The Lark Ascending is receiving last coats of paint – out of the water so her bottom can be blacked, with the beautiful blue and cream now crowned with her name, sign-written with the image of a lark.
On Monday I leave Mirfield (and Peter to finish his training prior to ordination on 30 June, and good friends who will journey with me as I blog) to go south. The week will be spent kitting her out, ready to sail on Monday 30th. With Viv, we will traverse the Middle Levels, through Upwell and Outwell to Salter’s Lode on the Ouse Washes, ready to cross the tidal Drains and through Denver Sluice onto the River Great Ouse. From there to Prickwillow, on the River Lark where TLA will be blessed by Bishop Tim Stevens.
It seems right and appropriate that we begin on the river that rises South of Bury St Edmunds at Bradfield Combust, and flows through Bury, Mildenhall and Prickwillow, to join the Great Ouse south of Littleport. It is about 31 miles (50 km) long, of which 10.1 miles (16.3 km) is navigable. The Lark Ascending blessed with the waters of the Lark.
The river used to be navigable to Bury, but not now. At Prickwillow the water is beautiful and clear. Peter and I skinny dipped last summer.
Prickwillow is home to the Museum of Fen Pumping Engines, itself once a working pumping station, and now holding several engines which were used in the draining of the Fens. Prickwillow vicarage demonstrates the shrinking of the land caused by the draining of the Fens. Its ground floor rooms were originally the cellars, and the two steps leading to the front door have been replaced by nine.
Between Prickwillow and the Great Ouse, the Lark is crossed by the Ely to Norwich railway line, and at its junction with the Great Ouse, the channel is crossed by a road which was formerly the A10, running along the banks of the Great Ouse from Ely to Littleport.
On Saturday 5 May, Viv and I will set off to Denver Sluice for the night, mooring up, hopefully, with my son Jonty and his friends on another narrowboat from Ely, Scholar Gypsy, somewhere under the stars.
Through Denver Sluice, and back to March (for an engine check up with Alan who’s on the ladder) and then on the beautiful river Nene to Northampton.
It will be a voyage of discovery through England; the opportunity to observe and reflect as we travel from the South East to the North West, through Coventry, Lichfield, Macclesfield, Ashton, Manchester and Wigan, where we join the Leeds Liverpool Canal and onwards to Skipton.
A personal journey too; bringing memories of Suffolk, and Mirfield with me, and the rich experiences and wonderful people of each place, towards the future in the North. A voyage, a pilgrimage, catching the drift of life, following a call to new opportunities as Peter and I make our home in Workington, Cumbria, in June.