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Archive for May 12th, 2010

The Odyssey 2010: Day 12

Posted by indigodream on 12 May, 2010

Monday 10th May

Wellingborough Embankment to Thrapston

Looking back towards the Wellingborough Embankment moorings. The flock of swans appeared out of nowhere in time to be fed by passersby.......

Today is Blue’s birthday – he is 8 years old – happy birthday Blue! I will cook him a haggis later as a special treat. Blue has no concept of the calendar that makes the infinity of time more manageable for humans and doesn’t understand what a birthday is, but a haggis is a haggis!

We had a good night’s sleep at the Wellingborough Embankment moorings – the boat was undisturbed and the turbine hum from the mill didn’t bother us. There’s a good 3G signal here so we stayed on for the morning to catch up with the blog and our emails. We did move as far as the waterpoint, topped up the tank and pressure-washed the boat. We didn’t find the rubbish point.

We didn’t set off until after lunch, having greeted the one and only boat that we were going to see for the rest of the day. We had the waterway entirely to ourselves – it was a bit spooky!

The first lock of the day set the tone – Lower Wellingborough Lock has truly excellent dog rummaging – Blue and Lou took full advantage. As I mentioned yesterday, the Nene is a greyhound’s playground and today was even better than yesterday…..

The river’s very rural yet there is plenty of industry around – I spotted a huge Monsoon/Accessorise warehouse in the distance. I don’t think we’re ever that far from the A45 but in places the river feels like the end of the world; some post-apocalyptic paradise where the land is gradually being overtaken by water and the wildlife is taking back its inheritance……

This post may seem a bit disjointed as I didn’t take many notes today – the river meanders wildly through a landscape you could describe as monotonous, though I’m sure that is would be exciting to a naturalist. The river’s twists and turns meant that we had to concentrate on the helm, especially at Irthlingborough, where there is a tricky ancient bridge with a narrow skewed navigable arch. You can’t miss it, well, you can, but only with careful helming 🙂

The river’s meanders make it quite difficult to judge distances – at times we seemed to be heading towards a village then suddenly it would be behind us; at other times we seemed to be miles away then a curve in the river delivered us onto the doorstep. We stopped briefly at the Irthlingborough moorings – there’s room for a lot of boats here. We were surprised to find that the village was well behind us, we’d thought we here heading straight for it. There should be a rubbish point and other amenities at these moorings but although the large sign directs you to the back of the moorings, the path down is blocked by increasingly impolite notices to keep off the private land – very confusing. The pump-out is on the pontoon so at least that service is available. There are some skips at the far end of the site which we assume boaters can use..

Big works at Irthlingborough Lock.....

There was a crew of Environment Agency workers at Irthlingborough Lock – they were strengthening the embankment (though not very effectively according to engineer Richard, who knows about these things!). One of the workers stopped for a chat (not skiving – it’s customer relations!). First of all, he’d found some empty freshwater mussel shells at the lockside – he told us that this is a sure sign of otters. Sadly there’s no chance of our spotting these shy creatures while the engine’s running! He also told us that we could moor anywhere on the bank for 14 days if there wasn’t a sign telling us that it was private. Hmmmm, we took that one with a pinch of salt, we don’t fancy coming back to Indigo Dream and finding that she’s been ‘accidentally’ ripped off her moorings by an irate farmer! Finally, he told us that the Nen/Neen thing dates back to the Iceni – apparently the difference in pronounciation marks the border of some ancient tribal territory.

There’s a long and winding stretch from Irthlingborough to Upper Ringstead; the countryside was largely empty of people but full of cattle, shaggy ponies and swans. We’ve only seen two herons on the river so far – Richard says it’s because the fishing season is closed over summer:-D

There are some signs of human activity – mainly in the form of an adventure playground with climbing walls, zip lines and a large unidentified wooden structure with chains! There are also big nesting boxes perched on tall poles – presumably for barn owls – they’re very similar to the boxes in the Stoke Bruerne nature reserve.

I hopped off at Upper Ringstead Lock having decided to do a lock for the look of it. It was a guillotine lock and the most I expected was mild finger strain from operating the electric button. Alas, it’s got a manual wheel – one of a few manual mechanisms along this stretch. Winding the gate down wasn’t a problem – it’s just a lot of turns; winding it up was a major effort. I hauled my bra out the fire, abandoned my feminist principles and simpered at my strong man to come and finish off. He gladly obliged and I graciously let him do the others as well, on the promise that I would cook him a nice tea later…….

Sofa crisis! Blue's not too bothered though, even though Lou does weigh a LOT.....

