A Breath Of Air. 20th July

Barford Old Mill EA Mooring to Bedford GOBA Mooring

Thank goodness the temperature had dropped this morning. If it hadn’t been for Tilly we’d have most probably slept with the windows out last night, maybe even have had the front door open to help bring the cooling air inside. But Tilly isn’t aware that other cats get to go out at night time and just cuddles up on our bed to go to sleep, great on a night like last night!

And breath……

Today we had air to breath. The temperature outside now 21.4C and inside 23C. With a few hours cruising to do we were straight out of bed, had our first cuppa with breakfast, therefore saving us an hour at least. As we made ready to push off our neighbour on NB Atropos did the same. She’d aimed to leave early but after yesterdays heat had decided to award herself a little lie in. We still don’t know her name, but suspect we’ll cross paths another day when we can introduce ourselves properly.

Goodbye Atropos

Reversing out could have been a problem as we’d been sitting there for five days, but thankfully Oleanna sorted herself out quite quickly and pulled backwards back out onto the river and we were soon heading towards Bedford again.

The island we were on used to lead to a lock, Barford Old Mill Lock, we first passed what must have been a small weir and then the lock, the later identifiable by the curved recesses for the top gates. Barford Mill is mentioned in the Doomsday book and had a value of “2 shillings and 13 sticks of eels”. The corn mill ceased working in 1924 having become unsafe and was demolished in the 1950’s. In the early 20th Century it had a turbine and generated electricity.

First Lock of the day was Willington, vee gates at both ends. Past Danish Camp where big signs welcome people to it’s three bars and restaurants, yet another sign suggests you can only drop people off by boat, no mooring available! I suspect it was a very busy place over the weekend.

Kingfishers escorted us along, the navigation becoming narrower still now. The sound of human life increasing with every mile we travelled, we were getting closer to Bedford.

This is different

Castle Mill Lock looked similar to Willington, but there were no slackers/paddles in the gates. These sat in the centre of the lock island. One to fill the other to empty. The lock is deep, the water level changing by 6ft 11″ then add to that a good few more feet to the top of the chamber walls.

The width is just over 13ft so Mick decided to see what would happen as I filled the lock, our centre lines most probably not long enough to reach the bollards up top and then get back to him below. I gingerly wound the slacker, the rush of water sounding immense below my feet. The gear extends out so that you can see down to your boat, the water coming in at the centre of the lock below you. At first Oleanna was pushed to the opposite side of the lock, but as the level rose the pressure of the water went under her hull and pushed her back over, all quite gently as I gradually wound the paddle up. Winding it down was a little bit different as it seemed to slip as it got towards being closed, I just hope it was closed fully for the next boat.

Space there

A mental note was made of the vacant GOBA mooring not far on, this would be backup for us for the weekend, much further out of town, but possibly quieter. A wide beam sat just off the mooring enabling it to stay for longer than 48hrs.

Weed boats

Four EA work boats came towards us, two weed cutters, they’d most probably been busy around Bedford preparing the river for the Festival. Little pram covers had been fitted to a couple of them, the big cutters put onto the bank as we passed.

Cardington Lock, the narrowest on the river at 10ft 1″. This was set against us, but didn’t take long to sort out. Back to a guillotine gate at the top and a timer, the bottom gates cranked due to the proximity of the bridge making for a bit of heavy work.

Left after the toadstool!

Mick called Priory Marina to see if they had diesel and to ask where their pump was, not obvious on Google maps. We were given instructions that we’d find the pump on the left. Hawkeyed I stood in the bow, it took a while before I saw the sign. If she’d have said left after the big toadstools it would have been so much easier!

As we pulled up to the pump we passed NB Cleddau and NB Still-Waters both having a rest. A chap came to fill the tank, the pump stopping automatically at 100litres. We weren’t full, but that would do for us today. At the office Karen the manager was very friendly and helpful. She found information about when the Upper River would be dropped to enable more boats to get under the bridges, this would be Friday. Mick enquired if there might be any moorings over the weekend, there would be, we’d think about it. Karen didn’t know quite how far we’d get on our way up towards Kempston, levels are shallow at the moment and it is shallow up there anyway!

Very leafy and green

Back out on the river the next and last GOBA mooring on the river had a small cruiser on it. This is where we’d been hoping to moor for the weekend IF there is space. A chap at the marina said all the moorings were booked, but did he mean in town or did they include here too? We carried on upstream and pulled in on the only good bit of edge alongside the islands that sit between the Upper and Lower river. Here inflatables were being laid out, marquees and food and drink stands arriving. Small pontoons were being made into bridges for ease of access to the islands a great hive of activity.

The mooring would have required crampons to get on and off due to the high bank

As we had our lunch a car drove over towards us. Where we’d moored was marked out presumably for the reserved mooring spaces, a chap came for a chat. We thought we were about to be moved on, but no, once he realised we weren’t the boat he was expecting he offered us a mooring on the lower river for the weekend. By this time we’d already decided that being plugged in for a few days and getting to the bottom of the washing pile would be a good idea, especially as GOBA members get one night at the marina free when you pay for a second one. The thought of being alongside a fun fair, thousands of people walking past all the time day and night was not appealing, so we politely turned him down.

Tents going up

Below Bedford Lock is a water point close to the lock landing. We pulled up and connected our hose pipe and watched two chaps hoist up the last two sections of a marquee. I had a little wander over to where we’d be meeting people on Saturday, the geese being ever so busy trimming the grass and leaving deposits.

The John Bunyan making ready to turn into the lock

Whilst we filled the John Bunyan trip boat arrived, they’d just missed the lock being in their favour. This gave us chance to chat to the chap at the helm and ask how far we’d be able to go upstream. They now have a landing by Kempston Mill, but until a low bridge is either removed or raised their boat is unable to reach it. We were told that we may have to reverse some of the way back to be able to wind. Useful information.

A bridge too short

A Fireman came for a chat too, he was checking out the area for the weekend, they will be doing demonstrations and also have a couple of safety boats on the river. Today he was enjoying the calm before hundreds and thousands of people descend.

Tonights mooring

We made our way back to the GOBA mooring, had difficulty with depth, but then managed to tuck in with another boat who’d also been offered a mooring for the festival, they’d accepted.

Inviting Oasis Beach

A stock up shop at Tescos took us past the pyramids of the Oasis Beach Pool, now looking like it needs masses of maintenance and looking very unloved. Once back Tilly was given a couple of hours shore leave, her first impression wasn’t too good, but she got over her initial thoughts and spent a lot of time in the tall grasses.


Rain clouds had followed us for much of the afternoon and finally around 7pm the heavens opened. Proper rain, we were sat back inside with all the doors and windows closed listening to it hammering down on the roof. We’ll need an awful lot more similar showers to help fill the reservoirs back up around the system. At least we got to watch the TV this evening without a fan constantly going round to keep us cool.

Thank goodness for some fresh air.

3 locks, 7.15 miles, 1 reverse, 2 winds, 13 sticks of eels, 100 litres, 4 kingfishers, 1 marina booked, 1 free night, 0 gas, 1 free mooring turned down, 1 trip boat, 1 festival coming together, 300,000 to 500,000 people expected! 2 hours shore leave, 1 model box on it’s way, 10 degrees lower, ahhhh!