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Suggestions for a week from Ely


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I'm hiring a narrowboat from Black Prince at Ely for a week in April. There will be four of us, all with experience on canals (but not canalised rivers)

I've got an Imray guidebook of the area, but would welcome advice on where to go and spend our time.

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Can thoroughly recommend the Five Miles from Anywhere pub.

 

We had a week up there in 2015. We made it up river as far as Huntingdon before turning back and heading back to Kings Lynn.

 

Ely was a good night out but we were moored outside the Cutter on a Saturday night which was noisy.

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Can thoroughly recommend the Five Miles from Anywhere pub.

 

We had a week up there in 2015. We made it up river as far as Huntingdon before turning back and heading back to Kings Lynn.

 

Ely was a good night out but we were moored outside the Cutter on a Saturday night which was noisy.

 

And if you're at the Five Miles, go up the lock and try to get to Wicken Fen. It doesn't look possible, but it's worth it!

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Pumping museum at Prickwillow

http://www.prickwillowmuseum.com/

Streetham pumping engine

http://strethamoldengine.org.uk/

Old Ferry Boat Inn at Holywell

Jenyns Arms at Denver

 

Personally I would look at going to Prickwillow then out at Denver up the New Bedford River to Earith and then to Holywell, turn round then down the Old West past Streetham,

Five miles from anywhere pub then explore as much of the tributaries as you can in the time left.

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Can the hire boats go out at Denver?

Go out? You mean traverse the tidal half-mile to Salter's Lode? Well, Fox's hire boats from the Middle Level do it all the time during their season, so I guess that other boats can too.

 

Another vote for the Prickwillow Museum: we went in October (they were having an open day with extra added vintage cars etc.) and thoroughly enjoyed it. If you like BIIIIIG diesel engines, it's a must!

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You may find my blog helpful - I have done pretty much every inch of the system over the last three years I think, and now in both directions.. https://nbsg.wordpress.com/contents/

 

In addition to all the points noted above:

  • The best bit of the Great Ouse is from Holywell to Offord. It's pretty good once you are through St Neots as far as Great Barford (lovely mooring at the old lock half a mile above the bridge). If you are a bit short of time I wouldn't go up to Bedford.
  • I would not recommend Cambridge, esp in the summer. There are better ways to visit the City (ie by punt).
  • Loddon is talking about the New Bedford River, which is tidal and dead straight for 20.3 miles (and I nearly got stuck last summer on an ebbing tide). It's a convenient short cut, but a tad boring, You will need to check with Black Prince as they may not allow you to use it.
  • I would recommend a walk from Brandon at the end of the Little Ouse, into Norfolk and Thetford Forest. Bikes and tandems for hire (see Aug 14 blog) or walk around the prehistoric sites (July 16 blog). I actually prefer this tributary to the Lark.
  • Reach is well worth a visit - Roman sea port (yes this is where the seaside used to be).
  • The Imrays guide is a little idiosyncratic, esp re turning points. You can turn a narrowboat at the end of all the tributaries (and the three lodes, if you can get through Upware lock which is about 62' I think).
  • In the main you will need to moor at EA moorings or at those operated by the Great Ouse Boating Association (I assume BP will be corporate members of GOBA - if not you should join yourself for £30 or so). Some of them are very isolated and just great (eg Stop Lock on the Little Ouse, Paxton Pits)
  • There are some places where you can attempt wild moorings but they are few and far between and it is probably not a good idea. So my strong advice would be to start cruising early - the morning light is glorious - and stop about 3.
  • One of the GOBA members has just produced this on Google Earth - the most up to date listing of all mooring and other facilities. I think all the idiosyncrasies have been ironed out now.

 

So, as to route, I would say either

  • go as far as you wish to Bedford, and then come back;
  • go to Brampton or Offord, and then allow some time for the Lodes (Upware, Wicken etc) and/or the Little Ouse.

Here's a photo of some rather nervous looking passengers on the NT electric trip boat at Wicken.

 

dscf4034.jpg

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I would make two cruising plans- a wet weather and a dry weather plan! I would not go further than hermitage lock if it has been raining a bit as you are likely to get stuck.

Last April I spent a couple of days with a disgruntled Black Prince hirer at St Ives. They had got through OK -but the River was then shut at St Ives, Brownshill and subject to fitting under Road bridge at Hermitage! The hirers ran out of holiday,had to leave the boat and boatyard came out to pick it up when the River reopened.

If its dry though-go for it. Best bit of River starts at Brownshill onwards to Bedford.

