Back to Oundle Marina on Saturday – the news was good, the closure notice on Irthlingborough Lock (16½ miles and 9 locks ahead) having been rescinded.

Stick to the plan, let other boats get ahead, avoid the weekend, set off on Monday – that was the decision.

To reduce the complication of taxi, train and car travel between marina and home the Captain asked to leave a vehicle at Oundle Marina. Then, once the river route was open, Cleddau would be able to make a swift getaway.

It was a pleasant weekend – pontoon neighbours were the crew of Oleanna   A preprandial “drink on the terrace” became Pimms next to the concrete slipway. It wasn’t as pleasant a setting as on the island below Houghton Lock, reminder here,  but the company was equally good…

All was well, the boat re-stocked with food, the tank full of water, clothes and bedding clean and fresh. At 4.30 on Sunday Boatwif and the Captain popped into the marina office to bid farewell to Jacqui, farewell prior to an early Monday departure and a long-term farewell too as retirement for her and Mark beckons…

Chat, chat. Then: “Oh, you know that Islip Lock is out of action, don’t you…?”

“Er, no…”

Mechanical failure, apparently.

Islip Lock is the one about two hundred metres from the Sailing Club at Thrapston, 8 miles and 4 locks above Oundle. Hadn’t Boatwif remarked on its noisy graunching workings only last week.

Information, as ever, is hard to come by, other than the official notice on the EA website.

So, until it is known when that lock will be or has been repaired the Cleddau crew are continuing to bide time in Oundle.

Before the news of the latest stoppage Boatwif’s eye had been caught by:

A boat being launched (with difficulty) down the nearby sllipway

A dotty food processor in a shop window

Marketing ploy in same window

Camper vans, priced up and ready to go…

An old fire engine

A convoy of boats passing the marina entrance, just a hundred metres before Upper Barnwell Lock

A heron, finding a safe place on a rooftop

Sometimes a delay can be turned into an opportunity. Not far from Oundle (5 road miles, 11 minutes by car) is Lyveden, a National Trust site.   With no prior knowledge of the place the Cleddau crew arrived on Bank Holiday Monday with open minds and no expectations.

Lyveden had belonged to Sir Thomas Tresham. The existing manor house was probably built on the footprint of an older Elizabethan house, possibly in about 1570 by Sir Thomas’ great grandfather. The significance of the Lyveden property though is in its garden, laid out between 1594 and 1605 by Sir Thomas Tresham, a practising Roman Catholic (in what were Protestant times).

The garden is on a slope behind the manor house: first is the impressive orchard (now restored with heritage varieties of apples, pears, plums and damsons).    


Beyond the orchard is a raised grassy terrace which overlooks (what was intended to be) a four-sided moat, with a viewing mound at each corner.

The ground on the flat area had been intricate flowerbeds, laid out as a labyrinth. Plants in the garden were to be read as a coded message, white roses for example representing the Virgin Mary and purity.

Further on in the garden, beyond the spiral mounds is the garden lodge. This striking looking building is not a roofless ruin but an unfinished building project. The lodge was under construction when Sir Thomas died unexpectedly in 1605, whereupon his workforce, realising that there’d be no further payments, downed tools and walked off the job… See how the grand front doorway was installed – but not the steps to access it…

The lodge is a building of spiritual vision, possibly intended as a summerhouse or a retreat. It’s shaped like a Greek cross and the design is worked round the symbolically significant numbers of 3, 4, 5 and 7 – 3 rooms on each floor, the shields on the stone work in groups of three, sets of 4 window panes, each of the bow windows has 5 sections and each is 5 feet wide, 7 symbols in the external frieze, the frieze repeated around the entire building…  See here  for an explanation of the significance of numbers in the Catholic faith.

The only access to the building is via the very low Servants Entrance. Photos of the interior:

The garden makes for a lovely walk. Toddlers and families, dog walkers and friendship groups all seemed to take delight in the opportunities to stroll, chill and picnic, or climb, chase and scramble. History buffs will take note that Sir Thomas served 15 years imprisonment for his Roman Catholic faith and that one of his sons was implicated in the Gunpowder Plot.

Lyveden – worth a visit, yes – and a return one too. (Lyveden: what3words: messy.worker.remotes

On Tuesday pontoon mooring-mates Oleanna refuelled and turned right, to get closer to Thrapston and to find a cat-friendly mooring for boatcat Tilly.

Wednesday. Time ticks on, the river open only as far upstream as Thrapston, with news of the closed Islip Lock hard to glean. The gearbox has been removed by “internal engineers”  (EA website) but there is no news yet of an estimated repair date… So Cleddau and crew currently remain at Oundle, waiting, just waiting…

Meanwhile, spotted in an antiques shop window was this – you’d have to be of a certain age to remember such tins …

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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