Tuesday 13 April 2021

Heading South

Friday 2nd April 2021(Good Friday)

I write this as the buds of spring are emerging, the grass is beginning to grow and we are (hopefully) beginning to emerge from Covid lockdown.

My last post was almost a year ago and we have spent most of our time in the marina at Apperley Bridge or in Gallows Bridge Marina and boatyard.

We managed a couple of weeks out cruising down to Thorne nr Doncaster where we were reunited with Ian and Cherryl on Serren Rose with whom we crossed the wash in 2019. We had an enjoyable week with them and were treated to fine weather, they introduced us to Phil and Kate on NB Tansy too, always great to meet more fellow boaters. Returning to the marina we decided to venture upto the summit of the Leeds Liverpool canal and again we were treated to fine weather, getting in lots of fine dales walking.

Whilst out on this cruise I had noted that we had developed a rattle which turned out to be a loose propeller, we had had a similar problem a couple of years earlier  and thought this problem had been put to bed. I contacted Aaran at Gallows Bridge to arrange another lift out to investigate. 

We left Apperley Bridge in mid November to be lifted out, the problem turned out to be down to the wrong sized taper on the shaft this prevented the nut and washer that hold the prop in position from clamping the prop so we had been relying solely on a key for drive, thankfully this had held out if a little worn.

We had been suffering leakage problems from the drive shaft too so it was decided that the shaft would have to be removed. The lads at Gallows set too to dismantle the tiller assembly that they had refitted 6 months earlier, this is necessary to remove the prop shaft.

On removal the shaft was found to be severely worn.

We took advantage of the boat been out of the water, to apply another coat of blacking to the hull along with a few other jobs we decided to do.

Once back in the water we had to realign the new shaft to the engine, in doing so we discovered a problem with the engine mounts so they had to be replaced too. A heads up to the team at Gallows who are working hard to establish a centre for boat engineering and are thoroughly recommended by us.

Our daughter and her husband are expecting their first child and we had intended to set off early January to try and get down to the Gloucester Sharpness canal in time for early April. Sadly another lockdown arrived so we had to stay put.

Winter rolled into spring and here we are having just left the boatyard at the start of our journey south. We have had to change our plans a dozen times due to canal structural failures and storm damage, as I write this there are no routes open from the north to the south. Canals and Rivers Trust no longer seem to give an estimate of the length of these stoppage and list them all as "until further notice"  making planning all but impossible, we are having to make our own estimate of which stoppage may take the longest to resolve, this is a gamble and may mean us having to retrace our steps and go a different way. Our current estimate is that the stoppage most likely to be resolved first is on the River Weaver in Cheshire, this will require us to book a passage along the Manchester Ship Canal from Salford Quays to the Weaver near Runcorn, from here will will go up the Weaver to the Anderton Boat lift where we will join the Trent and Mersey then head south, hopefully having bypassed all the main closures.

A lovely spring morning, if a little cold, greeted us on the commencement of our journey, we are travelling with Tony, Vickie and our new doggy pal Puck, on NB Watchman and look forward to their company en-route.

Strange sightings at Hirst Wood

A very cold but beautiful morning as we leave Riddlesden

Fingers crossed that we have made the right selection of route updates to follow...

Thursday 8th April - Good news today, we received new of the birth of our first grandchild Beatrix Christiana, we can't wait  to get down to the South West so we can finally meet her.

Monday 13th April

Well it looks as if our path is opening up ahead of us but we do need to jump through a few hoops before entering the Manchester Ship Canal, we have to get a certificate of seaworthiness, and we will need to do this before we can book our passage. Once we are granted permission to transit the MSC we will need to book locking on and off the canals, the locking on will need to be booked with the Bridgewater Canal company and locking off with Canals and Rivers Trust.

We have been taking it steady as we are running in all the work done on the boat over the last year.

Our trip so far has taken us through some of the most scenic parts of the network, cruising through Gargrave before ascending the picturesque lock flight at Bank Newton. Above the locks we passed along the twisting route through the glacial drumlins before arriving at Greenberfield locks, raising us upto Barnoldswick. 

The scenery above Gargrave

The weather has tuned vey cold through the night but warm and sunny during the day, it has presented us with the whole range of elements from wind through hail to snow!

We had an enjoyable weekend up here, taking a stroll over the hills to the east of Barnoldswick accompanied by Puck, the gin clear air provided us with some wonderful views across to the Yorkshire 3 Peaks. 

Two of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks

We also took the opportunity to catch up with our boating friends Rob and Judith with whom we travelled on our "Great Circle" route in 2016.
We were treated to frequent sightings
 of this beauty at Barnoldswick

Snowy fields at Barnoldswick

Waiting for Green at Foulridge Tunnel

Tony and Vickie's boat is 61ft long requiring a bit of careful management through the relatively short locks on this canal, we had developed a good routine going up the locks, leaving Barnoldswick, it was now time to test our going down routine, we managed to navigate the locks at Barrowford, the top two of which are the shortest, thankfully we got through with only a couple of soakings for Vickie. Tony and Lucia got into a good routine and we soon arrived at the bottom of the flight before heading off to Reedley for a couple of nights. 

Our next target is to get to Chorley before the weekend to meet up with the MSC surveyor, the outcome of which, will determine our next move.(Fingers and everything crossed).

