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Sunday, 27 June 2010

June 21st to 27th St Neots



Monday, glorious day, barely any wind & lovely sun most of day. Gentle cruise back to Houghton Lock to view Houghton Mill. It is a National Trust property & we struggle to find places to use our membership at these properties as they tend to shut for the winter just as we return from our cruise & don’t open till we set off!! Problem here is moorings, there are EA moorings below the lock but they are on an island & you can’t get to the village/mill. We decided to visit the pub The Three Jolly Boaters, and this entitled us to use their mooring! Nice pub but food seemed pricey. Interesting village, but how on earth were these houses permitted planning? A small estate, clearly from the ‘60s, that just is not in keeping.


There was another picturesque pub in the village too, and the water mill was well worth a visit. If we had arrived earlier we could have seen some milling, but we bought a large bag of the flour & it made lovely bread. Pleasant tea room alongside plus a large camp site.




Being worn out by this exertion, we stopped the night.






Tuesday 22nd and an even better day, getting quite hot. Returning past Huntingdon we shared Godmanchester lock with a narrowboat reversing back to a mooring but we carried on. Apparently this meadow above Huntingdon Bridge is the largest one in the country at 365 acres.


At Brampton there is an old mill with it’s wheel turning, but it is a replacement & purely decorative addition to what is now a restaurant/hotel. Still it looks good.


Slight problem at Brampton Lock, and narrow bendy navigation channel to it when there is a nice direct route. The locks operate by the electric mechanism lifting the guillotine slightly to fill the lock and setting in motion an interlock timer. The gate will not lift further until the time delay has counted down, but here it wasn’t counting down. I lowered the gate, lifted it again & this time it worked!



We carried on to Buckden Marina to top up with fuel before any budget changes, plus water etc. We were able to self declare our propulsion usage at 10%. We had run a load of washing during our cruise, but the inverter tripped out. The only way to get it to do washing was to turn off the freezer. Clearly it is not big enough though we had been told it would be. Also we started getting flashing lights on the washer. The marina was offering a free night’s mooring, so we took them up on it. Lovely marina, some lovely chalets around it & good club house & gym. We also got free power & with a struggle I managed to get another load of washing done, but that was it as far as the machine was concerned!



So we now have to resolve the inverter problem & the washer problem.



A big day of cruising. 8 miles & 2 locks.



Wednesday 23rd was a day of fabulous weather.



I was alerted by a load of squeaking & much splashing in the water & looked out & thought it was a pair of otters. I photographed & videoed this for a while, but looking at it now & having talked to people at the marina, we are sure it was a pair of very large carp splashing around which they carried on doing for well over 5 minutes. These young swallows found our neighbours tiller to be a good perch



I walked the mile & half into Buckden to see the old Archbishop’s Palace that dated from around 1100 onwards. Buckden was quite a nice village with a couple of pubs & Post Office & shops & the palace quite interesting too. Why on earth would the Bishop of Lincoln have his palace built in Buckden which must be well over 50 miles away? It was used to accommodate Katherine of Aragon for a period when she wasn’t Henry 8th’s favourite wife.

I loved this pub notice board.

Whilst I was doing this Carol used the laundrette at the marina to clear all our washing. Off to the club house for a coffee & discussions with Mike at Debdale about our problems plus also to Aquafax. We then set off to St Neots, sharing St Neots lock with 2 plastic fantastics & an EA workboat......they were pressure washing slime off the walls & steps in the lock. We’ve never seen BW doing this, could it be a waste of money?



We moored up on the pontoon mooring alongside the town council offices, right by the water point which had been disconnected!! 5 1/2 miles & 2 locks.



Thursday 24th a busy day on the phone and more fabulous weather.



Found a useful car spares place on Huntingdon St where I got one spare alternator belt & then they got me another spare for the afternoon. Lovely market in the Market Square. Got some lovely fruit & veg plus Carol got a crab & I had a wild, line caught sea bream....beautiful.

I went into the council offices & moaned at the District Council desk about the hopeless tap they have provided at Huntingdon, before finding that the town council were guilty of cutting off the tap on the pontoon outside after vandals had broken the pipe & caused a big waste of water. This caused the council to find out they were supplying the water free, when they didn’t know they were doing so. They terminated the supply. Can I request that boaters write to St Neots Town Council (Clerk) Council Offices The Priory, St Neots Huntingdonshire PE19 2BH. I am trying to find the name of the Chairman so we can make it political.

