Thursday, 28 August 2014

Cambridge to St Neots

Since leaving Cambridge the Internet reception has continued to be pretty poor.

We've seen lots of kingfishers along the river but the most prolific bird in this part of the world has to be the Cormorant. There are so many on the river, fishing or sunning themselves, that they are no longer a novelty.

This is the beautiful arched bridge at St. Ives.

The riverside moorings were full so we nipped down a small inlet to moor on The Waits council 48hr moorings. They weren't the best moorings we've ever been on as the quayside was very high and we struggled getting Chico on and off the boat. It was also narrow and a dead end so narrowboats had to reverse out although plastic cruisers could just about turn around.

Once past St. Ives the river became much more interesting. The Great Ouse is quite boring in parts as it's very straight with high flood banks but here it was wider and winding with open flood plains and some beautiful houses reminiscent of the Thames. We saw several thatched houses and also this thatched boat house.

Last night we moored on GOBA moorings near Brampton Mill which still has a working waterwheel.

Our last lock  today was at St. Neots. It was very long and just for a change it had the guillotine gate at the down-stream end and "normal" windlass operated V gates at the top end.

We're now moored in the centre of town on The Priory Centre 48 hr moorings on a floating pontoon. There are unofficial park moorings on the opposite bank but as we're meeting friends here tomorrow this seemed an easier place for them to find. I'm really happy to say that the weather has improved drastically and it's been very warm and sunny again today. Summer's not over yet!

Saturday, 23 August 2014


We're now moored in Cambridge after making the decision to bite the bullet and pay the extra £45 for the Cam Conservancy licence to come here. We called into the Cam Conservancy office near Baits Bite Lock to fill in the comprehensive application form and expected to be given some sort of information pack/leaflets, similar to what we'd been given by the EA at Denver, but there was nothing forthcoming. It's almost as if they don't particularly want visiting boats down here. The approach into Cambridge is lined with residential moorings full of dirty, scruffy boats - very similar to the linear moorings on the South Oxford, and when you get to Jesus Lock which is the end of the navigation there are only 100 metres of visitor moorings. That's only enough room for 3 narrowboats and 2 small cruisers. Talking to a couple of local boaters we're lucky to even have that much visitor mooring as the local Labour council wanted to turn this area over for more residential boats to provide cheap housing options.

One good thing about having so many residential boats here is that the council have provided a sanitary station with a super-efficient pump-out machine at the very small cost of £3 a time. With it being such good value, we made the most of it and gave the tank a really good cleaning out by refilling it with clean water and doing a second flushing out pump-out.

Yesterday we took the open top bus tour round the city. It lasts an hour and a quarter and was very interesting and we saw all the university colleges that we would probably have missed by going on foot.

This is the Mathematical Bridge which was built in 1749. Although it looks to be an arch, it is actually made up of straight timbers and was self-supporting without the need for nuts and bolts. Allegedly it was taken apart by some students in 1866 but they were unable to rebuild it and had to add the nuts and bolts that can be seen today.

This is the Round Church, also known as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It's one of only 4 round churches in England and dates back to 1130 AD

The Great Gate of King's College

and the main building of King's College

This is the Catholic Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs which is commonly mistaken for Cambridge Cathedral. Although it is a city Cambridge doesn't actually have a cathedral. It was granted City status purely due to the university colleges.

We've really enjoyed our time here and it was definitely worth the visit - and the extra cost. There are LOTS pubs and plenty of superb restaurants. We've tried a few but the best has to be The Oak Bistro where we had lunch today. Superb food and excellent service - and the diet starts tomorrow!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Brandon to Five Miles From Nowhere

The only downside to this area that I can see is the dire lack of 3 mobile internet and EE phone signal. We've been without much of either since Brandon.

The wild fowl has been pretty diverse and amongst others we've seen Little Egrets, lots of adult and baby Grebes and even a pair of Egyptian Geese, although I didn't have the camera handy when we passed them.

After the weedy stretches of the Great Ouse around Denver the Rivers Little Ouse and Lark have been fairly weed free. That must be due to this little weed cutter that we passed all snuggly moored up.

After the Little Ouse, we moored again on the Great Ouse at Littleport. The EA moorings are superb although Littleport village isn't worth a visit. It's very run down and has a lot of rental properties empty and advertised as to let. The Swan on the River pub which was opposite the moorings was run by kids so the service was slow and the beer was only just drinkable, not one to go on the list for a re-visit.

Just as we were leaving the moorings I went to put the washing machine on but there was no power. The Travel Power had packed up, so we tied up again and Roger changed the brush pack which he had recently bought for spares.

The one on the left is obviously the new one and I suppose, in the scheme of things, we've been lucky to get such a long life (6 years) out of the old one.

Next stop was down the River Lark. Again, the EA moorings at Prickwillow were excellent and we stayed there for 2 nights. On Sunday we visited the Drainage Museum which had lots of salvaged pump engines which had been used to drain the Fens. Unfortunately they were having a bad day and none of the engines or interactive displays were working but it was still worth a visit.

