Category Archives: Old West River

2022 Back To Exploring

Time for the annual round, a long post so sit back, put your feet up and enjoy.

The New Year kicked off with winter maintenance in the house. Having two hallways proved time consuming refreshing the woodwork and patching up the worst of the wallpaper. But this was broken up with weekly walks to see the sea. I resumed work on the development showing of #unit21 for Dark Horse and a Christmas present of a cheese making kit proved very tasty in creating my first ever Yorkshire Curd Cheese Cake from scratch. I plan on having a second go at this soon!

In February work progressed in Huddersfield towards opening night, the floor painted, final costume fittings and then the set and lighting added. All while Mick serviced our life jackets and Tilly grew more and more bored of life in the house.

Once the show was opened we had a trip down to London to catch up with the London Leckenbys for a belated Christmas, on our way back we visited Oleanna. When ever we could we visited Blue Water Marina to do jobs and have a pack up lunch. The stove was reblacked, walls washed down and cupboards sorted through.

Then at the end of February, Mick and I left Tilly in charge of the house, we packed enough clothes and food for a couple of days boating and headed to Thorne to move Oleanna through Thorne Lock before a winter stoppage began. Blimey it was chilly out there, but wonderful to be back afloat and moving Oleanna to Goole. Now we were all set to move back onboard and have a few weeks of pootling about in Yorkshire.

Back at the house we made it ready for the first of this years lodgers. Our boat Christmas tree was retired into the back garden where we hoped it would thrive, this of course was before we knew a drought was on it’s way! Tilly said goodbye to the dragon that lives up the chimney, left Seville and Valencia to look after the house before having to endure the car trip back to boat life.

After a few days sorting ourselves, including having one of Joan’s gluten free Chinese takeaways, we unplugged Oleanna and backed out from our mooring at Goole Marina (Boat House). We spent the next three weeks bobbing about between Pollington Lock, Doncaster and Goole. Maintenance jobs were ticked off the list.

Alistair did engine and weedhatch jobs, Frank joined us a couple of times to do carpentry jobs, our galley drawers no longer have a life of their own, the covers had a good scrub and a spray of Wet and Forget to help them keep clean.

In March I’d set myself a charity challenge, to knit as many pairs of socks in the month as I could. Nine pairs knitted for people in return for sponsorship, I also got a very generous donation of yarn from Lisa on NB Summer Wind.

Our plans had had to change as Thorne Lock still hadn’t closed, but was about to! Plans to visit York and West Yorkshire were abandoned, we’d bought ourselves a Gold Licence for the year so wanted to make the most of it. So on March 24th with all the jobs done we turned our backs on Goole and set off into the sunset to see where 2022 would take us, all three of us grinning from ear to ear.

We made our way to Keadby ready for our booked passage on the tidal River Trent, the fast route south. A phone call from a boating friend in need of support meant we’d be doing our best to make use of the spring tide to reach Cromwell in one go despite the weather forecast. We spent a couple of days doing what we could to help in Newark before we needed to be on the move again.

On upstream to The Trent and Mersey keeping up our cruising hours and Tilly hoping we’d stop with enough time for her to explore each day before cat curfew.

Up to Fradley then onto the Coventry Canal, we played leapfrog with NB Free Spirit for a couple of days.

Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, up the Curdworth Flight then a turn left onto a section of the Grand Union we’d not been on before at Star City. Up Garrison Locks, Typhoo Basin and then the Ashted Locks where we now have the measure of that Tunnel! A mooring space at the top of Farmers Bridge had our name on it. This was handy for a road trip to swap lodgers and for visits to the dentist. It also meant we were in shot when a group came to jump the top lock!

Fast forward to 6:15

Our route out of Bumingham saw us through Edgbaston Tunnel, down Lapworth followed by Hatton. A pause was needed for Tilly’s annual visit to a new vet, the one here the closest to the canal we’ve visited so far, also handy for The Cape of Good Hope!

At Napton we joined the Oxford Canal and headed for Braunston, pausing to stock up on goodies from the butcher. On the Grand Union we made our way up over the hill and started our descent down The Long Buckby flight back towards tidal waters.

On the 1st of May we turned left at Gayton Junction onto the Northampton Arm dropping down the flight to the River Nene. We’d only been this way once before and that was when we’d just bought Lillian (NB Lillyanne) back in 2014. We bought ourselves a second Abloy key, showed our Gold Licence to the chap at Northampton Marina and started our journey down stream, time to explore.

A decision was made to head down to Peterborough taking note of places we’d want to visit on our return journey. We worked our way through the guillotine locks, many button operated and others with the wheel of cardiovascular overload.

Tilly loved many of the moorings apart from those in Peterborough where crowds surrounded the boat and meant returning from shore leave was impossible for several hours.

In two weeks we reached the end of the river at the Dog in a Doublet Lock. Here the river becomes tidal, we’d save that trip for another time and turned back upstream to head for the Middle Level.

