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.

WiFi Doing The OkieKokie – In-Out-In-Out RaRaRa!

We didn’t move again yesterday owing to high cold winds, and of course John wanted to watch ‘Le Mans 24’.

Sadly the Internet and TV reception at our Fotheringhay mooring was very poor resulting in John missing most of ‘Le Mans 24’, and Sunday’s World Cup games. I am sure he will catch up at the first opportunity! But it was frustrating and disappointing when our Internet connection kept failing.  Still, I did manage to find enough bandwidth to catch up with our blog diary.

When we left our mooring this morning, at about 11:00 am., we still had strong winds, except today the wind was much warmer, and we were soon stripped to t-shirts once again.

We didn’t bother filling our water tank from the waterpoint nearby to where we were moored in Fotheringhay, as it looked like the tap hadn’t been used for a while, though it probably wouldn’t be a problem if we let the tap run for a time. I’m a martyr (or John is) to my foibles….  We did manage to fill the water tank at the EA water point at Yarwell Lock landing. The water flow from the tap was very strong, therefore we were soon topped up. The flower pots also got a good watering, something we’d not be able to do easily at the side of the river bank. Cyan also got a quick splash from the powerful jet to rinse off dust.

Within yards of where we were moored, are the ruins of Fotheringhay Castle; we snapped them as we cruised past.

The last bit of Fotheringhay Castle standing!

It’s believed the castle stood on top of the mound, with a moat surrounding it.

Posh houses with private moorings, ‘Dallas on the Nene’

Wansford Lock being prepared

Leaving Wansford Lock

‘Wansford In England’ a very pretty village!

There’s a local tale (from the time of Charles I) about a certain person called ‘Warnabee’ who arrived in the parish fleeing from the plague. He was so scared of catching the plague that he refused to sleep in local Inns, he preferred to sleep on top of a haystack in a meadow by the river. During the night while he was asleep the river rose sharply due to a storm upstream, and the haystack floated away down the Nene. However it was stopped when it became wedged in the buttresses of the old bridge. The next morning, when he woke he asked where he was. On being told he was in Wansford, and being confused on how far he’d travelled, he replied, “What Wansford in England?” Since then it appears the name has stuck.

The local people obviously have a great sense of humour as their 13th century inn, ‘The Swan’ was renamed ‘The Haycock’ to commemorate Barnabee’s voyage.

Wansford Arch Bridge and our tub in bloom.

Dated 1796

Low electric cables across the Nene

John got really excited when he spied the WiFi mast. It’s quite near to where we’re hoping to moor. If there’s no TV signal, then TV can be picked up via the Internet. Anyone would think there’s a big footie match on tonight!

John preparing for the England vs Tunisia football match. ” Cry God for Harry and St George…Come on England”

Hope the ‘locals’ are friendly. they also came to watch the game!

We made a slight mistake with our proposed mooring. Our guidebook mentioned there were moorings before the bridge. We couldn’t find the mooring, but we did manage to moor alongside the Nene Pathway before the bridge. If only we’d had faith, and gone through the bridge, we would have come to the moorings by ‘Nene Valley Railway’ station. Not to worry, we’ll stay here tonight, and move first thing in the morning to take a look around the station.

Today we’ve travelled just over 9 miles, and through 4 locks.

A Day For Moving On And On…

The River Nene is absolutely beautiful, it’s clean, and full of all forms of life. After being ‘part’ of the ‘beauty’ we were a bit disappointed when we arrived yesterday at the Marina. Our mooring was on the left side of the jetty next to the blue boat on the right. It felt like we were in a boatyard.

The jetty was damaged, and it had bits of rope attached to it where we were to tie mooring ropes. When we booked the mooring a few days ago, we were under the impression we’d be hooked up to electrics. After mentioning this, we were told the boat on the left of us would soon to be leaving, we could moor up there, and they’d supply us with an electric lead from the office. The boat didn’t move. After staying the night, we’d made up our mind to leave.

This morning, as soon as the office was open, John asked what they would be charging us. The cost for the night was £10. John paid the money, and let them know we wouldn’t be staying. He complained the £10 was very poor value as there were no lights, no safe mooring points, no water and no electric hookup.  After a little more discussion on how/why we were disappointed, John had our £10 returned. We left them in no doubt, never to return.

We’d planned to drop down 2 locks, and moor between the A427 and the A605 bridges.

