It was a glorious start to the day, weather was wonderful, birds were singing and we had decided to go to the Jenyns Arms for a pint and maybe lunch. However, just as we were about to leave a cruiser turned up trying to moor between Caxton and ourselves and with a little bit of shunting we managed to get them in.
Tied to the outside of the cruiser was a punt with 4 lads (sorry if there were any ladies aboard) who were punting for the Heroes Fund, they should have been under there own power but had it not been for the cruiser they would never have made their slot through Denver Sluice.
I think they decided to have a quickie at the Jenyns!
It would have taken me more than a quickie to try this between Denver Sluice and Salters Lode.
Anyway, one of the more pleasant reasons for river cruising is the greater number of different types of boats you will see, in the main Cruisers but occasionally something a little larger.
Anyway onto the Jenyns Arms for Lunch, well a liquid one , we decided not to eat, Roast Lamb £11.95, in most pubs you could both eat Sunday Lunch for that price. But hey, they were very busy.
Back to 'MR' for Dinner? No such luck when we arrived back David and Amanda, the Stalkers, were visiting Caxton and were picking Lesley and Joe's brains about their build, If you are reading this guys, how about 'The Stalker' as a possible name for your baby.
Don't mind being stalked, Amanda had been busy that morning cooking Brownies and Flapjack and you can tell by my waist line that I am very partial to both, there, I said it no one else needs to. An enjoyable afternoon was had by all. Thank you for the food parcels guys.
Spent most of Thursday slobbing around in the sun - the fellers enjoying the fact that they can fish again and motivated themselves enough to walk into Downham and treat themselves to new rods, reels and assorted paraphernalia.
This guy sauntered past us and reminded us just what we'd missed this year by not making our regular trip with friends on the Broads and a bit of sailing. We think he said that this is a Mersey shrimper - isn't she lovely?
Lesley and I finally roused ourselves enough to walk the dogs and returned to find my husband showing a strange woman round our boat - even more scary for Lesley, her husband was showing a strange man around Caxton!!! It turned out that she was Amanda and not strange at all - however, I'm not at all sure about David; it was his birthday and when Amanda asked him how he would like to spend his evening, he replied, "let's go and find Caxton and Matilda Rose". Now that is very strange. Needless to say that they are another couple planning a boat build, who follow our blogs and realised we were in their area. A very convivial evening was spent yakking and we hope they might come and find us again this weekend! We were running out of food and no-one could face the trek to and from Downham carrying heavy shopping, so we pulled pins on MR at 9.00am to take her down the relief channel to go shopping and moored up at Downham.
Suitably re-stocked, we had a bit of lunch and then Lesley and I walked the dogs to Denver Mill
and into Denver village, some very interesting buildings in amongst the (rather nicely done) new builds.
So here we are on the Great Ouse on Silt Fen Farm moorings; by Denver Sluice and the very impressive flood relief channel which runs down past Downham Market. This is a lovely peaceful mooring in open countryside with magnificent sunsets in the big open skies.
There is work going on on the opposite bank to increase the flood defenses, but they're not disturbing us and the parked vehicles look rather romantic against the setting sun.
Rather than shift the boats, Lesley and I walked the dogs in to Downham Market . Plenty of opportunity for the dogs to swim as you walk in along the relief channel which turns off, through a lock. just after the sluice.
Downham is a pretty little market town with a butchers and greengrocers amongst the many independant shops. There is also a Morrisons, but it's too far to carry a ton of heavy stuff - although Lesley gave it her best shot as she had family coming for the day. I took pity on her and carried a loaf of bread.
Because Salter's Lode Lock is only 62 ft long and our boats are 66ft and 68ft respectively, we were asked to turn up at 12 o'clock for the level tide. I didn't really understand how this was going to work or what the difference between level and unlevel tides was (despite having lived by the sea for 10 years) and I wasn't going to ask as I'm surrounded by smug gits who know everything. This was the scene when we turned up - boats in all directions (well, all directions for this neck of the woods anyway).
One by one they were all called through until there was only Caxton and ourselves remaining.
The tide was ebbing alarmingly fast by now (ebbs I do know about - especially the spring ones) and still we waited; then look what happened....
.......see. When the tide is level with your side, both ends of the lock are opened and you can get big boats through little locks. Easy when you know. Here we go then..
..'cept that's the mud bank opposite, the tide is running out fast and we need to hang a right. We're through and out pops Caxton
all she has to do now is get her nose round before she runs aground on the mud flats - right now, they might be regretting that extension
The safe haven of Denver Sluice is now insight
In we go and remember to breathe again
Out the other side onto the Great Ouse..lovely wide open spaces. Especially after the dykes of the middle levels.
It's a relief to come across houses after all the open fenland
After being helped through Marmont Priory Lock by Maureen and her husband (with a gentle ticking off for not, "ringing the bell for assistance"), we moored our two boats up one either side - we'd been trying to moor for the previous hour or two but couldn't find anywhere. So, with Maureen's permission, Caxton over nighted on the lock landing by the road and we slung a gang plank precariously onto the opposite bank so that Daisy could go out. Lesley and I managed one of our 'just nipping out for a quick walk' tricks - returning 3 hours later as we didn't take a map.
