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Monday, 16 August 2010

Wellingborough back to Foxton

Monday 9th August and it was a glorious day, though a bit breezy. Not wishing to rush things it was 10.30 before we cast off, and rather belatedly decided to push on as Tuesday's forecast was poor. We had been told that the moorings at Cogenhoe were highly recommended & they looked good, though I was a little bit concerned about new posts erected alongside the bank, how easily they could hold "No Mooring" signs!! Perhaps I'm a pessimist, they might be going to hold signs saying "Please moor here"?

During the day we crossed with about 3 boats at locks and met another three between locks, so busy is the Nene with boats cruising!

About 7 of the locks on the Nene require manual labour to spin these large wheels to raise & lower the guillotine gates.

Above Weston Favell lock it was incredibly weedy, the embankments contain flood sluices for the Northampton flood relief scheme and unfortunately the prevailing wind was blowing the weed down to the lock. We decided that Carol should cruise out of the lock and to the flood sluice where I scrambled aboard. The indicated channel turned right after the sluice (why??) and this 200 yard channel was also full of weed, but we got through OK.

Turning out of the flood relief area Rush Mills lock had a top gate paddle (sorry EA, Pointed Door sluice) that would not close fully and this was to aggravate the problems with the very slow paddle mechanism needing 75 turns to open the paddle. Rush Mills & Abington lock above it are the only two locks on the Nene still having these low geared mechanisms.

A new marina was nearing completion alongside Becketts Park, on the town level. It has been sponsored by all sorts of quasi governmental bodies, but fortunately a decent contractor seems to have been employed & it looks good, nearly completed but yet to have any security features installed.

We tied up in Northampton around 5 having covered 12 miles and 13 locks.

Tuesday 10th August and 3 years after I retired! Rain overnight and overcast with drizzle at first. Quick visit for fruit & veg at Morrissons plus a coffee before we were off at 11.30. We crossed with one boat on the Northampton Arm and were concerned at the bottom end that we might never get through. There was a great amount of weed and using revs that would normally have seen us doing over 4mph we could barely keep up with a 2 year old child. It was similarly slow going on the way down yet we didn't seem to be churning up the bottom, very strange.

We saw this crop alongside the arm and also near Oundle. It stands around 5 feet high in clumps. Any ideas as to what it is, we reckon it is a green fuel.

Anyway, all the locks were set for us! Plus we met a granny with 2 grandchildren who were only too keen to push gates open & closed. Carol always keeps a jar of boiled sweets as a reward & these children deserved their reward. The locks of course were so quick to work through compared with those on the Nene, and we were out of the top lock at 3.30. A quick stop at Gayton services, so nice to have places to tip the Elsan, and we then waited for the traffic to rush past before joing the GU.

We decided to aim for Bugbrook, getting there at 5 and stopping about 150m before the bridge....bad choice, railway line very close, it would have been much better to carry on through the next 2 bridges before stopping. Went for a beer in the new pub, which was expensive, though I thought the interior of the pub craftily incorporated old bricks, timbers and designs.

We covered 8 miles and 17 locks and the weather drizzled a bit but it was far better than the forecast led us to expect.

Wednesday 11th and oh what a noisy night! A better day and as we entered Whilton Bottom Jenny & Bob on their new shared ownership boat, Budleigh, from Crick marina hove into view. We enjoyed sharing the flight with them in the lovely weather. We crossed with several boats too, making it even better.

We left them at the top of the flight and carried on to Watford, stopping as usual tied to the railings under the railway bridge to go into Watford Gap M1 services for papers, milk and, you guessed it, coffee! Arriving at Watford locks at 3 we had a 1 1/2 hour wait, being first in the next batch up. Filling with water & chatting whilst waiting we were helped up the locks by a chap who was hoping that by moving us out quickly that he would get down that night(he did).

We intended to stop at Crick but moorings were full so we stopped alongside Cracks Hill, just through the footbridge. The weather was generally good but clouded up during afternoon. Pleasant mooring spot and this lovely sunset.

As to alternator belt the one fitted on 5th still going OK. It gives a slight squeek first off in the morning before settling down. I have tightened it very slightly on 2 occasions so far and noticed this morning that the first bits of "V" were missing. 13 miles & 14 locks.

Thursday 12th and two boats passed us at about 6, waking Carol (I was already awake) who lept out of bed demanding we set of speedily as it was bound to be very bust at Foxton. Unheard of for us, by 6.45 we were under way, I don't ever recall starting so early. As we approached Yelvertoft and with our bows just about under the bridge, a boat on the water point just the other side set off!! I was absolutely flabbergasted at the mentality of the person whom I hesitate to call a boater! Better still, just past the permanently moored boats & just before the next bridge & right on the bend, he stopped & called us through!

