New Middle Level Cruising Ring
For the past three years IWA Peterborough Branch has been holding various fund raising events to finance the lifting of Ramsey Hollow Bridge on the Forty Foot River. This mark two Bailey Bridge was one of the lowest on the Middle Level system and was preventing most boats from using that part of the system.
In the week commencing 4th December 2005 Royal Engineers from the 53rd Field Squadron of 39 Engineer Regiment based at Waterbeach in Cambridgeshire worked to raise the bridge by almost a metre above its former level. The engineers gave their time free of charge as part of their training programme but the new steelwork required to support the raised bridge, other materials and extra equipment needed for the operation were provided by the Peterborough Branch of the Inland Waterways Association. As a result of this operation a new 33 mile cruising ring is opened up for all craft using the Middle Level. The route is from March up the Old River Nene, through the village of Benwick, to Wells Bridge then along the Forty Foot River, under the raised bridge and on to the junction with the Sixteen Foot River. From here boaters go down the Sixteen Foot River to Three Holes and along Pophams Eau back to the Old River Nene to complete the ring back to March.
The new cruising ring goes through some of the finest Fenland scenery and will be of benefit not only to local boaters but to general tourism in the area. The presence of boats on a river adds interest for all waterway users and is known to be a major factor in attracting visitors to the waterside.The IWA Peterborough Branch was responsible for negotiating permissions from the Ramsey Hollow Internal Drainage Board which owns the bridge and from the Middle Level Commissioners as the navigation authority as well as clearing the planning and safety hurdles. It bought the new steel work required to support the bridge at its new height and the timber for building the new wooden ramps on each side of the bridge.The new steelwork, including the four uprights to support the bridge at its new height, were designed by IWA Honorary Consultant Engineer Roy Sutton.
Although not all the bills for this project have yet been received it is estimated that it will cost the IWA Peterborough Branch in the region of £10,000. Most of this money has been raised by holding events at local marinas and boating events as well as at two National Waterways Festivals, at Preston Brook near Runcorn in 2005 and at Beale Park on the Thames in 2006. At the latter event the branch received an award as the best non-commercial stand for its combination of campaign display boards and fund raising pub games.The IWA Peterborough Branch would like to thank the Royal Engineers for the major part they played in the raising of the bridge and for their professional, positive and co-operative approach to the operation. Especial thanks are due to Roy Sutton for the essential part he played in the project. Finally, the branch would like to thank both the Ramsey Hollow IDB and the Middle Level Commissioners for their full co-operation in the project and the East Anglian Waterways Association and that Association’s Editor, Alan Faulkner, for their generous contributions towards the cost of the project.