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  1949 Peterborough to Leigh-on-Sea 1949 Building the Ninx 1949 Leigh on Sea to the Medway 1950 Leigh-on-Sea and Benfleet

1948: A Holiday on the River Nene


In 1948 the Country and its People were slowly recovering from the effects of the war and, although food was still rationed, life was gradually getting back to normal.

My brother, David, was still living in Peterborough and still missing the SEA. Because of this, he purchased a small cabin boat fitted with an Austin Seven engine. The boat was his pride and joy and was moored on the River Nene.

So it was that, with great delight, David wrote to ask us if we would like to spend a holiday with him and his wife and little daughter. As the boat could only sleep three people, it was suggested that as I was still recovering from my long illness, I should sleep on board with Ella and Margaret and 'the boys' should sleep in a tent pitched at the water's edge.

Not owning a car in those days, Geoff. and I travelled by train. David met us at the station and a taxi was hired to take us to his home. With this holiday in the offing, we had amassed as many rations as we could. possibly carry - clothes weren't important mostly a change of undies, blouses and shirts.

After last minute shopping for lettuce, potatoes, stationery etc. we boarded the “PUFFIN” and were rearing to go. By 11.35 hours, under power, we were making fair headway towards the “Dog & Doublet” locks, but an hour later we were progressing at such a slow rate of knots that David decided that the engine wasn't performing as it should. We laid to whilst the boys cleaned the sparking plugs and allowed the engine to cool down.

Then the heavens opened and we experienced a thunderstorm so all the hatches had to be closed down. After the rain we slowly drifted towards the locks, but, after that glorious sunshine. So, with sail hoisted and engine running, we began to make fair head in tidal waters. Not for long! The engine behaved very badly; gave up the ghost and refused to start. David was worried and upset but we did our best to laugh it off and to convince him that it was “all part of the holiday”. As the tide was with us, David and Geoff. towed the boat along but, after three quarters of an hour of heaving on the ropes, they were dead beat and came back on board for a rest; tried the engine again and it sparked into action.

By now, it was early evening so we turned off the main river and into a small creek and moored alongside the Guyhirn railway bridge. The boys rested whilst we girls cooked a very welcome meal on two small stoves. The tent was pitched on the sea-wall and sacks filled with grass-cuttings that lay nearby were put inside for use as mattresses. After all these preparations for the night had been completed, we all took a stroll into the village and had a chinwag with the locals in The Ferry Inn. It than back to our 'base'. We girls were soon fast asleep on our bunks, although we heard a train or two rumble through the night. In contrast, the boys had a disturbed night because of the noise and it transpired that Guyhirn was the main marshalling station for all trains travelling to March in Cambridgeshire!

So ended our first day afloat - a mixture of joy, troubles, rain and warm sunshine; a happy day in spite of a noisy night of railway movements and clanging chains of the boats. Next morning, glorious sunshine and a pleasant surprise. As the boys emerged from their tent, they discovered that a total stranger had filled our washing-up bowl with mushrooms picked from the fields. The kind and thoughtful local called out, “Found your breakfast?!” and I don't think I shall ever forget that meal of fried bacon, tomatoes and those delicious mushrooms. We all tucked in. David was feeling better; he had been very worried yesterday.

Now we headed for Sutton Bridge which was to be our ‘base port’ and, having arrived there, we soon found that it was an ideal choice. Close by was a disused Army Camp with the water supply still connected. We were able to take advantage of the facilities. all we had to do was to carry a kettle of hot water over there and washing etc. was very easy and convenient.

Ella and I went into town to do some shopping equipped with ration-books, of course. The butcher sold us some kidneys but would only allow us one egg per book. On our way back to the boat, we met the milkman. We ‘chatted him up’ and he let us have a pint of milk. We showed him where the boat was moored and he agreed to leave us a pint every day. On our return, the boys told us that they had asked the milkman for a pint of milk but he had refused! Next day, things were reversed as the boys went shopping. In the Co-op, Geoff. and David ‘chatted up’ the girl behind the counter and returned to the boat with half a dozen eggs! This ‘sex thing’ proved a great success.

Whilst at Sutton Bridge, we decided to visit the Cinema to see a musical film (in colour), “I Wonder Who's Kissing her Now?”. It was quite an experience and how we managed to enjoy the film, I'll never know. All very rural, to say the least! Having purchased our tickets, we entered the cinema and found that access was by way of walking under the screen. :he place was packed with mothers and children; one woman was feeding her baby while others told their kids to be quiet and to stop pinching each other. All this was mixed with much rustle of crisp bags and much woman-chatting. Now and again we would get a nudge from behind. In spite of the restless atmosphere, at least the tunes must have penetrated our brains because, for the remainder of the holiday, David kept singing, “You are my Honey Bee .......... ”!

Sadly, like all good things, the end must come. At the end of our very enjoyable Mini-Cruise, we headed back towards Peterborough passing all the places we had seen on the outward journey plus, near the “Dog & Doublet”, a huge dredger was moored with many hawsers attached to the bank. It was a hard job to steer the boat under the wires but ‘the boys’ made it.

On arriving at Peterborough, the buses were on strike so we ended our holiday in style by having to hire a taxi to take us back to David and Ella's home.

P.S. I had forgotten many of the details of our ‘Voyage on the River Nene’ but Geoff. came across the original log and then the memories came flooding back!


Go to Allan's Page Our Home Page Canals Home Page 1940's Home Page Go to Deb's Page
  1949 Peterborough to Leigh-on-Sea 1949 Building the Ninx 1949 Leigh on Sea to the Medway 1950 Leigh-on-Sea and Benfleet