Category Archives: River Little Ouse

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?

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.

What A Relief! 3rd June

Denver EA Mooring to Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalen EA Mooring

Mushrooms ala Mick

It felt like a Sunday today, so with not much in the fridge except mushrooms Mick cooked them up and we had them on a couple of slices of toast for breakfast. Then it was time to move on, we couldn’t dally as we needed to find a suitable mooring.

Denver Sluice

Around Denver there are all sorts of structures, sluices here there and everywhere. We headed over to the east towards the Relief Channel Lock. Here two sets of pointing gates drop you down onto the Relief Channel, the lock is fully automated, despite the instructions suggesting you need a windlass.

Time for the Abloy Key of Power, our key ring is getting a touch full. A boat had just gone down the lock, so the bottom gates needed closing then the lock filling for us to enter. This lock is a slow filler, thank goodness you don’t have to keep your finger on the button! It is also a slow emptier the slackers/paddles only moving by about foot, so you have to be patient as your boat slowly drops the 2meters. It was nice to be changing height again, but I have to say I miss working locks.

Going down!

Vermuyden back in the 1640’s, proposed works to help relieve the Ely Ouse of extra water, but it wasn’t until 1964 that the Relief Channel and Cut Off Channel were constructed. The Cut Off Channel diverts waters away from the Rivers Wissey, Little Ouse and Lark in times of flood by partially closing the rivers. The extra water runs towards Denver where the Impounding Sluice joins it to the Relief Channel, taking the waters 11 miles further downstream before it joins the Tidal Great Ouse near Kings Lynn.

Turning below the lock, Cut Off Channel behind

In 2001 the lock connecting the channel to the River Great Ouse, above Denver, was constructed and three sets of visitor moorings added.

The Channel is wide, deep and fairly straight. Today it was windy out there. Swans took off in front of us hoping to loose us, only to find we’d catch them up again, necessitating another take off, time and time again, until they either diverted their route to behind us or over towards the tidal river.

Downham Market moorings chocka

The first mooring at Downham Market is long, able to hold quite a few boats. Today it was very full, good job we’d not been wanting to stop there today. Our guide book suggests that there is more to the town than just Haygates flour mill, which sits alongside the channel. The town used to be renowned for it’s butter market, moving large quantities up to Cambridge on the river.

Not many bridges around here

The next mooring follows at Stowbridge close to a pub. Today two narrowboats filled the pontoon busy with boat chores, everyone waved as we waved back. Another half hour north we passed under a footbridge where a canoeist lolled with his back to us, we moved over so as not to disturb him.

Would there be space for us?

Then the next and final pontoon at Wiggenhall St Marys Magdalen came into view. There was the cruiser I’d seen at the lock and what looked like a narrowboat, would there be space for us? As we got closer we could see there were two narrowboats breasted up. To our relief a lady came dashing down the ramp and untied the inner narrowboat and starting to pull it back towards the cruiser making space for us. The wind didn’t help us moor as the bow kept being pushed towards the bank which in turn pushed the stern out, but we got there in the end, Oleanna’s bow over hanging the pontoon.


The lady from the breasted up pair was very chatty, offered us a lift to the pub tonight and introduced us to Freddie her Irish Terrier. He wanted to come and say hello, but immediately got distracted by a scent, Tilly! Blimey Tilly smelt soo good, he was all over Oleanna as Tilly watched on from the Houdini shelf. She had been hoping that the friendly cover could be explored, but being on a pontoon the health and safety committee had already made their decision. Now with Freddie sniffing the air at the open window where Tilly sat, only an inch or two away, their decision was reinforced!

It took Freddie quite a while to actually be able to see Tilly through the glass. At that moment their noses were less than an inch apart with a sheet of glass thankfully between them, Tilly now three times her normal size! Freddie was immediately put back on a lead and taken inside his boat.

Finishing touches, including some clamping

Summer clothes were retrieved from under the bed a smart shirt brought out to be washed. Winter clothing was not fully stowed away, but that will need to happen before I start on my panto model as my clothes cupboard is where I store it away from feline jaws. Then it was time to finish off my project. Fittings, securing, wires twisted, glue applied, foam added for comfort and a final fitting. All was finished and ready.

