Sunday, November 18, 2007

Wide open spaces

The three way junction between the Twenty Foot (bottom right), the Nene Old Course (Whittlesey Dyke) and Bevills Leam (left fork), from the Nene Old Course about to turn sharp right onto the Twenty Foot.

It's what the Fens are famous for, and it is impressive. In one way, photos can't do it justice, can't capture the sheer extent and flatness of it, in every direction, to the edge of the world. Wide and empty, it's the antithesis of urban canals, and in its own way I love it (almost) as much. With no distractions, it's just you, the water, the boat and the weather; a distillation of pure boating.

There are diversions, of course. You start to get excited about the smallest things. An enormous stack of hay bales. A collection of concrete pipe sections, in the middle of nowhere... why? A culvert and an (abandoned?) cottage. Birds congregating on telegraph wires. Mist rising off the water.

But a lot of the time all that can be seen is bank, because with these being drainage channels, and the land well below sea level, it's built up so high. Apparently Whittlesey Dyke* is the lowest waterway in Britain, so if I'm right in thinking that the Huddersfield through Standedge is the highest, then we've boated on both.

*We can't remember where we read this, and thinking about the geography it seems a bit unlikely as it's part of the Nene Old Course which goes, via Mullicourt Aqueduct, over the Sixteen Foot. But whichever is exactly the lowest waterway in Britain, it's got to be around here somewhere).

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