Friday, May 30, 2008

Onwards to the Fenlands

After several days of rain the river Nene started to flow more rapidly and rose several inches. The water was falling over the lock gates and creating lots of foam which blew over the boats in the wind. Alwalton lock has a mooring to one side where the river heads for the weir. Several boats were seen moving up and down during the bank holiday weekend. We spent the time walking down the Nene Way by the river and into Alwalton village.

We left on Tuesday heading for Peterborough through a couple of locks and 6 miles of winding river. After taking on water and dumping rubbish we moved away from the city moorings. The local parkland was in need of ‘tender loving care’ and stories of unruly behaviour making for a feeling of insecurity. Having booked our passage into the Middle Levels we stayed the night outside the Stanground Lock. That special lock prevents water from the Nene entering the lower levels of the Fenlands especially when in flood conditions.

After a night of thunder storms the level was up even more by the morning. The lock keeper had us going through early due to the rising water. As it happened we only just got under the foot bridge with a centimetre clearance. Sue n Vic had to go in backwards because as with most boats the stern is lower than the bow.
Once in, one at a time, we were lowered in the lock and able to exit on to the Fens. There was a chance that other boats that day may not be able to pass through! For about a mile we had the boats tied abreast in order to get No Problem backwards to a turning point.
Then it was full steam ahead for about 5 hours against the wind to reach March in the afternoon.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Our life support system

Going slowly means that we have to conserve what we use and think about where it comes from. Good old Tesco and the internet help with food and going to town also helps. But the boat needs water and diesel. There are water points on the Nene at an average of about 8 lock miles apart so that is no problem as we are within one or two days from a supply. Our tank can last 10 days or more. But there are very few diesel outlets. In fact the only one we have used is at Oundle Marina. The next one we used in 2006 was at Ely and is about 6 moving days away. So that defines how long we can stay in one place. Our tank needs topping up every 2 or 3 weeks, a month at the most. It is nice to be able to hang around for a while to explore. Usually like to stay put on Sundays and we were invited on board No Problem for lunch. Good job we do not need to move yet because it has rained hard most of the day.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cruising again

Back on board after that trip home we got into cruising mode and moved to Fotheringay and filled up with water. Stayed one night at the castle moorings where Mary, Queen of Scotland planted thistles and lost her head. The river has calmed down and we had a pleasant trip on down to Elton the next day. The mooring has a high bank to climb out on and some cows for company. There seems to be more narrowboats about on the river but certainly far less than on the canals. One boat called Scarweather stopped nearby. Been looking out for it as the owners are known to Ann’s cousin. Ann helped with their ropes and we were invited on board for the evening.
A few days later our next stop was at Wansford. As we approached the bank we saw a train cross the bridge ahead of the mooring. The Nene Valley Railway runs to Peterborough from here. A different sort of rail trip in wide coaches made in Denmark pulled by a steam engine. We got on board and got off at Peterborough. There before us was that Hover Train prototype. Built back in the 1970’s and designed to ‘float’ on a special track. It had no wheels and used magnetic linear motors which lifted the train and pushed it, friction less, at high speed. I remember seeing demonstrations of the principle on ‘Tomorrows World’.

Back to the real word we walked down the high street to find refreshments and the market where we stocked up with vegetables and meat from the local farmers. Returned to the boat by steam power to enjoy a BBQ outside as it was warm n dry and less windy than the day before.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Public transport

We went all the way home, a 5 hour journey on a bus, train, underground and another train. All for less than one days car hire! The bus was free for us and booking early on line got us a good discount complete with reserved seats. Our friend Sue did that difficult job for us sorting out the best route and timing the connections. It all went like clockwork with plenty of time to walk between bus and trains. The train north of London operated by National Express was packed both ways. It would have been ‘The Flying Scotsman’ years ago and ours was probably faster. Had to tolerate the crowded underground going down in those noisy tunnels trying to navigate our way to the next train. We used the Northern and Piccadilly lines. Our train tickets were used in automatic barriers to gain access from start to finish of our entire journey. South West trains were only half full so no need to find those reserved seats.
Went home to celebrate our son’s 40th birthday. A family gathering enabling us to catch up with their activities and play with our grand children.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A summer’s day

Travelling by boat with all mod cons means that you can be where you like without the road stress. Especially when everybody is out and about on a bank holiday! If the sun is hot and there is a cool breeze you can sit outside like it’s your own garden by the banks of a river or canal. At Wadenhoe the car park is full at the local pub and many have gone off in boats. We sat in the garden between pub and river enjoying an expensive burger bun washed down with strong drink. A few trees providing welcome shade.

Next day we moved the boats up and were obliged to tie up alongside a boat hogging the water point. When we connected our pipe to the tap the boat owner inconsiderately puffed blue smoke towards us as he started his engine! Once both our tanks were filled we moved to the bank and waited for the Tesco delivery. The rest of the day was spent cruising down river through four locks and five miles to Ashdon.. Had fun and games getting in and out of Oundel Marina for diesel, gas and facilities on the way.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Moorings and post

Continuing our journey with Sue n Vic we passed through a couple of locks and down the Nene to Little Irchester. Here we stopped for water while the girls went off to stock up with bread n milk etc. As we approached those ‘new’ moorings the boat ground to a stop on something underneath! The old Victorian mill of Whitworths is still making bread here bit is quite noisy so not a place to stay overnight. Three more locks passing many manmade lakes and old gravel pits get us to Rushden & Diamonds football ground at Irthingborough. Thankfully playing away this Saturday. E A have provided boaters with a long stretch of mooring where at least 6 narrowboats can stay for 48 hours. Just enough room for us as 4 were already there. Dot came out from ‘Gypsy Rover’ to catch our rope. We stayed only to use the facilities and get a midday sandwich before continuing to Denford, a lovely mooring with a field for the dogs. We all walked the mile to Ringstead to pick up some post. This PO mistress being so helpful and remembering Sue n Vic and Lucy collecting post 2 years ago.
Our post has been returned from that man at Cogenhoe. Our next stop is at Thrapston so we rang that PO to ask if he would keep our post. “You have to come and see me first” was his reply. Called Post Office Counters to complain about our postal problems and got them to tell Thrapston to hold on to our post. ‘Poste Restante’ and ‘To be called for’ is a service that the PO provide but it seems that some PO masters do not cooperate. After a few anxious days we eventually collected our post a full two weeks after it had been originally sent.
We had moored at the ‘new’ moorings near Islip Mill. Room for 3 boats and occupied by 2. We squeezed in with No Problem along side. By the time we left 7 boats were tied 3 abreast. The river is getting popular.

The river has been high after several days of rain and one boater reversed back to the mooring, unable to get under the next low bridge. So before we left we removed our satellite dish and other tall objects from the roof. The level had gone down a bit and we just got under those bridges.

The next lock at Titchmarsh Mill was overflowing so much so that the boats were in danger of being pushed out before the guillotine had been fully raised. Only the two ropes tied to the back bollard preventing disaster as we went down. All aboard and let go to drift out with the flow.

The journey to Wadenhoe was calm and peaceful after that excitement and we stopped below the church for the weekend. The stone and thatched cottages here are well kept by a trust arrangement.