Two other boats were about ready to set off as we approached but both did the right thing and waited the minute it took us to pass. Worried about reed growth on the length before the Welford Arm, in at least 2 places clumps about 20 feet long have blocked half the width on the inside of tightish bends. Our luck was in though as we only met boats in reasonably wide sections. We got about an hour of cruising in before the first rain, but then we had several, and sometimes quite sharp showers, through the day.

Husbands Bosworth tunnel was pretty dry and delighted us by giving us 4 boats to pass within it. By 12.15 we were at the top of Foxton and had a longish wait before we were able to descend to moor in the bottom basin. At around 6 there was an almighty clap of thunder that almost immediately followed a very big flash of lightning, and then a deluge. A pleasant chat in Br 61 and with Ian & Fiona on Brass Buckle whom we had moored with in Leicester in ? 2008 or 7 at our festival.

During our cruise I painted our new watering and Buckby cans and Carol decorated them.

16 1/2 miles in the day.

Friday 14th No movement, collected car thanks to Ian Cooper nb May Be, always a supporter of our local events, who gave me a lift. In the evening we had anenjoyable meal with IWA committee friends in the Foxton Locks Inn.

Saturday 13th and 3 years after we first set off on our cruising life. It was the opening day of the Foxton Festival and it rained on and off for much of the day. What surprised me was that there were ant people at the event, but in the marquee where the IWA had its stand there was a reasonable number of people at all times, and a good number when it rained.

Sunday 14th and a glorious day & people thronged to the Festival. The Foxton Inclined Plane Trust had organised the event and we were so pleased that all their efforts were rewarded by the crowds. I spent a lot of time talking (who me??) on the IWA stand, cajoling people to sign an Ashby Canal Association petition, and generally talking about joining the IWA and also ensuring that they go and enjoy the trip through Leicester. Jo & John, whom we met in Peterborough came along & we were able to show them how we had finished off Lily after they had left Debdale for their life aground near Peterborough.

Busy Foxton scenes.

Monday 15th and yes I know I only blog Sunday to Sunday, but after today I'll be signing off until we set off again after Lily's drive belt problem has been resolved, and after the Bank Holiday during which time we will go by train from Narborough to Dundee to see Carol's cousin who we last saw in Sydney in March. Crazy things thrain prices. Leicester to Dundee, via Peterborough, the train passes through and stops at Melton Mowbray. Price from Leicester £155, from Melton £184!!

Anyway we tied up in Debdale at 11, the drive belt fitted on the 5th looks about ruined. I have suggested to Debdale that they should get the rep from Gates belts to look at the damaged belts for his opinion as to what is wrong. He might refuse to come, but they have nothing to lose by asking.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Up the Nene

Wednesday August 4th and after slight overnight rain we set off after paying homage to the water point & sanitary station, being away before 10. The weather was not good, not a lot of wind but not warm & with several light showers. Several boats coming downstream & passed a cruiser at Alwalton lock where the gate would not rise sufficiently for him to pass without taking down his canopy & windscreen. He was waiting for the EA, but my guess is he had a long wait.

We had taken Emily & Annabel on the Nene Valley Railway during their stay, here it is crossing the river. I enjoyed the day at the NVR, but I was sad to see how many of their engines had been allowed to decay badly. They certainly did not look in as good condition as those at the Great Central Railway in Loughborough.

I tried to get a pic of the train crossing, only to run out of battery power. Anyhow, this is what it crossed, it is a few yards to the left of the picture.

For us we made good progress tieing up at Fotheringhay at 5 having covered 19 miles & 7 locks in the day. I thought there were EA moorings there but seeing none tied up to posts in the farmers field just as he was walking along to collect his £4 overnight fee. It was a pretty good mooring & at least had posts.

Thursday 5th and after a sunny start early on (6 ish) by the time we got out & about had light cloud & a fair breeze. We walked into Fotheringhay which is a pretty place, the pub looks pretty upmarket, but at 10am was closed, and the church is interesting. It was originally an abbey church & much bigger, but is now a manageable size, but very tall for its footprint. There was a very large display inside about Mary Queen of Scots who was imprisoned there & beheaded there, as well as a lot of info about the ins and outs of the claims to the crown around the time of Elizabeth 1st accession. Well worth a visit.

There is obviously some money around in Fotheringhay, this person flies around.

We saw two weed cutting methods on the way from Peterborough, this was the neatest.

