Eight Years And One Month to the Day. 5th May

Water Ski Lake, Ditchford to Woodford FOTRN

We woke on a list, one of those that’s a touch unsettling, thank goodness we have a cross bed so neither of us had fallen out of bed. It wasn’t that bad really, with me at the bow to help spread the weight, Mick reversed Oleanna off the silt with ease.

Water water everywhere

What a lovely day, the sun was out and blue sky cruising lay ahead for us. For much of our journey today we’ve been surrounded by lakes, the water ski lake stretches on for what feels like miles to a retail park. Both horizons seem to have developments going on. The north side new houses and currently the south has fencing around it suggesting more houses.

Ditchford Lock

Today we’d encounter two more types of lock. The first Ditchford Lock which instead of a guillotine gate has a radial gate. Apparently there used to be several more of these along the river, but this is the only one that remains.

The bottom gate is curved and drops in at the bottom of the lock, all operated by fingers on buttons again. We should be keeping an eye out for other locks that have previously had radial gates as they have large downstream recesses that used to house the mechanism.

Caution! Hanging Girder!!

Then the longest reach of river we’ve had so far towards Higham Ferrers Lock, 2 miles! A boat was just coming into the lock from below so I tried to help close the gate behind it. Another boat appeared below too, but the chap said he’d shared with them and they’d said as he was in a rush to head onwards without them, he was a boat mover. Blimey that gate was heavy and took two people to get it moving. It turns out there had been a notice regarding it.

Lovely day

Up the boat came, but only so far. We went to check the bottom gate, the paddles had been left up! No indicator that we could find to show this. The last boat through had possibly been a hire boat (it had passed us this morning), possibly with someone wearing C&RT clothing, all speculation. With the paddles closed the boat came up and we could descend, by now the next boat was waiting below.

Lillian in Higham Ferrers Lock in 2014

Yesterday Mick had had confirmation texts and messages that his phone had been registered for strong stream alerts on the Anglian Waterways. Levels can change suddenly down here as the EA manage water levels. If there is flooding the locks can be reversed, making them into sluices sending water downstream fast. The locks are filled, top gates chained open and then the guillotine gate is raised, being on pins downstream of a lock is not a good place to be! Follow the link below to register for warnings.


Irthlingborough looks an interesting place.

Heading towards the next lock we also signed up to the Friends Of The River Nene Facebook group here there are discussions and information about the river, more than you get from the FOTRN website.

Old Station Road Bridge

A bridge had also stuck in our memory, Old Station Road Bridge, sits downstream of the New Station Road Bridge a concrete possibly 1920’s 30’s high bridge. The old bridge comprises of double and triple chamfered arches. Through the centuries it has been widened, Mid C14th and has date stones from 1668, 1829, 1754 and 1922.

Doing our best to line up

Here you take a specific arch and a boat heading upstream had come a cropper coming through, getting stuck at an angle heading them straight off into the reeds. We cut our speed and then slowed as much as we could to tread water, good job the flow wasn’t stronger. They sorted themselves out and came past, we now had to try to line up with the skew arch and from a position we’d not have chosen to be in. Mick deftly turned Oleanna and avoided adding any more groves to the well worn bridge.


A pit stop at the EA moorings was had for lunch and to empty our yellow water tank. Then we were off again to Irthlingborough Lock where we had a couple of gongoozlers watching our every move. It’s funny without a car my geography of England is now centred around canals and rivers, proximity to cities and towns only a twenty minute drive away feels like it’s on the other side of the country. The gongoozlers mentioned Stoke Bruerne, a 30 minute drive yet on a boat it would take over 16 hours. For us that would be a 4 day cruise!

Hawthorne Blossom coming out

The river at times now gets quite narrow with trees here there and everywhere, you have to keep your eyes peeled for on coming boats. We passed two more FOTRN moorings, at least one is likely to be stopped at on the way back.

That looks tidier than I remembered it

Upper Ringstead Lock was the place we had our very first night onboard Lillyanne. We tied to the end bollard of the lock landing and hammered a spike in for the bow rope. Today the lock landing looked tidier than eight years ago, but what hadn’t changed was the guillotine mechanism! This one is the first manually operated gate heading downstream.


This is one thing I’d not forgotten about the River Nene, the big wheel!

Once unlocked you spin the big wheel round and round and round and……. you’ve got the idea. The wheel may be big making it easier to move the guillotine, but the shear number of times you have to spin it is unrelenting! Thank goodness Upper Ringstead Lock is only shallow. I put one idea into action here, get Mick to drop the guillotine then I would raise it, splitting the arm ache between the two of us.

Lower Ringstead Lock

Soon we were at Lower Ringstead Lock, alongside Willy Watt Marina. This was the very first lock we ever did in Lillyanne and our first Nene lock. We didn’t remember it at all. Was it manual back then? Or fingers on buttons? I think we were so giddy at finally owning our own boat that nothing much was stored in the memory bank.

Looking back

Round a big bend and under the old railway bridge, we were soon passing Woodford Riverside Marina, a little arm off to the west. Well it’s actually two little arms with an island between them. This is where Lillyanne had spent most of her life before we bought her and where we collected her from 8 years and a month ago today. We’d had one trip that day by car to off load our belongings and pick up the keys, Merve the previous owner was a touch twitchy not having received the proceeds of the sale via the broker, he was also twitchy as her licence had expired. We then drove to Crick Marina to leave the car and our friend Lizzie gave us a lift back.

Woodford Riverside Marina

Merve seemed happier this time, hopefully the £1 the brokers send through to check it’s your account before sending the rest of the money (the following week in our experience!) had arrived. It was late in the afternoon, we untied and pushed off down the narrow channel between moored boats to the entrance onto the river. We had a crowd watching us. It was the first time Mick had been at her helm and the turn out under the bridge was very tight, yet he managed it without touching a thing.

St Mary the Virgin, Woodford

Not far 0.25km further on we pulled in at Woodford FOTRN mooring for the day. The bank was uneven for much of its length, a section having collapsed at some point, but we made the best of it and left plenty of room for someone else should they arrive, which they did later in the afternoon.

Not a bad mooring

The chairs came out and we both enjoyed the view as Tilly explored the area. Good friendly cover and the occasional small tree to climb. She however didn’t spot the Yoyo flies that kept her occupied and us amused when we were on the River Avon a few years ago.

Tilly on guard

I had a good catch up chat with David, he’s moved away from Newark now, he has good and bad days, but is doing okay.

I must not go on others peoples boats!

5 locks, 8.15 miles, 8 moving boats, 2 gongoozlers, 1 empty yellow water tank, 1 stop for lunch, 8 years 1month, 1 yellow boats previous home, 2 shop bought pizzas personalised, 1 neighbour, 1.25 star review! 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.