Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Wheels and seasons, both on the turn.

Today the river has been quite busy, we've seen seven boats on the move.
It has been our last day with the manual guillotine gates and we finally worked out the plan.

First obtain a posidrive screwdriver, available at most boaters tool boxes.

Insert in a conveniently located hole in the operating wheel.

Get wife to make one hundred turns using screwdriver as handle while you sing "Proud Mary", you all know the line, "Big wheel keep on turning".
Scurry back onto boat before she catches up with you.

Not only the wheel but the seasons are turning, on the hill above the river by Irthlingborough Lock they are already starting the harvest.

Four of these monsters were proclaiming the approach of autumn as they stripped a huge prairie field of its bounty.
Now on the moorings at Rushden & Diamonds, not only have they shut all the services here but now have closed off two-thirds of the moorings for no obvious reason.

Watch this space...........

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

I really, really wanted to stop at Wadenhoe.

There is a pair of Egyptian Geese living in Oundle Marina. They are native to Africa and were introduced to Britain in the 18thC. as an ornamental addition to park lands. It seems they were officially declared a pest in 2009. Not half the pest those blasted Canadian things are.

We left our refuge and were immediately confronted by Upper Barnwell Lock and the Mill at Oundle, now a high class eatery. Soon got us into our routine, Jill working the lock and me dreaming of the menu.

 Near Lilford Hall Jill spotted these ecclesiastical looking ruins in the woods. A bit of investigation reveals that when they built the hall they flattened the village to create a park, well you wouldn't want the peasants hanging around would you? They rebuilt part of the church as a folly, as one does.
Having had to change our plans it made stopping at Wadenhoe impracticable,

so we had to pass up on the Kings Head, sigh!
The signs about no mooring because of newts seem to have been removed, whether it was only for the spring breeding season I know not.

The splendid old church still stands on its hill beside the river.

Titchmarsh Lock was our last of the day and we have stopped by the sailing club at Thrapston.
So far so good with the alternator.

Watch this space..........

Monday, 28 July 2014

Who would be a boater? Another gloomy story. Happy ending though.

Good grief, has it really been a week since our last post?
Last Tuesday we moved on as far as Elton, another beautiful village with some very pleasant moorings opposite the lock landing upstream of the lock.

You do pass some strange things along the river, not at all sure what this is.

The Crown, which is nearest the moorings proved to be full of the local W.I., all out for lunch, so we moved on up the hill to the Black Horse and excellent it was, can't remember the last time I had a fish finger sarnie but the one I had here was spot on.

Wednesday we moved on as far as the unofficial moorings above Ashton Lock, passing the lovely church and the remains of the castle at Fotheringhay. It was on this trip that what had been a slight rattle from the engine became rather pronounced but I was unable to pinpoint the source.The next morning, as we were running the engine to top up the batteries, the engine overheated. R.C.R. to the rescue, as usual the cooling system worked perfectly but the rattle had become louder and was found to be coming from the domestic alternator. Taking the advice of the mechanic we rattled our way up to Oundle and moored on Oundle Cruising Club. Once they found we were having problems they could not do enough for us, gave us the name and 'phone number of the best local engineer, hooked us up to the electrics and made us welcome in the club house. I 'phoned Mark, the engineer, who was there promptly and soon whisked the offending article out and headed off for his workshop. This was the new alternator that was only fitted in April and was still under warranty, Heritage Narrowboats who had supplied it really didn't want to come all the way to Oundle so gave us a full refund and humble apologies, not a bad result.

On Friday morning we walked up to town, twenty minutes from the moorings. Beautiful old town with some wonderful old buildings.
Mark returned on Sunday morning with a now whisper quiet alternator and soon had it reinstalled.
So tomorrow we are on our way.

Watch this space.........

Monday, 21 July 2014

There is something original in today's offering.

After topping up the store cupboard yesterday and the water tank this morning we were away from Peterborough bright and early.

We went over this bridge on the train on Saturday.

As you approach Alwalton Lock from downstream you come across four yellow buoys in the river, no indication as to why they are there but as there are two either side I assumed the middle was the way to go. How wrong can you be? Despite slowing right down and approaching in a most gingerly fashion we ground (literally) to a halt. Solidly stugged on a gravel bar. Lots of revs astern, nope, no movement. Poling from the front, no chance. Fortunately, just as we were giving up and settling in for a long stay, another boat appeared and very kindly gave us a pull and soon had us back afloat.

We pulled in to the pontoon moorings at Wansford Station where the local ducks were soon busily clearing the weed off of the hull. It had taken us three hours to cover the same distance we covered in twenty minutes by train.
An exploration of the local footpaths found us back down at Water Newton and the lure of possible graffiti in St. Remigius's church brought us into that noble edifice.

 No graffiti but we found the tomb of a chap with what I should think is unique in Christian names.

The one and only Original Jackson Esq.

And if you have ever wondered how far Water Newton is from London, well now you know.

Watch this space.........

Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Nene Valley Railway.

We have been off train spotting again.

