Day 49 – Peterborough

Oundle to Peterborough isn’t that hard but the extremely hot weather didn’t help.

The map shows an EA water point at Fotheringhay so that was my first target. Fotheringhay is a very pretty and posh village with plenty of mooring space. All of it chargeable, £5 per night, £2.50 short stop and even £2 to take a canoe out of the water. There’s a half mile stretch of signs setting this out.

Right next to the bridge EA own (or lease?) a tiny patch of land, about 3m long frontage on the river and maybe 5m back, on which stands their water point. Obviously it’s too short to moor anything longer than a kayak so whoever it is owns the moorings will gracioulsy allow one to over lap for as long as it takes to fill up. A sign warns that if you don’t move straight away you will be charged for mooring.

Just to make life even more tricky the plot is fenced and gated and there are no mooring rings or bollards just a steep, nettle-covered bank.

There was just one final flywheel operated lock and as I approached I could see official looking vans and people grouped around the guillotine gate end. Surely not another closure?

In fact much better, the guys were there to strim and mow the grass around the lock, but they aren’t allowed to do it whilst there is a boat using the lock, so hurry things up they did most of the lock winding. Great contrast to last year when contractors, not EA staff, strimmed long wet grass while Seren was in a lock and pretty much covered her. I told them about the Fotheringhay nettles and they said they’d go and strim there too. Amazing.

Closer to Peterborough, where the Ferry Meadows park starts there were groups of teens and families enjoying the river. Some of the teens are a bit clueless, one bunch of lads, seeing me approach spread themselves out across the channel so there wasn’t a gap big enough to pass. I knocked Seren out of gear so at least no-one would get mangled by the prop and drifted with the wind and current toward them. They parted and let me pass but then swam round behind making me very nervous about engaging forward gear again.

At a lock a bunch of teenage girls were sunbathing on the lock surround. It was one of EA’s ‘special’ locks where the landing stage is on the opposite side to the control box so as often do I pulled in on the ‘wrong’ side avoiding the girls and a walk over the lock. A couple came around to talk to me. They wanted to know if they could swim in the lock once I’d filled it. I pointed out I’d be putting the boat in then emptying the lock so it’d be dangerous. Then they asked if I could leave the control box open when I left so they could refill it. I felt mean in refusing but I’d feel worse if one had drowned. They took my refusal well and went back to sprawling on the grass.

Finally I turned into the cut leading to Thorpe Meadows where I’d arranged to meet Linda for a meal at The Boathouse. She got lost, apparently the signage is terrible and the meal wasn’t that good, but nice to see her. Loads of people, families, teens, young men and women (mostly Polish I think) were on the landing stage or in the water. Very friendly and co-operative though and they’d all drifted away by bedtime.

Day 4 – Wet

Set off from Whittlesea early and got to Stanground about an hour before my 10.15 booking for the lock. Did some ‘housework’, tea drinking and reading. Carl and Samson, booked for 10.30 arrived just I was going in the lock so both boats being small we locked through together.

We stopped at Peterborough Embankment. They went shopping while I emptied the WC, took on water, emptied the bin and failed to re-fit the corner fender. Carl helped and it’s half-on which is better than nothing.

Last year when I went to Crick the WC emptying sluice was being refitted. When I came back three weeks later it was done. Today it is disgusting. The sluice room looks like no-one has cleaned it for a year and inevitably there are splashes. After a year, a lot of splashes. Even before I got in the smell was pretty bad. Coming out I realised why. Everything I had carefully poured down the sluice was now flowing down the path. I reported it to some council guys who were emptying bins and wielding litter pickers, the leader took a photo and promised to report it when they got back to the depot. Actual council workers, not contractors. I thought they’d all been outsourced. Hopefully they’ll do something about it. I’ll be back to check in 7 weeks or so!

While we were working on the fender it started to rain, and stopped around Yarwell about 6 hours later. I’ve stopped for the night on a ‘wild mooring’ ie a meadow without permission. It’s remote and hidden by woodland I doubt anyone will see me. Carl and Samson have pressed on to stop somewhere more civilised where they can arrange for someone to collect them. I’ll probably overtake them in the morning before they’ve returned.

No pictures today, everything has been grey, boring and wet. Hope it’s bright tomorrow morning Fotheringhay bridge is worth a photo or two.

Day 3 and it’s going well

Last night was very cold. I went to bed early wearing most of my clothes, with the rest on top of the sleeping bag.  Slept well though and woke early determined to get an early start. Today was bright and clear but still cold. Left Outwell at 06.30 wearing 6 layers of clothes and got to Marmont Priory lock at 07.00. Opened the top slackers (paddles) to fill it. Noticed the bottom ones were padlocked and assumed the EA key would fit. Doesn’t.  Waited ’til 07.30 then rang the lock keeper’s bell. Waited a bit. Rang again. Found phone number.  Voice mail. Left message. Tried again. Called Middle Level Commisioners’ office. Not open ’til 08.30. Keeper arrived 08.20. She’d slept through the ringing. And the phone calls. Left at 08.48.

After that things went surprisingly well. I got to Ashline lock about 12.05 just as a narrow boat was leaving. Better yet there were two more waiting to come down and their crews were happy to work the lock for me to speed things up. I was out in 10 minutes. One of the blokes off one of the boats said Stanground was about an hour and a quarter. He was right. I tied up at 1.30pm, an hour early. Had lunch then hauled the sunlounger out onthe bank for a kip.

Roused by the lock keeper at 2.30 and locked through. Stopped at the sanitary station in Peterborough. Last year when we brought Seren across from Pershore we stopped at the same place.  The sluice for Elsan toilets is part of a public WC, which was surrounded by temporary barriers. Eventually we realised there was access round the side where there was a gap in the barrier. Twelve months later the fence is still there and there was one guy with his head down an access point . I checked the sluice was accessible and found the door open. There’s a new sluice and a new drain and a one metre gap between them. No pipe. I emptied the loo down the pipe.

Went shopping in Peterborough.  Bread and milk almost impossible to find but could have my nails done and hair cut twenty times over.

Not a great place to stay long, but a mile or so upstream is the start of a long riverside park inc Ferry Meadows, Orton Meadows and tbe bit I’m in called Thorpe Wood which has its own arm off the river with a landing stage and pub. According to my itinary from Canal Plan this is where I should stop on the fourth night, so I’m a day ahead. But there’s a lot of locks on the Nene and the N’hants arm, so that’ll slow me down.