An Enthusiastic Gongoozler

We left our mooring around about 10, weather wise it felt much cooler, what a relief.

We nearly made a rather  embarrassing mistake at our first lock of the day ‘Lower Ringstead Lock’, saved only for a man that was lying full length on a hammock next to his boat. What was he shouting at us? Had he been drinking? Was he telling us to slow down? We were already going very slow as we were trying to work out where the lock was, we could only see a weir in front of us, and we wanted to see which side the lock landing was. At the last minute, we understood….. he was shouting “Go Left!” Normally there’s a sign with an arrow directing boats to the correct navigational channel, but this time it was missing. “Thank you that man! Sorry we misjudged you!”

Irthlingborough’s beautiful 14th century bridge.

We met a lovely young chap (about 14 years old), at Higham Ferrers Lock. He was with his mother and brother on the bank by the lock. But he came running up to me at the lock as he was so interested how locks worked, and was desperate to be hands-on. Higham Ferrers lock was the first lock for months we’ve had to work that has 2 gates at the top, and two at the bottom. Apparently boaters (for some reason) don’t have to leave this lock empty, so I had to let the water out first, obviously before I could open the gates. The boy asked so many questions, he’d never seen a lock worked before, and wanted to know all the ins and outs. He did me a favour though, as he helped with the really heavy gates. It was fabulous to see a youngster so enthusiastic to learn. Perhaps he will one day be a dedicated boater?

Just before our last lock of the day, Ditchford Lock, with its electric ‘up and over’ bottom gate, Cyan managed to get stuck in the mud by a nettle infested bank. This stretch of the river is quite narrow in places, with several 45 deg angled bends. A couple of times John sounded the horn as he couldn’t see 10′ beyond Cyan’s bow. Coming around one of the bends, at quite a lick, was a narrowboat (John thought it was a hire boat), with 2 or 3 young kiddies sitting on the roof. We were very nearly t-boned! The other boater could hardly get around the bend in time, and as he swung around, his stern was inches off our bow. John successfully, thank goodness, took avoiding action which put us into the bank. After shuffling and pushing off with the pole, we eventually were freed. Not that the other boater cared, he just sailed away with a couple of, hopefully embarrassed, backward glances.

Today we’ve travelled just over 8 miles, and 5 locks.

Planning Our Last Few Days On The Nene

We left our mooring at around 9:15 am, both of us feeling a little jaded after not sleeping very well, it was far too hot! Think last night’s heat was the warmest since this summer’s heat wave began. I must say the anticipated ‘reprieve’ being forecast will be very welcome. How long will it be before we’re all moaning about the rain and cold again?

John spotted a red kite that swooped down to the ground, and landed on the bank. By the time I fumbled with the camera, the kite was taking off.

For miles the kite looked to be following us.

There was just one lock today where I didn’t have to empty the lock after John sailed Cyan through. The boaters who were entering the full lock said they were on their way to the River Ouse. They’d decided on their journey after being fed up with North/West canals being short of water.

Travelling through Thrapston, and under the 9 arch bridge. Its origins are medieval, and was probably rebuilt in 1795

We’ve moored for the day on Woodford ‘Friends of the Nene’ mooring. When we moored we could hear a cow bellowing, and wondered if she was shouting for her calf, and fearing the shouting could last all night. Then we spotted the bull in the field just across from the river. At first he wasn’t too interested, but now he appears to be ‘fired up’, and is desperate to find way to cross the river.

Poor lovelorn bull!

  • Tomorrow night we’ve planned to moor above Ditchford Lock.
  • For Thursday night we’ve booked ourselves into White Mills Marina. We’re in need of diesel,  a replacement gas bottle, as well as sanny services. A Tesco delivery has been ordered for Friday morning.
  • Friday night we’ve planned to stay (if we can get in) just after Weston Favell Flood Gates.
  • Saturday night our plan is to moor just before the Nene/Grand Union junction.
  • If all goes to plan, we’ll be climbing the 17 Rotherthorpe Locks on Sunday.
  • On Monday, we’ll be having a rest, and plan our next adventure.

