Onwards and upwards

                 Oundle Marina – Thrapston – Irthlingborough – Doddington – White Mills:                                                           27 miles, 18 locks

During the extended stay at Oundle Marina retaining a car there had been a good decision: day trips, supermarkets, an overnight trip home to check mail and the state of the grass, as well as transport for Pip of Oleanna to Peterborough for her London meeting… It was during Pip’s Tuesday meeting that good news was received – and passed on.

The gearbox at Whiston Lock had been repaired and was back in action.

Then, a couple of hours later, came more good news – Islip Lock too had been repaired and was open for navigation. Was the way really clear for progress up the River Nene…?


Environment Agency notifications were checked – yes, closure notices had been rescinded!

Would there be dozens of boaters eager to move again? Could there be lock queues or difficulty in finding moorings…?

Preparations were made to resume the cruise – food stocks checked, diesel tank topped up, water tank filled.

One more night tied up at Oundle – it was a calm evening and Cleddau was bathed in moonlight.

And so on Thursday 8th September, 22 days after first being stalled by the lock closure at Irthlingborough, Cleddau set out again.

The chains attaching the boat to the pontoon had to be released.     And then it was farewell to Oundle Marina (after many farewells to the wonderful marina managers, Jacqui and Mark, who slid into retirement before Cleddau managed to leave…) 

As is so often the case in a boating manoeuvre – if you do it well there is no-one around to notice, if you make a mess of it there is a wide audience… On Thursday Cleddau made a slick and drama-free exit from the marina (where was the audience?!), turned right past the Cruising Club     (noting that Oleanna had already departed) and headed into the first of the 43 remaining locks up to the Grand Union Canal.

After the several to-ings and fro-ings between Thrapston and Oundle these were familiar waters…

Past 50 Shades (of grey)      and under the ornamental bridge before Lilford Lock. 

Onwards, to Wadenhoe, where above the lock the pub moorings were all but empty, and for the first time when passing this way this summer, there were NO swimmers in the water beside the village hall…

Onward, towards Titchmarsh Lock, passing the lovely Peartree Farm triangle, where last week 5 boats had hung out, desperate for news of lock repairs (and in at least one case, even more desperate for a toilet pump-out…). Titchmarsh Lock is tricky – it’s deep and there is no power to the vertical gate, the raising and lowering of the gate being via a stiff hand-wound wheel.

Texts from Oleanna indicated a problem ahead: Islip Lock (which had only very recently been repaired) had a power outage. Cleddau approached the Sailing Club moorings, the situation becoming clearer. As had been publicised on the EA website power was to be cut to Islip Lock area for some hours for some electrical work. Up on the electricity poles across the river a team of engineers was working (until there was a lunch break) and then they worked again throughout the afternoon…The Captain observed that they were attaching a spur to the power lines to provide supply to a property nearby. From the Islip footbridge Oleanna could be seen, moored on the lower lock landing, with another boat (nb Babarella, it transpired) stranded in the lock above, with no power to operate the guillotine gate. (See Oleanna’s take on events here) By late afternoon the power was restored – and, much to the Cleddau crew’s relief, Islip Lock worked flawlessly on Friday morning.

Before leaving Thrapston there was a quick trip up to the Co-op – and although passed several times before, following Thursday’s profoundly sad news of the death of The Queen, these sights had particular resonance…

Two sprays of flowers on the town’s War Memorial

Town noticeboard in Coronation Gardens and town Golden Jubilee sign

Through Islip Lock, accompanied by nb Ragnald, (sharing the first of what would be 10 locks with them. Ragnald’s skipper has a handy device which makes the thumb on the button procedure a less tedious business…).

Onward, along a now familiar route, having passed this way in both directions only last month. Road bridges, a railway bridge, elegant church spires, moored boats, lock cabinets, a surprise coincidence from nb Truro at Lower Ringstead Lock (“So I went to the same school as your daughter…!”)   – and onward some more.

Here was the FOTRN (Friends of The River Nene) Little Addington mooring, where in rising and falling waters Cleddau had been stranded during the Irthlingborough Lock closure. (Reminder here }

Onward, past Stanwick Lakes, to arrive at Irthlingborough Lock. The gate was up – or was it – as Cleddau slowly crept in.  “Mind your head!” Boatwif shouted down from the lock side. Who would want this troublesome guillotine gate to go into decapitation mode… Why had the gate been stopped at a half way point…?

Relief! Triumph! Cleddau and Ragnald rose in Irthlingborough Lock, two out of the three out-of-action locks now conquered…

Away from the Irthlingborough moorings on Saturday morning, away from the one-time Rushden and Diamonds football ground, and on under a tricky bridge.

There were boats and structures at Ditchford, the view from downstream looking rather odd. Why was there a horizontal bar across the chamber…? Realisation then, this was the one radial lock gate on the Nene, where the gate has a curved surface and in operation moves in an arc.

Onward, under the magnificent Irchester Viaduct (“Hallo, paddle boarders”)

past a new (?) mooring pontoon at Chester House, on towards Swan HQ at Wellingborough.

Share the space is a waterways mantra – the well-fed swans of Wellingborough are always unperturbed by boats inching up to the Embankment. Rubbish dropped, letter posted, yogurt purchased and onward went Cleddau and Ragwald, up through two more locks, heading for the FOTRN Manor Farm mooring.  Mid-afternoon on a Saturday can be too late to secure a mooring of choice. Two narrow boats and a cruiser were occupying that space; perhaps the cruiser could have been nudged up but with only a large dog on the back deck there was little hope of that!

Onward then, through Doddington Lock, to strike lucky at Hardwater Mill, where sheep and swans were quiet overnight company.

Sunday: There was fog and dew, is autumn on its way? By mid-morning the boats were ready to leave.

Phone checked: Are you guys accessible for a coffee today? read a text from The Academic. Well, yes, that could be managed.

And so, two miles, two locks, two dogs a-swimming and a couple of hours later there were guests on board, The Academic and The Biologist (newly flown in from Perth, Western Australia). There was much talk, a pot of tea, a bottle of wine and a few rather sun-baked biscuits before an early evening departure.

So what next?  There are a few more miles and 8 locks between White Mills and  Northampton – and then, the final push up the 17 Northampton Locks back to the canals. Help is on its way from Cheshire with that…

FOOTNOTE: Cleddau is heading to Crick Marina in Northamptonshire for a winter mooring. Miles and locks still to go to Crick: 30½ miles, 39 locks

 2022 Monkton Moments*– 11

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

You may also like...

4 Responses

  1. Jane Massey says:

    At last!!! How patient you have to be when sailing the canals – not just travelling at
    4 mph but unexpected and extended stays sometimes. Hope the rest of the journey is without problems and Crick Marina proves a safe haven.

  2. Jaqueline Biggs says:

    Free at last! I did not realize how many locks one must navigate just to reach the top of the Northampton flight of 17!! It appears there were no long queues thankfully, and how lovely to see the Academic and the Biologist. Please say hello from me when next you meet up with them. May the remainder of your journey through to Crick be enjoyable and without incident.

    Love Jaq xxx

  3. Boatwif says:

    Hi Jane, hi Jaq,
    This has been an epic journey in terms of the time it has taken…! We are now within 3 locks and a couple of miles of Northampton itself, the flight of 17 planned for Friday…
    Jaq, I’ll certainly pass on your greeting – and both of them asked after you when they were with us on Sunday.


  4. Jaqueline Biggs says:

    Wish I were there to help with the Northampton flight. You and Ken are certainly making good time! Xxx

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.