We then set off to show Sam what Oundle looked like and moored just above Alton lock, where we had moored on our way downstream. We managed to moor close to the bank before, but this time our stern was well out & we were on a big tilt. We decided to stop the night after our long cruise of 5 miles & 3 locks, and walked into Oundle & Alton.

On our previous visit I had noticed a metal railing & gate surrounding what looked like a memorial, but it was set in an area full of reeds that looked boggy. This time Sam & I decided to investigate it, picking our way carefully though the stingers that protected it. We were so glad we did, it was just a raised manhole with a pipe coming out of it, I expect designed to let off excess pressure....but why the ornate railings & gate?

I had noticed that our charge rate was only around 10 amps with the batteries only at around 75% full, we should have been charging at around 50 amps, yet I had tightened the belt in the morning. Investigation when engine had cooled, after further tightening still only gave 11 amps so I fitted a new one and suddenly we got 50+ amps. The belt taken off was by Unipart and managed only 2 days, and in fact was difficult to get working at the start, the new one is by Gates and works well even when not very tight. The old belt was obviously slipping all the time, certainly the alternator pulley was very hot. We can't wait to hear what Debdale make of it all when we return shortly.

Friday 6th and by 8.30 we were under way after checking belts etc & we stopped at Oundle Marina. People say it is difficult to access going upstream, in Lily it would have been impossible without the bow thruster as we reversed in, we would have needed to do a 270 degree turn to get in otherwise.

Anyhow, once in, they said the entry was kept tight to allow them to block it off when there are flooding events. We filled with108 litres at 80/20 costing £105 and were able to tip the Elsan, there being no EA tipping points on the river other than Northampton & Peterborough and frankly we can't manage that distance on 2 cassettes.

Away again we pushed on, hindered by me leaving our only EA key at a lock! The weather clouded over & gave us the odd shower and by cruising at for us a fast pace we arrived at Irthlingborough at 5, though we had shared the last 3 locks with a couple who had set off from Fotheringhay that morning! The moorings outside the Rusden & Diamonds football centre were very good, but now were showing the signs of having been made using untreated timber and many of the boards were flaking away.

Many info sheets show there are full facilities here, but not any longer. There is a working water point & a pump out, though people said that this was out of order, & had been for 2 years! The other advertised facilities (showers, toilets, Elsan disposal) were set within the adjacent leisure centre, but the owners shut them when the EA would not pay for them!!!

There were lovely blackberries picked alongside the mooring, & we had picked a load of mirabelles at a lockside some miles before. Sally & family came to pick up Sam, bringing with them a takeaway curry from our favourite restaurant in Leicester, so this evening we were again on our own!

19 miles & 11 locks

Saturday 7th and we were supposed to be entertaining more friends on Sunday but Carol's back said "enough". I rang them & deferred their visit and we stayed put. I walked into Irthlingborough to buy newspapers & see what it had to offer amounting to a tiny Tesco, a butcher a Post Office stores plus a few takeaways, not a lot and it was a fair uphill walk from the moorings.

During the day we were plagued by flies, possibly from the blackberries.

Carol's tomato plant has been very productive.

Her chilli plant is also being very productive, we just noticed one of the chillis is a yellow orange colour. They are pretty hot.

Sunday 8th and a lovely day. After topping up with water we were away by 9.45, drive belt fine, and we raced ahead to Wellingborough. We had intended to shop & then carry on, but lethargy hit us & we stopped after 5 miles & 3 locks. We were alongside the childrens park & play pool & it being a lovely day the place was packed with families having a great time.

We might try to get to Foxton for next weekend's festival. It would be nice to see old friends again, but it does seem a bit of a slog, we'll see how we look in a couple of days. No visitors expected in the next week, other than Sam & Hannah are joining us on Saturday night! It's tiring, but lovely to be wanted.

Finally, I keep getting comments from people in what looks like Chinese. From what I can decipher they are all complimentary, but are in rather peculiar terms. As I have read that people have used comments to blogs to pass on encrypted information I will not publish any comments unless they are in clear English text. Sorry if I'm being a bit neurotic.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Into Peterborough with grandchildren

Monday 19th July Bright & warm but still breezy, though less so. Quick check of alternator belt, it was OK and starter shows fully charged after a night on the charger. Short cruise to Littleport, arriving at 12.30  8 miles.

Eldest daughter Sally, husband John plus Sam (16) & Hannah (12) arrived for supper, late as always with Sally & John,though they complained it was the length of the journey at fault. Lovely supper together and a few games of Rummicub before parents left us with the kids on a lovely evening.
The new bar restaurant (The Swan) is due to re-open at the end of July, the new owners have come out of retirement to set up a good quality place to go with 5 chefs & prices to deter the type of customer the old Black Horse attracted before the previous owner ran off to Austria to excape his debts. It will be interesting to hear how it goes.