Today we’ve travelled over 7 miles, and through 4 locks.

Moored At The Kings Head

Sunday saw us travelling from Fotheringhay to just above Ashton Lock where we found a ‘Friends of the River Nene’ mooring. It must be a new mooring as it wasn’t noted in the two Nene maps we have.

We were pleased to find the mooring, as the day was hot, and the river was quite busy with ‘Sunday Boaters’. At two  of the locks we found the lock landing occupied by boaters that appeared to be ‘taking a break’! This made it rather awkward as Cyan had to tread water outside the lock while I reset the guillotine gates, then of course when I wanted to get back on Cyan, it was a case of ‘legs hanging over the lock wall’ while I slid down. The waterways have been designed for everyone to share, as safely as possible. It’s fabulous to see so many people enjoying themselves, but we all do need to share.

Little did we know though (until the evening), that alongside our mooring there’s a stagnant, but small pond under the trees in the hedge, a perfect breeding ground for mosquitos. Despite the heat, Cyan’s windows had to be closed.

We set off yesterday morning with an aim to arrive at Thrapston. We remember passing through Thrapston, and thought this would be a fabulous place to stop on our return.

Sorry about the dark pictures, the camera was set wrong 🙁

Our first lock of the day was Lower Barnwell, we were helped through by Environment Agency workmen who were waiting to take their huge work boat down the lock. They are busy repairing lock landings.

At Upper Barnwell lock we found yet another boat on the lock landing where the boaters were having a cup of tea (perhaps this is normal on the River Nene?) This time the boater came over and apologised, and insisted they’d lower the guillotine gate to save Cyan ‘hovering’ while John waited for me to set the lock.

Our next lock was Lilford, as we approached, we saw there was a boat in the lock going up. John dropped me off on the landing, and I climbed the stairs to offer help. The lady boater asked if we’d  overtaken a boat, as they’d been waiting half an hour for another boat to arrive as they were sharing locks with them. With that I mentioned there was a boat moored on the lock landing at the last lock landing, making it awkward for other boaters…. blah blah I moaned…! I quickly shut up when I realised this lady’s boat was one of those that was moored on a landing on Sunday! Whoops, ‘foot firmly put in mouth’! (Still if the cap fits 😉 )

By way of helping to relieve my embarrassment, I told her to jump on her boat, and that I’d set the guillotine gates. Whilst raising the guillotine gates after Cyan had gone through, I noticed the boat we’d left at the lock behind us was approaching.

The ‘defunct’ Archimedes Screw at Wadenhoe Lock. Think it was defunct due to the amount of silt it had ‘misplaced’.

At Wadenhoe Lock, the boat in front was waiting for us to join them. Despite the embarrassment about the lock landing, they were pleasant, and obliging, they thought we’d be joining them for the next few locks. But we’d had enough, the weather had been very hot, and the Kings Head at the top of lock looked very inviting!

With help from another boater, who was moored by the pub, we moored at the bottom of the ‘garden’, just as half a dozen canoeists decided to do the same!

It’s £10 per night to stay here, but if you have a meal, mooring is for free. So we had a lovely meal! Potted crab, steak and ale pie, and ice cream for afters. Fabulous!

We’re not sure where we’ll be staying tonight, the last of the current heatwave. The day so far is an unwritten page!

Yesterday we travelled over 5 miles, and through 4 locks.

Mooring Between Two Weddings

We left our mooring by the Nene Valley Railway Museum after a hearty breakfast as we’re not sure how far we’d be travelling today, this stretch of the Nene appears to be rather short of moorings. The decision was taken to ‘go with the flow’ and see what the day brings.

It was a lovely day weather wise, the sun was shining, and it felt pleasant thanks to a coolish breeze.

The cormorant below had been up early for his breakfast, we  spotted him high on a branch drying off his feathers.

Our journey today saw us travelling through four locks, and we were lucky enough to meet a boat at three of the locks that wanted to descend down the locks, meaning I only had to empty (reset) one lock.

