Day 14: Monday 28th June: “Creeping like snail unwillingly to…”

From Upwell, the Middle Level to Ely, the River Great Ouse
[First, apologies to the avid reader(s) awaiting yesterday’s submission: only as darkness fell, with  the dongle tied high on a pole and Ken sitting on the front locker, laptop on his knee, did the atmospheric conditions allow transmission.]
Last night we were moored in the village of Upwell, by the church, alongside the main street. We were in Norfolk, and as Noel Coward penned for Private Lives “ very flat, Norfolk”.  See photo. The engine kicked into life at 0745, just as school children were unhurriedly gathering to catch the school bus. White loose shirts and dark trousers. Slow school bus, even slower boat.  The Well Creek to Salter’s Lode lock is narrow, shallow and much afflicted by weed.  If you can imagine walking in wellington boots through thick vegetable soup – that’s how sludgy our progress felt.  Occasional traffic drove close by, a pair of swans guarded their eight cygnets and tornado and typhoon aircraft flew at medium level overhead, on bombing practice on the Wash ranges.  We arrived at Salter’s Lode lock to find a queue of boats tied up waiting for the right (falling) state of the tide. Looking over the lock wall we could see what we were in for, a narrow escape from the lock, a sharp right hand turn across the tidal water and a powerful run upstream for about half a mile to the next lock, Denver Sluice, which separates the tidal and non-tidal waters of the Great Ouse.  Life-jackets donned, roof-top cleared of taller structures, we squeezed our just under 62 feet into the lock. What joy to arrive safely at Denver, pulling in alongside the New Zealanders’ narrowboat, to discover not only a profession in common (pilot) but also knowledge of a common acquaintance. Big lock – but small world!
Up onto the Great Ouse: wide water, cruisers galore, sweeping stretches of deep water, a reminder of Severn days.
“Creeping like snail unwillingly to school” wrote Shakepeare: during our low-lying tidal adventures a message had been left on the mobile phone; OfSTED has announced an imminent visit to school, send for the Chair of Governors.   So plans have been adjusted, negotiations made with the Cathedral Marina in Ely, daughter working in Cambridge has offered to retrieve parents from boat to reunite them with house and car…
But the arrival in Ely was fun: boys swimming, girls sculling, geese assembling and behind the attractive riverside is the solid presence of that gracious cathedral, its lantern tower huge and imposing. We can see it now from Cleddau’s temporary mooring.
It seems Boatwif must revert to housewif and grandwif for the next two weeks, but hopefully will be back (round about 12th July) to complete the adventures of Cleddau on her way to the 2010 Bedford River Festival…

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