A look at the River Lark

           A few bleak mid-winters ago when afternoons were short and time was slow wistful thoughts turned back to boating exploits. Photo albums were delved into, pictures extracted, scanned and printed – and the on-board archive was born.
           Within these books

are shots (often shaky) of notable waterways features seen from Cleddau over the last twenty years. To the books after the 2013

cruising were added shots of Chester, Ellesmere Port and Droitwich. After yesterday’s cruise perhaps another new-to-Cleddau waterway shot can be added – a picture of Isleham Lock.


           The day started well at Denver.  The Captain applied liberal amounts of suntan cream to face and arms before Cleddau and Tentatrice duly set off in the sunshine along the Great Ouse. It was to be a two hour cruise before diverting down the River Lark. Very soon came raindrops – now a rainstorm – then a veritable deluge.
         There were scrambles for waterproof layering.
         An emergency plan was declared – pull in at the next available place for refuge. A mug of tea later the sky was brightening, so it was onward to Littleport,

for a planned search for Sunday newspapers.
         Raindrops – heavy rain again, again damp crew. Littleport proved a quiet little town although it was a Sunday. (Not quite so in 1816 ). From a small door in Main Street a shopper emerged, goods in a plastic bag. Close inspection of the shop however revealed it to be packed full of Polish goods and of Polish-speaking folk…
         Further up the street newspapers were tracked down and a return made to the boats. Off again – in sunshine, on course for the River Lark. 
         It’s a left off the Ouse going upstream – new waters now for Cleddau. The Imray map gives little detail; the odd pump house,

the occasional farm, power lines crossing the river,

the railway line at Prickwillow. The river banks are fairly high,

and although there are some bends in the waterway much of it is straight, straight, straight, heading south and east.
           You can focus on the wildlife instead: the swans with a brood of one white and four grey cygnets;

the grebe on its nest;

the hawk in the stoop.

            Bankside there is a windmill without sails

and some rather strange craft…

But further along a small boat pushed into the reeds

emphasised the lonely character of fenland landscape.
           By late afternoon, 8 miles upstream, Isleham Lock was in sight. How much further could the boats go? Was a glossary needed to decode the lock instructions?

Onto the digital camera flashed the GPS reference: Mildenhall, Suffolk. There was a frisson of excitement for a county-collector (surely Senior Sis will remember the British Isles Counties jigsaw, where Rutland and Middlesex were impossibly small?) Either Cleddau had nosed over the border from Cambridgeshire into Suffolk or she was now on river water which rose in Suffolk and flowed into Cambridgeshire…
            The Captain had disappeared up the river path, returning some time later: the mooring prospects were grim for the Boat Dog, and boat turning for 60 and 59 footers could be better. Decision time: the boats were turned back west and recovery made to the Prickwillow EA moorings.
              Mid-evening Cheshire Mum, in meteorologist mode, sent a message of sympathy:


those were no showers on the weather radar – that was a storm front!
              Prickwillow, a small shop-free village, has a redundant church, a glitzy village hall

 and the Prickwillow Engine Drainage Museum.

                On Monday morning there was sound and activity from Prickwillow Bridge – repairs to its expansion joints?

 And further downstream there was more activity as the weed choppers

 chomped and mulched and conveyed weeds onto the bank.
              By midday the River Lark was left behind,

 Tentatrice and Cleddau drawn towards the Ship of the Fens,

 the Cathedral at Ely.
              Moored at Ely now; watch out for a report from this pretty waterside city. 
Total distance to Bedford:  310 miles (corrected again)
Distance so far: 250 miles

Total number of locks to Bedford:  143
Locks so far: 125

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