Sunday, 28 November 2010

Surprise, Surprise

Leaving Yelvertoft on Friday we passed n/b “Intrepid” another Les Allen boat.  She was built in 1992 - 4 years earlier than “Ellen”.  Her new owners have just had her re-painted and she looks really, really good.

birthday 002

birthday 003



Quite a rare occurrence:- one     Les Allen boat passing another. 



Again we had to break ice all the way to Crick where we snuck into the marina earlier than originally intended.  We are now moored up on the same pontoon as Rodney!  Each year we have got closer!!  I think we did this just in time as, on Saturday morning, we awoke to snow.

We had always intended going to the pub for a meal on John’s birthday.  The plan was that we would go aboard Rodney’s boat for nibbles and to watch “Strictly” first but, when we arrived, Surprise, Surprise our friends Anne, John and Gill had driven up from Staines and were sitting there waiting for us!  The evening took it’s course and we had a really good time.  Apparently, this had been plotted long ago!  Where would any of us be without friendships like these?   

birthday 006

birthday 001


It was a very cold night – the temperature on the thermometer on the back deck registered minus 12oC!     

Maisie made sure she was OK though!



So, tomorrow we are going back to Staines to begin organising ourselves for what lies ahead in the next few months.  “Ellen” will be hibernating in Crick marina and, as we will not be cruising, I will only add blog entries if I think they will be of particular interest. We have a long list of boat-jobs we want/need to do but accomplishment of these will depend upon how much time we actually get to spend on board. Typical that, just as we need to leave the boat unattended, the weather has turned really cold because, in conditions like these, John is always anxious about the possibility of pipes freezing up etc.  We will (all being well) leave the marina at he beginning of March ready for next year’s adventure.  Two old/ancient (when does ‘old’ become ‘ancient’?)  ladies must take priority at the moment but ………….. I have got a skeleton plan for next year’s cruise in mind.

We wish everyone out there a Happy Christmas and New Year and thank you for following our exploits and leaving your comments.    

A xxoo

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Log Stock and Two Smoking Chimneys

wooding 008

The weather-people have got it right this time – it has turned really cold.  In fact, this morning we awoke to being frozen in!  The picture below doesn’t do it justice but that is not open water – it is ice!

wooding 013

We are moving on up to Yelvertoft and, as I write, John is breaking the ice. Not so good for the blacking and inside it sounds terrible!  No other boats are in any rush to be cruising.

Now that a bag of coal costs 50% more than when we first started this venture, we have relented and have been experimenting with burning wood to supplement our resources.  You can always spot a liveaboard boater by the piles of wood either on the roof or in the cratch or both!  In comparison to others we have seen, our little stock of wood is nothingwooding 014!

However, John was not nick-named “Woody” at college for nothing!  His sawing skills have always been excellent!  I’m sure he envies the boaters he sees with chain saws, however. 

wooding 011

(For those of you who might not know – amongst other things, he used to saw up bits of wood for a living – first as a teacher and then as a kitchen and bathroom fitter.)

Theswooding 003e partners-in-crime are just intent on hoovering up fallen hawthorn berries. Thank goodness that, as yet,They don’t appear to be causing any upset tummies.


Rodney is coming up to his boat for a few days so we will be spending some time with him.  The plan is that he takes us back to Staines on Monday and then we need to try to sort out what is happening with both mums.

I had to go for a little extra lie down earlier this morning when I received a text from my brother saying that finally he has put me on the insurance of his car.  There must be a hidden agenda?

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Retail Therapy required.

I need cheering up!

I need a bit of retail therapy!

So……………. I have set myself the task of thinking what birthday present I could get for the male boater who definitely doesn’t have everything!  You know, that male boater who is reaching a SUBSTANTIAL age on Saturday!

I thought that if I looked at the ad’s in a well-known boating magazine I could get some ideas.  WELL!  It’s incredible what amazingly interesting things can be purchased for boats and boaters these days!

