Sunday, 2 October 2011

Retreat from Reach and The Winning of Wicken

An early start was prompted partly by the addition of crew and partly by the belief that if we left early there would be less chance of meeting another boat coming towards us down the lode.
Leaving Reach on the Lode
It was a serene journey. Knowing that Patience had made it down with only a bit of reed interference I left John at the helm and stood in the bow with my camera. Peaceful and with surprisingly good views over surrounding fields (the lode being rather higher than the fields around) I was stunned to see a bird heading at speed straight for me, down the channel created by the high reeds on either side. Only at the last moment did it veer away revealing a rusty orange breast - a kingfisher.  I have seen these often along local rivers but always as a flash of electric blue from the banks ahead of the boat, never heading towards me.
Lodes Way bridge reflected in Reach Lode
The Lodes Way bridge over Reach Lode is a new creation: certainly not on our maps though linking two existing tracks, we found out later that it was erected earlier in the month (September 2011). It forms part of the National Cycle Network route 11 joining Bottisham, Anglesey Abbey, Reach and Wicken. A beautifully constructed and substantial bridge for a humble lode such as this.
And so to the Upware stretch where we now turned sharp right under the steeply arched bridge leading to Wicken Fen and its National Trust centre.
Bridge at Upware crossing the entrance to Wicken Lode.
Wicken Lode is also narrow and bends rather more than the relatively straight Burwell and Reach lodes. It is, however, shorter and provides a useful mooring only a few minutes walk from the Wicken Fen National Trust Visitors' Centre (cafe, shop and information, loos, bike hire, walks, bird hides etc).
Mooring at end of Wicken Lode

Along the way you might also see the undomesticated Konik ponies, part of a grazing project to create new habitats for a diverse range of wildlife.
Konik ponies by Wicken lode
The visitors' centre revealed to us the details of the new bridge (see above) and ticked us off for thinking that the Lodes were created by the Romans, as we had thought. It is now believed that they were designed for water management, avoiding the flooding of local grazing land and they were probably built by the monasteries at Ely and Ramsey. Later they came to be used for trade (clunch, reeds for thatch etc) and now of course for leisure.
Finally back to Upware, through the lock, grabbed a fortunate mooring at Five Miles - a pub which is very popular in summer despite being Five Miles From Anywhere and having interior decor like a 1970's discoteque. Nevertheless there are moorings, spacious grounds and a choice of beers. And the baguettes were good value too.
And so back up river, the stretch from Upware to Pope's corner being wide and attractive in good weather. Today was accepted as a record breaking day for weather, the hottest October day in the UK ever (29.9 degrees). It was good to be out on the river.

Reaching Reach

And so it was that, on the day in late September that recorded Cambridge as the hottest place in the UK, Duncan set out alone in a desperate attempt to reach Reach.
As described in the previous blog entry, Reach is a pleasant little village which is rather in the back of beyond - hence its charm. Reaching it from the Cam is an experience, past the Five Miles with its constant stream of cruisers, (so no moorings for me), through the Upware lock and its warning lights ("You haf only fifteen minutes zen ve shall close ze lock gates!") and into a long string of quiet straight moorings ... It was there I paused to have my egg sandwich and my lukewarm can of beer (the fridge having broken down).
Upware moorings from Wicken bridge looking back towards Upware Lock

After a while improving the gangplank in readiness, by adding non-slip strips and drilling holes to anchor the landward side using tent pegs, I set off down the straight lode to Reach village. Mostly straight, very narrow at times, Reach Lode is not a place you'd want to meet someone coming the other way. I imagine you'd both have to creep into the rushes, probably switch off engines and slowly inch past each other, grim faced. Having done a recce (see previous blog) I knew at least there was somewhere to moor up, though a sluggishness in the engine power and a rise in temperature suggested I had weed wrapped around my prop. A narrow stream between the reeds is not a great place to switch off and delve into the weed hatch, especially if there is (and there was) another narrow boat not far behind you. Reversing in these circumstances is, as they say, not an option ....
View up Reach Lode from Reach moorings

Anyway, got there eventually, a cruiser already in the GOBA mooring who helped take a line as I sidled up the river into a place I'd planned for myself. So many reeds and bushes it was hard to nudge in, but thanks to this chap on land I got it secure, with the stern in the only clear space.
View from and of Reach moorings.
Then up comes narrow boat two, with an experienced crew but they just couldn't find a spot without reeds and bushes so it was my turn to haul them in.
Memo to Parish Council / GOBA / Environment Agency - PLEASE cut the vegetation! It's potentially a great mooring, let down by the fact you can't get into most of it unaided or without a gangplank!
Reach Lode beyond head of navigation. Bankside vegetation makes mooring almost impossible.

Spent the evening in The Dyke's End - an excellent and friendly pub with good food on a varied menu - without the air of a gastro-pub. I think it would be on my Top Ten Pub list, and only four minutes from the moorings! Why don't they make more of these moorings? That evening there were four boats, 7 people, all of whom ate and drank at The Dyke's End. That's £200 in one night thanks to the moorings. Spare a few quid to cut down the vegetation and you could double that from boaters!
Next - Return From Reach