Monday 26 October 2015

River Nene. Dog in a Doublet to Irthingborough.

While we were at Dog in a Doublet, Diane came to see us for the afternoon and invited us to her house for dinner, where we met her husband Richard. After a very good meal we had a game of crib, an unusual treat for us - not many of our friends are conversant with the 'fifteen two - fifteen four and one for his knob' rigmarole that surrounds this terrific game.

The next day was the start of our trip back up the beautiful Nene.
The short hop to Peterborough embankment was full of interest with a kestrel, a harrier, little grebes, and a big flock of starlings as well as all the swans that we'd herded down to the lock the day before.
We arrived to find that the fair was in town and the embankment was  chock-a-block with big rides and caravans, however they were still setting up and it wasn't due to kick off till the following evening. Phew!
Mandy and Chas came over for dinner, lovely people and always the perfect guests, then in the morning we moved on to the Boathouse by Peterborough rowing lake.
Not many people know about this mooring, it's off the main river in a little backwater and we're not sure who, if anybody, is responsible for it. Although there is a jetty and posts to moor to, it's all a bit dilapidated, but the good bit is there aren't any restrictions.
This was perfect, as we'd got some work counting train passengers and we needed the boat to stay put for a week.
Our little jetty turned out to be quite popular with the locals who probably weren't all that chuffed about a dirty great boat taking up half of their fishing platform, but we all got along reasonably well and we felt quite safe leaving Legend alone while we went off to Cambridge and Birmingham to earn a crust.

While we were near Peterborough we went into Go Outdoors for a new gas bottle and came home with a new coat each. It's the cheapest gas, but there are pitfalls. We must stay away from that place.

The shift we did in Birmingham New Street was a revelation; they've completely revamped the whole place with a huge shopping plaza over the top and extra stairs and escalators down to the platforms. The work was easy; we were just counting passengers getting on and off, it was when we'd finished that it all went wrong. We were working on different platforms and when we went to find each other one of us went up the stairs as the other went down the escalator, then we did it the other way round, and to cut a long story short we got separate trains back to where we'd parked the car and it took over an hour before we managed to get back together. It's pathetic how upset we both were by this; after all we're both mature grown ups and both perfectly capable of using public transport without holding hands, but the relief we felt when we were reunited was palpable. Soft or what?

As two of our shifts were mornings in Birmingham, we arranged to go and see Kim and George on one day and Laura and Alison on Large Marge on another. George was extra cute and chatting away in his own language, although Kim was a bit stiff after writing her car off in a scary crash. Lucky people, we've seen the photos and it could have been a lot worse.

The Margees were moored in the Black Country Living Museum, just outside the Dudley Tunnel portal. Sadly we could only stay for an hour or so, but we had a great time. Jaffa was obviously overjoyed to see Ann-Marie, however we're still waiting for him to acknowledge Dave's existence.

After a week we left the Boathouse, returned to the embankment for a visit to the services, then carried on to Ferry Meadows, where we had the whole place to ourselves.
Waking up in the middle of Ferry Meadows Country Park is an absolute delight and one we'd been looking forward to ever since we were there in the spring.
There are no end of birds so the dawn chorus is fabulous and the other visitors don't start appearing till after breakfast. It's as if the whole thing has been put on specially for your benefit.
Sadly it's only a 24hour doings so the next day we shuffled on to Alwarton lock for one night...

...where we woke up to find the lock gates swathed in beautiful dewy cobwebs...
...then Wansford Station for two more nights.
As we worked Legend up through the guillotine gates we tried various different ways of positioning and tying it so that it didn't get thrown about when we opened the paddles. We found the best way was to stop with the back end next to the ladder, take the centre rope backwards to the nearest bollard and tie it off then open the paddle on the same side as the boat. This sends the incoming water across the bow and down the other side and makes the boat come forward. After about 4 turns we stop and wait for the boat to tension the rope which pins it to the side, then open it right up. On some locks the sill is exposed and the paddles are right out of the water so we go a bit more steady with them, but the principal is the same. The only thing you have to watch out for is that there's enough length in the rope to not pull the boat over when it gets up to the top.