Here we wanted to explore all the drainage channels, but decided we’d do that on our return too. So we took the direct route and crossed the low lying waters in three days arriving at Salters Lode on Mick’s birthday. The levels out on the tidal stretch of the Great Ouse needing to be just right to get through the lock, turn and head upstream to Denver Sluice.

A lovely GOBA mooring was found on the River Wissey and eventually the sun came out for a birthday barbeque, we’d made it to the Great Ouse.

The remainder of May was spent exploring the River Wissey, Ely and The Little Ouse. Brandon Lock sits at the most easterly point on the connected navigable network for boats Oleanna’s size. Sadly a build up of silt stopped us from getting her bow into the lock, but we did get her as far east as was possible, ticking off the fourth point of the compass.

There was a trip to Hull Truck to meet old friends at a gala evening followed by a meet up with Micks family back in the Fens. At the end of the month we got to know Neil the seal at Ten Mile Bank moorings as he basked in the sun and took sunset dips in the river.

The Jubilee was seen in at Denver, we lit our guiding lights as a Lancaster Bomber flew overhead heading to see the Queen. The Relief Channel gave us a good mooring to be able to have a trip away to celebrate Dawn and Lee’s 50th Birthdays in Scarborough, we went as Wallace and Gromit and won an Oscar!

Another visit to Ely to see the Cathedral, Farmers market and meet up with Heather from NB Bleasdale, the first of many this summer. The River Lark was explored, the end of navigation reached with a handy mooring outside a pub.

We headed for the Cam, our paths crossing for the first time with Ken and Sue from NB Cleddau. Then onwards in to Cambridge where we visited colleges, ate chilled medication and had a day trip to Duxford so that Mick could sit in the pilots seat of a Trident 2, a seat his Dad had sat in on many a flight.

Oleanna squeezed along each of the three Lodes, Wicken, Burwell and Reach. Wicken Lode a magical place and a day visit to Anglesey Abbey with it’s wonderful gardens.

Then we headed onto the Old West a river with a very different feel than the Ely Ouse. A pause was needed when we reached Earith for us to have a tour of Heathers new to her boat GT. Once off the tidal water we were on a different Great Ouse again. Here St Ives, St Neots and Hemingford gave us sunsets, D shaped locks, huge meadows and wonderful towns and villages to explore.

As the temperatures started to rise I needed to do some work. Cruising happened in the mornings, my Panto script and sketches were done in the shade of what trees we could find. White sheets were bought and we hoped for a mooring with shade for the really hot days that were to come. Tilly took to lying on the floor and we took to wearing wet t-shirts to help us to keep cool. Thankfully the hot blast only lasted a couple of days then the temperature dropped and we could continue to head upstream.

July 21st we reached the navigable limit of the River Great Ouse, having to reverse some distance to be able to turn round and return to Bedford for the River Festival.

Here we met up with Ken and Sue, Jennie and Chris from NB Tentatrice and Heather again. Plenty of things to see, do and hear. The boat parades, raft races, vintage cars, all sorts kept us busy for the two days.

Now at the end of July we alternated the days between cruising and my work. More beautiful days cruising and more wonderful sunsets, one day off to visit Cambridge for some more chilled medication and to see the Hockney exhibition.

August saw more hot days. Trips to London to celebrate birthdays, panto meetings, catch up with best friends and travellers over from Australia.

On the 15th August we crossed back from Denver Sluice to the Middle Level having really enjoyed our three months on the Great Ouse. Now water levels were a worry along with having enough time to reach Oxford for me to go to work in October. We made the decision to come back and explore the Middle Level another year, maybe we’ll cross The Wash to get there!

By the end of August our progress up stream on the River Nene slowed to a halt. First one lock broke then another two ahead of us. We’d recently been accepted to join the Reflections Flotilla on the Thames to mark the Queens Jubilee in a few weeks time, now that time was ticking away.

When we did get moving again we had to make up our cruising hours. With the news of the passing of the Queen we didn’t know if the flotilla would still be going ahead, we carried on at pace waiting for news. Back up the River Nene, turning onto the Grand Union, working our way southwards. The news came through that the flotilla would go ahead, but now in remembrance of the Queen.

With a couple of days to spare we squeezed into the Eco-Moorings by Islington Tunnel. Two days of catching up with family and more friends over from Australia before we joined boats heading along the Regents Canal towards Limehouse Basin. An afternoon of activity saw numerous narrowboats festooned with white lights.

On the 24th of September the Thames barrier was closed and we all headed out of Limehouse Lock up stream to Chelsea where we clung onto buoys until the early evening when the flotilla started to muster.

Getting on for 150 boats all displaying white lights got into formation and headed down stream. Crowds stood on the illuminated bridges and Tower Bridge opened up in a royal salute as we passed underneath. What a truly amazing day.

