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A New Season,- Bedford To Barford On Aunt Erika - by Dave Saunders

Easter, the first opportunity to get away for the weekend on the boat and try out the rudder safe fitted over the winter lay-up.
Good Friday was spent recommisioning and reaffirming the safe and correct operation of the outboard and dinghy with the children.

We left the marina on Saturday morning with the children following behind in the dinghy. I hope no one thinks me irresponsible! We were able to keep in contact with each other via our two way radios. Both are competent swimmers, both wear correctly fitted buoyancy aids and have been around water and boats for a few years and know how to behave around and respect the water.

The river was in good condition, usually at this time of year the river is fast flowing or in flood, but due to the lack of rain this was not the case.
The run down to Cardington Lock took about 20 minutes and gave the ideal opportunity to give the engine a "blast out" as the river is wide and the speed limit is 7mph on this part of the river.

Cardington Lock has an electric guillotine gate on the up stream end and pointed doors on the down. The EA had done some work on the lock over the winter and it was now very easy to open the down stream doors that had been very stiff during the last season.

Once clear of the lock the river narrowed and the speed limit drooped to 4 mph. To our left was the Priory Country Park and to our right the cattle grazed, sharing the field with the pheasants that appear to be in abundance this year. Once under the old rail bridge the river widened up and the speed limit increased to 7mph again, but I kept my speed to 4/5 mph so as the kids could keep up. On the left we passed one of the many moorings leased by GOBA (Great Ouse Boating Association).

Castle Mill Lock was the next navigational encounter. This lock has pointed door at both ends, is very deep and fills and empty's in the middle of the pen. Great care needed to be taken on leaving this lock as over the 5 years we have been cruising this section an island has been created from the shoaling from the weir.

The Lock is to the left. The island is in the middle of this picture.

One day I intend to moor up and claim the island by erecting a VOC burgee!!!

Carrying on down river we passed under the road viaduct after witch the river winds and turns around a series of bends. Here we spotted the blue flash of the kingfisher as he skimmed across the river. The bank steepened and we passed some log cabins that have been built on the hill side. Here is also the home of a bird of prey (Falcon I think) and it was nice to see him perched on his boat.

Around some more bends and we past The Danish Camp (more info later) and on to Willington Lock. Here the children had had enough of the dinghy and re-joined the boat.
Further along we pasted the old Barford lock and 48 hour Environment Agency moorings. Soon Barford Bridge loomed into view.

This is probably the most challenging navigational obstacle on the Great Ouse. Many boats from down stream will not attempt to navigate further upstream for fear of negotiating this bridge. When going down stream most boats use the up stream arch as it is slightly higher. My 26 will go through the up stream arch with canopy down and screen up but to successfully clear the down stream arc h the screen has to be lowered.

We moored just after the bridge on the GOBA mooring opposite the pub and 48 hour EA mooring. While lunch was being prepared the children and I played with the Frisbee!
After lunch Mother & daughter went to the shop (40 min round trip to general store) while father & son played football and a multitude of other games.
During the evening the television was only switched on to watch Dr WHO and the rest of the evening was taken up with various card games.

Next morning we departed at around 9.00am to head back up river. Once under the bridge we saw the rabbits playing in the field to our left and the sheep with there lambs to our right, spring had definitely sprung !!
We continued up river until we came to The Danish Camp. This is a pleasant café/restaurant on the site of a real Danish Camp were the Viking repaired their long boats.

We moored up and ordered the full English breakfast. All food is cooked to order and reasonably priced. Once our bellies were full the children took to the dinghy and we continued our voyage.
All to soon we had returned through the locks and were on the home run when we
spotted a" tree with a face".

We returned to our mooring and spent the afternoon giving the boat a clean and telling those who still have there boats on the hard standing what a fantastic time they were missing!
The rudder safe fitted during the winter had made a difference with handling. Steering is more positive and now reacts when "coasting". The only down side is I now keep over steering, but I'll soon get used to that.

Just before we returned home a little more fun was had in the dinghy.
I hope you enjoy reading about our adventures as much as I enjoy reading the others on the site.

(Many thanks to Dave for his kind permssion to include his © photos and text on this site)