Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Meeting The Eel Catcher & a quick visit to hospital

Saturday 16th June

Our next stop was Peterborough where the moorings are pleasant and plentiful and only a few minutes walk from the town centre. 

Leaving Peterborough behind we made our way to Stanground Sluice, our gateway to the Fens. Here we had to go through a tidal sluice to enter Kings Dyke which is part of The Middle Levels that will eventually take us to the River Great Ouse.

Waiting to go through Stanground Sluice
As soon as we left Stanground Sluice the scenery changed. We were now travelling through a series of Dykes, Ditches and Drains which have been used to drain the Fens,  to provide arable land, since before the Civil War (see http://visitely.eastcambs.gov.uk/history/draining-fens). These man-made waterways are shallow, narrow and in the main fairly straight and surrounded by vast swathes of arable land as far as the eye can see with only the odd church steeple  or wind farm for interest.  After all this is the land of Big Skies.

Kings Dyke
In Well Creek we came across the Eel Catcher who told us it was a bad day for eels but the previous day had yielded many.  Back in mediaeval times eels were part of the local staple diet as well as a valuable income. I have since read about Peter Carter, the only commercial Eel Catcher who still uses traditional methods to catch eels on Well Creek. (see http://www.visitely.org.uk/walking/ely-eel-trail).  Maybe this is him!

The Eel Catcher
Our next mooring was in the little town of March, right next to the Fish & Chip shop.  That's dinner sorted then.

Mooring in March
Leaving March the vista really opened up, miles & miles of flat open land.   Bleak and empty apart from the Wind Farm, and boy does the wind blow across the fens. 

Wind Farm on Well Creek
At Marmond Priory Lock a lovely lady called Maureen acts as a volunteer lock keeper & has done so for over 30 years. She was telling me the story of how as young newly weds her & her husband bought the redundant lock cottage after the creek had fallen into disrepair.  Then in 1975 the route was revived, the lock repaired and boaters once again were let through.  Since then, first Maureen's husband and then herself have acted as volunteer lock keepers.  Now it really is a family affair with Maureen's daughter and now her 7 year old grandson helping boaters safely through the lock.
Maureen at Marmont Priory Lock
We stopped at Upwell on the Well Creek Trust mooring, which is very well kept.  There is a beautifully tended garden on the bank, growing fruit & herbs, which we were encouraged to pick for a small donation.

Teresa, Karen & Jan sitting in the herb garden.
It was a fresh, windy trip across the Fens to Salters Lode taking us onto a short tidal stretch before going through Denver Sluice and onto the Great Ouse. We had to wait for high tide and got in the queue with three other boats.  As we approached Denver Sluice we spotted Dave a very good friend, who lives nearby, up on the bridge to welcome us.  We spent the afternoon on board catching up with Dave & Grace before retiring to the Jenyns Arms for dinner.

Leaving Salters lode
 Wednesday dawned still windy and cold.  We decided to take a trip on our own up the River Wissy. It was very pretty, opening up to lake-like proportions at one point.

River Wissy
The river was very pretty and tranquil but very remote, we only passed one small village and then this great monster appeared in front of us!.

Sugar Beet Factory
We travelled 10 miles down the Wissy to Stoke Ferry where we moored alongside a caravan park and watched the cute little ducklings .............

Ducklings at Stoke Ferry
..... until I received a phone call from my sister-in-law.  My brother was on life support in Southend Hospital after complications set in when he was under anaesthetic for a dental procedure.  At this point he had not recovered conciousness.

Tony quickly arranged car hire for me for the following day.  Later that evening Gary regained conciousness but they were keeping him under sedation in Critical Care.  I set off for Southend on Thursday  while Tony set off on the long, lonely journey back down the Wissy and on to Ely on his own. I spent two days in Southend, stopping off at home on the way back to meet Tony in Ely.  It had taken us 5 weeks by boat to get to Ely but only 1 hour by car for me to drive from Leavenheath to Ely!!!  

Gary is now recovering & hoping to return to hospital for his next chemo session soon.  He's determined to beat the cancer which has invaded his body and is so positive about it all that I can only admire him.

Friday 12th June

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