After lunch I changed the engine oil, thought I had a spare oil filter, but hadn’t so the car spares place was useful again! Then gave the oven an almighty clean, have you tried Oven Pride? It works well but even with this it was a long & dirty job but I suppose this is a drawback to enjoying Carol’s cooking.



After many calls I decided on what to do with the inverter. It seemed from on-line investigation that our washing machine problems probably came from a 50p capacitor but am I really up to dealing with it?



Friday 25th and another lovely day.



We visited the church in St Neots & it is well, worth a visit, but you need to collect the key from the office over the road from the church. The roof has fabulously carved beams & decorations plus some interesting painting. Found that as our washer was only 2 years old it still has a Hotpoint parts warranty. Great! Call out cost £104!! I couldn’t get them to come to the pontoon mooring, despite giving them a post code, so on Friday we have to go back to Buckden. As to the alternator on Tuesday evening a 4kw inverter/charger is being delivered & the 2.5kw unit is being collected. I managed to get a suitable discount to make us happy to take this option.



So after lunch we set off, stopping after 400m to fill with water & empty the loo at the small marina there. No diesel or petrol any longer. We tootled along through Eaton Socon lock, disturbing the local youths jumping in off the top of the guillotine gate. They were a happy crowd and we were soon on our way and we enjoyed our pleasant gently cruise on this river. After about 4 ½ miles around ½ mile before the A1 crosses the river, tied to the river bank, using a plank to get back on board. Not many moorings here abouts.



Saturday & Sunday both fantastic days & we stayed put with Grand Prix, Moto GP & Wimbledon to watch plus Carol decorating our new watering & Buckby cans & I cleaned the lacquer off the mushrooms & re-polished them plus a few other bits and blogging. Lots of bats flying over the river at dusk.


Monday, 21 June 2010

14th to 20th June

Monday 14th

Still moored at Pike & Eel & dawned bright but cool and windy, but I had heavy work to do. I knew the old inverter was heavy, the new one is heavy enough, & I had to get it out of a cupboard that was a fairly tight fit to it. It took the better part of 3 hours of looking & fiddling & trying before I got the old one out. I reckon it weighs about 50 kg & to get it out I had to wedge it up and fiddle. I then read & re-read about wiring in the new one as it has 2 sets of output terminals, but fortunately Keith, the supplier was working on his boat in the marina so I was able to check with him & by 3.30 all was done & inverter power was restored!

I also spoke about the oil leak to Mike @ Debdale, fresh back from Le Mans. He reckons it was solely because the oil had greatly expanded. All I had to do was keep on mopping up the oil! We decided to stop overnight.

Tuesday 15th

Bright morning with clouds & a cold wind & we set off at 9, a kingfisher seeing us off his patch. An early start, but we were tied up by 11 in St Ives, mooring at the town quay. Just 4 miles & 1 funny shaped lock.

Walked around the town, quite pretty & I had a hair cut. Afternoon brightened & warmed up.


I saw this interesting take off of the Red Bull ad.

The old mill shown was where Clive Sinclair created the first pocket calculator, I remember buying one, and having it nicked! The mill is now apartments.


The EA drawing shows water at the wharf, but it failed to work. Drinkers sat on benches talking till fairly late on at night, but no problems.
There is the remains of an old chapel in the centre of the river bridge in St Ives & the 2 left arches in this pic are different as they were re-built after the Civil War as Cromwell blew up the 2 stone arches & replaced them with a timber draw bridge.


Wednesday 16th

Bright sunny morning with less breeze, away at around 11, but we only dawdled slowly to Hemingford Grey which Nicholson said was a pretty place, so we stopped, and stopped the night! About 2 miles & 1 lock was all we managed. Below the lock on the none too generous lock landing stage this pretty launch had been moored with no consideration for other boaters.

