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The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

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The Odyssey 2010: Day 13

Posted by indigodream on 13 May, 2010

Tuesday 11th May

Thrapston/Islip to Ashton

Pulling out of the Thrapston moorings - uh, I'll leave you to it then Richard, it is the extreme right hand arch that you need!

We had a great night on the Thrapston moorings – we started the morning by filling up with water, just because we could!

Now, I’d reversed us into the moorings yesterday which meant that the boat was very well placed for coming out and going upstream. Sadly we were going downstream which meant a tricky turn before tackling the narrow bridge arch. Having looked out of the window and seen the conundrum, I deftly delegated the task to Richard while I pottered around inside!

We were away by mid-morning and soon reached the charming tableau of old (presumably mill) buildings by Islip Lock. Today’s stretch of river was particularly scenic and the dog rummaging continued to be top notch!

As we moved downstream there were increasing numbers of ‘low headroom’ signs – both under the guillotine gates and some of the footbridges. Around here, when they say low they mean low – Richard had to duck several times! I don’t think that the river’s particularly high at the moment – it must be quite a challenge when it is. There are depth/height markers along the locks – well worth checking and well worth knowing how much clearance you need. We estimate that Indigo Dream conservatively needs 2.1 metres to the top of our tv aerial. If you have a chimney then you could have a problem …

We had the river to ourselves and cruised in isolation for most of the day. There is a very beautiful lake just above Titchmarsh lock – it’s part of a 200-acre nature reserve. There’s a large hide for bird watchers, but there weren’t any birds or watchers there today. There were signs of life at Titchmarsh Lock, where there is a substantial marina. A local boater came for a chat, asking about river conditions upstream. We thought they were fine, but as this is our first trip it was difficult to judge. There is a deceptive flow in the river – when we slowed down to tickover past moored boats, Indigo Dream continued to move at quite a pace. The local boater recommended the Kings Head pub at Wadenhoe; the cab driver last night had said the same so it must be worth a visit.

The approach to Islip Lock....

The stretch from Titchmarsh Lock onwards becomes increasingly beautiful. I can’t put my finger on the difference between a beauty that’s becomes monotonous (yesterday) and the beauty that makes you sit up and take notice (today). Maybe its the variety in the landscape – there are more trees here, more hills and, arguably, more glimpses of civilisation. Maybe it’s the different textures – the dry straw of last year’s sedges and the succulence of the emerging shoots; the freshness of spring leaves on the trees, still wearing various verdant hues that will, by late summer, have been baked to a uniform dark green; the flash of fire from a red kite’s wings slanting in the sunshine. Maybe it’s just the mood of the beholder! Whatever the reason, today’s landscape, silent and unsullied, inspires quiet introspection and so we cruised on quietly…….

On the river Nene, nature has achieved what artist  M C Escher took a lifetime to find – mind-bending meanderings which totally shift your perspective at every turn. I was commenting that there were lots of church spires in the area when I suddenly realised that there was only one, seen from every conceivable angle and distance! Some villages usefully alternate between church towers and spires – at least we could distinguish between them!

Nonetheless, there are a lot of churches here – according to the tourist information and cathedral guide at Peterborough Cathedral, the churches were a sign of great wealth and local villages would vie with each other for the most ostentatious display.

Lovely view across the Titchmarsh nature reserve...

When we got to Wadenhoe, Richard pulled the boat over onto the pub moorings (on the left above and opposite the lock) – I was amazed, I thought we’d broken down! But no, having had so many recommendations for the King’s Head he’d decided it would be positively rude not to stop there for lunch! I’m so glad that we did – the pub is in a charming building and one of the bars is dog-friendly. I thought about Greygal – her dogs like the warmth and our table was in an alcove with a wood burning stove. It wasn’t lit today, but in the winter there’s be a nice greyhound shaped space next to the stove – perfect! We met four people in the pub garden – the ladies had a nosey around the boat – they’re experienced hirers and made all the right noises about how beautiful Indigo Dream is, despite the fact that she’s looking a bit lived in at the moment!

In the pub itself, a lady on the table next to us actually owns her own rescue greyhound – she didn’t have her dog with her (too nervous for this public a place) but she showed us a photo. We thought her beautiful blue girl (Pip) might be related to Blue but they’re from different bloodlines, though both are Irish dogs. We chatted greyhounds for some time, much to the irritation of her friends, who were over from Australia and had expected a bit more attention! She was unabashed – greyhounds are important 🙂 We had a good lunch here and the staff were both friendly and efficient. I could have spent the afternoon and the evening here – we can therefore add our recommendation to that of the locals we met yesterday……

Below Lifford Lock.....

But we had to move on. You need not worry about whether the mooring’s secure – we had to hammer our pins OUT of the ground!

As chance would have it, a narrowboat was approaching the downstream gates as we swung into the moorings – hurrah, we’d get a lock set out way. This was the first boat that we’d seen on the move for over 18 hours – funnily enough it was nb Elusive!

It’s been said that Lifford Lock (Lifford on the lock sign, Lilford in the guide book) is the most attractive spot on the Nene. Well, can’t argue with that, though we still have the downstream stretch to explore. It is a lovely spot, gently wooded with a charming stone house over looking the weir stream. A graceful stone bridge below the lock completes the picture. A little further downstream there’s the fine edifice of Lilford Hall. I could just imagine living there……

Actually, there are quite a few places that I wouldn’t mind calling home around here (subject to a flood risk assessment of course) 🙂

We passed nb Ursa Minor coming upstream – that’s two boats in one day – that’s what they call congestion around here. Amazingly, in a river of meanders, we passed her in a straight, wide stretch – how often does that happen?!

