Wellingborough- Gayton Junction (moored GU Mainline)
19 miles, 30 locks
River Nene, GU Northampton Arm, GU Mainline
Before I recount today's thrilling installment of the cruising adventures of Lyra and her staff, I just fancy giving a little update on yesterday, and why we're hammering on at such a comparatively cracking pace, doing the entirety of the Nene in two days (1 evening, 1 long day, and 2/3rds of a day, which I'll say is 2!) and hopping up the Rothersthorpe flight.
We do actually like the Nene! I have changed my mind about it, because the last time we were on it, we were breasting up with snapped tillers, bridge collisions, and all manner of stress. Because of the heavy flow, every lock was a dangerous adventure.
This time, of course, the Nene has been far more sedate. Travelling against the slight stream, it's been far easier to get in and out of the locks, and the weather has been variable from gorgeous evening sunshine to a bit overcast and windy, but no actual rain. The scenery is lovely, in general- there are of course a few boring bits, but in general it runs through bucolic chocolate-box countryside.
That said, it could do with being 2/3rds the length, with less than half the number of locks... Nene locks are a trial, because they have to be left with the downstream guillotine gate open, meaning you have to reset it after going through which is a pain. They're also very big and have very fierce paddles with often awkwardly placed, short landing stages.
So, really, whilst it is very pretty it is tempting to get it over and done with as quickly as possible- hence the long trips. We also like having a couple of days in hand, and being ahead of our targets, so we can afford to dilly dally and explore if we find anywhere interesting. Plus it's also a nice challenge, to occasionally put yourself in something of the mindset of a "proper" working boatman, and seeing the waterways as a means of getting from A to B, as efficiently as possible, at all costs.
Anyway, today we finished off the Nene. The pronounciation changes from "neen" at Peterborough, to "nen" by the time it reaches Northampton. Whilst there were only 13 miles on the river to do between Wellingborough and Northampton, there were 13 locks, spaced much closer together than on the lower reaches. So we set off at about 10am, having had a lie-in, and chugged our way onwards. There was a fair bit of weed around the various locks, and often we had to clear it by spinning into astern- but, luckily, nothing so tangled or tough that it necessitated a trip down the weedhatch. The weed tended to build up in the mouth of each lock, so it was a case of getting up to speed and then coasting through it as well as possible.
Highlights of today included seeing the tree that snapped off the tiller- the EA have thankfuly removed the boulders from the other side that meant we had to get close last time- and also meeting up with Andreas on nb Rowanberry again, our former neighbour at our previous mooring, who was also cruising- albeit at a much less ambitious daily pace!
We were delayed in Northampton by a floating pontoon. There is no access for plant and vehicles to the new marina that they are building, so the contractors moor a pontoon across the river. This of course blocks all access, so we had to wait for a couple of hours until they finished work. We had a tricky reversing maneouver back onto some nearby visitor moorings, but it did seriously delay the start of the ascent up the Northampton arm. We went to town and had a look around, because there's some things you just have to accept! It did split the day up nicely, however, so it feels less tiring now.
We made a start on the Northampton arm at about 6pm, and whilst progress was extremely slow on the first few long pounds, and the water level really low- down nearly 2 feet!- in some pounds, we soon got into the swing of working through the locks, doing the last few to a glorious sunset and beautiful red and pink-shaded clouds. Then we were onto the GU proper, where we crawled past the moored boats and out to the junction, finding a mooring space on the towpath.
Ascending the Rothersthorpe Flight
Today has been another arduous but rewarding day, and we will now slow to canal pace, moving efficiently but not for such long days- we may even have a lie-in and tomorrow morning off.....