How about a new Alternator Regulator?  Mind you, not any old Alternator Regulator ……. It would have to be an ADVANCED  Alternator Regulator and ………….. definitely a PRO DIGITAL Advanced Alternator Regulator and it would be sub-standard if it was not also a UNIVERSAL Advanced Pro-Digital Alternator Regulator ……….in fact an Inter-active, Programmable, Self-Diagnosing Advanced Pro Digital Universal Alternator Regulator.  WOW!!  Maybe not! ££££££££££££££££££££££££££ 

WHAT!!??  I have trouble understanding the mechanics of my faithful little carpet sweeper.  My ELECTRIC carpet sweeper.  My RE-CHARCHABLE Electric carpet sweeper at that.  And it’s a lovely shade of GREEN!

Oh, S** it!  I’ll have to go to M&S like everybody else and buy something that I have (believe it or not in 43 years) NEVER bought for him before – pants and socks!!  They are very necessary and …… they can be as interesting as I care to make them!!  Whilst there I’ll pop into Wilko’s, Paul, and splash out on the recommended gaffer tape- I might even get some for myself as well!  Do you recommend the tape being applied across the cheeks or round the legs?  Does it come in an assortment of colours?

Sunday, 21 November 2010

This, That and the Other!


Boating news.

We are currently moored at the top of the Foxton Flight having reached here early Friday morning.  The Foxton Locks comprise 2 staircases of 5 locks each and are a really special canal feature. The whole of the Foxton area is, in fact, an enormous attraction and there are always lots of people milling about.

We first came here in “Ellenlatest 010” New Year 2006 and since then the area has been considerably tidied up and developed to attract more visitors. It has worked!

There are now excellent information boards and brass plaques, good pathways and the Inclined Plain has been cleared and a viewing point installed. 

 latest 011Maggie, of course, is only interested in seeing a rabbit!


Between 1900 and 1911 boats were able to go up and down this Inclined Plane in apparently 12 minutes instead of having to go up and down the locks which took a lot longer and became a major bottleneck.  It would be a huge attraction if the Plane could be put back into working use but I feel sure the cost must be prohibitive.

latest 012


Today, at popular times of the year, boaters frequently have to wait in a queue to go up or down the locks.

latest 013

Tomorrow we will begin to head back to Crick.  The plan is to get the boat into the marina sooner than originally planned so that we can get back to Staines together as there are domestic issues to address.  (See below)    Next Saturday, however, John reaches a SUBSTANTIAL birthday and we are hoping to be able to mark the occasion with a small celebration before getting bogged down with other things.

The Weathermen/women have not lied this time!  It has become MUCH colder!  We have lots of jobs we want to do on the boat over the winter – we will just have to wait and see what happens.

Domestic News

Both our mums have spent this week in St Peter’s Hospital in Chertsey.  They have both had falls!  During the week we have received mixed and confusing reports.  Reports have been a mixture of:-  very dramatic, very gloomy, emotionally charged, opinionated, and, thank goodness, some calm, level-headed and balanced.  We were given the sensible advice that we needed to go and see for ourselves so that we could make up our own minds regarding the situation.  So, on Friday, with more than a little help from a really good friend, I went to the hospital.

John’s mum is medically fit and well but she is wobbly on her feet, has lost self-confidence and gets confused about things.  She is receiving occupational therapy and it remains to be decided whether she goes back home with a care plan in place or has some recuperation time in another local hospital first – either Ashford or Walton.  She is 89.

My mum?  Well!  At 98 years old she was completely coherent and aware of what was going on!  Of course she was not happy about being pulled around but, according to the Doctor, she was getting stronger by the day and he felt there was no reason why, with additional care put in place, she could not go home quite soon. My brother went very pale!!  The Doctor spent a long time clarifying for me what had happened to date.  She has a chest infection and a urine infection to clear up before anything can happen.  I have spoken to her about considering going into a home and she was calm and thoughtful about it.  We will see.

Even worse – as I was travelling back to Staines John received a phone call telling him that David, Lesley’s last partner, was also in St Peter’s Hospital having had a bad stroke.  Ben and I went to find him but I’m really sad to say that he was in a coma and had been since he had been found by his son on Tuesday.  David is only in his early 70’s and has always been so fit.  A salutary reminder to us all of how fragile life is and how important it is to make the most of every day we have.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Life on the Cut Goes on ….

