Friday 18 May 2018

Weston Favell

Today's Investigation - River Nene

We did not have to be away at our usual time today as we had an appointment with an electrician at 10 am, to look at why our fuel gauge has not been working for the past few weeks.

This gave Mike a chance to stroll down to the next lock and to take a look at two foot bridges. The one that we have previously mentioned as 'The New Foot Bridge' does have a formal title - Wathen Wigg Bridge,  named after a local clergyman who founded a rugby club to keep young lads out of trouble - and the club is still going strong today.

A second footbridge, a long winding structure that crosses just below the lock is complete but not yet opened, as a peek through the security doors at the end revealed. Apparently it is for use with the new university campus being built across the other side of the river and will be opened when that work is complete.

There was a knock on the cabin side at 9.30 - fortunately we were ready for him! Phil, our boat builder, recommended him. In fact, Clive has been working recently on Phil's latest boat which he is working 24/7 to get ready in time for Crick Boat Show at the end of the month!

Although Clive was not especially familiar with this particular gauge, he had talked with the manufacturer, based on the symptoms we had sent on. It turned out to be extremely simple - an external connector had worked loose and all that had to be done was to push it back into place and immediately the gauge gave a correct reading!

We were moored very close to Morrisons so we took the opportunity to stock up for the weekend. We should only need to look for essentials for several days.

After we returned to the boat we decided to take a more extensive look around the town centre - we did not stop here at all on our previous visit in 2010.

It is a slight uphill walk but not enough to yield any extensive views of the river or surroundings. As we reached the centre, the huge town hall faced us. This view stirred vague recollections for both of us of a very similar building we have seen a year or two ago. But neither of us can drag out of the dark recesses of our memories just where that was.

After wandering around various shops with not a lot of cash leaving our wallets, we came to the huge All Saints church in the town centre. Although there has been a church on this site since Norman times, the present building dates from the 17C. A great fire destroyed a lot of the town centre including the previous church. \as the town had had strong Parliamentarian leanings in the Civil War, Charles II was keen to curry favour with the town's people (despite having earlier razed its castle to the ground) and he contributed extensively to the construction. As a result, even to this day, there are strong reminders of that period including the annual oak apple day (similar to that in St Neot in Cornwall)

The church today is very much of the catholic tradition with the internal decoration to match. At the same time, it also acts as the civic focus as the panels on the front of the church indicate. The architect for the new church was a fan of Wren and closely imitated his style.

Eventually we walked back down to the river and the boat - it was now well past a respectable time for lunch! It was nearly 2 o'clock as we untied. The overnight moorings had been very acceptable and actually very quiet despite the proximity of housing and student accommodation.

Just after passing under the new foot bridge we turned down the short river section to the entrance to Northampton Marina where the water, elsan and rubbish facilities have now been located. We were also able to pick up a second Abloy Key for the Environment Agency locks and facilities. Although we had one from our previous visit, a second one is good insurance in case the only key becomes lost!

Eventually we were ready once again and returned to the main channel to descend the first of many locks on the Nene. The first three which we navigated today are all pointed at both ends and have conventional paddles at both top and bottom ends. The only difference from operating canal locks is that it is normal to leave gates (known here as doors) open after exiting the lock. The second and third locks were a timely reminder of another difference - the highly geared mechanisms required around 80 turns to lift or lower each paddle!

At one time there was another railway station for the town called St Johns, underneath what is now new student accommodation. The only sign of this branch is the remains of a bridge abutment where it crossed over the river just above the lock. It ran from Bedford, through Olney but closed in 1939 as a cost cutting measure with trains diverted to the station that now serves the town.

Just after the first lock we passed under yet another new bridge for the town - University Bridge it proudly tells everyone!

We are unlikely to break any speed limit today!

These locks are very much designed with flood control in mind and this one has a lock chamber that stands substantially above the normal river level with a boat drop of perhaps only 600 mm.

As we came down the wider expanse of the Washlands we debated where to stop and although we had not come very far we opted for the certainty of the summer-time pontoon just above Weston Favell lock - a mooring that was our first on this river in 2010.

2.8 Miles - 3 Locks

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