Goodbye to Yorkshire

Sunset over the Pendle valley

Monday 18 May 2020

Into Lockdown

The marina at Dewsbury lies tucked away in a corner of Savile Town and boasts the Leggers Inn and the Old Stables Cafe, between them they provide a great service with the former supplying a good range of real ales and the latter one of the largest breakfasts we have eaten in a long while.
 Dewsbury itself has suffered the neglect of many towns of this type and is now a faded shadow of its former, wealthy self. It does provide all the services one requires with two large supermarkets and a railway station within walking distance of the marina. Dewsbury was once famous for its large market, we had never visited it during its heyday but quite enjoyed exploring it in its current guise.

During our time here we decided to explore the local area, we found Ossett to have quite a nice town center, with quite a few traditional and local shops huddled around the marketplace.

We have family living in Dewsbury, Tony and Margaret, and they had suggested a lovely old pub in the valley below Ossett, The Brewers Pride, this is an Ossett Brewery establishment and supplies great beer and food, the four of us visited a couple times and I particularly enjoyed their home made pies, another great pub and thoroughly recommended.

During our time here we had visits from many of our friends and family often partaking in the breakfast or lunches in the Old Stables.

As the New Year unfolded we decided to take a weeks holiday in Tenerife towards the end of January, during our time abroad news began filtering through about a virus that had been detected in China and that they were desperately trying to contain its spread. Who could have believed what was about to unfold.

On our arrival home and having spent a great weekend with friends Pat and Ian, who came over in their motorhome to stay on the caravan site adjacent to the marina, we began to plan our departure and commence our travels for the year.

Sunday 2nd February
Finally seeing a gap in the continuing wind and rain we decided to leave on the Sunday morning, it was great to get underway again and we travelled down to the Navigation in bellow Horbury passing through the locks, including the Figure of Three Locks that were soon to hit the headlines. We tied up below Broad Cut top lock on a pleasant early February afternoon. 

Looking back along the Dewsbury Arm

Looking back at the pound at the Figure of Three locks 
just before the storm damage

We had to stay put here the following day due to high winds and heavy rain, the wind became so strong during the night that Scruff could not settle with the boat rocking in the wind, thunder and lashing rain.
Tuesday brought a quieter spell in the weather so I walked down to check the river level below Broad Cut low lock, here the canal drops onto the river Calder, and thankfully the level had dropped to amber, having checked that the flood gates at Thornes cut were open, we decided to move onto Stanley Ferry.
We spent the night here, moving on the next morning to Woodlesford, travelling along the Calder to its confluence with the Aire at Castleford. We turned left here turning into the winter flow of the Aire and battled our way up to the large lock at Lemonroyd and onto the relative safety of the Aire and Calder canal. Quickly reaching Woodlesford we tied up and settled down for a quieter night.

Entering the cavernous lock at Lemonroyd

We had originally intended to spend a bit of time here but the forecast was for more bad weather and a severe storm for the weekend so, with another short section of river between us and the sanctuary of the Leeds Liverpool canal, we decided to head for the basin at Granary Wharf just above the river in the city centre.
On the approach to river lock we caught the tiller arm on a chain that had been secured top and bottom, the flow of the river was pushing the boat into the lock so I put the boat into reverse, unfortunately I was unable to prevent the tiller from being bent.
It turned out to be a wise decision as Storm Ciara blasted its way into the country that weekend, the wind was horrendous, not helped by the tall buildings surrounding us, the wind here swirls around in all directions. The wind was accompanied by torrential rain with severe flooding hitting the county, the river in Leeds reached its highest level since the catastrophic floods of 2015, thankfully the new flood alleviation scheme  protected the city centre but others further downstream were not so lucky.
The wind continued and we decided to change our booked passage upto Rodley to try and avoid the worst of the weather. We had originally planned to travel on the Wednesday but the forecast was bad so we delayed it until the Thursday. The weather improved enough for us to make the trip up to Kirkstall to await passage the following lunchtime. 
The locks were opened on time and we were soon on our way passing through the triple staircase locks at Kirkstall Forge and Newlay to arrive at Rodley mid afternoon.
During our trip up the lock keepers told us about damage that had occurred at the Figure of Three locks that we had passed through a couple of weeks ago. The river Calder had flooded and breached the river banks bursting through into the pound between the two locks. The inrush destroyed the pound and lower lock closing the canal for the next twelve months.
The extent of the damage can be seen here 

We were aware that the canal was closed between at Calverley for repairs to a leak, this was scheduled to be complete a couple of weeks after our arrival here.

Repairs underway at Calverley

Further rain and storms arrived and the works to the canal were extended for a couple of weeks until the middle of March.
We enjoyed our time here and caught up with friends and family, spending some good nights in the nearby Railway Hotel and The Fleece up in Horsforth. 
As the middle of March approached the seriousness of the outbreak of the Covid virus was beginning to  strike home with several countries entering lockdown, we decided to avoid pubs and other places attracting close contact. Our final pub visit was a Sunday Lunch at the Railway with all our close family. The following Monday we were joined by Lucia's friend, Angela, who travelled up to Apperley Bridge with us. We had called the marina to see if we could get a mooring for a spell at least until the effect of the virus became apparent. Thankfully they were able to accomodate us so we settled in to see where we were all heading. It was during a short trip to Bristol that the full lockdown was announced so we quickly returned to the boat, eleven weeks later we are still here.

It was with great sadness that we had to say bye to Scruff who had become more unable to walk and had developed a bad cough, the vet told us that she had fluid around her heart and lungs and was struggling to breathe.