But slowly!  Oh, so slowly!

Last weekend, in pouring rain and howling gales, we reached Crick.  Quite surprisingly, there was a fair bit of boat movement still going on.  Meg came up for the weekend and we took the dogs out on our favourite route past all the deer.  It was really muddy but a good excuse to dress Megan up, yet again, in a silly hat!!   (No picture allowed – I’ve been threatened!!)

One BIG improvement since leaving Crick last March is the re-vamped Co-Op.  It’s SO much better.  I now won’t feel the need to keep dragging John off to Tesco’s at Rugby every week!

On the Sunday, just before Meg left to drive back to Reading, our computer went ka-put!  Completely!  This computer has been the cause of many heated moments over the last year so ………………. on Monday, in pouring rain and howling winds, John (hero that he is!) got on the bike and cycled to Daventry to Louis’s shop as recommended to us by Lynne and Paul.  Yes, he ended up buying a new computer as, apparently, at four years old, the other one is obsolete!  I really don’t like this age of “When something goes wrong, throw it away and get a new one".” But there we are!  I liked our old Dell ………….. when it was behaving itself!!     John’s latest mission now is to purchase an extension aerial for the dongle so that, hopefully, our internet connection consistently improves.  Just goes to prove how powerful advertising is!!

We are now moored up at the Welford Arm in beautiful sunshine and John has taken it upon himself to repair another window sill – that will just leave two to do.  Megan is coming again on Sunday and I have a surprise for her – a new hat!!!  We are aiming to move to the end of the Welford Arm as she will be able to park her car there.  On Tuesday she has to go to Bolton to research a proposed new distribution site so, being with us, she will be half way there already.

Just an observation:-  As we passed the new marina at Yelvertoft we noticed that it is already about 2/3 full with boats.  Apparently, about 18 boats left Crick to go there but those spaces appear to be filled already!  On passing Welton Hythe last week they also seem to be fairly full!  Where have all these boats come from?      

Yet again I say, “Recession, what recession?”

Braunston toCrick 2010 006Taken from the galley window.  Indulgence!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Yes, It IS a Dog's Life

If a survey was undertaken to establish how many boaters were dog owners I feel sure the % would be high.
It's not only human boaters who enjoy and value the open countryside and freedom to roam.  Yes, in terms of canine life-style, being a 'boat dog' must rank highly!

This week Maggie and Maisie have discovered two boats they REALLY like.  The first is 'The Bacon Boat'.
Of course it's not REALLY called that - it's really called 'Gongoozler's Rest' and it's the Cafe Boat moored just outside Braunston Marina.
The Proprietors prepare all sorts of gastronomic goodies to tempt passers by and seem to do good trade.
Every time we have passed Maggie and Maisie have been irresistibly tempted by the wafting aroma of cooking bacon and have wanted to peer into the hatch!

THEN - they discovered 'The Biscuit Boat'!  Of course it's not REALLY called that!  It's really called 'Theathenia' and is owned by the lovely Jude and Chris.  Jude and Chris lost their two dogs ( Bulldogs called Megan and Chelsea) two years ago and have resisted getting new models!  They can't resist furry
passers-by, however, much to Maggie and Maisie's pleasure and good fortune.
Anybody's for a biscuit!

"Where's she gone?  Isn't there any more?"

"The only down side of being a 'boat dog' is that every now and then the human crew insist on dressing you up in a silly scarf!"
"This is all very well but I really wanted a red one!".

Historical Research
The Braunston Puddle Banks.
Thanks to Peter from the Braunston Village Website:-

The Oxford Canal was one of the earliest canals to be built.  The route from Coventry to the Thames was opened in 1790 but within 15 years it was suffering competition from the Grand Junction Canal which offered a shorter, quicker route to London.  Some sections of the northern Oxford Canal were shortened - in total - by 14 miles in the early 1830's.  In 1829 an improved embankment was built at Braunston over the River Leam.  The dug out channel was filled with puddling clay and, apparently, a herd of cows was used to puddle the clay in preparation for lining the channel.  The observant locals hence called the area the
'Puddle Banks' - obvious really!!

