Early Boaters get the Moorings

We left our mooring at the very early time of 8:00 am. The weather forecast predicted it was going to get windy in the afternoon, so we thought we’d beat the weather.

Friends of the River Nene – Ditchford Moorings

There’s been a bridge at Ditchford since 1292. Ditchford was once popular with local people who used to come here to swim and fish. The area was known as ‘Ditchford on Sea”.

We took advantage of the 48 hour mooring, and didn’t move yesterday. While we were travelling on Monday; a horse-fly (or something similar) took a bite out of my elbow. Its venom made my arm painfully swell up, and the Piriton taken for relief made my head more woozy than normal! I just didn’t feel like moving, let alone go through any locks. Today, another one bit my other arm, but I was ready this time with sting relief, which appears to have worked without having to take a Piriton tablet.

John did the first lock, Ditchford Lock, while I took Cyan in. It was a little difficult as the boards along the lock landing was just the right height to catch Cyan’s gunnel, causing a bit of a predicament. A few quick kicks to push Cyan off the boards did the trick.

It was a pleasant cruise to the next lock, and it was noticeable the water wasn’t nearly as clear. Along this stretch of water is a sewage works which was discharging water into the river. I’m sure the water going into the river from the sewage works was up to standard. Though I suspect the cloudy water, and the sewage works had more than a coincidence connecting them.

At the next lock, Higham Lock, it was my turn to do the lock. Higham Lock has gates both ends.

I also worked Irthlingborough Lock which was electronic.

Irthlingborough is said to be derived from ‘Yirtlingaburg’ (the fortified place of a ploughman). The town dates from AD780. Below is one of the town’s bridges, it’s a 14th century stone bridge, and carved into its stonework are the ‘crossed keys’ of Peterborough Abbey. Perhaps the monks from that abbey arranged for its building?

The centre arch of this old bridge has been widened, obviously to let boats through. On the sides of 10 arches are grooves made by rope marks, over centuries, by old bargemen.

The 2nd bridge over the Nene at Irthlingborough is a more modern viaduct built in 1936 which carries the A6.

We caught up with another boat at our forth lock, Upper Ringstead Lock. The boaters were having a problem with the ‘wheel’ that lifted the guillotine gates up and down. This type of lock mechanism was new to us too, but eventually we managed to suss it out. We were invited to share the lock with them.

At Lower Ringstead Lock we caught up again with the boat from the previous lock. The boat was on the lock landing, where there’s only room for one boat, but John managed to nudge Cyan’s bow far enough onto the lock landing for me to jump out to help set the lock.

Huge Charolais bull enjoying the sunshine surrounded by his harem, and young calves.

We’re  moored up at 2pm, very peacefully on a Friends of the Nene mooring at Woodford. The fish swimming in the clear water were a joy to watch. We hope to continue our journey tomorrow, stopping at Thrapston; but if the wind turns up as predicted, we might not be moving.

Today we’ve travelled 6.5 miles and through 5 locks.

Clear Water Cruising

We travelled for around 6 hours in glorious sunshine, and never got bored once!

 

There’s such a lot that catches the eye, millions of Banded Demoiselle flies are fluttering over vegetation that is emerging to the surface of the water.

As these Banded Demoiselle flies are very sensitive to pollution, they’re a good indicator of how clean the waters of  the River Nene are.

 

Could the Nene be anymore beautiful than in this picture?

Preening station in Wellingborough

We had hoped to moor at Wellingborough, but that wasn’t to be.

‘The River Nene’ guide book mentions stones have been placed by the Embankment to stabilise the walls….and prevent any mooring!

Looks like a new bridge is still ‘under wraps’….

We moored on a ‘Friends of the River Nene’ mooring, just past Ditchford Railway Bridge. We could see the bridge/s clearly from where we were moored. Obviously work is being carried out during the night as the workmen arrived, turning on their JCB diggers, and other heavy machinery at around 8:00 pm. We’re too far away for the workmen to bother us. The only sounds coming from the Water Skiing Lake behind us.

As the World Cup starts Thursday, and it’s the’LeMans24′ Hour Race (where John’s been known to watch every minute of the coverage) this weekend, we’ll need a reasonable spot to moor for a long weekend. We’ve made a plan to visit Oundle Marina for a few days – but first we’ve to travel 18 miles to get there!

Today we’ve travelled 8.25 miles, and 7 locks.

Two Marinas In One Day

Yesterday, seeing that we had a great mooring (48 hours) we decided to have the ‘day off’. Our mooring was at the far end of the jetty, we weren’t disturbing anyone, and no one disturbed us; it was a lovely day for a BBQ!

It wasn’t all a lazy day as John spent an hour doing a bit of maintenance to Cyan, changing her oil, and making sure everything that should be ‘topped up’, was ‘topped up’. I had a lesson in changing the oil, with the comment that next time it’ll be my turn to change it! Now that’s a scary thought!

