Last night we ate at The Swan, last time we visited it was called The Black Horse but its changed a lot since then and has been poshed up a bit. The restaurant is closed on both Monday and Tuesday evening this time of the year, but the bar meals we had were first class and at a reasonable price.
This morning we pushed off at quarter to ten following a quiet night on the moorings opposite The Swan. Unlike last night when there wasn’t a ripple to be seen, the wind was now picking up and would continue to do so all day. In spite of the wind the sun was bright and warm, again unlike last night when we had to get the winter duvet out.
We continued upstream for about a mile before turning left up the River Lark. We have done a bit of this river before but only as far as Prickwillow, today we planned to go to the head of navigation. As we were heading towards Mildenhall there were quite a few aircraft about including a refuelling plane from the American Air force, I know it was American because it said so on the side. I think the pilot has his sun glasses on, but that may just be the suns reflection.
There is one lock on the Lark at Isleham and unlike the EA locks on the River Nene the guillotine gate is at the head of the lock, not the tail. The lock is fully powered including the V doors and the Slackers, one thing that surprised us was that the controls for the bottom gates were not in a locked enclosure, you only needed a key to get in the control box to raise/lower the guillotine gate.
Just before we arrived at the lock there was a fare sized flock of geese sitting in the river. These were not your commonal garden Canada geese but real wild ones that took to the sky when we were still a good 200 Mt. from them
As we locked up a survey vessel that had been following us caught up and walked up to the lock. I asked if they were going through as well? It seemed they were, but as they didn’t know there was a lock they didn’t have a key. So we moored up and locked them up. We left them on the lock landing and continued on our way. A short time later we met a very smart EA patrol vessel complete with “go fast” hatching. I think they must have had a chat with the survey vessel and locked down again with them,as we didn’t see ether boat again.
From here the river is much bendier and on one of these bends we passed a wooden hut with
“Horseferry Lodge” written on the end of it, so maybe once upon a time this was the site of a ferry. The house beside it is “Gravel House” and on the house sign they have a picture of what I take to be their Narrowboat.
We continued on to Judes Ferry which is the end of the Environments jurisdiction, apart from the wind it was quite easy to wind here as there is a cut beside the pub which was probably at one time the ferry landing. We did consider stopping at the pub overnight, but the moorings are not very Narrowboat friendly, being not only a bit to high but also cantilevered out by about 18” so would rub the cabin sides, I don’t think even our barrow wheels would have held us off, so its on the list for next time.
From here we retraced our steps passing the Lee Brook on our left.
At the moorings below the lock there is an elderly boat and on the cabin side he has 4 IWA swords. At one time the sword in a clenched gauntlet was part of the IWA insignia and the sword was awarded to boats that covered the more difficult parts of the system. Many feel that the IWA should not have dropped it as it signified the fighting spirit of the organisation and had been there I think from day one.
On our way up we passed what I thought was a grave stone on the river bank, so on the way back down I watch out for it. It turned out that it is to commemorate the baptism of the Rev. Spurgon in May 1850.
A little further downstream there is an old pumping station that was built in 1844 on the wall is a plaque in memory of the first pumpman Joseph Flatt who attended the pump from when it opened until he died in 1900.
By now the it was getting cloudy and the wind continued to pick up as we made our way to the EA moorings at Prickwillow.