Now we had to head towards Banbury, back round the Regents Canal as a leak in the engine bay needed testing on the calm waters of the canal rather than the tideway. By the time we reached Brentford we were confident with Oleanna’s engine again. On the Thames Tilly got a birthday present of a night on a Cliveden Island. Sadly we got an unexpected present on our arrival in Oxford, a second red line on a covid test! Panto painting couldn’t be put off so we made our way gradually up the Oxford Canal keeping our distance from people at locks and taking maximum doses of paracetamol.

A week of painting in Banbury before I moved to Chipping Norton to stack up the hours over the next four weeks getting the 50th anniversary panto ready. Rendez Vousing with Oleanna at weekends in Banbury and Coventry kept me sane. Mick had to single hand across the summit of the Oxford Canal to avoid the first of the winter stoppages.

All three of us were back onboard by mid November, covid free and vaccinated. We took things slowly now, time to rest up, meet friends, gather family and pootle towards Christmas. Our 20th Anniversary was celebrated with a Chinese takeaway at Alvecote Marina, a planned stop which ended up being extended due to plummeting temperatures. The canal froze, there’d be no moving the outside for Tilly!

Temperatures lifted dramatically and the ice just about vanished in a couple of days, we could now be on our way to Christmas. Alrewas was a good place to spend the festive days, a very good butchers and a village with lots of character and humour.

Bookings in the New Year had been made for passage on the tidal River Trent for us to reach Yorkshire, but this would not be. The Trent had risen before Christmas, Cranfleet Flood Gates were shut ahead of us, so no New Year at Hazelford Lock. Instead our alternator played up and we sought out a mooring to hook up to and see in 2023.

This year we’d been wanting to explore again. This year we cruised miles of new water, made new friends, got too hot, got iced in, got stuck, got to be in the first illuminated flotilla on the Thames for 300 years. What a great year it has been.

So our vital statistics for 2022 according to Canalplan are

Total distance is 1249 miles, 6½ furlong and 555 locks . There were 88 moveable bridges of which 29 are usually left open; 156 small aqueducts or underbridges and 18 tunnels,  a total of 7 miles 2 ¼ furlongs underground and 8 major aqueducts.

This was made up of 227 miles, 1 1/2 furlongs of narrow canals; 363 miles, 2 furlongs of broad canals; 85 miles, 5 furlongs of commercial waterways; 269 miles, 1 furlong of small rivers; 234 miles, 7 1/4 furlongs of large rivers; 69 miles, 6 furlongs of tidal rivers; 176 narrow locks; 232 broad locks; 54 large locks; 2 locks on major waterways.

731.7 engine hours

1156.1 litres diesel, 5 (although we’ve got 1 empty now) gas bottles (used for central heating as well as cooking), 28.5 litres oil, 3 oil filters, 1 fuel filter, 2 air filters, 1 water pump, 2 new belts, 690kg coal, 1 overnight guest twice, 6 packs Dreamies (not enough!), 56 friends, a record breaking 41 Mrs Tilly stamps of approval (4 in one day!), 15 pairs socks, 2 shows designed, 9 lodgers, 2 lots gluten free puff pastry, 9 supermarket deliveries, 30 boxes of wine delivered, 2 lost unicorns.

Thank you all for joining us on our journey. Wonder where we’ll get to in 2023?

Wishee Washie. 6th August

Aldreth GOBA Mooring to Stretham Ferry GOBA Mooring

Go aWAY wasp!

We allowed ourselves a cuppa in bed this morning and exchanged notes on the depth of the Old West on Facebook with the cruiser that had pulled up yesterday afternoon almost at the other end of the moorings. Wasps still wanted to gain access to Oleanna, so we sat and had breakfast with all the windows closed. That didn’t matter to the wasps as they still found their way in, down the chimney!

Along our way we passed bullocks all heading in the same direction as us, one of them had set a trend, the others had followed, none knowing why. Long maned ponies grazed what green morsels they could find and stared into the depths of the one tree.

A Lapwing blew it’s kazoo and circled round us a few times. Egrets watched our slow progress and Cormorants sat high on the power lines surveying for fish. Two baby Grebes sat on Mums back hitching a ride.

Passing boats slowly

We passed a boat, who exclaimed how shallow it was. Not much different to the Grand Union we thought, but if you are from these parts and used to river cruising then it must feel very shallow round here. The 4mph speed restriction signs don’t help!

Back in the land where water is pumped from the low lying land into the river in less arid times. Today pumps pump water back onto the land, last night I could see four spraying their plumes of water over fields yet to be harvested.

Some friendly cover to keep Tilly occupied today

Passing what used to be the Lazy Otter we soon arrived at the long length of GOBA moorings. We’d come far enough for the day and pulled up at the far end, plenty of space for more boats. Tilly was given 6.5 hours, we had an early lunch and then I started work.