Relief Channel on the left, Tidal River Great Ouse right

Time for a walk over Magdalen Bridge which crosses the Tidal River Great Ouse, the tide was out. Down stream of here lies Kings Lynn and then The Wash, which if crossed with the aid of a pilot would take us to Boston and then further north on the River Witham. That trip will be for another time.

A fine looking church

The village was covered in bunting as to be expected. The church sitting proudly in the centre. A fish and chip shop round the next corner smelt good, but I returned up Prophets Lane which led to the river bank and back across the bridge to Oleanna where there would have been just enough room for another boat to breast up alongside us.

Quite a full pontoon

A couple of weeks ago I asked if the Middle Level was as low as we could get on the network. A few days later Paul from Waterway Routes replied with this answer.

The Middle Levels between Ashline and Marmont Priory Locks is maintained at 35cm below Ordnance Datum (approximately seal level), although the level will vary a little after rain etc. The Relief Channel summer level is approximately 98cm below Ordnance Datum (sea level), although this level isn’t maintained particularly accurately so you could be more than a metre below sea level at times.

So we are now the lowest we can be, below sea level!

Swimming below sea level

1 lock, 6.9 miles, 1 right, 1 left, 3 moorings, 2 boats pulled back, 1 Freddie, 3 times bigger, 1 last mooring space, 2 relieved boaters, 2 fixings, 2 fittings, 1 project complete, 1 fridge just about empty.

It’s Never Just A Dull Grey Day. 31st May

New Fen GOBA Mooring to Ten Mile Bank EA Mooring

Today was going to be a very dull grey day. Boats started moving off first thing, the cruiser and narrowboat ahead of us headed towards Brandon, I suspect they’d both make it over the sandbank and fully into the lock. As the cruiser went past he said to get the binoculars out and have a look for the two Common Cranes in the next field. We did as told but the cranes didn’t show themselves on the bank.

Sanding down

We’d prepared for rain so that is what we got, proper rain too! This of course put paid to my idea that I would do some sanding on my project whilst we cruised. I got a bit done, but it was soon stashed away on the Nicholsons shelf to stay dry.

Black clouds

The odd patch of blue sky was soon followed by black and more rain!

Such a sad looking building

We passed the old pub again. I’d so like a closer look, the structure of it’s first floor very visible.

As we cruise I tend to collect things that I think I’ll write about in the blog. Today the list wasn’t going to be long, a short post for a grey day. Maybe the tree about to be felled would take the lead, but the last cut was still a way off! Or maybe the boat all ready for the jubilee, the Queen hiding away inside the cabin, her standard flying in the breeze.

Looking back to the junction

Back past Little Ouse Moorings, we may pop back to top up on diesel in a few weeks time before we leave the area. Then a right turn back out onto the River Great Ouse, heading down stream towards Denver.

Where to moor though? The GOBA mooring was empty, the wind turbine across the way with blades that had been missing a few days ago was now turning. As it wasn’t raining at that moment we decided to chance it and head another twenty minutes on and see if there was space at the EA moorings where we’d stopped for water. If we could get on the very end, furthest away from the road here would be a good place for Tilly.

Up ahead we could see a narrowboat on the moorings and then a gap just where we wanted to be, brilliant! I bobbed to the bow to get ready to moor up. Now what was that on the mooring? Had some selfish boater left some unwanted item on the moorings? A mattress perhaps? A duvet? Part of a sofa with the rest lurking in the depths?

As we got closer I was still puzzled as to what it was, until it moved!

A grey seal

A seal!

Leave room for the seal

People have been telling us to keep an eye out for seals, but we’d been thinking that was more likely to be nearer to Denver, and more likely to be on the tidal stretch, not here! We pulled in slowly, would there be enough space beyond the seal to moor without disturbing it? It didn’t seem too phased by us pulling in close. A keen eye was kept on us, but there was no urgency to dive in and swim away. We would fit, nose to nose to the narrowboat in front, leaving the seal plenty of room to carry on basking in the now appearing sunshine.

