Tuesday 31 July 2018

Gayton Marina

Today's Navigations - River Nene, Northampton Arm

Last night we agreed to meet with our electrician this morning so that he could fix a data logger to record the voltages changes in our batteries over a period of time. The details of the meet were to be arranged today and by just before ten we fixed on just below Lock 15.

The weather today was ideal boating weather - sunny spells, warm air and a gentle breeze. It felt really about the best day so far this season. It had rained heavily overnight so some of the vegetation has already taken on a more distinct green hue in just the few days with some rain.

We set off and it was only a few minutes before we arrived at the Carlsberg factory that marks the junction with the Northampton Arm and a return to CaRT waters.

We were now very definitely back into narrow canal territory and very different ways of working the boat through the locks.

This fairly short branch is notorious for being rather weedy and slow as well as often having some of the short pounds run almost empty. At this stage we certainly encountered the first two of these characteristics - the other came later.

We met with Graham as agreed and proceeded into Lock 15 so that he could work down in the engine bay - it only took a very shirt time but chatting meant that we were there some while. Fortunately no other boat came along to use the lock. Mike was also concerned about the prop and indeed he soon found a length of rope wrapped around the drive shaft. Luckily it came away comparatively easily.

The rest of the flight beckoned and we continued, now with only short pounds between the locks.

Underneath the motorway is now this splendid brightly coloured mural showing a history timeline of Northampton. It was created by Delapre Primary school in conjunction with the local IWA. It definitely brightens up the otherwise rather dull space.

We s\w rather more boats today than for some time - this photo shows two down and one up in a very short distance -doesn't it look busy! At least most were coming the other way from ourselves so most of the locks were set for us.

There are several lift bridges along the flight but they are all left open these days.

By the time we came out of Lock 8, several of the pounds were rather low - this scuppered any hopes of stopping briefly for a quick lunch.

When we arrived at Lock 4, there was extra water coming down the bywash.

Yet, by the time we had filled the lock and closed it up again, the level above was well down. This how that, even without leakage, short pounds do have issues with water levels, They were not designed for stopping in, anyway, but perhaps today they are less deep with infrequent dredging.

After completing the flight we were keen to find a place to moor up temporarily but this was less than easy as the first part offers no chances - with deep weed banks - and then the armco stretch began with insufficient depth to come alongside. We did find somewhere just at the start of the marina but with work on blacking boats taking place on the opposite bank it was not an ideal spot.

Hence, as soon as he could be persuaded, Mike was 'forced' to take us on up to the junction where we could make use of the services. On the way back we had a brief discussion and agreed that Christine would check with the office and if it was not exceptionally expensive and was available we would move straight into the marina, avoiding having to do that tomorrow and so that Christine can have facilities available for cleaning the boat whilst Mike treks over to Buckden to collect the car.

We will stay on battery power for tonight so that the data logger has something useful to record but it will need to go onto shore power tomorrow for the washing machine. Hence, tonight we are in Gayton Marina and not moored to a nearby towpath

5.3 Miles - 17 Locks

Monday 30 July 2018


Today's Navigation - River Nene

It was much less windy as we awoke this morning but still quite overcast. t\his set the pattern for the day which also stayed  comfortably warm. On a few occasions the sun attempted a breakthrough but it never lasted long enough to raise the temperatures to the levels of last week.

We did not attempt a really start but we were away just after nine as we wanted to meet up with an electrician that we have contacted regarding the possible installation of solar panels. He was recommended tro us by another boater who was very satisfied with the work that he had done for them.

As we cruised towards our first lock today we could see a number of people working in a nearby field, underneath a row of pylons. At first we wondered if they were a harvesting contractor but that did not seem right, especially as they were in the middle of a field of a ripening cereal crop.

We then noticed that one of the lines of cables above was slung on special supports rather than the standard insulators. We then also noticed that cables were linked from one of the pylons to the group in the field so we came to the conclusion that the team were replacing one set of three cables. From the photo we can also see that this line only currently has a single cable whilst the others have two,

One of our options last night was to moor bankside at White Mills marina - where we stopped in May for a lunch break. We also included a picture of the sign stating that overnight moorings were allowed. In the end, last night it was just a little too far which why we stopped above Great Doddington. Now we found that new signs have been added which indicate that a £4 a night charge is made for such overnight stays!

From just above Whiston Lock we had a good long view of the church which appears to be sited close to a large house. However, we did not have a closer view as later on it is shrouded in trees.