Denford village looked attractive but there weren’t any convenient moorings so we moved on to Islip. A local dog walker at Denford Lock had described the tricky bridges and the location of the moorings at Islip; Sue of nb No Problem gives excellent directions. But when we came to it, I was so busy negotiating the tricky navigable arch of the old road bridge that I completely missed the moorings tucked away on the left. As we passed through the bridge, Richard saw a useful sign on the downstream parapet showing the moorings behind us – we could just glimpse them through the arches. After the senior moment of missing the moorings, there followed a swanky-pants bit of boat manoeuvering which make me smile every time I subsequently do a pig’s ear of a lock landing etc. I reversed back towards the bridge, turned her around in the wide section just beyond, renegotiated the tricky navigable arch (easier going upstream) and, having decided that the turn was too acute to go in forwards, neatly reversed Indigo Dream into the moorings without the clipping the bridge and without the aid of my manual bow thruster (Richard with a pole at the front). I was well chuffed and whooped, a little, in a very seemly way, of course…….

Honesty prompts me to add that moving a boat is much easier when there’s hardly any flow in the river and the wind has died down……

The Thrapston moorings are unique – we love it here. The moorings are tucked away and though they’re virtually under the road bridge, the traffic noise is not intrusive. The land adjacent to the boat is walled/fenced so it’s reasonably secure for the dogs; however the path does lead to the road which is largely gated but with a big enough gap for Blue to escape – pity! There is good dog rummaging in the field behind the mooring, there are rabbits by the old railway embankment. The mooring also has a waterpoint, reasonable TV reception and a fast 3G signal. The Woolpack pub opposite looked ok but we didn’t get a chance to explore it as we had a bit of a saga ahead of us. But mooring doesn’t get much better than this!

Richard cycled back to get the car, having spotted a decent cycle path which ran along a disused railway line. He set off and I cooked Blue’s haggis. As the delicious cooking smells of the less identifiable parts of a sheep filled the boat, my phone rang. Richard had an emergency – he had broken off a pedal on his bike and he was stranded in the vicinity of Ringstead. Fortunately he’d left a spare set of car keys on board so I got a cab back to the car and drove back to rescue him. In the meantime, he wandered off on foot to find a pub!

Oh dear......

I got a cab from the excellent Charter Cars in Thrapston 01832 734333. The driver, who own the business, was charming and helfpul. When I explained my rescue mission he helpfully showed me the turn to Ringstead and even offered to wait for me so that I could follow him back. I declined – I hate following other drivers and he’d given me such clear directions that I was sure I’d find Richard. It wasn’t a long distance back to Ringstead – as always, a trip that had taken all day on the boat took about 15 minutes in the car. I found Richard in the Axe and Compass pub in Carlow Road Ringstead (NN14 4DW). We decided to eat here as it was getting a bit late – the menu is small but of very good quality and the meal deal of two main courses for £11.95 was very good value. There was a decent folk band playing in the bar – they’re all locals that get together for a session on the second Monday of every month.

On the way back we swung past the new Blackthorne Lake Marina (07749 0319833) – they have lots of empty pontoons and we may give them a ring to ask about visitor moorings. Out trip to the fens is being threatened by our slow pace and our need to be back in London by mid-July. If we can find a 14-day mooring on the Nene then that means we don’t have to rush back to Gayton this week.

I do hope that we can go a little further – now that we’re on these waters we don’t want to leave. But the river wears a heavy cloak of history – heavier than on any waterway I’ve ever travelled. If we don’t make it round the Fens this time then I’m sure it will still be waiting for us next year.

Photoblog:

This slender footbridge seems to be on the massive piers of a defunct railway bridge...

Aaaaah.....

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The 14-arches viaduct just downstream of Wellingborough - impressive!

We think these are the remnants of Chester House near Irchester....

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Ditchford Lock had a radial bottom gate - interesting.....

Some of the gate paddles are ferocious - we must watch out for that when we're locking up....

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The lock bollards are so well-designed - proper job!

Part of the old railway line we presume (though definitely not part of the cycleway!)

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Irthlingborough, we think, we lost track of our villages in the meanders!

A bailey bridge - how unusual.....

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The A6 viaduct built in 1936 (near Irthlingborough) - it's very blocky but at least there's been some attempt to make it more attractive with the detailing - today's road builders wouldn't bother.....

The 14th Century 10-arch stone bridge by Irthlingborough - the approach to the navigable arch is a bit tricky.....

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Welcome to the Irthlingborough moorings.....

And the lesser 'welcome' at the Irthlingborough moorings!

Nesting box for barn owls....

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View from Lower Ringstead lock....

Mr and Mrs......

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busy, busy.....

medieval bridge which links Islip to Thrapston - watch out for the navigable arch - it's skewed and narrow......

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Fine mooring spot UPSTREAM of Thrapston Bridge....

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