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I would make two cruising plans- a wet weather and a dry weather plan! I would not go further than hermitage lock if it has been raining a bit as you are likely to get stuck.

Last April I spent a couple of days with a disgruntled Black Prince hirer at St Ives. They had got through OK -but the River was then shut at St Ives, Brownshill and subject to fitting under Road bridge at Hermitage! The hirers ran out of holiday,had to leave the boat and boatyard came out to pick it up when the River reopened.

If its dry though-go for it. Best bit of River starts at Brownshill onwards to Bedford.

 

This is a very good point, I had missed the reference to April but this can happen at any time of the year.

 

Here is Hemitage lock when the water is up (April 2016). I only popped through for a couple of hours, and there was a plan B (to go down through the lock backwards). Be careful re Upware lock when the river is up too, if it goes into pumping mode then the lock is not available for use.

 

 

dscf7128.jpg

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Go out? You mean traverse the tidal half-mile to Salter's Lode? Well, Fox's hire boats from the Middle Level do it all the time during their season, so I guess that other boats can too.

 

Another vote for the Prickwillow Museum: we went in October (they were having an open day with extra added vintage cars etc.) and thoroughly enjoyed it. If you like BIIIIIG diesel engines, it's a must!

If they are running the engines it unbelievable, fire breathing monsters

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This is a very good point, I had missed the reference to April but this can happen at any time of the year.

 

Here is Hemitage lock when the water is up (April 2016). I only popped through for a couple of hours, and there was a plan B (to go down through the lock backwards). Be careful re Upware lock when the river is up too, if it goes into pumping mode then the lock is not available for use.

 

 

dscf7128.jpg

I was at Stretham Dry Dock changing a prop on my way to Braunston and met you briefly as you was heading to Hermitage. Hello again :-)

post-7857-0-52980300-1483396696_thumb.jpg

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I was at Stretham Dry Dock changing a prop on my way to Braunston and met you briefly as you was heading to Hermitage. Hello again :-)

smile.png Hello again. Looks like your clearance was even less than mine...

Edited by Scholar Gypsy
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Thanks, everyone, for your helpful replies. Certainly some food for thought. I like the sound of the Prickwillow museum!

TBH, although the exhibits were very interesting, the thing that sticks in my mind is the line on the interior wall, above my head, indicating mean sea level!

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TBH, although the exhibits were very interesting, the thing that sticks in my mind is the line on the interior wall, above my head, indicating mean sea level!

Yes, I was startled when I was told what the line indicated.

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TBH, although the exhibits were very interesting, the thing that sticks in my mind is the line on the interior wall, above my head, indicating mean sea level!

 

Yes, I was startled when I was told what the line indicated.

 

I can't quite work this out. The normal river level at Prickwillow is about 1.6m above ODN (Ordnance Datum Newlyn). Spring high tides are about 8m above the dock cill at Kings Lynn, which in turn is at 3.75 below ODN. So HW Kings Lynn is about 2.5m above the river level at Prickwillow, pretty close to the top of the flood banks. The highest recorded tide is a further 2 metres higher, most recently in 2013 when the water came over the top at Denver Sluice (just!).

 

http://www.kingslynnport.co.uk/page4.html (tidal heights)

http://www.kingslynnport.co.uk/page5.html (datum levels at Kings Lynn)

http://www.gaugemap.co.uk/#!Detail/1671 (river levels at Ely - appear to be tidal but aren't really!).

Edited by Scholar Gypsy
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Is there still a length limit on the ML due to a tight bend ?

 

Or is that old news ?

The bend is quite tight but there are plenty of accounts of full length boats going through, probably just a case of you might not get round in one

.post-8749-0-35133300-1484494418_thumb.jpg

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The Fade To Scarlets, on their (I think) 72-footer, have been round it, more than once I think.

Jake, the length restriction on the Middle Level was because a couple of the locks were only 49 feet in length. The last one to be lengthened was, I think, Ashline near Peterborough, around 2000 I would guess. If you look at Fox's old hire boats, they came only in 41' and 48' lengths, because of the locks.

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The Fade To Scarlets, on their (I think) 72-footer, have been round it, more than once I think.

Jake, the length restriction on the Middle Level was because a couple of the locks were only 49 feet in length. The last one to be lengthened was, I think, Ashline near Peterborough, around 2000 I would guess. If you look at Fox's old hire boats, they came only in 41' and 48' lengths, because of the locks.

and doing Salters on the level

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