The Thing About Islands. 5th July

Dolphin EA Mooring to Houghton EA Mooring

Wisteria just past its best

The Norris Museum opened in 1933, purpose built to house the collection of Herbert Ellis Norris who left it and money to establish a museum and library in St Ives, a museum for the people of Huntingdonshire. A recreation of his study stands at one end of the museum.

Local finds

The museum traces the history of St Ives from the Romans, through to Medieval times when the great fair was held every Easter, one of four main wool fairs in England, traders flocked from right across the country and others came from abroad. Mick recited the following rhyme to me the other day, although it could just as easily be relating to the other St Ives.

As I was going to St Ives, I met a man with seven wives, Each wife had seven sacks, Each sack had seven cats, Each cat had seven kits: Kits, cats, sacks, and wives, How many were there going to St Ives?

Ammonite, a big one!

By the end of the 13th Century fairs were loosing their popularity in favour of places where goods were traded all year round, Flemish weavers out-competed the areas cloth making industry. Then followed poor harvests and the Black Death which killed half the population.

The Anglo Saxons settled in the area and founded the village of Slepe which became St Ives. Ramsey Abbey was one of the richest in the country and with a wooden bridge across the Great Ouse the town prospered. Oliver Cromwell was born in Huntingdon and for a time was a tenant farmer in St Ives.


There were freezes (good for skating), floods, a great fire which burnt down a large proportion of the town. Mechanical methods in farming brought about unemployment of farm labourers, the landowners grew richer whilst the workers rioted.


Outside in the courtyard a wonderful wisteria covers the building and lavender bushes line the paths. The museum may be small but it is looked after by very enthusiastic people, we nearly spent as long chatting to one chap as we did looking at the displays.

Push Mick!

Time to move the boat, Mick umphed the stern out and we were soon reversing out of the arm. We winded and then headed over the other side of the river and up another arm alongside the Norris Museum to fill with water. Here were NB Casper and NB Mosi-y-Tunya. Brian and Ann on Casper invited us to breast up so that we could fill with water, the pressure not the best so there was plenty of time to have a chat with them. We seem to have a lot in common with them, Yorkshire and theatre. It was good to actually have chance to talk to you today and our paths will cross again upstream somewhere.

Bye bye Ann

Backwards down the arm as there’s nowhere to wind, we then turned and headed upstream making note of the nice GOBA mooring on the outskirts of town. Up Hemingford Lock, another D shaped lock and past Hemingford Grey. Heather had mentioned the other day about the Manor House. Not quite so easy to just turn up as you need to book to go round the house and this is done either by email or phone. We’ll think about it on our way back.

We aimed for the Houghton EA Moorings. I’d spotted that they were really quite close to Houghton Mill a National Trust property. Last night I had booked us onto a tour round the mill for first thing on Wednesday morning, it’s only open weekends and Wednesdays. With a long stretch of moorings we tucked ourselves at the end and let Tilly out, four hours of shore leave.

During the afternoon we discovered that the blog had reached it’s maximum size! I’d been having difficulty uploading photos, so left it with Mick to see what had happened and see if he could sort things. We really can’t have used 20 GB this year!

Busy making hay

I decided to head off for a walk, see where we needed to go in the morning and have a nosy around some of the islands that make up the area. The one we were moored opposite was being mown and the hay was rapidly being bailed up.

I walked with purpose to the other end of the island where the path petered out. Hang on!

I checked my map.

Another lovely GOBA mooring, so long as you don’t want to get off it!

We were on an island, with no means of getting off it without a boat. We have a boat, but there is nowhere else to moor Oleanna close to the mill. Oh B**er! I walked back and chatted to a lovely couple on a cruiser who knew the area very well. We could maybe go up the lock and pull in where a boat used to moor, they pointed out roughly where they meant as boats went past. Or we could tie up on the lock landing for our visit. Or we could go back and moor at Hemingford Grey Meadow and walk from there in the morning. Hmmm, what to do?

A whole island to explore!

During the afternoon I’d had a much awaited for email. My Panto script has arrived! It is now printed out and awaiting a first read, all very exciting!

1 lock, 2.55 miles, 2 reverses, 2 winds, 3 familiar boats, 1 museum, 1 full water tank, 1 island mooring, 0 way off, 2 tours booked, 1 change of plan required, 1 ecstatic cat, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval, 1 panto script, 1 boater about to change into a designer.