We tied up alongside The Old Manor House which, for £7 could be visited & the extensive garden viewed, but £7!! It seems it has been continuously occupied since the 1100's and this makes it the, or one of the, house(s) with the longest continuous occupation in England. The garden looked pretty & at least one coach party visited, but also dropped the people off at the village pub for lunch. We dropped in there too, nice pub, beer & coffee good. Rated best eating venue in Cambridgeshire in 2010 Good Pub Guide but we thought it looked a bit pricey so ate in.


Some lovely little houses in the village with plenty of thatch and a good shop plus a Post Office, with another one of those mobile Post Offices parked outside. Church in lovely location right by river & with a truncated spire after it was knocked off by a hurricane in 1741.










Also ambled to Hemingford Abbots. Shame about mobile home park on the edge, but that apart a gorgeous place.



Pub looked well worth a visit later, all thatch & beams, just along from a wonderful 17C timber barn, thatched, and then the church which was very pretty & in a lovely setting.
Hemingford Abbots church roof had good carvings & the remains of old roof paintings.

It was a bright sunny day but still with a cold wind and the evening was enlivened by lots of children practicing rowing in skiffs for the Hemingford Regatta in July. It was lovely to so many people out enjoying the river in a good village activity.
I don't think the Oxbridge crews have anything to fear from these willing youngsters!!

Thursday 17th

Another lovely day but still with the cold wind. After the lazy cruising yesterday we decided to really push ourselves.... and did 3 1/2 miles & 1 lock before stopping at Huntingdon! We have 2 friends joining us at the weekend & he has very limited mobility & we had been trying to find out a suitable mooring. We though Hemingford would be OK, but the Rotary Club sponsored mooring in Hungerford was ideal.

We went into the town to look around, not a lot to see but did visit the Cromwell Museum. Oliver was born in Huntingdon and his old school house is now the museum & very interesting, but twee so it doesn't take long to see it. Carol's back bad with too much walking on Wed.

Friday 18th

Overcast & rained fairly hard from 3. Ambled into Huntingdon to see farmers market buying meat for Sunday plus some lovely sausages & a couple of venison burgers plus some enormous Orgasmic eggs.

Set off after lunch asking people on boats moored just past A14 whether there was any water nearby & they pointed us to a tap at the Huntingdon Boat Haven where we topped up & I emptied the loo. There are just no EA provided services around. On the town moorings in Huntingdon there is a tap, but it is a push button one, and even then it has a square section so an adaptor will not fit. The other incredible thing is that boats on the river are allowed by the EA to use sea toilets!! (ie their toilet effluent is discharged into the river). We can't believe this, when we were on Carol's cousin's yacht cruising the coastal inlets around Sydney they still had to put their effluent into holding tanks. I shall be writing to the EA about this.

We managed under 2 miles & 1 lock before mooring in heavy rain at Godmanchester. Met a boat at the lock where boaters were from Countesthorpe where we lived in the early 1970s, & shared it with another narrowboat where crew were from Oakham. Stayed fairly unpleasant through late afternoon & evening so I set to to complete the base painting of our new watering can & Buckby can. It takes a very long time to paint the different bands of colour, but my job is done now & now it is up to Carol to decorate them with..........Lily Pads.

Saturday 19th

Another cool windy day. Walked around Godmanchester a bit but too cool & light not good enough for decent pics so returned to Huntingdon & bought provisions needed for our guests plus Carol cooked some cakes & scones and prepped veges.

In 2 days 3 miles & 2 locks!

Sunday 20th

Friends arrived just after 11 as sun was starting to break through. We cruised on through Houghton Lock & moored at Hemingford for lunch (fabulous) before Stephanie & I walked through the 2 pretty villages. The day moved to bright sun by 1 & stayed that way all afternoon until they left at 8 having seen the Gt Ouse looking lovely.

6 miles & 2 locks, meaning that in the week we have done 18 1/2 miles & 7 locks, not even a real day's cruising, but we have loved it!!

Monday, 14 June 2010

7th June to 13th March to St Ives

After 11 days away courtesy of the train we returned at 6 on Sunday, relieved to find the freezer still frozen, & Carol's plants on the roof looking pretty good too. Our water bed was cold having been unheated for 11 days so the boiler did its stuff getting it reasonably warm in a couple of hours. On Monday we filled up with fuel at 60/40 split (no options) at a cost of £163, something over £1 a litre! We then moved just over a mile down the Dyke to moor in the centre of March. Useful shops & reasonably large Sainsburys and some interesting buildings. It seems that once March had amongst the largest railway sidings in the world....one wonders why? It is now a quiet railway backwater.