Cogenhoe Church, also a little away from the river, in amongst trees so that we could only see the tower. It looked unusually slender but a fuller photo on the internet shows that it has a more substantial lower section. We have not found any explanation as yet but pictures of the 2006 re-ordering of the inside looks very effective - perhaps lone day we will have time  to take a look, perhaps even on a Sunday.

Alongside the lock at Cogenhoe is an extensive mobile home park. Christine took a quick, look at a new one that was for sale - just over £49,000.

Billing Aquadrome (who also own the site at Cogenhoe) looks very popular for all sorts of accommodation - touring and static caravans, lodges and tents of all shapes and sizes. There is plenty of room to spread out. They also have boat moorings but as far as we can see the entrance is rather obscure, just above the ancient road bridge, just to the left of this photo. However, there is no sign to indicate.

After leaving the main river above the Weston Flavell washlands, a short bypass has two locks - Abington and Rush Mills. Although neither of them has much of a rise they have different paddle mechanisms each requiring around 70 rather hard turns to raise or lower. Unlike most of the locks there is no guillotine but pointed doors top and bottom. At least we did not have to empty the lock after leaving it.

We then rejoined the main river for a much wider section,passing under the main dual carriageway bypass before coming up towards the new University of Northampton campus.

At Midsummer Meadow we noticed The Ark, sitting in a short backwater which we did not spot on the way down. According to its website it was completed in 2014 by Jack Patel and his newly-graduated daughter as Northampton's only floating bar and restaurant.

The new footbridge linking to the university Waterside campus is nearer completion than when we saw it in May - work was underway to remove the barriers around its access point. The campus is due to open in September.

We were able to find plenty of room to moor at the waterfront in the centre of the town - we passed on the information to our expected electrician who said that he would be with us around 6:45.

This gave us time to pop up to the supermarket for a few items including a paper (although Christine had to go to the petrol station for this as the main shop had sold out)

On schedule, our electrician arrived and we had a long discussion about options for solar as well; as the possibility of investigating the still on-going concerns about the batteries.

9.0 Miles - 10 Locks

Sunday 29 July 2018

Great Doddington

Today's Navigation - River Nene

The weather had this morning very definitely changed -overcast, occasional light drizzle and many degrees cooler.In addition, 50 mph winds were forecast for the afternoon - fortunately they never materialised but it was still rather blustery all day.

Having failed with our plan to visit Little Addlington church this morning, we opted instead for another in the same group at Irthlingborough. To do this meant that, after leaving the Stanbwick Lakes FOTRN Mooring,  we had about an hour's cruising to the long EA mooring close to the former Rushden and Diamonds football stadium, including one lock.

As we changed our clothes it was dry but threaten to be wet so we packed our waterproofs into the new rucksack. By the time we had closed up the boat it was actually wet so the rucksack was raided before we had even left the mooring!

It was around 18 minutes walk to the church, fairly easy but partly uphill - only a slight slope! We saw this old style traffic sign and wondered how it had been forgotten and not replaced with a standard current design.

We did not managed a particularly good photo of the church outside as we did not want to hand about in the rain and also the immediate area is a large building site. However the history is interesting. The town has ancient origins and the church dates back to around the end of the 14C - different web sites give slightly different dates but that is perhaps because the founder, a local businessman made good and who could afford later to become Lord Mayor of London, wanted to found a collegiate church. It was incomplete at the time of his death but his widow carried on the work.

The parish website says, "Unusually amongst Northamptonshire churches Irthlingborough church has a lantern tower (a feature normally associated with churches on the Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire fens). This dates back to the days before the Nene valley was bridged or drained, in those days there was a river ford between Higham Ferrers and Irthlingborough, but due to the boggy nature of the undrained valley, fogs were frequent and much worse than today. To guide travelers across the Nene and marsh's monks built two Lantern Towers at Higham and Irtlhlingbrough and would light fires in the lantern's."

The service was led by the assistant priest supported by one of the Readers. With a small choir, we numbered about 35. The sermon was preached by the Reader - overall there was noting special to report, but only one person spoke to us but we did have to leave without joining in coffee as we wanted to make some reasonable progress today and were still unsure about how the wind would develop.

Back at the boat we changed quickly and set off once more. We could see that the site of the stadium that was here in 2010 when we came here before was now a bare building site - well, a site waiting for a building. We discovered via the internet that the Rushden and Diamonds club grew rapidly in the 1990's and eventually was promoted to the Football League. However, this success quickly faded, the original owner seem,s to have lost interest and new owners could not turn around the loss making concern quickly enough for the club to avoid losing its minor league place. It eventually close in 2011.

