Is This As Low As We Can Go? 18th May

Dog in a Doublet to Burnthouse Bridge Rural Mooring, Whittlesey Dyke, Middle Level

This mornings mooring

Yesterday Mick had phoned Stanground Lock to book our passage through for today. Kev, not Tina had called us back and booked us for midday. He also rang us this morning, yesterday he’d responded to a missed call on the mobile, today he was responding to Mick’s message.

We gave ourselves a couple of hours to return back up the Nene to Peterborough Junction where we’d turn onto the Back River, the aroma of partially cooked chips hanging in the air today. Does anyone know what the metal framed tower is on the north shore of the river?

This way

The Back River brings you under a railway bridge, then past the back of the houses at Stanground. Soon we arrived at the lock and Kev popped up from nowhere, we were an hour early just as the timings on our maps had suggested, but better early than late.

Kev set the lock, the nearest paddle/slacker lifted to fill it, I could see straight through the opening, you don’t often get a view like that. With the gates open we were soon in the lock. Time to chat Anglian Passes.

Entering Stanground lock

About a month ago Mick had applied for an Anglian pass on line. This gives you access to the Middle Level and the River Cam and lasts a year. The pass is a fairly new thing and has caused quite a to do in certain circles. The website had said someone would ring to take payment. No-one did. So with our arrival getting closer Mick rang and was told that our application hadn’t arrived, could he fill out the form again and email it to them, then someone would call to take payment. This he did. We are still waiting for the phone call.

Kev opening the gates for us

This tale was nothing new to Kev, he wasn’t surprised. He wrote us down on his sheet and took our details. Next we needed to purchase ourselves a key and a key. A different navigation authority means a new key to access facilities. We also required a different windlass, which in these parts is called a key. Kev had both for sale and quickly provided them in return for £17. We also enquired about Salters Lode on the other side of the Middle Level, we’d tried calling the Lock Keeper there but had had no response. Kev said we’d just need to arrive at a suitable time for the tide, he then provided us with the tide time. No need to book just turn up and we’d be locked through. What a helpful chap, very reminiscent of the Lock Keeper at Thames Lock onto the River Wey.

New keys

The paddles on the lock were lifted, the lock emptied, gates open. We’d descended onto the Level. Well maybe we’d descended a touch too far as Oleanna seemed to want to stay put in the lock. There was a little bit of movement so a push out at the stern and bow a bit of a jiggle and she was free! We are on the cusp of draft for the navigation. Mick later on read notes written by Simon Judge regarding deep drafted boats going through the lock backwards, well we know now!

Lots of sky and pill boxes

Narrow and shallow, our speed would be a lot slower than it had been out on the river.

Here sky rules, when would we get to see our next hill? Flat as flat, well until we came across a new railway bridge being built.

Work boats and churches

A view of the brick works and McCains from the other side this time. Two churches in Whittlesey. Three work boats sat at the edges of the navigation, having their lunch break, weed cutters, one called Covid 20.

Ahead lay the bend we’ve heard of between bridges 111 and 110, the navigation is narrow the bend 90 degrees. Mick slowed Oleanna right down as we passed possibly the nearest vets to the waterways, then took us round in one go with plenty of room to spare.

They don’t want you hanging around here

A public park in Whittlesey has a 48hr mooring, space for two narrowboats, we pulled in for lunch then consulted our schedule. Should we stay here the night? We were already ahead of schedule, Tilly would be able to go out, other moorings further on looked like they would be alongside roads, so not deemed to be cat friendly.

What’s happened to the friendly cover?

‘Two hours Tilly, we might want to go out and explore ourselves.’

Another look at our schedule, planned mooring places for the next few days. Waterway Routes open as well as Google Maps satellite view. A meeting with family is planned next week, a mooring to have a birthday barbeque would be good too, so we’re only using the link route through the Middle Level at the moment. Our planned passage through Salters Lode to Denver Sluice had been on Saturday, but all of a sudden the moorings on the Great Ouse looked a touch more appealing. Did we have enough time to reach Salters Lode for Friday morning? If we cracked on today yes.

Weed cutters hot on our tails

Fortunately Tilly had decided that the grass outside wasn’t up to much and had retired to the bedroom, but as soon as the back door closed we got complaints. ‘You know I said 2 hours, well I actually meant 2 minutes!’

Ashline lock

Ashline Lock drops the navigation down by 6ft, it lay a short distance in front of us. The width of the locks isn’t enough to be able to share with another narrowboat, bottom gates should be left open, paddles closed to help conserve water levels. Time to use our new windlass/key, so new it’s grey paint not fully cured!

The paddles at the top of the lock are similar to those you find on the Leeds Liverpool canal, you just can’t see whether they are open or not, then how many turns until they are fully open? The lock gradually filled. The bottom paddles are similar but positioned on the gates themselves. I chose to count how many turns they took to open, twenty, thirty, thirty five, I gave up, the lock slowly emptied.

Red and Yellow

Is this the lowest you can be on non-tidal water in England? At Lodes End Lock to our south the level is variable and can be nothing, but it suggests on our map that to head west through the lock you may rise to be on the level we are on now. Around us the contour on the OS map was around 0 or even -1 in some fields.

In the pamphlet we’d been given it showed us the location of Rural moorings, but Mick had spied on the website that there were another four such moorings, two of which we’d be going past today. Might they be more cat friendly than the public moorings?

The first was at Angle Corner. 32m of bank had been cut and large posts added to tie to. Here you might be able to get off your boat without too much trouble, but the bank is steep, nothing that would worry Tilly. We made a note of its position to report back to Paul at Waterway Routes.

It’s really rather pretty round here

Just past Burnthouse Bridge there was a second mooring. We consulted our maps, if we didn’t stop here we had at least another two hours to cruise to the next mooring in March which may not have space. We pulled in flung our ropes over the posts, Oleanna sat a good meter out from solid land, a plank or major leap of faith would be needed here to get off, but that didn’t bother us. A quick cat health and safety discussion, she’d get off okay, but would almost certainly arrive back on board wet. No shore leave today for any of us!

2 locks, 13.89 miles, 1 wind, 1 left, 1 straight on, 1 hour early, 2 minutes shore leave, 2 hire boats, 1 private boat, 3 work boats, 1 new key, 1 new key, 2 levels, 10 new posts, 1 contract to sign, 1 storm approaching, 0 Anglian Pass.

One thought on “Is This As Low As We Can Go? 18th May

  1. Brian Holt

    Good to see some new moorings being added to the Middle level, we often just tucked into a bank somewhere for the night

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