To Northampton… and beyond

White Mills Marina to Gayton Junction: 13 miles, 25 locks

Many boaters have spoken highly about White Mills Marina – and two nights moored there were no disappointment. This marina is less than ten years old and facilities are all of a high standard. There’s a café where the Captain couldn’t resist sampling his second only cooked breakfast of the cruise

(Boatwif’s breakfast) 

– and good it was too. Boaters can book use of the washing machine and dryer, pontoons are secured and there is a pleasant campsite behind the buildings. An interesting feature was the number of “fat” boats moored against the pontoons  – and Tuesday morning’s departure was delayed by a few minutes while a residential Dutch barge style boat was moved from its mooring to the pump out point… As for excitement, well there was a boat sinking – that is, a cruiser that sank at its moorings and there was much pumping activity to get it afloat again.

Eight locks and 8 miles remained between White Mills and Northampton.

Whiston was the first lock, the third one whose closure had delayed Cleddau’s upstream progress. The lock was shared with Bring me Sunshine, a hybrid diesel and electric boat, with very fine tomato plants on its bow.

Onward, past a fisherman in his small boat and bankside holiday homes to open Cogenhoe Lock, under the watchful supervision of a well shorn sheep.

Bring me Sunshine turned into Billing Aquadrome while Cleddau continued alone – though at Billing Lock some Suffolk folk pushed the gates and reminisced about their Great Ouse boating days.

The duckweed thickened – here at Clifford Hill Lock pea soup and northerners’ love for mushy peas sprang to mind…

It was not far now to Northampton – unkempt gypsy horses, the boats and huts of a Boat Club and the flood barriers of the Northampton Washlands ahead. There is a floating pontoon inside the Washlands barrier, available for summer usage   but a place of refuge in time of flood. Late afternoon with a squish and a squash, stern well back into the reeds, space was made for nb Fantastica.   (“We saw you at Godmanchester” said one of Fantastica’s crew members.)

A walk along the flood bank reveals a vast flood reservoir into which excess flood water can be directed. At Easter 1998 severe flooding devastated the town, since which major flood prevention structures have been installed along with investment in advance warning systems.

It was a calm sunny morning on Wednesday when Cleddau and Fantastica set off for the final 3 miles to Northampton. Through the Washlands barrage (gate lifted) for the last three locks to Northampton, all of them described in the Imray Nene Guide as having “pointing doors at each end”. These three locks have gates similar to those on the Grand Union Canal, with paddles at upper and lower ends operated by a windlass.

The buildings near Abington Lock are modern, business units one suspects. On then to Rush Mills Lock, cutting through the duckweed.

Under the A45 – only from the river would you see this (politically inspired?) message. There are pylons – and the smart buildings of the new riverside campus of the University of Northampton

Under another bridge, through Becket’s Park Lock, then to puzzle over the padlocks on the lock gates and EA rules about gate closures before bearing left into the marina…

When here in 2018 Northampton Museum was closed for redevelopment. A lock-side conversation had recommended the Museum, especially the Shoe Gallery. There is a long history of shoe-making in Northampton and in the surrounding area. Who knew that there are thought to be 11 basic shoe styles… (see Shoe note below for list)

What an extraordinary item is this Dragon Shoe…

Shoes are displayed chronologically – and thematically too. See here. Read the signature on this shoe…

Elsewhere the Museum has an Art and Sculpture Gallery as well as two history galleries. Gaining access to Northampton by river – and later by canal – was woven into the history of the local industries.

The Great Fire of Northampton (September 1675) was devastating but the buildings of the rebuilt town exude wealth and importance.  The civic church, All Saints’, (constructed in the style of Sir Christopher Wren’s London churches) was consecrated in 1680 and is now Grade 1 listed.  The exterior of mellow stone and the fine portico is preparation for the glorious colour and rich decoration inside.  Outside floral tributes, many with personal messages of condolence, had been left in memory of Queen Elizabeth II.

As a visitor to Northampton two things perplexed:1) regional railway station names attached to railings in the university district, and: 2) the number of electric scooters apparently abandoned on the streets (though far greater numbers were spotted similarly away from any scooter park or docking station in Wellingborough). Overall, are these scooters a benefit to the community…?

Farewell Northampton, on Friday – time to leave the Nene and head back to the canals.

There are 17 locks up the Northampton Arm to the Grand Union Canal at Gayton. “You don’t need to do it on your own,” Cheshire Mum insisted, “we can help you…”And so it came to pass that after a Cleddau crew departure of 0910 from Northampton, (along 3 weedy miles and up 4 locks) Cheshire Mum and Techno Son-in-Law appeared, spot on time at the liaison point above Wootton Lock, having started by car from Macclesfield at 0830…

Cleddau had struggled through the weedy pounds, past  some fire-charred hedging,   past a beady-eyed heron,  past the iconic National Lift Tower, past well-tended parkland and nearer to the “thick of the flight”.

Techno Son-in-Law of course had his recent gadget, a drone, which he was determined to use.   (See drone film link here).

Up the cruise continued, past the Land Rover Jaguar Centre, under the M1, with more chance than usual to see the murals that decorate the concrete supports…

A locking rhythm developed, one ahead to empty and open the next lock, two to fill each lock for the boat, one to close it up.

Leap-frog…

Leap-frog…

Leap-frog…

And by 1pm Cleddau was at Top Lock, 98 feet above the River Nene, now with only 17½ miles, 7 broad locks , 7 narrow locks – and 1 tunnel to go before finally tying up in Crick Marina.  After a picnic lunch the Cheshire Two headed back to Macclesfield, to find Friday traffic heavy – and the Cheshire One reeling after her first full week of sixth form and a heavy homework load… :

 Shoe note: 11 styles of shoe:  1) Oxford; 2) Monk shoe; 3) Trainer; 4) Clog; 5) Boot; 6) Court shoe; 7) Derby; 8) Sandal; 9) Bar shoe; 10) Mule; 11) Moccasin

FOOTNOTE: Cleddau is heading to Crick Marina in Northamptonshire for a winter mooring.                                Miles and locks still to go to Crick: 17½ miles, 14 locks

 2022 Monkton Moments*– 11

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

 

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