A box of panto

Today I concentrated on pantomime advertising for Piccadilly Circus, Wishee Washie Soap, Buttons, Lions Tea. I still need a couple more to fill the scenery, but there’s enough for now. By the end of the afternoon I’d completed my notes and the shoe box was really quite full. A good couple of days.


Plenty of boats came and went as the afternoon progressed. Hire boats fresh out from Ely, cruisers heading out for the weekend. A look out of the hatch at the line of boats and I could see people swimming. They then set about giving the offside of their boat a wash. The depth seemed suitable for such a job. Oleanna is in desperate need of a wash, but I’m not prepared to get into the river to give her a spruce up.

The end to another good day

0 locks, 5.85 miles, 6.5 hours, 5 swimmers, 2 washing their boat, 1 box of panto complete, 4mph!

Maybe It’s The Cinnamon. 5th August

Middle Fen (One Pound) GOBA Mooring to Aldreth GOBA Mooring, Old West

The Middle Fen/ One Pound mooring might just be my favourite from this summer. Once up the bank there is plenty of space to sit out. There is no passing footfall, and your nearest neighbour is a few boat lengths away. On an evening the Kingfishers dart back and forth, several of them. Sadly this morning it was time to move on and leave a space for someone else to enjoy the mooring.


Today blue skies had returned, we’ve had a lot of cloud lately.

Blue river at Brownshill

Brownshill Lock needed setting in our favour. When we’d come upstream a chap had been confused about how to open and close the guillotine gates (it has one at each end) he’d not seen the downstream control cabinet, small and identical to the one at the top gate. I had no such problem and filled the lock by pressing buttons whilst Mick managed to keep our cabin sides away from the big overhang of the lock landing.

We were joined for our descent by a small rib, who were out for an adventure. They didn’t have a key to operate the lock, so seeing a narrowboat arriving below they decided to go straight back up with them.

Across the tidal section passing Earith. We kept our eyes peeled for GT, Heathers boat that is now in the water, but we couldn’t spot her. The water point here has been closed by the EA until it has had a thorough clean, the Littleport tap on the Ely Ouse is also closed leaving one tap between us and Denver sluice.

At one time we’d toyed with the idea of returning along the Hundred Foot Drain to Salters Lode, cutting down on our return trip. But with water levels low we’ve abandoned the idea, the thought of getting stuck and having to wait for the next tide not that appealing at the moment, if ever.

Plenty of birds round here

A nose peeked up to our port side, a seal, most probably heading towards Westview Marina where a Mum and her pup can often be seen. It dived before I got chance to take a picture, instead I got three Egrets a Cormorant and a few ducks in one shot.

In the dark of Hermitage Lock

Whilst in Brownshill Lock Mick had called ahead to the lock keeper at Hermitage Lock, as we approached the light turned from red to green and we were soon inside the lock under the road and heading down onto the Old West. There have been plenty of tales of how low the Old West is, these started about a month ago. The lock keeper had said we’d only be dropping about 8 inches and the Tidal level was lowest he’d known it. Well he was wrong, we dropped at least 2 foot onto the Old West where the tide mark is visible about 9 inches above the current water level.

It was slow on our way out, today it was slow going on our way back. We kept to the middle, watched weed glide past beneath us and were soon joined by the Terns fishing in our wake.

Tail held high on the flood bank

The GOBA mooring at Aldreth came into view, one cruiser sat at the near end, we headed to the far end and moored up, enough depth so no problem. Tilly was given 6.5 hours, I’d promised to go for a walk with her today, so I walked as she skipped along the top of the flood bank to the next bend and then back again.

It was a bit early for lunch, so I started to prepare a Moussaka for our evening meal. As I added the red wine to the mince, oregano and cinnamon, a wasp came in through the window attracted by something. Then as I stirred the meat sauce another three came in to join it. What was it they were coming in for? Red wine? Cinnamon?

Are you sure this is different?!

We checked outside to see if we’d moored alongside a nest. No sign of one, just a few wasps doing their best to get in through closed windows, some aiming for the mushroom vents. We kept everything closed and hoped they’d get bored and move off. The cruiser moved off, Tilly came in, the doors were shut and we reversed back to the other end of the mooring. I didn’t actually believe that they’d managed to move the outside. But this other outside wasn’t half as good as the first one!

Throne and oven added

I got on with model making, propy bits, a few tweaks, alterations and additions, managing to cross off five hours work.

Another sunset

As I put the moussaka together the wasps came back and hung around until it was baked and eaten. Doors closed again, just as we wanted to have windows open to cool the boat down too!

2 locks, 6.86 miles, 2 miles tidal, 1 seal, 1 rib, 3 egrets, 543 wasps, 1 inside the stove! 2 outsides, 5 hours model making, 2 thrones, 1 wasp magnet, 1 cinnamon stick, 200ml red wine, 1 lovely sunset.

