If this is your first time on a narrowboat our experienced staff will show you how to steer the boat, use a lock and moor the boat. Then you can head off on an adventure, being the skipper of your own destiny! But how far can you actually get on your first day afloat?
We suggest travelling at a leisurely pace so that you can enjoy the journey. Don’t attempt to get too far too soon. A popular mooring among our customers for their first night of the holiday is Benwick, a little village near Peterborough on the navigable River Nene. Heading towards Ramsey, it will take about two hours to reach Benwick by boat. Benwick can be visited if you are doing the Middle Level ring, and there is a shop and a pub in the village. The Middle Level is an interconnected waterway combining natural rivers and manmade canals, and it dates back to the 17th century. Since the draining of the Fen, over the years the land has sunk, and most of the area is now below sea-level. The Middle Level rivers now have to be pumped up to sea-level to drain the land.
Benwick’s High Street is built on a roddon; the silt banks of an old river. The public mooring in Benwick, has only room for a couple of boats please offer other narrowboats to moor alongside you to keep things polite, it has convenient piled sides, concrete top and bollards, which is easier to negotiate than a wild mooring. The Five Alls pub is about 10 minutes’ walk from the mooring. This rural, family-friendly pub offers food to eat in or takeaway for pre bookings only. Check out their Facebook page for the menu, and upcoming special events such as a disco or a Bingo night.
Alternatively, cruising towards Whittlesey on your first day afloat, you can moor at Manor Fields above Whittlesey Lock. There are a range of takeaways and restaurants just a short walk from the moorings. This charming town has an interesting maze of streets, and two beautiful churches.
If you are headed towards the River Great Ouse you can spend the night at Church Bridge moorings in Upwell. In this picturesque village you’ll find a newsagents and grocers, a butchers, a bakery and a pub.
You can plan your route and choose your mooring for your first night by looking in the guidebook provided with the narrowboat. There are also links to navigation guides, cruising times and notices here: Navigational Data. A handy table shows the navigation cruising times from our hire boat base in March, to popular moorings and holiday destinations. Some locks are tidal and only navigable by appointment, which can add time on to your journey, so take it easy and be flexible!
The Fenland waterways are a very relaxed place to be and there aren’t too many rules and regulations to remember. However, if you’re new to boating, these five tips should help your first cruise to go more smoothly. Navigate Like a Pro-Skipper: 5 Essential Tips
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Photo Credit: Kevin Banks