Indigo Dreaming

The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

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Archive for May 10th, 2010

The Odyssey 2010: Day 10

Posted by indigodream on 10 May, 2010

Saturday 8th May

Gayton Junction to Northampton (Town Centre)

It's a scenic flight....

I woke up at 5am for no good reason and looked out on a dawn that was far from ‘rosy fingered‘ – it was a sullen rain-spattered grey as if the sun had decided to grab a lie-in under its thick duvet of cloud. Bah humbug! I went back to bed but the A43 traffic started up at 5.30am so I was equally grey and sullen when we eventually got the boat moving mid-morning. It’s a shame really, because we’re now on new territory and I would have liked to approach it with a fresh eyes, not half-asleep ones 🙂

Fortunately I had a bit of time to come to terms with the day as Richard went off on a mission with Joe from Caxton – we insisted on driving him to Blisworth post office (to save a 2-bus journey), where he was expecting a new piece for his bow thruster. He texted us later to say it was fitted and fine – good to have your thrusters working for the narrow locks (and the tunnel!).

As we set off, I did amaze myself by spotting nb Lord Portal moored at Gayton Marina and remembering that we met her in June 2008 near Turner’s Green (Grand Union near Kingswood Junction), bedecked with ribbons and with a honeymooning couple on board – I’ll never forget her as she was owned by the RAF and, unlike bumblebees, will never fly! I hadn’t realised she was moored here.

We had the Northampton 17 ahead of us today – a modest day’s locking by our standards, but we were both so tired – we haven’t had a whole week off for a long time and we had some fatigue to throw off. Nonetheless we were in good heart – the dogs had a day of mega-rummaging to look forward to and we were anticipating the pleasure of working with narrow locks again (so much better for a narrowboat!).

Now, for those that come down the flight behind us:

Locks and liftbridges....

Lock 2: offside paddle very stiff; bridge 4 below lock 2 is a good place to hover while waiting for the next lock

Lock 6: the top paddles spit water over you if open them quickly

Lock 7: the top gate doesn’t open fully but there is plenty of room to get the boat past

Lock 8: the top paddles shower you with water when opened! Lock 11 is quite spectacular.

Lock 12 (just before the M1): the lock walls leak badly towards the back – shuffle the boat forward to avoid getting wet feet.

Lock 14: You’ll need your BW key here – it’s the first of the anti-vandal mechanisms

Lock 16: watch out for the uneven footing around the lock – easy to turn an ankle here

Although there are glimpses of Northampton and its industrial outskirts, the flight is really very pleasant, veryrural, surrounded by open fields and farmlands. It was pleasing on the eye but grating on the ears – the A43 and M1 create so much noise it’s almost a tanglible force. Blue and Lou had a great time – many of the locks have a dark fringe of rabbit droppings (which does nothing for the footing but at least the grass doesn’t need mowing!) and locks 3 and 4 are flanked by ploughed fields adjacent to the locks with access from the towpath. We didn’t see any actual rabbits,  but Blue lost his head anyway and had an extended rummage in the fields (accompanied by much yelling from us) – he joined us 3 locks down!

Lou's having a little rest - and we're barely halfway down the flight!

We thought that the locks were fast to fill and empty – even where there was just one working paddle. There are very neat brick bywashes at most of the locks – the whole lockside landscape feels tidy and cared for. But the canal as a whole has the feel of a river – winding and reed-lined with overgrown and uneven banks.  It’s very picturesque but a bit tricky for mooring. We found a very convenient stretch of concrete bank below Lock 14, just before the A43 crosses the canal – it’s too noisy for an overnight mooring (even if you fancied braving the graffiti hereabouts) but it was a perfect place to grab an easy lunch. I saw some tiny moorhen chicks nearby – they were just speck of fluff on the water – I’m amazed at their tenacity – how can such little things possibly survive the rigours of a british spring?

There are three liftbridges along this section – all conveniently pinned open, as Nicholson’s promised. We therefore weren’t quite sure what to do at Bridge 6 which has a BW notice saying that it should be shut after use – it was open when we got to it. We spotted a boat coming up and decided it would be churlish for us to close the bridge in front of them! It was one of only a few boats that we met today – part of a pair – a small narrowboat called the ‘Little Sewing Boat‘ which houses the workshop and the larger nb Hamfolly which houses the people. I liked the idea of a sewing business on the water – is there anything that people can’t do on their boats?