At Yarwell lock we stopped to fill our almost empty water tank, the water flow was so strong, the water tank was filled within minutes. Though it was a little disconcerting as the ‘noise’ of the water going into the tank was a sound we hadn’t heard before due to the pressure of water going into the tank.

At one of the locks while waiting (with my thumb on the button) for the guillotine gate to lower, I felt something crawling up my 3/4 length baggy trousers. I tried to shake it off, only to get painfully stung! I’m sure I put on a pretty dance show in front of several fishermen and canoeists tying to get rid of the thing (wasp?), but at least I didn’t in my panic, shed my trousers!

Talking of being trouserless, or naked to be exact, steering one of the three boats we passed coming the other way from us, was a man who was bare naked except for some tattoos! He was trying to catch as many sunrays as possible – this was a situation where I wish I could un-see the spectacle.

At Fotheringhay we decided we’d moor, and pay the farmer a fiver. Just like the last time we’d moored here, we’d hardly knocked in the mooring pins, when the farmer appeared with his tin. The farmer did warn us though that it might be noisy. The next field on both sides where we moored had wedding marquees in the fields.

We had a leisurely bbq for dinner, and the evening air was very pleasant. As we sipped our Rioja, sounds of a solo trumpeter belting out from one of the maquees entertained us for over half an hour…. it was ‘magic our morris!’

Today we’ve travelled almost 10 miles, and through 4 locks.

The Nene Valley Railway Museum

It’s was going to be hot today; so to beat some of the heat we left our mooring at Ferry Meadow just before 9:00 am.

The weather, though hot, was calm, as was the water.

We were quite lucky at Alwalton Lock, our first lock of the day. Just as John took Cyan out, another boat sailed into the lock. The other boaters were happy, as we were, it saved us having to empty the lock, and saved them having to fill it. On the Nene boaters are obliged to leave locks empty with the bottom gates open, or the guillotine in the ‘up’ position.

At our next lock, Waternewton Lock, a boat behind us caught us up just as Cyan was again sailing out of the lock. One of the crew from the boat behind kindly said she’ll take over from me setting/emptying the lock. Well that must be Karma, as I did the same for this lady at Ashline Lock on the Middle Levels when we were behind their boat, guess it was pay-back time.

The church by the lock is beautiful, and it looks like there’s a wedding being prepared for tomorrow. How lovely for the church to host a marque in its grounds.

This time we managed to moor at Wansford Station Railway Bridge mooring. John was hoping get on this mooring as it was occupied last time we passed, and he did so want to look around at the railway museum.

When we were working through Alwalton Lock, a man came to watch us go through. After chatting to him, it turns out he’s the lock keeper for the Dog and Doublet Lock, and his remit stretches to keeping watch on Alwalton and Waternewton Locks. John mentioned we were hoping to stop at the Nene Valley Railway Museum, and perhaps see a steam engine ‘fired’ for action. The lock keeper told John that due to dry weather, the museum has had to stop firing up engines, as sparks from the train could start landscape fires. We were left wondering; what did they do in the ‘old days’?

John was delighted to find the steam engine ’92 Squadron’ (see their website) was fired up and running.

Today at the museum was ‘Driver Experience Day’, meaning two (paying) passengers get to ride on the ‘plate’, and even have a go driving the engine for about an hour; food, drink, and professional photographs all included. Each time the engine is fired up, it apparently costs c. £1,400! The cost for one passenger is around £300 for a trip, and we can understand why.

In the evening, the engine was hitched to several carriages, including a diner, where passengers were treated to a ride with an evening dinner included.

Today we’ve travelled almost 4 miles, and through 2 locks.

Nene Park, Ferry Meadows, Overton Lake

Nene Park, Ferry Meadows, Overton Lake are all names which can describe where we are today/night.

We left our mooring on Peterborough Embankment around 10 ‘ish this morning. Leaving the huge community of swans, geese, and ducks, plus  a few cormorants, coots, and pigeons thrown into the mix.

We had a lovely cruise toward Orton Lock. John took Cyan into the lock after dropping me off at the lock landing. After lowering the guillotine gate, and helping John wrap the centre line around a bollard to control her, I opened a paddle on one of the top gates just enough so not to rock Cyan too much. When the level was right, I opened the gate for John to sail through and wait on the lock landing while I reset the lock, leaving the guillotine in the up position. This will now become ‘routine’.