It was a lovely day though, watching the cormorants ducking and diving, the baby coots busily pecking at the insects floating on top of the water. It was such a pleasure to watch the swan with her seven cygnets sail past several times. The water is so clear on the Nene, we can even watch fish swimming around.

At the day’s end we had a downpour just before bedtime, though we got a ‘blessing’ that finer weather was to come.

This morning we backed out of our mooring…

… and we entered through Western Barrage Gate towards Western Favell Lock

At the lock we were met by some very friendly horses, though sadly Rusty didn’t think much of them!

Just after Billing Lock, and before the bridge, we turned left to enter Billing Marina. We couldn’t see any direction signs, so we tentatively ventured through the narrow passage. I was sent to the bow in the hope of giving John clues where to steer Cyan. Unfortunately we got a bit too near to the ‘Mill’ and got stuck in silt from the old mill race. The pole was used to push Cyan off the bank, except the pole went straight through the silt.

Eventually we managed to work our way off the silt, and we sailed into Billing Marina. We topped up the diesel tank (80p/124p per litre), which was about 50 litres, used the Elsan point which was ‘over the road’, and was free. We also dumped off a couple bags of rubbish.

Finding a mooring looked  impossible; White Mills Marina came into view, and as it was getting on for 4, it was an easy decision to pop into the marina for the night.

Today we’ve travelled almost 5 miles, and 5 locks.

Venturing Out Onto The Nene

We spent the night moored at the top of Cotton End Lock no 17. We were the only boat around, and if I’m honest, I didn’t feel too comfortable. There’s no doubt we’re both feeling a little stressed after yesterday’s drama. I slept rather well, but I’m afraid John kept playing ‘the drama’ over in his head through the night. He should feel proud that he successfully recovered the situation.

After Rusty had his walk with the yeast aroma from the Carlsberg brewery permeating the air, we pushed off and dropped down the lock very carefully, being well aware how a ‘situation’ can happen very fast.

After dropping down the lock, we turned left onto the River Nene

Now we’re on the river, all river equipment appears huge

Passing through our first Nene River bridge

Like most who sail through these parts, we stopped off to visit Morrisons for fresh fruit and veg.

Very near to the mooring above; we slipped into Northampton Marina to purchase a lock key (£10). While he was chatting to the friendly staff, John was offered several pieces of advice including leaving the lock gates open when exiting locks.

Northampton Lock, our first lock on the Nene. All was very quickly sussed on its use.  

Didn’t take John long to complain about the amount of ‘paddle winding’ he had to do 😉

The river opened up, and the weather even made up its mind what it wanted to do, and brightened up

Father ducks from what I’ve seen, don’t normally make good fathers, full credit this father duck.  

We finally moored by the entrance of ‘Western Barrage Flood Gate’, just before Western Favell Lock.

This is a fantastic spot, backing onto to a huge flood plain, which is carefully maintained. Rusty thinks he’s in heaven.

Tomorrow we plan to stay moored here, possibly moving up when the boat in front leaves in the morning, we’ll then put out our chairs and ‘chill out’! Weather willing of course.

Today we’ve travelled 3.5 miles, and through 4 locks.

All’s Well That Ends Well!

We pushed off from last night’s mooring around 10:30 this morning, and we were soon at Gayton Junction Services, doing the necessary!

Pleased to report our water gauge has ‘miraculously’ starting working again. It stopped working around October/November last year; and we missed it. There’s probably a loose connection somewhere, but while it’s working, think it’s best to leave well alone. After the water tank was brimmed, and sanny/rubbish duties carried out, we were on our way!

Our plan was to descend down the 13 Rothersthorpe locks, and 3 others, stopping overnight at Northampton Junction.

John was on a mission to do all the locking, despite my offer to go ‘halves’ with him.

The locks turned out to be great, they weren’t deep, and they were within easy walking distance. The only problem was the lack of water in the pounds.

John tried his new idea (pinched from lockies at a lock on the Thames) to use the boat hook to open and close the ‘off-side’ gate. It worked quite well, and saved him the journey of walking round the lock, and over the top gate to swing the bottom gate.  He couldn’t use his ‘new technique’ on all the gates, as we were lucky that four boats were climbing up the flight, and reciprocally we left gates open for each other.

John’s new technique for opening and closing the off-side bottom lock gate

 

More ‘babies’ except these have big hairy feet

It looks like there’s a ghostly figure sitting on the wooden seat on the left – it’s a figure of an old lady cleverly constructed with ‘twigs’

I imagine no driver on the M1 would spare a thought about the lock beneath them.

On our ‘cruise’ below the locks, it was a real treat to see how clear, and clean the water was. We could see the bottom of the canal, and we hardly saw any rubbish in the water.

