Middle Level Navigations

Coordinates: 52°27′40″N 0°14′28″W / 52.461°N 0.241°W / 52.461; -0.241

Middle Level Navigations
{{{alt}}}
The Mullicourt aqueduct where the Well Creek crosses the main drain
Original owner Bedford Level Commissioners
Maximum boat length 80 ft 0 in (24.38 m)
Maximum boat beam 11 ft 0 in (3.35 m)
Start point Peterborough
End point Salters Lode
Connects to River Nene, River Great Ouse
Locks 6
Status Navigable
Navigation authority Middle Level Commissioners
[v · d · e]Middle Level Navigations
Legend
Unknown BSicon "uxABZlf" Urban transverse track Urban track turning from right
River Great Ouse
Unknown BSicon "uxSLUICEbl" Urban straight track
St Germans Pumping Stn
Unknown BSicon "uKMW" + Unused straight waterway
Urban straight track
Middle Level Main Drain
Unused straight waterway Waterway turning from left
Waterway T-junction to right + Unknown BSicon "POINTERl"
Middle Level / EA boundary
Unused straight waterway Unknown BSicon "uSTOPLOCK" Urban straight track
Salters Lode Lock
Unused straight waterway Urban straight track Urban junction to left
River Gt Ouse
Unused straight waterway Urban straight track Unknown BSicon "uSTOPLOCK"
Old Bedford Sluice
Waterway turning from left Urban transverse track Unknown BSicon "uxKRZu" Unknown BSicon "uxABZrf" Urban straight track
Well Creek + Mullicourt Aqueduct
Waterway with unused unwatered canal T-junction to right Unknown BSicon "uxENDEa" Unknown BSicon "uxWEIRg" Urban straight track
Wisbech Canal
Unknown BSicon "uSTRfl" Urban straight track Unused straight waterway Urban straight track
Outwell
Unknown BSicon "uAKRZu" Unknown BSicon "ueABZrg"
Unused waterway turning right + Unknown BSicon "POINTERu"
Urban straight track
Old Pophams Eau
Urban straight track Unknown BSicon "uAKRZu" Urban straight track
A1011 Three Holes bridge
Unknown BSicon "uFGATEu" Waterway turning from left Waterway T-junction to right Unknown BSicon "uAKRZu"
Marmount Priory Lock
Urban straight track Unknown BSicon "uKMW" Urban straight track Urban straight track
Popham's Eau
Unknown BSicon "uJUNCld" Waterway turning to right Unknown BSicon "uKMW" Urban straight track
Sixteen Foot River
Urban straight track Urban straight track Unknown BSicon "uKMW"
Old Bedford River
Waterway turning to left Urban track turning from right Urban straight track Waterway with unused branch to left
Counter Wash Drain
Urban straight track Urban straight track Unknown BSicon "uFGATEu"
Welches Dam Lock
Urban straight track Urban straight track Unknown BSicon "uTRANSf"
Middle Level / EA boundary
Waterway turning from left Waterway T-junction to right Urban straight track Unknown BSicon "uFGATEu"
Horseway Sluice
Urban straight track Unknown BSicon "uSTRfr" Waterway turning to left Urban transverse track Waterway T-junction to right
March
Urban straight track Urban straight track Unknown BSicon "uKMW"
Forty Foot River
Urban straight track Unknown BSicon "uKMW" Urban straight track
River Nene (old course)
Unknown BSicon "uKMW" Urban straight track Urban straight track
Twenty Foot River
Urban straight track Urban straight track Waterway under track or footbridge
Ramsey Hollow bridge
Urban straight track Unknown BSicon "uJUNCld" Urban transverse track Urban track turning from right Urban straight track
Flood's Ferry (Junction)
Urban straight track Urban straight track Waterway turning to left Waterway T-junction to right
Urban straight track Unknown BSicon "uKMW" Waterway turning from left Waterway turning to right
Whittlesey Dike
Urban straight track Urban straight track Unknown BSicon "uJUNCld" Unknown BSicon "uddHSTRf"
High Lode + Ramsey marina
Waterway turning to left Unknown BSicon "uJUNC" Urban track turning from right Unknown BSicon "uFGATEu"
Lodes End lock
Urban straight track Unknown BSicon "uKMW" Urban straight track
Bevills Leam
Waterway with floodgate down Urban straight track Urban straight track
Ashline lock
Urban straight track Unknown BSicon "uxSLUICEbl" Urban straight track
Tebbits Bridge Pumping Station
Unknown BSicon "uSTRfl" Unknown BSicon "uxABZrg" Waterway T-junction to right
Whittlesey
Urban straight track Urban straight track Unknown BSicon "uKMW"
New Dyke
Unknown BSicon "uKMW" Waterway turning to left Urban track turning from right
Kings Dyke
Unknown BSicon "uJUNCld" Unknown BSicon "uexGRENZEq" Unknown BSicon "uxJUNCe"
Horsey Sluice (was a lock)
Waterway with floodgate down
Stanground Sluice
Unknown BSicon "uJUNCld" Waterway turning to right
River Nene
Unknown BSicon "uSTRfl"
Peterborough

