Wednesday, 29 September 2010

"Come On Baby, Light my Fire"

Well, honestly!!
Calls himself a Queen Scout!
Not only did he let the fire go out but .......... he had trouble re-lighting it!  Something about insufficient dry kindling.
OK, Harpic, yes, yes ...... I hear you - I would do it myself  BUT I only went to Brownies for three weeks when I was about nine and I don't boast about Ray-Mears-Bush-Craft-Type skills!!

Today we have had a seriously large delivery of the wet stuff we float on.  We were lucky enough to share the five locks from Thrapson to Irthlingborough, in the dry, with the only other boat on the move - a hire boat crew out of Leighton Buzzard.  Just as we had moored up by the Rushden Diamond stadium (local football club) the heavens opened and the rain is still going strong.  It was forecast.  We are here all by ourselves.

Travelling back up this river I have become very aware that it flows through a land of 'spires and squires'.
Every little town and village seems to have an old (Saxon?) church with a spire.  Wadenhoe is an especially lovely village.  The buildings are predominantly thatch and local stone.

The pub - "The King's Head" provides very good moorings at the bottom of the pub garden, serves good food and offers a selection of local ales all brewed in a barn by Fred!!

The name of this river is pronounced differently depending upon where abouts along it you are!
From Northampton to Thrapston it's pronounced as 'Nen' but from Thrapston downstream it's pronounced 'Neen'.  Don't know why - probably some Dark Ages tribal feud!

Maisie is due to return tomorrow - Maggie has missed her .... she told me so!

Thursday, 23 September 2010

"Goings On" on the River Nene

Leaving Ferry Meadows we moved on to the village of Elton where there is some permissible mooring amongst the cows!  We stayed there for three days!  The pub in the village, "The Crown" is old and thatched and there is still a post office that stocks essentials.
Sunset at Elton

We had two beautiful days weather-wise and, on one of them, walked to Fotheringhay.  These are views from the remains of the castle mound:-

When we moored up at Fotheringhay the next day along came n/b "Maltilda Rose" with their friends on
n/b "Paxton".  We had first met Jill and Graham on n/b "Matilda Rose" when we were on the Ouse and it was good to be able to chat to them again.  They have decided to put in some long cruising days to get off the Nene as they took a long time going downstream earlier in the year.

The Curse of The Nene:-
There are 37 locks on The Nene and most of them are electronically operated - but not all!  Where they are still manual one is confronted by a dreaded Silver Wheel -

On approaching a lock you have to wind this contraption down - many, many turns - and then secure it in place.  On leaving the lock you have to wind it up again!  Thank goodness there aren't that many out of the full 37!
When you see one of these, it is hard not to feel downhearted. However, I am assured by the Skipper who is comfortably aboard the boat that it is really good for both arm and stomach muscles.  I can think of a VERY good reason for having strong arm muscles!!

On our travels all the way to to Bedford and back we had been told by other boaters that the landowner of the moorings at Fotheringhay would be after your mooring fee even before you had been able to bang in your mooring pegs!
It was quite a topic of jovial conversation!  Well .....................
Here he is!!
His name is John and he is a really nice guy!  In all honesty, why shouldn't he make money from his assets?
We moored up on the other side of the bridge and managed to bang in three pegs, do a bit of 'gardening' and the ironing before he came along!!
Boaters, however, beware!  There is no escape!!

The Wanderer Returns ................

Megan is home from Malta after her six month stay.  She will be backwards and forwards visiting us on the boat over the next month.  Fresh air, country views and exercise - time to think about what she wants for the future and her options?

Me?  I am truly smitten by the River Nene - I think it's really, really lovely.
We just need the rain to behave itself for the next few weeks because we want to go back up the river much more slowly than we went down it!
The other Nene 'hazard' is flooding - apparently this happens both quickly and severely when there is prolonged wet weather.

Enjoying half a pint of Strawberry Cider at the Crown in Elton.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Three Quarters of the Claytons!

Yesterday Mick came to Whittlesey to find us.  Not only did he bring Molly and Rosie with him but he also brought some sunshine!  John and Mick first met at Teacher Training College when they were 19!  A long, long time ago!

We have cruised to Ferry Meadows just outside of Peterborough - lots of memories for Mick because, as a youngster, he went to the Cathedral school there and sang in the choir.  There were three other boats here overnight but they have now all left and we are on our own.  We have taken the dogs for a lovely walk around this enormous, very well managed park.  Geese have been chased and rabbits searched for.

The chaps have now embarked upon cycling back to Whittlesey to collect the car - apparently Cycle Route 63 will take them the eight miles directly there!

Since reaching a certain substantial birthday this year (!) Mick now only teaches three days a week.  We are hoping he and the girls will be able to come and see us like this more often.  At the moment Molly is sitting on the step awaiting her masters return and Rosie?  I'm being honoured because she is curled up on my lap!

Whittlesey - just to say that we thought it to be the nicest of the fenland towns we have travelled through.

