Sunday, 27 May 2018

Cathedral, Dog in a Doublet and Whittlesey

This morning we planned to attend the main service of the day in the cathedral which was at 10:30. As often happens at school holiday times, the music was not led by the cathedral choir but by visiting singers, on this occasion a group called The Bridgeman Singers, who come together on occasion from all over the country.

The service was conducted by the Vice Dean and the Dean preached the sermon. Today was Trinity Sunday and some clergy try to avoid this day but on this occasion the preacher stuck to the main subject.

The organ voluntary at the end was especially accomplished. We stayed for a cup of coffee afterwards but with over a hundred in the congregation plus around 30 in the choir, the coffee people were having to work especially hard!

Before lunch we re-stocked on food from Asda which is the closest supermarket to where we are moored.

After lunch we used the car to explore a couple of places. First we continued down river gto Dog in a Doublet, a popular pub alongside the last lock on the river below which it is tidal. As a major part of flood control, the lock has a couple of sluices - as with the lock above which we came through several days ago. The road also crosses the river, one of the few below Peterborough.

After taking a look at the lock both above and below we returned to the car and drove to Whittlesey, a small market town and the first place we will encounter when we eventually leave here and join the Middle Level. With a population of over 16,000, it is quite a substantial town in Cornish terms!

The navigation runs around the outer edge of the town - the first place we stopped was at the very tight bend at Briggate.

On then to Ashline Lock, near to the train station, so that we could check out the moorings that we had read are above the lock. Indeed we did find them - 36 hours - but only room for a couple of boats, or three at a squeeze. It is quite a hike to the shops.

From there we found our way into the town centre and parked close to one of the two ancient parish churches. Alas, it was not open this afternoon. It has a very tall spire with a gleaming gold cockerel right at the top. (Not so clear in our highly zoomed photo!)

According to Wikipedia, the reason for the two parish churches is that each was controlled by a different medieval abbey: Ely and Thorney.

The market square is wide open and, apart from the typical open-sided structure in the centre, has a number of imposing buildings around the sides, interspersed with more modern (not always as elegant) properties.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Being a Church Tourist

The day started rather grey but late morning the sky cleared and the afternoon was a 'proper' start to the bank holiday weekend. We had planned to do some food shopping in the morning and then use the car to look at some of the villages close to the river that we had missed because there was nowhere to moor. However, rather than use the nearby Asda we drove to a large Sainsbury on the edge of the city as we wanted to replace one of our cafetieres that was broken a few days ago (we did have a spare) However (again!) on the way plans changed once more as we realised that we only needed a couple of other items today so we would be better to do those later after being out for the day. Alas, the store, when we eventually arrived there, did not have the right size in stock!

Our first aim was to visit Water Newton to look at the church that stands close to one of the river locks. The old house next to the church has immaculately kept gardens.

The church itself is modest in scale - the hamlet has never been more than a few houses and the Great North Road originally ran through the middle. The construction of a bypass restored life to a sleepy backwater.

A plot of around six large new houses has almost doubled the size of Water Newton!

The church is now only used on special occasions and does not have any regular Sunday services. It is, however, very well looked after and the grass outside had recently been cut and the churchyard made neat and tidy.

It is strange to see memorials to former churchwardens who had such along period of office now that it is limited to six years. May be, even this one might have wished at times that he could have had reason to hand over to someone else!

The chancel walls had a number of memorial tablets - this set are to various members of the Knipe family. The top one here records that Randolph was rector here for 27 years. However, elsewhere another tablet refers to Randoph Richard Knipe who dies aged 86 having served as rector for 40 years. The inscriptions do tell us what relations they were but perhaps they were father and son?

From here we drove a short distance north to a small village called Barnack. Christine had spotted on our map a nature reserve with car park nearby. We had hoped to find somewhere to sit to eat our rolls but alas only rough undergrowth - it is a nature reserve and not a park! Instead we adjourned to the village church in the hope that, as is often the case, there might be a convenient bench in the churchyard. Indeed there was - two, in fact.

