Narrowboat Tacet

Silent Movement - Our gap year travelling the inland waterways

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Will we, won’t we?

That was the question we asked ourselves Saturday morning.  You see the forecast had not been good last night, lots of rain. So should we move on and get to Ely for the services there, church and boaty ones……..Or stay put in Huntingdon?

After a wander into town and round the market we looked again at the forecast, and out the window, it was cloudy, but not rain at the moment so off we set thinking we could stop at St Ives if things got too bad.  In the event, we stayed dry all day, and kept moving all day arriving at Ely at 6.30pm.

The river is getting busier, must be summer!  We shared all the locks today with narrowboats, cruisers and and a small day boat.

It was tempting to stop at St Ives, but there was not much space and the going was good so we carried on.  Once through Hermitage lock at Earith there were no more locks and about 15 miles to Ely.  We took turns on the tiller as it was quite windy, needing a bit of concentration round the bends.

On the way today we passed fellow bloggers Brian and Diana nb Harnser, gave them a toot, but didn’t see them.  And passed nb Qisma, who called out that they read our blog, thanks guys, will add you to our list too now.

Hemingford Grey is a pretty village from the river, wish we could have stopped here.

With dramatic skies over the fens, we were lucky to stay dry.

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We did make one stop, a very quick one, at Stretham.  There is a steam pumping engine on the banks of the river here, open only on some Sundays and Bank Holidays. So we could only walk around and read the information boards today.

Stretham pump (1) Stretham pump (4)

Windmills had been used in draining the fens, lifting water up into the river, and in 1831 the Stretham steam pump replaced 4 of them. The steam engine powered a scoop wheel to pick up the water and lift it up to river level. The coal arrived by barge, delivered in huge lumps which were weighed and stacked outside, then had to be broken up to fit into the stove.  The stoker was in charge of the coal and keeping the stove stoked, using a quarter of a ton an hour.

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The Stoker and the Superintendent both had a cottage as they were on call 24 hours a day. Keeping the engine running needed constant attention and it was in use for over 100 years.  Now water is pumped by electric pumps.

The pumps keep the fen land is kept from flooding and the soil is rich and fertile ground for crops.

At Ely we squeezed onto the end of the visitor moorings just under the road bridge, so a bit noisy, but we guessed all the moorings would be full at that time of day, and it’s a popular weekend as the Cathedral is hosting the Flower Festival.


21 miles, 5 locks


  1. Hemingford Grey has the oldest continiously inhabited house in UK. Well worth a visit. House and gardens wonderful and the stories ........
    Did you see the mooring rings in Ely ? shaped like Eels - Ely is the Eel capital of the area

    1. I still will not be persuaded to eat them!