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July 7th 2010 - Gt Ouse near Brandon Creek

Unfortunately we never got to meet up with Dave Jolly at Cogenhoe.  I spoke to him on the phone earlier and he was going to try and pop over to the boat to see us but he never made it.  However I have to say, it was extremely short notice when I rang him up!  Oh well never mind, perhaps the next time we pass through Cogenhoe we can give him more notice!

The following day, Tuesday June 29th, we headed off once more.  The first thing was Cogenhoe Lock, right in front of our mooring!!  The majority of the locks along the Nene are pointing gates at one end (like conventional locks) and a vertical or "guillotine" gate at the other end, which should always be left open.  Most of these I am grateful to say are electrified but some of them aren't!  The manual gates are operated by a huge wheel which you grasp like a steering wheel and turn and it is very, very hard work!  We did ten locks that day and fortunately all the vertical gates were electrified so it wasn't too bad.  We finally arrived at Irthlingborough and moored outside the Rushden and Diamond Football Club where there are excellent moorings and a pump-out facility which is free so we made good use of that.

On Wednesday morning we set off again and almost immediately arrived at Irthlingborough Lock.  Soon after that we came to Upper Ringstead Lock and there was the dreaded wheel! Groan!!  Clive came and helped me with it thank goodness - I can't tell you how hard they are to operate and what a toll they take on your shoulders and arms!  There were two more of the wheel locks after that, interspersed with electrified ones which were a great relief!  We finally arrived at Wadenhoe and moored up at the bottom of the beer garden for the King's Head!  After securing the boat we headed into the pub for a drink.  We were rather surprised to see lots of gents in dark suits and black ties and several well dressed ladies on the terrace and in the bar, Clive wondered if it was a corporate do or something but just after we had ordered our drinks the landlord came over and asked if we were off a boat, we told him we were.  He informed us that the pub was actually closed for a private party, a funeral!!  However he kindly said we could have the drinks that we had ordered but would we take them outside into the garden and let any other boaters know the situation.  He did tell us that the pub would be open as normal after 5.30pm though.  So we headed out to the garden and sat in the sunshine quenching our thirst.  Another narrowboat pulled up moored in front of Lady Arwen so I wandered over to inform them of the funeral.  They came and joined us at our table with cups of coffee.  They were a great couple, Lesley and Gordon.  The strange thing was that meeting Lesley was a bit like meeting myself!!  Clive thought it was highly amusing that I could barely get a word in, Lesley talks as much as I do and also, like me, she deviates from the subject leaving her listeners slightly bewildered - does that sound familiar??  We parted company and went back to our respective boats for dinner but arranged to meet up again in the bar later on.  We did just that and spent a great evening with the pair of them.  All being well they are heading into East Anglia in the summer and we sincerely hope to catch up with them again at some point, we really enjoyed their company.

As the moorings at Wadenhoe are a bit limited we had let another boat moor alongside us that evening so the next morning, July 1st, we had to play musical boats to enable us to get out.  Whilst we were trying to work out the best way of doing it we heard some splashing and when we looked up spotted some early morning swimmers!  The mad fools we thought!  However it turned out they were at a camp for youngsters doing the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme!

Early morning swim!

Finally after much maneouvering and tooing and froing we extricated ourselves from the mooring and headed straight into Wadenhoe Lock, which thankfully was electrified!  There were four more electrified locks followed by three wheel locks in succession - my biceps and shoulders were beginning to protest by this time!  However the next five locks were all electrified so I got a bit of a rest.  Eventually we arrived at Alwalton Lock and we knew there was an excellent mooring here adjacent to the lock in a little backwater where we had moored last year.  We were very relieved to find it was empty and soon had Lady Arwen moored up.

The next morning it was straight into the lock after reversing from the moorings and we were on our last leg of the journey up the Nene.  Shame we have had to rush it really, its so pretty.  Still never mind, there will be other times when we can take it at a more leisurely pace.  By the end of the day we were in Peterborough.  We moored up at Town Quay and went to Asda to do some shopping.  We had phoned ahead to Stanground Lock to see when we could go through and were given 1.30pm the following day, Saturday July 3rd. 

We were surprised really at how peacefull these moorings were as they are so close to Peterborough town centre.  The only thing that disturbed our peace was another boater!  When we had moored in the afternoon we just managed to squeeze in between a really old, battered, scruffy looking boat and an absolutely pristine and beautiful boat called Button End, which we had actually read an article on in the Canal Boat magazine a little while ago!  We actually went and had a chat with the lady on board only to find that her home in Cambridge is not that far from ours!  However, Button End wasn't the problem, the old scruffy boat was!  That evening we watched several episodes of CSI Las Vegas on the laptop and because the guy behind had his generator running we put our engine on for an hour just to top up the batteries.  It was midnight by the time we finished watching our programme but as we were getting into bed I realised that the generator was still running on the boat behind!  I nipped up into the pram-hood and had a peek and there was this guy on the back of his boat with the head of a rake on a rope which he was throwing out into the river and pulling back in full of blanket weed which he proceeded to chuck onto the bank!  He was wearing one of those headbands with a light on it so he could see what he was doing!  The generator was really quite loud and of course our bedroom is at the stern so we could hear it very well indeed!  I therefore decided to ask him very politely how long he was going to be running his generator - an hour he said!  I told him it was after midnight and we were trying to go to sleep and all he said was "ah well, I don't have any batteries!"  As it turned out he only ran it for another half hour and although Clive had actually gone to sleep I was still reading so it didn't disturb us too much.  Even so, it was a bit discourteous don't you think?

