The Middle Level waterways are an unusual mixture of natural rivers and man-made canals in Cambridgeshire. When the Bedford Level area of the Fens was first drained in the 17th century, it created interconnected navigations that now link the River Nene to the River Ouse. Over the years the land here has sunk so that most of the area is now below sea-level. Middle Level rivers now have to be pumped up to sea-level to drain the land.
Fox Narrowboats is in a great position, nestled in the centre of the Middle Level Waterways, not far from the idyllic riverside villages of Upwell and Outwell. On a boating holiday beginning at our marina in March, you can easily visit these five places by narrowboat.
Before you set off on your Middle Level cruise, check out this little museum in the heart of the town centre for a fascinating insight into our community’s social history. A variety of displays and collections, along with audio points and interactive elements, will guide you through the history of the town, and admission is free.
2) St Wendreda’s Church
It’s also worth seeing St Wendreda’s Church which is just a short 20 minute walk away from the town centre moorings. It’s the oldest church in our town and is known for its magnificent double-hammer beam roof with 120 carved angels; regarded as one of the best of its kind. John Betjeman described the church as “worth cycling 40 miles in a head wind to see.”
3) The Acre
We think you’ll love this charming little backstreet pub beside the river, known for its friendly staff, prompt service and home-cooked Sunday carvery, which is sometimes accompanied by live jazz. This place is a local favourite of ours because of the warm, friendly atmosphere and good value food. If you want to eat there it’s worth booking a table in advance. There is outdoor seating for fair weather days, and there are moorings nearby if you are arriving by narrowboat.
The Acre, 9 the Acre, March, PE15 9JD
4) St Peter’s Church
As you navigate your way through the Middle Levels it is worth stopping at the picturesque village of Upwell on the Well Creek. St Peter’s is a 13th century church with an unusual tower. We love the 25 carved oak angels in the roof, looking down into two Victorian galleries. Try mooring at The Five Bells Inn for a real ale in Upwell. Beyond Upwell, Outwell Basin also provides some idyllic moorings and The Crown Lodge Hotel moorings are the last chance to moor for a drink before the tidal crossing at Salters Lode.
This independent museum on the edge of a small Fenland town is housed in renovated 17th century farm buildings. To get to Ramsey by boat you would cruise west in the opposite direction to Upwell and Outwell. The museum is full of items and exhibits donated by local companies and the public. There is a variety of machinery, implements and vehicles spanning 200 years of rural life, plus a Chemist Shop and a Cobblers Shop. A history of the drainage of the Fens can be found in the Pump Room along with tools used for hedging, ditching and turfing. We love browsing the second-hand bookshop and visiting the tea room for a piece of cake.
The Middle Levels are one of the best kept secrets of the UK waterways; so holiday makers benefit from uncrowded rivers and stunning scenery with wide open skies.
You may also like; Seven Surprising Differences We Discovered Cruising the Middle Levels. (From friendly lock keepers, to wind farms and kingfishers, this is what a Hotel Boat crew loved about our local waterways.)
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