Our aged copy of Nicholsons told us the church of St Wendreda demanded a visit. It was just over a mile from the river & the key can be picked up from the nearby pub, but it wasn't there!! There was a funeral, so we waited in the old graveyard till it was over, and it was worth the wait because the hammerbeam roof was incredible with the beams being decorated with wonderfully carved angels on them...more later.

The moorings in March were 36 hour limit & when we arrived there were at least 2 of the moored boats that I thought had been there a fairly long time, but I was wrong, both of them moved off during the first afternoon. One lady arrived later on in an older ex hire boat with a broken window. She had obtained new glass and fitted it the next morning, and she warned of mooring alongside the park opposite the pump out station in March. 1 mile 0 locks and we were moored alongside a pub (not visited) & an Italian restaurant where the menu looked OK.


Tuesday 8th dawned after heavy overnight rain and some thunder during the day we were off after getting papers & fresh fruit. Our journey through the levels was highlighted by seeing several Kingfishers, including one that we observed hovering much in the way that hummingbirds do.


The channel became narrower & weedy after Pophams Eau. It was wet by the time we reached Marmont Priory Lock which is manned by the family that own the lock house. They do not get paid for doing so, apart from getting their phone bill paid.

After this we cruised slowly into Upwell & moored on the mooring provided by the Wells Creek Trust (the navigation was restored by the Trust in 1975. Saw this on a house along the cut.


Small village a few pubs I think 3 butchers (& the beef we got from the one by the mooring was wonderful!!) plus a general store.


I had never seen a mobile Post Office before, it emptied its till at Upwell.


And so to the church where again there are loads of carved angels on the roof hammer beams. What made this more unusual was the fact that the church still has its wooden galleries that enable you to get up & close to the carving.

A builder was doing some work in the church & he drew our attention to these large "boat hooks" that were fixed to the gallery. They were over 12 ft long & I can't think what they were for, they had metal rings fixed on them at places along their length. Any ideas?


Alongside the church was a large house, Welle Manor House that dates from 1202 and, Nicholson says,is a "rare example of a fortified medieval prebendary manor house." Yes...with a new large conservatory, but mostly engulfed by Victorian extensions.


We liked the village, moored outside the pub, & again I didn't visit but the A1101 was alongside & did a 90 degree turn alongside.

Wednesday 9th away slowly through shallow waters, & beware the bridges are low too. We intended to tie up at Outwell a mile away to see its church roof, but the moorings were occupied by 4 little cruisers, so we cruised on, its something for our return trip. Close by was an old pub (my old Nicholsons shows loads of pubs that are no more) where the house owner has renovated the wonderful plaster sign on the gable end. It reminded me of the brewer whose fare I drank on a summer holiday tour in my old Austin 7, Bullards...a name no more.

We were booked in at Salters Lode lock at 3pm and had 7 miles to cover & 4 1/2 miles to cover it! The weather brightened and we tied up for lunch at Nordelph. Nothing here, the pub is a house, the church was being demolished & this is the stubbiest old windmill I've ever seen!



The old petrol pump stopped at 50 1/2 p a gallon!! Derelict boats abound as the Middle Level Commissioners do not charge a licence fee.


Carried on shallow & slow to Salters Lode Lock where we tied up with 2 others waiting the tide, and it clouded over & started to drizzle slightly. Lock keeper arrived and Lily was locked through first & we tied up below it waiting for Weasel to join us. We then set off upstream with incoming tide behind us and Denver Sluice Lock was open for us BUT there was a small plastic boat on the pontoon mooring below the lock and there was a big swell flowing from the weir driving us onto it! It took full power for several minutes for us to get away from the plastic and into the lock, during which time we shredded another alternator belt!! Locking up with Weasel we then used the services before moving on to the excellent moorings above the lock.
7 miles & 2 locks.

