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Index

Tour 2001

Index

Fenland Tour Summer 2001

28 - Ramsey to Ramsey 40ft - Middle Level, inc High Lode, River Nene Old Course, Bevill's Leam, New Cut, Black Ham, Yaxley Lode, New Dyke, Monk's Lode, Great Raveley Drain and 40ft Drain.

Wednesday 25th July 2001

We shoved off at 07.50 and extracted ourselves from High Lode, the stub drain to Ramsey. At the junction turned left into the newish Lodes End Lock. This was constructed in the 1980's when Bevill's Leam pumping station was built across the end of Bevills Leam and the level below allowed to fall. This was to compensate for continual drying out of the peat, as building up the height of the dyke walls could not keep up. 
The drop was only about one foot, though the obviously EA constructed lock (but owned by the MLC). This had been built with high gates and chamber walls, to compensate for future, continual subsidence. Out of the lock at 08.20, into the real nether regions of the Middle Level. We turned right at Nightingales Corner, continuing along the River Nene Old Course. Here there were three moored narrowboats on a reasonable, cleared bank. 
Next on the agenda was to have a crack at the low Exhibition Bridge. This has low outer girders with knobbly rivets (certainly NOT plastic!) and the girders are canted for the largish B660 road. The downstream end on the left hand side is the highest side of this, the lowest girder. After pulling ourselves through the only casualty was a grazed top to the steel mushroom vent base (mushroom removed) and a scrape to the top of the front roof fender eye.........the level seemed fairly low, as read from the past waterlines on the bridge pier sides, 1.67M was the max height of the day, somewhat higher than the 1.2 M listed on the new Imray Middle Level Chart. 
There is no point in quoting bridge heights of the three lowest main route bridges on the Middle Level (Exhibition, Infields and Ramsey Hollow) – it just depends upon the level the day you are there. We recon this can vary around the all important 6 inches even in the Summer. 
We were worried that the low level may soon rise, so we attack this section with gusto. First we got to the other side of Bevill's Leam Pumping Station, up the lower stub of Bevill's Leam (10.25 - also dog poo stop!), then left onto New Cut / Black Ham and Yaxley Lode. By the ECML Rail bridge (Yaxley insight) we pass easily under the bridge and continue on the “un-navigable” narrow / shallow section to Yaxley. We are stopped by the foot bridge / weir (188921 - O^S sheet142), just before the possible winding point into Yards End Dyke and Pig Water (11.50). This weir holds the level beyond at the old pre 1980's higher level and before this date would have been navigable. 
It was then a rather slow reverse back to a really unsuitable spot to wind a 60ft narrowboat and spend12.20 - 12.40 in dredging a “curve” through the weed / rushes / bank! It was then back to Exhibition Bridge at 14.15 and clear with what seems slightly lower rivets. 
14.22 saw us back to Nightingales Corner and we went straight up New Dyke. The old “end” was at a junction with another drain (by a farm - 205868 - O^S sheet 142 - TO tight for a 60ft narrowboat wind), so we carry on up the right hand channel. This is as narrow / shallow / reed infested as any we have encountered, BUT the overhanging trees do seem cut back. Amazingly just before the rail bridge (198872- O^S sheet 142) there is a cleared junction where a 60ft wind was easy. This lovely little spot even had a nice cut bank to moor on – this provoked the inevitable dog poo stop. We started back at 15.30. 
Next was the turn into Monks Lode at 16.23. This is advertised as navigable to the low bridge at 213859 - O^S sheet 142. It was VERY rush / water lily / weed infested beyond the pumping station at 215863 - O^S sheet 142, so Neil just floored it and ground a channel right through the middle of the wall to wall rushes / weed / water lilies. 
We got up to the bridge and it would have been possible to grind ourselves under it, but it was even weedier beyond. Imray give the air draught as 0.5M, it would never be less that 1.5M!!! We were out of Monks Lode at 17.40. 
The next drain, working back was the Great Raveley Drain. We entered this wider drain (looked 60ft windable in a good few places) at 17.55. To the left is the Nature Conservancy Council virtually closed access nature reserve of wooded marsh Woodwalton Fen, a lovely spot to moor opposite. Ahead could be seen the official end of navigation – the Great Raveley Drain control sluice. 
This has two arches, with a control block above. We worked out that the sluice gates come up FROM THE DRAIN BED (so be careful anyone else who attempts this!) They were down and the unblocked right hand arch was the one to go through. We cleared the floor of the control room fairly easily, but within a few hundred yards we were stopped by a lowish bridge into the nature reserve. As we crept up to this a van came out of the reserve with a ranger in! 
We though we were in for a bollocking - but no - the guy was friendly and chatted about water levels and the reserve. Apparently the water level was low at the moment but rising. He said last week a narrowboat got under this bridge, but there was an even lower one just around the corner. 
We departed in reverse at 18.35. It was rather good astern extraction (if I may say so myself! – and don't forget that the bowthruster is now a “red book” offence!) Neil reversed back straight through sluice hole and beyond. Here we find a wide spot just by a modern wind pump. 
It was out of Great Raveley Drain at 19.00. Between here and Lodes End Lock there followed a Linda outburst, when she expressed her displeasure at Neil's proposal to try to get through Ramsey Hollow Bridge, a short distance beyond the hamlet of Ramsey 40ft, that night. This debatable bridge (JC has done it one time, but not another) would be best attempted before the obviously rising level got up any more (this did not lead to a dead end, but the 16ft Drain way back to March, via Three Holes.) 
We passed through Lodes End Lock at 19.50 and was on the 40ft Drain at 20.15. Owing to the probable non availability of Linda's Thai Green Curry we stopped on some fishermen’s holes, just beyond Ramsey 40ft Bridge (20.30). In fact the curry did appear, but Julian and Neil did managed a good few pints of Cains bitter in the “George” Free house.

