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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

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 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

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