Tilly was kept in, we decided supervised shore leave was in order today, not knowing what she’d make of the seal and what it would make of her. I took a chair out to do more sanding, the dust better in the open air than inside. I had a long chat with the lady from NB Tunnels End. When they’d arrived the seal was attempting to get out of the water, several attempts were made until it was successful.

Just look at the length of those claws!

Once the lady had gone with her dog Tilly was allowed out of the bow door. The usual looking around, a sniff or two along the mooring, it must have smelt of woofer and needed accessing. She walked along the gunnel and then a smell hit the air. She stopped in her tracks, nose held high, what the…..

Leave it alone Tilly!

I’d never smelt anything like it, a touch of Whiskas white fish mixed with yellow biscuits. Then I spotted this big thing. It needed caution, I put on my slowest and lowest of walks possible, my bell none existent. She gave my location away and these two eyes opened up. She told me to look at it’s claws each one the size of one of my arms! I managed to move even slower still. But in the end She interjected, saying that the seal had been here before me and demanded respect. Okay, off into the friendly cover it was.


During the afternoon the heavens opened up a few more times, we did washing and stayed in doors to get on with my project, the paints even came out. Still the seal basked in the sunshine and rain, it didn’t really matter which.

Still there

A rather nice Wide Beam pulled up called Karma, Mick got chatting to John and Lana whilst keeping an eye on Tilly, she was far more interested in the trees on the other side of the bank. On board Karma there are two other crew mates, Klaud and Kato (hope I’ve got their names correct) two very handsome black cats, who watched Tilly from their wheelhouse. Because there was an audience, when it was cat curfew she immediately sprang out of the friendly cover to show how good she was. But then trotted off shouting something about needing the loo and she’d rather do it outside! So in full view of Klaud she proceeded to strop off to find a suitable spot. She then played at being in control until a rugby tackle did the trick. I could see her almost waving at Klaud as she was carried back inside!

Early evening we heard a splosh by the hatch. Too big for a fish. Was it the seal? It sure was. Neil the seal (named by the locals) is a celebrity round here. There used to be two of them that frequented the moorings but he now seems to come on his own although this late in the year he is rarely seen.

Drying off after a dip

He swam round, diving and reappearing what felt like miles away. Another dive to pop up by the mooring, several attempts were made until he had enough momentum to pop up onto the bank. What a privilege it is to witness such creatures. We were memorised. Good job Mick gave lighting the stove a good blast to get it going, we managed to cook our jacket potatoes and cook a pie all whilst being entertained by Neil.

It’s never just a dull grey day on a boat.

0 locks, 10.87 miles, 1 right, 1 grey wet day, 1 almost feld tree, 2 hours sanding, 1st coats, 1 layer of detail, 1 lump to avoid, 1 Neil the seal, 1 American, 1 stove lit late, 3 jacket potatoes and pie by 8:30, 1 lap to show off.

The 4th Point. 30th May

Brandon Lock EA Mooring to New Fen GOBA Mooring

Returning boat

The cruiser that went up through the lock yesterday returned, we think they must have been to the end of the navigable Little Ouse to moor overnight, somewhere we can’t go. After breakfast Tilly came back when called so that we could head out to have a look around Brandon and see if I could find some filler for my project.

Nice mooring

We walked upstream along the river to where Brandon Bridge crosses, passing a short narrowboat on it’s home mooring and a winding hole long enough for 40ft boats. Up alongside the busy road was our first view of flint used a lot in the building of houses round here. Today we’d see lots more of it.

Decorative dentist

Brandon is the flint capital of the Brecks. The town has had connections to the mineral for centuries, from flint axe heads to gunflint. Since the Neolithic period flint has been mined in the area, Grime’s Graves, a few miles out of town, is a prehistoric mine dating back to 2800BC. Brandon’s mines and flint knapping trades meant that it was the first choice by the British Army to supply gunflints during the Napoleonic War and in the 1790’s they produced over one million flints a month.


