Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ten down, 27 to go

Day 2, Stanground Lock to Ashton Lock, River Nene

Poor River Nene, a totally inoffensive – even pretty – river, but I have taken agin it, and even though it has been green and pretty today, I still have not altered my view of it as a kind of boating purgatory, that must be passed through between the Middle Level and canal heaven. Partly, it is because it is boring. It isn’t even pretty in an interesting way, and it lacks buildings and settlements and boats. There are swans and geese and herons, and I confess that I did see my first ever woodpecker today, which was the high spot of the day.

Mainly though it is because of the locks, which are clearly the work of satan, designed to sap the will and induce despair in the most cheery of people. It’s not that they’re hard work – although some are – at least that provides a challenge and a sense of achievement. It’s not that there are lots of them – the Huddersfield Narrow has exactly twice as many, but is so, so much more rewarding and enjoyable. It’s not that they’re big or scary – though they can be, a bit. It’s not that they’re slow to fill or empty; they’re not. It’s that they’re just so bloody relentless. Every one has to be left empty, with the bottom gate open. I’m not sure which is worse; coming down like we did last year, when we had to fill every one before we could use it; or going up like we are now, having to empty every one after us. The worst one actually was the one that had been left full, so we had to empty it, go through, and then empty it again. They have standard V gates at the top, which are fine, but guillotine gates at the bottom, which take forever to open and close, whether electrified, or using the big, completely smooth stainless steel wheel specially designed so that it cannot injure the user in any way no matter how stupid they are, but an absolute pain to use.

Oh, enough moaning. We have made good progress today and are tied up in a nice spot just off the main navigation above Ashton Lock. I remembered it from last year. We came through Stanground at ten past nine this morning and travelled solidly for nine and a half hours. The engine temperature stayed at a lovely steady seventy throughout. What miracle could have wrought this? Perhaps taking the thermostat out this morning?

One other interesting thing I forgot to mention yesterday. John Shotbolt told me that Martin Duiker, who painted Warrior’s roses and castles, had been in touch with him, because he’d read that I’d written about him on here. It wasn’t Australia he went to after this lasy job, but Wales. Apparently he still paints, but not boats. Hope he does get in touch.

No picture tonight owing to lousy reception.

4 comments:

Mike said...

Only 27 to go? Surely you must mean 75 to go, to Cropredy? There - I knew that would cheer you up:-)

The good news is that they do get easier - me and Zulu just did Napton nine all alone in the twilight and didn't even break into a sweat.

Now celebrating being one day from Cropredy with a bottle of wine and a pizza from Braunston....you know what its like when you hit the town after 2 weeks on the Ashby!

See you at Cropredy then
Mike, Seth and Zulu

Derek and Dot said...

Hi Sarah
Don't entirely agree with you we loved the River Nene and although there are lots of locks they are unique in their own way and very picturesque. We left the river after 2 months out your way and enjoyed it apart from strong stream on the Great Ouse in June. The canals are a breeze after the rivers. We are now on the Shropshire Union Canal heading for Llangollen.
Take care Dot Nb Gypsy Rover

Martin said...

Wadenhoe, Ashton, Oundle, Lower and Upper Barnwell - a complete delight I thought, scenery both natural and man-made. My last trip on the Nene (up) was a joy; but then we did stop at every pub ;)

kevin said...

Disagree with you about the Nene -- maybe you rushed it? We spent 5 days on it. Yes the locks are a pain but lovely scenery, delightful places like Wadenhoe, Fotheringhay & Oundle etc (all with good pubs) make up for that. Thin on mooring spots but that does throw you together with fellow travellers -- we met some fascinating characters.