Thursday 10th after a quiet night it was overcast with a cool wind and rain forecast we set off up the Gt Ouse & then took the first left into the river Wissey. A lovely river, banks not too high, deep water, twisty course and we tied up at Hilgay for lunch. We then carried on to just beyond the sugar beet factory where the river widened to a small lake, turning & returning to Hilgay for the night. Good local council provided toilets & Elsan point plus water. Simple church & a great butcher cum general store & newsagent with lovely home made pies (good pork pie) but the worst pub I've been to in years. Real ale was off & the keg John Smiths didn't taste too good either.
About 8 miles & 0 locks....hard work.

Friday 11th Overcast & then fast fine drizzle so washed off 1 side of the boat waiting for it to brighten....but no. We had a gentle easy run back to the Ouse intending to turn next left into Brandon Creek but about an hour after setting off there was a funny noise & a burning smell! It wasn't the alternator belt, I checked, it was the inverter that had gone bang! Rang Debdale, contacted a marina in Ely & got a couple of nights there with mains power. I spoke to Aquafax, & in particular Keith, about repair to be told that our inverter contained coils made by a firm that had gone bust & Mastervolt was unable to get/make spares so we had to replace it! Also we couldn't get the same size of inverter so we have had to downsize a little, 3kw to 2.5kw. Most amazing was the fact that Keith keeps his boat on the river not far from Ely & that he would take our new inverter there for us to meet up over the weekend.

The afternoon brightened up and Ely Marina was very helpful (at £30 a night they should be) and we loved walking up into the "city" which has some lovely buildings & a fabulous cathedral. Every night there is a choral evensong in the Lady Chapel and we went to it on Friday. The sound in that room was incredible and it is a wonderful place. There is even a Wetherspoons next to it!
9 miles 0 locks.

Monday

Saw this post near level crossing by station.


Saturday 12th and a bright day with a cool wind. Re-provisioned at Waitrose (Tesco near Station) and Carol had her hair cut before we went off to take a guided tour of the Cathedral and a gentle wander around the town. We will return. Arranged to meet Keith at the Pike & Eel towards St Ives on Sunday.

Sunday we had to wait till 10.15 to get our £50 key deposit back & we set off at a fast lick. The river was wide & deep and we cruised fast, slowing as we entered the Old River where there is a 4mph limit on the narrower river. It was a lovely cruise and we saw Kingfishers, a Barn Owl and an Egret plus an Oyster Catcher as well as numerous other birds. The weather was good though the wind cool. We reached Hermitage lock, 4th in the queue waiting for 2pm & the start of afternoon working. The river Ouse the other side is slightly tidal the other side & we were told to look for seals but saw none. On we cruised to Brownshill lock which we shared with a smallish plastic boat, all electric with guillotines, but Carol noticed oil on the water near our stern. Once through we tied up on the landing stage & I found that our hydraulic oil had expanded out of the header tank with the extended fast cruising!

We met Keith shortly afterwards and tied up at the Pike & Eel & plugged into the mains & I started mopping up the oil! We had covered 17 miles & 2 locks in under 6 hours.

Not a good week as far as Lily was concerned, but the scenery is lovely.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Peterborough to March

May 24th to 29th

Monday 24th & our 41st anniversary. A fine day but cooling. This was our mooring last night with lots of nettles!!


We tootled gently down into Peterborough with just one lock & a few miles. What a lovely river.



We tied up past the services block at a bit past 12. Was passed this funny thing on our way in, we think it is meant to be a work of art, but WHAT IS IT???


We had messages that John & Jo who used to be at Debdale (John having done most of the woodwork on Lily) lived near Peterborough & would like to see us. I called them & we fixed a meeting. During the call Jo asked if we were going to the Key Theatre



that night for the opening of “Dinner Ladies” with a touring cast. Having previously planned nothing for our celebration we poddled along & booked. I had also previously looked at on-line reviews of “The Grain Barge” which is a floating Chinese restaurant on the river that we visited in 1993. They reviews looked OK so we ate there first, and it was excellent, before going to the theatre where we about burst our seams, a wonderful show. We had a fantastic surprise anniversary!

Moorings in Peterborough are quite plentiful, though if the river should rise a mere few inches, the rings will be below the water. Pump outs (we don’t use) are free so after a fairly awkward trip for facilities when you get there it’s great! Unfortunately it looks as if 2 boats have taken up residence there, one does not seem to have any form of motive power whilst the narrowboat had a list of over 3 inches! The town is close by as is the Cathedral.



