Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Pedal the Atlantic

Not really narrow boat territory, this, but another part of my life is spent organising The Shelford Feast, our local village event. One person who has helped us is Justin Coleman, who supplies comedians for our stand-up night.
Now he has a whacky plan to pedal across the Atlantic. Yes, pedal.
This December, he attempts to pedal 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean – all in the name of charity.

Justin, along with pedal partner James Mouland, will set off from Puerto Mogan in the Canaries and pedal across the ocean to reach Port St Charles in Barbados, attempting to raise £50,000 for the Alzheimer’s Society. If successful, they will become the oldest pair to pedal the ocean.

Justin is looking for corporate and individual sponsorship for the voyage. If you'd like to support him, please visit www.atlantic2012.co.uk where you'll find details of how to donate or download a sponsorship pack. Alternatively, you can call him on 01455 840 102.

This is what he's pedalling (and it's the boat in front not the cruiser):
 Best of luck and I hope he doesn't meet any icebergs.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Royal Pageant Rehearsal

A very brief entry here to direct you to Herbie's Blog with amazing pictures of the rehearsal for narrow boats in advance of the Royal Pageant on the Thames next week. Well done Herbie!
And if you have access to The Times Online (which, it has been announced, will be free and open to all over the celebratory weekend) do watch the interactive show here indicating where the best viewpoints are. Or if not, go to the Pageant's own website.
There's a BBC item about The Royal Barge Gloriana and an artist's impression of Gloriana in full flow from Metro - with many more pics of boats related to the pageant.
[More pics on my blog of the actual Pageant here]

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Stretham Ferry Bridge

Mentioning the old bridge at Stretham Ferry set me wondering how old it was and when the place stopped being a ferry (bridges usually being the death of ferries). 
This view of the bridge from the east shows a pretty elegant but strong arch framing the marina beyond.
This part of the A10, the Roman Akemen Street, connects Cambridge and Ely. The old road became less popular by the 11th century when the main route was along the Aldreth Causeway. However it was still possible to cross the Old West River by a ferry until 1763 when a Turnpike Road was opened with a toll bridge.

The original bridge was so narrow and steep that farmers needed extra horses to haul their carts and motor cars found it difficult too, so it was replaced in 1925 by the present bridge, which was tested by placing four traction engines on it. Until 1976 it carried all the traffic along the A10, when the road was straightened, bypassing the old bridge and the pub. In many ways this has been a benefit for both pub and the marina, which are more peaceful with the traffic a little further away and have the advantage of a quiet stretch of road for access.

The Pub, described in 1797 as being "old and well established," was known in 1797 as the 'Charles in the Oak'  but was destroyed by fire in 1844.  The old pub closed in 1986 after which it was redeveloped and reopened as the Lazy Otter in April 1987.

Stretham Boat Yard

We currently moor Patience at The Lazy Otter, which is a mile or so south of Stretham on the A10, right by the old bridge.
It's a secure mooring with water though no electricity, loos or pump out. Which suits us just fine. What it does have is a pub with a good range of real ale and other beers, ample space outside and a popular restaurant. Modern "lodges" are being built nearby - a couple of which will have a good view of the river.
However what's been a little frustrating is that there is a boat yard on the other side of the bridge but it seemed to be difficult to book in or find out what was going on. Cyril, the owner was not always accessible, and though we did manage to use his dry dock for our survey when we bought Patience (see Engineer's Perspective and The Day of the Survey ) trying to get her bottom blacked the following year proved impossible and we ended up in Westview Marina at Earith (more here).
Dry Dock, Stretham Boat Yard 2009

We did wonder what would happen to the boatyard as it seemed Cyril was letting it drift (ho ho). And now we hear that it is in new hands, sold within the last month or so and already offering services such as blacking.
Cyril, above, guiding John, below 2009

When I first wrote this entry I said I saw the phone number 0790 0114135 for Stretham Ferry Marina but "so far there seems to be no information online".  Four days later a lovely phone call from the new owners reveals that their brand new site is at http://www.strethamferrymarina.co.uk
We think this is a great facility and we wish them well. Hence the free advertising!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

