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The Odyssey 2010: Day 11

Posted by indigodream on 11 May, 2010

Sunday 9th May

Northampton town centre to Wellingborough (opposite the flour mill)

Looking back towards the Northampton town centre moorings...

‘What a difference a day makes’ as the song goes. After an exceptionally quiet night on the town moorings we all woke up refreshed and with the killer ‘start of the holiday’ fatigue thrown off….

Northampton’s waterfront looked fine in the morning sunshine and the ghost of the sunday bells whispered across the water. There’s a useful park downstream of the moorings by Beckets Park Lock – d’oh, the clue’s in the name! Richard took the dogs for their morning constitutional and ended up walking back towards the boat with a chap walking a young saluki lurcher – a rescue dog that he’s only had for 6 weeks. The man was fount of knowledge – apparently the waterside where we moored used to be a no-go area, full of drunks, but it’s all been cleaned up since the arrival of the flats. From the sounds of it, the local drunks are gradually being bundled out of town – they used to inhabit a local churchyard, but they’ve been banned from there and they’ve also been moved on from a failed nature reserve below the lock. The reserve is currently being converted into a new marina. Who knows where the drunks are now – they certainly weren’t in sight of the river!

We started cruising around 10.30am and came first to the pleasant Beckets Park Lock. The Environment Agency padlocks are a real fiddle to open (your key needs to be inserted fully) but the lock itself, which is not a guillotine, was very gentle. The dogs had another rummage round the park – the first of many today. There’s a good service pontoon below the lock  (Midsummer Meadows) – stop at the first pontoon – the second is for disabled access (shallow ramp). We filled with water and, because the pump-out was FREE we did that as well, giving the tank a good flush as there was no time limit on the machine though the timer stops it every 5 minutes and suction is bit low. Apparently all of the public pump-outs on the Nene are free – that’s worth the licence fee for starters! We had a long chat with a dad and his five kids who came down to the service pontoon for a look – the boys had a good time with the sea-searcher magnet but sadly didn’t fish out any treasure….

Midsummer Meadows also has 48-hour mooring pontoons a little further downstream – they looked fine though we’d go through to the town centre and its amenities now that we know it’s safe there.

Overflowing top gates are a common feature along the Nene.....

I wrote a note in my cruising log that there was top dog rummaging at Rush Mills Lock; but the dog rummaging got better and better as the day went on. I have to conclude that the Nene is the best dog rummaging waterway ever – perfect for the greyhounds as each lock is quite remote, rural and well-spaced which allowed Blue and Lou to have little bursts of greyhound activity followed by a period of rest. It’s worth getting the dogs on at the lockside though – the floating landing stages tend to rock alarmingly and I wouldn’t want a repeat of last year’s incident where Lou panicked on a pontoon and ended up in the drink 🙂

The route out of Northampton is a nice mix of modern industrial on the left bank and wooded nature reserves on the right – it’s a pleasant combination and better than your average suburban stretch. The Britannia pub was particularly welcoming (though it was too soon for us to stop when we passed). The people in the pub garden assured us that the food there is very good.

At Abingdon Lock we got our first taste of the overflowing top gates – the river level was around 6 inches above the level of the gate! I didn’t think that we’d be able to empty the lock but it was ok. We later found that overflowing top gates are a common feature and now I understand why many of the locks have guillotine gates – there’s no chance that the flow over the top will out-pace the surge from a big guillotine! The Abingdon Barrage Gate looked impressive though we did wonder how much notice you get before the automatic gates spring up from the bottom! There were notices announcing that boats can moor in this vicinity during the summer. Sadly this was  no good for us, the pastures were full of sheep – Blue was beside himself – up on deck, nose twitching…..

We met a man from Billing Wharf down at Cogenhoe Lock – I think he either owns or manages the Billing Aquadrome and the massive caravan park at Cogenhoe. He was a mine of information and did a good job of selling the benefits of the aquadrome moorings. Usefully, the aquadrome has visitor moorings at £6.50 per day – that’s not bad at all. We may well consider staying there on our way back – depending on how our travels progress we may well need a 14-day mooring on the Nene on our way back.

The Church of St Mary the Virgin in Whiston...

I thought that Whiston Lock was particularly scenic – it’s a  lyrical landscape with a great view of rippling green waves of young corn breaking to a yellow foam of oilseed rape beating the unassailable shores of St Mary the Virgin’s Church.

