Meanwhile… (03)

Oundle Marina: 0 miles, 0 locks

To summarise – the crew of nb Cleddau left Bedford on 28th July, heading for Crick Marina, a distance of some 170 miles. The trip has involved 57½ miles along the Great Ouse to Denver Sluice, then a transfer via a short stretch of tidal water to the Middle Levels to reach Peterborough (29½ miles) and the River Nene.

All was going well until, 39½ miles up the Nene, a chance remark on 14th August alerted the crew to the closure at Irthlingborough Lock.  

Since then Cleddau has returned to Oundle Marina to await news of a repaired lock – but before they managed to set off again there was news of a gearbox failure at Islip Lock – and then another at Whiston Lock.   

You have to hope that if misfortune strikes in threes there will be only one set of three, not more…

How has time been filled during the prolonged stay in Oundle?

Oundle Marina was created from excavations of sand and gravel in the 1940s. Across the road from the marina is Barnwell Country Park where there are several lakes, all created in the 60s.  It’s a popular place for families, with play areas, a picnic meadow, a quiz trail, a resident swan family and a large BBQ area (currently banned from use due to the wildfire risk). The boardwalk looks very new – and the wooden fish sculpture might represent a chub. Work has been ongoing on a backchannel project to improve wildlife habitat. A brisk 40 minute walk around the site unkinks the body from too many hours sitting on board a narrow boat…

There are other businesses at the marina, one being the display and sale of campervans. Fridays and Saturdays seem to attract potential buyers and it looks as if there’s a steady turnover of vehicles. From Cleddau’s mooring there’s a view of a work space where lift up roofs are being fitted to vans. One wonders whether as living costs rise the campervan bubble will burst… Some (many) decades ago this was LYS; a much loved, much travelled 1967 VW campervan which journeyed throughout England and Wales, across the sea to Skye, and along the North Coast 500 long before that road across the top of Scotland was named as such. Fond campervan memories indeed…

(Photos of photos, 1979-83)

With more days in and around Oundle there’s been more to see: the street market packing up one afternoon, exhibits in Oundle Museum (open only on weekend afternoons)   (an eel spear)  and on Saturday there were glimpses of Invasion Day as hundreds of pupils and their parents arrived at Oundle School for the start of the new school year. Oundle School chapel where new pupils and parents were gathering for a service. Tables laid up for teas at one of the boarding houses.

Then there was the discovery of Kirby Hall, a fine house built in the 1570s by Sir Humphrey Stafford and owned after his death by the Hatton family. Now the house is an uninhabited ruin. Initially it’s hard to make sense of what you are looking at – a gateway to a vast courtyard, extraordinary facades and roofless ranges… There are classical features (the columns or pilasters applied to the walls, the frieze that runs around the courtyard) and a sense of balance and symmetry.    The eye cannot ignore the elaborate decoration of the towering porch that leads into the Great Hall nor later from the garden the array of fine chimneys and rooftop decoration.

Though the north and south ranges are roofless once inside the main house visitors are able to visualise how spaces were used during its occupancy (1570 to 1824).  During its heyday Kirby Hall was owned by Sir Christopher Hatton (1) and his successors, all three of them also called Christopher Hatton.  Though (the first) Christopher Hatton, one of Queen Elizabeth 1’s courtiers, never managed to receive the Queen here, the next monarch, King James 1 of England and VI of Scotland liked it so much he made 9 visits, hunting in the nearby Rockingham Forest apparently being a great attraction.

Large tapestries in various rooms help visitors interpret life in a fine country house.

The Great Hall and musicians’ gallery.

View down the Long Gallery (used for games and exercise)

Finery appropriate for wear in the Withdrawing Room

King James

Formal gardens, sculptures copies of those at Wrest Park, Bedfordshire

Kirby Hall, as seen from the West Garden

Just think, it was only by being ‘stranded at Oundle’ that Kirby Hall (near Corby, Northants) was discovered…!

Recommendations for a decent restaurant for a birthday meal were unanimous – theTap and Kitchen on Oundle Wharf. Would the Captain and Boatwif have been appropriately dressed in their early 1600s dress?!   Somehow the menu choices of a tuna sushima, taster, smoked Conger eel, seared king scallops followed by hanger steak accompanied by a side of courgette, lemon, mint and feta were more 21st century than 17th

Having a birthday while on a boat could be a lonely affair, but many thanks to so many friends and family who texted or emailed good wishes. Best though was a FaceTime call from Cal Guy Jnr, breathless from a rush up the hill from school at 3.15 pm (Cal time) to talk to Granny (at UK 11.15pm) and keen to relay details of a special school event. In a change from the norm Cal Guy Jnr was in school clothes (not his blue dressing gown) while Boatwif was in PJs and not in her usual boaty gear.

Boaty gear – here’s hoping the boat boots and life jackets are in use again at the weekend, repairs at Islip and Whiston Locks being due for completion by the end of September 9th

FOOTNOTE: Cleddau is heading to Crick Marina in Northamptonshire for a winter mooring. Miles and locks still to go to Crick: 57½ miles, 57 locks

 2022 Monkton Moments*– 11

(Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections)

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3 Responses

  1. Jaqueline Biggs says:

    I am pleased to read your birthday was celebrated in fine fettle and with a feast! Thank you for the walk about Oundle and back in time to James and Abbi as wee ones! May the repairs be soon concluded and NB Cleddau on her merry way. My love to you and The Captain,
    Jaq xxx

  2. Jennie Gash says:

    We have everything crossed that you can escape at the weekend. Do I recognise the blue van in the last picture of ‘Lys’? If so, I guess it was taken on our weekend away together to the Stratford area many years ago? Jennie x

  3. Boatwif says:

    Hi Jaq and Jennie,
    Thank you for your comments – yes, the customised campervan operation here at Oundle has taken me back a bit (well, a lot). Because we managed to get home for a night I flicked through the photo albums in search of shots of some of our campervan days. And, yes, Jennie, the blue van was the one you had from the Aussies (later, ours) and I think on that trip we were at somewhere like Bourton-on-the -Water in the Cotswolds. I might be a bit less enthusiastic these days about campervan living…!
    We are hopeful of a change of scene in the next few days – watch out for news…
    Sue /Boatwif

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