day making the most of our visit.

Trident Two

First we headed for the British Airliner Collection, looked after by the Duxford Aviation Society. Mick had been in contact with them via Facebook a couple of days ago and a chap called Jim had offered to come and open up one of the planes for us to have a look inside, they are only open up when there are enough volunteers about. We loitered on the tarmac whilst Jim unlocked all the doors, then we were shown inside, the Closed signs put back in position behind us. We’d have the plane to ourselves for a while.

This Trident Two was flown by Mick’s Dad fifty years ago shortly before he retired from being a pilot. This year Peter would have been 100, so this was a visit we just had to make.

Jim and Mick in the cockpit

Jim showed us into the spacious cockpit. The Co-pilots seat would be easier to get into as there was no jump seat behind it, but Mick wanted to sit in the left hand seat, the pilots seat, saying ‘Hello Dad’ as he sat down.

Jim ran us through all the instruments, although Mick knew most of them anyway. Stories were exchanged and of course photos taken.

This Trident Two flew with British European Airways from 1968 to 1972, when it was leased to Cyprus Airways. Damaged by gunfire during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, it was abandoned at Nicosia Airport. In 1977 the bullet holes were repaired and after a complete overhaul it re-joined the fleet in what was by then British Airways until it was retired in 1982.

Captain Geraghty and Co-pilot Leckenby

Tridents were built with ‘blind landing’ capabilities, the plane able to land in thick fog, enabling them to be a reliable passenger service. It had a range of 2,700 miles and could carry 115 passengers at a cruising speed of 580mph.

I’d been expecting Jim to be older, volunteers at museums like this tend to be. But Jim knew his stuff, he holds a pilots licence and has worked around airliners and is most definitely a plane enthusiast. As he showed us into the cabin a chap came saying he was wanting to give the Trident a wash and hadn’t expected it to be open today. With our leisurely tour over Jim locked the plane back up and moved over to open up the plane next door.

We walked up the line of British Airliners. A Viscount, Peter may have flown this plane too, along with the last plane in the line an Airspeed Ambassador which became known as an Elizabethan after the newly crowned Queen, it is the last one in the world.


Planes were taking off and coming in to land, the runway in constant use, we didn’t feel the need for a flight at £45 a go, what we now needed was a cuppa and a snack whilst formulating a plan for the remainder of the day. A cafe in the American hanger provided us with refreshments and we plotted ourselves a route back towards the entrance, picking and choosing what we’d see.

If Mick’s Dad hadn’t retired he would most probably have moved on to flying the BAC I-II which was designed and built in Britain and was the most successful, 244 were built. Jim showed us round this plane too, a much more compact cockpit, no navigator seat required. A much narrower plane with no first class seats. Having a door under the tail meant that turn arounds could be swift. The plane could land, luggage off loaded, refuelled, new luggage and passengers were on board and ready for take off in the blink of an eye.


Thank you so much to Jim for volunteering, opening up the planes and giving us a lot of your time.

The Battle of Britain Ops Block told the story of those who worked at Duxford. The base supported the defence of London with several squadrons flying out from here. The Dowding System was employed where the country was divided into groups, then subdivided into sectors, each sector having a Sector Station with an Ops Room.

The table

Wing Commander Alfred ‘Woody’ Woodhall, who was found to be short sighted in one eye at the beginning of WW2. Pilots were not allowed to wear glasses, so he got round this by wearing a monocle and continued flying for some time, later becoming Duxfords Station Commander.

Squadron status boards on the wall

The Opps Room is laid out how it would have been and accompanied by a projected film, lighting and recordings relives what it was like as five squadrons took off to head off the Germans.

Butternut squash salad and brisket burger

Lunch was taken in the Workshop Restaurant as Spitfires and Hurricanes flew past.

We walked round the Battle of Britain hanger.