A Quick Jaunt to Ely

One of the pleasures of being moored at The Lazy Otter is the chance to pop up to Ely for the day.
Ely is a delightful place where you can shop (market, antiques, chandlery) or take culture (the splendid Norman Cathedral with its grand lantern tower, known as The Ship of The Fens) or simply wander around the waterfront gongoozling.
We browsed the chandlery, where we bought an updated and greatly improved version of Fenland Waterways, the Imray Guide, then up the hill to the excellent bookshop Topping & Company (9 High Street, Ely) for a couple of other useful books from a splendid stock. Do go there and encourage them in what, in these Amazon Days, feels like a dying trade.
Also we dined on fish and chips and a pint of Wherry at The Cutter. What better way to spend one of the first sunny days in months?
Though there was a sharp north west breeze the sun was warm out of the wind and any issues with fast flowing streams seem to have vanished. The Ouse around here (though not so, beyond Earith, where there is still flooding) looks to be in good shape.
 However this boat at Little Thetford EA moorings was less fortunate....
Incidentally there seems to be an improved mooring on The Old West, almost opposite the Stretham  Old Engine. We saw a wooden pathway and some electricity points newly installed (May 2012).

Friday, 11 May 2012

Isleham and The Lark

Our plan to go up the Lark to Judes Ferry and stay over at Isleham was first dashed by the unseasonal weather and then by the absence of moorings at Isleham.
Left with spare time on my hands I did a bit of hunting around for information, which seemed contradictory, so here is the position at May 2012 (thanks to the contributors to the GOBA discussion forum, and update your Imray Guide):
The GOBA moorings used to be in the Marina, then were moved to the river, just upstream of the Lock. However they have been closed since 2007 when an uncooperative liveaboard boater refused to move, so GOBA left.
The Marina continues and thrives, with boaters and Lodge owners living alongside each other, cheek by jowl, but there seems little room for occasional moorings. The whole south west riverside is private moorings and the north east side is too high and rough. We were told we might squeeze in at the junction of the main river and the marina's southern river entrance (marked M on the map below)
however from there it looks difficult to reach the road to Isleham (off the map, bottom left) a mile away. The lock is at top left of this view and a path leads along the edge of marina from the lock to the village. So, no obvious alternative moorings at present with access to the village - which is a shame because it has 3 pubs, a Post Office, 5 shops, 3 churches, an interesting old barn, and no doubt the shop and pub owners would appreciate a few extra bodies to eat and drink and shop.
Cue letter to parish council....
A quiet part of the marina with narrow boats and houseboats

Isleham Lock facing north west, the only lock on the Lark
Lodges in another part of the marina
And two last points: firstly, it's not far up river to Judes Ferry (also known as West Row on some maps), where there is free mooring and a pub right by. Secondly, Isleham Marina charges £20 per night for short term moorings (in the unlikely event of your finding one). So take care where you park!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Still Awash

In pursuit of more information on how the current flooding (May 8th 2012) is affecting our boating area, John pulled on his waders and visited St Ives...
... where he found a car casually mooring up at the Ferryboat Inn at Holywell.

Both gates of the St Ives Lock are still open with water cascading through, though further up river at Godmanchester, while the sluices and weirs are working hard to thunderous effect, the lock is calm and usable.

Nice riverside pub. Nice car. Swap for a used narrow boat?

Sunday, 6 May 2012


I remain inconvenienced by the floods and I know the Environment Agency is, quite naturally, concerned. Some boaters may be really worried - but this sign on the EA building at Hermitage lock, Earith, indicates the building itself is alarmed.
Is this like a security setting - red warning, black alert? Or maybe lock buildings have feelings too ....

It reminds me of the story about Noah Webster, author of the great US dictionary :
Going unexpectedly into the parlour of their house one day, Mrs. Webster discovered her husband embracing their maid.
"Noah, I am surprised!" she exclaimed.
Webster released the maid and re-assumed his professional dignity.
"No, my dear," he corrected his wife, "it is I who am surprised; you are merely astonished."

Tuesday, 1 May 2012


So that was the wettest April since records began!
I think that's put paid to our plan to pootle along the Ouse to Bedford this week. I took a circuitous route to Godmanchester today, going via Stretham to check on Patience (lying quietly at her moorings, dry as a bone inside, though the gas lockers and the engine room have a bit of water swilling around) then on to Earith (locks closed until at least the weekend, water meadows awash and the channel invisible) and St Ives (channel awash).
Water Meadows at Earith, by Hermitage Lock 1st May 2012

Here at Godmanchester the water level has subsided by a good 6 inches, though it's still flowing fast and Port Holme remains virtually impassable on foot. The forecast is some improvement for a couple of days but more rain at the weekend.

Time to chuck another log on the wood burner and get stuck in to that long novel you've brought with you.