The Middle Level Navigations are a network of waterways in England, primarily used for land drainage, between the Rivers Nene and Great Ouse, between Peterborough and Cambridge.

Contents

History

The Middle Levels of the Fens are a low-lying area of approximately 270 square miles (700 km2), much of which is at or below sea level.[1] Attempts to protect them from inundation, and to make them suitable for agriculture began in 1480, when the Bishop of Ely, John Morton, constructed a 12-mile (19 km) straight cut from Stanground to Guyhirne, providing the waters of the River Nene with a more direct route to the sea than the previous route through Benwick, Floods Ferry, March, Outwell and Wisbech. Morton's leam, the name given to the medieval drainage ditch, was 40 feet (12 m) wide and 4 feet (1.2 m) deep, and much of the manual labour was provided by prisoners of war from the Hundred Years War.[2] In 1605, Sir John Popham, who was the Lord Chief Justice at the time, began work on a drainage scheme near Upwell, and although the scheme was ultimately abandoned in 1608, Popham's Eau, his 5.6-mile (9.0 km) cut from the old course of the River Nene near March to the Well Creek at Nordelph remains.[3] The next significant advance was in 1630, when the Dutch Engineer Cornelius Vermuyden was employed by the Earl of Bedford and others to drain the Fens. The Old Bedford River was cut from Earith to Salters Lode, a distance of 21 miles (34 km), and provided sufficient drainage that the land could be used for summer grazing. In 1650, he supervised the construction of the New Bedford River, running parallel to the Old, and the Middle Levels area was protected. The Forty Foot, Twenty Foot and Sixteen Foot Rivers were cut soon afterwards, to drain water from the area to Salters Lode and Welches Dam.[1]

Between 1824 and 1839, John Dyson Jr was employed as the resident engineer by the Beford Level Commissioners. He had been recommended by John Rennie, and was charged with the reconstruction of ten locks and sluices, together with "a great many other works of great importance", for which the estimated cost was between £50,000 and £60,000. The work included the rebuilding of Salters Lode sluice, which Dyson oversaw himself, as no suitable tenders were received when the work was advertised. It was completed by 1832.[4]

As the land dried, the peaty soils shrank, causing the land surface to drop. Much of the Middle Levels was flooded in 1841-2, and this led the Commissioners to obtain an Act of Parliament in 1844, which authorised the construction of a new main drain, 11 miles (18 km) long,[5] in order that water could flow by gravity to Wiggenhall St Germans, where the levels of the tidal river were about 7 feet (2.1 m) lower than at Salters Lode.[1] The work was completed in 1848.[5] In 1862 an Act of Parliament created the Middle Level Commissioners as a separate body to the Bedford Level Corporation, and they embarked on a series of improvements.[1] Drainage was always the primary function, but navigation was also important, and the new body had powers to charge tolls for the use of the waterways.

