Tuesday 25 July 2017

22 - 25 July The Middle Levels

Saturday 22 July Rachel's birthday and a trip to March (8 miles, 1 lock)
setting off from Glady Dacks staithe under blue skies

barley fields stretched to the horizon
We set off along Wells Creek across Mullicourt Aqueduct
Mullicourt Aqueduct

Middle Level Main Drain / 16 foot drain
under sunny skies two miles to the villages of Outwell and Upwell, spread along the road from Downham Market to March, alongside for some of the way.
water pumped up to maintain canal level

road beside water
At Nordelph we passed the end of Pophams Eau, blocked by a weir and low bridge.
low bridges

There were moorings, pubs, fish & chip shop, general store, PO, butcher and hairdresser, plus lots of small square houses, private jetties and neglected boats.
mooring for patrons


sharp bend with moorings

Up-To-Date Cottage !!

watch out



Globe Inn
We enjoyed a slow cruise past them all.
The elderly Marmont Priory Lock keeper lady had lived there for fifty years, taking a small rent from the Middle Level Commissioners for the use of her garden, plus tips from boaters. Her daughter was helping.
Liana helping the lady at Marmont Priory Lock

The narrow waterway broadened out after we passed the far navigable end of Pophams Eau, for the last few miles to March, past the end of the Twenty Foot Drain.

Liana saw a "tank"
Fields of ripening barley, potatoes and root crops grew under darkening clouds and showers.
As soon as John wore his wet weather gear, it cleared up as the waterway narrowed in March. The centre of town moorings were full, so we moored on the off side using pins, but passing boats pulled at these.
March town clock

we moored on the left

Sunday 23 July March to Ramsey (9 miles, 0 locks, low bridges)
We met friendly mum and two daughters at Fox Narrowboats Marina reception and organised a week's mooring while we see family in Leicester.
leaving the moorings. You need a special Middle level key(from ML Commissioners fancy offices next to marina, to use the facilities the other side of the bridge

Middle Level Watermens Club MLWC

pretty boat

great back garden!

Fox's Marina, March, where we are leaving the boat for a few days

Middle level Commissioners fancy offices
Moving on to Flood's Ferry, we turned left and continued on the River Nene Old Course and immediately met the lowest bridge at White Fen Farm, barely 2 metres, which just touched the cratch cover, without damage, thankfully, as we edged VERY slowly under. Benwick looked a nice village. We passed moored weedcutters, then hit the weed!
Flood's Ferry touring park and marina
Mainly surface pond weed, so we coped.
left Ramsey, right Peterborough

lowest bridge 48 White Farm Bridge, just touched the cratch top ...
At Wells Bridge we turned right, under a couple of low bridges until we turned left, past Lodes End Lock, down High Lode to Ramsey, passing Bill Fen Marina, where friendly boaters advised us about turning and mooring in Ramsey Basin.
floral Benwick bridge

Middle Level Commissioners weed boats

the weed boats got here next day

Wells Bridge junction, left for forty foot and welches dam lock, right for Ramsey

Lodes End lock with its locked compound, Left for Ramsey 1 mile down High Lode
This desperately needs new wooden boards to moor against. John got the shears out and tidied up the neglected hedges and mooring, so we could get at the bollards. Clearly, someone with vision had done a good job thirty years ago, but recent town worthies have left any work until new housing has been built around the basin ( according to locals). The Railway Inn yards away has decent beer, while food and tea shops plus a variety of other shops can be found up the pleasant high street. We had a drink and chat with locals at The Railway, until rain stopped play.
Bill Fen Marina entrance.

we got advice from friendly local boaters

it got narrow past the scrapyard

approaching the basin, Ramsey Barge Dock

a 60 foot boat can just wind (turn) in the basin, if it is empty of boats

Annie moored in the Barge Dock / winding hole

Monday 24 July Our 36th Wedding Anniversary! from Ramsey along forty foot and sixteen foot drains to Pophams Eau in the rain (17 miles, 0 locks, lots of low bridges)
Rain kept us reading until late morning, when we got water from Bill Fen Marina, helped by a boater.
sluices at basin

John tidied up the Barge Dock

Bill Fen Marina

looking through Wells Bridge at the weed boats

the weed boats hadn't reached this end if the forty foot (Vermuyden's) drain

we fitted under all the low bridges today
We couldn't get a key to unlock the Lodes End Lock compound, as the owners were absent, so we had a long passage down the almost straight Forty Foot or Vermuyden's Drain, 8 miles to near the closed Horseway Lock.
curvy roof

left 16 foot main drain, straight on for closed Horseway Lock and Welches Dam Lock

weed and Horseway Bridge in the distance. The lock is twice as far
We travelled another 8 miles along the Sixteen Foot or Main Drain  to Three Holes, where Liana had read about a proposed mooring by the bridge and junction with Popham's Eau. It was there, with our thanks to Peterborough IWA branch who financed it, and was just long enough for Annie. This is the only decent mooring we have found outside towns! The little Middle level Commissioners staithes (jetties) have no bollards or rings and state " No Mooring".
the Sixteen Foot is about 8 miles to Popham's Eau junction, under about 12 bridges

one of the low bridges we squeezed under

the mooring: Thank you, Peterborough IWA Branch!

our excellent mooring at Three Holes Bridge. The coffee shop was next to the bridge
A young couple careered past us with their newly acquired narrowboat, before mooring nearby. He was struggling with his steering, so perhaps it was well that he didn't take up John's offer of breasting up with us (coming alongside).

Tuesday 25 July back to March
Cloudy but at least dry, we could have a look at the village, spotting a coffee shop close by the mooring! Travelling down Popham's Eau, we spotted NB Patricia RWBC, which must have belonged to our Retford & Worksop Boat Club. Past huge wind turbines, we turned onto the River Nene Old Course and returned to March.

setting off back to March

we passed NB Patricia once of Retford & Worksop Boat Club on Popham's Eau

... like a bird on the wire, like a  .... (for Leonard Cohen fans!)

end of Popham's eau, left for March

some of the many huge wind turbines