On the north bank of the river there is the station and the Suffolk Norfolk border. Here large coaching houses sit opposite each other, it was obviously change over day as people walked along the footpath with large bags of laundry. A quick visit to Aldi came up trumps on the filler front, they also had beetroot so our weeks menu has reverted back to include risotto.

A typical High Street took us away from the the river, large houses sitting next to small terraces. More and more buildings showing off the local flint. Even what must have been the Post Office at one time displayed fractured squares.

The more corners we turned the more flint we’d see even flint cobbles along the side of the road.

Not one blade of grass on the gunnel

Time for an early lunch before we’d head for the lock. As we sat eating two chaps arrived, lawnmower and strimmer to cut round the mooring and lock. After they’d cut along the mooring, one of them returned with a leaf blower removing any grassy residue from Oleanna’s cabin side. The chap then caught Mick’s attention.

He’d come to warn us about the depth just in front of us. Last time they were at the lock there was a narrowboat who tried to wind, he’d put his bow in towards the slipway and turned, his stern getting very well and truly stuck in the silt. The EA chaps ended up having to assist him. The chap said we should have a good look to see where the shallow bits were as it was quite shallow towards the entrance for the lock. We’d done a recky yesterday, the clear water helpful to see the sandy silt below and just how shallow it was in parts.

Tilly the furthest east she’s been

Mick chatted to the chap saying we were hoping to be able to get our bow into the lock, this being the furthest east on the connected network we’d be able to take Oleanna. A photo for the scrap book and the final point (East) ticked off the navigable compass for her. He seemed to think we’d manage it, maybe he was just humouring us! If we ended up in difficulty they would be around for another hour and could lend a hand. If we ended up getting well and truly stuck they would be able to open up the sluice to help flush us out, but they’d need to seek authority to do that first.

It couldn’t be that shallow, surly!

Maybe a touch too close to the sandbank

I pushed off the bow and walked up to the sluice to take photos of Oleanna not fitting in the lock whilst Mick positioned her to turn towards it. The sandbank reaches out quite a long way, so cutting the corner wouldn’t work, an almost 90 degree turn then another were needed. Mick tried and tried. Oleanna’s length and depth just wouldn’t get past the sandbank on the bend, the current from the sluice not assisting in our aim. Just getting back to where we’d started from took some doing! Photo opportunity had to be aborted, we would simply not get to the lock and back out again.

A better angle but still no joy

I was picked up from the mooring. Our guide book suggests leaving your stern rope attached to a bollard on the mooring and then letting the current swing your bow round to wind. But the shallowness and width of the river didn’t look good, we were certain it would not be sufficient to let us turn.

The furthest facing east we were going to get

Mick headed towards the sluice, this would be the furthest east we’d get Oleanna, so at least that ambition could be ticked off as it was the furthest east it was possible to get her.


He turned the bow towards the lock, reversing back, the current pushed the bow round so far. After some toing and froing, giving the engine some wellie we found ourselves facing the opposite direction. Phew! The only problem was we were stuck, sitting on the bottom!

I headed to the bow, moving weight sometimes helps in such situations. I rocked from side to side a touch. The bow moved, but the stern was held fast. Behind us the river seemed to get shallower and we were too far over towards the lock where it was also too shallow. Blasts of forwards and reverse, no use.


The barge pole was retrieved from the roof. Mick tried pushing the stern out back into what we hoped would be deeper water. I could see an inch or two of movement, or was that just the bow moving round a touch. Every now and then the EA chap looked up from his grass cutting, he’d seen we’d winded and gave us a thumbs up, little did he know we wouldn’t be going anywhere soon!


Then the stern started to move, we reversed back into slightly deeper water. Mick engaged forward gear and pushed the tiller over to get the bow clear of the sandbank. But at the bow I could see this was pointless as we’d be on the bank again. We really needed to go further back, just by another couple of feet to be able to swing and get ourselves free. I shouted back to him. Back into reverse, as soon as the bow would clear of the sandbank I gave him the thumbs up. We had just enough water beneath Oleanna to make the move and swung back into the narrow channel.

Thank ****** for that! We really didn’t want to have the EA chaps open a sluice up for us or be stuck at the most eastern point on the network we could get Oleanna to!