Waitrose wasn’t far from where we moored, and I was soon on my way to replenish Cyan’s galley with fresh fruit, veg and salad bits. On the way to Waitrose, through the footpath, I saw a notice for boaters, saying that moorings had to be vacated by 8:00 a.m. When I got back to the boat there was a card pinned to the ground by Cyan, with a big no. 6 written on it. It looked like we were moored on a fisherman’s competition peg. We decided to move.

Just as we were getting ready to go, there was a rap on the side of Cyan. A red faced ‘official’ was standing on the bank, but before he could say anything, I said we’re just about to move. All the ‘wind was taken out of his sail’! Think he was geared up for a bit of a confrontation. apparently we had moored at the point were the Annual Local Fishing Contest was to be held in the morning!

After dropping down a further two locks, we finally moored in a lovely spot at Fotheringhay. When you consider it’s just £5 per night to moor here, as opposed to £10 a night in the Marina, there’s just no comparison.

The scaffolding is in the process of being dismantled.  Looking forward to seeing the church in all it’s glory when we return this way.

Fotheringhay Church just had over a £1 million face lift! The weather cock, or weather falcon, was bright and shiny. The local ‘old’ Inn is called ‘The Falcon’. The falcon is the badge of the House of York, which has been connected with Fotheringhay since 1377, when Edmund de Langley, the First Duke of York, and 5th son of Edward 1, built the 2nd Castle.

The first castle was built around 1100 by Simon de St Lys, who was the husband of Maud, the great niece of William the Conqueror. For a time after, the castle was under the control of Scottish Princes.

There’s only an earth mound left now where the castle used to be, and evidence of its moat.

Fotheringhay Castle is best known for the place where Mary Queen of Scots was incarcerated and later beheaded. The castle was also the birthplace of Richard III.

It’s a beautiful spot to moor. Alongside the bank there’s a deep strip of ground, after which the field is fenced off as a pen for a flock of sheep. Unfortunately to get onto the road from this strip of ground, to access the village, there’s a style to climb over. Rusty doesn’t do styles, and he’s far to heavy to lift him over, so we’ve been a bit stuck (no gate). Still he’s had several good games with his ‘ball on a rope’ which is good exercise for him.

We’re only a few yards from a waterpoint. On Monday morning we’ll be pulling Cyan towards the waterpoint, at least as far as the hosepipe will reach, topping up the water tank before we leave.

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

After Storm Hector

We had another day off from travelling yesterday! We caught the backlash from Storm Hector, not much rain, but hours of strong winds. Anyone out on the water would be mad to travel when the wind’s as strong as it was. Though by mid afternoon the storm had blown itself out, and we were left with quite a pleasant evening.

As we wanted to get settled in at Oundle Marina for John to watch the build up to La Mans 24 hour race, and to watch all 24 hours of the race, we thought we’d rise early to make up time. I think we were on our way again at around 8:00 am., after having a cooked breakfast and walking Rusty too.

One of the arches on Thrapston’s 9 arch medieval bridge.

We passed through the beautiful village of Thrapston, and made a note as we passed the ‘Friends of the River Nene’ mooring to stop here on our way back.

Thrapston Church (St James’ Church) in the distance. Sometimes it was on our right, and then on our left, such is the winding River Nene.

On the west wall of the 13th century St James’ Church is a tablet, depicting the ‘stars and stripes’, the crest of Sir John Washington, a former lord of the manor of Thrapston. This Washington died in 1668 but was the ancestor of the more famous Washington – George. The family crest formed the basis of the flag of the United States of America, a century later. (The River Nene – Iain Smith)

Spring babies are now getting bigger!

Barnwell Manor, used as a field hospital for US Forces during WW2. Now back in private ownership and is being restored. It looks very spooky to me.

 

 

This beautiful old Barnwell Mill sits next to Upper Barnwell Lock. We were being rather nosy at this lock, there was a police minibus with ‘Tactical Support Unit’ on the side. It looked like they were investigating a water well in the garden of the mill, as some of them had their diving gear on. John thought maybe they were on a training exercise in the nearby lake.

Barnwell Mill is a building that goes back a long way. It’s believed the mill is probably the oldest on the river. Although the present building is around 300 years old, there’s been a mill on this site since at least AD875, as it was referred to in an Anglo Saxon Chronicle.

Cyan had to do a bit of limbo dancing to get under Barnwell Mill Bridge – I expect we could get stuck on either side if the river ever got in flood.

After the bridge we were at our destination, Oundle Maria.

Today we’ve travelled 12.5 miles, and through 7 locks.

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.