Page published: 30 January 2021
Writing this more than 20 years after the event means it will have somewhat less detail and be more speculative than the reports usually found on this site. Initially, I feared that the poor quality of my photograph filing in the days before I owned a digital camera would mean that I would not find all the photos I took on the day. However, I have now found the pack that did include them. There were just five. Two are very similar photos of Steve being interviewed by the camera crew. Another two show mainly the concrete and fencing around the Lode pumping station and are very out of focus. The fifth is the one I took first, showing Liberty Belle's mooring on the Ely waterfront.
Here Steve is being interviewed. At this point we are on the Great Ouse, a little south from the Pumping Station at the entrance to the lode which can just be seen in the background.
However, the main reason for producing this page was to provide a home for the episode of the Anglia TV series "Take It On", found below. The programme used to showcase all kinds of voluntary activities that people in the area covered by the station could take on. Until watching it again I had forgotten that episodes only appeared monthly, but did recall that the show was screened around midday on a Sunday.
At the time, June 1999, I lived in Pymoor, a few miles outside of Ely, and I believe that Steve would have emailed me to invite me to join him. At this point I have no idea how the event came about. I suspect that it could have been Tony Hinsley that approached Steve after being approached by Anglia TV who would have been trying to find a range of related items to include in its programme. Steve would have been aware of my involvement in Tony's rally the previous year and, as I was generally available mid-week, was an obvious candidate to be around when the TV crew were due to film.
I have to assume we had some spare time waiting for the TV crew to arrive. Certainly, I had time to leave Steve to prepare the boat while I went to the Lincoln Bridge to take the picture. I see that Google Maps calls it the "Babylon Bridge" these days. Given the good weather the number of people around suggest I was right to conclude that the filming took place mid-week and outside school holidays.
As you will learn from the video, Soham Lode was dug both as a drainage channel and as a navigation. These days, as with waterways across the Fens, the lode sits well above the level of the surrounding land. The draining of the area caused all the land to shrink as it dried out.
To reach the lode you cruise for about two miles upstream from Ely towards Cambridge and on your left you will see the pumping station that indicates its entrance.
The pumping station at the entrance to Soham Lode, seen here on 23 June 2016.
With a properly navigable channel you might have expected to see a lock here but instead all you see is a single pair of mitred gates at the entrance to the lode. These prevent water flowing into the lode when levels in the river are higher while allowing water to flow out into the Great Ouse when the river is lower.
The pumping station seen from the Lode. This image was taken in October 2015 when it appears all the vegetation in the water appears to have died back.
Immediately beyond the gates the lode is quite wide to allow for inlet and outlet pipes of the pumping station, but it quickly narrows and heads away in a straight line towards Barway Bridge, which was as far as all boats other than dinghies got in October the previous year.
The lode seen from the pumping station. This image appears to have been taken from behind the fence seen in the previous photograph. It was taken in July 2014 and shows it as chocked as it was in 1999.
Clearly, a good flow of traffic along the lode is required if it is to be kept clear of silt and weed or some very direct management if the lode is to remain navigable throughout the year. Even if the various changes to bridges and other structures along the route are made, current water management policies do not allow for navigation in the summer.
You'll see the VHS tape that was sent to me has a label dated 5 July 1999. The countdown screen at the start of the programme includes the "TX" date 4 July and that was a Sunday, so I guess someone in the office made of copy of the broadcast tape from the previous day on the Monday following transmission and I received the tape in the post a few days later.
The video tape that I received from the producer.
When you run the recording you'll see that it wasn't a new tape. My copy has a few frames of some completely different film on it. Interestingly, that other recording is in 16:9 format, which would have been relatively rare in 1999! Once the intended video starts you see the countdown timer used during transmission. And yes, you will find a 30 second break in the middle of the video and a second countdown timer for Part Two of the programme.
Here you see the transmission date of the programme, 4 July 1999, on the countdown time that appears on the video.
I have not attempted to extract the relevant segment for this page and I list the approximate times of the start of each of the items in the programme.
- 00:34 - Start of the Programme Titles
- 00:44 - Program introduction and trails of the items in the programme
- 02:06 - The Ipswich Waterways Recovery Group work rebuilding Locks on the Ipswich to Stowmarket Navigation
- 07:41 - The narrowboat Sculptor, when Brian Collings describes how it was built in 1935 to work the Grand Union and is now kept at the Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne.
- 08:50 - The Canal Boat Project of Harlow which runs a specialised boat on the River Stort
- 12:07 - End of Part One
- 12:30 - Blank Screen
- 13:00 - Countdown to Part Two
- 13:33 - The work of Linda, an old working narrowboat converted to become a trip boat in the 1950s, now skippered by Steve Miles, that operates on the Grand Union Canal at Cosgrove. Includes interviews with children who enjoyed their time on board
- 16:25 - Switch to Howard Yates demonstrating preparing Prince, a Dales Pony who stabled on the canal at Cosgrove, for towing a canal boat
- 17:25 - Switch to Steve Miles talking of the plans of the Buckingham Canal Society to reopen the Buckingham Arm of the Grand Union Canal
- 18:35 - Eugene Baston of British Waterways talking about the work of volunteers and public consultation recently started on the future of the waterways
- 20:08 - Tony Hinsley introducing the item on Soham Lode. He spearheaded the campaign to reopen the lode to navigation with the rally, held the previous year, in which a number of boats successfully got as far as Barway Bridge
- 25:18 - Program Wrap Up and closing titles
It seems that the two photographs and the video must remain my main prompt for memories of that day.