Friday, 14 September 2018

All Oaks to Wyken Basin

13 September

Thursday was our last day and it didn’t take us long to get to our home mooring at Wyken Basin, so this is a very short blog, just to finish off the account of our trip. It was another chilly morning, but the sun came out and it soon warmed up.

The spiders have been at work on my plants.
We made our way into the basin by 11.30. 

The entry into Wyken Basin

Mooring back in our space took a little while as the boat in front of us was moored a foot or so too far back, so we didn’t quite fit! Steve fiddled with a few ropes and soon made a space big enough for us.

Back home, it was time to put the washing machine on!

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Braunston to All Oaks

12 September

There had been more rain in the night, but it dried up soon after we got up. We left our countryside mooring at 9.00; CRT had obviously been doing some work in repairing or creating a mooring here. It will be a good one when the earth has settled and the grass has grown.

Before arriving at Hillmorton, there is an old wharf where the buildings have been converted into houses.

Hillmorton Locks were very busy, but we got through quite quickly with a little extra help from a volunteer lockkeeper at the bottom lock. Soon afterwards, Steve became aware that something was round the propeller, so we pulled into the side so that he could investigate. It turned out to be a hard rubber fender and its securing rope. Perhaps one of the reasons boaters are advised not to leave fenders down in locks is that they can get torn off and then wrap themselves round other people’s props!

The building preparations are continuing for the new ‘mini-town’ on the old radio  transmission station site near Rugby.  An incredible amount of soil is being moved from one place to another for the access road and it is now obvious where a new bridge will be built over the canal. It is apparently a 15 year project so there is a lot to be done yet!
Earth moving

New bridge will go here.
We stopped for lunch at Newbold visitor moorings by which time the weather had cheered up and the sun was shining.

On we went and moored for the night at All Oaks where there are several other boats moored. In comparison with last night’s mooring, there is not much room on the towpath here. Stephen gave the fender he'd acquired to the boater moored behind us.

Not much room for mooring pins

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Northampton to Bugbrooke to Braunston (plus a bit)

10 & 11 September 

We left the marina at 9.00 having waited for the EA person to come on duty so that we could return our gate fob and reclaim our deposit. Steve has put away the anchor trusting that we can manage the remaining third of a mile of river without needing it.

Farewell to Northampton past an old grain warehouse, now apartments

And farewell to the Nene as we take a left turn.
We were behind nb Chrisden as we arrived at the first of today’s locks; we are now off the Nene and are on the Northampton Arm of the Grand Union. Chrisden’s crew told us that 2 or 3 boats had already started up the lock flight. These are single locks so it's a question of following one another rather than sharing a lock. It worked out that we and Chrisden travelled at the same speed as we soon got into a pattern of us arriving just as they were leaving the lock in front so we were able to empty the lock straightaway. This was fine until we both started to catch up with the boats in front at about the ninth lock out of 17. But the weather was dry and not too hot or too cold, so we just carried on, but a little more slowly.

We had passed John and Jane Pescod on Ichthus moored on the edge of Northampton. They said they would be following soon and they did actually catch us up with 5 or 6 locks to go.

There is a character on this flight called Leon who spends his days working boats through the locks. He told me he does the complete flight once and then catches a bus home. I was going to make him a cup of coffee, then realised that the folk on Chrisden had already done so. He is obviously well known to the people in the area and those who travel these locks regularly.

There was a lot of weed in some places and not much water in others, but we all got through without too much of a problem though the weed made opening some of the gates completely quite difficult.

The top of the flight with a boat ready to go down.

As we worked our way up the flight, we did not meet a single boat coming down until we reached the top!

We turned off the Northampton Arm at Gayton and are now moored up on the Main Line outside The Wharf at Bugbrooke.

We saw several swallows around Gayton Junction – we hadn’t seen any for a few days and thought they’d abandoned us for warmer climes.

Later on we realised that Ichthus was moored a little way behind us, so we arranged to meet them for a meal at The Wharf. Following the meal we all adjourned to our boat for coffee.