At our last lock of the day, thank goodness we managed to divert a disaster.

Our last lock was  Hunsbury Lock no 16. While John was setting the lock, he noticed a log in the water by the lock’s top gate. As I was taking the boat in, and saw a log outside of the lock, by the gate, we thought that was the log he’d seen…. WRONG!

As John opened the paddles, letting the water drain out of the lock, the boat’s stern got stuck against the wall. My first thought that it was stuck on some sort of lip in the brickwork, and shouted to John to push us off the lip. The scary bit was that I didn’t notice how much of a dilema the boat was in (strangely), but John noticed the bow was alarmingly down, yet the stern was hung up.  He quickly closed both paddles that was letting out water, and ran to the top gate to let in some water to ‘re-float’ Cyan. It was there he noticed our prop was out of the water by about 2ft!

When John let water in, the bow came up in the water, but he soon saw the stern wasn’t moving, in fact the water was going above the strike band at the back, and was quickly rising to the level of the exhaust hole. John quickly closed that paddle pronto. Obviously the stern was stuck somehow. At first he thought there was something under the boat, until he looked, and realised there was a log jammed between the boat and the lock wall, causing us to be stuck. All this happened within seconds!

Eventually after banging away at the log with the pole, and with me trying to rock the boat, the log gave way. The lock was filled with water and I backed the boat out of the lock while John cleared the lock of any dross. We noticed there were several of these logs floating about. Just before the lock we spotted that a tree had been cut down and there were several large lumps of timber on the towpath, the probable source of the offending timbers!

They were too heavy for us to haul out of the water, and I’m afraid they are still there – so please be warned. (CRT will be notified).

This could happen to anyone, in any lock, anywhere! What shocked me the most was that I didn’t realise just how much the boat had tipped, it was rather disorienting, perhaps I didn’t have a ‘register’ to the boat’s position?

Don’t think any damage, apart from scratches, was done to the boat or to the lock.

Glad that peace has now reigned once again.

Today we’ve travelled 5.75 miles, and 16 locks

Down The Buckby Flight

We started today’s journey with the weather promising to be excellent, and it didn’t disappoint!

By the time we were ready to ‘roll’, two boats were spied exiting Buckby Top Lock. We quickly pushed Cyan off, and we were grateful to the two volunteer lockies who kept the gates open for us, and locked us down the lock.

This time going down the Buckby Locks we were on our own. Although we were lucky there were several boats coming up the locks, leaving a couple of locks ready for us. Yet there were a couple of locks that were empty, and had to be filled. In a couple of hours, Cyan was at the bottom of the 7 locks.

Leaving Buckby Bottom Lock

Sheep sheerers were very busy…… several bags full!

Come on then…. which one of you is called Shawn?

The bright sun shining on the canal’s water showed up a ‘film’ of pollen

A professional ‘fisher’! One of several we spotted today.

Mother duck shooing her little ones to the side for safety.

Daventry interlink rail and road is well under way

It’s not a very clear pic; one of the cygnets is feeling tired and is having ‘a ride’ on Mum. We actually saw the swan help the cygnet onto her/his back by using a wing.

Cygnet climbing on Mum’s back.

Lupins in a typical English garden in summer

We stopped for lunch at Weedon Bec, afterwhich we continued on until we moored just after Bridge 46. Last February when we came down this way, it took us 5 days! It was so cold; and each morning we were greeted with ‘cat ice’ on top of the water.

Tonight’s mooring is very quiet, and after taking Rusty for his last walk of the day, it looks to be highly populated by bats!

Tomorrow we’ll probably start the day with a cheese and spinach omelette; as we’ll be tackling the 13 Rothersthorpe locks. The flight will drop us down into Northampton, and onto the navigable River Nene.

Today we’ve cruised 11.25 miles, and 7 locks.

Continuing Our Journey To Cambridge

We’ve been hanging around Napton / Braunston for over a week; waiting for our Gold Licence to arrive. The Gold Licence is posted by ‘snail mail’, instead of receiving the licence via email, and leaving us to print the licence for mounting on a window both sides of Cyan. Looking at the Gold Licence I’m sure it could have been emailed to us.

We’ve not been lazy though! The whole of Cyan’s interior (baring the bathroom) has been painted and varnished, including having her ceiling painted off-white, covering the varnish.

Five sets of window curtains, and a blind has been washed, dried and re-hung.

Last Wednesday (27th May) we moored in Wigram Marina, while we hired a car to visit family, picking up the Gold Licence in the process.

Today, after a huge Tesco delivery, we moved out of Wigram, and are now moored for the night just before Braunston Junction. With water and diesel tanks topped up, we’re ready to start the next leg of our ‘continuous’ journey, destination Cambridge.

We now need some glorious sunny weather!