Category Archives: UK

Bedford And Back

My first big trip on my boat was to be following the river Great Ouse to its end point at Bedford from Upware. I had already gone away for 2/3 days at a time, normally to Ely and back, just to get a little use to the boat.

The local wildlife had settled in at Wicken Fen but it was time for me to move……….

A brood (?) of signets on the river bank at Wicken Fen,

Leaving Upware I headed north but for only an hour as I turned west at Popes Corner for a stretch of river thats actually called the ‘Old West River’. Soon after turning at the Fish and Duck marina and going underneath a bridge theres a great EA (Environment Agency) mooring. These are normally well kept, grass is cut, fenced off, secure posts to tie onto – this one is no different. Despite the fact that its so close to a main line railway track I loved it there. There was still a feeling that you were in the middle of nowhere but the commuters would fly by on the way to Peterborough.

Always plenty of wildlife to be seen next to the river. I came across quite a few farmers fields where cattle was grazing by the river. Not a good idea to be swimming near this lot…….although I sometimes saw people who were !!

On the move again with the willow trees hanging over the edge into the river.

Approaching St Ives lock I saw a couple of chaps waiting around at the top of the lock. Thinking they were just fellow boaters I waited for a while at the landing stage before one started waving at me. They were in fact volunteers as it was a bank holiday weekend. I guess it can get a little busy so they choose to help out and get people up and down a bit quicker. As I was on my narrow boat by myself it was a great help !!

St Ives Lock………

Driving into the lock – it was a deep one !!

St Ives Lock

It wasn’t long after coming out of the lock until you arrive in St Ives itself with the well known stone bridge in front of you. Apparently you can sometimes spot the odd seal that manages to get there !! There isn’t too many places to moor in the town so I drove up and down for a while hoping to find a spot.

After waiting for a while it paid off as I saw somebody on their boat who started to do some familiar things. People always do the same, check a few things, tidy up their boat, have a good look around, take some covers off, all tell tale signs that they are about to move !!

I slammed it in reverse and went back up the river as I knew there would be other boaters along shortly who would happily take the spot !!

Little Wing moored up against the quay side in St Ives.

View from the other side of the stone bridge –

I have to say there are peanty of pubs in St Ives – this is only a couple but for such a relatively small place there must have been over a dozen.

The Nelsons Head – good for live music !!
The Royal Oak – another good pub for live music on a Friday night.

After a great bank holiday weekend enjoying the live music and pubs in St Ives it was time to move on. Moorings here are difficult to come by so I was surprised i managed to moor right in the middle of town. All the moorings that I saw were limited to 48 hrs only, and no return within 48 hrs also so you couldn’t just drive up the river and park nearby !!

I left St Ives and headed for Huntingdon/Godmanchester, the two towns are right next to each other.

Approaching Huntingdon –

Which arch do I go for ?! You can actually see one of the original large mills on the right hand side which like many has been converted to flats.

One of my favourite stops on the journey was Godmanchester. A small village but very picturesque and obviously next to the water. Had all the things that you needed, a pub, fish and chip shop, a convenience store, post office, Indian take away. There was a great Environment Agency 48 hr mooring right next to the lock. I used this a few times as I made a point of stopping here as I repeated part of the journey.

I was never quite sure how to pronounce it – do you emphasize the ‘GOD’ or ‘GODMAN’ – chester ?

Almost looks like a stately home but was now numerous flats –

I started to see some odd contraptions on the water – this was some kind of weed remover. It would dig the weeds up from the river bed and scoop them all up and lift them onto the side of the river bank.

Once whilst on the mooring next to the lock I looked up at the once stately home and wondered who was better off. Me on my narrow boat or some of the occupants of that building ? I win hands down I thought to myself.

The next stop along was going to be St Neotts , maybe 3/4 hours away with another couple of locks. When I arrived in St Neots I was pleased to find the Pig n Falcon pub. Not only as it seemed to be the local place for live music but also because it had its beer festival on. Imagine my delight when the dates of the beer festival simply said ‘ Summer’ !!

The biggest nuisance around St Neotts wasn’t gangs of youths or teenagers in their cars – it was swans !! Just always seemed to be dozens of them around. All of a sudden they seemed to descend on you from nowhere, all of them wanting food obviously !

Don’t feed the Swans !!

And they all seemed to do this ! I don’t know if its something that the local swans have perfected or whether they all do this ?