The massive monument of the Carlsberg Brewery marks the entry to Northampton – the yeasty smell of fermenting mash drifted over the canal and took me on a quick trip through time and space to the 1980s when the smell of the Brains Brewery in Cardiff town centre dominated the air.

So, past the brewery it’s the river Nene. According to the locals here it’s pronounced ‘Nen’; downstream at some point is changes to the ‘neen’ – glad we got that sorted!

Carlsbeg Brewery.....

I was a bit perplexed that the prominent board displaying the river condition was well below and round the corner from the last lock (and not visible from the lock). The boards are green so it wasn’t a problem; but had they been red you’d be on the swollen river before you knew it and being swept towards the rather low, but handsome, stone bridge! I can only hope that when the river’s on red boards they do also put a sign on the lockside.

Sue from nb No Problem has produced a great guide to the Nene – her directions for the town centre moorings were spot on. We moored just before the yellow footbridge and headed off to Morrisons to stock up – walk to the footbridge (going downstream), turn left up the alley and there’s Morrisons – and you CAN take your trolley right down to the boat – perfect. We were thinking about moving on but we’d had enough. We had a good day’s cruising but the weather had been very horrible and we were frozen and tired. We looked around the moorings – there was no graffiti, litter or traces of old vomit; there were CCTV cameras and smart canalside flats with well-tended balconies – it boded well and we decided to stop here for the night. I was very impressed when Richard cycled back to get the car, all uphill of course. He found a useful parking space by the service point below Beckett’s Park Lock – free after 6pm and on Sundays – perfect.

Although the boat was stuffed to the gunwhales with food, we decided on a takeaway – a friendly lady on the Morrisons checkout recommended the Wing Wah chinese on Bridge Street – it was very good. For reference, Bridge Street seems to be the place to go for takeaways and bars – walk through the Morrison’s car park to the road, head left to the traffic lights then cross over and turn right-ish up the hill – follow the road to Bridge Street. While we were waiting for our food we walked up the hill to the central square which is dominated by All Saints Church – it looks like a town hall but apparently there’s been a church there since 1,000ad, though the current main building was built in 1680 but the rather ostentatious facade dates from the early 1800s – it’s an intrusive addition! We were fascinated, and had a little wander up to the ornate Guildhall – it’s covered in carved figures and murals – it would be nice to know the story that’s being told on its chiselled walls.

Handsome stone bridge - the first you encounter on the river - there's plenty of room under those arches but it must get quite hairy when the river's up....

The streets of Northampton seemed empty but it was just early. We saw a big honda motorbike decked in multi-coloured lights cruising around the town – very cool. It was like some sort of call to arms – soon after the local youth emerged to fill the local bars and clubs. They weren’t a classy lot – the women were wearing shrink-wrapped dresses and mincing around on high heels, all which made me think of oven-ready hens for some reason. But then again, I was stomping around town in my muddy walking boots with a 6-inch wet fringe around the bottom of my joggers. At least I avoided arrest by taking my dodgy balaclava off before I went into town! I had been musing sourly on whether I’d ever had to wear my balaclava this late in the summer – silly me, of course I have, in August, 2 years ago coming down the Severn to Gloucester….

The only downside of the town moorings and the tall flats surrounding them was that we couldn’t get a TV signal so we settled down with the new Star Trek movie. It was enjoyable fluff but I’m not sure if it’ll catch on, well, not with those of us old enough to remember the original!

I’m not sure how we managed to stay up until 11.30pm but when we finally fell into bed we were comatose and had a good night’s sleep on moorings that were quiet and peaceful, untroubled by traffic or any other noise……


Little heap of ducklings at Gayton Marina - there was no sign of the mum.....

View down the flight - Oi Blue, we're back here!

Dramatic views under the glowering skies...

"There's rabbits over there - can we just step across the boat?"

Lockside sculptures - I like little features like these....

Under the imposing M1...

There are a few of these signs in canalside fields - don't know if they're working - there are lots of paths through the grass!

This is why the anti-vandal mechanisms start at Lock 14

We wondered what industry this column belonged to (it's not the brewery!) - it's very tall and has three separate columns at the top which suggests some heavy chemistry - anybody know?

"Probably the best lock in the....." Sorry, couldn't resist!

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