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June 23rd 2011 - just North of Husband's Bosworth, Leics.

On our return from New Zealand we had booked a car for a week to enable us to do any necessary running about and also to make a trip up to Huddersfield to visit the family.  We headed up to Yorkshire on Friday May 13th and stayed until the Tuesday, it was great to see everybody again.  Clive’s mum was very relieved to see that her darling son hadn’t come to any harm whilst visiting foreign parts so very far away!


We had quite a lot to do to get the boat ready for living aboard again.   All the cupboards were bare, well apart from the odd tin of rice pudding and a can of sardines!  We stayed at Vicki’s until the following Friday when our granddaughter Indeia arrived with her mum, Xenia, having flown in from Colorado Springs, USA the night before.  She is here to spend the next six weeks with Gareth.  It was so lovely to see her again – she has certainly grown and now has a fully fledged American accent – I wonder if she will still have it when she goes back!?  Gareth’s arrival from Huddersfield was delayed because his van had finally packed in a few days earlier and had to be scrapped!  Considering he bought it three years ago for £250 and got £140 from the scrap man he hasn't done badly!!  He had managed to source a new car the day before but it needed an MOT and taxing.  The garage promised to get its MOT done first thing that morning so that he could pick up a tax disc and then drive down to Cambridge.  He arrived about 15 minutes after Indy and Xenia!


Clive and I moved back to the boat that afternoon having returned the hire car.  We suggested that Gareth and Indy spend the night at Vicki’s then come over and join us the following day. Vicki and Ben were due to arrive back from their Antipodean trip sometime on the Saturday but we didn’t know when!  Gareth woke up at 7.15am to the sound of a key being turned in the lock!  He and Indy had only just got to sleep – she was jet-lagged and had been awake all night – they had both just nodded off on the lounge floor! Vicki, Ben and Ben’s mum were quite surprised to see them!!


Ever since we moved on board Lady Arwen we have had a bit of an issue with our batteries.  She had two huge domestic batteries, which we were assured at the time of purchase were adequate for our needs, well they never have been!  We have always had problems with too little power as we had a fridge and freezer on permanently, plus lights, laptops, TV etc.  Even the loo needs electricity to flush and the shower also needs power.  We always had to run the engine in the evenings to ensure that we had enough power in the batteries to get us through the night. Even after adding the solar panels we never had enough power!  Well, after sitting for six months with just a trickle charge from the solar panels the batteries had deteriorated even further and for the first few nights on board with Gareth and Indy it was a nightmare, we couldn’t have lights on for very long at all and there was no way we could run the TV or laptops, even then the red light was on in the mornings!  So Clive contacted Hartford Marina and ordered 5 new batteries then we cruised up the Old West River to collect and fit them.  Gareth and Indy helped me with some of the locks on the way.


Lock helpers!

It was a bit of a fiasco to start with, the marina had the batteries ok but hadn’t got all the connectors and cables which Clive had requested.  We ended up staying overnight on their mooring and they kindly allowed us to plug into the electricity supply at no charge.   Gareth did his best to keep Indy entertained whilst we were stuck there!


Gareth & Indy at Hartford Marina


The following day all the connectors etc finally arrived, having had to be sourced from another marina and collected by the lady in the chandlery!  Clive disappeared down into the engine room and an hour or so later it was all done.  We set off again and cruised down to St Ives and moored up.


Well to say we are pleased is an understatement – we absolutely love our new batteries!  They are incredible.  Some nights we have had lights, TV and laptops on, phones charging etc, at dawn the solar panels kick in then within seconds of starting the engine the battery light is flashing to say they are fully charged, its awesome! In fact some days when we haven’t actually moved the boat we have had to put the engine on just to heat the water up as the batteries are still charged – we are chuffed to little mint balls I can tell you.  The only issue at the moment is the freezer – just before we left for New Zealand Clive had a bit of an accident with it!  I had emptied it, switched it off and cleaned it out but left it open to air off, Clive tripped over it in the dark on his way to put the engine on and it kind of came off its moorings!  He has now got a bracket in order to fix it but hasn’t had time to do it yet so the freezer hasn’t been switched on at all since we got back.  I have no doubt whatsoever though that our new batteries will cope admirably with the extra output when it finally gets switched on again!


We hung around the Cambridge area for the last week as an ex-colleague of mine from Addenbrooke’s, Emma, was getting married and we had been invited to the evening do which was to be held in Royston.  We moored the boat at Clayhythe (Waterbeach) and after putting on our glad rags Gareth drove us the short distance up to the station, we caught the train to Royston then walked up to The Banyers Hotel for the do.  We had a lovely time, it was great to meet up with my old colleagues. 


Mel, Emma & Robyn


Emma looked absolutely gorgeous in her wedding dress and the groom didn’t look bad either! 


Emma & Stuart - the happy couple!

