|This Month's Totals and Average
Early rise to get Pat away before traffic built up. She was off by 07:30. I now have three weeks on my own, before our daughter joins me for a week's holiday. Quiet remainder to the day, generally rearranging things to where I have them for the winter. Dull, cool day throughout.
Rain continued most of Saturday evening, and overnight into Sunday. It cleared mid-morning to a lovely sunny afternoon. Heating failed to start Sunday morning. Once the rain had stopped, we took "Paws" across to the services berth for fuel - she was very thirsty. Heard unofficially that Pridewater had sold their marina business to ABC, but there is little other information going at the moment, only rumours - may have to think about moving. Tried the heating again and it came on - must have been a low tank level. Pat's car had failed to start (again), so tried our starter-pack on it. Also failed. Skipper down with some kind of lurgi, not feeling overly great.
Lovely morning Monday, if cold. Lurgi not improved too much. Called in our breakdown service - once they arrived (think they got lost), it only took 5 mins to get the Admiral mobile again. Went for a drive to charge battery, ended up shopping (wonder why I didn't see that coming - must have been the lurgi).
Tuesday, and the Admiral decided to clear out lockers (allegedly to see what she'd got). Skipper went for haircut, then pottered with routine stuff. Beautiful sunny day, albeit with a cool autumnal air. Went for a drive in the afternoon to Springwood Haven. Co-incidentally met up with John & Jane on "Ichthus" who were mooring there for a week to enable them to go home, and Stephen out on his charity work with "The Hargreaves" boat. Also noted "Dawn Run" moored on a 'storage' berth. Springwood had no vacancies.
Pat continued her 'spring clean', I went for drive on Wednesday morning to visit two marinas. Both resulted in locked gates and no offices. I rang the first on their contact number and someone let me in (no current vacancies). The other had no contact number on the gate and their website was down for maintenance. The landline number obtained from Google search was transferred to a mobile currently in France. In the afternoon, I went to a third who was confident a place would be available soon. More research needed. Another lovely day - sunny but fresh. My lurgi vastly improved, but Pat appears to have now caught it.
Yet another lovely day on Thursday. The end-of-season clean-up continued. Visit from Linda about a knitting problem. More preparations for Pat heading home.
Both went for a drive to marina 3 on Friday morning so that Pat could have a look. Beautiful day again. More cleaning and packing the afternoon.
Saturday brought yet more cleaning and packing. Pat eventually ready by dinner time.
Wind dropped dramatically overnight, and we woke to a watery sunlight - forecast for rain later. The Admiral decided we should risk it and get back (only because we had run out of milk). We agreed to go at least as far as Glascote for the Co-op, but if the rain set in, the steerer was putting his foot down and staying put after that.
Let go and headed back towards base, through Polesworth, Alvecote and Amington. Quite a few boats still on the move. At Glascote, the moorings at the Co-op were full, but the rain had not yet properly arrived (only a few spots of drizzle) so we continued down the two Glascote Locks and back to base. Rain getting a little heavier so just went straight to our berth and got under cover (and lunch).
Dirty dive out after lunch to get the milk, the other shopping will have to wait.
Well, that's it for this year's big summer cruise. We've had a good summer - the scenery has been fantastic, but some of the navigational operations have been heavy going. Worth the trip, but we'll probably not get across the Fens again.
After a wild, wet and windy night, dawn broke with almost no cloud in the sky, and the wind had moderated somewhat. Cooler than of late.
..... didn't last!
Let go and moved the short distance to Top Lock. Started down with the assistance of a CRT volunteer. At Lock 2, a second volunteer joined us and we continued steadily down the first five. By the time we got to the long pound (where we usually moor for access to the town), the sky had clouded over again and there was moisture in the air. By the time we reached Lock 7 it was like the middle of winter, with driven hail and very cold - gloves and heavy coats required. We met a few boats coming up in the first 6 locks, but each time we had to wait for them to ascend. The second half had no boats coming up, and all were against us. Clearing Bottom Lock (11), we continued to Bradley Green for services, then on to Bridge 50, Meadow Lane, where we moored for the day. Cold and wet, we needed soup and coffee to warm us up. The big highlight for the day was sighting a water vole paddling across the canal below Lock 7.
