Tuesday, 26 June 2012

March to Whittlesey

Sunday 23rd
Heavy rain overnight but we fill up with water, (there's a tap, accessed using the key we bought at Salters, but no pumpout), newspapers and essentials and next stop Fox's Boatyard.
We clarify some things about the flooding, lock closure, important phone numbers and the like and go on our way with a more suitable windlass and feeling welcomed and more confident in our future plans. For the record the windlass is a two-sizer rather than the tapered one we are more used to on The Ouse. We also confirm that the key for the padlocked area around middle level locks, and the water tap at March (as bought at Salters) is one thing, while the key to downstream guillotine lock gates on the Nene is the same as that used by the Environment Agency along the Great Ouse (a half moon, in section).
Passing more attractive riverside gardens we spy a large torpedo in the garden of the Middle Levels Watermen's Social Club. Oh, the fun they must have at barbecues!
We now crack on under leaden skies though the rain keeps off and it's warm enough not to be uncomfortable.
Crossing the meridian at Floods Ferry we leave the Nene Old Course and head into increasing wind towards Whittlesey on Whitlesey Dyke.
We've seen barn owls, terns, heron, kestrels, woodpeckers and a peacock, but unfortunately it will be the weed and roots we most remember. Treatise on weed and wind here.

Through Ashline Lock using that padlock key again and moored for the night a few hundred yards further on, on the edge of a large recreation ground.
Patiently waiting at Whittlesey in the golden light of evening

Whittlesey on a Sunday night is totally different from March on a Saturday night. In the pub, where the beer and the food is even cheaper than at March, the lads preparing to watch the England v Italy match are quiet and good natured and on the recreation ground groups of lads play five-a-side or skateboard determinedly on a purpose-built course while girls stroll amiably around the field.
Bathed in a golden sundown we watch an outclassed England team struggle to a well deserved exit on penalties. Tomorrow we head for an early appointment at Stanground and hope to hit the Nene at about 11am. Note that Stanground Lock must be booked 24 hours beforehand (phone 01733 566413), and is not open on Sunday afternoons. If river conditions are adverse (too low, too high, too fast) even prior bookings can be cancelled for operational reasons.

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