Friday, 27 August 2010

St Neots and back

Sarah and John have just returned from taking Patience to St Neots and back (64 miles and 18 locks) over 5 days. We set off in glorious sunshine on Sunday afternoon and moored at the Old Ferry Boat Inn, Holywell on Sunday evening. We arrived in Huntingdon on Monday and enjoyed an excellent dinner at The Bridge Hotel. By Tuesday evening we had got to St Neots and moored overnight just downstream from the town bridge. Heavy rain was predicted for later in the day, so we made an early start back on Wednesday and got as far as Hemingford Grey before it started raining. We had a very pleasant evening meal at The Cock in the village.
On Thursday morning we waited for the heavy rain to abate slightly and set off again downstream at 12.30. The rain just kept coming down and the water level downstream of St Ives lock was sufficiently high to prevent a number of cabin cruisers getting through under the guillotine gate. Patience made it comfortably, although we did have to remove the chimney and stow the TV aerial on the foredeck.
The river was very high from then on; right over the top of the gates at Brownshill Staunch (see photo below) and well over the banks from Brownshill to Earith. We decided to just keep going and got through Hemitage Lock with a few cm headroom to spare. The headroom under the lock bridge had reduced to 1.8m and Patience is about 1.7m. See photo of boats held up on the Old West River the day after we just made it through.

We did the last 8.8 miles back to the Lazy Otter in 2 hrs 10 mins, an average speed of just over 4 mph. We moored up at 18.30 hrs, 6 hours after setting off from Hemingford Grey, 18 miles and 4 locks upstream. We were helped by the faster than usual stream flowing, although we were also sailing into a moderate NE wind.
Altogether a great trip, but the weather could have been kinder to us! Next time, we'll try for Bedford!

Photos are of 1) Patience moored up at St Neots, 2) Sarah on Patience (surrounded by duckweed) waiting to go through St Neots lock on the way home, 3) the water over the top of Brownshill Staunch, also on the way home and 4) boats held up on the Old West River by the high water on the tidal section under the lock bridge at Hermitage.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Why Canals?

I came across a wonderful little project my daughter had written for school at the age of 12 called "Why did canals become popular". It was a really good piece about the history and geography of it all, the links with the industrial revolution, moving raw materials and fuel to places of industry then the decline when the railways proved more flexible and faster.
But what it didn't address was why we love them today.
So I re-quote a piece by Ben MacIntyre from The Times. It sums it up rather well:

"The survival and revival of the canal is a reflection of its enduring place in British culture: a strange admixture of commerce and pleasure, history and modern development, back-breaking labour and reflective leisure. Canals always mattered more than the money they made.
In an age of dirt and speed, the canal is not only a vital artefact, but a form of therapy. Puttering along a man-made ditch seems a peculiar form of relaxation, but once one has seen Britain passing slowly and serenely at eye level, it is impossible to see it in the same way again."
Ben Macintyre

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Roger Kidd and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Slow and serene - that's the life for me! And Patience is the key ....