IWA Campaign Cruise on the Old Bedford River24 August 2018
A campaign cruise led by IWA took place on the 19th and 20th August, in the lead up to IWA’s Festival of Water at St Neots. The event was organised to highlight the continued closure of Welches Dam Lock, which via the Horseway Channel provides an alternate route from the Middle Level Navigations, along with current problems navigating the Old Bedford River, a statutory navigation.
Only one narrow boat made it through the Old Bedford Sluice at Salter’s Lode, which demonstrates the difficulties in accessing the Old Bedford River from the tidal Ouse. Two other narrow boats and a 22ft sailing yacht, which had crossed The Wash to take part, also attempted to get through the sluice gate, but failed despite valiant efforts by all concerned. These attempts took place over three different tidal windows when a level was reached, to allow passage through the single guillotine gate, but the tidal entrance was too shallow and silted to allow any but the shallowest draughted boat through.
Three portable craft were put directly into the Old Bedford River by the sluice gate at Salter’s Lode, and so a flotilla of 4 boats set off and reached Welney, about half way along the waterway, by the Sunday evening.
On the Monday morning the four boats continued their journey along the river, encountering much more weed along this section which made the passage slower, and arrived at the closed lock at Welches Dam soon after midday. Those supporters viewing the flotilla from the bank included some of the boaters who had been unsuccessful in getting through the sluice, the crew of a boat who had arrived at the other end of the Horseway Channel (who had walked the short distance to Welches Dam lock along the towpath of the derelict Horseway channel), and a TV news reporter with camera and drone. After photos and interviews had taken place, the flotilla set off to return to Salter’s Lode, and the narrow boat successfully passed back through the Old Bedford Sluice on the ebbing tide on the Monday evening.
Chris Howes, IWA Eastern Region Chairman and skipper of Lily May, the one narrow boat that managed to get on to the river, said “On behalf of IWA and the other boaters taking part in this event I would like to thank EA and MLC staff for their support in enabling the campaign cruise to take place. We look forward to working further with EA to come to a resolution regarding the continued closure of Welches Dam and the difficulties in accessing the Old Bedford River, as well as working with them on other initiatives in the Anglian Region.”