Useful guide to river is http://noproblem.org.uk/blog/nene/

Tuesday, a much cooler day, we visited the Cathedral, but only after I had obtained our spare alternator belts & changed the ring spanners, during which walk I noticed the greyhound track near the river. We never gamble, but I reckon that on our way back we’ll call by there to experience this.



The Cathedral is lovely, very simple and clean and right in the town. After visiting it we met John & Jo for a lovely chat over a coffee and arranged that we would meet for longer on our return journey. To pass onto the Middle Levels it is necessary to book a passage 24hours before through Stanground Lock, which I duly did, before we wandered off around the town & visited the station to book tickets for the weekend. Carol noticed this muntjac deer trying to get out onto the towpath & tried to help it to no avail, fortunately it then swam to the other side to get out.



Wednesday bright but a cool wind and after using the services we cruised the short distance to Stanground lock, arriving early for our 10.30 booking. The lock used to be under 50 feet long but is now around 80 and I guess is about 12 feet wide. The charming lock keeper (who was born there & is the 4th generation of her family to hold the post) warned us of restricted headroom entering the lock so I moved the flower troughs away from the centre of the roof enabling us to clear the low footbridge. I bought the Middle Levels Yale key from the lock keeper & could have bought the special windlass from her for half the price I paid at Gayton!



Down we passed onto the drainage channel, Kings Dyke, with highish banks alongside. These kept some of the wind off us, wind that brought wafts of smell of brick making from the nearby brickyard, these chimneys and many oojimikoos providing part of the scenery. Oojimikoos you ask? Well when our children were young & were being fractious we warned them that an oojimikoo was watching & they often settled. Later, when they failed to see the thing we were pointing out to them, whilst walking along York Rd in Leicester they insisted on seeing what it was. Carol pointed to a large extractor fan in a factory window and from that day on, for us, fans etc are oojimikoos, and a wind turbine fits this bill! (York Rd in Leicester, a grand city gives its name to a short & narrow lane not far from the Newark Gateway, hardly fitting, and the factory......like so many others in Leicester is now rebuilt as student flats!)



The cut was significantly straight, quite wide, and with lovely wild flowers and flower covered hedges. The sun was bright and we pootled along gently to Whittlesey. At Whittlesey the channel narrowed and had a sharp bend, with cruising notes saying “70ft narrowboats are reported to have successfully negotiated the bend”.



Well Lily is 70ft and she got round pretty easily, in fact I think we could have managed an extra couple of feet, but it might be different the other way! We carried on a short distance further before scrambling a mooring at the Leisure Centre, just before Ashline Lock.

We wandered into the village/town, nothing too much to recommend though we found a good cafe & smallish supermarket plus most other types of shop, though quite a number of shops were empty. The museum had this interesting doorway, a hint to a past use.

The place used to have 52 pubs(!) so many that some just had a letter to define them, not a name. Many have gone, but The George in the market square is currently being refurbished & will re-open at the end of July as a Wetherspoon pub.

We had planned on carrying on to March that day but on our return to Lily there was chaos with 4 or 5 boats trying to get through the lock. There was a boat festival in March the next weekend and they wanted to secure a mooring, so we decided to stay put, & I had some very tasty fish & chips for supper (I get an urgent desire for this dish a few times a year)

Thursday after overnight rain dawned bright but not warm. We cast off just as a boat was coming up Ashline lock, which would have pleased them as the lock has to be left empty & with gates open. The lock is around 12ft wide and only one of the two ground sluices worked and took about 60 turns to raise & lower. Access to the lock surround was through a locked gate (remember to buy a key!!). Once through the dyke was long & straight with a few bends. We liked it, others find it boring.

Our journey was lovely with flowering hedgerows plus the odd pill box.



About 3 hours after setting off we arrived at Fox’s boatyard where we had booked in Lily to stay for the Bank Holiday week whilst we go to see our family. A lovely working boatyard and lots of interesting boats, just near to Lily’s mooring a couple were just starting work old narrowboat. I wish them well, it looks to have been neglected thoroughly for many years.



We managed 5 locks this week & only around 15 miles!

Back in 2 weeks