|Coming into Upwell with our mooring by the church ahead|
Tonight we are moored in a quieter spot,
at Church Bridge in the centre of Upwell a village whose ramshackle charms we have enjoyed since our early days in boating.
Upwell and its Siamese-twin neighbour Outwell straggle along a mile and more of what has now become Well Creek, a narrower and frustratingly more shallow section of the 'Nene-Ouse through route'. Like so many of these fenland places, Upwell hints at a wealthy past but also speaks of a down-at-heel present. Though the prettiness of the place has seen some uplift since our last visit, the roads that run either side of the Creek still intersperse ruinous buildings and shabby homes among the renovations and between the substantial 18th and 19th century properties of its affluent past. The ornate and solidly proportioned church is another sign of past wealth - as, even more so, is the massive vicarage alongside it.
The through route here has certainly changed character. We did some final shopping at March including a visit to a very good craft shop then bashed out of town on a wide, deep waterway running past fields of wind turbines, making good speed in weather that had turned overnight from hot and sunny to windy and showery. Then, shortly after passing the turning to the wide, straight Pophams Eau the river narrowed, start to twist and turn and we arrived at only the second lock on the whole route. Marmont Priory is an idyllic, out of time spot; a lock half hidden between trees and a secret, tucked-away lock house stood back from it in a cottage garden. The lock scenes in the film version of Graham Swift's Waterland was filmed here and if you've read the book you'll see it is the perfect location.
A shame, then, that the lock-keeper is such a grumpy old thing. Maybe we've always caught her on an off day but today again I was chastised for not booking (I had rung but there was no reply and no answer to my message) then for not ringing the bell and starting to make my own way through.
Ah well, we did at least see our first ducklings of the year here and our next brood a little further on as we entered Upwell.
Tomorrow or Saturday depending on our mood we head up and out of the Middle Level and cross to the Great Ouse.