It’s Coming! 21st July

Bedford GOBA Mooring to Kempston Mill to Bedford GOBA Mooring

The river festival

Today was the day we hoped to reach the end of the navigable River Great Ouse, however there was a stoppage notice regarding ‘unforeseen circumstances during tree removal works, the river is closed near to Queens Park, Bedford.‘ A look on various maps and we concluded that this was upstream of Bedford. Hopefully whatever blockage would be clear by the time we got there, we’d see how far we could get and if needs be we’d reverse.

Heatwave eggs for breakfast

The stoppage notices seem to get published on the Visit Anglian Waterways EA Facebook page, we haven’t been able to find some means of getting them sent to us by email. So the notice had been published yesterday and facebook had only allowed us to see it this morning!

We headed back upstream, under the low bridges, temporary pontoon bridges still leading to nowhere, more portaloos arrived, areas of wheelie bins cordoned off. Two lads studied plans alongside a load of scaffolding, I wondered how far they’d get in erecting what ever it was by the time we came back. The park between the upper and lower river was very very busy.

Our last lock up on the Great Ouse

As I was wanting to lift the guillotine gate at the top of Bedford Lock two chaps were rigging something from the structure above. A sound cable needed to be sent across the river to connect the PA systems, an 8ft pole was erected then the cable would be taken across the river and attached to a high place on the north bank keeping it high out of the way. I asked how they’d get it across, I’d hoped the reply would be drone or bow and arrow, but it was just by boring boat! We weren’t a problem to them so the gate could be lifted to raise us up onto the final reach of the river.

It would have been nice to head east on the upper river to have a look at the bridges, but more temporary pontoon bridges stretched across the water, so we turned to the west and started to head up stream.

Mooring numbers reached 81 along the banks. Council chaps were removing duck and blanket weed from ponds, aided by a digger to scoop it up.

Under Town Bridge which will be closed to traffic at the weekend as brass bands will be playing there. From the Swan Hotel to Bedford Borough Council the architecture changed every way you looked. Then modern shopping and restaurants took over the north bank.


More bridges, including two very low ones carrying the railway overhead.

Now the river seems to follow a much more rural route, trees everywhere. Had we reached the stretch where the unforeseen circumstance had occurred? Was this the tree? Was that it?

When we eventually reached the tree there was no denying it would have been a problem. The sawn stump of a tree was very evident and on the opposite bank the undergrowth had been dragged away as the huge tree had been dragged up the bank by machinery. A chap remarked that we’d timed that well, the tree had been moved just thirty minutes earlier. We came across two more chaps with chain saws chopping into more trees upstream too. I wonder if the River Festival stirs the EA into action this far upstream?

Another tree being sawn up

We carried on, the river bending in front of us. The further we got the slower we went, a fisherman had warned us of it being very shallow a mile upstream, but on the big bends it seemed to be fine. Mick kept our speed down, if we got stuck we might be there for some time as not many people venture this far upstream.

Was this as far as we could get? Yes!

Up ahead the new landing stage for the trip boat came into view beside another low bridge and modern housing, one building mimicking an old mill that once stood here. Our speed slowed right down. Oleanna started to ground, we needed to find the deeper water on the port side. A touch of reverse then Mick changed our course, slowly moving us along. We grounded again, Oleanna being attracted to the lower water.

Maybe if we could wind where it was wider. We only made one attempt at this as it was obvious the depth would not be sufficient for this manoeuvre, this along with the current we could end up in bigger trouble, being pushed further aground. We’d not reached the end of the navigable river as marked on our maps, but we’d reached as far as we could and that was good enough for us, just a shame we couldn’t get to the landing stage and have a little walk round.

This is where one day, in the future, the plan is to connect the Great Ouse with the Grand Union Canal with the Bedford and Milton Keynes Waterway. The new bridge by the landing stage may inhibit some larger boats coming this way, but so would the bridges into Bedford. When it is connected it will make a fantastic ring and we’d now be able to just cruise another 16 miles, climb up 21 locks, drop down another 20 and join the GU in Milton Keynes. Instead we’ll have to retrace ourselves back to Denver, across the Middle Level to Peterborough then back up the River Nene to Northampton and up the locks to the GU.

Heading back down stream

We made the decision to reverse our way back to where the river was a touch wider to wind. We managed this without too much bother and then carried on back down stream. The tree chaps still moving branches out of our way as we went.

Now they look familiar

As we approached Bedford a widebeam was winding and then pulling into their mooring or the weekend. Another boat could be seen settling themselves in, NB Cleddau. We pulled over to have a chat with Sue and Ken, we’ll be calling in for a longer chat over the weekend.

I walked up to the lock, a small cruiser was just coming in followed by a short narrowboat and then another cruiser, it all taking time to squash them in. This lock is going to be very busy over the next few days. Mick hung about in the upper river staking our claim to be next down and not another pontoon bridge that had just arrived.

Down hill for a while now

Our first downhill lock until we reach sea level again.

The chaps with the scaffolding hadn’t made much if any progress since we’d passed them two hours earlier, I hope they get it sorted quickly as the Festival is only a day and a half away, It’s coming quickly!

Very slow progress

Back at the GOBA mooring we winded and joined NB Lily May, Chris and Chris are friends of Heathers and Chris is also the author of the Imray Guide to the Great Ouse. They have a lovely black cat called Icarus, but sadly Tilly didn’t seem too happy about his presence, so she was grounded until his shore leave was curtailed.

Our neighbours for the night

Paul the boatmover came past and in his jolly manner was saying hello to everyone. Good job he stopped for a chat, on his own boat rather than someone else’s. The lady in the marina had said that the river would be lowered on Friday, the reach that we are moored on. Paul said that they lower it by a foot maybe even more so that cruisers can get under the next bridge to us to access the moorings for the festival. If we headed out for the day we’d return to our boat firmly sat on the bottom and needing ropes and crampons to get on and off! This also happens on Sunday to let all the cruisers out again. Good job we’ve booked into the marina!

I spy a cat in this outside!

Time to knuckle down to do some work, with a meeting tomorrow I need to update things and stop being a boater for a bit.

2 locks, the same one there and back, 6.75 miles or there abouts, 2 winds, 2 lefts, 1 landing stage just out of reach, 0.25miles in reverse, 3 known boats, 2 boat cats, 1 war avoided, 2nd story board, 1 boater changing hats, 1 more river ticked of.

One thought on “It’s Coming! 21st July

  1. adrian2013

    Ahh shame you didn’t get to the head of the marked navigation, I presume Paul has?
    Interesting photos though and brilliantly timed with the tree gone.
    Heatwave eggs umm ok they’ll do!

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