Squally showers were the routine for the rest of the afternoon, in between the (still warm) sunny periods.
Very heavy rain overnight had eased to light showers by breakfast. Forecast still for heavy rain during the day so decided to stay put and bake!
Rain most of the day, some of it heavy. Work on maps, and general chores, as well as the baking .
Heavy rain overnight, and the wind had risen further, but with rain forecast for all day Thursday we decided to move on a bit.
Let go promptly and continued northwards past Marston Junction and through Nuneaton. Very busy with moving boats today - had to wait for six boats coming through a bridge'ole at one stage, before we could continue on. Wind causing problems with boat-handling, particularly at low speeds. Ended up "stuck" on the towpath side, held by wind, a couple of times, but managed to get off again in a lull. Just south of Hartshill, we met Graham on "Dawn Run", but it was at a bridge'ole and on a bend so we didn't get a chance to chat. Finally moored up at Taverners Bridge 40 just before lunch.
Lunch on board, then a walk into town for a few stores and more wool. Back to "Paws", and within ½-hour, the rain had started.
Wind picked up overnight, blowing quite strong by breakfast time. Decided to set off ayway. The sun came out and it was a lovely day, the wind not actually causing any problems.
Left the moorings, passed the pub, and traversed Newbold Tunnel. Continued past all the (now) short arms left over from the straightening works carried out 1829-33 - a lot of these are now used as moorings and marinas. Continued meandering, through Ansty with lunch on the move, arriving at "Sutton's Stop". Descended through the Stop Lock, turned right onto the Coventry Canal, but then reversed up for a brief stop at the services. Once finished, headed northwards for Bedworth. Moored just north of Bulkington Bridge 14 mid-afternoon. After a few spots of rain as we were tying up, the sun came back out again.
More rain overnight gave us a damp, drizzly start to the day. Knowing that there was a restriction on Hillmorton Locks due to water shortage, we set off in time to arrive just after opening time at 09:00. Arrived 09:15 to find we were sixth in a queue to go down. After a 55 minute wait we finally started down, as the sun got through. Only one lock in each pair was in use, increasing the bottleneck on this, the flight with the highest traffic level on the system. Two volunteers were out assisting, but one can only get so many boats through in a given time.
Once clear of the Bottom Locks we continued towards Rugby, realising we would probably not manage to get to "Sutton's" as we had hoped. Stopped in Rugby for stores and made our 'Plan B' - on recommendation, we would move to Newbold and try the Barley Mow Inn. Moved off after a leisurely lunch. Just approaching Rugby Wharf Arm when we hear a horn - someone coming out from the blind turn. It was a Willow Wren hireboat, obviously just leaving, and equally obviously a couple of absolute 1st-timers - they were all over the cut, driving into the bank, and getting grounded on the offside. The trainer left them as soon as they were clear of the entrance and the training did not appear particularly good. We stopped, got them off the mudbank, and offered them some advice. Hope they enjoy their holiday, but it will be a steep learning curve!
Half a mile further on, they appeared to be doing better, and we moored up short of Footbridge 50.
Went for dinner to the Barley Mow . Unfortunately, they were changing their menu - this being the last day before they closed the restaurant for two days. They had little stock left and the menu was very limited. What we got, however, was well cooking and the service was excellent and friendly. Will probably go back again to see what chef makes of the new menu.
Wind direction had changed by morning, and it was warmer. Service at All Saints Church is later than we have been used to, so a more leisurely start to the day. Communion service today, with Rev. Nat doing the honours - she only took the charge a few weeks ago. Coffee afterwards so back to "Paws" late.
Let go and headed to the Junction, taking the right fork onto the Oxford Canal towards "Sutton's". Wound our way northwards in the pastureland, mooring well short of Hillmorton Locks, at Bridge 75. Rain was threatening by this stage of the late afternoon. It eventually arrived around dinner time, and continued through the evening.
Another prompt start, so that we could get to Braunston in time for lunch. Headed round to the Top Lock and ascended, then pulled over for a services stop. Once on the move again, continued towards Braunston Tunnel. Three boats pulled out astern of us and followed us through the tunnel. Met two boats coming the other way. Clearing the tunnel, we arrived at Braunston Top Lock. Two of the boats behind were running together, the third was mooring up above the lock, so we descended on our own. While waiting for the next lock down, another boat arrived at Top Lock and the pair let them come down to join us. We worked down the rest of the flight in company with "Peggy" from the Clifton Cruisers hire-fleet - delightful couple. We managed to get a mooring at Butchers Bridge - Braunston very busy. Walked along to the Gongoozlers' Rest for lunch, then into town for stores before returning to "Paws" for the afternoon.
Sunny for most of the day, warm enough to be pleasant, but cool enough not to be being baked.
Up and on the move promptly, despite the plan for only a short working day. Ascended Buckby Bottom Lock, and found that a boat ahead was waiting for us. We had company from "Kallista" up through the remaining locks as far as Anchor Cottage, where we moored again (plan is for Braunston tomorrow in time for lunch, then church on Sunday before departure).
Routine chores and maintenance at a leisurely pace for the afternoon. Mixture of sun and cloud - still warm in the sun, but chilly when it was behind the clouds. Heavy rain shower just before bedtime.
Lovely sunny morning, but colder again (outside 8°C overnight). Don't think I'll be using this mooring again, the traffic was noisier than we thought.
Let go from the mooring and moved round to Gayton Junction services berth for the 'usuals'. Noted that the refuse bins were all missing - reported to CRT. After that, turned right, back onto the Grand Union Canal, and headed north towards Braunston. Whilst we have enjoyed the new scenery, particularly on the Great Ouse and especially on the Wissey, it felt great to be back on "normal" canals again after the two months on rivers. Only realised this morning what part of the problem was - there was no birdsong on the rivers. Yes, they cheeped and squawked, but I had missed the song of a blackbird, robin or wren. Far more traffic on the move here. The sun held out till late afternoon, and it was a pleasure chugging along. Lunch on the move. Eventually arrived at Whilton, and moored just short of the locks.
Once moored, we stowed away all the equipment for river work and got everything back the way we like it. Took a walk to the chandlery, then returned for a quiet end to the day.
Last day of our EA visitor licence, our last day on the river.
Yesterday's drizzle dried up overnight, and there was only one heavy shower overnight - this had cleared by morning. The wind had also died down to light airs.
Up early enough to ensure we were first in the queue for the locks when they opened at 09:00. Got round to find someone had not actually put the chain on! Started up the flight - the first four are more spread out, about 15-20 mins between each. All were empty so had a very good road. At Lock 13, we started the Rothersthorpe Flight proper. Apart from ones that had a leak on the top gate, all were again empty so made exceptional time. Pounds 7, 6, 5 and 4 were very low, but passable - this is the normal state with these pounds (sometimes 5 is actually empty first thing in the morning). Met two boats coming down, but didn't see anything following behind us. Cleared the Top Lock and moored opposite Gayton Marina (a little noisy with traffic, but don't think it will keep us awake ).
Lunch immediately after mooring, then checked the marina's chandlery to see if they had a battery the same spec as the one removed from the bow-thrust - unfortunately they didn't. Decided to stay put, and only move on tomorrow. Afternoon spent doing more splicing, and working on the maps again. Paul & Daisy on "Hector" stopped for lunch as they passed, recipes were exchanged, and they continued on. Great cruising with them over the past weeks.