The EA chap now waved and gave us a big thumbs up as we started to make our way back west again. If it gets dredged we’d possibly like to try again, but today nature just stopped us.


Our return trip was grey and rainy. We hoped we’d be okay for a night back at the GOBA New Fen mooring, it’s one of those places where you shouldn’t return within 48 hours, but we were returning from the end, anyhow there’d only been one other boat moored there.

Craning in

Recently sheered sheep ran ahead of us. Cows stood up to give us the once over and a peddleo was about to be craned into the water at the nice house. Numerous birds swooped and chatted away around us and the dart of a Kingfisher kept us on our toes.

A windbreak, now that’s an idea

As we rounded the last bend to the moorings we could see boats. Three stretching out along the uneven edge. We pulled in after a hallow section, we were more prepared this time with spikes already in hands. The stern was tied up first, then the bow, followed by the plank being put into action.

Three hours Tilly! She was happy with this new outside!


I got on with thinning down some filler and so far it’s done the job I was hoping it would do. It just needs to dry over night before it gets sanded. Then I’ll see if it will need another coat, before some paint and a touch more detailing is applied.

The temperature dropped again at 6pm so the stove was lit for another evening and Tilly’s shore leave was curtailed by half an hour, well our toes were getting mightily cold with a door open!

0 locks, 0 bow in lock, 5.92 miles, 40 minute wind, 4th compass point ticked off, 2 outsides, 1 flint capital, 1 tube of filler, 1 project filled, 1 bunch beetroot, 1 cosy boat.

Not Quite All The Way There. 29th May

New Fen GOBA Mooring to Brandon Lock EA Mooring

We had to use up the spare potatoes from the moussaka!

Sunday, well you’ve got to!

Rain showers came over, it was chilly outside, extra layers were called for.


Just around the bend the river opened out even more. Large shallow lakes had many a bird dabbling in the mud. The cows with black ears all came to check us out as we passed. They were really rather nosy and the same gang who’d spotted Tilly and myself yesterday afternoon, there has to have been a fence that stopped them cutting us off from the boat.

More cows with their young watched as we passed by. Little birds flitted between the reeds chirping their hearts out. All very pretty, if only it would stop raining!

A bridge, then the concrete walls of the aqueduct over the Cut Off Channel, no views here either.

The engine’s nearly bigger than the boat!

A new looking house, or has it just been repointed with a new roof, showed off an extension made from flint. A small cruiser with a very large outboard sat on the mooring in front, not a bad spot to live.

A choice

The railway now got closer, then crossed over head, small trains heading back and forth to Norwich.


Now the river narrows and the current increases, more revs required. Was that a bit of a brick wall? Could it have been Sheepwash Staunch in the past? A check on our map confirmed it was in the right place.

Brandon Lock ahead

Soon between the trees came the view of our first lock in over a week, Brandon Lock. We pulled in on the moorings below, the lock could wait for tomorrow, we needed to warm up and go shopping.

Sad Gits organic chicken! Before

Brandon Lock Mooring sits alongside a large allotment and some sports facilities. Today a group of men were playing basketball as we passed, a Dad sat on swings with his daughters and a teenage couple hid under the trees to avoid any further rain. We headed to Tescos, just a short walk away to stock up on food for the next week. The shop wasn’t as big as we’d expected but I spied an organic chicken in their sad gits section greatly reduced to the price of a standard chicken, that was the Sunday roast sorted! No beetroot or Polyfilla though. Some rethinking of the weeks menu was required and my project would have to wait until tomorrow to continue.

Oleanna, not quite as far as she can go yet.

Back at Oleanna Tilly had an explore, nowhere near as impressive as the outside we’d left this morning, but she coped, returning fifteen minutes before cat curfew.

Brandon Lock

Mick and I walked up to the lock to have a look, the bottom gates wide open, expectant of the next uphill boat. Brandon Lock is a lock we know we won’t fit through, it is only 39ft 4inches long and 13ft 1inch wide, so not even two short narrowboats would fit side by side. So not even the 57ft ‘ideal’ length boat would fit through here.