From Wansford station we had two more days working in Cambridge so we didn't really get to see anything of the area, but we did get to see a couple of steam trains going over the bridge by the mooring...
 and we had a lovely walk back for the car along the river and past Water Newton mill.
Our next stop was the lovely Elton lock. In the morning before we moved we had a trip into Go Outdoors in Peterborough for a new gas bottle. This time we came out with a new head torch and a pair of lined walking trousers each. Cheap gas is becoming expensive.
We got to Elton lock just as it started raining, and by the time we were through it was getting worse. If everyone plays the game there's enough room for about five boats just above the lock, but a narrowboat and a cruiser had managed to fill it all up on their own. We could have made a fuss and got them to move but there seemed little point in everyone getting wet so we pinned and planked on the jungly bit.
We had a day catching up with boaty things; 'er indoors washing and cleaning, 'im outdoors wood chopping and stacking, followed by a terrific walk back to Wansford for the car. We drove back to the boat to teacakes and a whirly line full of dry laundry.

The next morning was sunny and there was rain on the forecast so we set off through Warmington, Perio and Cotterstock locks before mooring up in the mill channel just after Ashton.
EA were doing some work on the weirs and had dropped the water level so we had to be a bit careful, but we got through with no problem.
We were lucky; we heard a couple of days later that the level had been even lower and boats had run aground on the lock moorings.
We should have set off fifteen minutes earlier, as the rain caught up with us just as we got there, but we got pinned to the bank before it really came down.
We were about to set off the next morning when the rain started again and forced us back inside for more tea. When we did get going it was a bit damp but it didn't start raining properly until we were within sight of Wadenhoe lock, then it chucked it down. It carried on chucking it down all the time we were working through the lock and all the time we were mooring up out side the King's Head and only stopped when we'd finished.
Wadenhoe lock is rather daunting from downstream. The water flows over the top of the gates at quite a rate; in fact you don't have to open the paddles, you just shut the guillotine and let it full up, so when you enter it from downstream there's a respectable flow of water coming to meet you. All good fun!

Anne came to stay the night at Wadenhoe before going to her office in Peterborough the next morning and was good enough to treat us to a meal in the pub. The food was just as good as when we went there with Jon and Jenny in spring. She also brought us some pretty Autumn bunting which was a perfect fit for Legend's dining room window.
In the car the following morning we came across Aldwinckle village store which had some cyclamens and pansies outside; just right for a bit of winter colour on the roof. On the walk back we stopped there again for some gala pie and a punnet of satsumas to keep us sustained till we got to the boat.

Boating in the morning took us through Tichmarsh lock, where the Middle Nene Cruising Club were busy with their Autumn clean-up.
There was lots of painting going on, along with more ambitious stuff like tree stump removal and roof repairs. We love hard work and could have watched them for hours, but we had some serious cruising to do so we had to get on.

By ten o'clock we were moored up outside Islip sailing club and went up into the village for a jumble sale we'd seen a poster for. What we hadn't seen was that it was from 2 till 4 so we had to kick our heels for a few hours. We managed to hit the free wifi in the library and filled our iplayer then went back to the village hall and scooped a bag full of bargains. Part of our haul included some curtains made out of deck chair material which we're going to turn into cushions to go on top of the  boxes, and into foam filled window pads which will fit in the window frames at night providing extra insulation and helping to cut down on condensation. We hope.

After two nights at the sailing club we moved all of half a mile to the pretty little mooring by the Nine Arches bridge in Thrapston. In the afternoon we drove to the National Trust property of Lyveden and had a very pleasant three hours walking around and exploring.

It's an amazingly interesting building and the Autumn colours and a cream tea set it off perfectly.

We both had dentist appointments the following afternoon. As our dentist is in Southam, we'd arranged to meet Kim and George in Leamington in the morning. We had a walk through the park kicking through the leaves and chasing pigeons, although George didn't seem all that bothered in either, then we had a go in the toddlers playground which was great fun until Ann-Marie got dizzy and Dave fell off the bouncy horse.
In the afternoon the dentist told Dave that he needed a crown and Ann-Marie that he couldn't find any reason why she'd had toothache for the last few months. Not exactly the result we were hoping for.

We needed to get to Irthlingborough the next day, so even though there was rain on the forecast we donned the waterproofs and set off. As it turned out it was quite a pleasant day even though it took us through four of the six manual guillotine locks. These are operated by a big wheel that you have to turn through what seems like a thousand revolutions to shut the gate, then another thousand to open it again once you're through. No matter how fit you are they must use muscles that nothing else uses, because they really make your arms ache.

In the afternoon we cycled back through Stanwick Lakes to Thrapston for the car, then in the evening..... well it was back to the future day so it would have been rude not to.

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