Sunday, 9 August 2009

.....the End

We made it.
After 3 months, 270 hours of chugging and 300 + locks ( can't be bothered to count), Moondaisy is at her new home . Bill Fen Marina has been built from scratch and is managed by Lyn and John Shotbolt - extremely nice people - and it is a real pleasure to be there . Lots of good tree planting, screened parking, good facilities and (so far) very friendly neighbours. So different from some of the big new "car park" marinas which look like Tesco with boats. there is also a delightful camping site set aroud a small lake and a golf course just on the other side of the water (not part of the operation).
After stories that we would not get under the low bridges - because of all the rain - half an hour was spent stripping everything off the deck - plants, chimneys ( one would not shift until it was soused in WD40 overnight) hooter - the lot. We locked out of the River Nene at Stanground Lock at about 10 am on Sunday and having bought yet another windlass (different pattern) for the Middle Level locks, we set off for Ramsey. An unremarkable trip (yes, we did get under the bridges with about 6" to spare) and meeting one of the few other boats we saw under a bridge on a right-angle turn, we drifted into Bill Fen Marina at around 4pm Sunday.

The other boat and the right-angle bend...

For USA readers, I should add that The Fens are drained land and extremely flat. The Middle Levels are in fact navigable drains, whose main purpose is to drain the farm-land which would otherwise be swamp.
The marina.
This has been a really fascinating trip. I would like to thank all the crew, whose numbers I always mix up, for making it possible and for their great company, beer, cider, videos, lock-winding and tolerance. It takes pretty special people to be stuck with an old grump like me for a week in a tin box and all the crew have been, indeed, special.
Thanks also to the friends who turned up to visit - it was terrific to see you !
Whether Moondaisy rides again next year or whether she is sold, do let me know whether you want to do it again - just in case ! Who knows, it might be a boat with sails on......or.....
Thanks everybody - I had a lovely time - and I hope you did, too. I can't believe it's finished........

Saturday, 8 August 2009


Well, we made it ! ...

Friday, 7 August 2009

wet, wet, wet...

Yesterday started well with sunshine and the River Nene looked beautiful. hours of reeds, birds, trees and solitude. We stopped for lunch near the Middle Nene Cruising Club and after we had set off again, the heavens opened. There are very few places to stop on The Nene, so the only option was to go on - absolutely drenched. We arrived in heavy rain at the Oundle Boat Club, and to our great relief their Harbourmaster came out in the pouring rain and gathering gloom to offer us a mooring for the night - and to anounce that the bar was open. What lovely people !

There is water everywhere along the Nene Valley - flood plain, lakes, streams....

We cleared the two low bridges we had been warned about, but to my embarrassment I hit a skew arch, almost demolishing the cooker chimney - through sheer bad steering: I faiked to allow formthe flow of the river - which had increased with the rain. Ouch - left some paint on the underside of the arch. The locks are more interesting now, as they fill quickly because of the water tumbling down into them - as the lock fills, there is quite a water fall at the stern.

Tonight we are mooredbelow the station at the end of the Nene Valley Railway, on some new 48 hour pontoon moorings - very nice. As we travel, we hear tales of bridges we will not get under, trouble with chavs and all sorts of woes - but so far, thankfully, we have managed OK. (apart from that bridge...). The river has risen, maybe a foot, but dry weather is forecast.

Tomorrow (Saturday) Crew #6 goes home by train from Peterborough - about two and a half hours away) and Crew #1 arrives for the last leg to Bill Fen. We have been warned that Peterborough is "rough" ( all the towns along the Nene seem to have that reputation) but we shall see. We need food.
Stopped for lunch toay at a very pretty village (the castle where Mary Queen of Scots was killed was here - but it was removed, leaving only the mound) . We had a fine pub lunch and a pint. The stove has been lit all day to dry the wet stuff from yesterday.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Off down the Nene.....

In spite of the Victoria Line being closed, Crew#4 (second heroic stint) made it to Northampton by 4pm and we did three hours or so before mooring at Billing Wharf for the night (near the curiously named Billing Aquadrome). This morning we set off past more mobile homes than I have ever seen - plus a huge camp site. Still less offensive than suburban housing, but an amazing number all the same.

Locks on The Nene are different - mostly with vertical "guillotine" gates. These are mostly electrically operated, but one was hand-wound.

The safety notice seems to cover most things !

Most of the time we passed through very green spaces - lots of reeds, lakes, nature reserves and only a short period near the motorway.

A small curiosity in a lock~ snails clustered around a bolt recess.

