Sunday, 23 September 2012

Up The Nene Again (2)

Leaving our Thrapston moorings we continue upstream and pass Thrapston Mill.
This  marina was once a feature viewed from the A14 flyover but now it is an overgrown wasteland with warning signs:

 Even overlooking the typography of the signs (that massive U, and look again at that last N) this seems a great wasted opportunity for a riverside mooring, the management company being dissolved in September 2010. And sadly not the only missed opportunity on the river Nene.
We see this again at Denford, where a mooring by the lock has been withdrawn, and at Woodford where a perfect riverside mooring like that at Fotheringay, on the edge of a field below the church is no longer available. This simultaneously deprives the village of visitors to its pubs and shops and deprives boaters of a pleasant halt. It's a subject I'll return to later.
Slightly irritated we motor on, past Woodford Riverside where the marina is busy with diggers and building activity, which mollifies us a little, and the sinuous river and lovely views calm us down. A swan takes off with much pat pattering of webbed feet, a man walks his dog up a track through new stubble to a ridge with a single silhouetted tree ... these are worth remembering.
Now we come to Lower Ringstead Lock with its marina, called Willy Watt Marina. Even as I snigger at the silly pun I read that in fact the name originates as Willow Ait or Willow Island, the mill being listed in the Domesday Book, so I take back my negative thought. Read about the marina, today and the past at the Willy Watt Marina website. And beware the bridge immediately upstream of the lock - the weir is dead ahead so take the left hand channel!
 We pass Blackthorne Marina on our left though can see little of it, and now we're at Upper Ringstead lock with its manually operated guillotine lock which gives us a bit of upper body exercise rotating the large stainless steel wheel. Past the youth activity centre with hard-hatted youngsters screaming as they abseil from a wooden tower and it's nearly 1pm when we clear Irthlingborough locks and reach the exotically named Rushden and Diamonds mooring (being on the edge of this football club's stadium). Unfortunately for them their football club seems to be in receivership (I'm writing in September 2012, more info here) but fortunately for us, although the water and pumping facilities are closed, the well built moorings are just right.
As the predicted rain has arrived we batten down the hatches for a while until there is a marginally less wet spell and we trundle into the town. I am unimpressed by Irthlingborough, which seems a depressed place with a preponderance of kebab and pizza takeaways with pubs boasting "happy hours" and free pool. There is an interesting church tower (Church of St Peter - closed to visitors, haunted by youths in hoodies sheltering from the rain and squatting, smoking, on the rubbish bins like the caterpillars in Alice in Wonderland) but the move to China of the Dr Martens boot factory seems to have hit employment hard. The quirky fame of having had David Frost briefly teach at the local secondary modern school in 1958 cannot raise the town above the damage done to its architecture by nasty 1960's shops. This is a place in decline, without a pub we'd feel easy sitting in, and we avoid all three Chinese takeaways and both Indian takeaways to cook ourselves something substantial on the boat and provide our own entertainment reading improving books and Waterways World.
In retrospect we should have taken warning from the defaced signs at the lock - evidence of folks with nothing better to do (avoid your gaze now if you are of a sensitive nature).

In summary, a useful mooring when passing along the Nene, or I suppose as an overnight stay while watching Kettering Town FC, current residents at the football stadium (Kettering famously had Paul Gascoigne as their manager for just 39 days). Quite handy to visit Tesco's for provisions - but not recommended for holidays.

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