Sunday 20 May 2018


Today's Navigation - River Nene

We were able to have a leisurely start to the day as we planned to go up the hill to Great Doddington parish church for the 11:15 service. We debated about whether to follow the road or the River Nene footpath. However, we discovered that the road was not only rather busy but also that there was no footway so we risked taking the route across the fields instead.

As we discovered last night, the first part of the footpath is rather overgrown but we found a track to the nearby sewage plant which looked as if it joined up with the footpath at the end of the first field. Well - it did, almost but with about two metres difference! Mike managed to get over a barbed fence but Christine clambered over the field gate instead. Then we were on track! It turned out to be, from then on, a very pleasant walk with a great view looking back down to where we started.

Our progress had been so good - and our time allowance so generous, that it was still only 10:40 when we arrived at the church, just as the bell ringers were assembling.

We wandered around the churchyard, still in use by local villagers for burials to seek any interesting stories that could be gleaned from the headstones. Particularly poignant was a small collection of children's graves, aged between one and three days old. No idea why they were together as they came from different families. Alongside another headstone went from one end of life expectancy to the other - Edith Candlish who died aged 101.

Still some time so we sat on the only bench not favoured by the birds - and were greeted very warmly be people as they arrived. When we went inside, others also enquired where we were from and took a keen interest in how we had arrived there this morning. Whilst there were perhaps 22 in the congregation, almost all of them spoke to us at some stage, making this one of the most welcoming of churches we have visited for some time.

Afterwards we were able to look around the church as well as have further chat over coffee. In the sanctuary there is a chained bible and in the chancel a couple of misericord like seats. As we were about to leave one of the congregation kindly offered us a lift back down to the river!

After a quick change out of what passes as Sunday Best on the boat we had lunch and then cast off. By now the moorings were deserted apart from ourselves.

Upper Wellingborough Lock proved to be a popular afternoon gathering spot for both youngsters and families. They were clearly enjoying either using or watching others use the lock as a diving pool - fortunately it had been left full. We did not have the heart to point out to them the numerous signs that say No Swimming. Instead we recruited several of them to help operate the lock.

Our key target this afternoon was Wellingborough Embankment as it has one of the rare water and elsan stations along the river. Fortunately they were where we remembered them - the park was in full swing especially the children's play equipment area. On a hot day the water fountains were much enjoyed. Whilst Mike carried out the servicing Christine popped to the nearby Tesco for some milk and olive oil.

Continuing, at Lower Wellingborough Lock there is, unusually for this river, a clear view of the weir right beside the lock. As can be seen the change in height is not great.

Along the next stretch we could see the large Chester House which stands on a prominent spot just looking over the river. Extensive work is going on at the moment, both restoration and extensions.

A long viaduct carries the remaining railway line across the river - it too is undergoing extensive refurbishment. It looks as if it is two parallel viaducts and certainly trains were crossing on the one not shrouded in polythene sheets.

There are numerous lakes in former gravel pits all along either side of the river - some are used as nature parks but this one was for various powered water sports. As we were travelling and they were speeding - at some distance from the river it was not easy to catch them in a photo so this jet skier is the best!

Ditchford Lock is also unusual as it has a so-called radial lower gate. Whilst it works on much the same principle as the straight guillotine gate it rotates in an arc in order to open up.

We did not know it at the time - hence did not take photos specifically to show this - but at the Irthlingborough moorings information board it says, "Local people used to come here to swim and fish, and the area was known as Ditchford-on-sea. It had its own station on the Northampton to Peterborough railway line, and ice cream and refreshments were sole from the railway crossing keeper's  cottage". The small area below the lock has a number of caravans as well as permanent boat moorings - which also looked as if they were mainly used as hideaways. But, more interestingly, a small shop still sells ice creams and refreshments on what looks as if it was where the station once stood!

Several swans were nesting and unusually there were two working on this one - perhaps their nest building is a bit later than the others.

As we approached Irthlingborough we passed under a former railway bridge - now converted to a popular country walk and cycle way.

Two road bridges - the first looks like a typical 1930's concrete structure no doubt much admired at the time but looks rather ugly to 21C eyes.

Not a patch on the style of the old road bridge!

Finally we arrived at the long moorings beside the Rushden and Diamonds football ground. Nearby are several factories making Dr Marten's Boots. Sadly their profits only extend to supporting the football and not boating. Until about 9 years ago, a full set of facilities was provided here but as the notice say, they have been temporarily withdrawn. Still temporary!

Just before we moored we had a fleeting glimpse of the distinctive church tower but from here it is very distant - so a sketch from the information board will have to help.

8.1 Miles - 5 Locks

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