GT. 1st July

Ewell Fen GOBA Mooring to West View Marina EA Mooring

Today we had a rendez vous around midday so no shore leave for Tilly whilst we had breakfast. We pushed off and pootled our way towards Hermitage Lock passing more pumping stations, a cruiser and quite a few canoes. The canoes were almost certainly a batch of Duke of Edinburgh teenagers, maps out, rucksacks getting dribbled on and plenty of smiles.

Four of the twelve boats we saw today

A sign came into view, 3/4 mile to go to the lock, call the lock keeper. He was just penning a boat through, so would reset the lock for us.

The lock has a road bridge over the middle of it, chains hang from the chamber sides as well as below the concrete bridge, we’d have plenty of head room today going up onto the tidal river. A sign on the top gates and one before we’d entered the lock warned us of low water levels on the next stretch. A little like at Cromwell on the River Trent the tide only really affects the river here on spring tides and the lack of fresh water coming down stream isn’t helping with levels at the moment. So if you are deep drafted you need to keep it slow and steady coming out of the lock.

Left 4.5hrs cruise compared to 8hrs to Denver on the right

Once out of the lock the Hundred Foot Drain or New Bedford River heads off to the north east, tidal to Denver and Salters Lode. This is the fast route back to the Middle Level, we may or may not go this way on our return.

Another route to Denver but access is denied

Then pretty soon the Old Bedford River follows off to the north east too, a straighter version of the new river, on our maps it’s marked as none navigable for nearly half of it’s length, we won’t be going that way.

That’s a bit of a haul up out of the water

Earith soon comes into view a village that was once a port. Most of the wharves and warehouses have long gone, but there are still a few signs of it’s past. This is where Jewson and Son’s was founded.

Egrets today but no seals to watch

West View Marina was soon upon us, would there be room on the pontoon for us today. As we approached it appeared to be full, but two narrowboats hid the visitor moorings from us, they were empty, we pulled in a little before midday.

Heather with chilled medication

A quick tidy up ready for our visitor who soon arrived by bus, calling in at the marina office to pick up a chilled medicated lunch for us all, Magnums which had to be eaten quickly as Heather had been waylaid on her way to us.

We spent time catching up on news and on one of the many tangents we went off on we discovered we’d both worked for Theatre Projects. Heather had been a PA to Richard Pilbrow and I’d made models of new theatres for them over a couple of years as I finished college, possibly twenty years apart but we both knew the directors of old.

Heather’s new boat

With a cuppa consumed after the ice creams we walked over to take a look at Heather’s new (to her) boat, a Pedro. Every now and then on rivers we’ve started to spot Pedros and found their shape pleasing and being made from steel a touch more solid than your average cruiser.

Guilden Tass was bought last year with the intention of taking her over to Ireland to cruise the waterways there. Work is on going, taking it’s time, but one day she’ll have her prop back on, have had her hull blacked and be back in the water.

Loads of room to sit, a touch out of place due to on going works

Cruisers are a different beast to narrowboats, width and an indoor position to steer from as well as one right on the very top, but most of all they have wheels not tillers. Indoor is spacious, although the toilet/shower less so. All very exciting, I wonder if she will be back on the water before we leave the area?

Covers over the outdoor wheel and morse control

We left Heather to have some boat time on her own, she beamed as she slid the door closed behind herself. Another cuppa later on before we walked her to the bus stop to say goodbye and then have a nosy around the village. Have to say there wasn’t much to see other than a few nice looking houses and a very busy road. We did find the post office which may provide us with a newspaper tomorrow morning.

Ice skating at Earith, is that GT in the back ground?

1 lock, 3.66 miles, 1 visitor, 3 magnums, 1 Pedro, 2 boat Heather, 2 many cushions, 0 prop, 1 steep ladder, 0 shore leave for complaining Tilly, 2 Egrets, 1 list of places to visit, 1 very small world, 6 courgette fritters still needing a touch more refining.

Sock Drains. 30th June

Stretham Old Engine GOBA mooring to Ewell Fen GOBA mooring

Almost to our hatch

Our delivery arrived bang on time this morning, the van pulling up directly above us in the layby. Mick headed up to meet the driver with numerous bags, it took a couple of journeys to get everything down to Oleanna and even longer to get everything stowed on board.

A Pike?

One of the fishermen behind us caught what must have been a pike, reeled it in and then took forever to remove the hook. All we could think was the poor thing. At least once the hook was removed they put it straight back in the water, it took quite a while to catch it’s breath and swim off, hopefully a good distance away so it wouldn’t have to go through the same trauma again.

At the same time a water vole swam across the river and was looking for a place to climb out, sadly it did it’s best to avoid my camera, hiding in the piling recesses.


We pootled past moored boats, one with a unique paint job of vikings and things.

The signs are quite adamant

The moorings at The Lazy Otter have gone. Heard on the grape vine that the current owners had applied for a change of use to a house and no longer a pub, which had been refused. We wondered if anything would happen if it remained a pub in the eyes of the authorities but just simply never opened!

