Friday, 27 September 2013

End of our journey for 2013

Last night we arrived at our winter mooring on the Grand Union, so this is the last posting on this blog for 2013.  Helen has decided that she does not like the word 'Blog' so we now refer to this as our 'Boating Log'.

On Tuesday and Wednesday we continued our cruise up the River Nene.  On Tuesday morning there was a mist so thick that it was difficult to see the banks of the river, never mind where we were going.  We were once more travelling with our new friends John and Kathy on Sirius.

OK, I admit it.  I have played around with this photo but I love the effect - like a newspaper photo.  The picture is of Sirius ahead of us ploughing through the fog.  You might notice that neither John nor Kathy are looking where they are going, but given the conditions there was little point as you couldn't see anything anyway.

The mist cleared later and this shows Sirius approaching Doddington Lock.

On Wednesday we left the river to go and have a look at the lake at Billing Aquadrome before carrying on into Northampton.  It is fun being able to take a narrowboat onto a big open stretch of water.

Here is Leo coming out onto the lake with the marina full of narrowboats and cruisers on the other side.

An odd sight by the river was this Health and Safety scarecrow by a weir.  We've no idea what the purpose of this was.

Here we are moored in the centre of Northampton.  Sirius is in the foreground and Leo behind.

Yesterday we came up the 17 locks of the Northampton Arm to rejoin the Grand Union at the top. 

The problem with the lower part of the Northampton Arm (for the first 4 locks) is too much weed.  Here you see us ploughing through a narrow channel in the reeds. The problem is that too many of the reeds finish up round the propellor.

Beware of opening the paddles!!  Helen got well and truly showered by this one.

Here we are passing a boat coming down.  You can see the locks rising up the hill.

As we got further up the water disappeared.  We managed to get across this pound, though you can see from this maintenance boat that it was tricky to stay afloat.

This was the next pound and even Leo could not crawl across this one.  We started letting water down from further up the flight when a CRT chap came along and took over the responsibility for filling the intervening pounds.  The hour or so this took was fine as we then had time for lunch while sitting in a lock with water flowing in and out.

After a few miles cruising beyond the top of the flight we took our place in a small marina where Leo will be spending the winter.

You can see we are next to Stanton, a fine working boat.  We've been made really welcome by our fellow moorers and are looking forward to visiting during the winter and perhaps taking Leo out for a spin now and again.

And so to conclude, here are the final statistics for 2013: we've covered 1,153 miles and 676 locks. Over the next few months we'll be looking at the canal maps and guides to decide where we will plan to go on Leo next year.  We're hoping to join David and Victoria on their boat Pas Méche for at least some of the cruising next year.  Watch this Boating Log to see what we are up to next year.  Thanks for your interest and comments this year and it has been lovely to meet many new friends on the waterways this year.  Thanks for all your help and good company.

Tomorrow we'll be heading home to Yorkshire

Monday, 23 September 2013

From 'Neen' to 'Nenn'

Today travelling up the River Nene we passed Thrapston.  It is said that the River Nene is pronounced 'Nenn' above Thrapston but 'Neen' below that village, hence the title of this posting.

We are nearing the end of our canal travelling for this year which is a bit sad but the nights are drawing in and perhaps it is time to stop and return to a 'normal' life on land for a few months over the winter.  We are now only three days away from our winter mooring on the Grand Union Canal.

Rather than repeat a recital of the outward journey down the river here are a few selected and new highlights of the cruise back up the Nene so far:

This is Milton Ferry Bridge which looks so perfect on a still morning with the reflections in the river.

I have said that we have been trying to take a good picture of one of the many kingfishers we've seen this year.  This is the best so far, taken by Helen from the boat. This obliging bird sat by the river waiting for us to pass so that it could get back to its fishing.

This white horse looked somehow unreal against the background - like a ghost.

We love the look of some of the villages round here: they are similar to better known Cotswold villages.  This one was Elton where we moored just above the lock of the same name.  This village even has a village shop and a pub.

Is this what they mean by Swan Upping?

Yes I know we posted a picture of Fotheringhay Church on the way down the river too, but it is so photogenic, standing on high ground next to the river.

For the last couple of days we have been travelling with a nice couple, John and Kathy on Sirius.  Sharing the locks is so much easier.  Sirius is a much more traditional looking boat than ours with all sorts of ingenious touches put in by John.  The double bed pulls out on rollers from under the tug deck at the bow.

We passed huge numbers of Greylag Geese both on the land and in the water.

Lilford Hall is a splendid house which is by the river but very difficult to see because of the trees.

We stayed last night at the end of the garden of the King's Arms at Wadenhoe and enjoyed a really good meal there with John and Kathy from Sirius.  We had a look round the village this morning before we set off.

It was a moist morning; not raining just lots of damp in the air.  The spiders had been busy and the webs were all outlined in dew.  It really is getting quite autumnal.