Max Griggs, who founded the football team, came from a family that was long associated with the town and manufacturing footwear. Their real success came in 1960 when they bought the patent rights to a German style that became the iconic Doc Martens. Sadly, some of the later financial success for the owners came at the expense of closing most UK manufacture and transferring it to the Far East.

But enough of that local history as we leave the mooring behind us - oh, but once more matter. Important boater facilities were once provided from one of the industrial buildings alongside the mooring but these have long closed. No-one seems interested in re-establishing them which is a pity as there are far too few such facilities along the river.

Shortly afterwards we reached the old bridge which has one navigable arch which is on a sharp bend downstream (ie as we approached it). It seemed as if the overnight rain had already increased the river flow and, with the strong cross wind, it was an 'interesting; couple of minutes as we narrowly avoided crashing into the pillars.

Last night we had remarked how surprised we were that there was little surface weed on the river - our recollection of 2010 was that there was quite a bit on the upper reaches. So were were very surprised at the next lock to find a large mass of weed collected above the gates and the next half mile was almost completely covered bank-to-bank.

Some sort of explanation came when we arrived at a culvert draining water from a nearby old quarry, bringing with it large quantities of the weed, After passing the culvert we immediately went back to clear water with only a little collecting in the margins and bywaters.

We mentioned Chester Farm when we came down the river but since then we have found their website that explains the wide range of projects on the go at this complex.

We stopped at the service block in Wellingborough - the moorings at this point were almost completely empty.

We came up through Great Doddington lock - we stayed overnight on the FOTRN mooring bleow the lock on our way through in May, but we also recalled a very open mooring just above and as this meant that we would have one less lock to do tomorrow to reach Northampton, we thought we would give it a go. As with several of the FOTRN mooring sites, the edge was very uneven and, with the wind, it proved some task to moor and we ended up using the gangplank. Mike managed to leap ashore when the boat was angled stem into the bank but once we had aligned it parallel to the river there was no other way back! Having come back onto the boat, neither of us wanted to explore so no photos until tomorrow. There is another boat tied up here towards the other end of the site but it does not look much better placed than we are.

9.5 Miles - 7 Locks

Saturday 28 July 2018

Stanwick Lakes Mooring

Today's Navigation - River Nene

We were promised by the forecasters that the weather today would be different - it was! It was much less hot but that was largely down to a strong wind that made steering much more complicated for everyone. On the few occasions we were out of the wind and the sun was uninterrupted by fleeting clouds, the heat could still be felt but that was very much the exception today.

We set off early again, partly on the experience of the past couple of days avoiding the strongest hours of heat, but also because we wanted to make good progress today. The overnight mooring, all to ourselves, was a really great place to stop.

When the sky was blue it was very blue but for most of the morning, fluffy clouds passed overhead at high speed.

Water was coming from somewhere as we entered Lower Barnwell Lock, the first of today. We took care to keep well away!

We called in at Oundle Marina - we had been in two minds whether to bother with filling the fuel tank at this stage (it was just under half) or leave it until the end of this trip when we end up in a marina. However, we were very pleased that we did as the service was 'five star' - very pleasant and helpful, they even suggested that will fill with water and disposed of rubbish, they also had a free elsan point as well. Their chandlery was reasonably well stocked and Christine was able to replace the windlass that we lost yesterday in one of the locks. (The lightweight ones that we prefer to use do have the disadvantage that they are not magnetic and so once in the water, that is usually the end of windlass)

Another fine mill building stands alongside Upper Barnwell Lock. We realised that we had picked up something on the pop as we came out of the marina so whilst in the lock we visited the weed hatch. Except that on this occasion it was a piece of ladies clothing which was firmly wrapped around. Eventually we managed to clear it away in several pieces.

We saw rather a lot of different river users today - at least this group of river swimmers were well marked with the proper swimming buoys.

After passing a rowing club we met this coxed eight as well as a coxless four.

Since we came down the river back in May we have heard a suggestion that this installation to generate power for the river flow has hit problems - certainly there is a substantial, now marked, sandbank below it which does not seem as if it would be there normally. In addition there is a lot of bank erosion at the lower level. It was not working today or when we passed through before.

Some of the FOTRN (Friends of the River Nene) moorings look idyllic places to stop - this one at Pear Tree Farm is on the junction where a brook enters and has a good bank and plenty of room for BBQs.

At Thrapston, we stopped very briefly at the small EA mooring tucked behind the old bridge. We might have stopped at the FOTRN mooring just below the bridge but we could see no way to walk round to the bridge and the shops in town. We only stayed here for around ten minutes whilst Mike walked to a nearby shop for today's newspaper. Most of the space was taken up by a full length narrow boat.