There you go!

Tomorrow - we are going to tackle the Watford Flight and get ourselves back to Crick.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Writer's Block!

For the last 10 days or so this has comprised of:-

  1. Lack of inspiration
  2. Poor internet connections
  3. Lack of self-discipline
  4. Insufficient uninterrupted time!  Say no more!
So ................ what has been happening?  Lots of little things really.

We have been to Rugby, primarily to stock up supplies from the canal side Tesco's but, whilst there, we spent two very enjoyable evenings with Lynne and Paul from n/b "Piston Broke".  We have heard first hand about the trials and tribulations of having one's boat stretched.  MAJOR work!  MAJOR stress!  Pretty sure I couldn't handle it!  They are renting a boat in a nearby marina whilst all the work is going on.  The boat will be stunning when everything is completed - we are looking forward to seeing it.
  (I got up early but ...........interruption has just arrived - say no more!)

Back at Willoughby Wharf, Meg joined us from Saturday until Monday.  She was lucky because, for most of the time, the sun shone and the sky was blue!  

Being in Braunston during Half Term week?  It has been like the W25 - waterway equivalent to the M25!
Boats have been parading by from early morning to dusk!  John has been bobbing up and down like a cork in a bottle!  Good exercise for the knees!  Hire boat companies have done very well this week!  A mass of private boats have been out and about too -amongst them lots of very pristine, brand-new-looking boats.
  Recession?  What recession?

The weather has been very mixed - one day nice; one day not; one day nice; one day not has been the general pattern.  We have had rain, heavy frost, high winds and ..................... bright, warm sunshine.  

When we moved from the church to The Puddle Banks we were re-united with Rosie the Rotweiller and her owners Liz and Dave.  Rosie has been in trouble!  She has torn a tendon in her back leg and has had to have a major operation. ££££££££££££!!   She is still limping and has to be kept calm!  If you knew Rosie you would realise how difficult this is as she is such a friendly girl and gets so excited.  Dave and Liz also have a 14 year old poodle called Lulu and a parrot called Jasper.  Whilst we were outside on the tow path talking their phone rang ...... and rang ...........and rang.  Dave made no attempt to go in to answer it.  Seeing me looking puzzled he explained .............
"It's the parrot!  He imitates the ring tone of the phone when he thinks he's been on his own too long. The ring tone of the phone usually gets someone coming!"
Braunston Village  
The more time we spend here and get to know the village and the surrounding area, the more we like it.
There is always lots going on and it is steeped in history.  With that in mind:-
Braunston Puddle Banks:-  This is a really popular mooring amongst boaters but WHY are they called that?
There must be an historical reason?  I have discovered an excellent village web site and a helpful chap is going to try to find out for me.

Rodney stopped by to see us yesterday.  He has gone to his own boat just to check that everything is OK.
We met him in "The Old Plough".  (Really friendly pub in the High Street - dog friendly)
Whilst in there the phone rang and it was Lynn (of Mick and Lynn).
"Where are you?  We're on the M1 heading South."
Being informed we were in a pub in Braunston was far too much temptation!  They were with us within half an hour!  They came back to the boat with us for a while - it was really good to see them and catch up with news etc.
We are planning to see Rodney again at lunchtime.

Sorry - no pictures.  I hope my problem in adding some is down to the fact that the internet connection is weak but I have to confess that I have been finding it more and more difficult lately using 'Blogger.'  Have tried to configure 'Writer' which has been recommended but it won't accept this blog site address for some reason?  Any advice gratefully accepted.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010


"Angela really needs to pay careful attention to detail and take into account ALL the available data!
Perhaps if she took more time ..............."

Whoops!  Some things never change!  Yes, I failed to take into account four sections of travel!
SO ................. my tentative re-calculation on reaching Braunston is .................
MILES:  947
LOCKS:  511
Over to you, Rodney!

