Monday August 17th – Great Barford
We left our mooring at the Priory Centre in St Neotsaround 11.00am. Once again it was abeautiful day. We both made sure we slathered ourselves with suntan lotion today, we forgot yesterday and I for one ended up a bit crozzled! We had a very enjoyable cruise and I took the helm for a while to get some practice in! I think I am improving actually and I managed to negotiate some very tight bends, however I chickened out when we reached a lock and left Clive to steer whilst I went off to work the lock. I must pluck up the courage to do it one day then Clive can do all the hard work instead of me!
Other than that we had a very uneventful cruise through really pretty countryside. Its really nice around here.
We finally arrived at Great Barford and just managed to squeeze into a space on the visitor moorings between a narrow boat and a cruiser. We secured the boat and went to the pub, The Anchor, for a well earned drink. Just the one!
Squeezed in between a narrowboat and a cruiser at Great Barford
It was a really lovely place and we enjoyed watchingthe birdlife around the boat and Clive spent ages standing at the window with a crust of bread rolling it into tiny balls and throwing them into the river to feed the fish – there were hundreds of them!
We had a very peaceful and pleasant evening and then had an early night – all this fresh air you know!
Tuesday August 18th – Bedford
We left our mooring at Great Barford about10.00am. First thing in the morning it was really bright and sunny but by the time we set off it was clouding over a bit, the rest of the day was a mixture of sunny and cloudy spells, however once again we both made sure we had plenty of suntan lotion on. This is a really pretty stretch ofthe Great Ouse, sometimes it is quite wide but at other times it gets really narrow, especially with the beautiful weeping willows hanging over thewater. We didn’t see any other boats at all, well not moving anyway, there were plenty of them moored up though. It meant that we had the river to ourselves, which was lovely.
We arrived at one lock this morning called Castle Mill Lock. There was nothing special about the lock itself but Clive discovered, on reading our very informative guide book, that, although there is nothing left to see now, over to the left of the lock used to be the site of the Bedford “airfield” and close by there used to be two vast hangers which were built by Short Brothers in 1917and 1927 to house the R100 and R101 airships which had been made there. The R101 was to crash and burst into flames on her maiden voyage in Beauvais, France on 5th October 1930 with the loss of 49 lives.
There were several other locks to negotiate on our cruise to Bedford but none of them caused any hardship until we actually arrived in Bedford. There is a small lock which goes at right angles to the river and takes you across onto the navigable stretch into thet own itself. Just before the lock was a very low foot bridge, so low that I had to dash down to the front and hang out of the cratch to remove the coolie hat off the chimney se we could get underneath!! When we pulled up for the lock I could see from the boat that it was a guillotine so I grabbed my keys and windlass and headed off across the grass to set the lock but as I got closer I realised it was one of those guillotines which had to be operated manually by a big wheel – oh no! These are really hard work and certainly take their toll on the old shoulders - groan! However I also realised that the guillotine was open and the lock was full so it meant closing the guillotine, opening the paddles on the V gates to empty the lock, open the gates, close the paddles, let the boat in, close the gates, then raise the guillotine a few inches in order to refill the lock, then raise the guillotine fully so the boat could leave the lock – I felt exhausted just thinking about it! Well my knight in shining armour (well Aussie hat actually!) came to my rescue – Clive had tied the boat up securely at the mooring so he could come and help me. In fact he did most of the work if truth be told – my hero!
Once through the lock we turned left and cruised down to the moorings – we needn’t have worried about finding a space, there wasn’t another boat in sight! We have the whole mooring to ourselves. It was a lovely peaceful spot too.
Cruising into Bedford.
Once the boat was secure we had a cuppa and a bacon sandwich for lunch – yummy! Then we went to explore the town centre. We spent an hour or so wandering around the town and picked up a few bits and pieces that we needed then headed back to the boat. Again we have lived only a half hours drive from Bedford for the last 17 years and have only been once to my knowledge and that was only to pick something up from the Bedford Argos store because they didn’t have it in stock in Cambridge! We have never in all that time actually visited Bedford before. I didn’t even realise that the river ran through the town! Its even got a castle!
Later, we were sitting minding our own business, when a load of canoeists arrived and pulled out some slalom poles which were dangling on ropes opposite our boat. Voila - a canoe slalom course suddenly sprang up right alongside our boat! So for the next couple of hours there were canoes charging up and down, weaving in and out of the poles, splashing, shouting, banging the boat with their paddles etc etc Did I say this was a peaceful spot!!!
Eventually it all quietened down and the last two canoeists returned the slalom poles to the other side of the river and we were finally on our own again. Peace at last!
The river isn’t navigable beyond where we are moored –yet! There is a planned link between the Grand Union Canal at Milton Keynes and the River Great Ouse here in Bedford. It has now got the go-ahead but goodness knows how many years it will be before it is finally finished. It will make an incredible difference to boaters wanting to get to and from East Anglia. At the moment it would take at the very least two weeks continuous cruising to get from Milton Keynes to Bedford (that’s Clive’s estimation – I think it would take longer myself!) but when the link is finished it could be done probably in a single day! However I am glad that it isn’t there yet, if it had been we would never have travelled along the beautiful Nene nor seen many of the lovely places we have visited on the Middle Levels and the Great Ouse and that would have been a real shame.
So, tomorrow we turn around and go back the way we have just come but at least we can say we have been to Bedford and the end of the navigation!
Oh no - we've got that horrible lock to do again first thing in the morning - yeuch!