Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Lodes End Lock

Clearly it is very important that Lodes End Lock not be damaged. More surprisingly, there would appear to be an imminent threat to it, judging by the security measures in place. More notices than the Environment Agency (take a bow, Middle Level Commissioners). A padlock that was fiendishly difficult to lock up again, as per instructions. Sharp pointy fencing all round to prevent access from the land (but of course, easily accessible by water. Boaters must be very trustworthy, and vandals incapable of appropriating a canoe.) The lock level and open both ends, but with the top gates loosely chained together (as per instructions, again.)

Doors and penstocks, not gates and paddles. It's another world here, as if you didn't already know that. It's quite hard getting your head round these Middle Level Navigations at the best of times. For example. Winter, days of rain, normal waterway - more water. Middle Level - less water. Simple when you think about it - these are, after all, drains; designed and built for the removal of water, and largely controlled, as well as made, by the hand of man. In the summer, levels are kept high because the water is used for irrigation. In the winter it's kept low - more so in recent years - to minimise the risk of flooding.

I'm guessing that Lodes End Lock is largely there for flood control, and that's why it's so important. But why is it so vulnerable? Who are the barriers intended to keep away? It's in the middle of nowhere, not an inner city or haunt of bored youth. Perhaps Red Dragon Man can shed some light on the matter ...

This, at any rate, is where we started our journey on Boxing Day; our attempt on the impregnable Holme Fen. The Lode whose End this is is the Ramsey High Lode, and we came to the lock by turning left, rather than right, onto the Old Course of the River Nene. Here is a rather feeble map. Lodes End Lock is in the bottom left hand corner. Of course we all know how it finished, but you haven't seen the pictures yet...


Red Dragon Man said...

I'd love to be able to come up with an amusing and imaginative reason for the hyper security round Lodes End lock. Perhaps something to do with delinquent ducks, contentious coots and marauding moorhens, but alas my inventiveness has deserted me.

In fairness to the Middle Level Commissioners (MLC) we should perhaps say that the lock is rather remote, is seldom visited by MLC staff and is an important part of the flood control system.

Visitors often ask "what's the point of this lock", because it is so often on a level. What they don't realise is that upstream of the lock an enormous amount of water can be held in the event of major flooding (the pumping station to control the water is elsewhere, on Bevills Leam I think).
If the delinquent ducks were to open the penstocks (paddles) when the upstream side is holding flood water then the drainage system would be compromised.

It still does seem like overkill though, doesn't it :) .

You should take a look at Woodwalton Fen while you're on the Level (it's towards the end of Raveley Drain, you can wind before the sluice, no problem). It's a nature reserve and also part of the flood defences. It's well worth a visit (no pub though, but also no weed!).

BTW. You can find two different versions of a better map of the level here http://www.billfenmarina.com/images/middle-level-map.pdf and here http://www.billfenmarina.com/images/middle-level-map.jpg which you might like to link to instead of the one you're currrently using.

Ann said...

Perhaps along with the delinquent ducks there were a posse of sinful swans due to be incarcerated in the high security pen stocks?

Just a thought!

Sarah said...

Very good!