Following the damage to the boat in Leeds we arranged to go up to Skipton for repairs, however we were unable to do this as Canals and Rivers Trust have closed the locks between Bingley and Wigan to preserve water. We were anxious to get the boat out of the water to establish the extent of the damage to the tiller so we rearranged a lift out at Gallows Bridge Boatyard.
We had emailed, phoned and discussed our intention to travel from the marina to Shipley with Canals and Rivers, pointing out that we needed to get the tiller checked as we were concerned that it could fail.
The locks that we were required to pass through were all open to we decided to set off on monday 4th May, all went well until we reached the new electric swing bridge at Dockfield Road. The bridge would not operate so we called CRT for assistance, this resulted in a plethora of calls back questioning why we were moving the boat against the lockdown rules, eventually they decided to come and help us through.
We reached the boatyard just in time to be able to be lifted out, I have produced a short video of our time here. We were delighted with the service we received at the yard, the team here made us welcome and were very accomodating, they also provide a full engineering services with all resources on site.
The following is a link to a video I made of our time in the yard   https://youtu.be/I9ruwL3m5-Q

Once back in the water we returned to continue lockdown, we have also made the decision to keep our mooring here until next spring just in case the impact of the virus continues, we will of course get out and about on the boat when conditions allow.
Take care everyone and keep safe.

Scruff enjoying one of the many adventures
 we have been on together

Wednesday 25 March 2020

Heading North

had Saturday 21st September
September was still clinging onto the summer as we set off northwards towards the junction with the Northampton Arm and travelling through one of the nicest parts of the Grand Union, golden stubbled fields were the backdrop to our journey towards Weedon Bec. The canal here runs along a high embankment carrying the channel high above the rooftops.
Once we arrived at this busy canal scene we decided to moor up and take a walk into the village to explore the Ordnance Depot that once dominated the whole place.
Built in 1802 just before the Napoleonic wars the intention was to create a armoury outside of London hidden deep in the English countryside, obviously such a place required a direct link to the capital and the Grand Union Canal provided this. An arm was built from the canal into the depot, sadly the link no longer remains but the canal within the depot is still present.
a view down the old Depot canal
The depot is fascinating, I had been there once before on one of our previous excursions down the canal but then it had become an industrial estate and access was restricted, this time I was delighted to discover that a museum had opened in the old guard room that straddled the canal entrance, still with its portcullis in situ.

Portcullis under the Gatehouse

We had and interesting chat with the volunteers running the museum, of  whom had worked for the depot fire service, an interesting job given the things that were stored there. The is a website giving full details of the depot at https://the-depot.uk/history/

Info board at the Ordnance Depot

Returning to the boat we set off continuing our journey towards the flight of seven locks at Long Buckby, fortunately there was a hire boat just entering the bottom lock so we hurried along to catch up and joined them up the flight. We soon arrived at the last lock only to find we had caught up with another boat so our companions went ahead as we waited for our turn. We entered the last chamber, passing under the busy A5, before rising up to the beer  garden of the popular New Inn, a pub we have visited on several occasions to enjoy the wonderful food they serve there, this time however we carried on the several hundred yards to moor just beyond Norton junction where the Leicester Arm joins the main line. We were now on a stretch  of canal we had travelled the previous year. The forecast had predicted heavy rain for the following day so we got underway prepared for a soaking.
We soon arrived at the southern portal of Braunston tunnel before plunging into the darkness, I had mentioned the s curves towards the centre in a previous blog, that time we avoided meeting any one coming the other way, however, on this occasion we met three boats as well as one in front and one behind. Thankfully we got through unscathed before reaching the drop down through the six locks at Braunston. Passing through the popular canal village we called into the chandlers close to the junction with the North Oxford canal. Here the Grand Union turns away to the left, sharing its channel with the Oxford canal, we continued northwards to leave the village behind, mooring a couple of miles further on just as the rain started. That evening we had our first significant rain since June, thankfully most of it overnight.
Inside Braunston Tunnel
Wet weather gear was the order of the day as we set off making our way to Hawkesbury junction and the Coventry canal via the double chambered three lock flight at Hillmorton, this has recently been noted as the busiest lock flight in the country, however with each lock having two chambers progress is usually straightforward. On this occasion, however, two of the locks only had one chamber in operation but there were only a few boats around and a couple of lock keepers making for good progress. Leaving Hillmorton we arrived at Rugby, calling in at the large Tesco, before pressing on to Hawkesbury in heavy rain. The weather had suddenly dropped into autumn with rain and strong winds, the wet weather continued into the following day and it was lunchtime before it cleared enough for us to set off towards Atherstone. It had become a lot cooler and it was with great relief that we reached the moorings below lock five of the Atherstone eleven.
Better weather accompanied us on towards our next stop  along the Coventry canal at Whittington, thankfully it was dry as we tied up.
The next morning we set off in breezy but drier weather, calling into see our old friends at Streethay for fuel etc before arriving at Fradley junction and the meeting with the Trent and Mersey canal. Here we turned left heading north up a very soggy Trent Valley, passing through Armitage and Rugeley in horrendous rain finally arriving at Little Heyward for a well earned rest having covered eighteen miles and four locks.
Passing through Rugeley
Salt bridge