The cottage by Twenty Pence Bridge

Under the A10 and onwards west, the next bridge being Twenty Pence Bridge. How had it come by this name, was it to do with a toll, but it would have been a steep toll? There once had been a ferry here, then a lift bridge, it connected private land to a public road. In 1928 the owners of the land offered to pay 30s an acre towards the cost of making the road a public highway, a through route to the Isle of Ely. By 1931 the new bridge had been built and three steam lorries, two with trailers, representing a weight of sixty tons were used to test it’s strength. People came to view the bridge which now provided a new link between north and south. There are more interesting articles about the area here.

A white egret, some horses, dragonflies and a farmer pumping water from the river to water his crops, no wonder there’s been reports of the Old West being shallow.

Aldreth High Bridge

At the next bridge we met one of just a handful of boats we’d see on the move today. This bridge Aldreth High Bridge was where the Aldreth Causeway crossed the Old West. The first mention of the causeway is in a Pipe Roll of 1172-3 when a payment was made. It was one of three causeways that crossed the fens to Ely, by the late 17th C it was superseded by the route via Stretham. The current bridge was built in 1901 the iron railings made at Eagle Work Foundry in Ely.

Mick noticed on our maps that the drains on the south side of river are called Sock Drains, First, Second, Third and Forth. Are these the only hosiery drains in the fens? Wonder how they got their names, I can’t find anything on the internet about them. If anyone knows please get in touch.

Another good GOBA Mooring

Not far now and the GOBA mooring came into sight, they are obviously popular with the local cows, well trodden hard earth alongside muddy patches. We found a good bit of bank and Mick fought to hammer our spikes in.

Washing was hung out on the whirligig and Tilly was given five hours of shore leave, although the lack of friendly cover meant she kept close to the boat. We had a couple of walks along the flood bank though, Tilly leading the way ahead until I thought we’d gone far enough.

So much dry grass

Various bought items were divided up into portions to be frozen for later and my wild strawberry plants got some attention. Dead bits of plant removed and numerous babies sorted, some were planted in a new trough, the weaker ones left on the bank. If it wasn’t so dry right now they might take hold and become a treat for boaters in years to come.

0 locks, 6.7 miles, 2 boxes wine, 1 free loaf bread, 2 free pork loins, 4 hard nectarines, 2 Chris’s, 1 sorting of finances, 0 handed out, 3 lots of strawberries, 2 Tilly walks, 1 set of fresh bed linen.

14 Days Anywhere! 29th June

Burlow Lode EA Mooring to Stretham Old Engine GOBA Mooring, Old West River

Time to do some boating again and leave the Loades behind.


What a grey morning! The waterproofs were at the ready. After a long chat with the fishermen who’d set up behind us about the National Trust wanting to flood the land, how bad the fishing was and how much the house across the way was on the market for (£1,050,000, it comes with a building plot with planning permission), we were ready to push off.

Slow going again until the way ahead got wider, followed by the Terns again.


Is this a hovercraft sat in the field?

Labradors at the ready

At the two bridges there were several dog walkers, one lady on one side of the water another two opposite, they were waiting for us to pass before getting their dogs to swim across to each other. The dogs were being very patient and loving it at the same time.

Looking up Wicken Lode

NB Ivy May turned out from Wicken Lode a short distance in front of us, they’d had two days moored at the end and really enjoyed it. Today there was space on the EA mooring despite some overstayers, but who knows their circumstances.

Following NB Ivy May

A boat was moored in the middle of the lock landing which is also a water point. NB Ivy May just about managed to get in front of them and we did our best to squeeze in behind, but had to stick out across the cut as we were about four foot too long for the gap. Our next water point wouldn’t be until Friday, a load of washing had just finished, so we needed to fill the tank. NB Ivy May disposed of rubbish and then made their way through the lock whilst we filled with water. Eventually the boat in the middle moved up after Mick had suggested that the owner may believe he can moor anywhere for 14 days even water points, but that it was very selfish to other boaters requiring to use the services. He didn’t have a hose and was going to fill up using jerry cans, I also suspect he didn’t have a key either as he looked a touch perturbed when he returned to see the water point closed and us heading off into the lock.

The water point above the lock

By the time we reached the lock it had reset itself. The top gate almost closed, letting a small flow through and the bottom gate open that bit more. It took a little while for me to work out what was what as you can see next to nothing of the lock from the controls at either end, but we were soon through and on our way again.

Goodbye Lodes

Straight on past the pub, the river view tables all full, people waving as we went past. A narrowboat came towards us, quite a long way over and heading for a big willow, thankfully the two dogs on the roof managed to stay onboard.

Ely and gulls

The heavens opened as Ely Cathedral showed itself again on the skyline.