Upper Barnwell Lock - that mill on the left is a restaurant - not sure about mooring there - they give a phone number for enquiries - 01832 272621

Barnwell Mill is another pretty spot with its imposing mill building tempered by the soft wheat-gold of its stone walls. It’s now a restaurant – approaching from upstream, the pub garden is on the left above the lock – there’s a little sign on the water’s edge saying “mooring available ring Oundle Mill 0n 01832 272621”. We didn’t try the number but I do hope that this means that the restaurant is trying to court a few boaters. And so they should, no-one drinks like a boater who’s had his/her appetite whetted by a good day’s cruising in the fresh air 🙂

Note: Upper Barnwell Lock is NOT good for dog-rummaging – the road runs right next to it and is not fenced.

There’s an ugly road bridge below Upper Barnwell Lock – it  has very low headroom indeed; but while you’re ducking down look out for its hidden treasure – the many little cups of swallow’s nests – magic……

Having stopped for lunch (unheard of) it was now late afternoon and we began musing on moorings. This is essential on the Nene – there is plenty of room to moor but the mooring spots are relatively few and far between. So if you miss one it might be an hour or more before you find the next. This was our dilemma this evening – stop early-ish at Ashton or push through another couple of hours to Fotheringay.

When we saw the Ashton moorings our decision was made – they are beautiful. Looking downstream, there’s a stream branching off to the right above the lock and there is a long length of moorings right down the bank – probably enough for at least 10 narrowboats. It’s down on the book as ‘unofficial’ moorings so there aren’t any pontoons or mooring rings; but the bank is fairly even and a a good height for a narrowboat; the ground is firm enough for the pins and the view over the fields is lovely. The road is an easy 10 minutes walk away and there is good dog-walking all around as the path joins to the Nene Way. The tiny hamlet of Ashton is around 15 minutes walk – it has a few houses, a rather nice looking italian restaurant pub (the Checkered Skipper) and at least two irridescent male peacocks strutting around (Blue and Lou safely confined!). Though if they had happened to catch a mouthful of tail feathers I’d have had to throw them away – my granny said that having peacock feathers indoors was terrible bad luck…..

Having checked for cats on the adjacent boats, we let Blue and Lou out for a rummage on the moorings – we needn’t have bothered. After a cursory look around they both ran back to their beds, though not before getting a big fuss from the crew of nb Pendlewych, who proved to be charming neighbours.

Provided you have the necessary victuals on board, we can thoroughly recommend these moorings – they’re so restful. Richard decided to leave the car where it was until the morning so we had a peaceful evening on board and an early night – bliss……


Well tended grounds near Islip Lock - it's all very neat here....

Sue of nb No Problem mentions these fine moorings with a caveat that the yacht ropes make an annoying noise when blown against the masts. We agree - you could hear the racket above the noise of our diesel engine!

River view - we think that the white posts are fishing pitches but the river's closed season at the moment...

It's very off putting to see the water levels a good 6 - 8 inches above the level of the top gate! It does create a bit of turbulence but if you stay forward of the yellow zone then you'll be fine.....

The church of St Michael and All Angels in Wadenhoe - it's is visible for what seems like miles and is apparently well worth a visit.

Looking back towards Upper Barnwell Lock....

What a pose....

7 Responses to “The Odyssey 2010: Day 13”

  1. Sue said


    I am really enjoying your blogs on The Nene, and it is making me miss it so much! We are on the Avon.. I dare not compare!

    BTW your blog feed is showing a bit of rubbish throughout. There is some sort of spacing rubbish coming up right the way through.

    Here is a screenshot of a bit.. I doubt you know that it is happening.. I am viewing on google and firefox.

    Hope you don’t mind me saying.. I thought you might like to know.

    Keep blogging I am so enjoying!

  2. Sue said

    Oh I forgot.. if you read this before going through Elton Lock, can you give me an update on what is happening, eg signs etc on the bank before the lock. I have had a comment that mooring there is now not allowed.

  3. Lesley said

    Your Gran would be most disapproving of me – I wear peacock feathers on my hat – and my hat lives indoors! The pub at Wadenhoe will be visited then, thanks.

  4. indigodream said

    Hi Sue

    Ah interesting. That is a bit of html I put in to keep the photoblog vaguely in order – wordpress struggles to give you a blank line. Works fine if you access the blog normally, I did not realise that RSS feeds don’t parse that line correctly. Hmm back to the drawing board

    Elton Lock: Sadly we have had to turn around before getting there – we have to be in Berkhamstead on 19th June and London in early July so we are running out of weekends!


  5. neil corbett said

    Such a pity that Ashton and Fotheringhay are not further apart. That way you could moor at each on consecutive nights. I can’t really choose between them, although the beer at the Chequered Skipper was memorable. Glad you are enjoying the delights of the Nene. There is more to come, as you will no doubt be discovering today. If you get near to Peterborough
    I would recommend mooring at Peterborough Yacht Club where they are very welcoming and you can get cheap diesel. The moorings in the town centre are not up to much.


  6. If you think its low headroom now just wait for the Middle Level

  7. indigodream said

    Hi ditchcrawler, you’re so right – the crew of nb Pendlewych moor on one of the smaller drains and they not only have to remove their chimney, they have to take the 3-inch high tiller pin off as well 🙂

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