We've had a couple of days now cruising the River Nene from Northampton towards Peterborough and mostly we're really enjoying being back on a river again. On Tuesday we came down the 17 locks of the Northampton Arm which links the Grand Union Canal with the River Nene at Northampton. It was quite a hard day but it was great having the pleasure of narrow 7 foot locks once again. We hadn't seen these since we left the Oxford Canal in late May.
This photo was taken as we came out of the top lock of the 17. You can see how the lock neatly fits Leo's width. A narrowboat glides into these locks without touching the sides almost by magic.
Down the flight there are a few lifting bridges. Fortunately all of them were held in the open position so making life easier.
On the way down we devised some new techniques to make life easier. Here Helen is using a boat hook to push open the offside bottom gate, so saving either Helen walking round the lock or Ian climbing the ladder out of the lock and then back down again.
And here is Helen closing the gate. First Ian pushed with the other boat hook (we now have two as we found one a few weeks back) on the lock gate beam and Helen finished off by pulling the gate fully closed.
Part way down are these curious bent wire statues of a boat man pointing up the flight and his lady sitting on the bench. The other one sitting is not a wire statue!
Here is a lock almost underneath the M1. This is close to Rothersthorpe Services but the canal is pretty difficult to see from the motorway because of the trees either side.
The main problem of the Northampton Arm was not the lock flight but the very weedy channel from the bottom down to the river in Northampton.
A bit like the African Queen this. A very narrow channel in the middle with reeds growing and lying in wait to wrap round the propellor.
This bit was even narrower. Good job there was nothing coming!
Here we are looking back to the last lock that gives access to a short channel linking with the River Nene.
Not wanting to do any more on Tuesday we moored by the Yellow Bridge in the city. We visited Morrisons which is close by and had a walk round the centre in the evening.
The last two days we have cruised down the river. The locks here are quite different to the canals.
This is Abington Lock which has conventional gates but the continuous waterfall over the top gates meant that it was barely necessary to open the paddles to fill the lock.
This is not a lock, but into and out of the Northampton Washlands you go through flood gates like this one which can be closed in times of flood. The Washlands is an area of land that is deliberately flooded to divert some of the floodwater when needed.
The commonest sort of lock has the usual 'V' doors on the upstream side and a guillotine like this one on the downstream side. These are nearly all electrically driven but take an age to open or close. To release the water in the lock the guillotine gate is opened slightly at first to let the water out. We've learnt to use a stern rope to counter the tremendous pull on the boat when the gate is opened. It is certainly a quick way of emptying a lock.
This is Ditchford Lock which has a radial gate on the downstream side. This takes even longer to open or close and drips more when you drive underneath it.
Yesterday evening we cycled into Earls Barton which is a nice village with probably the best preserved Saxon tower in the country.
Here is the Saxon tower but the rest of the church is later. Even the clock worked, but perhaps that was newer than the tower.
This was a memorial in the churchyard. I'm not sure you can read it on the blog but it is a memorial to a local flour miller "Mr Thomas Whitworth husband of Rebekah Whitworth also husband of Sarah Whitworth". Clearly bigamy was rife here in the eighteenth century!
Here are a selection of other sights from our travels down the Nene so far:
The river is amazingly wide across the Northampton Washlands but becomes narrower and more twisty further downstream.
Just to give an idea of how clear the water is here, this is a picture looking down into the weed hatch showing Leo's propellor.
The little foal on the left was one of several at Earls Barton last night.
The Environment Agency do love their Health and Safety notices. We haven't seen one yet for don't walk across the lock gates which Ian had to do today to clear the weed before we could close the gates. If the top gates are not fully closed then the electric guillotine gate will not operate.
Here is the concrete viaduct carrying the A6 over the river. It was built in 1936.
And here just a few yards downstream is the old stone bridge which dates from the 14th century.
For the next few days we'll be continuing our cruise down the Nene until we get to Peterborough. If the last two days are representative then it should be a fun few days.