Popes Corner, time to turn towards the west and onto the River Old West. There are several EA moorings on the first bend but we had our sights set on the GOBA mooring at Stretham Old Engine, hopefully there would be space for us and it be a suitable place for a supermarket delivery.

Good lengthy EA mooring

Another speed check, we were well within it at 42 seconds. Plenty of others were going that bit faster!

The chimney of the old engine showed itself, then the mooring. One boat and a handful of fishermen, but plenty of space for us. We pulled in and settled down for the rest of the day, making amendments to our big shopping order.

Bookend pigeons

A little walk round late afternoon we had a little nosy at the museum. Sadly it is only open on Sundays, maybe every Sunday or maybe the second one each month! Too long for us to hang around to see inside.

Our mooring for the night

Stretham steam engine replaced four windmills that had been trying to drain the surrounding fens for years, they’d struggled to cope with flooding and were at the mercy of the weather. The engine was built by Butterleys in 1831 costing £4950 and it scooped water up into the Old West River. The coal to drive the engine arrived by barge, chunks of 2 to 3ft piled high in the yard, these had to be broken up before they could be burned, the engine using a quarter of a ton an hour. It was one of only three drainage beam engines left in the Fens. It was used for over a hundred years and then was replaced by electric pumps. What a shame we won’t see it running.

1 lock, 8.05 miles, 2 straights, 1 left, 1 shower to be missed, 14 days! 1 full water tank, 1 empty wee tank, 0 rubbish,1 order completed after 12 goes, 1 closed museum, 1 fishing tennis fan, 1 looping the loop Spitfire.

At Last! 19th June

Fidwell Fen EA Mooring to Clayhithe Bridge Public Mooring

Tilly was given an hour and a half whilst we had breakfast and discussed our next move. There are so many things we want to do in this area, Wicken Fen, Burwell church, a long list of places in and around Cambridge, all to manage around 48hour moorings in a popular area!

We decided to keep heading south towards Cambridge, if we couldn’t get moored there we’d return and get the train in, but that also needed to be thought about with the train strikes looming. However today we’d only be moving so far, we had our eyes and hopes set on the next GOBA Mooring at Waterbeach.

Wonky horns

Odd horned cattle grazed the banks as we moved along.

The geese had sorted themselves, Greylags to the east, Canadian to the west leaving just enough room for passing boats in between.

The answer

There are plenty of Hitchhikers Guide fans on the network and as we passed one I noticed we’d got our own hitchhiker a rather pretty spider, I think it’s a Missing Sector Orb Web.


Spiders have certainly been busy on Oleanna, the port side windows and cratch are sporting rather fine cobwebs at the moment!

Bottisham Lock

Soon Bottisham Lock came into view. A long lock landing stretching out below with a cruiser sat right in the middle. I headed to the bow to step off. They’d settled in nicely with a gas stove out of the bank, the crew all returning to their boat with fishing rods.

The lock had both guillotine and vee gates closed, it was neither full nor empty. Inside the control panel were a different line of buttons and instructions written in marker pen to not close both ends of the lock on leaving. I worked Oleanna up, the guillotine gate rising only a small amount. The filling seemed to stall after a while, water still coming into the lock but not rising Oleanna any higher. I tried pressing the gate button again, but the timed delay was still delaying things. Patience was all that was needed and soon the light went out and I could raise the gate fully.

This is where you need an Anglian Pass

Now we were on the Cam Conservancy water. Up ahead were the moorings we’d been hoping for. Three narrowboats fitted it nicely. Oh well, we’d hopefully find somewhere further on. The first two boats were familiar, we’d first seen them on the Relief Channel, then in Ely. They were travelling together and had their bows facing each other so they could sit in their well decks and be sociable.

The third boat looked like they’d just arrived, or where they leaving? The chap at the stern had a life jacket on, was our luck in? Then the side hatch opened. No we’d missed the space by about fifteen minutes!

Then Mick realised who it was. A boat we’ve been hoping to meet for a couple of weeks now. We’ve been a mooring apart without knowing it, passed one another whilst one has been tucked up on a tributary. Emails have been swapped with cruising plans, my last one said we’d be heading to the Lodes and not in to Cambridge, Sue’s last one mentioned they were heading to Cambridge then onto the Old West River, I’d imagined them to be long gone. But no here they were, at last!

NB Cleddau

A bip of Oleanna’s horn caught their attention and we were soon breasted up alongside NB Cleddau. We’ve followed each others blogs for some time and last winter I’d contacted Sue for information regarding Bedford River Festival as they had been before and we were considering a visit this year. Several emails had gone back and forth between us and today we were finally in the same place as one another.

Ken and Sue, Sue most probably has a similar photo of me taking photos

We must have chatted for at least an hour, we could have gone on for longer but we were wanting somewhere for Tilly today as she’s likely to be cooped up whilst we go sight seeing. Our paths will cross again in the coming weeks, hopefully somewhere we can both moor up bank side and continue our conversations.