After St Neotts the next place I decided I would stop at was a great place called Great Barford. I liked it here purely because of its simplicity. There was an ancient stone arch bridge, a small village green and a pub ! That seemed to be it. I latter found out that it did also seem to have the longest High Street in history without any commercials properties in it. After walking a mile or so I did eventually find a newsagents/convenience store at the end of it, which proved very useful due to the lack of anything else !

Moored in front of the stone bridge.

Moored next to the village green and outside the pub –

A view back to the weir and the lock from the stone arch bridge –

The Anchor pub at Great Barford –

After my stop at Great Barford I continued all the way to Bedford. I didn’t go as far as the last lock which takes you up into the centre of town, as I was concerned about mooring in the middle of town. I found a GOBA mooring just before and right in front of me appeared to be a pyramid ! It was in fact a sports centre which was built in the 70’s.

I didn’t seem to take any other pictures of Bedford or the surrounding area but the centre of town was pleasant enough. I believe it would have been safe enough to moor there but maybe not on the EA mooring as it seemed close to a bridge where lots of drunks hung out !!

I stayed in Bedford for 2/3 days before turning around and heading back. I stopped again in the places I liked the most like Great Barford, Godmanchester, St Neots and St Ives. I spent the month of September doing this trip which was at a very relaxed pace, it could have been done a lot quicker but whats the rush !!

I arrived back at Upware pleased with my trip, nothing broke, everything still worked, and the weather had been great !!

A New Chapter !!

So a new chapter begins.

So what do you do if you can’t afford your own sailing boat ? Go sailing with other people on theirs.

What if you can’t always find the right trips to the destinations and for the durations you want ?

What if you’ve become a little tired of those train journeys to the airport ? Of sitting around in departure lounges ? Wondering what the next boat/people are going to be like ?

Something had to change as i wanted to have my own ‘something’ – my own ‘somewhere’.

I pondered buying a campervan and an extended tour of Europe/Scandinavia. But i knew i had to be near the water – somewhere.

I started looking at adverts for narrowboats, something which i had done before. I had been on narrowboat holidays before many years ago, my parents had been on many of them.

Well, to cut a long story short, i bought a 40ft narrow boat mid July 2019. It was in good condition, only been used for short trips and used as a weekend hideaway. It had lived on the rivers of the East Anglian waterways and had never yet seen the canals. (Boats tend to get bashed up on the canals !)

So ten tonnes of steel to drive around in at a leisurely pace of 4 mph. No strong currents, no high/low tides, no gale force scenarios to worry about (hopefully).

40ft Narrow Boat
Narrow Boat
Emptying whatever i currently owned at the time into my boat………
Interior Narrow Boat
Came fully equipped with fridge freezer, full size cooker, sinks, cupboards,etc,etc…….

When i purchased the boat the paint was a little dull and was in need of some renovation. Many hours of elbow grease and strong polish later it was looking good !!

Polished narrow boat

Little Wing was now nice and shiny and ready for a new adventure !!

The boat is normally moored in Cambridgeshire on a quiet stretch of the Great Ouse river. Enjoying a beer in the evening……….

On the cut.......

Its a very quiet beautiful place, theres a nature reserve only a hundred yards away called Wicken Fen. It was the first ever nature reserve owned by the National Trust. Apparantly very well known and all of the well known wildlife presenters have been there.

Burwell lode
Looking the other way from my mooring…………..
Burwell lode
A bit narrow what with all the new reeds but managable (unless you meet another boat !)

After finding out how everything worked I headed out for my first solo trip.

The weather looked reasonable so i embarked on a short 3 day trip to Ely in Cambridgeshire, home to a fantastic cathederal, a lovely riverside setting, and a few good pubs – bliss. .

Approaching Ely with the cathedral in the distance………

Entering Ely with the well known Cutter Inn on the left hand side.

Ely Cambridgeshire

The amazing Ely Cathedral, such a huge size for a small town. The present building dates back to AD1083 but there was an origjnal church abbey that was built in AD672. Apparantly the inside is even more amazing with fantastic painted ceilings and decorative finishings. Something to see next time i visit !

Ely Cathedral
Ely Cathedral
Ely Cathedral

It was a successful first trip out despite the fact that the weather changed and i had a brake down on the way home. The alternator belt snapped when i was trying to beat the rain home, so had to change it standing in the engine bay with the rain beating down on me !! Still came back to my mooring with a smile on my face so it was a good start !! Only about 20 miles, three days, 2 locks, one alternator belt, a load of rain but a load of fun !!

Always enjoy the views and sunsets……….

Sunset narrow boat holiday