Tuesday, 30 June 2015

A Jewel in the Crown

One of the “must visit” places on the River Nene is the beautiful country village of Fotheringhay. Engulfed in adorable thatched cottages, a fantastic pub and the jewel in the crown, the place where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned and subsequently beheaded. All that remains of the where the castle once stood is a large earth mound topped with a scattering of thistles.

Thistles with the church behind

Our mooring is right beside a glorious landmark on a hill overlooking the river, the church of St Mary and All Saints that has stood there since the 15th century. It is by far our best mooring thus far on the river.  Defiant against all the odds for so long, the building’s current fragile state means its future is in jeopardy. So much so that English Heritage is adding it to its At Risk register. Looking around inside you would not think so but the lead roof is cracked and leaking, there are splits in the rainwater goods allowing water to penetrate the walls and is need of new heating etc.

The fan vaulted ceiling beneath the ringing chamber

We decided to forgo the village for today and instead planned to take the bus into Peterborough. One of the blogs that we download, NO names mentioned, indicated that a bus left Fotheringhay at 26 mins pass the hour so off we set in search of the bus stop supposedly near the church. No bus stop and enquiries with the locals revealed that the service ceased years ago. Not to be outdone, we ordered a taxi to take us to the next village in order to pick up the bus not forgetting to pick up the taxi driver's business card for the return journey. 
We made straight for Peterborough cathedral as Keith wanted to glean some information about their newly installed glass entrance doors to take back to our own church project at home.

The nave ceiling

Replacing the marble and slate floor by hand!

Oodles of silverware

Ceiling above the high alter 

The high alter

We caught the 5:35 bus back and whilst in transit rang to order the taxi. Oh dear, we left it too late, he was finished for the day so we got off the bus where we caught it earlier and then walked the remaining 2 miles in the still heat of the day.
No on-board cooking tonight so it was into the Falcon Inn for a delightful two course meal in the garden with the adjacent car park housing a Ferrari and an Aston Martin. Told you it was an upmarket village!

Our mooring for the night

Monday, 29 June 2015


The last time we saw so many Red Kites was when we were on the Thames near Litchfield. On the Nene they are in abundance sometimes seeing off other birds.

The temperatures are beginning to soar now so it is time for a barbeque so it was off to the Co-Op to stock up and make our way down to another secluded mooring beside one of the many electrified guillotine gated locks at Ashton.

Keith in his element!

Sunday, 28 June 2015


Just 7 miles and 4 locks today as we arrived at Thrapson. We were told of this mooring at Irthlingborough but is has a tricky entrance to a small inlet right adjacent to a bridge. We were advised to go in backwards as this would make the exit easier being in the flow of the river and so close to the bridge. Ignoring all good advice we went in forwards! There is only really room for two boats to moor alongside the edge and there were already two there. One was an awkwardly moored cruiser and a narrowboat who kindly beckoned us to moor alongside. Within 15 minutes two more narrowboats arrived just as the cruiser was leaving and so they breasted up in its place. As our bow was firmly in the rushes, Keith decided to turn the boat around in a now restricted area. He did it beautifully much to the admiration of the other boat crews.

We had a walk around the village calling in at each pub to sus out the food prospects on a Sunday evening. You guessed it, they don’t cater after 5pm! Then someone told us about the Woolpack. On walking through the garden we met up with the crew of the other two boats and had a delightful couple of hours supping beer and exchanging tales of our river experiences.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Remember Rushton and Diamonds Football Club

We were advised to top up with water at every opportunity as facilities on the Nene are scarce so we stopped at Wellingborough to do just that. There are good moorings here but sited right opposite a factory that runs 24/7 so the noise would be a nuisance overnight here.
Cruising on down we pass some delightful countryside interspersed with reminders of the fast life we have temporarily left behind.

Tonight we plan to moor at Irthingborough the home of Ruston and Diamonds football club. In fact the stadium is canalside here. Unfortunately the club went into liquidation in 2011 with debts amounting to £750,000.
Outline planning permission is being sought for demolition of Nene Park in Irthlingborough to make way for shops, a foodstore, cinema, hotel, restaurants and new community football facility. Shame as it looks to be an excellent stadium.
We had a walk up into the town but apart from an amazing church, that was closed, it was a little rundown.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Down The River Nene

The first priority of the day was to cycle into Northanpton to find a Maplin to buy a TV cable and a handset both of which were left behind at home. On arriving back at the boat Simon was hauling in his crayfish net that he hung over the bow overnight. He caught six American spotted crayfish that are endemic in our rivers, They make a delicious salad apparently.

It was then time to adventure out onto the Nene and its peculiar guillotine locks.

The upper gates are the conventional Vee type and the lower gate is the guillotine. This is electrically operated with a special key obtained from the Environment Agency.

Very rural

The river is very weedy as it has nor rained for a considerable time and the flow is at its lowest. The consequence of this is that it gets trapped on the propeller inpeding one's progress. Two visits to the weed hatch were called for over a 9 mile stretch.

Places to moor are few and far between so instead of making it a long day we pulled over onto the embankment just downstream of Doddington lock. It ws tight getting in but we are in splendid isolation with just the sheep for company. We could get used to this!

Thursday, 25 June 2015

And on to Northampton

Before we could sample the delights of the River Nene there was the small task of negotiating the 17 narrow locks of the Northampton arm of the Grand Union canal. So it was empty the loo and top up with water as facilities on the river are few and far between.

Top Lock

She is still at it!!

Canada Geese Galore

At last

Town moorings with nb Dedalus

And finally our overnight mooring spot

Last of The Grand Union Mainline

After sharing the six locks with the ice cream boat we said our farewells and made our way along the 10 mile lock free pound arriving at Gayton Junction.
I told my dad not to follow us!