It was a short journey to our mooring at Ferry Meadows. This time of visiting, Cyan was reversed into the mooring, which means Rusty will only have to walk along a 3 metre stretch on the ‘cheese grater’ pontoon, which is really hard on his paws. When we were here last, Cyan was moored with the bow towards the bank, leaving Rusty to have to walk quite an uncomfortable distance to get on the land from the stern. He finds it really difficult to walk on this type of surface, which prompted a question, last time we were here from a neighbouring boater, “How long has your dog had bad arthritis?”

A pleasure boat takes passengers around the lake.

There’s a pleasure boat that takes paying passengers around the lake. We can hear the Captain/Driver on his tannoy, as he sails past us, explaining that there are no crocodiles, killer wales, or sharks in the lake, only soft ducks! During one of the trips, he expanded on his rhetoric, “See those narrowboats moored there, well under the water where the boats are moored, there was a bad accident years ago, whereby a JCB tipped over, killing the driver. Every now and again the ghost of the man raises out of the water to frighten people. There’s even been times when people have said they’d heard Elvis singing!” That’s all good fun I know, but when you suffer from over imagination, the least thing your imagination needs is stimulation! Hope I can get a good night’s sleep tonight 🙂 Just in case though, I did have a Google search, and thankfully nothing came up about a terrible accident, or a ghost!

Cyan, nestled on her mooring

A fabulous piece of artwork, cut out of a thick tree trunk. The children think it’s wonderful to climb onto the ducks.

When John took Rusty for a walk, he returned with a very nice Spanish lady, and her partner. The husband has been trying to persuade his Spanish wife that they should buy a narrowboat. John brought her back to the boat to have a look around Cyan as she’s never been aboard a narrowboat before. We were talking for quite a while, they wanted to know about things like cars, how much it costs a month, how do we keep warm in the winter, all the usual things. Hope one day we’ll meet them on a canal somewhere, when they have their boat.

We’re aiming to get to Wansford Station Railway Museum moorings tomorrow, John’s hoping there will be some engines fired up and in steam on Saturday. We’ll have to wait and see.

Today we’ve travelled 3.5 miles, and through one lock.

Through The Deep, and Straight Dykes

Once again we had a day off yesterday as we’re not really in a rush.

We’ve now changed our destination, and will be turning around at Isleham Lock on the River Lark. We’ve managed to book into a marina at Isleham Lock for £20 a night, electricity included! Marinas appear to be expensive in this area, we even met a boater the other day who paid £35 a night at one marina. We have also arranged to go by train from Ely to Cambridge to avoid the £75.00 return taxi fair. Being a tourist is an expensive business!

After a bit of a shuffle around because a boat had breasted against us, we headed towards Ashline Lock. As I worked the lock I found it rather awkward, the windlass is worked using the same motion as ‘stirring a cake’. If the windlass was dropped it would be lost, and so would we!

Some of the bridges are quite low. The one in the pic below was quite deceiving; I saw the bridge approach, yet because the sun was in my eyes, I didn’t realise there was a metal girder beneath. It was John that suddenly realised I hadn’t seen the girder at the last minute, and yelled for me to duck. Seriously think this girder should have red and white stripes on it.

Whittlesley Dyke was quite boring, couldn’t see many landscape features being down below the dyke.

Leaving Whittlesey Dyke, and onto ‘Old Nene’

Twenty Foot River Junction. Not many turn in that direction with a 1.6m headroom!

“Fer lob a dob”

We had thought we’d find a ‘wild mooring spot’, but that proved impossible. Nothing for it but to continue to March.

John was getting a bit agitated as 1.00 pm was approaching fast – the England vs Panama game. He did manage to hear the first two goals on the radio, before we eventually found a 48 hour mooring on the edge of March. We frantically moored. The air turned a deep shade of blue for a while as the digital TV reception, and the wifi connection wasn’t too stable. Still, all was well in the end, thanks to the endless replays!