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Looking back at Ramsey. High Lode. Middle Level.

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Bill Fen Marina.  Ramsey. High Lode. Middle Level.

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The stop gate protected Bill Fen Marina.  Ramsey. High Lode. Middle Level.

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Leaving  Bill Fen Marina.  Ramsey. High Lode. Middle Level.

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Back at the junction with the River Nene Old Course. High Lode. Middle Level.

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Lodes End Lock. River Nene Old Course. Middle Level.

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Lodes End Lock. River Nene Old Course. Middle Level.

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Lodes End Lock. River Nene Old Course. Middle Level.

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Leaving Lodes End Lock. River Nene Old Course. Middle Level.

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Green Hall Bridge. River Nene Old Course. Middle Level.

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River Nene Old Course. Middle Level.

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Ramsey St Mary's - B1040 Bridge. River Nene Old Course. Middle Level.

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Leaving Ramsey St Mary's - B1040 Bridge. River Nene Old Course. Middle Level.

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River Nene Old Course. Middle Level.

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River Nene Old Course. Nightingales Corner. Middle Level.

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River Nene Old Course. Approaching the B660 Exhibition Bridge. Middle Level.

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River Nene Old Course. Exhibition Bridge. Middle Level.

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River Nene Old Course. Creeping under Exhibition Bridge - is that tight or what! Middle Level.

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River Nene Old Course. Creeping under Exhibition Bridge. Middle Level.

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River Nene Old Course. Creeping under Exhibition Bridge. Middle Level.

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River Nene Old Course. Creeping under Exhibition Bridge. Note the nail tiller pin! Middle Level.

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River Nene Old Course. We have emerged from under Exhibition Bridge. Middle Level.

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River Nene Old Course. Old Decoy Farm and pumping station. Middle Level.

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Lower section of Bevill's Leam - Bevill's Leam pumping station. Middle Level.

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Lower section of Bevill's Leam - Bevill's Leam pumping station. Middle Level.

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Lower section of Bevill's Leam - Farcet Fen pumping station. Middle Level.

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Starting up The North Western Cut. Middle Level.

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Looking back at the lower section of Bevill's Leam - straight back and Old Course of the River Nene - to the the right. Middle Level.

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The North Western Cut. Frog Hall Bridge. Middle Level.

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The North Western Cut has become Black Ham. Middle Level.

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The North Western Cut. ECML railbridge and Yaxley in the distance.  Middle Level.

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After the ECML railbridge the North Western Cut becomes Yaxley Lode. Middle Level.

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Yaxley Lode. The end of navigation at this footbridge / weir. Yaxley. Yards End Dyke (left) and Pig Water (right) beyond. Pig Water is basically the Old Course of the River Nene and comes out (via another weir) on Kings Dyke, just beyond Stanground. Middle Level.

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Yaxley Lode. The end of navigation at this footbridge / weir. Yaxley. Middle Level.

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Yaxley Lode - looking back down. Yaxley. Middle Level.

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Yaxley Lode. The end of navigation at this footbridge / weir. Backing out. Yaxley. Middle Level.

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Starting along New Dyke. Middle Level.

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Junction with Great Raveley Drain to left. New Dyke. Middle Level.

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New Dyke. Charterhouse Farm Bridge. Middle Level.

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New Dyke - getting narrower. Middle Level.

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New Dyke - looking back. Middle Level.

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New Dyke - the end - ECML bridge just visible. Middle Level.

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New Dyke - the end - reversing back to the nice mooring and winding point. Middle Level.

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New Dyke - the end - winding point. Middle Level.

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New Dyke - the end - winding point. Middle Level.

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New Dyke - extraction. Middle Level.

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New Dyke - extraction. Middle Level.

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New Dyke - extraction. Middle Level.

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New Dyke - the old head of navigation - the drain by Top Farm. Middle Level.

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Looking back after having started up Monk's Lode. Middle Level.

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Looking up Monk's Lode. Middle Level.

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Looking up Monk's Lode. Middle Level.

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Looking back down Monk's Lode - we have decided to get to Eternity Hall farm Bridge! Middle Level.

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Looking back down Monk's Lode - we have decided to get to Eternity Hall farm Bridge! Middle Level.

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Monk's Lode. Eternity Hall farm Bridge. Middle Level.

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Monk's Lode. looking back from Eternity Hall farm Bridge. Middle Level.

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Monk's Lode. Eternity Hall farm Bridge - it was just doable. Middle Level.

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Monk's Lode. Eternity Hall farm Bridge. Middle Level.

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Monk's Lode. Nearly back to the pumping station. Middle Level.

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Starting up Great Raveley Drain. Middle Level.

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Great Raveley Drain. Middle Level.

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Great Raveley Drain. Middle Level.

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Great Raveley Drain - control sluice. Middle Level.

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Great Raveley Drain - control sluice. Middle Level.

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Great Raveley Drain - we have made it under the control sluice. Middle Level.

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Great Raveley Drain - stopped by the bridge to Woodwalton Fen Nature Reserve. Middle Level.

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Ramsey Forty Foot Bridge. Ramsey Forty Foot Drain. Middle Level.

The Tour continues


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