1862 was also the year in which the Wiggenhall sluice collapsed and around 9 square miles (23 km2) of the levels were flooded. Sir John Hawkshaw constructed a new sluice, consisting of a large cofferdam, with 16 tubes, each 3.5 feet (1.1 m) in diameter, which passed over the top of it. The top of these pipes was 20 feet (6.1 m) above the inlet and outlet, and an air pump was used to remove the air from them, so that the water would syphon over the cofferdam. It was the only time that such a solution was tried in the Fens, and it was supplemented in 1880 by a more conventional gravity sluice, also constucted by Hawkshaw, as it was unable to discharge sufficient water at high tides.[5]

Pumping Stations

By the early 1930s, gravity drainage was no longer adequate, as land levels continued to fall, and a new sluice and pumping station were constructed at St Germans, opening in 1934.[1] The sluice was built in the centre of the old syphon sluice channel, with a pumping station on either side of it. Three pump sets were installed, with space for a fourth. Each consisted of a 1,000 brake horsepower (750 kW) Crossley diesel engine coupled to an 8.5-foot (2.6 m) Gwynnes pump, which could pump 840 tons per minute (1234 Megalitres per day (Mld)). Once completed, the syphon sluice was demolished, while Hawkshaw's replacement sluice and its channel were abandoned.[5] The new works were paid for by a grant, given on condition that three quarters of the workforce were from the local area.[1] The capacity of the station was increased in 1951, when a 1,200 brake horsepower (890 kW) Crossley diesel engine was fitted into the spare bay, and again in 1969/70, when the two pumps on the north side of the sluice were rebuilt, and the engines replaced by 1,500 brake horsepower (1,100 kW) electric motors.[6] From 1977 to 1983, a series of improvements were carried out, which included the construction of a pumping station at Tebbits Bridge on Bevills Leam, and a lock at Lodes End. The banks of the Old River Nene were raised and clay puddling was used to retain the water, and major improvements to the Forty Foot, Twenty Foot and Sixteen Foot rivers were made, to maintain water levels for navigation. All of the bridges on the Sixteen Foot River were demolished and replaced to provide wider channels, and St Germans pumping station was again upgraded,[1] when the remaining 1934 engine was replaced by a 1,550 brake horsepower (1,160 kW) Allen diesel engine.[6] The improvements have restricted navigation in the lower south-western area, but greatly improved flood defences.

The Tebbitt's Bridge pumping station houses six Allen 39-inch (0.99 m) diameter pumps, each capable of pumping 260 Mld. Three of them are powered by 168 kW electric induction motors, manufactured by Lawrence Scott, which are controlled automatically, while the other three are powered by Dorman 274 bhp (204 kW) diesel engines, which are controlled manually. There is a standby generator, to cope with loss of the electric supply, and when all six pumps are operational, the station can pump 1586 Mld, equivalent to 18 tonnes a second.[7]

In April 1998, the St Germans pumping station ran at maximum capacity, which is 6134 Mld (or 71 tonnes a second), for over 50 hours,[8] and this led to the decision to replace it with a brand new installation, with 40% extra capacity. Work started in December 2006, and the pumping station, which includes the second largest pumps in Europe, includes a glass wall to enable visitors to see the pumps.[9] The new station was commissioned in February 2010, after which the old station was demolished.[10] There are more than one hundred smaller pumping stations scattered throughout the system to maintain the water levels and prevent flooding.[1]

Today

Passage on the Middle Level Navigations can be difficult. This is on Vermuyden's Drain between Horseway Lock and Welches Dam Lock

The navigations are managed by the Middle Level Commissioners, who are responsible for about 120 miles (192 km) of waterway, of which around 100 miles (160 km) are navigable.[11] The Commissioners are also responsible for six locks and a number of pumping stations, and are the fourth largest navigation authority in Great Britain.[12]

The navigations often form a short cut for boaters between the River Nene at Peterborough and the River Great Ouse at Salters Lode Lock. The suggested route passes through Stanground Sluice, along King's Dyke to Ashline Lock, and then along Whittlesey Dike to Flood's Ferry junction. From here the route is along the old course of the River Nene, passing through the twin villages of Outwell and Upwell, where the abandoned Wisbech Canal once formed a route back to the new course of the River Nene. The final stretch to Salters Lode lock is along Well Creek, passing over the top of the Middle Level Main Drain on Mullicourt Aqueduct.[13]

The alternative route via Horseway sluice and the Old Bedford River is problematic, as very low water levels between Horseway sluice and Welches Dam lock normally prevent passage.[13][14] This stands to be improved, however, as part of the Fens Waterways Link project.[15]

Access to other parts of the Levels was improved in 2006, when soldiers from the 53rd Field Squadron of the 39 Engineer Regiment raised the level of a Bailey bridge at Ramsey Hollow. This had previously restricted passage, as it was very low, but the exercise increased the headroom by 3 ft (0.9 m). The Inland Waterways Association raised the funding for the additional materials required, and the reconstruction opened up a 33-mile (53 km) cruising ring on the Levels.[16]