Another day and more rain as we covered the 11 miles and nine locks up to Stone, one of our favourite stops, however this time it was another brief overnight rest before climbing up the locks to Stoke on Trent before arriving at the portal of Harecastle tunnel, we had to wait here for boats coming the other way, we utilised this time by having our briefing from the tunnel operators, once underway we entered, being followed by another boat whose crew thought it funny to scream and shout all the way through!
When heading north through the tunnel the tunnel operators close doors behind and then start up huge ventilation fans with a load roar almost load enough to drown the racket coming from our companion boat.
The southern portal of Harecastle Tunnel
We were soon through and out into daylight, passing the junction with the Macclesfield canal before descending the three locks down to the Red Bull moorings close to Kidsgrove. We were now part way down the infamous Heartbreak Hill and the next morning we descended a further 26 locks to reach Wheelock, the second to last that day almost went unnoticed as being our 2000th lock since leaving Leeds two and a half years previously.
Looking back to Mow Cop we visited it back in May
The weather had been horrendous all day with torrential rain, the mooring at Wheelock were almost flooded as the water cascaded down the flight so we had another night of trying to dry wet clothing before pressing on to Middlewich on, thankfully a drier day. Next day was easier as we travelled on through Anderton and the following two tunnels mooring at a lovely spot overlooking the Weaver valley. We had arranged to meet friends Dave and Anne at Lymm the following day so we were soon off passing through Preston Brook tunnel to join the Bridgewater Canal. the weather had improved significantly as we arrived at the popular village, part of which had suffered flooding in the recent deluge. We met Dave and Anne joining them for dinner at the canalside Golden Fleece.
Southern portal of Preston Brook Tunnel

Worsley Lighthouse
Another long day took us onto the the Leigh branch of the Leeds Liverpool where we moored opposite the large Waterside Inn, this had been yet another wet day, followed by another as we made our way through the two locks at Poolstock to moor below the Wigan flight and its 21 locks. Thankfully we met Peter, one of the incredibly dedicated volunteers that work the flight, he told us to sign up to the Facebook group, The Wigan Flight Crew, and let them know we were ascending the flight the following day. We did this and were delighted to find a lot of help appear to get us through the tough day, a great asset to these locks. Once at the top we continued along, to moor at Adlington.
Struggling through weed above Wigan

The half way marker at Church
Once above the Wigan flight we always feel that we are almost home and indeed only a few days away from Yorkshire. The next couple of days took us through Chorley, Blackburn, Church (the halfway point of the Leeds Liverpool ) and Burnley climbing the three flights of locks before reaching the summit at Foulridge and a trip through the tunnel.

The western portal of Foulridge tunnel
We carried along to reach our home county of Yorkshire travelling the summit pound, one of my favorite sections on the whole network. We reached Barnoldswick to tie up for the night and took a walk into the town to explore another place that we had never visited. I like d the town with its stone buildings huddled in a hollow amid the glacial drumlins that characterise this area.
We called into a small pub  McCullough's and the adjacent cafe/bistro next door, we enquired about food as the locals in the pub suggested that its a great place to eat. They accommodated us as it was early evening so we moved into the next door and had  the best Tapas we have ever eaten, thoroughly recommended if you are ever in the area. The only downside was that it poured with rain on our way back to the boat.
Flooding in the Aire valley near Kildwick

The next day we dropped down through the seven locks of the picturesque Bank Newton flight and the further few locks into Gargrave, unfortunately most of the moorings in the village were closed due to the towpath being upgraded luckily we managed to find a spot just below.
The next day we were joined by friends Duncan and Jude, Lucia went off with Jude to spend the morning shopping in Skipton whilst Duncan and I took the boat down.
We reconvened with the girls on our arrival and spent and enjoyable afternoon together.
During our trip north we had developed a shudder from the rudder and  into the tiller arm, we called Pennine Cruisers to see if they could have a look at it for us, this meant that we had to be lifted out of the water and they kindy managed to squeeze us into their busy schedule.
Repairs completed, we returned to Skipton and met up with Rob and Judith, with whom we had travelled round the country a few years ago. We went for dinner at the Railway, another great pub for food. After a great evening catching up it was time to move on so we made our way down to Riddlesden through a lock free section but passing through 15 swing bridges. We spent a couple nights here catching up with family who live locally including a lovely Sunday lunch with Anna, Nick and Nats.
The next day was a dry, if a little chilly, trip down to Saltaire, passing through the iconic Bingley Five Rise locks where, surprisingly for October, we had to wait for a boat to complete its descent and another to come up.
Tuesday saw us reaching Rodley where we tied up to await the river levels to drop, we had planned to spend the winter in Dewsbury and that meant journeys along the river sections of the  Aire and Calder, both in flood due to the very wet three weeks prior to our arrival. On our approach to Rodley we had noticed an Egret, quite a rare bird in these parts, it was sitting on the pier at Apperley Bridge as we past and a frequent visitor on the bank opposite the boat at Rodley.
The next morning, as I climbed out of the boat I was approached by a young lady who enquired as to whether we had seen the Egret, unknown to us it had been causing quite a stir in the area and some people disbelieved it existed. It turned out that she was from radio Leeds and interviewed me about our sightings, as if on cue it made an appearance as we talked, confirming its existence on local radio.
Whilst moored here I decided to change the gearbox as we had developed a bit of noise and vibration during our travels, this job was a tough one mainly due to having to realign the engine to the prop shaft. This really was a struggle having to lever the engine into position which of course moved each time I tightened the mounting bolts, it took a couple of hours to fit the new box and another six to get it aligned, finally done a quick test run showed immediate improvements.
The elusive Egret

By Monday 28th October the river levels were dropping so we left Rodley to get down to Leeds before the locks closed up for the winter. On our arrival the level gauges were indicating that it was still unsafe to proceed, but by the following morning they had dropped to amber on the level gauge indicating proceed with caution, with more rain in the forecast we decided to move on, arriving in Stanley Ferry on Tuesday evening.
I called CRT to check that the flood gates at Thornes and Wakefield were open. These gates are situated at the up stream end of the short lock cuts that by pass the weirs, once closed they cannot be re opened until the levels equalise so they are usually the last gates to be opened. Luckily they had managed to get them open that morning so we could proceed up to Dewsbury and the sanctuary of the Marina that would be our home for a few months.

