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Sept 15th - Fen Ditton to Burwell

We left our mooring at The Plough, Fen Ditton, this morning, hopefully for the last time! We had actually slept in, being quite shocked when we woke up to find it was going up to 10.00 o’clock!  So after a quick cuppa and a hurried breakfast we headed off.  Very soon after we set off we arrived at Baits Bite Lock.  Whilst I was settingthe lock I met an ex-colleague from Addenbrooke’s Hospital out walking her dog – this is the second time we have bumped into each other at Baits Bite!


We were soon on our way again and it was plain sailing (or rather cruising!) to Bottisham Lock. I have to say the weather was a bit grim today though, it was just wall to wall grey and it was windy too but the one good thing, it wasn’t raining – one should begrateful for small mercies!


When we arrived at Bottisham Lock it was empty but closed at both ends, which is very unusual! However it turned out that a couple of Environment Agency guys were working on the electronic controls – they assured me everything was fine and they would be finished in a couple of minutes – which they were!  I soon had the gate raised and just as Clive had put Lady Arwen in the lock a cruiser arrived and managed to squeeze in behind us.  As the lock was emptying a cruiser arrived coming the other way, followed closely by a 70’narrowboat.  As I mentioned earlier, it was rather windy and the narrowboat captain had a real struggle on his hands as the wind took his boat right across to the other side of the river, he just hadn’t managed to tie up in time!  When the lock was empty and I opened the gates he was actually broadside on to the lock!  Clive therefore remained in the lock until the guy finally managed to get his boat under control then we exited the lock followed by the cruiser.  It can be really tricky trying to steer a narrowboat, especially a really long one, in high winds. 


Once we left the lock we let the cruiser overtake us as he could go a lot faster than us.  We had a very leisurely cruise for about an hour before we reached the turn off for Burwell.  I just love the signposts they put on the junctions, they are just like roadsigns!


Almost as soon as we turned into Burwell Lode there was a lock to negotiate, Upware Lock. Now this lock is not just for the benefit of boaters, it is actually part of the flood defences in the fens and although it can be operated just like a normal lock you have to exit it as soon as the gate is raised because within 15 minutes it resets itself.  One gate closes fully and the other one closes to about six inches above the waterline – all in readiness for any rise in the water levels.

As soon as we got through the lock we pulled into a mooring on the left bank as there was a water point there.  We got tied up and soon had the hosepipe out and the tank filling.  It didn’t take long, we had about half a tank already and it was a good, powerful tap – someof them take forever!  Once the tank was full we headed off up the lode.  At first we cruised past lots of boats on permanent moorings then we were on our own.



After about ten minutes we reached another junction, the channel going off to the right was the Reach Lode – we had decided not to risk that one as we have heard it is extremely narrow and is choked with weed in places – noooooo don’t fancy that at all!


Left to Burwell, right to Reach!

 This is a very narrow waterway and feels very remote, miles from anywhere.  However on our left was Wicken Fen, and to those of us who live down this way it is well known as a wildlife reserve.  It is positively teeming with wildlife and so we were keeping our eyes peeled as we cruised along.  Our vigilance was rewarded when we spotted Roe Deer grazing on our right.  I was absolutely delighted to get a really good shot of a couple of does – you can see from the photo that they were watching us watching them! 

Roe deer does


A little while later we saw a very funny sight and I just had to take a photograph.  A herd of cattle walking sedately in a perfectly straight line, one behind the other, just as if they were being led, but they were all on their own!  We figured they were on some sort of pathway but we couldn’t actually see it.  Shortly after I took the photograph they all fanned out and started grazing!

Orderly cattle!


It was only a short while after that we finally arrived at the end of the navigation and Burwell.  There is a turning point for longer craft  like ours where another small channel goes off to the left.  Clive very deftly did a three point turn and pulled into the moorings and we soon had the boat securely tied up.  This of course is where we had planned to be back in July - we had hoped to arrive in Burwell by boat and possibly moor her for the week on the towpath but unfortunately that wasn't to be as we were in Mallorca the previous week and hadn't time to get the boat to Burwell!


We locked up and went for a stroll up into Burwell village and called in at the local Co-op for some bread and a few other bits and pieces.  I have been coming to Burwell for my music summer school for several years now but it was a bit strange arriving here by boat!  When we arrived at the main road I wasn’t actually sure just whereabouts we were but a lady walking her dog soon set us to rights and I got my bearings.  I was quite wistful as we walked passed Burwell House but instead of the strains of fiddles and flutes it was children's voices we heard coming over the wall – its almost a whole year before the next Burwell Bash!


We decided to call in at The Anchor pub, which was very close to where we were moored.  We had a couple of drinks and read the papers that were provided in the bar and then headed back to the boat for dinner.


We will leave Burwell in the morning and head back to Ely and then hopefully onto the River Lark to do a bit more exploring.  Hope the weather picks up!





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