Sad gits chicken. After

A while after we’d settled with the chicken roasting away and the stove lit a cruiser came past. The chap headed for the lock, in through the open gates. He was short enough to be able to go beyond and see what lies there. Maybe tomorrow we’ll walk a stretch of the river bank.

0 locks, 6.06 miles, 2 bridges, 2 moving boats all day, 1 wet day, 1 cold day, 2 boxes wine, 1 cheep chicken, 3 hours shore leave,1 boater sleeping the furthest east a boater can sleep on a boat over 39ft 4″.

Quick! Before The Cows Cut Us Off! 28th May

New Fen Mooring

Yesterday when we pulled up we decided that we’d be staying put today, such a lovely mooring in the middle of nowhere on our own, Tilly could have a field day!

Our bedroom view this morning

So when the front blinds were rolled up we were surprised to see another narrowboat moored up, at least they were at the other end of the moorings, so neither of us would disturb each other.

Our nearest neighbour

All day we saw two walkers, the narrowboat ahead moved off and another came past us heading to Brandon and then returned a couple of hours later. Other than that we’ve had bird song to listen to.

A good spot in the sunshine

Tilly started the morning by watching the damselflies in the reeds alongside the boat. I was then given 9 and a half hours to explore! But I had to show myself at least ten times during the day which I think I managed quite well.

Despite the incredibly slow internet here we just about managed to join in with the Geraghty zoom this morning, we froze and went silent on several occasions. Topics included the Fens, bunting and even vampires.

A field of a day

There’s lots of grass to tuck yourself away in and sandy mounds, She said she hoped they weren’t ants nests because I’d spend the day being looney loopy if they were. I only managed an hour of looney loops though.

She got on with her project. It gets hidden away when She’s not doing it. Tom sat outside for sometime in his coat. He says he was listening to the birdies with his eyes closed, but I’m not so sure!

You get good views from up here

Late afternoon I realised I hadn’t even stepped of the boat, so it was time to head for a bit of a walk. With Tilly in tow I climbed onto the flood bank and walked back towards the Great Ouse. Having a cat in tow would mean I wouldn’t be walking miles, but we covered quite a distance until I saw that the next field had cows. So we turned and started to walk back, Tilly only distracted a couple of times so she managed to keep up in her springy way charging ahead to buy her more distraction time.

Cows just visible if you squint!

However on our return our pace had to become a touch quicker. Up ahead I could see quite a lot of cows, all white with black ears. They were very interested in us! Would we make it back in time not to be cut off from the boat by them? I made the decision to get back to the boat with Tilly and shore leave would be over for the day, I really didn’t want her stranded on the other side of inquisitive cows.

All ready to layer up.

With a Moussaka on the cards this evening, I spread the preparation out through the day. Potatoes were boiled and left to cool. Aubergine sliced, salted to get rid of any bitterness, then fried and left to cool. The mince was prepared and everything layered up with the final layer of cheese and egg sauce popped on top. Each bit done whilst things on my project had time to dry off.

Fixings tried out

I now need some filler for the next phase. Back at the house I have the ideal filler in powder form, but I’ve not seen that kind in shops in years. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some cheap Polyfilla that I can thin down a touch to achieve the same effect when we reach Brandon.

Despite patches of sunshine today the temperature has dropped, so Mick lit the fire this evening. Only a small one as we didn’t want to overheat, but just enough for us not to need blankets on our knees and hopefully keep the boat warm overnight.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 moving boats, 2 walkers, 2 beads, 1 project fitted and ready for the next stage, 1 box of filler required, 1 aubergine, 1 bag sprouting potatoes, 250grams mince, 0 parmesan, 1 recipe next time, 9.5 hours, 1 field day, 1 km cat walk, 1 stove, 1 heard cows who couldn’t be bothered with us in the end! 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval

Jack Jacket. 27th May

The Swan On The River to New Fen GOBA Mooring, River Little Ouse

Boat grown addition to breakfast today

Time to unplug ourselves and push over to the other side for water, boats had been moving off including the Black Prince boat that would have been in our way. As we rolled up the covers a chap from the hire cruiser ahead of us stepped off his boat.