Interestingly Emma and Stuart met through dancing!  Emma wanted to go to a dancing class and needed a partner, another colleague from work, Marian, asked all her son's mates if any of them would be interested, Stuart said he would and the rest is history!

Later that night we walked back to the station, got the return train to Waterbeach then walked back to the boat.   The whole trip cost us £12 in total – amazing!


June 6th 2011 – First of all we said goodbye to Gareth and Indy, they were off to Centreparcs in Elvedon Forest for the week.  We then cruised down from Waterbeach to Cambridge and moored up at Jesus Lock and later on in the afternoon Stevie and Helen Gilson came to spend the evening with us, we went out for dinner at a nearby restaurant.  It was good to see them again even though we had spent the evening with them at Emma’s wedding on Saturday!


Stevie and Helen Gilson


The following day, Tuesday  June 7th, we cruised back up to Waterbeach because we had arranged to meet some other friends, Jim and Jean Hysom, at The Bridge for lunch, then on their way home they dropped us off to visit yet more friends, Rosemary and Vernon, who live in Waterbeach!


One thing to report is that Clive finally decided it was time to part with his beloved classic car, a 1973 Triumph TR6 roadster.  He has had it since 1996 and was very fond of it indeed.  However, since moving onto the boat it has become a bit of a liability. Initially my brother Nick kindly looked after it in his “shed” nestled between his Ferrari and his restored Haflinger. Last Summer Clive drove it down to Cambridge so that he could use it for a few weeks whilst we were here then Phil, a friend of our daughter’s, very kindly offered to store it in his barn whilst we were in New Zealand.  But our plan now is to head up North – what to do with the TR6???  In the end Clive decided it was time to let it go and he contacted a local Triumph specialist to see if they would be interested in it and they were, so in the evening he delivered it to them.  Sad in a way but he is now actually relieved that he doesn’t have to worry about it any more.  Bless!


1973 Triumph TR6


So now that we have done all that we are free to go! We could finally leave Cambridge behind and head North!  At 8.15 on the morning of Wednesday June 8th we left our mooring at Waterbeach and cruised up to Ely. We moored up and went to Tesco to do a bit of stocking up then after a quick lunch we headed off and for the first time in 12 months actually cruised beyond Ely!  We moored at Littleport the first night then the following day headed for the Denver Sluice where we got onto the Middle Levels which took us to Peterborough and thence onto the River Nene.  Just beyond Peterborough is a lovely place called Ferry Meadows Country Park and OvertonLake, which just happens to have some lovely moorings and that is where we moored up on Friday June 10th. 


Lady Arwen moored on Overton Lake at Ferry Meadows Country Park


Now these moorings are supposed to be for 24 hours only, we however overstayed our welcome just a bit, we stayed for four nights!! There was a good reason for this.  First of all Gareth and Indy finished were due to join us on their return from Centreparcs for a couple of nights before heading up to Huddersfield.  Overton Lake moorings are very close to a car park so it was safe to leave the car and stay on board with us.  Also it was a Grand Prix weekend and you know what that means! 


On the Saturday afternoon Clive and Gareth decided to fix the freezer so Indy and I went for a walk in the park.  Well actually we had a ride as there was a lovely little miniature railway, we got a one way ticket and had a lovely walk back to the boat.  When we got back the freezer was sorted – excellent!  So Gareth, Indy and I went off to Peterborough to do some shopping and left Clive on his own for a bit of peace! 


Gareth and Indy left us on Sunday after lunch to drive up to Huddersfield and we got ready for our next set of visitors!  Sure enough on Monday afternoon our they arrivedand there were a lot of them, five to be exact! My niece Ali, husband Mike, three year old Harry and four month old identical twins George and Tom!  It was great to see them all, especially George and Tom as this was our first meeting, up to then we had only seen photographs as they were born whilst we were in New Zealand!


Identical twins, George and Tom (or Tom and George!)


We had a lovely afternoon, we went out into the park, Harry enjoyed himself playing in the little playground for a while then Ali and Mike produced a kite!  Clive had a go first,


Clive kite flying - its been a while!


then Ali persuaded me to have a go, I was very reluctant at first but discovered to my surprise that it was great fun.  After that, with daddy’s help, Harry had a go too and did a great job. 


Then we all trooped back to the boat for tea,  which was quite interesting with Ali and Mike juggling twins and trying to eat at the same time!  After tea we got Harry all set up with the laptop to watch My Neighbour Totoro, he was just as enthralled with it as Indy had been the first time she saw it!


Harry totally engrossed watching My Neighbour Totoro


All too soon it was time for us to say goodbye as Ali and Mike headed back home to Hartford with their lovely boys.  It was really nice having them all on board.


Mike and Ali with their three lovely boys


We stayed at Overton Lake for one more night and then on the morning of Tuesday May 14th we took our leave and headed off along the River Nene.  We moored at Fotheringhay that night, once again below the castle mound where Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded!  It’s a lovely mooring, very peaceful and quiet.  They say Mary’s ghost has been seen here but if she walked that night we certainly didn’t see her!