Moored at a sports ground , once sponsored by Doc Martens, who have now gone. There are supposed to be facilities here, but owing to a row between the club and the Environment Agency, the facilities are closed. Grump !

We have taken everything off the roof of Moondaisy, as we had reports of extremely low bridges soon. The chimney, rusted into place after two years, needed two shots of WD40 and a medium hammer...... hope we can get under the bridges, or my plans to get to The Fens are scuppered.

Monday, 3 August 2009


There's Moondaisy - just beyond the bridge. I was wondering who had picked the rather strident colours when I noticed a plaque amongst the weed and litter-strewn promenade. Turns out that they painted it in the colours of the rugby club. Now that's what I call townscape...

I went into the magnificent All Saints Church for a cup of tea. The interior is pretty splendid, too. I was sitting under the huge portico when I was suddenly surrounded by dozens of Spanish students asking to have their photos taken with me. Now, I was not feeling any more ridiculous than usual, so I wondered why. I followed the old theatrical advice -"unexpected" laugh? - check your flies" , then it was explained to me: as part of their English course, they had a game / quiz. item 4 "surround a man with a beard in front of All Saints".

All Saints interior

The Town Hall

I found one interesting thin about can see it for miles around - the Express Lift Tower. Grade II listed.

10 TOWERING facts

1 The lift testing tower was built by the Express Lift company in 1980.
2 It was opened by The Queen in 1982
3 It's built of 4,000 tons of reinforced concrete.
4 The tower was designed by architects Stimpson and Walton
5 Broadcaster Terry Wogan dubbed it 'The Northampton Lighthouse'. The name stuck.
6 The circular tower is 127.45 metres high (taller than Salisbury Cathedral). The diameter is 14.6 metres at the base, tapering to 8.5 metres at the top.
7 The lift shafts were designed to test lifts travelling at up to 7 metres per second.
8 The upper part of tower has a distinctive pierced jagged shape aimed at reducing the vortex effect.
9 The Express Lift company closed after being sold to another lift manufacturer, Otis, and the last 500 workers clocked out on Thursday 30th January 1997.
10 The tower became a Grade II listed building in October 1997.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Northampton Arm

Setting out to do 17 locks single-handed, I was ready for a tedious day. I bought my Nene licence at Gayton Marina and filled the water tank. In the event, it was far from tedious. A family having a picnic by the second lock- with two young boys - joined me for about 9 locks and the two excellent boys (and their dad) were a top crew. Thank you, whoever you were - and I hope the sore knee is better - always hold on tight to the windlass..............

top crew...

interesting juxtaposition of lock and lift bridge on the Arm

After about 13 locks, the canal narrows as wide reed beds have been left for wildlife. It was wonderful to be followed by a couple of terns - the boat must get the fish moving - for an hour or so. Every few minutes they would smack into the water just inches from the boat and emerge, as often as not, with a small fish. They were so close I could not follow them with a camera (and steer through the narrow channel) but it was rare sight.

tern ready to make a splashdown

Motorway railing above the canal .

Weird arched cathedral-like vault carries the motorway over the arm and ( below) under construction.

Do visit the Blisworth Image site - full of really interesting images.
and I do mean narrows down....

A group of yoofs throwing things had me a little worried at lock 16, but in the end I gave a few of them a ride down the lock and the others "helped". Thankfully the hatches were shut, as I had seen them from a distance. They were OK really. I suppose somebody loves them......
Now moored on The Nene at Northampton, near Morrisons until Crew#4 arrives on Tuesday for the last leg of the trip. Looked a bit iffy here, but there is CCTV. several trips to the nearby Morrisons will be needed as once again Moondaisy's food lockers are looking pretty empty.

Saturday, 1 August 2009


I had a trip into Northampton to check on moorings. not a great town but some fine buildings and, sadly, a ring road plus a grotty 70s bus station in the bowels of the Grosvenor Centre.
Got Moondaisy's oil and filters changed at a good local boatyard. I should do it myself, but I never seem to have all the right tools, or to know where to dispose of the used oil. Now topped up with diesel and ready for 16 locks tomorrow down the Northampton Arm of the Grand Union, which leads to the River Nene in Northampton.
Had a pleasant surprise today, in the form of visitors , who had driven all the way from The Smoke. We had a good pub meal in Stoke Bruerne and a stroll around the Heritage Trail. It was so kind of them to drive all this way and it was great to see them.
Tomorrow I have to buy a Licence for the Nene from the Environment Agency. The split of waterways between British Waterways and the Environment Agency - who in turn have different Licences for different rivers - is not easy to understand.