Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Day Five: First Ascent of the Nene

Whittlesey- Wansford Bridge

King's Dyke, Morton's Leam, River Nene

16 miles, 4 locks

Today was, thankfully, in two stages. Amy went to work, and I set off from Whittlesey at about 9:30. It was quite grey, and windy. I soon came to the Brigatte Bend, which is a 90 degree corner hemmed in with concrete walls on both sides. You can get a full length narrowboat around this corner, but I wouldn't want to try!

Just before Brigate Bend

Once out of Whittlesey, the water was again shallow and weedy, and progress was slow but steady. Then it started to rain, a particularly insistent kind of rain, and I only had a thin, lightweight waterproof with me at the stern. Rather than trying to moor somewhere and pick up the better waterproof which was in the saloon, I hunkered down and kept on going. Stanground Sluice, the lock onto the Nene, seemed a very long way away! Eventually I arrived, and queued up behind another couple of boats, before being locked through by the friendly but sodden keeper.

After leaving Stanground, I crawled past the moored boats, to emerge onto the main river in the centre of Peterborough. I recently rowed on this stretch, albeit in temperatures of 30 degrees and bright sunshine. Today was somewhat different.... Nonetheless, I found the waterpoint and filled up with possibly the best hose ever. It is a standard firehose, and it filled the tank up from half-empty to full and draining through the forepeak scuppers in about 5 minutes! I also emptied the cassette, as facilities to do so between Peterborough and Northampton are apparently unreliable.

I moored up a little further on, put the kettle on and had a rest before heading into the city to explore. It reminds me of Bracknell, with a very brown and octagonal-themed 80s shopping centre, only with the occasional Medieval church, house, and of course the cathedral. It was still raining as I headed back, so I curled up on the sofa with a good book (Bridge over the River Kwai, incidentally) and awaited Amy's return.

Well, it was as if she bought the sunshine with her. The skies cleared and we decided to head off into the evening light.

Milton Ferry bridge

We were soon out of Peterborough and into the countryside, passing the rowing lake where we raced a little over a month ago, and soon coming to the first Nene lock. With guillotine gates at the downstream end, and vee-doors at the upstream end, these are the exact reverse of the locks on the Ouze- and the paddles can be fierce, too.

Water Newton Lock - an idyllic spot

We fell back into a routine quite quickly. Amy would hop off the stern with a midrope and tie off to a bollard. I'd leave the boat in forward gear, held against the lockwall with the midrope, and then crack open the paddle on one gate once the guillotine gate was lowered by Amy. We only then had to open one gate and lower the paddle when full, before moving onto the lock landing stage and emptying the lock, because these all have to be left empty with the guillotine raised.

Sunset on the Nene

The evening light was spectacular, and we have already covered 10 miles of the 58 between Northampton and Peterborough. It was tempting to "do a Kestrel" and keep going up the Nene until midnight, to get it over and done with (!) but we called it a day at Wansford as the light faded at 9:30pm. Moored to a floating pontoon, we had a brief walk alongside the Nene Valley Railway before returning, eating, and now blogging. Bed now, I think- we're planning on a long day tomorrow!


  1. Brigate Bend in a 14-berth, 72ft narrowboat with a leaky engine = not fun. I seem to remember it involved two poles, feet against walls, and 'encouragement' from the local youths...

  2. Excellent report. Keep it up. Is it just me or is Briggate bend easier going west than east. We ended up in the bushes going east.

    I never thought of using that fire hose at Peterborough but used a small tap alongside. Next time I'll use the big hose.

    Recently I arrived at a water point on the GU and there was someone filling up so I waited. It was a widebeam liveaboard with empty tank and it took them an hour and forty minutes!!

  3. Amy always brings the sunshine :)

    middle James

  4. I can recommend moorings at Fotheringay (don't try and pay, the chap will come and find you), Wellingborough and at Cogenhoe village (nr Northampton). The pub at Fotheringay is good too!