Sunday, 11 May 2014

Journey's end

Moored on the official moorings - at the wrong end of town
We are finally here in Bedford, moored up on the official town moorings. Journey's end. Well, strictly, not quite journey's end as the river is navigable for another mile or so but I'm not sure I'm enough of a canal collector to go up and back just for the hell of it. We'd probably get stuck anyway.
We actually did get stuck once on our way to Bedford. I've come across red buoys and green buoys but on the bend before Cardington Lock were some orange buoys. I decided to treat them as if they were red. Wrong! we got stuck - fortunately only slightly and a bit of poling and reversing soon saw us away.
It's been another windswept day on the water, though thankfully a dry one. After leaving Great Barford we found ourselves on a largely narrow and winding stretch, lined with huge willows waving ominously in the wind.  After Willington the rural up-river feel gradually disappears and the river starts to open out, with noisy main roads forewarning the imminent appearance of a town.
Winding tree lined stretches on the final run in to Bedford
But first we had the biggest lock on the river - the 14ft deep Castle Mill Lock. As well as being imposingly deep (though by no means as deep as several canal locks) this has a peculiar mode of operation. It empties and fills from sluices at the centre. The trick when filling we were told by another boater is to put your boat at the same side as the sluices: water then enters the lock, goes under the boat, bounces off the other wall and presses you in place. It worked - well, more or less.
The striking pyramid on the edge of town houses a swimming pool
Cardington, though home of the giant R100 and 101 airship hangars which you sadly can't see from the river is a tiny lock by contrast but has a sting in the tail. You need to turn 90 degrees right on the exit, which wasn't easy with wind and flow pushing the other way. But a full power, tiller hard over exit got us round.
After all these sizeable locks, it came as something of a surprise to find that the entry to the final one is via two extremely low bridges. We slid under them - just - but how frustrating it would be to arrive at Bedford and find yourself failing at the final hurdle before the town riverfront.
In the final lock - note the summer attire
Not that it would be a serious issue; the run in to the lock is along a fine riverside park, effectively an island bisected by the navigation channel and main stream of the river with elegant footbridges linking across the two to the main town. In some ways it's the nicest spot to moor – a fair walk from the centre of town but along a fine, elegant and wide tree-lined promenade of a road.
The handsome riverside promenade along the river at Bedford
We, though, went through the lock, turned left onto the main river and headed upriver past a very handsome length of stone balustraded wall, the rowing club and under the main town bridge. All very handsome, but things peter out after this and the official town moorings a half mile on, though close to the shopping centre, are in a rather shabby part of town.
Tomorrow we will explore what already seems a much more interesting town than I'd expected and maybe move back to the park mooring for the night.
(No pictures tonight - the internet connection is too slow.)
Pictures now added!

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