Over a steaming weekend Oundle Marina proved a quiet place to be. Easy access to a laundry room (2 full sized washing machines, 2 tumble driers) suited Boatwif’s domestic nature, a replacement bilge pump was sourced at the well-stocked chandlery – and a couple of rounds of purchases such as these helped reduce body temperatures.
The marina is a long mile plus from a supermarket, and with no taxi services available in the town, Jacqui, the wonderful office manager at the marina, offered transport to and from Waitrose. How wonderful was that! And wonderful too to lurk in the wide cool aisles of an air-conditioned store.
The Captain is a Planner – there’s nothing so engaging to his mind as a screed of data (routes, miles, locks, speeds, tides, mooring places, shopping facilities, etc).
How then did Plan A become Plan B – which then transitioned into a Plan Double Z…? Read below for the details.
Oundle – Thrapston – Little Addington -Thrapston: 23¾ miles, 14 locks
Maybe it was too early for lock side swimmers and mid-river paddleboarders – or maybe they too had to attend to some domestic concerns… It was not until after the third lock (Wadenhoe) that the only group of swimmers was spotted and with their high-viz floats they were easy to spot.
This is Middle Nene country, where the river weaves and twists between cow-grazed pastures, where churches with fine spires sit on rises above small villages, where kites and hawks soar above the trees and along the river elegant swans thrive on succulent weed.
Onwards, through Titchmarsh Lock: in such an attractive setting it’s such a difficult lock… When as a lock wheeler you have to wrestle with a thin little key, with padlocks and chains, and with a wheel to be wound up and then down, then stopped and locked in a particular position good humour can begin to leach away…!
Onward then to squeeze between two narrowboats at the Middle Nene Sailing Club at Thrapston for an overnight mooring.
Monday: 8 miles, 4 locks
Off on Tuesday, through Islip Lock, under the Nine Arch Bridge and under the A14. Two locks later there was a gathering of folk, a crowd out on an electric dayboat, off downstream to Islip for a lunch at the pub.
Each day there is a target mooring – foiled on Tuesday by a partially collapsed bank and a rather inconsiderately moored boat at Woodford. Cleddau pressed on. (Plan B) What might have been 4¼ miles and 3 locks slowly became 6 miles and 5 locks.
It was as Cleddau was leaving Lower Ringstead Lock that a voice from a moored boat called out: “Are you going to Irthlingborough? You know the lock is broken and they can’t look at it until Friday…” By that time the Irthlingborough mooring area ahead of the lock was to have been the destination… (Plan B)
It’s a weird situation, trying to establish facts and create a plan where information is flimsy and inconsistent. “Structural problem, could take days, weeks…!” said one boater who appeared to have spoken to someone on site. Then, eventually an Environment Agency website notice was found, detailing the emergency closure and dated 14th August. Mechanical problem, apparently.
Two nights were spent at Little Addington. The rain came down – the river rose up. The bank was saturated and disappearing below water. Defensive actions were called for – vertical poles to prevent the boat from being floated onto the bank. There were several crisis conferences with the cruiser boat crews.
For the master plan (to return up the Nene to the canals) to be foiled by a broken lock made future planning tricky – but essential.
The boat couldn’t stay where it was indefinitely, it would have to be turned round and within a few days the water tank would need refilling.
Meanwhile at 6.30 prompt each evening from the Ringstead direction a noisy gaggle of geese rose above the reeds, gathered into a wobbly V shape in the sky and, squawking and screeching, headed towards the lakes at Stanwick.
The Captain studied Google Earth satellite pictures of the river ahead, identifying a likely point a mile ahead wide enough to wind the boat round.
Tuesday: 6 miles, 5 locks.
Wednesday: 0 miles, 0 locks
And so it was on Thursday morning that a turn at the outfall from Stanwick Lakes was successfully achieved and Cleddau set off back downstream… Back past the cruisers, back past the swans’ preening salon…
Where four nights before the boat sat low below the edge making it quite a climb to get up onto the decking, now the rain had raised the level to make boat and bank access so much easier!
Thursday: 9 miles, 5 locks
Friday: 0 miles, 0 locks
So what next?
Back to Oundle is the current plan, to spend some waiting days until there is news of a repaired and operational lock
.(Hopefully that lovely bookshop in Oundle will have its doors open, ready for a Boatwif browser…)
FOOTNOTE: Cleddau is heading to Crick marina in Northamptonshire for a winter mooring. Miles and locks still to go to Crick: 73¼ miles, 64 locks
2022 Monkton Moments*– 11
(Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections)