How Much Do We Remember? 3rd May

Westbridge Pipe Bridge to White Mills Marina, River Nene

With Frank on standby to be our proxy a phone call was made to Scarborough Council. Mick got to chat to the nice lady who’d helped us eight years ago and through the years had made sure we’ve had the correct forms to be able to vote despite being homeless!

Last bit of canal for a while

Sadly this time she couldn’t help us. She could reissue our postal votes which would automatically cancel the previous ones, but unless one of us went to collect them from the office they would not return in time to be counted in the election. She did check that they hadn’t been returned, either to sender or falsely signed. No-one knows where they are, possibly they will be sat in amongst our post next time one of us goes to do a turn around, delayed in the post. Thankfully we strongly suspect the candidate we would have voted for will be elected, fingers crossed that is the case.

Time to get a move on. We dropped down the last of the Northampton Arm Locks at 10:30 and made our way under Cotton End Bridge the river banks to the west of the bridge overgrown, to the east moorings on large bollards. There would have been space for us here, but above on the arm was a better choice for Tilly, even though she wasn’t keen!

We headed in to Northampton Marina, pulling up on the pump out pontoon. When we bought NB Lillyanne we inherited an Abloy key which has been carried around for eight years. Only having one could be a mistake, one we’d rather not happen. The chap in the office was in the middle of a training course but was happy to sell us a key after we’d shown him our Gold Licence. He also sent us away with a comprehensive map and list of moorings along the river.

Back out on the river we timed it perfectly to arrive at Northampton Town Lock as a narrowboat was just exiting. We asked if we had to leave the gates open when we left, but they didn’t know. Yellow signs on the beams suggested we could leave either end of the lock open, but to lock the other set of gates. Should the river be in flood a red flag is flown and you should not proceed, this was certainly not the case today.

Manual gates at both ends of this, Rush Mills and Abington Lock. The paddle gear easy to wind up and down. Once up a white marker shows at the very top and as you wind them down a marker follows your progress until the paddle is closed.

EA chaps heading back to the marina

At Rush Mills an EA boat was just approaching so I helped them lock up. Below the lock landing has been having work done to it, on other lock landings areas are being left to rewild to help encourage insects and bees.

Abington Lock, now this one we remembered from eight years ago. Lillyanne’s EA licence had just run out so we were doing our best to get her off the river and onto C&RT waters before we were spotted. We did a full days cruise, but hadn’t managed to get as far as we’d hoped in day light. It being April Weston Favell pontoon had looked appealing but shouldn’t be used (May to September it’s a mooring, October to April only to be used when the river is in flood) in the end we moored on the lock landing at Abington, setting the alarm for first light, hoping no-one would see us, they didn’t.

The Washlands

Once through the barrage Northampton Washlands open out, here flood water can be held to limit flooding downstream a barrage at both ends. Hopefully we’ll be able to stop on the pontoon on our way back.

Waterway Routes map showing type of lock gates, lock landing locations and more

So far the locks had been a fairly standard set up with pointing gates (as they are called round here) at both ends, shown on the above Waterway Routes Map as two arrows. But at Weston Favell Lock we had reached our first Guillotine bottom gate, shown with pointing gates at the top of the lock and just a straight line at the bottom. Most of the locks on the River Nene are these type of locks.

These locks have to be left with the top gates closed, paddles closed and the guillotine gate raised fully. Like this they act as a weir, rising river levels come over the top of the gates and can flow out of the lock. On arriving at the lock, using your EA key (Abloy) you unlock the control panel. If heading upstream you bring your boat in and then lower the guillotine behind. Then you can lift the paddles at the top of the lock, some of these can be fierce so caution is required.

Lowering the gate to fill the lock

Once the lock is full open the gate, either exit or enter depending which way you are going. Close the paddles and gates and then empty the lock, no matter which way you are heading. To do this you press the raise gate button until the red light illuminates, this lifts the guillotine just enough to drop the level in the lock, maybe a few inches or a foot. Oleanna gets pulled forward a touch when this happens, but nothing alarming.