Yep I’m looking at you.

He’d been around yesterday showing off his jacket. Then his wife stepped off the boat in her pyjamas, they kicked their heels for a little while, obviously waiting for us to go, she made out she was doing some exercises.

Christine you are right, the elephants are upside down!

As soon as we’d pushed the bow out and waved them goodbye, they sprang into action. She got her phone out, he donned a Captains hat and held a pipe in his hand, then posed in front of their cruiser. Glad they are having a lovely time on their hols.

Sun’s out

Thankfully the water pressure was good and we were soon able to push off again, winding and heading northwards. Our first job today was to fill with diesel, the tank gauge was reading a quarter full, the lowest we’ve had it since Oleanna was brand new. We’d last filled at Rugby Boats at the beginning of May since when we’ve covered quite a lot of water.

We passed the high banks, a chap was doing something at the EA moorings just north of The Boat Haven, the recent rain having helped give the grass seed a helping hand. A wonky cottage when zoomed in on looks even wonkier. The window sills peeling away from the windows and some disturbingly large cracks, we doubted you’d be able to get a mortgage on such a house. This wasn’t the last such property we’d be seeing today.

At The Ship we turned onto the River Little Ouse and slowed right down, the tributary far narrower and lined on both sides with boats. After a half mile we spotted the Little Ouse Moorings service pontoon and pulled in. Thank you Paul and Brian for pointing us here. Mick tried calling the phone number but got an answer phone, so we climbed up over the flood bank and down the other side to find the farm with its big modern gates and rang the doorbell.

What a poppy!

Natalie appeared, collected her keys and came to fill up our diesel tank. There was time to chat diesel, white versus red, Calor gas and the shortages, she suggested where we might try if we needed a new bottle in the coming weeks, she’s only had one new bottle since October!

Snoozing in the sunshine

At £1.48 a litre we knew the bill would be high, not as high as if we’d filled in Ely where their pump was boasting £1.51 the other day. We took on 125 litres, paid in the office, then had a quick lunch before pushing away from the pump.

We had a two hours cruise before we’d reach a mooring today, thank goodness the flood banks came and went opening out the view first one side then the other. A distant view of Ely Cathedral, tractors in the fields, trees blew in the wind as we chose whether to wear coats or not.

Only two bridges to pass under, neither of them taking much traffic other than for farming.

Then the end of a wonderful ramshackled building came into view. The end wall somehow standing up, a large brick chimney in the middle. As we came round to view the longer side of the building the floors really couldn’t find any more angles to lean at. This was The Waterman’s Arms at Redmere it closed in 1956 and still stands , sort of!

Left please

The navigation bends off to the left as Lakenheath Lode joins. High up on a bank I could spy what I thought were two herons. Not often you see herons together.

Common Crane

But later on zooming in on the one photo I’d managed to take I spotted that the bird had a touch of red to it’s head and it’s neck was far too thick for a Heron. This I’m fairly sure was a Common Crane.


More unused buildings were Xanadu Boat Hire, portacabins not that appealing.

Bird of prey, but which one?

There were also birds of prey circling above. Were these Marsh Harriers, Kites, other birds of prey? A look on the internet gave us comparisons between birds, but for that to be of any use you really need to know more about what you are looking at, rather than just the silhouette against the sky.

Goba mooring, the other side is Lakenheath Fen Reserve

The GOBA mooring signs came into view. The edge a touch uneven and overgrown, this would need a considered step off to moor up. We continued a little way before trying, but then neither of us could get back on board! Once Mick was back at the helm we pulled back almost to the start of the moorings where it was easier to get on and off. The plank came out to make it even easier, even Tilly was quite happy to make use of it before she pranced about in the long grass.

The planks out

0 locks, 11.04 miles, 2 winds, 1 right, 1 left, 100ft backwards,14 boat grown strawberries, 1 Captain twonk, 125 litres, 2 wonky buildings, 3.5 hours shore leave, 2 cranes, 4673 damselflies, 24569 yoyo flies, 1 Kingfisher this way, 1 Kingfisher that way, 1 mooring in the middle of nowhere.