Day 12: Saturday 26th June: From Shire to City
Ken tells me we drew away from the Fotheringhay mooring at 0640. Each night he sets his alarm clock for whatever time decreed necessary to navigate safely from A to B and to secure a good mooring at B. Years of Search and Rescue discipline make him instantly vertical and alert at the sound of the alarm. Me, I need longer, and a full mug of tea in bed before anything remotely alert begins to happen. Thus it was that I became aware this morning of a familiar rather melodious voice, Clare Balding, on Radio 4, talking about a tumulus somewhere near Winchester. Until this morning I had never needed to realise that programmes were broadcast BEFORE Farming Today on the radio…!
It was almost misty when we started, and cooler once we dropped below the first lock, as if the sun hadn’t yet reached over the tall larch trees that so often line the right hand bank. At the second lock, Elton, a maze of bridges, fences, gates and sluices separated the lock from the river. While waiting for the lock to fill all that could be heard was bird song, the fall of water over a weir and the flap of a heron’s wings. No walkers or traffic intrude in these parts.
A little later we met “a single -hander”, someone bringing his narrowboat up from Peterborough Yacht Club back to Titchmarsh Lock on his own. It was useful to see some unorthodox methods deployed both to operate the electric panel and to keep his boat reasonably straight in the lock chamber. The all too frequent discussion: “Do you live on your boat? Where do you moor?” etc, etc. As for him, he lives in hotels all week, on his boat at weekends and his only permanent address is in Crete!
The water became flatter, fuller, deeper. At Stibbington a large crane hovered above a boatyard. The boats moored nearby all seemed afflicted with some unsightly disease, each covered in flies and cobwebs. Sibson with light aircraft and parachutists passed by. Just beyond, at Wansford, The Nene Valley Railway crosses the river: saw the bridge, camera at the ready; heard the train, camera not at the ready!
At some point in the morning I thought it a good idea to apply carpet-sweeper to carpet, and it brought back to mind Items Lost Overboard. About 12 years ago our first carpet sweeper slipped from my grasp and plunged to the depths of the Grand Union summit above Marsworth; a more embarrassing loss was a certain item of clean underclothing that flew back past the helmsman, like a low-flying seagull, down the Sharpness Canal. Only a few nights ago a sentimental loss, a blue and white napkin ring, bought in Hungerford, slipped into the North Oxford Canal. And today, nearly, the precious Geo River Nene map, which kite-like took off from the front deck before I was able to grab it!
The further east the lower the river banks became. The breeze rippled on the water. Through Ferry Meadows we cruised, on the outskirts of the city, though passing through country park areas. People now, on bikes, on foot, on moored boats. Waving fatigue was setting in, so many people full of sunshine cheer and happiness. Then the centre of Peterborough, massive railway bridges and “ASDA” footbridge, that is its name, we moored underneath it, as here (for those who know) there is a gate in the river side railings – then to ASDA to stock up with goodies.
For the record: boats recently seen from significant locations: one 40′ from BOLLINGTON (the Macc) and the other from CHEDDLETON (the Caldon Canal). Most interesting wildlife sighting, a kingfisher, (Ken), most touching, a mother duck with three minute ducklings scrabbling to grasp her feathers.
As for tonight’s mooring: on the Embankment in Peterborough, on a wide stretch of river, the peace occasionally disturbed by a passing train or a revving jet-ski. Yes, we’re not far from “The Mad Mile” where apparently no speed limit applies. However, bells are ringing now: what better sound than cathedral bells and river ripples?