Edited to add today’s diary (25/06/2018)

Once again we’re having a ‘day off’ from travelling. The sun is glorious, and John’s busy polishing Cyan. At least one side of her is looking pretty smart.

Tomorrow we’ll be moving through March, and through Marmont Priory Lock, we’ve booked a 1:00 pm passage with the lock keeper.

Yesterday we travelled 10.5 miles, and through 1 lock. We’ve 34 miles, and 3 locks until our present journey’s end.

Hello Middle Levels

We left our mooring on the Embankment at Peterborough, moving a short way to use the sanny service, top up the water tank, and to dump our rubbish. We’d planned our journey to leave for Stanground Lock at 9:30 am, to arrive at our 10:30 am slot. We shouldn’t have rushed as we arrived at the lock half an hour early.

We shared a mooring in Peterborough with a boat that was moored next to us at Overton Lake. After a chat with the boater he shared a website link he’d been given (by the owner of the website) which is brilliant. The website shows where mooring, and potential moorings are, services, locks, and lots of other information. The web address is boatsatnav.co.uk/. Access to the guides/maps can be via an app on mobiles phone (sorry not a windows phone), and tablets. On a laptop or desktop you don’t need anything other than a web browser.

What does it show?
  • Lock positions
  • Junctions
  • Services – fuel, water, pump out…
  • Moorings
  • Winding holes
  • Winter & emergency stoppages
  • Shops, post offices, cash points
  • Pubs, restaurants, take aways
  • Bus and rail connections
  • Surgeries, chemists, pharmacies

And we’re adding new information all the time. Eateries for instance will soon have food hygiene ratings shown, and, because all of the data is online, it’s quick and easy to keep it up to date

It’s free, and it’s a continuous project. I understand the owner uses information given to her by other boaters. It’s a brilliant website, which is basically boaters sharing information with boaters.

When we return back this way, we’ve a plan to continue on the Nene (instead of turning right for Stanground Lock) to visit Wisbech.

UK’s own Little Venice

At Stanground Lock we had to tread water as there was a boat on the landing waiting to go through before us, which meant there was no room for us to temporary moor. We didn’t have to wait long, before Cyan was tied to the lock landing. John went to meet ‘Tina’, the very pleasant and helpful Lock Keeper, and to purchase the services key, and windlass we’ll be needing. Tina also gave John two free pamphlets (one for him and one for me) about the Middle Levels.

It wasn’t long before we were through the lock

We were impressed on our first view of the Middle Levels

The water is ever so clean

At the end of King’s Dike, we cruised through quite a narrow channel

With the sun in our eyes, Cyan turned right at a very sharp 45 deg turn, and onto Briggate River (Drain)

That was close, we just managed to squeeze round

It wasn’t long before we moored for the day at the mooring just before Ashline Lock.

Today we’ve travelled 5 miles, and through one lock.

All Set For The Middle Levels

We left the beautiful Overton Lake mooring at about 11 am.

These moorings are brilliant, but not all that great for big dogs due to the ‘Cheese Grater’ surface of the pontoons. A lady from a neighbouring boat asked us “How long has your dog been suffering from hip dysplasia?” Rusty doesn’t suffer from hip dysplasia; such was the way he was walking on the pontoon’s grating. Poor lad! If we return, we’ll reverse Cyan onto the pontoon, he’ll then have less of the grating to walk on.

Leaving Overton Lake

Sometimes modern art passes me by!

It was a lovely journey getting to Peterborough.

We moored far enough away from the town, but within an easy walk with ‘granny’s trolley’ to Asda. We’re also near to a sanny station and waterpoint.

We’ll be going through Stanground Lock tomorrow, fully provisioned, and organised. Even the weather is going to be on our side as we cruise through the ‘Middle Levels’.

Today we’ve just under 4 miles, and one lock.

Historical Water Newton

We had another day without travelling yesterday. We did try and moor by the Nene Valley Railway Station (museum) moorings, but unfortunately there was no room for us on the pontoon. As there was a strong breeze once again, and we are in no hurry, we had the idea of staying put for the day. We’re hoping that on our way back this way, there maybe a chance for us to moor at the railway station for a good look around.