Rain was forecast for today – and we got it. It was dry as we left the mooring at 8.30 but rain was in the air as we started the Buckby flight and halfway up it was raining in earnest. We're back to double locks for this flight, so it was good to have the company of nb Laurimar for all the locks. There were two volunteer lockkeepers at the bottom lock but they disappeared up the flight as we entered the lock. They did set the next one for us but then we didn’t see them until the top lock where they again disappeared, this time down the flight. Perhaps it was something we said! 

We didn't need the lockies help, but I do think that if they worked separately instead of together and had walkie-talkie radios to tell each other of boat movements, they could tell boaters if other boats were approaching and save unnecessary lock turnings and make sure that, where possible, boats shared locks.

As Laurimar intended carrying on through the Braunston Locks, we decided to go along with them. Arriving at the top lock we realised there was a third boat in our little convoy, and a single boat going down the lock in front of us. Following some negotiation, the boat in front waited for us and we paired up with them, while Laurimar waited for the boat behind and paired with them. So we did the Braunston locks with Legacy.  We all got wet but everyone remained good humoured and we were all glad of each other’s help. 

Braunston Locks (photo taken on outward journey!)
By the time we got to the bottom of the locks the rain had stopped, so we continued through Braunston and moored up out in the countryside ready to carry on to Hillmorton tomorrow.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Earls Barton to Northampton

9 September 

Early morning today was much milder than the last few days. Steve went off to All Saints in Earls Barton to ring bells and I followed on a little later. 

Tower dating from 970
The old houses of Earls Barton are built of a much darker stone than some of the other Northamptonshire villages we have visited – this is due to the amount of iron in the rock.

Following the service we went straight back to the boat as we wanted to get to Northampton in time to get a pump out before the man in charge goes off duty at 4.30.

We left our mooring at 11.30 and made good progress through the first six locks. These are all automated guillotine locks so the bottom gates are open for us to go in. (You do have to empty the lock again ready for the next person which adds a bit of time.) The sun came out, and with it, a strong breeze which made dropping off and picking up at landing stages tricky at times. 

The last three locks for today were ones with mitred gates at both ends and the rule for these is that you can leave top or bottom gates open depending on which way you are going. We were obviously following someone as, at the next two locks, it was a top gate that was open (only one because, if your steerer is careful, a narrowboat can exit a broad lock through one gate without disturbing the other one). So we had to empty the lock before we could go in, but then we, in our turn, could leave a top gate open. 

The last lock for the day was Town Lock in Northampton and as we approached it we could see that both top gates were open. Bother! That means either I have to walk round the lock to close both gates or Steve has to do some extra work and close one of the gates. To add to my irritation, the paddle on my gate had been left open, so that was more work, winding it down. We moved to the bottom gates to open the paddles to empty the lock, but it seemed to be emptying very slowly. Then Steve realised that the top gate paddle on his side had been left open too! There are indicators on the gates which are meant to show whether a paddle is open or closed, but a number of these indicators don’t work which is not very helpful. 

Anyway we eventually got through and turned into Northampton Marina where we were going to have the pump out. Seeing that Northampton Embankment already had several boats moored on it, we decided to recklessly spend £10 and moor in the marina for the night.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Ditchford to Earls Barton

8 September

It was distinctly chilly this morning though the wind had dropped. Rain was promised so we dressed appropriately and set out just before 9.00. Through Lower Wellingborough Lock and into Wellingborough where we topped up the water and went to the nearby Tesco’s for supplies. On through Upper Wellingborough Lock in drizzly rain though it never did amount to very much.

This bicycle was here a month ago when we moored here. The people of Great Doddington must be very honest!

Three more locks and we then moored up on a ‘wild mooring’ just above Earls Barton Lock. We’ve moored here before and, judging by the mooring-pin holes in the ground, so have other people. You just have to be OK with horses!

