What A Relief! 3rd June

Denver EA Mooring to Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalen EA Mooring

Mushrooms ala Mick

It felt like a Sunday today, so with not much in the fridge except mushrooms Mick cooked them up and we had them on a couple of slices of toast for breakfast. Then it was time to move on, we couldn’t dally as we needed to find a suitable mooring.

Denver Sluice

Around Denver there are all sorts of structures, sluices here there and everywhere. We headed over to the east towards the Relief Channel Lock. Here two sets of pointing gates drop you down onto the Relief Channel, the lock is fully automated, despite the instructions suggesting you need a windlass.

Time for the Abloy Key of Power, our key ring is getting a touch full. A boat had just gone down the lock, so the bottom gates needed closing then the lock filling for us to enter. This lock is a slow filler, thank goodness you don’t have to keep your finger on the button! It is also a slow emptier the slackers/paddles only moving by about foot, so you have to be patient as your boat slowly drops the 2meters. It was nice to be changing height again, but I have to say I miss working locks.

Going down!

Vermuyden back in the 1640’s, proposed works to help relieve the Ely Ouse of extra water, but it wasn’t until 1964 that the Relief Channel and Cut Off Channel were constructed. The Cut Off Channel diverts waters away from the Rivers Wissey, Little Ouse and Lark in times of flood by partially closing the rivers. The extra water runs towards Denver where the Impounding Sluice joins it to the Relief Channel, taking the waters 11 miles further downstream before it joins the Tidal Great Ouse near Kings Lynn.

Turning below the lock, Cut Off Channel behind

In 2001 the lock connecting the channel to the River Great Ouse, above Denver, was constructed and three sets of visitor moorings added.

The Channel is wide, deep and fairly straight. Today it was windy out there. Swans took off in front of us hoping to loose us, only to find we’d catch them up again, necessitating another take off, time and time again, until they either diverted their route to behind us or over towards the tidal river.

Downham Market moorings chocka

The first mooring at Downham Market is long, able to hold quite a few boats. Today it was very full, good job we’d not been wanting to stop there today. Our guide book suggests that there is more to the town than just Haygates flour mill, which sits alongside the channel. The town used to be renowned for it’s butter market, moving large quantities up to Cambridge on the river.

Not many bridges around here

The next mooring follows at Stowbridge close to a pub. Today two narrowboats filled the pontoon busy with boat chores, everyone waved as we waved back. Another half hour north we passed under a footbridge where a canoeist lolled with his back to us, we moved over so as not to disturb him.

Would there be space for us?

Then the next and final pontoon at Wiggenhall St Marys Magdalen came into view. There was the cruiser I’d seen at the lock and what looked like a narrowboat, would there be space for us? As we got closer we could see there were two narrowboats breasted up. To our relief a lady came dashing down the ramp and untied the inner narrowboat and starting to pull it back towards the cruiser making space for us. The wind didn’t help us moor as the bow kept being pushed towards the bank which in turn pushed the stern out, but we got there in the end, Oleanna’s bow over hanging the pontoon.


The lady from the breasted up pair was very chatty, offered us a lift to the pub tonight and introduced us to Freddie her Irish Terrier. He wanted to come and say hello, but immediately got distracted by a scent, Tilly! Blimey Tilly smelt soo good, he was all over Oleanna as Tilly watched on from the Houdini shelf. She had been hoping that the friendly cover could be explored, but being on a pontoon the health and safety committee had already made their decision. Now with Freddie sniffing the air at the open window where Tilly sat, only an inch or two away, their decision was reinforced!

It took Freddie quite a while to actually be able to see Tilly through the glass. At that moment their noses were less than an inch apart with a sheet of glass thankfully between them, Tilly now three times her normal size! Freddie was immediately put back on a lead and taken inside his boat.

Finishing touches, including some clamping

Summer clothes were retrieved from under the bed a smart shirt brought out to be washed. Winter clothing was not fully stowed away, but that will need to happen before I start on my panto model as my clothes cupboard is where I store it away from feline jaws. Then it was time to finish off my project. Fittings, securing, wires twisted, glue applied, foam added for comfort and a final fitting. All was finished and ready.

Relief Channel on the left, Tidal River Great Ouse right

Time for a walk over Magdalen Bridge which crosses the Tidal River Great Ouse, the tide was out. Down stream of here lies Kings Lynn and then The Wash, which if crossed with the aid of a pilot would take us to Boston and then further north on the River Witham. That trip will be for another time.

A fine looking church

The village was covered in bunting as to be expected. The church sitting proudly in the centre. A fish and chip shop round the next corner smelt good, but I returned up Prophets Lane which led to the river bank and back across the bridge to Oleanna where there would have been just enough room for another boat to breast up alongside us.

Quite a full pontoon

A couple of weeks ago I asked if the Middle Level was as low as we could get on the network. A few days later Paul from Waterway Routes replied with this answer.

The Middle Levels between Ashline and Marmont Priory Locks is maintained at 35cm below Ordnance Datum (approximately seal level), although the level will vary a little after rain etc. The Relief Channel summer level is approximately 98cm below Ordnance Datum (sea level), although this level isn’t maintained particularly accurately so you could be more than a metre below sea level at times.

So we are now the lowest we can be, below sea level!

Swimming below sea level

1 lock, 6.9 miles, 1 right, 1 left, 3 moorings, 2 boats pulled back, 1 Freddie, 3 times bigger, 1 last mooring space, 2 relieved boaters, 2 fixings, 2 fittings, 1 project complete, 1 fridge just about empty.