This is St Michael and All Angels at Wadenhoe.  The church, like many others we've seen, was locked but it is on a mound with a fine view over the Nene valley.

In Wadenhoe is a dovecote built in 1800.  You are welcomed to go inside and take a look.

Inside, the nesting boxes for around 650 birds remain built of lath and plaster.  The framework you can see rotates around the dovecot so that the ladder can be used to reach the nesting boxes.  The chief idea was to enable the locals to eat the young birds.

Looking up into the roof you can see the entrance for the birds which is through the small square opening at the top.

And so tonight we are on very good moorings (courtesy of the Environment Agency) outside the now rather quiet grounds of Rushden and Diamonds Football Club at Irthlingborough.  The club went bust in 2011 and is no longer playing.

Here is Leo moored at Irthlingborough.  With good eyes you might just make out Helen who is picking blackberries which we enjoyed for pudding this evening.

Our last few days will take us back up the river to Northampton and then up the 17 locks of the Northampton Arm back to the Grand Union Canal.  It is then just 6 miles to the marina we have picked for Leo for the winter.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Heading back up the Nene

It is a beautiful day and we are moored in a delightful spot on a lake at Ferry Meadows near Peterborough so we've decided to stay put today and enjoy a day off boating before our last few days up the Nene back to the Grand Union Canal.

We've cruised across the Middle Levels once more sinking to below sea level and then coming back up onto the River Nene at Peterborough.  We had one night in March and another in Whittlesey.  The wind has been cold and strong all the way across and in the fens there is nothing really to stop the wind outside the shelter of the towns.

This photo shows the approach to Outwell.  With Upwell, the neighbouring village, the main street is effectively the canal through the middle with a road either side lined with houses and shops.  It is very pretty.

This cottage is at the end of a very long (about a mile and a half) straight channel of water.  You can see it for ages going the other way but it does not seem to get any closer.  The narrow waterways on the Middle Level are pretty slow going and this year there is a lot of weed too.

Here we are below Ashline Lock which lifts you from below sea level back to somewhere roughly mid tide level.

This is an orange balsam flower next to where we moored in Whittlesey.  Orange Balsam is not the pest that Himalayan Balsam represents and it has a delicate and beautiful flower.

In the late afternoon Ian decided to cycle from our mooring at Whittlesey a couple of miles across the fens to Dog in a Doublet Lock on the River Nene.  Helen did not feel she wanted to slog up a busy road against the strong wind.  Dog in a Doublet is the interesting name for the pub by the lock and for the lock itself.  This lock which is around 5 very straight and boring miles downstream from Peterborough marks the start of tidal water on the Nene which then goes through Wisbech out to the Wash.

This is the view above the lock looking upstream towards Peterborough.  You can see just how flat the landscape is round here.  The lock landing is by the fencing. 

Here is the view from upstream of the lock which has guillotine gates both ends.

This is the pub sign.  Doesn't he look a splendid fellow?

Here is the view looking downstream towards the Wash, still about 27 miles away.

Yesterday we left the Middle Levels coming through Stanground Lock (which is manned and has to be booked 24 hours in advance) to Peterborough.

Coming out of Whittlesey you have to negotiate a very sharp right angle bend on a narrow section of canal with hard concrete walls.  Rather to our surprise we got caught on some obstruction amidships on the inside of the bend and had to push off this before completing the turn.

Here we are coming into Stanground Lock which takes you up onto the River Nene.

This is Morton's Leam, the waterway the other side of the lock which links to the River Nene in half a mile or so.

A distant view of Peterborough Cathedral.  We had wanted to go in last time we came through but something was going on and we couldn't go in.  So this time we were pleased we could do so.

The inside has a tremendous sense of height and is the most spectacular Norman nave we've seen.

Katherine of Aragon is buried here and this is her, not very elaborate, grave.  But by the time she died of course Henry had moved on and did not acknowledge her as Queen.

Here is the superb roof above the altar with Jesus and the apostles painted in bold colours.

One lock above Peterborough we moored last night on Overton Lake at Ferry Meadows.  The lake links to the River through a narrow channel and there are a couple of mooring pontoons for visiting boats close to the Visitor Centre for Ferry Meadows.  It is a lovely spot.  We moored here for lunch on our way down the Nene and wanted to come back for an evening mooring on our way back:
Moored at Ferry Meadows
In the next few days we will be cruising back up the River Nene to reach Northampton where the Northampton Arm leads us back up (17 locks) to the Grand Union Canal at Gayton.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Leo's Furthest East

Tonight we are back on the Middle Levels after a successful crossing from Denver Sluice to Salters Lode via the tidal River Ouse.  So for the second time we have avoided being swept out to sea at King's Lynn - big sighs of relief all round.  But since the last posting we have also cruised up another of the tributaries of the River Great Ouse - the Little Ouse also known as Brandon Creek.