We intend going to church in Earls Barton tomorrow so we walked into the village to see how long it takes. The answer is 35 minutes, so it’s quite a good walk. Earls Barton is well worth a visit. Its church dates back to Anglo-Saxon times and has a 10th century tower. The other place to see is the Jeyes Chemist Shop. The building houses the Jeyes Heritage and Pharmacy Museum, a gift shop, a room dedicated to Rupert, Paddington, Winnie-the-Pooh and friends, plus a very good tearoom wonderfully named The Apothocoffee. It is still owned by members of the Jeyes family and several of the staff who work there are family members too.

Although it has stayed grey and cool all day, we seem to have escaped most of the rain.

Friday, 7 September 2018

Woodford to Ditchford

7 September

Today was a day of stops and starts. We started off at 8.40 in bright sunshine though it was quite cool. We did two locks and then moored on the Friends of the River Nene (FOTRN) mooring at Stanwick Lakes. 

We spent a couple of hours walking round the water-filled gravel pits enjoying the peace and quiet (though at weekends and holidays it’s a great place to bring the children). We had coffee in their visitor centre, sitting overlooking one of the lakes.

Stanwick Lakes
Next, we moved on through one more lock and stopped for lunch at Irthlingborough. By now the sky had clouded over and it was becoming very breezy. It was time to get going again, two more locks and then we moored up on another FOTRN mooring, this time one near the Irchester Viaducts. 

Although there are trains running, they are not intrusive and it is another quiet site. This one is more isolated than some others – there are no footpaths to anywhere! So no evening walk, but it is very pleasant here at the boat – although it is windy, there are interesting clouds to watch and it is not raining.

Yesterday evening’s rain seems to have been enough to raise the river level again as could be seen at some of the lock gates.

Today we did five locks of four different kinds:-
Lower Ringstead is an automated guillotine, Upper Ringstead is a manual guillotine (hooray, the last of the big wheel locks!), Irthlingborough is another automated guillotine, Higham has mitred gates at both ends and Ditchford is an automated radial (the only one we have encountered on the Nene or the Great Ouse).

Radial Bottom Gate

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Oundle to Woodford

6th September

We said farewell to Oundle about 8.30 this morning in bright sunshine. Yesterday had been quite cool and grey first thing, though by the time we arrived at Oundle the sun had come out. Today warmed up quickly and we had a lovely morning’s boating. The first five locks we did today were automated and we made good progress. Oundle Mill at Upper Barnwell Lock used to be a hotel and restaurant, but is now closed. However there are signs of some work being done there so hopefully the building will be brought back into use.

Oundle Mill
Lilford Bridge on the approach to Lilford Lock is quite ornate. Some of the balusters are much newer than others so it is obviously being kept in good repair.

We began to realise that the water levels are down by several inches. I’m sure the step between the floating landing stage and the steps to the lock was not this high when we came through last month.

Just before Wadenhoe Lock is this Archimedes Screw; it was intended to drive an electricity generator, but it was the cause of a shoal forming at the outlet, partially narrowing the river. Currently the leat feeding the screw at the top has been blocked off.

The mill at Titchmarsh Lock is the home of the Middle Nene Cruising Club – another mill building being used, which is good to see.

The day finished with two of the manual locks – just to give us a bit of exercise! We moored on a Friends of the River Nene site at Woodford. 

I think we pinched this heron's fishing spot.

This is another very peaceful site surrounded by countryside but within very easy reach of Woodford village. 

We had a slightly late lunch after mooring up and then we had a shower of rain. Once the rain had stopped we walked up the hill into the village. It is not quite a picture book village like Wadenhoe, but there are several rows of old cottages plus an ancient church. There is also a post office/general store and a teashop, but it took us a while to find them even after asking the way. Having found the teashop, we felt obliged to have cake and a cuppa before returning to the boat. 

There was some very heavy rain during the early evening but it cleared after half an hour or so. At about 7.30 I heard the sound of church bells which meant it was probably ringing practice evening, so Steve went off to see if he could join them. He arrived back later on having had a good ring with a group visiting from Cambridgeshire.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Elton to Oundle

5 September

8.30 this morning as we were preparing to leave our peaceful mooring we caught sight of a flash of blue – another kingfisher. 