Tuesday 10 March 2020

Back to the canals

Wednesday 4th September 2019
Leaving the River Nene behind us we ascended the first of the 17 locks through which we needed to climb up to the Grand Union. The weather was a fine if a little blustery, as we made our way along the channel made narrow by the presence of thick weed. Our route took us through the outskirts of Northampton soon reaching the large bridge carrying the busy M1 above us.
Lift bridge outside Northampton

 This point marks the steepest part of the ascent with the locks coming in close succession, fortunately we were joined by a local chap whom as well as helping us up the locks, provided a wealth of knowledge about the surrounding countryside.
Climbing the Northampton 17
In no time at all we reached the end of the climb and, passing the busy hire boat yard, arrived at the junction at Gayton, there are full facilities here although on this occasion they proved tricky to get at as the wharf was busy with historic boats on their way down to Stoke Bruerne and an awkward wind.
We turned left here resisting the temptation to turn right and head north, we were heading south to join the historic boats at the 1940's weekend at Stoke Bruerne, we travelled a mile or so south before tying up for the night amid beautiful English countryside. Autumn was just around the corner but the summer was still with us with warm sunshine through the evening.
Blisworth canal warehouse

The following morning we were up early and soon underway passing the large warehouses at Blisworth wharf, before reaching the northern portal of the impressive Blisworth Tunnel, the third longest in the country, some  2,811 mts long and 143 ft below ground at its deepest point.
The northern portal of Blisworth tunnel
Partway through the tunnel just before the relining

 The tunnel was restored in the 1980's by British Waterways, a long section had to be relined, to do this they used a technique employing concrete rings gouted into position. This was used to test out some of the procedures that we proposed for the building of the Channel Tunnel. lots of information about the tunnel can be found here.
Leaving the tunnel we immediately found ourselves passing lots of historic boats moored all the way down to the village beyond. There was no hope of mooring here so we pressed on hoping there may be a spot further on. We past through the village, descending the first of two locks before finding the last two remaining places at the end of the long pound before the third lock.
Feeling relieved to have found a spot we moored up before taking a stroll upto the village, busy in its preparations for the weekend.
40's weekend Stoke Bruerne

The 40's weekend starts with music in the pubs on the Friday night before bursting into 40's life on the Saturday and Sunday. There are plenty of things to see and do here, there are war memorabilia stalls, re-enactments, vintage vehicles and entertainment at various locations. We really enjoyed our few days here, we met up with my sister Carole along with Jim and their son Tim with his partner Amanda and their son Henry.
One of the features of the festival is a floating market with numerous stalls on boats selling all manner of things,  whist chatting to some of the stall holders were were informed that there was a festival in Aylesbury Town Basin the following weekend. We decided to continue south on the Monday morning dropping down the five remaining locks that make up the Stoke flight. We pressed on through Cosgrove passing through its single lock onto the long pound that circles its way around Milton Keynes. Just below Cosgrove we passed over the River Great Ouse, a much smaller affair than the majestic river we had spent half the summer exploring. The crossing over the river is made via the high Iron Trunk aqueduct.
Crossing the Great Ouse on the Iron Trunk aqueduct

Pressing on through Wolverton we continued our circuitous route round the city, this long pound is popular with moored boats who move up and down the pound without ever travelling far from the city, this makes for a long day on tick over passing by.
We reached our chosen spot for mooring alongside the extensive Campbell park that lies between the canal and the city centre.
Another fine day greeted us the following morning as we continued our trip south, just beyond our moorings we reached the Campbell Wharf Marina beyond which is the start of the proposed link to Bedford and the Fenland rivers.
Reaching the pretty Fenny Stratford lock, with its swing bridge crossing the chamber and the Red Lion pub alongside, we started the long climb up to Marsworth Junction. The next lock was the single at Stoke Hammond before we arrived at the three locks at Soulbury, thankfully with attendant volunteers to help us through. The next stretch of canal is accompanied by the busy West Coast main railway line nearly all the way to Marsworth, it is quite a pretty length with rolling countryside around. It wasn't long before we reached the idyllic Globe Inn nestled in a valley making it feel quite
remote, we stopped here in 2016 on the night of the momentous Brexit vote, waking the following morning not quite believing the result.
On this occasion however, we pressed on climbing through Leighton Buzzard lock and the town itself. There is a very useful mooring here, right next to a large Tesco, with time limited moorings, we pulled here to take on provisions before climbing three more locks to moor in a beautiful peaceful spot above Church Lock.
We set off again in lovely weather to climb the last nine locks before reaching Marsworth, here we rang the Aylesbury Canal Society to check to if we were ok to moor in their marina. Having secured a place we carried on down the Aylesbury Arm through the 14 narrow locks to arrive at the marina around 5pm making a long and tiring day.
The narrow sections on the way down to Aylesbury

We have stayed at this marina previously and always enjoy stopping here, the facilities are extensive and well maintained by the society, who always welcome boaters as it keeps the canal navigable and well used, we feel it is worth the hard work to visit. My sister lives in Aylesbury and we enjoyed almost a week here. The festival was a really good day with lots of music, street food and good beers.
We also enjoyed visiting the Millwrights, Jim's local pub, it is always vibrant with lots going on.
On the Saturday morning we went along to watch Jim play his guitar, with his guitar group, at a local church open day, whist sat in the audience we noticed Scruff tucking into a large slice of cake, whilst everyone was watching the show she had sneaked along the row of chairs and found a ladies a bag below the seats, she had quietly pinched the cake from within the bag and brought it back to enjoy whist the show went on. Seeing that the dog enjoyed cake, the local priest went off to buy here another!
Scruff meets a full sized Wheaton

