Sunday, 23 September 2018

Look East: Day 10

It was raining this morning, so we had a very relaxed start to the day, not even getting up until 9am.  Ferry Meadows is a very nice mooring, and the park even had a useful huge bin, and recycling facilities, things in very short supply on the River Nene.  It was still raining lightly when we set off at 10.15.  I completely failed to see the cut from the lake to the river, and had to do a big u-turn when I realised I’d missed it.  The rain continued until we got to Alwalton Lock, but then up ahead we could see the end of the cloud and blue sky.  We’d been looking out for the steam train, and between there and Water Newton lock it passed us, with the engine going backwards towards Wansford.

At Wansford, the A1 is carried by a concrete bridge from 1929, which marks the old boundaries between the old County of the Soke of Peterborough, and the County of Huntingdon.

Wansford Marina is surrounded by some very smart houses.  One has a bath right in the window.  I suppose the chances of a boater passing as you get in or out are relatively small.

By now the sun was out, but the wind had got up, making getting to some of the lock landings after leaving the lock quite a challenge.  The locks have to be left empty with the guillotine gate raised, so it takes a while after going through.  After Elton Lock there are glimpses of Fotheringhay Church on the horizon.  That was our target for the day; there were two boats moored by the castle, so we went through the bridge and moored up by the church.  We’re expecting someone to come along with their legendary Golden Syrup tin to collect a £5 fee for the night.

Once secure, we walked into the very pretty village to see the church, and then down to the site of the castle.  Only the mound and one block of masonry remain, but it’s a significant site as it was the birthplace of Richard III and the place where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned and beheaded.  There are plaques marking both events.

16 miles, 6 locks.  (94 miles, 68 locks)

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Look East: Day 9

There was fortunately very little wind today, but it was overcast and chilly.  We set off about 8.15, retracing our steps out of Peterborough.  Orton Lock was our first uphill lock since Stoke Bruerne on Day 1 of this trip.  A little further on we turned left into a fairly narrow channel which leads to the very wide expanse of Overton Lake.

Several people had recommended the moorings on the lake, which is part of the Ferry Meadows Country Park.  There are a couple of pontoon moorings, so room for four boats.

We had visitors arriving, my soon-to-be-ex-Radio 2 colleague Kerry along with her husband and two boys.  It was great to see her as I’ll be missing her leaving do on Monday, and at least one of the kids enjoyed feeding the ducks and geese out of the side hatch.  They went off to ride the miniature railway and then visit the dinosaur museum in Peterborough, while we walked down to Overton Station on the Nene Valley Railway.

It was a steam day today, with the train pulled by Tornado.  We went first to Peterborough where the engine was moved to the other end of the train, and then back to Wansford.

We had lunch in the station cafe, then took the Swedish railcar to Yarwell and back.

At Wansford they also have a little garden railway, and a model railway in a train carriage, so there’s plenty to see.

We caught the train back to Overton and walked back down to the boat.  It’s been trying to rain on and off all afternoon, but it’s very quiet and peaceful here, especially now the visitors to the park have begun to go home.

3 miles, 1 lock.  (78 miles, 62 locks)

Friday, 21 September 2018

Look East: Day 8

Yesterday evening turned into one of those unexpected boating pleasures.  Judy and Mark came round for a drink at about 5; a couple of hours later we decided they might as well stay for dinner, so between us we compiled a slightly strange meal of steak pie (from the butcher at Thrapston, provided by J&M), potatoes, and salad — followed by a crumble of apples and blackberries I foraged at Wadenhoe.  A number of bottles of wine were consumed, although we’re not sure what that number was.

Overnight, the wind got up again, and the boat was creaking and groaning on the pontoon.  This morning was very bright and sunny, and as the wind had dropped both boats set off at a bit before 8am.  The first lock of the day, Water Newton, is one of the prettiest, with a church as well as a mill alongside.  He best view of the mill (now houses) is from below the lock.

The wind increased as we passed through Alwalton Lock and then round the loop of Ferry Meadows Country Park.  The final lock, Orton, was being crossed by large numbers of school children.  One of the teachers told Adrian that the whole school was doing a sponsored walk.

The entry into Peterborough was much more green and leafy than I was expecting.  It’s not until you get close to the city centre that things look more built up, and there are some impressive railway bridges.

At Peterborough Embankment we stopped at the water point and started a wash load, and Judy and Mark also stopped for services.  This was where we’d part after a very enjoyable few days together, as they were booked to go through Stanground Lock onto the Middle Levels.  By now the wind was absolutely howling again, so we wait to hear whether they actually went through, or decided to sit it out until tomorrow.  After saying our goodbyes, we turned a moored up just along the embankment.  To be honest, it’s not the prettiest place we’ve ever stopped.  There’s a park, but it has a large population of Canada geese, and there’s a tented community here too; across the river is a building site, where large numbers of flats are going up.

We went into the city for lunch, and for Adrian to collect a new phone ordered online after the old one pretty much gave up the ghost.  We visited the Cathedral, which was free to go in and made little effort to guilt you into paying (although one of their donation boxes is equipped for contactless payments).  The nave ceiling is very impressive, as is the lantern tower.

Tim Peake’s space capsule is in the Cathedral at the moment and seemed to be drawing people in.

9 miles, 3 locks.  (75 miles, 61 locks)

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Look East: Day 7

It rained in the night and was still raining this morning — but there was no wind at all, which was a relief.  We were up and about relatively early, so decided to set off at 7.30.  As we reversed out of our spot, Mark appeared from Wychway to ask if we minded company, so while we set the lock they also set off and joined us.  There was a potentially nasty incident in the first lock.  As the lock emptied, Briar Rose’s baseplate got caught on one of the chains down the side of the lock near the bow, as we began to tip over at an alarming angle. It then slipped off, so the boat righted itself — although not before lots of things had been tipped off shelves inside.  Amazingly, nothing was broken.