We have moved on to Hillmorton aiming to get to Rugby tomorrow.  All because ........  we need to go to Tesco's to stock up!  The excitment is hard to contain!!

Hoping to meet up with Lynne and Paul and hear first-hand all about the stretching of n/b Piston Broke.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Boats and Pieces

Since re-joining the canal system at Gayton Junction we have been staggered at the number of boats - both hire and private - that are still out and about.  It feels that in the last two weeks we have seen more narrow boats than over the entire summer on the Nene and Great Ouse.
Talking of boats:-
The more you cruise around the system the more you get to recognise boats when you see them again.  It's strange though because, as there are so many miles of inland waterways upon which to travel, it can be years before you see a familiar boat again.  Having said that, this week we have been passed by two 'celebrity' boats!  "Nobby" owned by Ian and Alison passed us on route to Braunston.  Ian writes/wrote articles for one of the canal boat magazines - I don't know if he still does as we very rarely buy them these days.  We were really surprised to hear that they too had spent the summer on the Nene and Great Ouse but we didn't even catch a glimpse of each other!  N/b "Ski" (Spending the Kids' Inheritance) has also passed us this week.  They featured in a TV programme about how popular it has become to live on the canals.  This week too we have met our first honeymoon couple in a hire boat ............... aahh!  Wrapped up in coats, scarves and gloves:-
"Didn't want to go to Rome or anything like that," they said!!!!!

I make an effort to remember the names of boats and boaters and, yes, call me just plain nosey, but I'm interested  to know where they are, where they've been and where they're going!!  We, on the other hand, appear to be extremely unmemorable!

Yesterday we came up the Buckby Flight - thankfully with another boat as I find it to be one of the hardest flights of locks on the system.  We are now moored up at Norton Junction a mile away from Welton Hythe Marina where, for us, this all started 7 years ago - how time flies!  So now, we are on 'old stomping ground'.

Norton Junction  
In the last seven years mooring at Norton Junction hasn't been great!  (Unless of course you are like Rodney and Derek and appreciate mooring almost opposite The New Inn!!)  There are a few spaces between the water tap and the BW yard at the top of the locks and, failing that, you needed to go down the Leicester Arm where both sides of the canal are lined with trees and the tow path is poor.  Not any more!  BW have now vastly improved the tow path just the other side of the bridge going towards Braunston Tunnel.  Mooring rings are available and it's deep enough to get into the bank!  The view is across the fields towards Welton:-

Canal-side /Waterway Trade
Coming up the Buckby Flight we passed our favourite little shop on the system!
'Anchor Cottage' is full of tempting boating antiques, a huge variety of hand-painted ware and all sorts of other interesting paraphernalia!  There are very few waterside businesses remaining as competing with the 'big boys' is now so hard.  It will be a very sad day for the waterways if they cease to exist at all so we try to support them when we can.  I bought my first Christmas present in
 'Anchor Cottage' yesterday and John now has another Buckby Can to paint over the winter.  

Another really nice little shop is 'The Boat Shop' at the bottom of the Braunston Flight.  They sell a small amount of essential groceries as well as some painted ware , lace plates, cross stitch kits, boat plaques and a fantastic selection of books and maps.  We also try to buy coal and gas from the fuel boats whenever we can.

The sky is blue and we are now casting off for Braunston along with lots of others!
When we get there we will have done 751 miles and 448 locks (my calculations so might not be exactly accurate) since leaving Crick at the beginning of March.  There you are, Rodney, a challenge for you!

John is feeling rather smug as, this year, he hasn't been shouted at!  I've told him there's still time!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

A Get-Together Weekend

What a good choice of venue for our get-together Stoke Bruerne has turned out to be - well done, Rodney!  We have all had a really lovely weekend.
It comes as no surprise that the village has been bustling with boats and people all the time we have been here.  The restaurants, pubs and shops have had lots of trade and the trip boat has been constantly backwards and forwards to the tunnel entrance.  The little cottage hired by Rodney was lovely.  It has four storeys all connected by spiral staircases!  It was nicely decorated and well equipped.

We went into the museum which was interesting and we had audio handsets which not only explained about things inside the museum but also took us on a tour of the immediate surroundings outside.