Our visit to the Nene Washes earlier in the week was scuppered by gale force winds but it looks to be a wild, interesting area very good for bird-watching especially in the winter.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Goodbye River Great Ouse

On Monday we left the Great Ouse via Denver Sluice.  It was a strange sensation going UP in the lock to join the higher tidal waters on the other side of the lock gate.  We shared the lock with another narrowboat called "Shropshire Lass".  The skipper and his wife (in a wheelchair) had gone to the Ouse last year to over-winter and ended up staying longer than originally anticipated!
A first for us:-  when we got into the lock chamber at Salter's Lode we had to sit and wait for an hour and a half with the tidal gates open waiting for the tide to level itself with the water in Well Creek of the Middle Levels.  "Shropshire Lass" waited behind us.

It was quite a tedious journey from there to Upwell because the water was shallow and we were dragging the bottom all the way.  In addition the weather was wet and miserable!  The weather has been no better today!
We intended going as far as Floods Ferry but, when we arrived, the limited amount of mooring space was already occupied so we 'soldiered' on another couple of hours in the wind and rain to Whittlesey.
It actually came as no surprise to find that the limited amount of mooring there was also occupied so, for the first time in our boating lives, we have broken the rules!
Another first:  We are moored on the lock landing stage - if we hadn't stopped there we would have been moving in the dark and that's against the bylaws!

There seems to be a general consensus amongst boaters that the Middle Levels are boring and you need to get through them as quickly as possible.  As long as you don't tackle too much in one go I don't think they're boring - I think they have a special grandeur all of their own.  What is amazingly frustrating, however, is that you are forced to do them quickly because there is just no where to stop!!  Because of this, today has not been a good day.

SO:- The Great Ouse?  My Final Assessment :- (bearing in mind that I really like rivers!)

  • A lovely river.  As lovely as the Thames but no-where near as busy.
  • Lovely riverside towns and villages.
  • Lots of access to nature reserves and good walks for the dogs.
  • Good opportunities for seeing wildlife.  Kingfishers abound!
  • Beautiful clean, deep water teeming with fish.
  • Facilities just about adequate.  Sufficient moorings for the limited number of boats.  LOTS of marinas and boat clubs full of cruisers - if they all came onto the river together, the infra-structure would not be able to cope and  it would be chaos!  Finding water taps and somewhere to get rid of rubbish was a challenge.
  • I'm sure we will regret not going down the Cam into Cambridge or the Relief Channel to Downham Market - gives an added reason to return?
  • For me - worth all the effort of getting there!
Tomorrow?  Happy birthday to me!  I would like the sun to shine just a little!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Eastern Counties

Yesterday we entered the county of Suffolk by boat - I didn't know we could!  We have travelled the navigable length of the Little Ouse to the small town of Brandon.

The Little Ouse is a lovely little river - much nicer than we were expecting.  Sometimes the banks are tree lined, sometimes there are fields and sometimes open water meadows where an enormous assortment of cattle graze.  I just loved this little chap and thanks to Mrs Clayton, I even know what type of cow he is!!

Today the weather has been glorious!(A favourite word of my friend, Ken)  We cycled back to the RSPB Lakenheath Fen nature reserve.  Last night we had to moor just before Brandon Lock because there was nowhere else!  Apparently those in charge of the reserve have been trying to secure some visitor mooring space but to no avail as the landowner will not agree.  It's a lovely reserve - everything looked and felt quite new - I'm sure it will grow in popularity and notoriety!  Especially as a result of the rather special birds they boast having there - bearded tits amongst them!!   I tend to get myself to all the right places but not at the right times!

The leaflet says,
 "In the Autumn - Look out for families of Bearded Tits searching for food amongst the reeds"!!
Well, I did and I didn't hear or see one!!  It IS Autumn isn't it?
This is what all the fuss is about though - I'll just have to keep trying!
I'm sorry but, being a twitcher, he IS simply magnificent!

Is Suffolk not famous for it's pork sausages?  We passed an enormous pig farm on our travels today - there must have been 1,000 pigs of various ages.  
They looked very well cared for 
 and very happy.

As you can imagine, the smell was 
quite something!!

Today we have travelled in and out of Norfolk!  This was on bikes though, not in the boat.

We have company tonight - we have just been joined on our mooring by another narrow boat - another pair of continual cruisers.  

Monday, 6 September 2010


We are back in Ely!  Lovely place!

The wind is back too and so is the rain!!
Nothing amazingly exciting is happening but, in an attempt to maintain interest ............................. !!!!!!

"Angie xx" - a widebeam crewed by an Angie who is definitely younger than me, 
slimmer than me, fitter than me but about the same height and state of blondness.
What very important element is missing though?  Glad it is because ...... it's mine, all mine!!

Indulged?  Don't be silly - not us!!!

Before we leave the River Great Ouse I would like to go down the Little Ouse to an RSPB nature reserve called Lakenheath Fen - rumour has it that there are Bearded Tits there!!!  NO RUDE COMMENTS!!!!!!!
If, after years and years of searching I actually get to see one properly ............ I'll risk it and post a photo!