Dry all day, with the cloud slowly clearing and the sun peeping out by mid-afternoon.
Last run into Northampton today - short day's run. Woke to an even stronger wind - not pleasant.
Just about ready to go when "Hector" asked if we are ready - yes - and they'd wait at the first lock for us. Ascended the three remaining locks into Northampton in their company. At the first lock, we all spoke with a gentleman who was "wielding" a goshawk - he was employed by the local university to rid them of pigeons. Completing the lock, we turned towards the riverside quay where "Hector" winded and headed for the marina - we moored up at the quay.
Went up to Sainsbury's for own-brand stores, then returned for lunch. "Waterscape" arrived behind us. 'Catering' then went back out to Morrison's for more stores. Ventilation complete, tidied up the cratch storage until a new battery can be obtained. Started slicing up new mooring and centre lines. Completed the 'tracks' map for 2015 (on to 2016).
The rain which had been forecast for most of today had not materialised, but a light drizzle set in late afternoon.
Wind died overnight, and we woke to a dull but warmish morning. Looked out the porthole to find a large number of horses outside. They seemed very laid-back about people, but were very scruffy.
Up and on the move by 08:30 as we planned a slightly longer day. Headed into Wellingborough, ascending Lower Wellingborough Lock, and took a quick loo-stop. Continued up through Upper Wellingborough Lock, to find "Ouzel II" just arriving behind us. They said they were going to dawdle today, only going as far as White Mills, and we should just carry on without them. As it happened, they were only just behind us at all the locks to White Mills - it may have saved effort for both of us if we had waited (never mind). Wind had risen again and was making things difficult at lock-landings, and that was when the battery for our bow-thrust decided to call it a day - oh well, back to basics! Ascended Whiston, Cogenhoe, Billing, Clifford Hill and Weston Favell Locks, and pulled into the EA mooring above the barrage gate, in front of "Hector".
Dull day throughout, with a rising breeze. If the sun had actually broken through, it would have been warm, but even so it wasn't overly cool. Last stretch into Northampton tomorrow; shorter working day.
Disconnected and removed the battery from the bow-thrust as it had failed (this meant removing everything from the cross-bench storage in the cratch). Everything was left out to allow ventilation of the compartment.
Heavy rain overnight, but clear by morning. As there was water available and nobody around, turned the engine on, got a load of washing done, then topped up before leaving.
Left the mooring and came out from behind the island, then continued the climb towards Northampton. A lot more wind today, making going alongside lock landings difficult. Ascended Denford, Woodford, Lower Ringstead and Upper Ringstead Locks. As we were leaving, we noted a boat just arriving but didn't get a chance to find out their intentions. Continued to Irthlington Lock where they caught us up before we had started the ascent - reopened the guillotine gate and let "Ouzel II" in. They then accompanied us up through Higham and Ditchford Locks before they continued for Wellingborough. We moored up at the FotRN "Ski Lake" mooring.
Mostly sunny and warm, with occasional cloudy spells. The wind remained strong all day, but even it was warm.
Day dawned bright, the clouds showing no sign of rain. Had a short 'long lie' before dawdling to get ready. Eventually on the move mid-morning, having decided the rain was probably not coming after all.
Within half an hour of departure, the wind started to pick up and a steady drizzle set in. Ascended Titchmarsh Lock. Seemed to get all sorts of water-craft today - narrowboats, canoes, stand-up paddle boards and wild-swimmers! Have seen quite a few wild-swimmers on the Nene, seems to be quite popular around here. Ascended Islip Lock and made to go onto the mooring at Thrapston. Another boat was just leaving so we allowed it out before reversing in behind the island.
Drizzle eased off over lunch. 'Catering' made a quick (and dry) trip up town for stores. Drizzle returned late afternoon.
