Thursday, 26 July 2018

Wansford Station

Today's Navigations - Middle Level, River Nene

First, an apology about today's photos: not long after we set off it looks as is a smear of sun cream attached itself to the front of the camera lens and it was only after downloading this evening that we noticed it.

We had to make an early start as we were booked through Stanground at 9 am, almost two hours cruising away.  We were both awake early but it was just Mike that had to be decent enough to cast off the mooring as quietly as we could so as not to disturb the neighbours too much!

Shortly after we arrived at the infamous Briggate Corner which is just wide enough to get a 60 ft boat around. We took it as slowly as possible - with no lookout at the front we wanted to be able to stop quickly if a boat appeared the other way. However, we found that with the water level a bit low we just caught shallow ground on the inside of the bend itself. Since we were moving so slowly, a touch of reverse was all that was needed to free us and to help make the turn. However, we talked to another boat later who had stuck quite firmly here as they hurried through last night.

For a short while the navigation is very narrow!

We arrived at Stanground as planned with the relief lock keeper just arriving. Although a boat ahead needed special passage to go first (they were on an emergency trip) we entered the lock only minute after nine.

From there we made our way out onto the Nene and, as the service point was in use (with a short queue!) we opted to moor up and do our shopping first.

Nearly everything we wanted we found at Asda but failed on fish! So, sending Mike back to the boat with the main load, Christine went on a further search - she also managed to find a replacement for the rucksack whose main zip has failed. By the time she returned to the boat, Mike had managed to complete most of the servicing.

So it was only just after half past eleven when we were on our way again, passing under the main road bridge.

A little further and we came to the three railway bridges - two of which are very close together but look very different. We had not given this much thought until we spotted a rather reticent plaque right underneath, very missable  - which we have done on previous times passing underneath)

The plaque reads This listed structure was constructed for the Great Northern Railway in 1850. Built by engineer Joseph Cubitt, the contractor was Thomas Brassey (1805 - 1870) who also built railways in India, Australia, North and South America, Russia and the rest of Europe. 

Despite major strengthening in 1910 and 1914, the structure is basically original although it now carries trains travelling at  more than 100 miles per hour. It is believed to be the last cast iron bridge on a major British Rail high speed route. The steel bridge alongside was added in 1924.

Sadly, the direction of the sun means that we did not get a full photo of the older bridge today but the columns underneath are typical.

The cruise through the Nene Country Park offered a very different scenery until we eventually arrived at Orton Lock. Two young children and their grandparents (all four here on holiday at Ferry Meadows) took a keen interest and helped operate the lock.

Just before we reached Bluebell Footbridge we turned sharp left into Ferry Meadows where we hoped to find a space to moor for lunch. We were a bit surprised to find ourselves all alone on the pontoons but the rest of the park seemed popular enough.

At this point we opted to take a very long lunch break and continue longer once the temperature had eased a little means three things: firstly that we have very little recollection of what happened to the afternoon, secondly that we were able to treat ourselves to an ice cream from the cafe and thirdly that we completely forgot to take any photos!

It was nearly four by the time we manged to stir ourselves once more. At Milton Ferry Bridge we could see from a distance that there were several heads swimming in the water under the arches so we approached very cautiously. Turned out that it is a popular place for a picnic and swimming party and everyone, of very different ages, was enjoying the opportunity to cool off in the river.

The landscape is now very different from both the Great Ouse and the Fens. Although the land around does not have much by way of hills, there is much more shrub and tree cover and in the more open farmed areas, fields with hedge boundaries. The river level is quite well maintained so there are no high flood banks to block the views.

The weir alongside Alwalton Lock is undergoing some improvement maintenance - it looks as if some form of radial gate is being fitted in place of the more conventional vertical lift.

Water Newton once had a large mill powered by the river - long since converted to several separate accommodations.

Christine spotted this unusual chimney standing just apart from the main building. Some images show a much taller chimney but as yet we have found nothing about its more recent history.

At this lock mot of the water flowing the river passes over the top of the upper gates. As a result we were rather cautious not to let the boat be pulled too close to the top end for fear of being swamped.

It was a ,long way to the next lock with very few mooring spaces listed. The next that we could be reasonably sure about was Fotheringhay but that was still a couple of hours way. We approached Wansford Station with little hope of finding space on the short pontoon but perhaps might find the rough mooring that is sometimes listed just the other side of the railway bridge but which we could nit see on the way down. So it was with some surprise that we saw that there was only one boat moored (there is barely room for two if plenty for one) and who should it be but Knot On Call once more (we had seen them in Peterborough as we walked to the shops) They kindly adjusted their ropes so that we had a little more space but at least two thirds of our boat is alongside the pontoon and we are secure enough.

14.13 Miles - 4 Locks

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