Although only a tiny road, the constant noise from cars and tractors stopped any hopes of serious sleep so we were quick to pull pins in the morning and were lucky enough to time it just right to get the 2 moorings below the church and the The 5 Bells Inn.
We managed (it's such a hardship) to support the local hostelry where several pints of excellent Woodforde's Wherry http://www.woodfordes.co.uk/ were enjoyed - along with some good banter with the landlady and staff. Although we didn't eat there this time, the menu looked good and the prices were very reasonable
Upton has butchers and shops although we were still well stocked. The downside was that there was absolutely nowhere to empty or walk dogs and the rotten road was still running alongside so not a lot of sleep again.
Fantastic little market town with an amazing little museum. Market days are Saturday and Wednesday and I pigged out off of the shellfish stall (the thing I really miss about Norfolk is the readily available supply of fish and shellfish); Lesley and I buying up crab, scallops, prawns, crevettes and cockles.
Later on in the day they had a "Dad's Army" fete. Unfortunately the, again limited, town moorings are 36 hour which, if you think about it, means 24 hour. So we had to leave at lunchtime in order to find another mooring (the're not exactly ten a penny!).
As you can see, this is not the ideal mooring for Daisy so we, collectively, volunteered Graham to take Daisy out for some exercise in her harness.
I think you can tell that drink has been taken and that G is far happier than she who must be obeyed!!
Needless to say, I took pity on her and, nervously, let her out under supervision and unencumbered for a while.
Off we trotted, having seen the boats through the immediate lock, for what turned out to be an 11.6 mile walk. F & F sat patiently whilst Lesley tried to decide which way up she should point the map (she does try hard bless her).
So we walked and we walked and we walked and we saw nothing until, lo and behold, these popped up...
... I'll tell you, anything that sticks out of the ground by more than 4" around here is real excitement!!!!!!!!
(OK, so the wind farm is just the other side of March, but god this landscape is desperately dull).
The colour in the embankment is lovely though - I love these purple poppies.
Finally we hit the outskirts of March where the footpath takes you between the cottages on your left and their gardens and moorings on your right.
After a tiring tour of Whittlesey in the wind and the rain, Lesley and I fell gratefully through the welcoming doors of the Black Bull (circa 1650s). Our eyes fell lovingly on the pump marked Bombardier - one of our personal favourites. Two pints were deftly poured by our very amiable host and I took an appreciative slug before doing my best not to spit it back out as the taste of detergent hit the back of my throat. Mine host disappeared into the cellar and came back stating (rather obviously) that the Bombardier was off.
He swiftly poured us a pint of London Pride and the conversation around the bar was friendly and inclusive - such a very warm welcome. Only trouble was, as I sipped the replacement pint, it didn't taste an awful lot better. As we had already learnt that the landlord had been there for 17 years, I kind of felt that my taste buds must be up the creek as he surely couldn't have stayed in business that long if both his real ales were off - so the convivial conversation continued as no-one mentioned the barely touched pints on the bar.
In the end, I managed to catch Lesley's eye and she confirmed my thoughts so I politely informed him that this pint was no better and suggested that he tried it. He declined and these 2 pints followed the first two down the sink with questions about our beer drinking credentials and suggestions that we were under cover agents for CAMRA. He put on a new barrel and presented Lesley with a pint to try - her face was a picture of disgust and I was half way out the door when she grinned and pronounced it fine - phew!!!! Does raise a few questions though.
This is the museum - sadly not open on Thursdays - and the original fire station.
Nice little town with just about everything you could want - had a good Indian meal at the restaurant on the market square, the Chinese wasn't tried but included smoked chicken on it's menu which is usually a good sign. Butcher, deli, 8 or 9 cafes, fishing tackle/pet food shop and a rather nice gallery at sensible prices where I was able to pick up some unusual presents.
From the wide open spaces of the Nene to the dykes of the middle levels. Tina, the lockeeper at Stanground Lock, welcomed us through with animal chat - she is, bless her, the local soft touch for any homeless animals: Shetland ponies (going for dog food at £20 each), 4 hand reared kittens (mum was attacked by a fox), another cat (wouldn't settle on a boat), etc.,etc. She is the 3rd generation lockeeper in her family.
Funny to be so 'up close and personal' to the 'sides'.
This needs a long hard look, but it's my best lousy attempt at photographing a tern that used our stern to catch fish as we cruised. It must have dived ten times along side of our stern, coming up with a fish on 6 of it's attempts. You can see the water circle left behind as it comes back out of the dive ....a.m.a.z.i.n.g.
Phew that was the infamous Briggate Bend...tight!
...and the view behind as we left it. It's much sharper than these photos suggest and it could be very exciting if you were full length.
The blue pub sported a sign saying, "voted best pub in Cambridgeshire 2009" but had no moorings...grrrr!
Cottages on the final approach onto the Whittlesey moorings.