We were up bright and early the next morning and continued our journey along the Nene.  It was a really beautiful day and it was wonderful cruising along in the sunshine through such beautiful countryside. 


There are 37 locks on the River Nene, many of them have electrified guillotine gates at one end and pointing gates at the other end.  However six of the 37 locks have not yet been electrified and the guillotines have to be wound up by hand using a huge wheel! They are very hard work and wreak havoc with your shoulders – I was very glad to put them behind us!  We finally reached Northampton and the end of the Nene on Saturday the 18th.  We spent one night moored in Northampton then on Sunday morning we attacked the Rothersthorpe Flight of 17 locks!  We were very lucky that all but one of the locks were in our favour so it only took about three and a half hours to reach the top.  From there its only a few minutes cruise down to the Gayton Junction where we turned right onto the Grand Union Canal heading North.


Having spent the whole of last Summer in East Anglia plus the last few weeks since our return from New Zealand, getting back on tothe canal was quite a surprise, it was soooooooooo busy.  It was like the M25 on a Monday morning!  We couldn’t believe how many narrowboats were on the move.  There are quite a few narrowboats on the East Anglian rivers but nowhere near as many as there are on the canals and of course it is now Summer so they all come out of the marinas and start cruising.  We managed to find a lovely quiet spot out in the countryside to moor up, opposite a field full of sheep and spent a very peaceful night.


The following day we cruised up to Whilton Marina.  This marina is Lady Arwen’s homeport so to speak, its where we bought her from and where we set off from on our maiden voyage on September 1st 2008. We stopped off there to top up with diesel and water, pump out the loo and pick up a few bits and pieces from the chandlery then we tackled the next flight of locks, the Buckby Flight.  This flight has only 7 locks but they are big double ones with very stiff paddles and very heavy doors.  Fortunately there was another boat ready to go up at the same time as us so we shared the locks with them making it much quicker and easier. We moored up just before the last lock as there was no room on the moorings up at the top.  As soon as we had Lady Arwen securely moored Clive and I went straight up to the New Inn, which is adjacent to the top lock, for a well earned drinky-poo and dinner.  Unfortunately the food was very disappointing, which was surprising as it has always been very nice in the past.


We didn’t rush the following morning but finally around 11.00 o’clock I went up to set the last lock in the Buckby Flight and then Clive brought the boat up and we were off again.  Only a few hundred yards from the top lock is Norton Junction where we turned right, heading for yet another flight of locks – the Watford Flight.  This is a flight of 7locks.  There are two separate locks at the bottom then a staircase of four locks and finally another single lock at the top.  The staircase locks are interesting because they are joined together. There are two paddles to operate each lock, a red one, which has to be opened first, then a white one.  It is imperative that you do this in the right order otherwise there could be a disaster.  There is a little rhyme to remember the order: Red before White and you’ll be alright, White before Red and you’ll wish you were dead! 


I mentioned earlier how many boats were out and about, when we arrived at the bottom of the Watford Flight there was one boat moored in front of us and one already in the bottom lock.  You have to go and speak to the lock keeper on duty and actually book your passage up or down the flight.  Boats cannot pass on the staircase so on busy days each boat has to be given a time slot. It was very busy on Tuesday and we were waiting for at least an hour before we could go up through the first lock and moor up in the first pound.  There were four boats coming down the staircase, one boat in front of us waiting to go up and seven more boats behind us!  Finally the lock keeper gave us the go ahead and we were off.  He is known as Terry the Hat due to his collection of odd hats from around the world, which he wears when he is on duty.  Today it was the turn of a Pith Helmet, which caused quite a few comments!  Several relating to Zulu and also references to Carry on up the Khyber or Carry on up the Canal in this case!!  The funny thing is that underneath it his head is totally shaved!


Terry the Hat


By the time we were through the last lock it was after 2.00pm so we decided to call it a day and moored up a short distance further on, once again in a lovely spot opposite a field full of sheep!  This spot however wasn’t quite as peaceful as the last one, we were quite close to the M1 and there was a constant drone from the speeding traffic somewhere beyond the trees!  I totted up how many locks we had negotiated since getting onto the Nene last week – it came to 68!


When we awoke this morning it was pouring with rain.  It continued on and off for a couple of hours then finally the showers passed over.  We upped sticks and cruised on for a couple of hours.  Our  journey included negotiating the Husband's Bosworth Tunnel and soon after emerging from the other end we started looking out for a suitable mooring.  We finally found a lovely place overlooked by the Laughton Hills.  We have a reasonable TV signal which meant that Clive could watch Wimbledon whilst I blogged.  We have another lock flight ahead of us tomorrow, The Foxton Staircase of ten locks - its all go isn't it!


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