Monday, 16 September 2013

Leo's Furthest East

Tonight we are back on the Middle Levels after a successful crossing from Denver Sluice to Salters Lode via the tidal River Ouse.  So for the second time we have avoided being swept out to sea at King's Lynn - big sighs of relief all round.  But since the last posting we have also cruised up another of the tributaries of the River Great Ouse - the Little Ouse also known as Brandon Creek.

On Saturday we left Littleport and, four miles down river turned right onto the Little Ouse:

Late on Friday night this yacht turned up and moored behind us at Littleport.  It is clearly a Norfolk Broads Yacht with folding mast, possibly from Hunter's Yard but those on her did not seem to know much of her history nor how she finished up on the Great Ouse.

The River downstream of Littleport is a bit wide, straight and boring.  This is Ian's attempt at self steering gear.  Leo gradually pulls to the right with prop walk, so this is intended to counteract that.  Did it work?  Yes, but it was not infallible as the wind can affect which way she goes too.

Here is the sign at the confluence of the Little and Great Ouse.

Here, just before the diesel point mentioned on the sign above, is a floating dry dock.  David and Victoria's boat, Pas Mėche, was blacked here a few years ago when they moored at Ely.  They are a friendly bunch at this boatyard and their diesel is probably the cheapest on the river so we filled up.

From here we cruised up river.  The channel is narrow at first then widens out and for the last few miles is both narrow and fast flowing.  It is a lovely river and for the middle few miles goes out into real wilderness country with very little on view that is man made.

Lovely grasses by the side of the river with a misty haystack behind.

This is an old lock on the river which is no longer used.  Nowadays there are no locks until you get right through to Brandon (see below).

 Here we are moored for lunch in the wildest part of the river with only some cows for company.

There are some lakes by the river which were well used by swans.

Towards the navigable limit you pass over the Cut Off Channel and go under these gates.  The Cut Off Channel takes water from Denver Sluice around 90 miles to reservoirs in Essex.  When the river rises these gates are dropped and alternative gates are opened into the Cut Off Channel to get rid of excess water.

Beyond the Cut Off Channel the country changes dramatically from fenland - flat with high river banks - to more normal farmland with no high banks by the river.  There are also more trees.

And here we are moored just below the lock at Brandon.

So why did we not go through the lock and on into Brandon itself (about half a mile further)?  Well the trouble is that Brandon Lock is too short to accommodate a boat as long as Leo.  It is said to be 12m long or about 40 feet.  We think that in fact you could get a longer boat through, but 57 feet is just not on.  If you look at the map of England it is clear that Brandon is the furthest East you can travel on the connected Inland Waterways.  The only navigations further East are the Chelmer and Blackwater in Essex and the River Medway but for both these you have to travel on the sea (or at least the Thames Estuary) to reach them.

Here is the short lock.  We did not see a single boat use it in the two days we stayed at Brandon, though there was  a short narrowboat (about 40 feet) above the lock.

Here is the road bridge at Brandon which is half a mile further above the lock.  A mooring platform beyond the bridge is said to be the head of navigation, but there still seems to be a reasonable depth of water beyond that, but only for short boats.

On Sunday afternoon the weather was awful with strong winds and heavy rain, so in the morning we walked round Brandon (not a lot to see) and in the afternoon we sat indoors reading the paper and embroidering (guess who did which).  First thing this morning we woke to noises of bubbles coming up under the boat.  Helen got to the window and saw an otter!  We had been hoping to see one.  Sadly Ian was too slow getting out of bed to see it.  Today the wind was just as strong but we managed to return down the Little Ouse and the Great Ouse to Denver (about 21 miles).  Sometimes the boat was a bit diagonal because of the wind but Leo behaved very well in winds gusting up to force 5 or 6.

It is so difficult to take convincing pictures of waves.  This looks much less exciting than it was.  Leo was noticeably pitching and rolling in the gusts which is odd as a narrowboat usually just sits on the water even when other boats pass creating a wash.

And here we are approaching the lock moorings at Denver.

Because of the wind we had thought that we would not make the crossing of the tidal Ouse today but in fact there was less wind at Denver than we had experienced all day.  The lock keeper asked if we wanted to go today and we said 'yes', so off we went.  Tomorrow the crossing would be at 7.30 am but today it was 4 pm, so not having to get up early was another attraction.

Into the lock we went and then up onto the tidal water.  Our half mile to Salters Lode was against the current of the incoming tide but Leo managed this with ease.

Here is Ian concentrating on lining up for the exit at Salter's Lode.

Past the pole with the cross you can just make out the channel on the left which leads to the lock at Salters Lode which gives access to the Middle Levels.

It is a very tight turn back on yourself to enter the narrow channel to the lock from fast moving tidal water.  I confess I made a bit of pig's ear of it but here you see that we made it into the lock.

And here we are moored for the night on the lock landing, by special dispensation from the lock keeper, Paul.  A Fox Hire boat from March arrived later and is aiming to go out on the early morning tide tomorrow.  I reckon we will still be in bed.

Over the next couple of days we will cross the Middle Levels back onto the River Nene. We hope the recent rains will not have swollen that river to prevent us making our way up the Nene back to the canals.


  1. We took the canoe up above the lock earlier this year and as as you thought the water is good and deep. about a quarter of a mile passed the EA end of navigation moorings a tree has fallen right across the river. we couldn't even squeeze through with the canoe.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Brian and Diana. We are also thinking of buying a canoe for next year so that we can explore backwaters where Leo cannot cruise.

    And as for Victoria - Extremely sorry. You will see that I have now corrected the entry. I'll have to bake you a fish pie next time we see you.

  3. We saw a number of narrow-boats (mainly shortish ones) on our recent trip on the Norfolk Broads. I think Daphne took some photos for you.

    We could have done with a counter-weighted mast like the one on the Broads boat you show - ours is just hinged at the foot, which makes controlling the descent ticklish (especially when not alongside the bank).