Levels. 20th August

Ashline Visitor mooring to Peterborough Embankment, River Nene

Pulling back

Alarm set for early o’clock, breakfasted and ready to push off before 8am. NB Per Angusta were ready too, as we were booked to go through Stanground Lock first they backed away and let us lead the way.

Soon we were at the sharp bend by Briggate Bridge. Coming the other way this had been really easy, but today with the increased flow it proved quite a challenge.

It may look like a handbrake turn

Mick swung the stern over to start to turn the 90 degrees. Across the bend Oleanna ground to a halt, silt below was stopping our progress right on the bend. We would need a run up, thankfully NB Per Angusta wasn’t too close behind. We managed to back off a distance and then went for it. Oleanna rose up, listed, the engine given more wellie to counter act the strong flow and try to ride over the silt. She worked hard and gradually worked her way free and around the bend. As we pulled away I kept an eye on the boat behind, the dazzling sun inhibiting the view.

It looked like they had a similar problem, getting so far and then having to back off again to give it another go, we hoped they got round as the bend soon vanished behind us.

A flash of blue, then another. We had an escort, two Kingfishers guiding us across the last few miles of the Middle Level. The pair darted ahead as soon as we got close, resting up to make sure we caught up again before they headed onwards. Then when we reached the end of their territory the braver of the pair sat and watched us go past before dashing back to find their mate.

A field of sunflowers all in bloom, cranes ready to move cranes, the brick chimneys and the aroma of chips, we were getting closer to Stanground. We were early.

We pulled in on the lock landing. Tilly checked the notices, no mention of cats, but woofers were certainly not welcome here. It looked good, could we tie it up for the rest of the day? The answer was no as Tina the Lock Keeper arrived ready to lock us through.

Tina ready for us, Alley Cat keeping an eye on our bow

The bottom lock gates were open, the top sluices/slackers/paddles open too producing the flow we’d been pushing against for the last couple of days. Tina walked up to the top gates, closed the slackers then came and waved us in requesting we passed her the centre line on the off side.

Oleanna was tied to a bollard, Mick told to put her in forwards gear and just to keep her there whilst the lock filled. A slacker was raised the level started to rise along with Oleanna. With just a couple of inches to go Tina released the rope. She warned us of a big build up of weed above the top gates, best course of action would be to power on through it, the wind last night had nudged most of it towards the electric sluice but there was still a big patch for us to push through.

Peterborough here we come

We thanked Tina, the gates opened, a distant view of Peterborough Cathedral just visible with a rainbow flag flying high. Time to leave the Middle Level for the River Nene. Yes there was a lot of duck weed, but we’ve been through worse at Selby. We were soon clear of the slightly browning weed, the first of the boats coming the other way just arriving, ready to go straight into the lock.

We passed another couple of boats, one NB Petroc. I knew I knew the name, bloggers, well the previous owners were bloggers.

Left please

With need of some shopping we turned left at the junction, pulling in soon where there was a gap before the services. Here it was obvious the level was up, the bottom step covered with an inch of water, but the mooring rings and bollards were still reachable. Mick did the gentlemanly thing and stepped off the back and paddled to pass our ropes through rings and we were soon moored up.

A touch of paddling required

We’d made it to the Embankment before 10am, got ourselves sorted and were in time to join the end of the Saturday morning Geraghty zoom. Then it was time to make shopping lists, Mick would head off to stock up on food whilst I got on with work.

Tilly was given the afternoon for shore leave. Although we got quite loud protests at our mooring skills. They really are a worry leaving a good chunk of watery outside between Oleanna and the proper outside! I had words then did my calculations and leapt to dry land.


Tilly jumped a good 10- 12 ft to the second dry step. The chap on the boat behind put his dog on a lead, owner and woofer watching Tilly’s every move and listening to her complaints. They tied this outside up before, it was rubbish then. Now it’s even more rubbish as it was so far away and a cat should not have to get wet paws, after all I’m told not to fall in! Well at least the trees have got more than a comb over now. Only one thing for it, more cat napping in my escape pod today.

Don’t know why I went to all that effort, it’s rubbish round here!

Mick headed back into town to pick up a few items for me, just in case things as I doubt there will be many suitable shops along the River Nene for model making supplies. He returned with black card and some silver gift tags, the later will be useful to suggest fairy lights.

During the afternoon I heard back from Abi regarding Petiti, the troublesome scene. One of the versions I’d sent to her yesterday had been based on my original idea and this is the one that came out on top! It still needs a bit more work, but it is the direction we will now be heading in. If only we’d stuck to it in the first place I’d have saved a lot of time, but that’s just how it goes sometimes.

One scene down, too many to go

Todays aim was to get Piccadilly Circus painted, by 7pm I’d achieved my goal, well apart from painting a locksmiths barrow. In previous years when painting the sets I’ve managed to draw the scenery out by hand. This year I will be seeking the assistance of a projector, overhead or digital, which will speed the drawing process up no end.

1 lock, 5.19 miles, 1 lumpy bend, 1 engine at full tilt, 2 Kingfishers, 1st through, 1 keeper cat, 1 left, 1 inch above, 9 inches higher than last time, 28 shaggy trees, 4-0, 1 pride city, 1 disappointed cat, 1st solution approved, 1 designers assistant, 1st scene painted.