Is That Hair Real? 10th September

Manor Farm to Lock 17 Grand Union, Northampton Arm

Another early start, well we’d had a boat come past us last night and we didn’t want to loose out on the lock, maybe more than one being in our favour. We pushed off just before 8am, our neighbour showing no signs of rising.

Approaching Doddington Lock

Doddington Lock was in our favour, at the end of the lock landing on the top side a weasel frolicked in the grass, it’s white tummy giving away it’s location. For the last few days every now and again we’ve heard clouds of geese coming over head and wished them all to continue onwards with their journey.

Heavy picnic benches

New benches have arrived on four of the FOTRN moorings. These heavy duty benches came about from a legacy that was given to the IWA with the proviso that it went towards improving the River Nene and a great addition they are.

Earls Barton Lock sat empty for us, followed by White Mills. Does anyone know what the two large springs were for in the lock chamber, close to the guillotine gate? Was this the other lock that used to have a radial gate?

Finesse built

The Crick widebeam winner from 2019 sat on it’s mooring, a Kingfisher using it as a perch. Rumour has it that it will be having a refit and going on the market in the not too distant future. So if you fancy a 70ft boat with hydraulic wheelhouse this could be for you.

Whiston Lock

Whiston Lock, the last of those that have had problems in the last few weeks. This is where the duck weed started and what would be the weekend traffic coming towards us. First a small cruiser, recently bought and being moved down to Titchmarsh Cruising Club, the chaps on board were hoping they’d make it today!

At Cogenhoe Lock there was a narrowboat sat in the lock, two people stood around chatting. Was something wrong? One of the fellas had been to ask at the caravan park and was telling the chap with the boat that the lock was broken, ALL the locks were broken! Well that we knew was untrue. Apparently the mooring a short distance upstream was full of boats waiting for the locks to reopen! There was no power to the panel, that bit was true.

Putting the doom-laden news to one side, I started to look at the immediate problem. The chap with the boat was new to the River Nene, was everything closed as it needs to be for the power to be on. Simple answer was, NO! One of the paddles was just an inch or so raised. Once this was down the panel worked a treat. I offered for the old chap to be on his boat and I’d lift the gate, but he’d rather do it himself and keep an eye on his ropes. His boat, his lock, his way.

Harry in amongst the berries

As the lock emptied the chap who’d been full of miss information introduced himself, Alex. Was it one o’clock yet? ‘No just gone ten’, I said. ‘I’ve got to last till midday! It’ not easy you know.’ ‘Is that hair real?’ What an odd question, what an odd man. Eventually he headed off having supposedly seen his wife.

Attention came back to the matter in hand, the lock was now empty, just a simple matter of raising the gate to let the boat out and Oleanna to come in. But hang on the gate wouldn’t do anything. The lights were on?! What was going on! Oh blimey were we going to need to call the EA out? I tried, the chap with the boat tried pressing the button, still nothing. Today had been going really well up to now.

Then all of a sudden the chap with the boat twisted the emergency stop button. He presses it to stop the gate from lifting, which it does anyway! Now the gate could be raised and everyone could be on their way again.

As we passed the weir cut we looked down it. Yes there were boats, but they were all the normal moorers there. The chap with the hair comment hadn’t said one word of truth, I suspect he wasn’t even called Alex!

Passing Billings Aquadrome there were numerous supped up cars, this weekend was a gathering of such cars, many painted bright vibrant colours with their engines out on display above their bonnets.

Nearly went the wrong way!

At nearly every lock now towards Northampton we’d meet a downstream boat just as I was about to close the top gates. One boat was heading back to March from a summer on the canal network. Another recently bought and heading to its new mooring at Ditchford, we met at the first electric guillotine gate. They’d got this far last weekend then realised they didn’t have a key to operate the lock.


We followed and were chased by rowers across the wide water before turning off the river and passing through Weston Barrage. Back to manual locks now, windlass operated at both ends. Mick made the mistake of not tying the bow up whilst waiting for the lock to empty at one of them which necessitated dropping the paddle as Oleanna’s bow stretched across the cut and listed alarmingly. However this turned out to be the first major test for our drawers that Frank had added magnets to earlier this year. One and a bit draws, not what would have been a five drawer moment last year!

The narrow section of river with all the duck weed felt like we were going through swamps. Soon back out onto the river properly, we followed the directions left on a bridge and reached the last of the River Nene locks.

Northampton Lock

A weedhatch check was needed which was done on the lock landing. As I stood with the lock empty awaiting Oleanna a chap came along muttering to himself.

Alcohol induced confidence

He then proceeded to climb up on the top gates where there is no walk way as there is a perfectly good bridge at the other end. Once stood on the gates he balanced himself to where the two vee gates meet in the middle and then proceeded to throw slices of white bread for the geese, thank goodness the gates are quite chunky as his balance was being assisted by drink! Thankfully he continued to cross the gates without any incident and then was encouraging a goose to take a slice of bread from his baseball cap, all too close to his face for me to watch.

Last lock on the Nene

Last lock done, we pootled through Northampton. Many people book themselves into the marina here, or hope to get a mooring on the embankment. We turned to meet the bottom lock of the Northampton Arm, a narrow C&RT lock, armco, small gates. Could we remember how to work these after all we came down this lock almost 19 weeks ago!

We were soon up the lock and the last space by the pipe bridge was free, phew! Lunch then a visit to Asda for some milk, bread and a new computer mouse. Then a walk a bit further to pick up a couple of parcels. 80 meters of fairy lights and a magnetic pole.

One half of the lights

Tilly was now given shore leave for a couple of hours. Not that she was that impressed with the outside, too many woofers, zero friendly cover just a bank that needed peering over and calculations to see if she’d be able to climb up some pipes. Thankfully she didn’t try!

Look out!

12 locks, 9.53 miles, 1 not broken lock, 1 head of real hair! 80m, 45cm, 1 fabric shop not open, 0 art shops, 2 hours shore leave, 2 many woofers, 1 cartoon cat, 0 decision.

6 thoughts on “Is That Hair Real? 10th September

  1. Anonymous

    Excellent lock solving skills.
    Phew off the river.
    Very curious about all these Xmas lights!
    Your going to be at a cruising club somewhere entering a best dressed boat competition?

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