Off we went towards Warmington Lock, the first of the locks with a big wheel which you have to turn and turn and turn to work the guillotine gate. (The others you just have to stand there pressing a button and it works electrically.) The standard practice on the Nene is to leave the bottom gate open and the lock empty, which means that if, like us, you are going up the lock, you find it ready for you to go in, you fill it, open the top gates, go out, close the gates and then empty it again. All this takes quite a while, but we were lucky in that a boat arrived needing to go down the lock so we had no need to empty it. No such luck at the next one – Perio Lock.

We passed Fotheringhay Church in between Warmington and Perio Locks. There is less scaffolding on the church than when we passed it last month, but work is clearly continuing.

Cotterstock Lock gave us a break as it’s a ‘press the button’ lock, then we were back to ‘turn the wheel’ at Ashton Lock. But at Lower Barnwell, our last lock for today, there were two men painting bollards and the edge of the lock wall, and they very kindly offered to work us through.

We moored a little further on at Oundle Cruising Club in time for lunch. 

Moored on the river outside Oundle Marina
During the afternoon we walked into Oundle and had a longer look around than we’d had time for last time we were here. When visiting new places, I often look in Estate Agents’ windows at the prices of local properties. We have decided that at £1200 pcm, perhaps an apartment in Yarwell Mill is beyond us! Instead, we treated ourselves to tea and scones at Brew Babu, a very nice, if slightly expensive, teashop.

Part of Oundle School
An Oundle Street

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Peterborough to Elton

September 3rd & 4th

Monday  We make the return journey to Peterborough, pick up supplies at Asda and return to the boat. The weather over the last two days has been sunny and warm, though we did have a heavy shower while we were home.

We are expecting friends for the evening so we do a quick tidy up! Peter and Heather are friends from university days and they arrived laden with an Indian take-away for supper. We had a wonderful evening catching up on family news, news about other university friends and just generally enjoying each other’s company. We also managed a short cruise up and down the Nene.

Tuesday  At 8.45 we went to fill up with water before starting today’s trip.

Orton Lock was the first for today and as we were leaving it, a steam train on the Nene Valley Railway went past – clearly heard, but our view of it was somewhat obscured so no photo.
Approaching Orton Lock and its canoe slalom
Alwalton and Water Newton Locks passed without incident. 
Water Newton (the old mill buildings being put to use unlike others which lie derelict)
Fifteen minutes after we left Wansford Lock, I realised I’d left our Abloy key in the control cabinet (this is the special key you need to open the cabinets at these locks so that you can raise and lower the guillotine gate). My excuse was that as we left the lock, a boat was ready to come into it, so I didn’t have to return to the cabinet to collect the key as the second boat would work the lock. We decided that as we’d only gone a short way it was worth turning round and returning in the hope of retrieving our key. This we did - many thanks to nb Portabello for leaving the key behind and not taking it with them.

Lunch on the move as we’d lost some time. Yarwell Lock next and I didn’t leave anything behind! We decided to press on and moor above Elton Lock which is where we moored on the way down. This time we are on our own with just the cows across the river for company.

The weather today has been rather grey and cool, but we are being very brave and not lighting the fire! However there are already signs of autumn.

Horse Chestnuts turning brown.
We have seen very few boats on the move today – a total of three since first thing this morning.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Whittlesey to Peterborough to Exhall

1st & 2nd September

Saturday  The night was peaceful though the morning started a bit early with the first train whistle at 6.20. By this morning, there were four boats on and around the top lock mooring as a hire boat had arrived even later than we did. 

Clockwise from bottom; Chyandour, Phenomenal, Olivia, Platinum Fox
We set out at 7.30 and arrived at Stanground Lock just after 9.00 well in time for our 9.30 booking. Bimble was already there and went in as soon as the lock was ready. 

