Pumping It Up. 13th June

Padnal Fen GOBA mooring to Prickwillow EA Mooring

Prickwillow mooring

Around a bend and a kink of the River Lark lies Prickwillow. A water point and two EA moorings, both empty when we arrived. We pulled in at the end furthest away from the road and got both hoses out to fill up on water. We were soon joined by a narrowboat that had breasted up to us in Ely on Saturday at the services, they were heading to the same place as us, Prickwillow Drainage Engine Museum.

A happy museum

Housed in the old pump house the museum covers the history of the Fens, the drainage of them and as suggested by it’s name has a collection of engines that used to pump the water up from the land into the rivers.

The drain behind the museum

A very enthusiastic chap greeted us at the door and took our entrance fee. He then spent time explaining about the exhibits, how to access more information on items, which way to walk round the museum and then sat us down to watch a ten minute film about the Fens and their drainage.

Vermuyden’s scheme alongside 1949

We heard about the Fens, stilt walking, how peat when drained can shrink the height of a man in the life time of a man, which explains how the rivers ended up being so much higher than the surrounding land. The 1947 floods. Vermuyden and his plans, sluices, redirecting rivers, the Relief Channel, the Cut Off Channel and then about the engines that worked the pumps.

Sadly the steam engines that used to do the work were all replaced by diesel engines before anyone had the idea to form a collection and then a museum. Several engines stand in the engine sheds, their green paint complimented by reds and blues. From two cylinder to four cylinder engines, the smell of ingrained oil hangs in the air.

Oooo, sounds!

For those who love the sound of old engines there are buttons you can press to hear them in action. On certain days of the year they have them all up and running, but sadly for us today wasn’t one of them. I suspect the place would have been a lot busier.

Collections of items fill any spare space left by the engines. Each item logged with a number that you can look up on their website. From obvious spades of all different shapes and sizes to eel catching tools. Pressure cookers to ice skates (there was even a pair that would fit your feet Frank). Mole traps, bread paddles, potato folks, psygrometer which measures relative humidity in the air but resembles a football rattle.

Then lots of photographs regarding the floods in 1947. It was these that brought about the current drainage channels all quite closely based on the plans that Vermuyden had had back in the 1650’s. People clung to the flood banks the surrounding areas covered in water. The army were brought in to help raise the flood banks, one chap in the photos the spitting image of a friend Michael who I used to work with in Scarborough.

Windmills with scoopwheels

A very informative afternoon. A well laid out museum run by enthusiastic volunteers with so much information to hand should you want it. Well worth a visit, but beware they are only open Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays.

We then had a walk around the village. We’d spotted the church as we’d pulled in. The grounds were very over grown, lights were on inside and a car parked beside it. Should we look in through the open door, was it now a private house? I sneaked a photo of what looked like a figure, it turned out to be what looked like a set of armour, home made leaning against the wall. After hunting round on the internet I found an article regarding St Peter’s Church. It was bought by a couple two years ago to be turned into an arts centre/studio space with two apartments in the north and south transepts. I suspect there is still a LOT of work to be done.

Plenty of shelves with not much on them

Further along the road is a house set back which is totally engulfed in ivy apart from it’s wheelie bin. The old school house, a Baptist church which is currently under offer to be converted into a house. On the parish notice board there were invites to a wine and book club, a plant and seed swap in the village phone box. We peeked in to see what might be on offer in the phone box only to find two dried out twigs!

A long overdue catch up with the London Leckenbys was had during the afternoon, Josh is in the thick of his GCSE’s, Andrew is busy with work and Jac was full of her recent trip back to Melbourne to see her family.

0 locks, 1.5 miles, 1 load washing, 1 full water tank, 1 mardy cat, 1 museum, 8 big engines, 36786 exhibits, 1 Michael, 1 transgender Einstein, 2 repurposed churches, 2 twigs, 2 more weeks of exams.

2 thoughts on “Pumping It Up. 13th June

    1. Pip

      Glad I don’t have to do that with our Beta 43 every morning! Glow plugs make life much easier!

Comments are closed.