History of the Middle Level Navigations
The Middle Level Navigations are a network of waterways between the Rivers Nene and Great Ouse. Most of the area through which they run is at or below sea level, and carried out attempts to protect it from inundation since 1480. The Dutch Engineer Cornelius Vermuyden proposed an improved drainage scheme in 1642 which divided the area into three zones; the North Level, the South Level and in between, the Middle Level. Although drainage is primarily the use of the Middle Level as it encompassed natural waterways already used for navigation, water levels were always managed to allow navigation. Establishing commissioners in 1754 helped to maintain the waterways and collect tolls from commercial traffic.
Horseway Lock is on the Forty Foot Drain, also known as Vermunden’s Drain, ¾ mile from Sixteen Foot Corner; the junction with the Sixteen Foot Drain. This is little used as the channel between Horseway Lock and the Old Bedford River is dry and Welches Dam has been closed by the Environment Agency. Before the restoration and reopening of Well Creek in 1975, this was the only route through the Middle Level to Denver Sluice.
Photo: Middle Level Navigations by Alison Smedley.