Stanground Lock
The lockkeepers worked us through next, and we were soon on our way into Peterborough, mooring up at the embankment at 9.45. Bimble and Constable were also moored there, but they moved off during the morning.

Today is our 45th wedding anniversary so we wanted a day with not much boating so we could do some other things. We started by going for coffee at the Becket’s Tea Room which is situated in a historic building in the cathedral precincts. 

Becket's Tea Room - parts of the building date back to C12 & C14
Morris Dancers in Cathedral Square
We watched groups of Morris Dancers for a while and then wandered around the shops for a while before returning to the boat for a quick lunch before heading off to Railworld and Wildlife Haven. While this is not a slick operation (it is run entirely by volunteers and clearly doesn’t have much money), there is plenty to look at and there were several small children having great fun pressing buttons to make model trains run. Stephen had the added bonus of seeing the “Union of South Africa” steam engine at the Nene Valley Station.

Back to the boat for a couple of hours (we noticed that Cre Dal Wood had arrived but there was no-one aboard) before setting off to walk to the cinema to see Christopher Robin. We enjoyed that and then walked back to the Grain Barge which houses a Chinese restaurant. We had a very good meal there before walking the few yards back to our boat. Here’s to the next 45 years!

The Grain Barge - Chyandour is the boat on the far right
Sunday   A much more leisurely start to today. We had decided to go to church at St John’s which is the large parish church in the centre of Peterborough. We walked into town in time for Stephen to ring bells with the team at St John’s while I went for a coffee. The service was rather formal and no-one (other than the lady giving out books and, presumably the bellringers to Stephen), spoke to us before the service. It was a similar story during coffee after the service until one man sat down at the same table as us. During conversation, he asked what sort of engine we have in our boat. The answer is a Perkins 4.108, and it turned out that he used to work for Perkins, testing engines post-production, including this type. Of course after that, there was animated conversation between him and Stephen for several minutes.

St John's Church with Cathedral in background
Returning to the boat, we had some lunch and then walked to the station to catch our train home. This is the easy journey – straight to Nuneaton with no changes, then a bus home.

Mow the lawn, water the garden, do some washing, sort out the post, deal with one or two matters which have arisen concerning our home church and then, relax!

Friday, 31 August 2018

Denver to Whittlesey

31 August 
We moved off our mooring onto the lock landing at about 8.45 and prepared to wait.The photo shows the state of the tide at that time – more sandbanks!

We were joined by Cre Dal Wood and then by two more narrowbaots so there was a little group of us waiting. We saw a kingfisher sitting on part of the sluice mechanism.

The lock opened at 11.45 as promised and we slid in. We did have to wait a few minutes before exiting the lock as the lockkeeper told us that Salters Lode was not ready for us. But we were soon on our way. Steve successfully made the tight turn into Salters Lode Lock, Paul, the friendly lockkeeper worked us through and there we were, back on the Middle Levels.
Out of Denver .....

.... and into Salters
Another kingfisher was spotted near Nordelph. There are several cormorants around as well, including some sitting on telephone wires – how do they do that with webbed feet?

Well Creek through Outwell and Upwell was still shallow, but much less shallow than it had been two weeks ago. A little rain makes all the difference.

We were through Marmont Priory Lock by 3.00 with the help of Maureen and her husband. They had a lock full of weed, some of which we were able to push through as we left the lock.

We will be going through Stanground Lock tomorrow. This lock is manned and boats have to book a time to go through. Stephen phoned them up and was told that they are very busy tomorrow and have a limited number of slots available. He accepted the 9.30 slot which means we either have to do a long day today or get up very early tomorrow. We decided to do the long day today, so instead of stopping at March which is what we had originally planned, we carried on towards Ashline Lock intending to moor at Whittlesey.

When we got to Ashline, helpful fishermen told us that the Whittlesey moorings were completely full. Steve walked up to have a look for himself, came back and reported that there were two boats already moored up on the lock landing above the lock (one of them being Phenomenal) so we decided to join them! By the time we had done the lock and moored up it was nearly 7.30 – time for food and drink!