We had a leisurely morning on Saturday as there was absolutely nothing to rush for.  Stanground Lock is only a very short cruse from Town Quay so we didn't need to leave until noon at the earliest.  We duly arrived at the lock just after 1.00pm and went through a short time later.  So, we were off the River Nene and onto the Middle Levels.  A bit of a shock after the wide Nene, when all said and done the Middle Levels are really just navigable drains!!

We had planned to try and get as far as March that evening if we could and as it turned out we made it.  So I contacted our daughter, Vicki, and suggested she come and pick us up on Sunday and take us back to their house to sort through our stuff so that boxes could be sealed ready for the move once we had swapped some of our books and also a few clothes.  All our boxes will be going at the back of Vicki and Ben's garage and the heavy items of furniture will be at the front so our boxes aren't going to be accessible for quite some time!  We ended up having a barbecue at their house, probably their last before they move.  Unfortunately their new garden is much smaller than their present one - hope their new patio set will fit!  A short while later Vicki drove us back to the boat.

On Monday we had a very important task to perform - the laundry!  We had tons!!  The last time we were at a launderette was so long ago I can't even remember where it was!  I have been doing some hand washing so that we didn't run out of smalls etc but we desperately needed the laundry.  We know that there is a really good launderette in March, we have used it a couple of times before.  The lady who runs it is married to a man from Holmfirth, Huddersfield!!  We did three washerloads and got it all dried and back on the boat in a couple of hours - clean clothes, clean towels and best of all clean bedding!  We also took the opportunity to swap our big 15 tog feather and down quilt for our 4 tog Summer quilt, much overdue!  Once all that was done we cast off and headed out from March.

We have arranged with Vicki that we will be in Ely by Thursday afternoon.  We need to be close at hand so that she can fetch us around 5.00pm so that we can go with her to Cambridge where she is picking up the hire van.  Clive will then drive her car back to their house and we will have a couple of hours of daylight to pack it for the first run to the new house in the morning.  We will then keep her car to get us to and from Ely.  So we left March on Monday lunchtime and cruised along the Levels.  We had taken the precaution of removing our chimney, which is now absolutely shot, having been badly gouged coming through a tunnel on the way out of Birmingham.  That has gone in the bin and I have made a Heath Robinson chimney cover out of tinfoil and polythene until such time as we can procure a new chimney!  Well, we won't be needing it for quite some time - I hope!  We also took the planters off the roof as well.  There is a very good reason for this - all you regular blogees will remember that last year, on our way out of East Anglia, we had a nasty experience with a bridge in the village of Nordelph!!  There are some extremely low bridges on the Levels which just skimmed the coolie hat on our chimney but one of them was even lower and we realised too late!  Clive slammed the boat into reverse and we gently drifted towards the bridge, which caught the coolie hat and tipped it off onto the deck - phew!  However, because we had no forward power that also meant no steerage and suddenly a gust of wind caught the bows and slammed the boat into the bridge smashing the front window, breaking the A frame and ripping the cratch cover!!!  It was quite costly damage, thank goodness we are insured!! So we took every precaution this time to ensure that we did not repeat the encounter! You can see just how low it is from this photo!

The low bridge at Nordelph!!!

We actually moored up in the village of Upwell on Monday night and there is a pub right next to the moorings so we decided to go and have dinner out for a change.  We sat out in the beer garden in the sunshine and it was lovely.

The next day, Tuesday July 6th, we embarked on the last leg of the journey through the Levels.  We managed to get under all the low bridges completely unscathed!  Clive had phoned the lock keeper at Salters Lode and arranged our passage for 12.45pm that afternoon.  It was a lovely warm day, a bit cloudy but the sun broke through every now and again.  When we arrived at Salters Lode there was a queue!  In fact it we didn't actually get through the lock until after 3.00pm.

Queueing for passage through Salters Lode

Once through the lock you go straight onto the tidal River Great Ouse, there is a short leg down to the Denver Sluice which takes you through onto the non-tidal Gt Ouse.  This is the reason why you have to book your passage in advance, the timing is all governed by the tides!

We are not far from the American Air Base at Lakenheath and we as we were cruising along the wide and graceful Great Ouse we were treated to the sight of two F16's having a dogfight, screaming overhead chasing each other, it was like Top Gun!

American F16

We share the waterways with many different types of craft from rowing boats and canoes to large widebeams and Dutch barges but every now and again we encounter sail boats and the one in this photograph was really pretty.  Shame the sun wasn't setting at the time really!

Red Sail in the sunshine!

We eventually moored up just beyond where the Brandon Creek turns off the main river.  We found a lovely peaceful mooring and had it all to ourselves.  We had a lovely peaceful night and awoke rested and refreshed this morning.  After a late brunch (scrambled eggs on toast!) Clive cast off and whilst I have been writing this blog he has been cruising.  We are just approaching Ely and I'm still in my pyjamas!!!  So that's all for now, I'm off to get dressed!

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