The rain came and went, and was never particularly hard.  We went through some very pretty locks, but nothing photographs very well in the gloom.  Hopefully, it will be brighter when we’re on our way back.  At one lock a couple of boats were just coming out and hadn’t yet emptied the lock behind them, so that saved us a few minutes.  We had lunch of a mug of soup on the move.  There are numerous churches along the river, but the most impressive is Fotheringhay.  We’ll aim to stop here on the way back.

The last three locks of the day, Elton, Yarwell, and Wansford, all have strangely angled approaches, with the lock at right angles to the lock chamber.

For a good few miles, the river forms the boundary between Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire (although Pearson points out that it’s really Huntingdonshire), but once through Wansford we were in Cambridgeshire proper.  We were aiming for the pontoon moorings at Wansford Station, and they turned out to be empty, so there was room for both boats.  The station, on the Nene Valley Railway, is just across the road.  We had been on the move for eight hours.

21 miles, 11 locks.  (66 miles, 58 locks)

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Look East: Day 6

Today was forecast to be as windy, if not windier, than yesterday — except for first thing.  So we’d agreed with Mark and Judy on the boat in front that we’d both set off early.  It was a little after 7 that we untied, in relatively calm conditions.

By the time we got to Titchmarsh Lock the breeze had picked up, and it continued to increase.  The river was lovely, though, with great views, red kites, and kingfishers.

There are many churches visible from the river, some with towers, some with spires.  Wadenhoe church is one of the most prominent, as it’s fairly close to the river and up a hill.  Here’s Mark and Judy approaching it, ahead of us.

We both moored up at the garden of the King’s Head in Wadenhoe.  It was barely 9am.  We accepted an invitation for tea and coffee on board Mark and Judy’s boat, then we went for a walk around this very pretty village.  All the houses are stone, some are thatched and most of the rest have pantiles.  The Pearson’s guide book comments that if the village was in the Cotswolds, it would be mobbed; as it’s in Northamptonshire, it’s not.

One notable feature is the dovecote.  We went inside to see the nest boxes, and the rotating ladder which gave access to them.

Moorings at the pub are free to patrons, so all four of us went for an excellent lunch.  Another boat arrived up Wadenhoe lock, having battled the wind from Oundle.  I went to find some blackberries, and ended up in the field alongside the lock.  There is work going on there, to install an Achemedes Screw hydro electric system.

We considered moving on this afternoon, if the wind dropped.  But it hasn’t, so we haven’t.  It’s supposed to be calmer tomorrow, but rainy instead.

4 miles, 1 lock.  (45 miles, 47 locks)

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Look East: Day 5

The forecast was for wind, and it was correct.  As predicted, it was very blustery this morning, and although I’m no expert on wind speeds, he forecast of 40mph gusts was probably about right. All three boats here have stayed put.

In late morning we walked into Thrapston, which turns out to be a bustling little town with plenty of shops.  We had a cup of tea in a cafe, and bought a few things in the Co-op before coming back to the boat for lunch.  In the afternoon, I was talking to the people from the boat in front, who then came back to Briar Rose for tea.  It was a very pleasant afternoon of boating tales.

Every time we thought the wind had dropped, another squall would come through.  We almost set off at 5pm to do an hour or two, but decided against it.  Tomorrow is meant to be just as windy, except first thing, so we might try to get a few hours under our belts early.  Unusually today I haven’t taken a single photo.

0 miles, 0 locks.  (41 miles, 46 locks)

Monday, 17 September 2018

Look East: Day 4

The Countryfile forecast last night for the week ahead had an unwelcome message: it’s going to be windy.  That’s always bad news for narrowboats.  Today looked like the least windy, so when we were awake early we decided we’d get up, set off, and probably do a long day.  We left the very nice quiet moorings at Hardwater Mill at around 7.30, in gloomy, grey, cloudy, and slightly blustery conditions.  In less than a couple of hours we were at Wellingborough, where we pulled onto the moorings by the park.  We were glad we hadn’t come on to here yesterday, as there are plenty of busy roads and a noisy mill opposite.  Adrian went to Tesco over the road while I started a wash load and used the handy water point to fill the tank.  As we were about to leave the moorings, a boat came past, and we shared the next five locks with them.  It was a man and (we think) his dad, taking the boat to Blackthorn Lake Marina for blacking.

After Higham Lock there are two bridges, one very obviously daring from the 1930s, followed by its predecessor from the 14th Century.  The approach to the older one is a bit tricky, and you can see that it’s been hit quite a lot.

The locks came and went, including our first manual guillotine gates, which need a big wheel to to turned to lower and raise the gate.  As the day wore on it brightened up considerably, and the temperature rose.  There are lots of church spires visible from the river.  Woodford Church is one of the closest, but Denford Church looks perhaps the most typically English.

Around Denford we were watching at least three red kites swooping and whirling, upsetting the local crows and sometimes each other.

We were aiming to moor at Thrapston but were unsure where.  There is a single visitor mooring up an arm just before the bridge, but by the time we could see it was free, we were halfway through the bridge.  The Friends of the River Nene mooring was a bit gloomy under trees, and also landlocked, so we decided to go down Islip Lock and look at the public moorings by the sailing club.  There was a space between another narrowboat and a cruiser, so we slotted in, with a great view from the galley window.  The bank is high, so we’ve literally had to push the boat out to get the side hatch open, and will have to do so again when we want to close it.

17 miles, 12 locks.  (41 miles, 46 locks)