The church is actively used today, maintaining a history that dates back to Saxon times - the oldest parts are in the lower sections of the tower. Even the upper parts are from the 12C and is said to be the oldest surviving steeple in England.

After lunch we looked inside and it is much more spacious than the church at Water Newton.

It has a number of amusing features - Christine was amused by the carved stone face on a pillar - perhaps she thought that is was meant to be a Mike-selfie!

There is a very prominent squint cut through one of the pillars which the guide book states as enabling a priest at the second alter to keep in step with another who was celebrating mass at the main altar. However the alignment does not seem to fit that explanation and elsewhere we have seen it said that it was used in places where side aisles were used for different social classes and so that they could see clearly the moment of elevation - at some periods in history this was considered the most important, if not the only important part of the service.

Outside we spotted a very large house across the road from the church. Later we discovered that this was the former rectory - at one time the childhood home of Charles Kingsley, perhaps best known for the Water Babies.

The picture on the front of our OS map for this area is of Croyland (or Crowland) Abbey. Neither of us had ever heard of this before so off we headed, just north of Peterborough.

We we returned to our car this morning we discovered that the back had been rather badly splashed with mud - the car park is not covered in tarmac and rain had created some quite large puddles. We were on the lookout for a car wash but each time we saw one it was too late to pulkl in. Just as we reached the edge of Crowland we saw another one - still too late to poull in but this time it was possible to turn around soon after and we went back.

Three very keen young chaps did a thoroughly good job - we hardly recognised it afterwards! They were well organised and each carried out their role in a well-rehearsed operation.

We parked in the centre of the village and walked to find where the abbey was - we had seen it from a distance. We passed Trinity Bridge which dates back to when the River Welland ran through what is now the centre together with another tributary. Later drainage schemes mover the river to the north.

The abbey church is an incredible structure even though what remains in use is just the north aisle.

We were welcomed inside by a couple of guides - one of whom spent a lot of time recounting the history, right from the time when a young man called Guthlac came to lonely and demon-haunted island amid the wild Fenland. He set up a small wooden structure and gained quite a reputation as a wise man, a healer and adviser. He was visited by one of the powerful men of the area who later became Kind Aethelbald of Mercia. He made a promise to Guthlac that when he became king he would return to build a more robust abbey. This he did.

The abbey became one of the more prosperous and sent out monks to teach around the county. It is said that one visit to Cambridge led to the founding of Magdalene College.

Our guide pointed out various interesting and unusual features - including this roof boss known as the Green Man.

The carvings on the rood screen are said to depict some of the demons that haunted Guthlac.

Along with other abbeys, Crowland was badly destroyed in the time of Henry VIII who left enough of the building for user just as a parish church. Lack of maintenance led to further decay over centuries and it is only in the past century that it has been actively preserved. Nothing, however, remains of the south aisle.

Time then to head back to Peterborough and the boat.

Friday, 25 May 2018

Car Shuffle Day

We opted to do the car shuffle today so that we can potentially use it to explore some of the places that can be seen from the river but not accessed - mainly as a result of woefully few mooring places!

Mike walked to the station - about half an hour as he missed the tiny pedestrian subway at one intersection! - and caught the 9:52 to Birmingham New Street. This was the first off peak departure, which makes a considerable difference to the fare.

Although only two coaches and at times quite busy, it was as comfortable as they get (even if train seats these days seem to be as closely packed as airlines - and there were always a few seats available for those getting on.

It ran to time and at New Street it was a short walk to Moor Street which was re-opened to relieve pressure on New Street. As a result it retains many of the older fashioned signage and decoration making one almost wonder if one is about to board a steam train! There was plenty of time for Mike to sort out an issue with his tickets for a journey to London in June as well as have a coffee.

The train from here to Stratford stops at almost every station there is but several are listed as Request Stops. So, Mike had to make sure that he found the guard before the train left so that he could put in his request for a stop at Wootton Wawen!

Again, the service ran to time and just after 1 o'clock Mike began the half hour walk along the road to Mill Farm Marina where we had left the car.

