Tuesday 29 May 2018


Today's Navigations - River Nene, Kings Dyke (Middle Level)

It was now time to leave Peterborough after our short stay here. Well, we say 'short' as it was just a few days but perhaps we could have said 'long' as, in the past, we have rarely stayed in one place as long as this. However, now that we have navigated most of the system and perhaps have a little more time, we are finding occasionally that we can take time out to explore places we pass through.

We booked yesterday to pass through Stanground Lock, the entrance to the Middle Level Navigations, at 2 o'clock. This was timed to allow Mike to drive the car to Bill Fen Marina and to return by a bus that sets off from Ramsay just after 11. The drive over took just about half and hour and, after making contact with Lyn, who manages the moorings in the marina, he set to walk into Ramsay - expecting to take around 30 minutes. However, after about a third of the way, a car leaving the marina stopped to ask if he would like a lift. Of course! Having dripped Mike by the bus stop, the driver suddenly stopped again to ask where Mike was going next - he was actually driving into Peterborough Station so would he like a lift to Asda? Of course. It proved to be not only a very helpful lift but also an interesting conversation - he edits a quarterly magazine about the Steiner philosophy.

This meant that Mike was back at the boat, after a short diversion into Asda for a paper milk, bread and salad leaves, much earlier than expected. Even so he had missed the excitement on the Embankment. Christine, along with the other boaters moored there, suddenly discovered that the boat was a quite an angle. On looking outside she realised that the river level had risen 200 - 300 mm, lapping over the bottom step of the mooring. Quickly she slackened off the mooring ropes. By the time Mike returned it had dropped back at least half of the rise.

We had noticed last night that a red Strong Stream Warning had been displayed at the service point. General consensus seems to be that this is the result of the very heavy rain in the Birmingham area is resulting in added flows in the river.

Mike called the lock keeper at Stanground to ask whether it would be safe to cross over to the lock (the route leaves the river about 400m from where we were moored) and yes, we could go but were asked to be there an hour earlier than we had booked, just in case the water level rose again.

But first we need to fill up with water and to empty the elsan. Moving the boat the short distance quickly showed that the river is pulling much stronger so as well to be careful. By thew time we were ready to leave, the level was back down to where it had been first thing this morning and for most of our stay here.

Immediately we passed under the Frank Perkins Bridge which carries the dual carriageway bypass over the river and which we had used several times during our stay. Born to an agricultural engineer, Frank Perkins had an inauspicious start in life. He had poor health as a child and only managed the Third Class engineering degree at Cambridge. After various jobs he teamed up with Charles Chapman with the vision of making diesel engines small enough for cars and vans - at the time, 1932, they too large although had become very popular for powering agricultural machinery.

The early years of the business that they founded were quite rocky but wartime saw them blossom as the demand for their engines vastly increased. Chapman left in 1942, leaving Frank Perkins to run the company which, to this day, makes Perkins synonymous with quality diesel engines. In 1959, aged 70, he sold the business to Massey-Ferguson who were at the time his largest customer. Now a global corporation, Perkins still has its headquarters in Peterborough where it began.

Shortly after passing under the bridge we turned to pass under a railway bridge and left the River Nene behind us. As the photos show, today was very grey and often quite chilly, a distinct change from the recent weather.

We looked back and had a good view, in the distance, of Peterborough Cathedral - rather more of it than when close up.

As we arrived at Stanground Lock the relief lock keeper signalled us to tie up on the lock landing where he came and took our details before giving us a useful briefing on navigating the Middle Level. He then let us into and through the lock which takes us down to the Middle Level. Manned lo ks on different navigations each have their own distinct way of expecting boats to pass thriough. In this case, no ropes required, no engine to be switched off, but we were recommended to keep the boat in the centre of the lock as its depth varies form the side to the middle.

If course the land here is now very level and we can see places long before we reach them. Just outside Whittlesey is a large McCain chip factory, one of four in the UK. On this site they have three large wind turbines and an anaerobic lagoon which together generate a large part of their electricity needs. The lagoon converts the starchy waste Fromm the potatoes into energy!

A little further and we could also see the towers of the two churches in Whittlesey that we visited by car. At just one point, they could be seen apparently close together through a gap in the hedges and trees.

Just a few days after we first recorded seeing yellow flag irises, they are now really well developed.

Once into Whittlesey the channel becomes very narrow and steep sided - these bright red Valerian decorate the sides.

At the end of the channel is Briggate where there is a well-known very tight bend. We took it very slowly and managed to get around in one move without damaging either the boat or the bridge!

As we came around the next bend, just before Ashline Lock, we kept lour fingers very firmly crossed that there would be space on the short mooring. After this there is no official mooring place until March, some distance ahead. Sighs of relief - completely empty. Whilst it was nit yet three o'clock, we were more than happy to moor up, bot only because there was room but also because we were increasingly feeling the sharp chill in the air.

5.7 Miles - 1 Lock

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