Pushing off after a couple of boats had come past we weren’t hopeful for a mooring, the river now quite busy and not many moorings available. We waved goodbye to Sue and Ken hoping we’d not be returning to breast up to them for the night.

Pretty sailing boat

At the Cam Sailing Club boats were being tucked up for the week. A big boat came towards us, mast lowered for the bridges, a hen do sitting out on the spacious bow having a great time in the sunshine.

Fancy building up ahead

The pub mooring was empty, but had a long line of gongoozlers sat on chairs, possibly awaiting a trip boat, or maybe just enjoying the scene and a pint. Not a suitable place for Tilly.

She’s getting married!

Thankfully through the bridge there were a couple of spaces available, we pulled in to the one furthest away from the road and let the cat out. This would do us for the day, possibly the closest cat friendly mooring to Cambridge we’re going to get.

See ya!

Now to start planning what to see, when and how to get there!

1 lock, 4.24 miles, 2 passed Lodes, 1 Anglian Pass in the window, 1 familiar boat, 1st meeting, 1 sunny day, 1 late lunch, 1 space, 2nd helpings of quiche, 8th navigation authority.

Plummeted. 18th June

Little Thetford EA Mooring to Fidwell Fen EA Mooring

Everyone will be saying the same thing today, ‘What a difference a day makes!’ Yet it was surprising to see the chap in front of us pulling away wearing a woolly hat, it couldn’t be that cold surly! I started off the day wearing shorts, but soon changed into long trousers.

Toasted bacon and mushroom with a touch of tomato sauce

As we waited for the Geraghty zoom to kick off this morning we were passed by Simon Judge on NB Scholar Gypsy who is recently back from a trip to Belgium. Last year we joined him and nine other boats on a Thames Tideway cruise with St Pancras Cruising Club. There was only time for a short exchange between us before he passed on by, it was drizzling, maybe our paths will cross again.

Zoom this morning included details of forthcoming trips away and we were glad to see that the Londoners were now fully recovered from Covid. With two new variants about we’ll be doing our best to remember to have our masks with us in crowded places.

Popes Corner

It was now raining properly, so we decided to sit it out and wait for it to ease before moving onwards. By midday we were ready to push off, heading southwards. Mick had called ahead to the Fish and Duck Marina to see how much their diesel was and if they might just have a 13kg bottle of LPG as we’d finished one bottle the other day. Calor Gas is a hard thing to find nowadays, none at Little Ouse Moorings or in Ely, so on hearing that they had some we needed to get there quickly before it all went.

Filling up

Not far to where the river splits at Pope’s Corner. The Old West heading off to the west and the River Cam to the south, here sits the marina, steel on the river moorings and tuperware inside. We pointed down the Old West and pulled in on the service mooring, a touch short for us, but the chap had come out and pulled us alongside another narrowboat so the diesel hose would reach our tank.

A rare bridge

The old gas bottle was removed and a new one put on the stern to drop into the gas locker later, Mick wanted to re-arrange the bottles anyway. Once we’d paid we then reversed away back to the junction and headed southwards onto the Cam.

Another pumping station and a pillbox

The floodbanks now moved away giving us views of the grey day, we’d already got a touch damp as the diesel tank filled and several layers were required.

Sign posts were many today. Ely, Cambridge, St Ives and Burwell. We’d already decided and headed towards Cambridge, but should we do the Lodes first or head to Cambridge? Being grey we didn’t fancy going too far so at Upwell we opted to stay on the River Cam and pull up at the EA moorings.

I’d spotted a slightly strange thing on our Waterway Routes map at Upware. Here there are 72 hour patron moorings close to the pub Five Miles To Anywhere, then on the offside it said there were 48 hour patron moorings too. But how could you be a patron at the pub? The next bridge north was about a mile and a half away and heading southwards you’d have to cross first the River Cam at Bottisham Lock, 3.5 miles, then head back downstream to Upware Lock, another 3.5 miles, followed by another quarter of a mile to the pub. Quite a long way for a pint! But on a short landing by the pub was a rib with an outboard motor, do they come and collect you? Their website suggests that you would need to make your own way by dingy.

If you can get to the pub!

Round the bend we pulled in at the end of the EA mooring behind a couple of cruisers. A quick check confirmed it was a good location for Tilly. Too right it was with a very handy fence to aid friendly cover perusal. It was however a touch muddy and damp in the grassy bits!

The second run had a better view

As we had lunch I cooked up some quinoa for a quiche base. Todays quiche was to be a firm favourite from before I went gluten free, Smoked Salmon and Camembert. It may even be nicer with the quinoa crust.

Click on photo for recipe

0 locks, 3.82 miles, 13 degree plummet, 1 Simon, 3 rivers, 72.5 litres, 13kg gas, 1 cat with eye’s too big! 2 friends and some red leicester, 1 quiche, 1 damp grey day.