Within a short distance from the station mooring, we saw what looks like a new marina in the making. ‘Sibson Marina’ is expected to be open Autum 2018 – see their website for details.

Talking of marinas, in a couple of weeks around Ely, we hope to moor in a marina for 3 nights. Looking for suitable marinas we’re struck how expensive they are in these parts; one marina we’ve found charges £20 per night.

Though the wind was still strong, the weather was glorious, and we had a lovely cruise to our first lock of the day, Water Newton Lock.

Water Newton Mill – now lovely homes

Could these gentlemen be the ‘last millers’?

At the top of the lock there’s the beautiful ‘St. Remigius Church’ which is within yards of the river bank. There’s also a notice saying ‘Moorings’ – not sure if it’s a ‘free’ mooring, or if there’s a small charge to the church. Looking at ‘The ‘Friends of the Church’ website Water Newton is crammed full of history.

In 1975 a Roman Hoard of 27 Roman silver items was discovered while a farmer ploughed a field, the hoard is now in the British Museum, with replicas of the hoard in Peterborough Museum see wiki link

Water Newton’s used to be called ‘Durobrivae’, and was a Roman fortified garrison town located where Ermine Street crossed the River Nene. More generally, it was in the territory of the Corieltauvi in a region of villas and commercial potteries. The name is a Latinisation of Celtic (or more accurately Brythonic) *Durobrīwās, meaning essentially “fort (by the) bridges” see wiki link

Water Newton Lock on the right of pic

Old photo of Water Newton Lock

Thoughts are going through my mind on what the journey will be like when we return, as these locks, particularly Water Newton Lock, the water appears to be pretty violent when filling. Must make sure the lock paddles are cranked just a bit at a time when going ‘up’ until the water equalises somewhat.

The locks are very well maintained with the grass being sharply cut.

Alwalton Lock

At Alwalton Lock we noticed two things, the first was a ‘Friends of the Nene’ mooring next to the lock which looks to be a lovely place, and maybe we’ll moor there on our return.

The other ‘thing’ we noticed was several ‘discarded’ mussel shells on the grass. A Google search brought up: this article

Britain faces a massive increase in its rat population – because they’ve discovered how to eat mussels.

The rodents are diving down to a rich new food supply and coming up trumps.

The phenomena has been discovered for the first time by Cambridge University biologist David Aldridge.

Piles of discarded mussel shells can now be found on the banks of the River Nene near March in Cambridgeshire. They remove the back third of the molluscs to get at the meat inside, which can be up to 10cm long.

‘The rat population has already exploded and will continue to explode,’ said Dr Aldridge from the University’s Zoology department.

‘They’ve tapped into a new food resource and have learned how to feed on fresh water mussels. They swim into the middle of the water, dive down and pull the mussels out.

Cruising on was very pleasant, especially with birdsong that kept us company. We’ve spotted our first grebe since leaving the Thames, and we even saw a cormorant diving and fishing for his dinner.

Milton Ferry Bridge

By 10:30 am we turned into ‘Nene Park – Overton Lake’ and what a fabulous place this is.

We were soon moored, where it was time for breakfast

Rusty’s not too happy as the pontoon has one of those grated surfaces, which must feel like he’s walking on a cheese grater. Still, he’s prepared to run the gauntlet as there’s a fabulous park for him to play.

The mooring part of the lake is run by the Environment Agency. There’s a facility for rubbish, but no Elsan services. Someone did whisper that if we offered a donation to the camp site that shares the lake, they might let us use their’s but we will give that a miss.

We’ve phoned Tina who is the Lock Keeper at Stanground Lock, she’ll help us down the lock to the ‘Middle Levels’. She’s booked us in for Friday at 10:30 am.

We should have plenty of time on Friday to travel 4.5 miles, including one lock, and stop for the Elsan and waterpoint at Peterborough Embankment, and be at Stanground lock on time, providing of course we start the day early.

This is such a treat!

Today we’ve travelled just over 4 miles, and through 2 locks.