There was particularly good rummaging at White Mills Lock – a 100 acre field of tussocky grass with well-fenced hedgerows – what more could a dog want? Well, the road, to be precise. Blue squeezed himself under the bottom rail of the fence leading to the road – he got comprehensively yelled at and, to be fair, he did stop immediately and came back to the boat. He was typically very reluctant to squeeze back under the fence. I was gobsmacked – we always have to plan our home walks to avoid obstacles because Blue and Lou won’t squeeze under or jump over stiles – aaaargh! While we’re at White Mills Lock, the metal gate leading down to the stone steps below the lock is NOT the lock landing – that is beyond the lock! We tried and failed to open the padlock and because we didn’t know the landing stage was further on I ended up climbing the fence and shuffling along the edge to get down to the boat!

There’ s a large quarry below White Mills – it seems to be extracting very fine sand – I must look it up as it reminded us of the fuller’s earth works near home, which is surrounded by very fine natural sand.

I didn’t take any more notes for the day for some reason – maybe because the last part of the day was COLD – the wind turned icy and I tucked my head into my feathers and concentrated on the helm. The landscape was very variable with rural countryside interspersed with bits of industry and the ugly imposition of the prison overlooking Upper Wellingborough Lock.

Fine wharf buildings - can't remember whether this is at White Mills or Doddington lock....

We mused about where to moor and, in the end, decided to take a chance on Wellingborough Embankment, having been reassured by a boater coming up that the adjacent park was not full of undesirables! There was a boat already moored there, sporting signs advertising River Canal Rescue. It was unattended and unmolested so we felt safe to stay here as well. There are very good mooring bollards here, with space for at least 3 narrowboats on the first section (immediately after the road bridge) and a few more a little further on by the waterpoint (marked as 48-hour moorings). The park had a few youths and young families when we moored at 5.30pm-ish but by 9pm the place was deserted. It’s not a quiet mooring – there is a constant hum from the flour mill’s turbines. It didn’t bother us – it’s about the same volume as a narrowboat running its engines 200 feet away! The compensation is that there is a nice smell of warm flour in the air…..

I was astounded when Richard cycled back to Northampton to get the car – there’s no towpath as such so it was a physical and navigational feat. He had cycled past an A45 slip road which had a cycle lane marked; sadly the markings soon vanished and he was confined to the narrow hard shoulder as far as the Billing turn off. It didn’t take long to get there – I wasn’t sure whether he was cycling quickly to get away from the speeding traffic or to race them! At the Billing turn off there were was a sign for a cycle path to the town centre which he ignored because ti seemed to far out to be referring to Northampton. He cycled through the miles of mobile homes round the Billing Aquadrome and then came across another cycle path sign for the town centre so he followed it. This was a properly paved wide path all the way into Northampton – it even had street lights.

He was very proud of himself when he arrived back – the park has a car park so he was able to stop close to the boat. But not for long – there’s an excellent 3G signal here so I wanted to catch up with the blog, leaving him in charge of getting a takeaway from Wellingborough. There’s plenty of choice and we had a particularly fine cantonese. Blue went off for a ride in the car with Richard, but Lou stayed on her sofa – she’s absolutely knackered – she went to her bed at 5.30pm; considerately woke me up at 1.30am to tell me that I’d forgotten to give her bedtime chewsticks then slept right through until 9am – she has amazing long-range tanks!

After a day in the fresh air, the steady hum from the flour mill just lulled us to sleep – we had an undisturbed night on the mooring so we can definitely recommend this spot…..


Becket's Park Lock

A new marina in the making; Richard tells me that the Avon building has fine sheet sculptures....

Flood defence are also a feature....

The channel's the narrow stretch on the left - the signs take some believing on this stretch :-). NB sharp turn left into the lock

The guillotine gates are such massive structures....

A rural weather forecast - cows lying down mean that rain's on its way. Fortunately as (un)reliable as other methods - it was dry all day 🙂

One of the clips that we bought from the boat shop outside the Globe Inn - so handy for hanging fat fenders down when we moor against a hard edge....

Bathtime 1

Bathtime 2

A nice welcome at the Britannia Inn....

2 Responses to “The Odyssey 2010: Day 11”

  1. Greygal said

    I reckon our C&H rummaging beats your Nene rummaging! Five very tired puppies on board…kiss to L&B.

  2. indigodream said

    For a proper comparison we’ll have to swap – rummaging places, that is, not dogs!

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