Our overnight moorings were close to the mainline rail track

Tuesday, 23 June 2015


We were aware that there is a Historic Boat Festival taking place in Braunston this weekend so we wanted get through there today as boats were already making their way there even this early in the week.
Approaching Braunston church

Keith wanted to visit Midland Swindlers Chandlers there to buy some rubber seal strip and it is right on the junction making maneuvering difficult but he managed it beautifully. He only wanted 3mtrs but they would only sell it by the roll! Their loss.

Braunston Junction

As we carried on pass all the wonderful historic boats we passed the boat Dedalus whom we went down the Bristol Channel with from Sharpness to Bristol back in 2013. Unfortunately they were not at home.

Entrance to Braunston Marina

One of the many historic boats

Would you have a boat built here??

A butty pair

We then negotiated the 2042 yard long Braunston tunnel meeting three boats coming the other way and then onto our second right turn of the day at Norton junction. As it was lunch time we decided to treat ourselves to lunch at the lockside New Inn at Long Buckby Wharf. It was warm enough today to sit outside to eat and we became Gongoozelers for a change.

The lock beside the pub

We were moored just down from the junction in a reasonable spot but beside a dusty track that was the access road to a CART depot so we took the advice of the ice cream boat and moved down one lock and moored opposite some nice looking detached houses.
An ice cream had to be bought and whilst we were making conversation with the proprietors, arranged to descend the awkward Buckby locks with them in the morning.
Whilst we were eating our treat on the bow there was knock, knock on the hull. It was only the owners of the Dedalas boat that we had seen in Braunston earlier so we were able to catch up on the last two years sailings.

Monday, 22 June 2015

More Locks

The first lock of the day was only a few hundred yards down the cut past a string of moored boats. Peering out through the binos it looked as though a crew were make the tell tale signs of preparing to cast off. As we approached them the skipper inquired if we would like to pair up with them through the wide locks to which we heartily agreed. We recognised them as Kevin and Carol whom we had shared with previously. We worked well together negotiating the 12 locks at Stockton and Calcutt before bidding our farewells as they were plodding on to Braunston whilst we moored out in the sticks looking forward to a meal aboard for a change!
When moored up Keith got on with undercoating the underside of the grab rail on the roof whilst Dianne persevered with some sowing project that she had brought with her. After, Keith got out the Brompton to search for a shop that sold bread. An hour and a half later he returned with no bread having visited two villages both of which had pubs and were both closed on a Monday. Shame!
Very tranquil here tonight despite the wind. All that we can hear are the birds tweeting and the coming and goings of aircraft in and out of Birmingham airport; no traffic roar or trains to put up with.

Tomorrow Braunston

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Morning Service at Radford Semele

Having visited St Nicholas yesterday and seen the outside we decided to attend the Family service this morning to have a look at the inside. Knowing also that the six bells were taken down after the fire and sent up to Taylors at Loughborough for refurbishment, we took the opportunity to join the local band for a pre service ring. We were able to ring Plain Hunt, Grandsire and Bob Doubles before it was time to bring them down in peal before the service started. It was very unusual for the band to ring a method for Sunday service and so our presence was most welcome.
Almost all churches have their alter at the East end as was the case at St Nicholas before the fire. During the five year and £2.2 million rebuild they were able to think outside the box and redesign the internal layout. The alter was moved to the long North side of the church that completely opened out the area that the congregation occupy. Underfloor heating, superb lighting, an AV system, toilets and a servery were all incorporated into the new build. A credit to the architect and the PCC.
At 1pm we paired up with another boat to climb the Fosse and Bascote locks before mooring at Long Itchington a village that boasts a large number of pubs. As it was Fathers' DAy we rang ahead to try and book a meal. All but was one were either full up or finished serving at 6pm. We managed to get in at the Harvester (no, not the chain) but had to wait outside until 7pm when they opened. Well worth the wait as we both enjoyed a slow cooked leg of lamb each with all the trimmings and some good ale. The cheese and biscuits back at the boat went down well as did the red wine!

Saturday, 20 June 2015

A Visit to Sainsburys

Galley stocks are at an all time low now so it was off to Sainsburys to top up with goodies. Thanks to modern mobile technology efficient routes can now be planned when returning with numerous bags of heavy items.
We decided that we have had enough of locks for the time being having negotiated 113 of them since leaving Stourport last Friday!
We pootled along behind 3 other boats for some 5 miles until we found some moorings that we had highlighted on our Nicholson's guide some years ago. It is an idealic setting with a huge poppy field between us and the 16C church of St Nicholas.

After a torrential rain storm we wandered up to the village of Radford Semele passing the company that Keith used to work for, Ricardo. In this village is the Midlands Technical Centre with the emphsis on vehicle systems engineering and driveline and transmission systems. Good to see the old name again, after all, they are providing Keith with one of his pensions!

The village, of some 2,000 people,  contains, at present, a number of picturesque cottages, mostly timber-framed with brick nogging and thatched roofs, dating probably from the early part of the 17th century. St Nicholas Church, a Grade II listed building, caught fire on 16 March 2008 and all that remained was the tower and shell of the building.The fire was initially not considered suspicious, However since there is evidence that there was a break in on the night of the fire, it is believed to have been arson, following failed attempts at several other churches nearby. The church has since been restored and was reopened on 15 May 2013. There is said to be a priest hole inside so we will investigate that tomorrow when we attend morning service.

From there we went on to investigate the White Lion pub. Unfortunately on Thursday 2 February 2006 the pub caught alight and the pub was ruined causing over 2 million pounds worth of damage. In January 2011 the pub reopened. Talking to the bar staff there is also a priest hole in the cellar that is reputed to join up with the one in the church. You never know what you are going to discover when enjoying the delights of the English canals. 
So it was back to the boat for a meal on the fore deck.