After reporting back to base about the initial ETA from the sat nav, Mike set off on what turned out to be a little longer than the 1 hour 45 minutes (by about 20 minutes) mainly because the weather was rather wet and a thin covering of mist or fog which slowed down the traffic. Overall it was not a problem journey and he even found the little parking place near the river that we had been told about a couple of days ago.

Meanwhile Christine had been doing some cleaning on the boat and then went to the nearby shopping area where she picked up a  smart pair of trousers and a top for a sunny day (if we have not had our full ration for this year!)

In the evening we had tickets for a play at the Key Theatre, just about 200m from where we are moored! After some discussion we opted to go early so that we could have fish and chips in their restaurant. These were very freshly cooked and quite traditional!

The play was Life and Beth, a comedy by Alan Ayckbourn (first staged in 2008) and was performed here by Peterborough Players, the local and well rehearsed amateur dramatic society. It certainly made for a pleasant and amusing evening - nothing too challenging!

Thursday, 24 May 2018


Today's Navigation - River Nene

The day began very grey but at least we did not have the thunder storms that had been forecast for us yesterday. They are now thought likely tomorrow!

We set off early as, at this stage, our plan was for Mike to catch a train late morning to go over to the marina where we have left our car and bring it back here so that, if we wish, we could make trips away from the navigations. The photo shows the narrow channel that connects the river to the large lake of the country park.

We had just one, lock today but the size of the accompanying sluices is an indication that we now move onto a much larger beast, having so far travelled on what seemed quite a modest river. As we arrived a group of firefighters arrived on a familiarisation visit and they were quite please to see a boat actually passing through. It is juts possible to see one of them as we leave the lock behind us.

Part way we passed a site marked as a sculpture park so we presume that this is not some abandoned wreck but an intentional work of art! According to a local newspaper, it is the only new piece specially commissioned for the park - and children are encouraged to climb over it!

We knew that were were close to our immediate destination when we reached the series of bridges - beginning with a footbridge over to the Nene Valley Railway, followed by three mainline rail bridges. We could be definite about the purpose of at least one of them!

These were followed by the main town bridge - at least the third that has been built on this important site.

On what is called Peterborough Embankment, just beyond the town bridge, there is along stretch of good moorings, seemingly unrestricted in length of stay. We initially pulled onto the service point and found that, despite fears expressed by a boater we met a few days ago, at least the pump out and drinking water facilities were functional. Of course, a pump out is of no use to us and the block where the elsan disposal is was being re-furbished and a painter was hard at work inside. One of the team did assure us that it would be ready by this evening.

The site on the opposite bank is undergoing extensive re-devleopment and two large apartment blocks are being built (noisily!) and further site clearance is taking place alongside (also noisy)#

By the time we had filled with water we had made the decision to put off the car shuffle, at least for today. Christine talked to a local passer by and discovered that there is a place to park the car not far from the river edge.

Late morning we locked up and walked the short distance to Asda where we did a medium sized food re-stock. Alas, we forgot the wine and so had to return later in the afternoon to make up for the loss!

Back at the boat we had lunch and some chill-out time before locking up once more to walk back into the city centre.

We headed towards the cathedral, approaching it through the remains of the old cloisters and living quarters for the monks when this was an abbey. Most of the structure was plundered following Henry VIII's dissolution. We discovered later that the abbot at the time played a clever game and was the only abbot to be made a bishop in the cathedral that took over the church on the site.

Inside the cathedral has magnificent proportions. As it has not had added to it a divide between the choir and the nave, it is possible as soon as one comes through the main west door to appreciate its scale.

We will not attempt a systematic rehearsal of the history of this building, nor its abbey that preceded it, but rely on some of the photos we were able to take as we wandered around.

The hanging crucifix dates from the 1970's and was designed by George Pace, interestingly the architect who designed the chapel at Keele University that was built and opened when we were both undergraduates.

The ceiling is very ornate but rather hard (at least for those of us with neck issues) to admire by looking up at it. Thankfully a mirror has been provided which allows all of us to admire the artwork.

The choir.

The regularity of the day's cycle of prayer and worship was vital to the good order of a medieval abbey. This clock is very early and was made without a face. Its purpose was to chime the half hours and call the monks to their next service.

