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News from the Fens—June
Monday, 18 June 2012 09:15
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DROUGHT restrictions that were introduced early in April have since been lifted following the record rainfall across the country in the last two months.

A Environment Agency spokeswoman for the East Anglian Region told:

"The drought status changed when hosepipe restrictions were lifted but we will still be an environmentally stressed area because of concerns over ground water."

When is a drought not a drought?

When it's an 'Environmental Stress due to Rainfall Deficit', an ‘ESRD' for short. This is the new term being employed by the Environment Agency. Officials admit it is not exactly catchy but believe it best describes the situation in the 19 counties no longer in drought.

Speaking about the new ‘ESRD' term, Trevor Bishop, the Environment Agency's head of water resources, stated:

"People think of drought and they think of television programmes of Ethiopia, and we are not in that situation.  Normally, the weather gets hotter and drier in the spring and summer. But this year it got colder and wetter. People were finding themselves in areas categorised as in drought but actually were being flooded.

"The intense rainfall in spring has not solved the drought, he went on, adding: ‘We wanted to create a new terminology which represented this."

Careful where you moor

In these windy conditions be careful where you moor. Down in Poole, Dorset 70mph winds brought a section of scaffolding crashing down on a luxury £5 million Sunseeker yacht as it floated in its mooring at the company's headquarters on Poole Quay.

According to local reports its buyer had just made the final payment on the 91ft (28m) vessel ahead of a scheduled collection the following week. It is unclear how much the damage will cost to repair.

Nene news

Boat fire in Wisbech

The Fire Brigade were called to deal with a blaze in a boat on the river at Wisbech on the 25th May.

Four crews, two from Wisbech, and two from Dogsthorpe including the rescue vehicle, attended the incident, which happened at around 2pm on a boat moored close to the Freedom Bridge.

Wisbech firefighters attended the fire from nearby North Cambs Hospital where they were dealing with a call as the result of an automatic alarm sounding—which turned out to be a false alarm.

There were LPG cylinders on board the boat but firefighters managed to move them before they became involved in the blaze, which was extinguished by the crews using one hose reel and one jet.

New book exchange at Oundle Marina.

Finished that book you were reading while waiting for the river level to drop, Why not pop in to Oundle Marina and visit the newly opened 'Book Exchange', just swap any books you've read for ones that you haven't! Open everyday 9am to 5pm apart from Wednesdays.

Boat stolen

A narrowboat was stolen from the bottom of the Leicester Line at Norton Junction in May.

George Dickinson the Patrol Officer for the Braunston Area has requested assistance in recovering a stolen 60ft Liverpool narrowboat. The boat is believed to have been stolen in early May, and was not seen when British Waterways checked Norton Junction on 17th May.

There was a possible sighting of it going down through Buckley Locks. The whole length of the south Grand Union has been checked and it is now believed to have gone down the Northampton Arm on to the Nene.

The narrowboat is Cloud 9, British Waterways No. 519819, though the boat's  name was not displayed on the boat. It is 60ft and was green and yellow, a semi-trad Liverpool boat built 2007. Chimney front starboard corner with a stainless steel flue.

The crime ref is: NP 849 2-12 Northamptonshire Police: DIAL 101 and ask for Northamptonshire Police and you will be put through to the correct place to report it.

One lesson learned by the owner is a full photo record of narrowboat both inside and out would have been helpful. As at present both the Police and British Waterways are working with limited information and one poor photo to make enquires.

So if you have not yet done so, get your 'Box Brownie' out and take a full set of photos, along with making a record of the major equipment fitted together with the serial numbers. Keep it in a safe place away from the boat.


River Great Ouse news

The 149th Bedford Regatta had to be called off for the first time since World War II because of too much water in the river.

The committee took the decision to cancel the event on the River Great Ouse due to the adverse weather conditions of the past few weeks.

Secretary Hugh Maltby stated:

"Sodden ground and a rising river level have made it unsafe to use the river."

He also confirmed the committee would try to refund entry fees 'on a pro rata basis' once it had paid its costs. Calling the decision to cancel 'very difficult', he remarked:

"To my knowledge the only previous cancellation has been due to the first and second world wars."

The 149th regatta will now take place in 2013.

Problems with sewage barge traffic

Trialling the use of barges to move sewage sludge from Cambridgeshire to a Norfolk treatment plant has not been straightforward.

It was hoped the barges would reduce 'lorry movements' from 60 to 10 per day.

A spokesman said Anglian Water remained committed to using the river but tides, bridge heights and limited daylight had proved an 'interesting challenge'.

The scheme involves transporting a by-product of the waste water treatment process—sludge—on the River Great Ouse between Ely and Anglian Water's plant at King's Lynn.

Ciaran Nelson, from Anglian Water, explained the company was exploring alternative options to the 'challenging tidal section' of the river:

"The non-tidal flood relief channel that runs more or less parallel with the tidal section between Denver and King's Lynn may provide an alternative route. More work is needed to explore this option. For instance, as there is no lock at the King's Lynn end, we would need to explore the possibility of converting the existing sluice to allow for lock facilities.

"This means the decision to use the river or not is not an easy or straightforward one for us to make however appealing it may be as a solution."

Crane driver Inquest

An inquest was held on 11th and 12th June at Huntingdon Law Court before William Morris, the coroner for North and East Cambridgeshire, into the death of a man who was driving a crane when it toppled into an icy river.

Simon Wenn, 43, was working for the Environment Agency on a dredging operation when his 28 tonnes drag line crane fell into the New Bedford River at Brangehill Drove, Mepal. The incident happened on 8th December, 2010 when the ground was icy and the river was frozen. Mr Wenn died at the scene after being trapped underwater. A verdict of accidental death was recorded after a vote by Jury.

The Health and Safety Executive is now pressing charges of three serious breaches of health and safety regulations and people from the Environmental Agency will appear before the bench at Cambridge Magistrates' Court on 19th July.

Cam news

Crack down on punt touts

Five punts have been seized and a company closed down as police impose a crackdown on 'aggressive' touts harassing residents and tourists in Cambridge.

Officers from the city centre policing team have put a stop to a punting company's unlicensed trading on the Cam. They also arrested a Chinese man caught running an illegal punt operation from Garret Hostel Lane.

Bingxu Yan was also working in breach of his student visa and has been deported. Yan, a Chinese national known as Owen, ran the boats from Garret Hostel Lane and employed touts operating from outside King's College. He was trading under the name of Memorable Cambridge Punting Ltd. His boats are now in the hands of the Conservators of the River Cam.

Punters are banned from trading at Garret Hostel Lane, and a recently introduced code of conduct limits companies to having no more than seven touts at any one station.

The city centre policing team have been working alongside the Conservators, building evidence of illegal punting operations from the bridge at Garret Hostel Lane.

The number of punt touts operating in the city centre has been dramatically reduced by new restrictions. Several punt owners have been spoken to by the police and warned to prevent touts harassing residents and tourists.

Middle Level news

A raft race took place on Well Creek between Upwell and Outwell on the Saturday of the Jubilee Bank Holiday. With seven rafts taking part in the three-quarters of a mile race, while hundreds of villagers lined the banks to throw water bombs and flour at them.

One team's raft sank and they ended-up swimming home, but it was all part of the fun of the event. The oddest raft was the one formed of a three-piece suite which came in last. At least it enabled the four lads onboard to get away from the television for the afternoon.

Kelvin Alexander-Duggan



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