Thrapston – Oundle 8¼ miles, 4 locks

With progress through Irthlingborough Lock impossible until Saturday 27th August at the earliest what was to be done?

Cleddau had managed to turn round at Stanwick Lakes to head back downstream, through both the Ringstead and the Woodford locks.

Under the Nine Arches Bridge – and on to Islip Lock where the guillotine gate squeaks and groans as it rises. Would there be a mooring space beside the Middle Nene Sailing Club?

Yes, there was – and Cleddau was settled in just in front of nb Eleanor. “I keep coming across you guys!” commented her skipper (Andy?) as ropes were sorted and fenders organised.

Two nights were spent in that pleasant spot, the bank flat enough for towpath dinners while watching stunning sunsets across the river.

So where is this place? The stone-built Nine Arches Bridge (probably medieval in origin but rebuilt in 1795) links the picturesque Northamptonshire village of Islip on the northern side of the river with the small market town of Thrapston on the southern side.

Boatwf had located a post box on the Islip side of the river earlier in the week,   along with some pretty thatched cottages    and a lovely door wreath. 

Four days later, tied up again at the same place though heading this time downstream, Thrapston deserved a look. There’s a very successful wedding car business here – car being valeted on Thursday, a fleet of cars ready for wedding duties on Saturday!

Stone war memorials engraved with names of the Fallen are common all over the country; more recently additional symbols of remembrance (silhouette figures and seats) have been positioned in churchyards and public places.

There’s a main street in Thrapston, on a hill, with several independent shops, one being an attractive looking toy shop. Apart from a butcher (too much of a queue to go in on Saturday), a baker (no wholemeal bread left on Saturday) there were no candlestick makers but several home interior shops where presumably candles and holders could be sourced…

    A  wander along the Thrapston Town Walk provided occasional views across the sailing lake  – and then a thrash through some undergrowth back to a main path.

Later, exploring a track running parallel to the river, signs of autumn were already apparent. This, according to the signboards, is the Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits Special Protection Area. The Middle Nene Sailing Club lake is just one of several expanses of water formed from gravel extraction. A spindly footbridge spans the river, narrow to walk across and barely noticeable when cruising underneath it.

Saturday was moving day again, onward, downward, back through the 4 locks and along the 8 miles to Oundle Marina. It was the information boards that had revealed just what a watery landscape this is – although it seems as if the channel is contained within high hedges and on a still morning the clouds, reeds and trees were reflected onto the water.

Titchmarsh Lock. If stars were awarded for visual appeal this lock gains 5 stars; however, for ease of operation it barely gains 1 star! But what was this – a helpful angel materialised from the clubhouse in the mill, the crew member of cruiser Carry Me, (met previously during those stationary days at Little Addington). She not only helped close the top gates but also did battle with the very stiff guillotine winding wheel. It takes three hands to line up the metal padlock hole, the chain and the padlock – her extra help was a blessing indeed!

It’s late summer and around the field edges the last few bales of hay awaited pick up, no doubt by mechanised fork lifts!

Why were the cows all grazing in the same direction?

A slow-moving boat was spied ahead, one that became a companion lock sharer for the next three locks: through Wadenhoe, (a busy lock as day trippers arrived to eat lunch at the King’s Head pub ) through Lilford Lock (a quiet lock hidden in park land)   ,past this extraordinarily painted boat, just note its name and at Upper Barnwell Lock (a gongoozling spot not far at all from Oundle Marina).

And the marina is where Cleddau has been spending her unscheduled holiday, awaiting news of the repair and reopening of Irthlingborough Lock…

Meanwhile, via taxis and a train the Captain and Boatwif have returned to Bedfordshire, to inspect the pale and faded garden, to chase the spiders out of the house and to catch up with friends and neighbours.

A positive outcome of the Irthlingborough Lock delay was a pre-birthday tea here,  in a charming garden           in the shadow of Elstow Abbey, just a few hundred yards across Elstow Green from the Moot Hall. This is John Bunyan country – in case of further cruise delay a copy of The Pilgrim’s Progress is to be sneaked back on board Cleddau as additional reading matter. (Many thanks, S, for a really delightful treat).

And has the lock repair been completed by the end of Friday 26th August? Report pending…

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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