On Saturday we left Littleport and, four miles down river turned right onto the Little Ouse:

Late on Friday night this yacht turned up and moored behind us at Littleport.  It is clearly a Norfolk Broads Yacht with folding mast, possibly from Hunter's Yard but those on her did not seem to know much of her history nor how she finished up on the Great Ouse.

The River downstream of Littleport is a bit wide, straight and boring.  This is Ian's attempt at self steering gear.  Leo gradually pulls to the right with prop walk, so this is intended to counteract that.  Did it work?  Yes, but it was not infallible as the wind can affect which way she goes too.

Here is the sign at the confluence of the Little and Great Ouse.

Here, just before the diesel point mentioned on the sign above, is a floating dry dock.  David and Victoria's boat, Pas Mėche, was blacked here a few years ago when they moored at Ely.  They are a friendly bunch at this boatyard and their diesel is probably the cheapest on the river so we filled up.

From here we cruised up river.  The channel is narrow at first then widens out and for the last few miles is both narrow and fast flowing.  It is a lovely river and for the middle few miles goes out into real wilderness country with very little on view that is man made.

Lovely grasses by the side of the river with a misty haystack behind.

This is an old lock on the river which is no longer used.  Nowadays there are no locks until you get right through to Brandon (see below).

 Here we are moored for lunch in the wildest part of the river with only some cows for company.

There are some lakes by the river which were well used by swans.

Towards the navigable limit you pass over the Cut Off Channel and go under these gates.  The Cut Off Channel takes water from Denver Sluice around 90 miles to reservoirs in Essex.  When the river rises these gates are dropped and alternative gates are opened into the Cut Off Channel to get rid of excess water.

Beyond the Cut Off Channel the country changes dramatically from fenland - flat with high river banks - to more normal farmland with no high banks by the river.  There are also more trees.

And here we are moored just below the lock at Brandon.

So why did we not go through the lock and on into Brandon itself (about half a mile further)?  Well the trouble is that Brandon Lock is too short to accommodate a boat as long as Leo.  It is said to be 12m long or about 40 feet.  We think that in fact you could get a longer boat through, but 57 feet is just not on.  If you look at the map of England it is clear that Brandon is the furthest East you can travel on the connected Inland Waterways.  The only navigations further East are the Chelmer and Blackwater in Essex and the River Medway but for both these you have to travel on the sea (or at least the Thames Estuary) to reach them.

Here is the short lock.  We did not see a single boat use it in the two days we stayed at Brandon, though there was  a short narrowboat (about 40 feet) above the lock.

Here is the road bridge at Brandon which is half a mile further above the lock.  A mooring platform beyond the bridge is said to be the head of navigation, but there still seems to be a reasonable depth of water beyond that, but only for short boats.

On Sunday afternoon the weather was awful with strong winds and heavy rain, so in the morning we walked round Brandon (not a lot to see) and in the afternoon we sat indoors reading the paper and embroidering (guess who did which).  First thing this morning we woke to noises of bubbles coming up under the boat.  Helen got to the window and saw an otter!  We had been hoping to see one.  Sadly Ian was too slow getting out of bed to see it.  Today the wind was just as strong but we managed to return down the Little Ouse and the Great Ouse to Denver (about 21 miles).  Sometimes the boat was a bit diagonal because of the wind but Leo behaved very well in winds gusting up to force 5 or 6.

It is so difficult to take convincing pictures of waves.  This looks much less exciting than it was.  Leo was noticeably pitching and rolling in the gusts which is odd as a narrowboat usually just sits on the water even when other boats pass creating a wash.

And here we are approaching the lock moorings at Denver.

Because of the wind we had thought that we would not make the crossing of the tidal Ouse today but in fact there was less wind at Denver than we had experienced all day.  The lock keeper asked if we wanted to go today and we said 'yes', so off we went.  Tomorrow the crossing would be at 7.30 am but today it was 4 pm, so not having to get up early was another attraction.

Into the lock we went and then up onto the tidal water.  Our half mile to Salters Lode was against the current of the incoming tide but Leo managed this with ease.

Here is Ian concentrating on lining up for the exit at Salter's Lode.

Past the pole with the cross you can just make out the channel on the left which leads to the lock at Salters Lode which gives access to the Middle Levels.

It is a very tight turn back on yourself to enter the narrow channel to the lock from fast moving tidal water.  I confess I made a bit of pig's ear of it but here you see that we made it into the lock.

And here we are moored for the night on the lock landing, by special dispensation from the lock keeper, Paul.  A Fox Hire boat from March arrived later and is aiming to go out on the early morning tide tomorrow.  I reckon we will still be in bed.

Over the next couple of days we will cross the Middle Levels back onto the River Nene. We hope the recent rains will not have swollen that river to prevent us making our way up the Nene back to the canals.