This 3 disc set covers all the linked waterways East of the Grand Union Canal at Northampton, and out into East Anglia.
Disk 1: The Middle Level
A Fen is a freshwater lake, and 500 years ago, that's exactly what Fenland Britain was; a series of vast freshwater lakes, with a few sporadic islands sticking up above the water; islands like Ely, Manea, March, and Whittlesea. Some of the islands were joined by causeways; others could only be reached by boat. The earliest attempts to drain the fens were sponsored by the great abbey at Ely, with the construction of Bishop Morton's Leam in 1490. Then in 1626, King Charles 1st commissioned the Dutch Engineer, Cornelius Vermuyden to carry out the task, which he started to do using Dutch labourers. There was a popular uprising from the Fenmen, and in 1630, Kings Charles decreed that only English labour would be used, and the Fenmen compensated. Today, the drained fens are the richest farmland in Britain, and Vermuyden's legacy is a system of drainage channels, which fortunately for us may be navigated, and which link the River Nene at Peterborough to the River Great Ouse at Denver. This programme explores not just the recommended route across the fens, but the many back-waters, and the towns and villages along them.
Disk 2: The Great Ouse
The complex Great Ouse river system, including the River Cam, is the result of a centuries-old three-way battle between millers, the need to drain the fens, and navigators, with the non land-owning navigators usually losing out. Much of it is below sea level, providing the novel experience of locking down on to it from a tidal river. It provides an opportunity to observe a wonderful variety of wildlife. But it also passes through some interesting and beautiful towns and villages, with a unique character born of their isolation and a background of Danelaw.
Disk 3: River Nene
The non tidal River Nene navigation starts at the bottom of the Northampton Arm of the Grand Union Canal, and heads North West through Peterborough to Dog-in-a-Doublet lock. The Nene Valley is breathtakingly beautiful, and the navigation is almost deserted, so for someone who likes to get away from it all, it is almost perfect.
Running Time: 180 minutes