Monday 26th September to Sunday 2nd October 2011

Monday 26th Sept.
Goodbye Denver. The chalk board says the first crossing to Salters Lode is at 8.30am.
We poked our nose in at 7.45 and found two boats already there waiting for the lock. Lazy Bees was kind enough to take our rope and as a thank you we took the first locking at 8.15am, it had something to do with boat length – sorry.
Denver Sluice

What a grey day, miserable weather until we were clear of Upwell, only the flowers in the fields lifted our spirits.

If I remember right these fields were full of lavender 5 years ago.

It’s good to break the journey across the ML and March is a reasonable place to do it. Lazy Bees caught up with us there but again, we were first away in the morning.

Tuesday and it’s another terribly dull day, at least it was until the mist dispersed and then what a glorious day it turned into.
The Middle Levels Waterways Commissioners’ new admin building outside March, next to Fox’s raised an eyebrow when I mentioned it to a local. Looks like a chicken shed, was the comment I got and it does a bit.

The rest of our journey across the Middle Levels (funny name isn’t it) was quite pleasurable for me, mostly because I was down below while V took a turn on the wheel. Thinking back to previous years this would have been a thoroughly boring cruise but somehow it has changed, it looks more attractive, maybe they’ve raised the water level so that we can see the fields now.

Ashline lock is worth mentioning for anyone thinking of coming this way next season. Contrary to what someone at Gayton Marina may tell you, you do need an Ouse windlass to work the paddles, aka slackers, aka penstocks. The standard ‘windy’ won’t fit on this baby, the spindle is recessed.
Ashline lock paddle spindle

And while we’re on the subject, Ashline lock is fenced off and a Middle levels Yale-type key is recommended to open a gate in the railings.

Whittlesey corner was as tricky as ever, I’d hate to meet someone here going t’other way, and the approaches to it leave you in no doubt as to why narrowboats are called ditch-crawlers.

We arrived early at Stanground lock on Tuesday, Tina’s day-off. A MLWC man put us through while telling us about a visit this morning by film makers for the TV program Look East doing a news item on the drought and how it affects water levels. As it happened we saw the article on the evening news but there was no sign of a lock keeper, they’d insisted on showing their own man opening the lock gates. And this was after he’d spent a couple of hours helping them understand locks, boats and water and how it’s all controlled safely by the lock keeper.
stanground lock

And so to Peterborough. Oh dear, there’s a Fun Fair setting up on the embankment next to the services point. This is not the place for us so we swerved right and cruised down to the Lock at the Wisbech end of the Nene, by the Dog and Doublet pub. It’s an hour each way and something to be done once. There are EA moorings down there, space for two/three boats.
D&D lock

Back in Peterbro’ we joined all the other boats on the embankment away from the fairground and here we sat out the week. What a week it was, wall to wall sunshine, temperatures reaching 29 Deg C.

Wednesday ++
Harnser was on her way down the Nene so we made sure we caught up with them before they entered the Middle Levels.

A cup of tea and a natter with Brian and Diane on the river bank was perfect for swapping stories and this year’s waterways experiences.

One night, after dark, we ventured across to the fairground and checked out the rides and sideshows. No, we didn’t take to the sky on the rides, never seen anything more frightening in my life, apart from getting stuck on the cill perhaps.

They’re not the rides I remember, they’re all high speed 3 dimensional gut wrenching harness straining rides that the likes of us wouldn’t even be allowed on. You need to be young to take that kind of torture and still be able to stand afterwards. I’m afraid I’d only be going one way after one of those – to the hospital, or the cemetery.

You could tell something awful was going to happen when the kids left piles of belongings on the floor before getting into their seats. Shoes, clothes, money and of course mobile phones. Imagine oldies like us having a go, piles of walking sticks, hearing aids, false teeth and colostomy bags.

And the NOISE !! We left before our ears disintegrated.

Couldn’t help noticing they were still giving away goldfish in poly-bags as prizes. We thought that had been banned.

Have to say this has been a surprisingly pleasant stay with superb weather and a variety of entertainment.
For example, two male voice choirs accompanied by Burundi drummers broke the silence on Saturday afternoon (Doncaster beat Peterbro 2:1).

Got into conversation with a lad from East Timor working in a factory and sending home £200 a month. £100 / month is an absolute fortune over there so he’s not going to be leaving for a few years. He did a tour of the boat and I had to help him put his eyes back in. He couldn’t imagine how much was inside and was taken aback when he found he could stand up straight. I asked him if they had narrowboats in ET and he replied they would have too much trouble with wild animals getting inside. Every other word was crocodile or snake or monkey. Makes a change from beef I should think.

Another visitor, this time from Lithuania, painted a horrible picture of his life both there and here. A dose of inner peace and anger management wouldn’t go amiss in his case.

I’m sure that waking up on a boat to mornings like this, he would make progress on both scores.
morning mist

Yes this is Peterbro’ and we’re learning to live with the trains and, of course, the earwigs.
Trains are non-stop, both two-carriage passenger jobbies and mile long goods trains but it’s surprising how soon you get used to them.

On the other subject, roof patrol before bedtime reveals a couple of dozen wiggies each night looking for ways to get inside. Unlike spiders they freeze when the torchlight hits them so it’s an easy job to finish them with your finger.

We’ve been up town to the shops, sat outside café’s sampling the ambience and enjoyed the sunshine. If Peterbro’ is like this all the time then I can recommend it for longer than a stop-over.
It’s not completely dissimilar to a holiday in East Europe.

So what does the future hold? Hopefully more sunshine and a pleasant amble up the Nene.