Boat sizes

When the navigations were built, the boats using them were traditional Fen Lighters, which were 46 by 11 feet (14 by 3.4 m), and the locks were sized accordingly. However, there has been a programme of increasing the lock sizes to make the waterways accessible to standard narrow boats. Lodes End lock was 65 feet (20 m) when built. The lock at Marmount Priory has been extended to 92 feet (28 m), Ashline lock to 90 feet (27 m), Stanground to 80 feet (24 m), and Horseway to 60 feet (18 m).[17] with the new Ashline lock being reopened on 1 April 1999.[13] Salter's Lode lock has three sets of gates, with a guillotine gate at the tidal end, and mitre gates which allow boats up to 62 feet (19 m) long to enter the River Ouse when the river level is higher than the level of Well Creek. It was possible for longer boats to pass straight through at certain states of the tide, but the lock has now been lengthened to 80 feet (24 m),[3] by the addition of a third set of mitre gates, facing away from the river, which can only be used when the level of the river is lower than that of the Creek. Welches Dam Lock is still sized for Fen Lighters, at just 47 feet (14 m) long.[17]

Bibliography

  • Blair, Andrew Hunter (2006). Fenland Waterways of the Middle Level. Imray Laurie Norie and Wilson. ISBN 978-085288-994-7. 
  • Cumberlidge, Jane (2009). Inland Waterways of Great Britain (8th Ed.). Imray Laurie Norie and Wilson. ISBN 978-1-84623-019-3. 
  • Hinde, K. S. G. (2006). Fenland Pumping Engines. Landmark Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-84306-188-0. 
  • Skempton, Sir Alec (2002). A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland: Vol 1: 1500 to 1830. Thomas Telford. ISBN 0-7277-2939-X. 
  • Sly, Rex (2003). From Punt to Plough - The History of the Fens. Sutton Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7509-3398-8. 
  • Page, William; Proby, Granville; Inskip Ladds, S., eds (1936). A History of the County of Huntingdon. Victoria County History. 3. pp. 249–290,'The Middle Level of the Fens and its reclamation'. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=66187. Retrieved 30 December 2010. 

References


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Middle Level Commissioners — The Middle Level Commissioners are a land drainage authority in eastern England. The body was formed in 1862, undertaking the main water level management function within the Middle Level [1] following the breakup of the former Bedford Level… …   Wikipedia

  • Canals of the United Kingdom — The canals of the United Kingdom are a major part of the network of inland waterways in the United Kingdom. They have a colourful history, from use for irrigation and transport, to becoming the focus of the Industrial Revolution, to today s role… …   Wikipedia

  • River Nene — River The River Nene at Kislingbury Watermill, Northamptonshir …   Wikipedia

  • Navigation authority — A navigation authority is a company or statutory body which is concerned with the management of a navigable canal or river. Contents 1 Rights of a navigation authority 2 Responsibilities of a navigation authority 3 Ownership of the waterway …   Wikipedia

  • River Cam — The River Cam is a tributary of the River Great Ouse in the east of England. The two rivers join to the south of Ely at Pope s Corner. The Great Ouse connects the Cam to England s canal system (via the Middle Level Navigations and the River Nene) …   Wikipedia

  • Fens Waterways Link — will be accessible by broad boats from the rest of Britain s canal network. Completion is expected in about 2014.New CutsThe Environment Agency has obtained a significant proportion of the £8m required for phase one. Starting from the north, the… …   Wikipedia

  • Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation — The Navigation from Colchester Road, Maldon Original owner Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation Co Principal engineer …   Wikipedia

  • Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal — The steam crane at Mount Sion, on the Bury arm Original owner Manchester Bolton Bury Canal Company Principal engineer …   Wikipedia

  • List of navigation authorities in the United Kingdom — This List of navigation authorities in the United Kingdom is a list of links to any navigation authority in the United Kingdom, relating to any navigable waterway, aqueduct, canal, navigation, river or port. These include: * narrow canals, broad… …   Wikipedia

  • Lock (water transport) — Canal lock and lock keeper s cottage on the Aylesbury Arm of the Grand Union Canal at Marsworth in Hertfordshire, England …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.