Ferry Meadows to Wansford (Nene Valley Railway)
6 miles, 2 locks
Thankfully yesterday's rain was absent as we set off this morning. Great timing for this boat which arrived just as we were leaving
On closer inspection it became clear that this is a boat we have been leap frogging with since Bedford Festival over a month ago. I hope they enjoyed their stay here.
It is a sharp left turn to rejoin the River Nene
and then under the handsome Milton Ferry Bridge which is over 300 years old. It can be accessed on foot from the Ferry Meadows park.
The first lock of the day was Alwalton
where we discovered the currents when filling the lock are somewhat fiercer than we were used to on the Great Ouse
and we found our first set of Friends of the Nene Moorings,
so we now know what sort of signs to look out for
A slightly less welcome discovery - the date that the next inspection of the lock is due - April 2017!
As we moved on past Peterborough Cruising Club, I took a very hurried photo and not the best, but I just had to capture the three pairs of jeans (Mum, Dad and little one??) put to a most unusual and imaginative use as flower planters!
Then came our first glimpse of the Nene Valley Railway - our destination for the day
Water Newton lock has to be one of the prettiest anywhere
You can see what effect yesterday's rain has had on the river height as it rushes over the top gates of the lock.
Sadly for them the boat on the right arrived 4 minutes too late as we had already shut the gates and emptied the lock. The boat's name sent me searching google for its origin/meaning
was a legendary bog spirit in Lincolnshire, who was believed to have the ability to control the waters and mists of The Fens of South Lincolnshire and The Carrs (similar to fens) of North Lincolnshire.
We passed the remains of a festival at Water Newton Mill - presumably 'Girls' 'Boys' and 'Disabled'? I have to say I have never seen colour coded loos before!
Our first of several sightings of this plane today at 11:52
It was dropping many of these
We arrived at Wansford just after midday to find three boats on the moorings
Cleddau was hovering under the bridge, we pulled up beside her to be told by a fisherman 'you can only come forward two more feet as I have a line in the water'! We were just discussing what we were going to do, when by some miracle all three boats moved off ! Someone was smiling down on us today.
We were moored by 12:25
the boats were secured, hair combed, we were sort of tidy and off we went to the station and look - yes another unexpected letter box!
There were just two trains operating today and neither were steam (they are banned at present in case of sparks starting fires). This was the one we were going on
The other was 'Helga' a Swedish rail car, affectionately known by the volunteers as a hot dog or a boiled sweet!
Our train was due to leave at 13:30. 4 senior tickets were purchased (no charge for Monty)
and there was time for a sandwich in the station cafe before we had to board our train. Surprisingly for a Bank Holiday Monday it was pretty empty, but that may have been due to there being no steam trains running. It did mean we had plenty of space to spread out to ensure the best shots of everything.
First stop was Yarwell where the train stops for 10 minutes or so, allowing the engine to be uncoupled, taken along the other track to then couple up to, what was then going to be, the front of the train
A young guard was on hand to guide the driver in using the same hand signals to measure distance Sue and I use on the front of the boat when winding in tight spaces
then another young, lithe slip of a lad creeps in between the engine and the carriage to effect the coupling
Then it was back to Wansford and out the other side on the way to Peterborough and the moment we had all been waiting for - a sighting of our boats from the train (we are easily pleased)
We were afforded a few views of the river
and surrounding countryside.
We all alighted at Peterborough where there is a small Railworld Museum with this as its centrepiece. This Research Test Vehicle Tracked Hovercraft was built in 1970 to test the speed of high speed hovering trains. I gather they had hoped to cut the journey time from London to Edinburgh to 90 minutes by getting up to speeds of 300 miles an hour. The only other remaining remnants of this experiment are some of the test track in a field near Earith. Some say that the experiment might have succeeded if the test tracks had not been built on unstable reclaimed marshland. It was donated to the museum in 1996. It can be seen from mainline trains which
run just a few metres away
Having just left Peterborough we did not feel the need to take the 10 minute or so walk back into the city. Apart from anything else, getting a latish train would not have given us time to do much, so any visits to the Cathedral will have to wait until another time.
The journey that took us around 4 hours by boat done over two days, took just over 20 minutes (including stops at stations) by train!
Once back in Wansford we had time to explore the site, which really is quite something with far more to see and do than I can possibly add to this post. The original station building had not long been purchased when we were last here in 2014 - it is looking in better state four years on.
There are obviously engines of all sorts on display including 60163 Tornado sporting
the RAF crest of RAF Marham - the home of the Tornadoes.
There is so much to say about this engine - it was built by a group of enthusiasts who got together in 1990 and made their dream come true to build a new steam engine a reality. This is their website, so go and have a look if you want to know more. It is usually runs on the mainline, but suffered a breakdown in April this year, so it is at Wansford for repairs. They are hoping she will be in steam again next month and their tours will be running again. Some of them are very tempting - the Christmas Border Raider even starts in our part of the world!
In the workshop is another very famous train - the original Thomas The Tank Engine
This entire operation is run by an army of volunteers - I was taken by the list of jobs to do:
The workshop has a huge overhead travelling crane named Diane after the wife of a very generous donor. It can lift weights up to 10 tonnes.
Going outside again, over to one side of the site is an old Travelling Post Office carriage which was the scene of 1963 Great Train Robbery. One end is now a second hand book shop, whilst the other end is the 'sorting office' as it was in the 1960's. There are even letters around for you to 'have a go' at sorting them into the correct pigeon holes. If I remember correctly I think the sorters were expected to sort between 1000 and 1500 letters per hour as the train rattled across the country.
This really is worth a visit even if you are not a train enthusiast. Nene Valley Railway has 1200 members and had 60,000 visitors last year. It is a testament to all the volunteers that it is as successful as it is.
Postscript - that 'Borders Raiders Trip' on Tornado was just too tempting and we are booked to go with two friends! There may well be a 'train' rather than a 'boat' blog in due course.