Up slightly early, but "Hector" away well before us (never saw them again). On the move at 09:00 and continued the climb upstream. Ascended Perio, Cotterstock, Ashton and Lower Barnwell Locks without incident, then pulled into Oundle Marina for gas, loo, water and chandlery. Quickly away again and, with lunch on the move, ascended Upper Barnford, Lilford and Wadenhoe Locks. There was a weed-cutter working just above Wadenhoe but he let us through without hindrance. Moored up at the FotRN "Pear Tree Farm" mooring we had used on the way out - a bit difficult to get alongside due to windage.
Breeze distinctly cooler today. Cloud built and dissolved all day, threatening rain at one point, but it never materialised. Forecast is for rain all day tomorrow.
Slow to get up this morning, then slow to get moving - nearly 10:00 by the time we let go. Watched a hot-air balloon taking off from the park. Headed out from Overton Lake and returned to the river, turning upstream again. Slightly cool, but with the promise of more heat later.
Ascended Alwalton and Water Newton Locks in the sun. As we were leaving Water Newton, "Hector" let go and we agreed they would wait at the next lock - they were intending going as far as they could today. Ascended Wansford and Yarwell Locks in their company, all the time catching up on a boat in front. By the time we reached Elton Lock, they had caught up with the boat ahead and ascended with it, leaving us to reset the lock and come up on our own. The other boat then moored up, and "Hector" waited for us again at Warmington Lock so we came up together.
The rain had come on as we worked Elton, and by the time we reached Warmington, "Hector" had decided to stop for the day as well. We moored by the monument at Fotheringhay just as the rain stopped.
Within a short while, the rain was back on, heavier than ever.
Up promptly and on the go for the last day on the Middle Level. Arrived at Stangound Lock bang on time and Tina welcomed us with apologies for the slow response last night (turns out her husband had been rushed to hospital). Once clear of the lock, we continued into Peterborough for services and shopping, with lunch up town. Let go again and headed off up the River Nene, passing through Orton Lock before turning off into Overton Lake and mooring at Ferry Meadows. The mooring was deserted in comparison to when we were outbound.
A mixture of cloud and sunny spells today. Warm in the sun, but starting to get autumnal under the cloud.
The initial cloud cleared very quickly, but returned later. Went to the butcher's and baker's, then visited St Peter's Church which we missed last time through - beautiful interior with classic box pews, lovely stained glass window and carved angels in the roof sections.
Set off mid-morning back across the Middle Level for March. Having 'transferred weight forward' (Pat moved to front of boat), we found no problem with the remaining bridge heights (there is a change of trim of about 2 inches when she moves the length of the boat ). Waved to Roger & Jane of "Rodgy Dodgy" as we passed their house, but didn't stop.
Arrived in March intending to stop the night, and do shopping, but found that all moorings were occupied - no option but to continue for Whittlesey. Rang Stanground Lock but only got the answering machine - left a message but they did not return the call! Ascended Ashline Lock with its very heavy paddle gear and moored at the same place in Whittlesey we had used inbound (deserted!).
The cloud stayed most of the day, only occasional sunny spells, and a cool wind popped up requiring the need of coats (haven't been out for months!).
Update later in the evening - At 20:30, we received a call from Tina at Stanground, apologising for the late callback. She had been dealing with a family emergency and hadn't even been to the lock today. We have a slot tomorrow at 10:30 - thank you Tina .
The national day of remembrance for merchant seafarers who, in the course of their trade, lost their lives as a result of armed conflict. During WW1 and WW2, British Merchant Fleets lost 52,000 men, women and boys to the sea, and that is their only grave. September 3rd was chosen as the memorial day for two reasons -
1. it was the day WW2 was declared,
2. SS Athena was sunk by a German submarine on the first day of war, with the loss of 117 civilian crew and passengers - the first merchant ship sunk in the war.
