Saturday, 10 May 2014

Blowing in the wind

Journey's end for today at Great Barford
Today we are moored up for the day by 1.30 p.m. Only four hours of cruising done but the nine miles and three locks felt easily twice that much in the blustery conditions with 20-25 mph crosswinds most of the way.
Like yesterday, it was a day to stare nervously at all those tall waving willows – and at the ones that had already fallen or lost branches along the riverside!
No, you're not seeing things. This is a garden on a widebeam's roof
Once you've left the attractive riverside parkland of St Neots the river is back into open floodplain but this is soon bisected by an sspectacular new footbridge, nearly 400 metres long that provides a walking and cycle route between Eaton Socon and Eynesbury/St Neots on the two sides of the river and its floodplain.
The 400m 'Willow Bridge' runs right across the Ouse and floodplain
After the millside setting of Eaton Socon Lock the river enters a wide, straightish and somewhat charmless stretch - I think the change from 4mph to 7mph speed limit is a clue - passing the large Little Barford power station to one side and large golf course and old gravel pits on the other.
A big tight S-bend comes as a surprising and welcoming challenge then it's more of the same straight running to Tempsford where 19th century and 20th century bridges carry the A1 cariageways over the water.
Passing under the A1 bridges at Tempsford
After this the river reverts back to its twisty, willow lined style, passing a large 'private, no mooring' landing stage which once served the A1-side Anchor Hotel. The might of Google later revealed that this is now 'The Vanilla Alternative' swingers club - a hotel, bar and 'play areas' for members. If you know what a swingers club is, fine; if you don't, well I'm not telling you here!
Shortly after this we reached our own play area, Roxton Lock. Here the river weir runs straight at you across the full width of the river as you approach the lock which is to the side of it. Coming upriver after two or three days of wet weather, the weir stream was pushing us hard towards the river edge and the landing stage. If we had needed to moor to open the lock, it would have been a fight back off against the force of it. But the lock was open we went straight in under a lot of power with the tiller hard over to keep the boat squared up...and hoping I'd got the right line and could stop quickly when in the lock. Fun.
Heading for the lock with the weirstream at Roxton coming at us
It's a nice twisty stretch after Roxton - or would have been if I wasn't constantly looking at those trees – and up to Great Barford Lock, which is a carbon copy of Roxton. Again the gates were open and we could go straight in. I'm already looking forward to having fun with these on the way back down river.
Just after the lock are attractive EA moorings on a village green, by a pub and overlooking the handsome, multiple stone arches of Barford Bridge. A lunch stop was soon agreed among the crew to become an end-of-play stop too.
Seven miles and four more locks tomorrow should see us in Bedford. Then we turn round and head back!

Beyond the call of duty - brass polishing the exhaust on the move

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