Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Boats, a plane and trains - 27th August 2018

Bank Holiday Monday 27th August 2018
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
A Tiddy Mun 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
Thomas has been with the Nene Valley Railway for a long time and has spent its entire life in Peterborough, having worked at the British Sugar Factory since it was made in Leeds in 1947.  The popular little blue shunting train was named Thomas by the Reverend Wilbert Audrey, the author of the 'Thomas the Tank Engine' books.  He is in the maintenance shed for his mandatory (for all steam trains) 10 yearly overhaul.

This entire operation is run by an army of volunteers - I was taken by the list of jobs to do:
I might manage some washing, cleaning and polishing!

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.

Near the entrance is a garden railway that I am sure enchants most folks from 2 to 102!  I am sure a lot of us would love to be the person with their finger on the controls!

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.

Monday, 27 August 2018

Lakeside Mooring 26th August

Sunday 26th August 2018
Peterborough to Ferry Meadows
4 miles,1 lock

Water was the first priority today - preferably down a hose pipe to fill the tanks, however, it was also leaking from the sky.

Once the boats were full we set off under Town Bridge to tie up on the railings just past the bridge on the right by Asda  to replenish the store cupboards.

Then it was full wet weather gear for the run to Ferry Meadows.  First you get a tantalizing glimpse of a sculpture park - as you approach the only sculpture visible from the river looked a bit like a chair
 It soon becomes apparent that it is the skeleton of a ship - well I think that is what it is.

Just the one lock today, but our first Nene lock of this trip.

The protocol on the Nene is to always leave the bottom electronic gate open.  This means the lock is always ready for you, but you do have to close the top vee gates, empty the lock and raise  the bottom gate before you can head off.  The instructions in the control box are quite clear and at least the wait for the electronic gate is only 2 minutes rather than the 5 to 6 minutes on the River Great Ouse

The top gates are manual - the clothing says it all about the weather!

This is the sign we were looking for.  A lake to moor on is very unusual for us narrow boats, but down

this long entrance

and there it is (please excuse the rain drops on the lens!)

Turn left and there are the two pontoons.  With double breasting it is possible to moor 8 narrow boats.  When we arrived here in full sun four years ago the pontoons were full of cruisers - the weather, as we expected, kept them away today.

We breasted up on the empty pontoon

The boat on the left moved off after a couple of hours, so Cleddau was able to move round

By that time the rain had all but stopped, so Sue, Monty and I went off to explore which is when we discovered the only downside to these moorings - the construction of the pontoon made life very hard for Monty, but by taking it slowly, spreading his legs and using his tail for balance he managed

One of my priorities before I left Peterborough this morning was to find a letter box - I was in luck as they had one in Asda, however, I need not have worried as there is one in Ferry Meadows as well!

So what is there to see and do in Ferry Meadows - well far too much to mention it all, so just a few highlights from my walk with Sue and Monty and then my longer walk with Monty on Monday morning.

The area is vast with four different walking routes.  Maps are available, but I did not always take the right paths - colour coded signs would have helped immensely.  However that did not detract from a great walk with so much to see.  I was amazed at how many people were already out and about at 09:00 on a Bank Holiday Monday. 

Sadly they have been affected by Dutch Elm disease.  The trees are checked regularly - there is a gap by this row of Elms by the cafe where one has been felled very recently

There are several different play areas - this was my favourite.  It is in total sympathy with its surroundings, but affords lots of fun for youngsters

Round behind it a family were having fun building a shelter (and getting lovely and dirty in the process!)

There is a lot of useful information about Nurturing Nature

insect hotels

and butterfly and bird houses/nest boxes

On Monday I discovered a dog agility area

A lakeside water sports centre

with a stunning cafe terrace overlooking one of the lakes

Picnic areas with barbecues

a turntable for the miniature railway.

A pontoon bridge

with stunning views across the lake we were moored on

On my return to the boats I came across people moving what I think is part of a climbing wall

Litter was noticeably absent and even better for boaters there are large bins that includes recycling - something that is sadly lacking on the River Great Ouse. The only boaters' rubbish in Peterborough had not been emptied for ages and was positively stinking. 

They even have bins for disposable barbecues

If you are coming this way do try to get a mooring here (24 hour) - there is a lot to see and mooring on a lake is just that little bit different!