We had passed the middle of  September and our thoughts were beginning to return to our journey north and so it was on a fine and warm September Tuesday, we set off  back up the locks to the main line, joined by Dad and Jim who accompanied back up to Marsworth.
Heading back up the Aylesbury Arm

Mooring up just north of the village we made our way down to the Anglers Retreat for a few cooling beers and a lovely dinner. Dad and Jim returned back to Aylesbury with Carole before rejoining us the next morning for a trip back down the locks to the Globe below Leighton Buzzard lock.
We were fortunate to find a mooring at this popular spot and went off to the pub for more beers and another fine dinner.
The busy Globe Inn

Dad enjoying the sunshine

The next morning we set off again in fine weather, September had been really kind to us, and we made our way back through the long slog around Milton Keynes before returning to Cosgrove where we stopped on a beautiful evening, we were treated to the sight of a hot air balloon drifting slowly westward above the water.
Tranquility below Cosgrove

Continuing north, again in good weather we made our way back to the Stoke Bruerne flight and began our ascent to the village, part way up we were again met by Dad, Carole and Jim who joined us for a trip through the tunnel.
We arrived at the northern portal of Blisworth Tunnel and continued along to the moorings at the far end of Blisworth village, these are pleasant moorings just a short walk from the local amenities consisting of a shop and a pub, we had intended to go for dinner at the Royal Oak, unfortunately the restaurant was closed due to there being a funeral. Jim and Carole  had left a car there so they

were able to run us all back to Blisworth to dine at the Navigation.
We said our goodbyes and returned to the boat to ready ourselves for the trip back up north.

Summer continues on the Grand Union

Friday 3 January 2020

The River Nene

Thursday 8th August
Leaving Stanground lock, we cruised along the channel leading onto the main River Nene passing lots of moored boats. The city of Peterborough stood directly in front of us  with the impressive backdrop of the cathedral dominating the view.
Leaving Stanground Lock
We arrived at the junction with the wide river flowing away to the right leading to the tidal lock at the Dog and Doublet, then through Wisbech and into the Wash. Our route took us to the left, upstream into the city.
The moorings by the park looked pleasant enough but the bank was only a few inches above the river level, with heavy rain forecast we felt a little nervous about mooring there so decided to move on.
We cruised through the city under the two huge railway bridges, one of which carries the East Coast main railway line.
The view of the city from the river does not do it justice as it passes through the more industrial parts, however it soon enters a green corridor with large trees on either side before reaching the huge sluices and lock at Orton.
There were two boats heading up the lock so we had to wait before resetting it and making our way through. The Environment Agency insist that all locks on the Nene should be left with the tail gate (normally a Guillotine type) open so, having made our way through the lock, we then had to empty it  again and fully raise the gate before moving on, a routine we would have to get used to.
Above Orton lock, the Peterborough Boat Club have their extensive on side moorings, we decided to press on the short distance and head for the visitor moorings at Ferry Meadows.
These moorings are located within the huge Ferry Meadow park and are accessed through a small (easily missed) channel leading off to the left, cruising up the channel we entered a large lake and just managed to spot the moorings over on the far side behind a small island.
We were pleased to see that these were floating pontoons so we could safely tie up and sit out the forecasted monsoon.
Moored in Ferry Meadows
The moorings here are very well kept and are close to the park's visitor centre, there were huge amounts of people visiting the park during our time there. The moorings are limited to 24 hours so I went to see the park manager to ask if it would be possible to overstay should the levels rise. She said this would be ok providing there were no other boats wanting to moor.
We decided to visit Peterborough that afternoon and set off to explore. The entrance to the park is via a long driveway, crossed by the Nene Valley Railway, we thought it would be nice to take the train, on the heritage railway, into town, unfortunately the next train was some two hours later so we headed for the nearest bus stop. After a bit of wandering round we finally located the stop and were soon on board. The bus we caught toured round all the new towns and villages making up the Ortons and took nearly an hour to reach the city bus station.

The Cathedral Square
The city was a pleasant surprise to us, especially around the market square and Cathedral Quarter. We headed straight for the Cathedral, a very impressive building, rising from the surrounding flat countryside.
The cathedral rose on the site of a monastery, originally founded in 655. Following a large fire, that destroyed the old buildings, the building of the current Cathedral, commenced in 1118.
The building has close links with the royals, being visited by most of the Kings of the medieval period. 
During the "Wars of the Roses" the monastery and town were sacked by the Lancastrian armies of Margaret  of Anjou, the Queen of Henry VI. It is assumed that this is because it lay close to Fotheringhay Castle the seat of the Yorkist family.
The buildings were improved and developed at the turn of the 15th century, only to suffer again at the hands of Oliver Cromwell's armies due to its royalist support.
The building was again restored and improved in the first quarter of the 19th century.
The Tomb of Katherine, Queen of England
The cathedral contains the tombs of Katherine of Aragon (the first wife of Henry VIII) and what was the original resting place of Mary Queen of Scots before she was moved to the Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey.
The site of the original tomb of Mary
We continued our exploration of the city before taking a Taxi back to Ferry Meadows, a journey that took only 10 minutes this time!
That evening the rains came as forecasted and by the morning the level in the lake had risen almost a foot so we stayed put for the the next couple of days.