Then after a couple of minutes the red light goes out and the green one illuminates, you can then press and hold the raise gate button. This doesn’t sound too bad, in fact on your first lock or two it isn’t that bad, your thumb or finger aches a touch as it takes minutes then a few more minutes to fully raise. By the time you are onto your third lock of the day RSI is starting to set in.

He may be smiling, but I may not after the manual version of the locks!

With the guillotine gate now raised the boat can exit below getting dripped on and you can try to manipulate your thumb into working so as to close the control panel and lock it again. All fun and for those who have been this way before, I most definitely remember the manual versions which are still to come!

At Billings Lock we were following another narrowboat, the lady kindly dropped the guillotine in for us after they had left. They were liveaboards out for a trip from Northampton Marina, ‘Being live aboards you have to get out once in a while!’ the lady said. I asked how far they were heading today, thinking we’d have a locking partner. ‘Just here then we’re turning round to go back’. They must have headed into Billing Aquadrome, a very tight turn by the bridge. We may venture in there on the way back.

Have fun on the Llangollen

The spacing of locks is such that we decided that maybe we should have made a pack up for lunch today. Mick kept us at a gentle speed so that I could make us some lunch and a cuppa without missing too much.

Weir boom

Todays schedule had us mooring near Cogenhoe Lock. Some maps show there to be a mooring near the lock, our old Imray guide suggests mooring on the fields above, but we knew better as this was where we’d considered mooring eight years ago only to find nowhere obvious to pull up. The EA guide suggests ringing to see if there is any space, this must be down the weir arm and looked quite busy, so we’d not bother.

Patiently waiting for the lock to be ready

We then had a choice. Stop at White Mills Marina for the night, or push on to a Friends of the River Nene mooring at Hardwater Mill, possibly another hours cruising. Once we’d dropped down Whiston Lock Mick tried calling the marina, time was already ticking away and if we got a mooring with electricity we’d be able to empty the dirty washing drawer. There was no answer, just a message saying they were closed on Tuesdays. Mick left a message during which someone called him back. Eventually he got through, a lady was manning the phone, the marina office closed. We could moor there for the night £14 and she would see if she could sort electric for us. Brilliant! By now we were only five minutes away.


We turned into the narrow opening, followed directions we’d been given, turn right towards the Ukrainian flag, then head towards the office, pull in on the river side of NB Albert. This we found easily and reversed in, only to find it was a touch shallow.

The very nice lady came and told us where everything was and persevered sorting the electric out for us, £2 we’d see how long that would last us in this new world of higher prices!

White Mills Marina

A quick Cat Health and Safety check. Sadly there was an intermittent busy road close by and a possible ditch that would have stopped our second mate from venturing that far was very dry indeed! So not a natural barrier. I’d rather put up with complaints than not have a complaint ever again from Tilly. So much for moving the outside!

I may have to resort to wine if this carries on

As Tilly was stuck inside I took the opportunity to remove her collar and give her her new wormer. Last years tablet she’d been given seemed to disagree with her, resulting in tremors, so this time the vet gave me a spot on one. Just a dab of wetness on the back of the neck, that’s how they are sold to humans. They think that is fine! It most certainly is not!!! Nobody was touching me after that!

Washing machine was put to use, two loads, a dishwasher load and some electric heating before we headed to bed.

9 locks (1 canal, 8 river), 2 barrage gates, 7.52 miles, 0 postal votes, 0 proxy, £15 key! 4 boats met, 1 grey day, 1 ever so excited cat, 1 extreamly disappointed cat, 1 nice lady, 1 washing drawer empty, 2nd pork meal.

2 thoughts on “How Much Do We Remember? 3rd May

  1. Mike Todd

    I think you mean Abington not Abingdon – that would be a bit of a leap, even for a panto aficionado!

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