Tuesday 20th July and a fine day saw us taking the bus into Ely to show the kids the lovely town & cathedral. We had another guided tour & so much better than our first one. Because Carol & I signed a Gift Aid form on our first visit, we get in free now for 12 months, & the kids got in free too! We had a lovely picnic made by Carol after we came out & then visited the Cromwell House museum, which was nearby & interesting.

The Cathedral is littered with "Green Men" carved in various places. They are an old fertility symbol.

Returning to Lily at 5 we set off for Hilgay Bridge & the lovely mooring there for the night.

8 miles.

Wednesday 21st July and a lovely day with less wind. We cruised to Denver to fill & empty and wait for our 2.30 slot. When we arrived we were told we had been told it was 2 (it certainly wasn't the time I was told) and he had already put a boat in the lock. It was at least half an hour before he let it out, & it was wide enough for the two of us, but we were then told we would be last through, arriving at Salters Lode around 4.30. What a difficult turn with no way of judging how fast the tide was flowing in& with there not being a great width more than our 70 feet to turn in. It was far from elegant but we got in, only to be told we should have come earlier when the tide was on the level!!

This sand bar explains why we were driven hard onto the mooring as we cruised upstream to Denver Lock

The EA were lifting one of the gates on the sluice. I was surprised to see that they were made of timber. They are allowed to swing closed as the tide comes in but on at least one gate the steel pintle had broken.

Because we were late we had to wait till 6.30 before it was level again. There is a second lock gate that allows a boat of Lily's length to lock down into the river, but not to lock up!

Now we had a problem. Carol had to catch a train from Peterborough to Leicester to pick up her car on Friday, but when I spoke to the charming young lady at Stanground saying we might not get there in time on Thursday & need to lock through on Friday, she said that would not be possible as the lock would be out of action for an inspection! We set off as fast as we could, but Well Creek is far from deep & the bend at Outwell was very weedy, shallow & awkward in the extreem. The lovely lady at Marmont Priory lock told us to carry on to the lock & knock & she'd let us through, but we didn't arrive till gone 9 & it was getting pretty dark so we made an awkward mooring to the bank.

A long day but only 10 miles & 2 locks

Thursday 22nd July and we were ready to cruise at 8 & by 8.30 Maureen had let us through the lock. Our cruising at first was easy as the water was wide & deep & we made good time. We topped up with fuel @ Fox's in March using 98 litres (they only do 60/40) at £1.01, and leaving at 11.30. I was optimistic we might make Stanground by 3.30 ish on the rate of progress so far and carried on well until we turned  into Whittlesea Dyke at Floods Ferry when it got shallower and narrower and it became much harder going. We cruised using far more revs (1700) than we usually use but even so 3.30 only saw us leaving Ashline lock with the Whittlesea bend ahead.

We managed the bend easily, but it was harder than on the way down, and then we had a fairly heavy rain shower with rumbles of thunder. There were storm clouds all around and we expected to be caught by several, but only one did! We carried on reaching Stanground at 4.45 and were through in short order to tie up on the Peterborough moorings at 5.

Our fuel usage was 3 litres per hour since our last fill up.

A hard day saw us covering 21 miles & 3 locks in 8 1/2hours cruising. And what was this lorry mounted missile doing parked up alongside the waterway?

Friday 23rd July to 3rd August we stopped in Peterborough using the car to ferry the young grandchildren to several places, they are still too young to allow us to set off for a day of cruising, maybe next year. We had a grand family party on the Saturday/Sunday as Sally was 40 & The Grain Barge did us proud, especially important as Emily is highly dairy/egg intolerant. We had all 4 of the youngsters "sleeping" on Lily on Saturday night, & surprisingly there was some sleeping done!

On the 3rd Carol returned the car to Narborough & returned with Sam who will be with us till Friday & will help us get through much of the Nene. The weather was generally good, the proximity of the Elsan & water point was invaluable in Peterborough and near to the moorings was a great swimming pool as well as a Lido. We bought a new starter battery, the old one managed just 2 years, we could only keep using it by running a battery charger onto it full time, though I'll take it back to Debdale to get it checked. I was told that as it is a "commercial vehicle" size there is only ever a 2 year warranty on them!

Final thing about Peterborough. The mill over the river has one or more very squeeky conveyor belts. I'm intending to get in touch with them or the city council about it as it goes on all night. It was squeeking in May & still is now, let me know if it does when you pass.