Sunday 11th August
The narrow channel into Ferry Meadows
Better weather heralded the resumption of our journey upstream, leaving the lake, turning left we were soon under way cruising round the huge horseshoe loop around the park. passing through our first lock of the day at Alwalton, we met another boat that had also been sitting out the rain on the Friends of the Nene moorings alongside the lock, we agreed to travel together and share the locks upto our destination at Fotheringhay. Passing through some lovely countryside we arrived at the pretty Water Newton lock with its watermill alongside, carrying on passing under the Nene Valley Railway, we could hear the whistle of a steam train but unfortunately didn't manage to catch it passing by. The river loops round to the village of Wansford where it passes under the impressive concrete bridge carrying the A1, built in 1929. Close by is the original Great North Road bridge of much earlier construction.
A1 Bridges
Shortly after we arrived at Wansford lock, we were met here by a boat moored just above the lock, they told us that there was a fallen tree blocking the river further upstream. We decided to enter the lock and fill it then tie up here and wait.
Wansford Lock
We called the environment agency and they informed us it that someone would come out the following day to investigate, so we prepared to settle there for the night. An hour or two later a boat appeared coming down stream, they informed us that it was possible to just scrape through on full power. We decided to give it a go and setting off in a torrential downpour, soon arrived at the obstacle.
We pushed over hard left, unfortunately the tree had fallen across a tight bend so the bow and stern were scraping the bank in shallow water, we had to rev hard to get through and we gradually escaped the clutches of the branches with just a few scratches along the side.I looked back as our partner boat attempted the same maneuver, there boat was 10 ft longer than ours and I was concerned they may not make it, we slowed down and waited, they eventually made it through with a bit of shuffling back and forth, we were soon reunited at the lock at Yarwell. The approach to the lock passes a huge caravan and camping park, there were a few hardy campers attempting a bbq in the now windy and wet weather.
Lucia operating one of the many manual locks
Passing through another couple of locks at Elton and Warmington we finally arrived at our stop for the night on the moorings alongside Fotheringhay Castle, these moorings are owned by a local farmer and we had been warned that he would soon be out to collect his dues, sure enough he arrived just as we finished tying up. We paid a tenner for two nights so we could go and explore the historical sites the next day.
Moored at Fortheringhay
For us Fotheringhay was a long anticipated place to visit, it had been the home of Richard, Duke of York who had settled here with his wife Cecily Neville, their youngest son Richard, who later became Richard III, was born in the castle here in 1452. Little remains of the castle, the only bit of masonry remaining, lies close to the river bank and is little more than a displaced piece of medieval brickwork.
The Motte and Bailey of the castle still exists and one is left to wonder what the building may have looked like in those tumultuous times.
Fotheringhay Castle
Looking to the village from the castle
The following morning we set off to explore the small village and the church of St Mary and All Saints, the present church was founded by Edward III who also established a college to the southern side of the church. The building is extremely impressive and is visible for miles around, with its octagonal tower rising above the surrounding countryside.
Fotheringhay Church

