Day 50 – Middle Level Blues

Yesterday I booked passage through Stanground lock at 10.00 so first I went to the sanitary station in Peterborough, possibly the dirtiest sluice I have ever seen and only a little over 12 months since it was installed. Then to Asda for some veg for a curry. From peterborough Embankment it’s about 10-15 minute cruise to the lock.

The middle level drains were constructed to drain the fens for agriculture. They are managed by the Middle Level Commisioners primarily to keep the area from flooding and to provide irrigation water during the summer. The system was made navigable initially for agricultural produce to be shipped out and things like building material brought in. Later vast amounts of coal were shipped in to power the steam pumps that kept the fens dry. Leisure boating is way down their list of priorities. It shows.

The central section from Ashline Lock at Whittlesea to Priory Lock near Upwell is especially tedious because there is nothing to look at except flood banks until you pass through March in a cutting, and nothing after that. Mooring is not allowed on the floodbanks and in any case you wouldn’t go within 5m of them if you could avoid them because of the weed growth spreading out from the banks.

I planned to stop at Fox’s Narrowboats in March for fuel, but their Diesel pump is broken. I suspect there is probably enough ikn the tank to get back to Tempsford but I daren’t risk running out on the New Bedford tomorrow. So I’m moored in Outwell tonight (by the chippy, the veggie curry can wait) and have found out there’s a petrol station about ½ mile away. First thing tomorrow I’ll walk/hitch with my fuel can.

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