Saturday, 11 August 2012

The March to Oundle

Previous blog entries record our frustration at the weather and Strong Stream Advice blocking our route through the Middle Levels. Patience has now sat patiently at Fox's Marina in March (all thanks to them) while we wait for a convenient few days when our free time, the weather and the Environment Agency make it possible to head further west.
At last it comes, and on August 8th we are up early - in heavy rain - to set off for March, complete with newly painted pole, hook and gas locker lids. Paying for our stay we thank Fox's for their kindness, fill up with water and turn into the Middle Levels again. It's 9.30 am.
And so the expedition - as that's what it feels like, having turned from a 4 or 5 day cruise into a 7 week trial - moves into what we hope will be its final phase. All around people are talking about "going for Gold" at the Olympics and this is beginning to feel like our very own struggle to achieve. Mind you, I don't see Narrow Boat Cruising has much of a chance as an Olympic sport....
Most of the day is a repeat of our previous venture through the Middle Levels though once the early rain has cleared up the weather is far better. Today there is more sun, less weed, dragon flies but no more moorings.
At 3pm we arrive at Stanground precisely on time for our booked passage. A lock keeper is essential here as this deep lock is the border of the Nene and The Middle Levels, an essential part of the pumping and draining system of the east of England. Quickly through, we moor up at Peterborough quay at 3.30 pm
Peterborough surprises me. I think of it as an urban scrum with sprawling estates and endless roundabouts but here in the centre is a medieval market place and an ancient cathedral with similarities to Durham. It is also the burial place of Catherine of Aragon and the former burial place of Mary Queen of Scots.
After an hour in the cathedral we head back to the Quay, where there are plenty of moorings though the quay has shallow concrete steps which could cause problems of grounding if the river level rose as high as it has been this year. However our aim is to head for Thorpe Meadows, 1.5 miles upstream and up a creek off the main Nene. Curiously unsigned, (and called Peterborough Rowing Club Junction on Canal Planner) the creek is on the north bank. Go under a red bridge then past the  Rowing Club and the well-appointed moorings are at the end.
It turns out to be a great spot both for boaters and fishermen and we are thrilled to have chosen it - not least because there is a pub, The Boathouse, with good grub, just a couple of hundred yards away.
Patience moored at Thorpe Meadow with The Boathouse on the opposite bank
This was a good day. At last we are on The Nene and today we have travelled 18 miles with 2 locks in 6.5 hours. A good day's work and beautiful weather. At last!

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