Inside the church are the tombs of Richard and Cecily on one side of the altar and opposite that of their eldest son, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, who fell with his father at the battle of Wakefield near Sandal Castle.
Edmund's Tomb
The bodies of father and son had been returned here, from a humble tomb in Pontefract, by his next son, Edward, who, following his victory at Towton, had been crowned King Edward IV in 1476.
Cecily was buried alongside her husband in 1495.
The Tomb of Richard and Cecily
The other notable event at the castle was the beheading of Mary Queen of Scots in 1587 after she was accused of treason for plotting the assassination of Elizabeth 1st.
Fotheringhay Bridge
We moved off on a bright Tuesday morning heading for our next stop, we had originally planned to stop at Oundle but we were unable to find any available mooring, so following a stop at the large marina we pressed on, we had noted there were moorings at Wadenhoe, these are listed as Kings Head Moorings and are described as being at the bottom of the village pub beer garden, unfortunately, we discovered that the pub is now closed and was in the process of being converted. There were signs stating that the moorings were now suspended, not sure if this is a permanent closure.
We had no alternative to press on to the moorings at the bottom of the lock at Tichmarsh. On our arrival  we discovered that these are actually on the lock mooring and doesn't leave much room for boats wanting to use the lock. We tied up anyway as it had been a long day, I decided to cross over to the boat club on the opposite bank and see if they had any spare moorings available.
The marina is the base of the Middle Nene Cruising Club and consists of well kept facilities, the chap we spoke to could not have been more helpful, he advised that we would be better above the lock as heavy rain was forecasted and that the river level below the lock rose more quickly than above. He the guided us to a mooring with rising rings so we were more secure should the level change.
Safe moorings at the Middle Nene Cruising C
The club was most welcoming, unfortunately we were unable to patronise the clubhouse as they only opened at weekends. The club is located a mile or two from the village of Tichmarsh, the home of our friends Julie and Steve, whom we called once we were settled in. The next morning the rain arrived, thankfully not as heavy as predicted, Julie and Steve called down to pick us up and we shared an enjoyable day exploring the village, followed by dinner at their house.
The river, whilst flowing quite swiftly, look manageable so we decided to set off for Thrapston just a couple of miles up stream. We were joined again by Julie and Steve who had walked down to meet us and had an enjoyable trip to the town.
Arriving into the town we hoped that there would be room on the somewhat limited moorings just above the town bridge, thankfully we had them to ourselves so began the awkward manoeuvre to get the onto the almost hidden moorings. The site is immediately after the town bridge beyond a short but narrow channel, the challenge here is to get into the channel without being slammed into the bridge by the current, whichever way you go in you need to do the opposite to get out as there is not enough room to turn round once in. I decided to reverse in so went a little further upstream to allow time to get the stern round before the current took us into the bridge, luckily I had allowed enough time to get in and we glided backwards into the channel and on to our berth. Theses are really pleasant  moorings, well tended and with a picnic site adjacent.
Steve and Julie in Thrapston
Tying up we headed off into town to have a look around, Julie and Steve left us, to rejoin us later in the nearby, charming Woolpack Inn where we had a wonderful dinner.
Thrapston is a charming little town with a  good range of local shops, including a large Co-Op for provisions.
We stayed over the next day but heavy showers curtailed our exploration of the area.
Saturday was a dry but breezy day and we headed off to our next port of call at Irthlingborough, seven mile and five locks upstream.
Our route took us through some lovely Northamptonshire countryside, passing through Ringstead Lock and it adjacent marina before meandering round extensive old gravel workings, one of which at Stanwick, is now a large water sports centre, very popular for its canoe hire, we passed many on our way along. We arrived at the 48 hr moorings at Irthlingborough to find plenty of available space.
The site is located a little way out of the town close to a large sports centre, behind which lies the remains of what was the football stadium and home of the the now defunct Rushden and Diamonds FC. I was sad to see the site all but demolished following its heyday in the Football league divisions in the 1990,s
The stadium at its peak
Following an overnight stop we headed for Wellingborough, we had arranged to arrive in White Mills Marina between Wellingborough and Northampton the following Tuesday so had planned to stop in Wellingborough for a couple of nights, however, on reaching the moorings we found they were opposite a large flour mill that, even on a Sunday had large fans whirring away, also the moorings were shallow with large rocks making tying up difficult. I called the marina to see if we could get in that day, thankfully they were very obliging and arranged to have someone to meet us on our arrival.
Our trip up from Wellingborough was made easier by our reuniting with the boaters we had met at Fotheringhay, they decided to join us for the last few locks of the day.
Irthlingborough Viaduct
White Mills Marina
We enjoyed our time at White Mills, the marina is only a few years old and the couple running it are working hard to keep it up to a high standard. There is a cafe on site, popular with boaters and locals alike.
We had arranged to leave the boat here whilst we took a weeks family holiday in Italy, we knew it would be safe as all pontoons  are floating so unaffected by the varying river levels. The marina lies in a lovely location about a mile below the village of Earls Barton. We also had arranged to meet up with friends Dave and Rose Huddle whilst here as they live a few miles away in Bozeat.
Scruff had developed an infected paw somewhere along the journey so we had to get her to a vets in Wellingborough, we were very kindly offered a lift into town and were soon in the vets, they decided they needed to explore the wound on Scruffs paw further, so needed to sedate her. We left her and went off to explore the town, hoping that the vet would not discover anything too serious as we had arranged for her to go to the nearby kennels the following day. Fortunately the vet could not see any serious issue so prescribed antibiotics and sent us on our way, We didn't get very far as poor Scruff kept having to lie down whilst the anesthetic worked it way out of her body. Thankfully our lift returned and we were soon back to the boat. 
A woozy Scruff
Later that evening Dave and Rose came over to pick us up and take us back to their house for dinner, which was gratefully received and enjoyed. Whilst there, they volunteered to take us to the railway station in Northampton  a couple of days later, an offer that was thankfully received, we were overcome by the kindness shown to us on our trip up the Nene.
We had a couple of walks in to Earls Barton to see what it had to offer, the first thing we discovered was that it is the home of Barker Shoes, we had a look at the amazing array of Brogues that were for sale in the factory shop. In the centre of the village we discovered the Jeyes Chemist shop/museum/tearooms.

 It is fascinating, with a small but interesting museum, created mainly to tell the story of Jeyes Fluid, that was created here in the chemist shop in 1870. The museum also told the story of Kinky Boots, the successful Broadway musical, the story tells of a local to the village, Charlie Price, who inherited his fathers ailing shoe business, also located in the village. He formed an alliance with a Drag Queen, Lola, who required high heeled boots for his act, together they developed a large range of boots. The real story is close to the fiction, and can be read here  https://www.northamptonchron.co.uk/news/the-real-story-behind-those-kinky-boots-1-881352 

Thursday arrived and Dave and Rose came over to the Marina to take us to the station in Northampton, we treated them to breakfast in the marina cafe before we set off.
Following a great holiday with family in Italy we arrived back just over a week later on the Saturday afternoon. We collected Scruff from the kennels the next day and found she had recovered well thanks to the care of the staff there who had administered her medication in our absence.
We had arranged for Dave and Rose to rejoin us for the trip up to Northampton, eight miles and eight locks. The day was dry if a liite cool, September was beginning to make itself felt.
We stopped for lunch just below Billings Lock and were treated to the sight of an otter crossing the river just behind us. After lunch we pressed on passing through the huge flood alleviation scheme on the approaches to the town. We moored above the town lock on a pleasant and extensive mooring.
We stopped here for a couple of nights, exploring the town, it proved to be a great spot, there is a large Morrisons close by the moorings that also proved very useful.
Northampton Moorings

Wednesday arrived and it was time to take the short trip up to the bottom lock of the 17 lock flight taking us back on to the canal network.

Leaving Northampton
The entrance to the Northampton Arm of the Grand Union Canal

Typical Nene Scene

Heading South

Friday 2nd April 2021(Good Friday) I write this as the buds of spring are emerging, the grass is beginning to grow and we are (hopefully) be...