The duty engine at the Nene Valley Railway was a very pretty little "Austerity" 0-6-0 saddle tank. The line runs from Peterborough to Yarwell Junction alongside the Nene. Originally built by the London and Birmingham Railway in 1847 it connected Peterborough to the railway system at Blisworth. Eventually it became an important link from East Anglia to the Midlands. Passenger services ended in 1966 and freight finished in 1972. One of the last victims of Dr. Beeching's notorious axe. It is now operated by the Petrborough Railway Society as a heritage railway.

As with most preserved lines it has a few engines in immaculate working order,

Some being refurbished.

Some in desperate need of a little t.l.c.
Nothing better on a warm summers day than wallowing in nostalgia.

Or perhaps playing in the fountains in front of Peterborough Guild Hall.

Watch this space.............

I have been known to mention our interest in medieval graffiti in churches, at last we discover we are not alone in our pursuit of the odd scratchings to be found in many old churches. If you click here there is a very interesting article from the BBC. Perhaps we will no longer attract so many strange looks as we wander around closely studying what appear to be blank walls.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Through Stanground and the persistence of English summer.

A day behind as usual. Yesterday, how many times have I started a post with that word? Well yesterday we left our final mooring on the Middle Level at Benwick, pronounced Bennick, and returned to the Nene at Peterborough.

We waited until the lorry had passed before we crept under White Fen Bridge, fearing that the weight might lower the headroom, an inch would have been too much.

At Flood's Ferry Farm, where the Rver Nene Old Course joins Whittlesey Dyke, despite careful manoeuvring, we gathered a prop full of blanket weed. I must have words with the arachnids who now inhabit the upper reaches of the weed hatch, getting fed up with having my hair festooned with their webs every time I dive down there. There is one old girl down there who rivals Shelob in size and attitude.

The weed cutters were out along here, notice the recumbent position of the pilot, that's the way to go to work. Even though mother-in-law worked for Sleepeezee I never managed to get my preferred career of bed tester, weed cutter driver would seem to be a good second choice.

We managed the bend and narrows at Briggate without too much trauma. They recommend putting someone ashore to go ahead and check there is no traffic coming the other way, I have no idea where they think you could land and recover anyone along here so a couple of blasts on the horn have to do.

Through Stanground Lock, twenty four hours notice required for transit, passing what appears to be the haunt of buccaneers,

and we arrived in Peterborough.
Despite the stubborn refusal of the Met. Office to recognise reality, today is not the hottest of the year, in Peterborough it is p-p-p-persistently raining.

Watch this space.........

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Three Holes to Benwick, via the Sixteen Foot and the Forty Foot.

Yesterday afternoon, as we returned to the boat after a walk from Three Holes to Upwell and back, there came to our ears the sound of a fast, piston engined airplane. A small dot in the sky resolved itself into what appeared to be P51D mustang. A quick shot with our compact camera and,

I know it's not a brilliant shot but it is a P51D, carrying D-Day stripes. It flew past a few times but never close enough for a better picture.

This morning I tried to catch the fog but I mist.
At about 0830 we left Three Holes and set off down the Sixteen Foot Drain, from here it runs virtually straight for ten miles to its junction with the Forty Foot Drain, a.k.a. Vermuydens Drain after the Dutch chap who was responsible for its construction, indeed for a large part of the drainage system on the fens.

A last look back and before long we were approaching the aptly named Bedlam Bridge.

Imray gives the headroom as 1.93 metres so I had removed just about everything from the top boxes,

Just as well really, the radio aerial scraped the underside, it really is looking a bit part worn, after its close encounter with Salters Lode and now this.

As you look forward the drain stretches off seemingly to infinity and looking back

you just have to remember that parallel lines never meet.
After two hours we reached the junction with the Forty Foot. I have no idea why it is called that, or indeed why so many of the drains have a name that would seem to reflect a distance in feet. This one was cut about 1651 from near Ramsey to Welches Dam Lock where it joins the Old Bedford River. The lock is now inoperative, cutting off an alternative route from Stanground Lock to Denver Sluice.

The weedy ditch in the background is the now lost route via Horseway Lock and Welches Dam, to the left is the Sixteen Foot from which we had just emerged.

Ahead was the navigable Forty foot. In the distance we could see a bridge, it took us twenty five minutes to reach it. Bridges come and go as you cruise along. Ramsey Hollow Bridge

was, until 2005, too low to navigate. In December 2005 Royal Engineers from the 53rd Field Squadron, 39 Engineer Regiment, using new steel work provided by the I.W.A., jacked the bridge up to its current height, opening up the route down to the Sixteen Foot. The pump house next to the bridge has an owl nest box on the end, there was a kestrel sitting on top feeding a chick. Jill was below and I never had time to grab the camera so you will have to take my word for it.

After two hours we had reached the junction with the River Nene, Old Course

and a sharp right took us under a splendid new bridge and off up the old river to Benwick where we have moored.

At least the neighbours will be quiet.

Watch this space.........