A Nightingale Sang On Hockwold Fen – Ouse Tributaries

river wissey hilgay wiki Martin Pearman

river wissey hilgay

Is there anymore a relaxing and restorative holiday than on a narrowboat?

Is there any better way to immerse yourself in the natural world?

I’m that person with the lifestyle many of you envy. I’m semi-retired and live on a Fox narrowboat! So what does the person whose life can appear ‘one long holiday’ do for a holiday? I often stock up on provisions and cruise the tributaries of the River Great Ouse, the rivers Lark, Little Ouse and Wissey.

quiet east anglian waterways

quiet waterways

The days of traffic jams, congestion charging, ‘held up by roadworks’ and road rage are but a distant memory to me ! I never go anywhere fast in my boat, and occasionally marvel at the small minority of hirers who appear to feel the need to go as fast as possible, seemingly in an attempt to achieve the maximum possible mileage. My mantra is “if I was in a hurry I shouldn’t have bought a boat”. My formula for stress free living – relax and drink in the narrowboat experience.

prickwillow engine museum pumping station wheel

prickwillow engine museum

On the river Lark visit the brilliant Prickwillow Drainage Museum Open mainly Saturdays, Sundays & Mondays, April through September.

And explore upstream as far as Judes Ferry and reward yourself with good pub grub in the hostelry! It is a long standing boating tradition that you can’t turn around outside a pub without first sampling its wares. (Perhaps a less well known tradition, but one I strive to try and keep alive!)

The entrance to the Little Ouse is marked by The Ship at Brandon Creek PH. With both pub and EA visitor moorings the Ship also has a long tradition of feeding and watering the hungry boater.

Little Ouse narrowboat approach lock sluice gate

little ouse narrowboat approach lock sluice gate

The river Little Ouse features the breathtaking lovely Hockwold Fen part of an RSPB nature reserve. One evening my wife and I moored there on the GOBA mooring and were entertained all evening by nightingale song. Priceless!

Little Ouse GOBA Mooring

Little Ouse GOBA Mooring

Another star of the Little Ouse is the eye catching remains of the long abandoned Waterman’s Arms. How the ruins of this former pub defy gravity and remain standing defies belief!

derelict watermans arms

derelict watermans arms

The last of these three tributaries is the River Wissey. The lower reaches feel so remote as you squeeze through its tight reeds that it often reminds me of the film classic, the ‘African Queen’. My wife plays Katherine Hepburn to my Humphrey Bogart !

Marvel at the alien landscape as you briefly pass next to the country’s largest beet factory at Wissington. Both the Wissey and the Little Ouse feature strange water management feature.

The Head of Navigation on the Wissey is a charming flint built Suffolk town called Brandon. 5 miles north east of Brandon is Grime’s Graves, the only Neolithic flint mine open to visitors in Britain. Both worth visiting !

grimes graves

grimes graves map

In this blog I’ve only scratched the surface of the many interesting features and quirks of these rivers. In my printed 260 page guide “The Great Ouse and its Tributaries’ published by Imray. I describe, for example, both how the river Lark demonstrates all the different historical stages in pumping the Fens dry, and how the same river was used for mass, total immersion baptism, right up until the 1970s, only stopping after complaints that the recently ‘dunked’ were too smelly! And many, many other strange and little known facts. The guide is available from Fox’s. Chris Howes.

View this Fox Route 1 & points of interest on the Fox Narrowboats Interactive Google Map

If you are interested in exploring the Fenland Waterways, Fox have day hire narrowboats and holiday boats available.

Hey! Are you new here? Subscribe on the right to receive more secrets of the undiscovered Fenland waterways, by email. (We never share or sell email addresses, we’ll only be sending you our local, insider knowledge, every two weeks)

Image credit: river wissey hilgay (top) – wiki martin pearman, grimes graves map – public domain (bottom), all inline photos – chris howes

Tags: , , , , ,