Middle Level Then And Now August 1984 With John Revell Part 2

I next visited the Middle Level again during August 1984. I set off from my mooring at the Fish and Duck marina at the junction of the River Cam and Old West River and headed for Denver where there were cruisers waiting to go through the lock.

Approaching Denverl ock Aug 1984

Approaching Denver lock where several cruisers are waiting – cc John Revell

This was my first time entering Salters Lode lock from the tidal Ouse and I was grateful to receive good advice from the Denver lock keeper about how to do this on an in-coming tide.

converted mill Nordelph

A fine converted mill at Nordelph. This has been extended but remains very distinct. John Revell


Nordelph Chequers pub closed pic 2005

The familiar view as you approach the centre of Nordelph. The Chequers pub on the right closed in 2005.

The journey along Well Creek was uneventful though I recall being intrigued by a simple swing bridge across the river to a small cottage near Nordelph. I learnt later that this belonged to Gladys Dack and her name lives on with the Gladys Dack mooring constructed by the Well Creek Trust on the opposite side of the river. The cottage is now derelict having been badly damaged by a gas explosion which fortunately did not injure Miss Dack.

Glady Dacks cottage simple swing bridge john revell

Glady Dack’s cottage and simple swing bridge. The house was badly damaged by a gas explosion and is now derelict.

After Well Creek and Marmont Priory lock we headed down Pophams Eau and moored near the junction of the Sixteen Foot and Forty Foot rivers. The following day we attempted to reach Horseways lock but gave up when we discovered there was nowhere to turn at the lock. We had to reverse to the junction with the Forty Foot which was something I have done many times since. On one occasion in 2010 this was part of a campaign cruise undertaken by the local branch of the Inland Waterways Association (IWA) which was broadcast on BBC Look East. Alastair Chambers, then Chairman of the Peterborough Borough Branch of the IWA, spoke to the camera while I just had to do the reversing.

I failed to boat the full length of the Forty Foot when I visited the Middle Level in April 1984 {see part 1} and it was a relief to get under the very low Ramsey Hollow bridge without mishap or injuring myself this time. Note that this bridge has since been raised by the Royal Engineers partly with funds raised by the local IWA at events held at Bill Fen marina [courtesy of John and Lynne Shotbolt].

Ramsey basin

Ramsey basin. Gang plank for access to town but nowhere to turn a 48′ boat round.

That evening was spent at the George Inn at Ramsey Forty Foot where we again added our name to the boater’s log book kept behind the bar before continuing the next day to Ramsey town. My notes record that this was easy boating with a good mooring at the end but nowhere to turn a 48‘ boat like mine.

We explored the town, ate fish and chips and visited the Jolly Sailor, a pub which has changed very little since then and which I last visited in September 2023.

My notes from 1984 state “Jolly Sailor. 6/10. Choice of rooms. Landlord ex RAF. Lots of brasses and locals. Beer by (Watney) Manns.

The moorings at Ramsey deteriorated over the years but have now been completely rebuilt to a high standard. There are also recently built houses on both sides. A turning point has also been provided and I have seen a 60’ narrow-boat turn there.

Lodes End lock helpers

Plenty of help and onlookers at Lodes End lock

There was no turning point in 1984 so the following morning we therefore had to reverse all the way which took 90 mins. We then went through Lodes End lock and headed for Yaxley. Unfortunately, and not for the only time, we could not get under Exhibition Bridge which was too low to get under so we proceeded to Monk’s Lode where we moored overnight at the end of navigation.

Monks Lode

At the end of Monk’s Lode

Our view that this was a very quiet spot was confirmed by a conversation the next day with a local man. He said that the only boats he saw these days were weed boats but this was a shame as he was looking for a wife (presumably to drift past and into his arms). This conversation took place in August when some waterways elsewhere would have been very busy. I reversed a short way and turned near an old pumping station. Monks Lode remains entirely unspoilt but the turning point is overgrown so reversing is needed for most boats.

After another quiet day we paid our second visit to C & T Fox boat yard. My notes say

“Helpful and business like. Diesel £1.20 a gallon. Mooring £6.62 per week”

We also visited the Horse and Jockey pub which was a short distance from the boatyard but has since been demolished before spending the evening in the Red Hart at Three Holes (an Elgoods pub which is also now closed).

Outwell approach

Approaching Outwell before the church. A familiar scene still today.

We made our way to Salters Lode the next day, stopping for fish and chips at J R Stott Outwell (still there) and a drink at the Red Lion at Outwell (a splendid looking building on the busy main road, still there but no longer a pub – the prominent Bullards brewery sign  remains) and the Chequers at Nordelph (another closed pub).

before Outwell basin former wisbech canal junction

Just before Outwell basin and the former junction with the Wisbech canal.

We had chosen to return via the tidal Hundred Foot (New Bedford). We went through Salters Lode at low water and waited outside for the big spring tide to arrive. We set off with the tide and reached the Riverside Inn at Earith by lunchtime. I have used this tidal route many times since then all without difficulty.


All Photos Copyright John Revell

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