Onto the flat and beyond

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We came off the lovely River Neme at Peterborough, then down Stanground Lock that controls the water levels in the Fens to continue our journey below sea level. Tina is the third generation lock keeper who is dedicated and enthusiastic.

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We thought this part of our journey would probably be boring, travelling on long straight drains with high banks. We were wrong.

The Middle Level is different, shallow, narrow and windy in some places with VERY low bridges.

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Long straight open patches, initially quite industrial with chimneys of brickworks and factories.

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Occasional isolated farms and frequent clusters of wind turbines.

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Glimpses of corn fields over the top of the high banks, no livestock apart from a few tape lined fields of horses.

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We wound our way very slowly through three pretty villages, March, Upwell and Outwell, where the river seems to take the place of the high street. Lanes run along the top of the river bank in place of pavements.

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This morning we moored at Salters Lode Lock, a carefully managed exit point from the Middle Level onto the River Great Ouse. We had to wait for the tide to drop sufficiently to allow us to drive the boat out of the lock under a very low concrete bridge. There was a debate about taking the flowers and bikes off the roof in order to get under the bridge. The cheery lock keeper decided that moving us down the queue to third place would mean the river levels would be low enough to get through without having to take off all the clutter first.

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So we set off round a very sharp bend onto the tidal part of the Great Ouse, heading for the tall gates of Denver Sluice, where we would go into the non-tidal and therefore safer part of the Great Ouse. Many ‘playground stories’ have been told about the extreme difficulty of this manoeuvre, including getting stuck on mudbanks or ending up outside the sluice on the tideway until the next tide.

We did put our lifejackets on, and checked where the anchor was hiding. As usual the reality was much tamer than the stories, and we made it uneventfully to Denver Sluice, and out onto the non – tidal Great Ouse.

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