The only part of the main building that cannot be seen from the nave is the New Building, constructed in 1500 and was the last major part to be added - hence its name. it has a fan vaulting ceiling and today is used to assemble large processions before a service commences.

This sculpture is called St Peter leaves the boat to meet Jesus. It was carved in 1991 from an oak that was brought down in the storm of 1987.

Back outside the bright blue sky offered the right backdrop for us to admire the enormous west facade of the cathedral.

We wandered he shopping streets and saw both the Guildhall and the Town Hall buildings. Christine also checked out Mountain  Warehouse and eventually came away with a pair of sandals, mainly for wear on the boat.

3.5 Miles - 1 Lock

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Ferry Meadows Country Park

Today's Navigation - River Nene

We awoke to find a very dull morning, with a distinct chill in the air. More layers were need today!

Warmington was our first lock of the day - another manual one so plenty of exercise straight away! It was also unusual to have a large amount of foam below, quite a bit blows back into the lock chamber. Not sure why here so distinctively but it may just be the proximity of a strong weir.

Elton Road is one of the very infrequent river crossings for vehicles. Its design is more reminiscent of canals than other older bridges on this river.

Yarwell Lock is built alongside a splendid former mill building. Judging by its size it must have been at one time a very thriving business.

On our rather aging guide book to the river, this site is simply marked as Ship End Pits (Stone Quarry) Isolated from other developments, the arc of New England style properties looks somewhat out of place. Planning permission was originally granted in 2002 and the first houses were on sale in 2006 but we found some suggestion that others were as recent as 2015. It has been given the new name of Wansford Marina but it certainly does not welcome passing trade! It looks as if the ater and pontoon moorings is more for looking at than actually using.

Three bridges in Wansford itself. The first, with a date stone of 1795, is the old, multi-arch bridge which is followed by the first attempt to take the A1 away from the village centre. Its very brutal late 1930's style incorporates the name of Huntingdon County Council, long since disappeared in one of the many local authority reorganisations. Finally a further bridge from the late 1950's adds a dual carriageway to the by pass.

All morning was had not seen anywhere at all to stop, even for a short break so we were rather thankful that there was at least enough of the 48 hour EA pontoon at Wansford Station for us to tie up. A long narrowboat was already occupying the rest.

Wansford Station is now the headquarters of the Nene Valley Railway, a preserved steam train line that links from here into Peterborough. The large signal box stands guard at the level crossing and in the main station building, as well as a traditional 'hole in the wall' ticket office there is a substantial Turntable Cafe, and outside is the original turntable. There is a significant collection of old rolling stock, some in use and some 'awaiting restoration'.

Shortly before we left, the service from Peterborough arrived, bringing another load of day trippers.

At the approach to Water Newton lock, the local parish church stands very close to the river. It seems to be almost bereft of any surrounding houses!

Except, that is, for the former mill which has been converted into several separate properties.

Today we saw for the first time this year some yellow irises growing at the water's edge. They are just in flower so not too easy to spot.

After lunch, our usual cup of tea was thwarted when the  gas bottle gave out. When Mike came to switch over to the second bottle, he was not confident that we had a full one - there was some confusion a little while back about whether we had continued with the right one when returning to the boat. There are not many facilities on the river for obtaining a replacement but Christine rang a caravan base at Ferry Meadows Country Park and discovered that had just one bottle of the correct size and type. With that news we made as good progress as we could so that we would get there before they closed.

The elegant Milton Ferry Bridge signalled that we were now only about ten minutes away from the entry into the country park. When we came to the entrance channel we crept along as carefully as we could, noit knowing whether full size narrow boats are supposed to come this way, although was had read of other people's experiences!

In fact, there is a 24 hour pontoon mooring - all empty when we arrived but three others came along later. Whilst Mike secured the boat to a mooring and extracted the empty bottle, Christine went in search of the caravan base. At least they had a good trolley that she could use to bring the bottle back to the boat - and to return the empty afterwards.

Later, Christine took a wander to look at the various features of the country park.

16.5 Miles - 6 Locks