A mist hung over the river this morning, with no wind and a cloudless sky. The mist had all but cleared by the time we were ready to go. Returning to the Great Ouse, we headed downstream and onto the services berth. Once finished, we moved round to the lock landing, ready for our turn. "Rodgy Dodgy" and "Brown Trout" whom we had met at the Festival were also there, and we were joined by another narrowboat. Just before lunch, the lockie arrived and prepared for the day's traffic. "Rodgy Dodgy" and "Brown Trout" both said they weren't in a hurry and we should go first. Clearing the lock, the tide was still very strong inbound, and we made very slow headway (1.8 mph) to Salter's Lode. The other boat didn't quite judge the turn right and ended up taking four attempts at it. We got round in one, but it was a difficult entry onto the landing stage.
Once through, we continued along Well Creek for Outwell, taking lunch on the move. The water level appeared to be up on when we came through - the bridges seemed lower (I'll have to be very careful around Upwell). Arrived at the Church mooring in Upwell - surprised to find it empty. Nice to have a shorter day again.
"Rodgy Dodgy" moored up temporarily in front of us (to get something in town). We commented on the garden and he said it really needed watering. After the sun had moved off the flowers, we got a hose out and spent an hour refreshing the garden.
On the move promptly, on a lovely sunny morning - little wind. At Ten Mile Bank, we met a large number of rowing boats (singles, pair & 4's) coming upstream. We were informed, by someone who appeared to be an organiser, that it was a long distance race with about 140 boats.
We turned right onto the River Wissey, getting a culture-shock as it was initially very narrow (after the wide Great Ouse). Noted that the two GOBA moorings were very good, with pilings, but pins being required. It felt more like canal, with reed beds both sides and overarching trees. Arriving at Hilgay, we looked for the EA mooring with services, but could only see a brick blockhouse (signs too small) and no apparent signs for the mooring.
Continued on, where the river widens a bit, with one section opening onto what (on a canal) would be a 'flash'. Large amounts of windlife in this area, from buzzards and kestrels to at least 5 kingfisher sightings. There were also a myriad dragonflies and damselflies of colours we had never seen before - one dragonfly had a shiny copper-coloured abdomen and wings that looked like they had amber beads or l.e.d light-strings sown into the edges of its wings (it looked to be lit-up in the sunlight).
Arriving at Wissington, and the British Sugar beet factory, the canal narrows again slightly. We believe that the work which used to be done in their Cupar factory (20 miles from our house) was transferred here after they closed it down. The final stretch into Stoke Ferry is very picturesque, running past Grange Farm Touring Park (hosting a GOBA mooring) (note that it is children-free) and ending at 'turning point' made from a drainage channel and the un-navigable remainder of the river. It would be possible to turn a 70ft boat, but it may need poling round.
Having winded "Paws", we returned outwards, taking care to look harder for the EA moorings. The blockhouse is obviously the services block, and we did find a sign (facing away from the river!) announcing the moorings (which were full). Continued as far as the GOBA moorings near the confluence with the Great Ouse. We moored, the only boat there, for the night.
Another lovely morning, although the breeze was slightly stronger. Moved back for water, then set off for Little Ouse Moorings for fuel. Rang ahead, only to find they were unusually closed today - Panic!
Initially decided that we should cut our losses and head straight back across the Middle Level, fuelling at March. Phoned ahead to find they would not accept a self-declaration. Big rethink. We could go to Ely, but they also wont accept a self-declaration. Thought we'd try Fish & Duck Marina. Eventually got an answer on the phone - yes they were open, and would accept. A long diversion, but would cost less to go there than over-pay duty. Continued upstream, with lunch on the move, to the other side of Ely (Ely very busy today, didn't bode well for a mooring on the way back).
Got our fuel at reasonable cost, and returned back downstream. We had originally intended to visit both the Rivers Lark and Wissey, but with the lost day to find fuel, we now only have time for one. Coins were tossed and it came out for Wissey. If we had been forced to take from either of the other suppliers, we would have lost both.
All the moorings were busy, so eventually breasted to a hire-boat at Littleport "Station Road" mooring.