There are just so many churches in each of the tiny villages that are close to the river. This one is at Denford but at times half a dozen can been not far distant from each other. Not many are easily accessible by boat as there is a general lack of nearby moorings.

Just below Woodford Church we could see final preparations for an evening event - it seemed to be in the church grounds - after weeks of unremitting sunshine, the organisers will no doubt be a bit miffed that the sky by now had turned rather dark and rain was clearly threatening to arrive any moment.

We saw quite a few kites soaring around, hunting for food - or perhaps it was just the one that followed us for several hours? Not impossible as the river meanders around and quite often we found ourselves not far  from a place we were next to some time back! They are not easy to photo when steering the boat - at least this one made it into the frame.

We had picked out Little Addington for its morning service tomorrow, not too far from the river to walk and conveniently listed as 9.15. So, when we reached the Little Addington FOTRN mooring we attempted to come alongside. As the photo shows, it really is still 'work in progress' - although Christine did just manage to leap onto the bank it was impossible to get both ends near enough and still be able to use the gangplank to get to and fro. After about ten minutes we had to give up thew attempt and move on. At least there was another mooring a short distance ahead at Stanwick Lakes which might just be closer to the church.

At first it seemed as if it was little better but we quickly established that we could moor close enough for what we needed. Furthermore, the storm clouds were beginning to gather more urgently. We had just a few drops of rain earlier in the day but not long after we had moored there was a real downpour - repeated again a little later.

At this stage it was with a mixture of disappointment and frustration that we found, tucked away on an unlikely part of the parish website, a notice that there will not be a service at Little Addlington tomorrow. Why is it that so many churches think that doing something different of the nth Sunday in the Month is a good idea - no-one else even knows which Sunday it is in the month - let alone a fifth Sunday . . .  May be we will have to come with Plan B. Come back for tomorrow's blog to see if we found one.

17.3 Miles - 10 Locks

Friday 27 July 2018

Ashton Carr Moorings

Today's Navigation - River Nene

We opted for another early stat as the forecast for the temperatures in the middle of the day were well into the 30's. We left as quietly as we could but our pontoon sharers were already well awake.

Just under the railway bridge and we had a good view of a traditional signal box, a reminder of the age of steam railways.

As we passed Stibbington Hall we again noticed the obelisk close to the river bank. We have not yet found out anything about this memorial except that Pevsner makes positive  comments about Stibbington Hall an also that funerary monuments were quite a fashion with houses of its period. If anyone knows more, please add a comment.

A short  distance further and we passed the large water intake works followed by the wire crossing. Not only have we not discovered its purpose but we also noticed another puzzle.There are two of these features either side of the wire crossing with no immediately obvious use. Comments?

Just after Yarwell Lock we were not far from Sibson Aerodrome and spotted four parachutists making a descent.

We had not heard or seen the plane that took them aloft but a little later did see this one taking off.

At Elton Lock this former mill building  stands unloved and largely derelict. Most of the other similar buildings - quite a few of the locks on this part of the river were built alongside similar early mills - but we wondered why this one has not yet found a new life.

Three of the locks today - there are six altogether - have still not been mechanised and operating this large wheel in this heat tales a degree of commitment!

We had a good view of Fotheringhay Church from this direction - coming downstream it appears only just before the bridge.

Below Ashton Lock a new-ish weir and sluice has been built - it was not on our rather ancient Imray River Nene guide.

Although it was still only just after three o'clock, we were successfully tempted by the new and extensive FOTRN mooring just above Ashton Lock. It was by now very hot, the lock was manual wheel operated and we felt in need of a rest! We were most surprised not only to find the mooring entirely empty but also that no-one joined us later on.

This was where our existing schedule indicated that we would be by this evening. However, earlier in the afternoon we had decided to change our mooring destination for the end of this trip. We would like to investigate the option of solar panels and Northamption Maria is not suitable for that. The person we have been recommended is near Gayton Junction so we have now booked a slot at the ABC marina near to the junction. This will, however, mean booking a taxi for the start of the car shuffle. It also means that we have an extra half day of cruising to as enc the  Rothersthorpe flight of locks - the marina is near the top lock.

A thunderstorm was forecast for three but it was nearer four by the time it arrived along with a shirt heavy rain storm. More rain came later in the afternoon, early evening - look RAIN! Still hot but at least 7 degrees down on the cabin temperature a couple of hours earlier.

14.4 Miles - 7 Locks