At last! After 11 years, John and his band of boaters finally sail down the Old Bedford River

PUBLISHED: 10:44 10 April 2017 | UPDATED: 10:45 10 April 2017

The boats emerge from their trip down the Old Bedford River. PHOTO: Chris Howes

The boats emerge from their trip down the Old Bedford River. PHOTO: Chris Howes

Archant

A group of Fen boaters have finally succeeded in their quest to sail down the Old Bedford River.

John Revell, Chris Howes and Jeff Walters make their way up the Old Bedford River. PHOTO: Chris HowesJohn Revell, Chris Howes and Jeff Walters make their way up the Old Bedford River. PHOTO: Chris Howes

The river has been unused since Welches Dam Lock at Manea was closed in 2006, but determined local narrowboaters John Revell, Chris Howes and Jeff Walters ended that 11-year spell on April 4.

John lead the attempt in his 41 foot narrowboat called ‘Olive Emily,’ and was joined by Chris’ in his boat, ‘Lily May’ and Jeff, who embarked on the mission in his 50 foot narrowboat called ‘Ever After.’

The Welney gate is raised. PHOTO: Chris HowesThe Welney gate is raised. PHOTO: Chris Howes

The trio traversed silt-filled waters and – despite getting caked in mud – made it through after over an hour.

Once through, all three boats enjoyed views of the Fens on their way to Welches Lock, before they turned back and returned to Welney for a well-deserved pint at the Lamb and Flag.

'Lily May' at the entrance of the Old Bedford River. PHOTO: Roger Sexton'Lily May' at the entrance of the Old Bedford River. PHOTO: Roger Sexton

The next morning the trio returned to Salter’s Lode for low tide and persevered through the mud to make it back onto the Great Ouse – an effort which was greeted with relief from John, who had previously embarked on a number of unsuccessful efforts.

He said: “I was one of the last boaters to use Welches Dam lock from Horseway Channel before the EA suddenly piled across the lock entrance in 2006.

The Guillotine at Welney. PHOTO: Chris HowesThe Guillotine at Welney. PHOTO: Chris Howes

“I never thought it would take another 11 years to reach it from Salters Lode.

“I’d like to say a big thank you to the Environment Agency for their support this time, without which the trip would have failed.

An overview of the Ouse Washes.An overview of the Ouse Washes.

“I’d also like to pay tribute to the late, great, inspirational Charlie Fox; it can be no coincidence that two out of three of the boats that made the difficult passage were Fox boats from March.”

Chris said: “After the great difficulties getting onto the Old Bedford through the silted up estuary entrance, the journey itself was lovely.

“The huge frustration was that when we eventually made it to Welches Dam Lock we were only one closed lock and approximately two miles of de-watered channel away from the navigable network.”

Jeff said: “I’d like to join in the thanks to the EA for their fantastic co-operation.

“As a member of the Project Hereward restoration team, can I make a heartfelt plea that the EA continue this invigorating, fresh spirit of working together by now facilitating the entry of the IWA’S highly qualified engineers into Welches Dam Lock to assess the true extent of necessary restoration?”

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