The 4th Point. 30th May

Brandon Lock EA Mooring to New Fen GOBA Mooring

Returning boat

The cruiser that went up through the lock yesterday returned, we think they must have been to the end of the navigable Little Ouse to moor overnight, somewhere we can’t go. After breakfast Tilly came back when called so that we could head out to have a look around Brandon and see if I could find some filler for my project.

Nice mooring

We walked upstream along the river to where Brandon Bridge crosses, passing a short narrowboat on it’s home mooring and a winding hole long enough for 40ft boats. Up alongside the busy road was our first view of flint used a lot in the building of houses round here. Today we’d see lots more of it.

Decorative dentist

Brandon is the flint capital of the Brecks. The town has had connections to the mineral for centuries, from flint axe heads to gunflint. Since the Neolithic period flint has been mined in the area, Grime’s Graves, a few miles out of town, is a prehistoric mine dating back to 2800BC. Brandon’s mines and flint knapping trades meant that it was the first choice by the British Army to supply gunflints during the Napoleonic War and in the 1790’s they produced over one million flints a month.


On the north bank of the river there is the station and the Suffolk Norfolk border. Here large coaching houses sit opposite each other, it was obviously change over day as people walked along the footpath with large bags of laundry. A quick visit to Aldi came up trumps on the filler front, they also had beetroot so our weeks menu has reverted back to include risotto.

A typical High Street took us away from the the river, large houses sitting next to small terraces. More and more buildings showing off the local flint. Even what must have been the Post Office at one time displayed fractured squares.

The more corners we turned the more flint we’d see even flint cobbles along the side of the road.

Not one blade of grass on the gunnel

Time for an early lunch before we’d head for the lock. As we sat eating two chaps arrived, lawnmower and strimmer to cut round the mooring and lock. After they’d cut along the mooring, one of them returned with a leaf blower removing any grassy residue from Oleanna’s cabin side. The chap then caught Mick’s attention.

He’d come to warn us about the depth just in front of us. Last time they were at the lock there was a narrowboat who tried to wind, he’d put his bow in towards the slipway and turned, his stern getting very well and truly stuck in the silt. The EA chaps ended up having to assist him. The chap said we should have a good look to see where the shallow bits were as it was quite shallow towards the entrance for the lock. We’d done a recky yesterday, the clear water helpful to see the sandy silt below and just how shallow it was in parts.

Tilly the furthest east she’s been

Mick chatted to the chap saying we were hoping to be able to get our bow into the lock, this being the furthest east on the connected network we’d be able to take Oleanna. A photo for the scrap book and the final point (East) ticked off the navigable compass for her. He seemed to think we’d manage it, maybe he was just humouring us! If we ended up in difficulty they would be around for another hour and could lend a hand. If we ended up getting well and truly stuck they would be able to open up the sluice to help flush us out, but they’d need to seek authority to do that first.

It couldn’t be that shallow, surly!

Maybe a touch too close to the sandbank

I pushed off the bow and walked up to the sluice to take photos of Oleanna not fitting in the lock whilst Mick positioned her to turn towards it. The sandbank reaches out quite a long way, so cutting the corner wouldn’t work, an almost 90 degree turn then another were needed. Mick tried and tried. Oleanna’s length and depth just wouldn’t get past the sandbank on the bend, the current from the sluice not assisting in our aim. Just getting back to where we’d started from took some doing! Photo opportunity had to be aborted, we would simply not get to the lock and back out again.

A better angle but still no joy

I was picked up from the mooring. Our guide book suggests leaving your stern rope attached to a bollard on the mooring and then letting the current swing your bow round to wind. But the shallowness and width of the river didn’t look good, we were certain it would not be sufficient to let us turn.

The furthest facing east we were going to get

Mick headed towards the sluice, this would be the furthest east we’d get Oleanna, so at least that ambition could be ticked off as it was the furthest east it was possible to get her.


He turned the bow towards the lock, reversing back, the current pushed the bow round so far. After some toing and froing, giving the engine some wellie we found ourselves facing the opposite direction. Phew! The only problem was we were stuck, sitting on the bottom!

I headed to the bow, moving weight sometimes helps in such situations. I rocked from side to side a touch. The bow moved, but the stern was held fast. Behind us the river seemed to get shallower and we were too far over towards the lock where it was also too shallow. Blasts of forwards and reverse, no use.


The barge pole was retrieved from the roof. Mick tried pushing the stern out back into what we hoped would be deeper water. I could see an inch or two of movement, or was that just the bow moving round a touch. Every now and then the EA chap looked up from his grass cutting, he’d seen we’d winded and gave us a thumbs up, little did he know we wouldn’t be going anywhere soon!


Then the stern started to move, we reversed back into slightly deeper water. Mick engaged forward gear and pushed the tiller over to get the bow clear of the sandbank. But at the bow I could see this was pointless as we’d be on the bank again. We really needed to go further back, just by another couple of feet to be able to swing and get ourselves free. I shouted back to him. Back into reverse, as soon as the bow would clear of the sandbank I gave him the thumbs up. We had just enough water beneath Oleanna to make the move and swung back into the narrow channel.

Thank ****** for that! We really didn’t want to have the EA chaps open a sluice up for us or be stuck at the most eastern point on the network we could get Oleanna to!

The EA chap now waved and gave us a big thumbs up as we started to make our way back west again. If it gets dredged we’d possibly like to try again, but today nature just stopped us.


Our return trip was grey and rainy. We hoped we’d be okay for a night back at the GOBA New Fen mooring, it’s one of those places where you shouldn’t return within 48 hours, but we were returning from the end, anyhow there’d only been one other boat moored there.

Craning in

Recently sheered sheep ran ahead of us. Cows stood up to give us the once over and a peddleo was about to be craned into the water at the nice house. Numerous birds swooped and chatted away around us and the dart of a Kingfisher kept us on our toes.

A windbreak, now that’s an idea

As we rounded the last bend to the moorings we could see boats. Three stretching out along the uneven edge. We pulled in after a hallow section, we were more prepared this time with spikes already in hands. The stern was tied up first, then the bow, followed by the plank being put into action.

Three hours Tilly! She was happy with this new outside!


I got on with thinning down some filler and so far it’s done the job I was hoping it would do. It just needs to dry over night before it gets sanded. Then I’ll see if it will need another coat, before some paint and a touch more detailing is applied.

The temperature dropped again at 6pm so the stove was lit for another evening and Tilly’s shore leave was curtailed by half an hour, well our toes were getting mightily cold with a door open!

0 locks, 0 bow in lock, 5.92 miles, 40 minute wind, 4th compass point ticked off, 2 outsides, 1 flint capital, 1 tube of filler, 1 project filled, 1 bunch beetroot, 1 cosy boat.

3 thoughts on “The 4th Point. 30th May

    1. Pip

      We had to give it a try, just a shame we couldn’t get right to the end. Hey-ho

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