If you're heading this way soon, there are lots of damson & plum trees on the footpath just outside the village. I picked damsons and made my first batch of jam so far this year.

After lunch we continued on to Ely. This was our first glimpse of the imposing cathedral.

We didn't arrive until late afternoon but still managed to get a decent mooring and went walkabout.

This is Oliver Cromwell's House which is also the Tourist Information Centre.

This is St. Mary's Cottage which was built around 1550

The cathedral is really quite spectacular. The stone work is so intricate and there are gargoyles all over.

The main entrance door is intricately carved and very ornate.

You are welcomed by this gorgeous vaulted ceiling.

We went inside as I wanted to go to the Stained Glass Museum which is housed in one of the balconies of the cathedral. They had a good display of stained glass panels from churches all over the country, but I have to say that I was disappointed with the cathedral. It's definitely but better on the outside than the inside. Photography wasn't allowed either so I haven't any pictures to show you.

Ely is well worth a visit. The city has lots to see and plenty of good independent shops. There are also 3 supermarkets, Aldi, Sainsbury's and Waitrose. The post office is a portakabin in a car park but it has been so busy with the locals that there's a poster saying that the Post Office are considering re-instating a "proper" post office.

We're now moored on the River Cam at Five Miles From Anywhere pub. The moorings are good and the pub is very busy to say that it's only a Tuesday. The beer is good too, four real ales plus four draught ciders. They also have live music on regularly so no doubt we'll be paying a return visit on the way back.

Thursday, 14 August 2014


Carrying on yesterday we came across the next set of GOBA moorings. Once again, almost impossible to access let alone moor up to.

The scenery was much better on this section of the river as the banks were much lower and there were several herds of cattle grazing on the flood plains. This handsome beast was very interested in the boat as we passed.

The river was quite twisty in places which made a nice change from the rigidly straight channels of the Middle Levels and the meres on either side of the river were home to many many swans and other water fowl. We only saw two other moving boats all day and as luck would have it we met both plastic cruisers on blind bends with over-hanging trees. One of these over-hanging trees had come down across the river, presumably in the recent high winds. The first cruiser skipper warned us about it, and also about the following cruiser, so we took it carefully and didn't have any "oh bugger" moments.

This is the sluice gate which regulates the river level near Hockwold Cum Wilton.

In times of flood the guillotine gate that we passed through is closed and the ones on the right of the photo are opened to divert the flood waters into the Cut-off Channel and flood plains.

We're now on the EA moorings just below Brandon Lock. This is as far as we can go as there's nowhere for us to turn round on the other side of the lock. The moorings are excellent, what I'd expected of the GOBA moorings really. It's very quite here and the water is crystal clear so I've been watching the fish out of the side hatch while Roger has been sat on the back of the boat trying to catch them. I think the resident Kingfisher has been having more luck than him though. It seems to have it's territory range from the lock to a tree about 200 yards down-stream from the boat with a stop-off in the tree directly opposite us. He's caught a lot of fish too but I just can't manage to get a photo of him.

Brandon is a nice little town with both Tesco and Aldi supermarkets as well as local butchers and greengrocers. There are also at least 3 pubs and a couple of tea-rooms.

It's an old town with many of the buildings being built from the local flint

The town used to be a a major producer of flints and furs but both trades have now died out and the main reminder is the Flintnapper's Arms pub. For once we didn't get side-tracked and go in for a pint.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

GOBA members only moorings - what a joke!

In between the storms yesterday we had an amazing full double rainbow directly opposite the boat. The photo doesn't do it justice as it was extremely bright with all 7 colours clearly defined.

The super moon duly appeared at dusk but it was far too windy to get the telescope out and it clouded over later so I didn't get to see any of the Perseids Meteorite shower either.

We left the good Denver moorings after lunch. The duck weed had collected into another thick blanket by the weir and service block.

It's still extremely windy and we passed a few of these outlets from the pumping stations, bubbling with a strong discharge of flood water from yesterday.

Someone's got a good sense of humour round here!

When we came onto the Great Ouse we paid £20 to join the G.O.B.A (Great Ouse Boating Association) as they have moorings and facilities along the Great and Little Ouse.

The first GOBA mooring we came across was about 10ft long and it was impossible to get off. It was also littered with an abandoned fridge and tractor tyres.

We wanted to moor at The Ship Inn at the junction with the Little Ouse river, but the E.A. moorings were full and the only vacant mooring outside the pub was far too short for us. We'd seen some GOBA moorings listed in the guide book on the Little Ouse so made the decision to go that way although it was another hour and a half to get there.

These moorings are a disgrace! If it wasn't too late and too windy to carry on, we'd have just kept cruising to the next E.A. ones.

You can't get into the bank so I had to lasso a "bollard" so we could use the plank to get off. When we did manage to get off the boat the bank is unstable and made from very soft muddy dredgings.

The mooring "bollards" are 3" x 2" softwood which were hardly driven into the bank and pulled out as soon as we tied up to them. Roger had to hammer them in deeper and we've had to use 4 ropes for any measure of security.

I hope this is just a one-off and that the other GOBA moorings are better, otherwise I'll be complaining and asking for a refund!