Us girls also had a mooch around the shops - well, we would wouldn't we?!!

On Saturday evening we had a really nice meal in the Indian restaurant next door but one to the cottage - "The Spice of Bruerne".  We found the food to be delicious and good value, the surroundings very comfortable and the service excellent.

Food Sunday lunchtime was obtained from "The Boat Inn".  In fact, as with all good celebratory times, a lot of food and alcohol was consumed by all!!

We did have some exercise too!  On Saturday afternoon we went for a walk to the village of Blisworth along the Mid Shires Way.  It was very muddy in sections!  Rodney drove to Blisworth to pick us up and bring us back to Stoke Bruerne.  Gill and Anne have gone back to Staines with harvested sloes ready to make sloe gin - some for me at Christmas time please!

AND ........ I am no longer able to compete with Rapunzel because Gill has given me a very tidy haircut!

A really, really lovely weekend - thanks everyone.  Love you all.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Billing Marina to Gayton Junction

We left Billing at 9.30am having decided that, for safety reasons, we needed to get off the river.
I am totally smitten with the River Nene - because of it's tendency to flood,  it's no-where near as manicured as the Thames.
We BOTH thought the weather forecast said that we were in for three days of rain but ................ we did Billing to Gayton in lovely sunshine!  23 locks and 9 miles.
Did we not listen properly?  Did we misunderstand?  Are we just both going senile or .............. did the weathermen just get it wrong again?!!  Did they lie?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We were moored up at Gayton by 6pm having stopped on the quay at Northampton for about an hour and a half while I went to Morrisons and we had lunch.  All the locks on the Rothersthorpe Flight were in our favour and it made a huge difference in terms of difficulty and time.
Nobody else was going our way but 4 boats were heading to the Nene to get back to their permanent moorings.
We have stayed at Gayton today - in the sunshine(!) - the only downside being the noise from the A43!
Anyway, we are now well placed for getting to Stoke Bruerne for the weekend's celebrations with Gill, Anne and Rodney.  Bring it on!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Pushing our Luck?

Over the last few days every other boater we have met has either been intent on getting off the Nene or getting back to their mooring on the Nene.  Why?  Because of the rainy weather we have been having and the risk that the river would go into flood.
"We won't be panicked", we thought.
"Scare-mongers", we thought.
Well, last night we finally moored up, very precariously, to a bit of bank down stream of Earls Barton Lock.  The river was up by 9 inches.  The current wanted to grab "Ellen's" bow and push her out and back downstream!
It rained more over night and two more days of heavy rain are forecast.  Considering this, low bridges and high winds ................. at 8.30am the next morning we were under way!  Unheard of for us!!
Plan?  To get to the relative safety of Billing Marina.
Water rushed over the pointed gates of the locks and, when filling the locks, it even poured over the guillotine gates.  We haven't seen this before.  The force of the water made it extra hard for me to open the up-stream gates.
Water gushing over the 'pointy' end.
Locks didn't take long to fill!!
Water gushing over the guillotine gate end.
Full then?!!

Well, we are now at Billing Marina and, surprise, surprise, we saw NO other boat moving on the way.
In the marina, "Ellen" is 60 foot long and only the back 5 foot of her is tied to a pontoon but the positives are:-

  • safe from the currents of the river
  • amenities at hand!!
  • electric hook up!  ( the washing can be done, the ironing(!), TV can be watched all day if we want (watching a repeat of X-factor at the moment and not feeling guilty about it!!) and I might even get the sewing machine out!!  AND ........ I can humour my O.C.D. and HOOVER!!!!!!
  • Easy destination for Megan to come and find us to collect Maisie for her next visit to Stanwell.
Billing Marina

The weather forecast for the next few days is NOT good and we need to get back to Gayton Junction and we have to do that soon as the Rothersthorpe flight is closed for a week from the 11th October.   Whatever, we need to be at Stoke Bruerne for next weekend - an excuse for celebrating anything worthy of recent celebration!!   
"Rain, rain, go away -
Come again another day .........."!!!!!

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.