Cruising to White Mills

On Easter Saturday we cruised on the Nene from Northampton to Earls Barton in glorious sunshine on the hottest day of the year so far with temperatures in the mid 20s deg C. There appear to be numerous cats living on boats in Northampton Marina including Morgan who has lost most of his tail!

Morgan, one of the marina cats at Northampton
One of the new bridges across the Nene

Wide open spaces

The changing skyline of Northampton

Travelling along the wide expanse of the river near Brackmills on a warm sunny morning was a delight, particularly after struggling through the reedy arm down to Northampton. It was quite on the river through the first two river locks and we only met our first boat on the move as we left Abington Lock (3).

Eight hazards at locks

One of the features of the EA rivers are the signs with hazard symbols. Eight hazards is a fairly modest number; electrically operated locks have more! Dangerous pastime boating on the inland waterways.

Northampton Washlands

Crossing the Washlands was less stressful than last time since there was plenty of water. The banks we thronged with walkers, cyclists and runners. Against the strong sun they looked like Lowry figures.

Weston Favell lock with guillotine gate

Weston Favell lock was busy. Two boats were coming upstream and a boat with an unpowered butty was breasted-up was waiting ahead of us. It was time to relax and enjoy the sunshine.

We eventually went through the lock with a similar-sized boat called Imagine (decorated with lots of quotes from John Lennon's song). At the next lock (Clifford Hill) there was a longer delay as a wide-beam boat made its way upstream with four boats waiting to go downstream. The breasted-up pair kindly let us past since they were very much slower than Imagine and Albert.

The crew of Imagine were moving to Billing Marina so we left Billing Lock first to help them negotiate their difficulty turn into the marina. As we left the lock, it was clear from the loud banging emanating from the rudder, and vibrations on the tiller, that something serious was caught around the propeller. Putting Albert into forward caused the banging - in neutral and reverse there was no problem. I was therefore reassured. A similar problem happened on the Trent & Mersey some years ago and it was caused by a pipe fender caught around the prop.

We unsuccessfully tried to moor up Albert just after Billing Bridge but it was too shallow but we eventually found a spot further on where we could access the bank, albeit with difficulty. It was then a matter of getting down the weed hatch. It is never a pleasant activity clearing the prop but at least the water was relatively warm and clear and it wasn't raining.

Temporary stop for clearing the propeller near Cogenhoe

The problem was, like before, a pipe fender caught around the prop. This time with its hard plastic mount attached - hence the alarming noise. The fouling was also compounded by some fabric. It took some time and exertions with a sharp knife to remove the debris. I did manage to recover the pipe fender intact and with little real damage - it will come in handy as a spare.

Weed hatch debris!

Getting back on board required judicious use of a plank. Around Cogenhoe Lock there were a few cruisers out for the day and also a few families with inflatable canoes. It was, after all, a great day for "messing about on the river". We got to White Mills marina late in the afternoon and used a visitor mooring overnight. The Skinner family who run the Marina gave us a warm welcome. They were having a busy weekend.


On Friday last week the weather was glorious and warm. It was change over day at the Alverchurch Boat base (ABC Leisure) and a group of boats arrived ready for their next clients. It was also a busy period for their crane. A new boat arrived at the marina for launching and two other boats were craned in.

Boats being craned at Gayton Marina

The journey down the 13 locks took around a couple of hours. Most of the locks at the top were set in our favour and as we approached the bottom of the flight we began to find boats coming up. It appeared from their stories that overnight some of the pounds had been left dry and a group of boats moored up by the M1. A CRT employee was working on one on the gates and repairing a step. Whilst chatting he mentioned the likelihood of restrictions being placed on the flight due to water shortage - probably closing the locks after 3:00 PM. With the little rain we have had recently that sounds sensible.

On the Northampton Flight

One of the lift bridges on the flight (always left open)

Passing under the M1

On the flight there is now some art including mosaics, but under the motorway there is mural that caught my eye. It it includes reference to all the major events that have happened in Northampton - the last being the 1998 floods. I have vivid recollections of  the floods since our village was effected and Towcester was inundated the day before the waters reached Northampton.

Depiction of the Northampton Floods

We paused for a cuppa at the bottom of the flight and then made our way gingerly though the reedy section towards Hunsbury and Northampton. A fair few boats were on the move enjoying the unseasonably warm holiday weather.


Carlsberg Brewery

We got to Northampton in the early afternoon and moored up for the night at the well equipped Northampton Marina. We once again visited Les Olives Tapas Restaurant in the town where we had a great meal, complete with musical accompaniment - the Spanish guitarist was brilliant.

Les Olives

Blisworth Arm

Last week moved Albert onto the River Nene. The first stage was to pack up the boat and head for the Northampton Arm. We left Kingfisher last Thursday with misty skies but the sun soon burnt through.

Leaving our mooring
We had a good run up to Stoke Locks and found a very obliging crew waiting in the bottom lock. We had an efficient run up the flight with other boats coming down and even had the help of two CRT Volunteers. It all made for a good start for our trip down to Earls Barton.

Pumping from the River Tove

Stoke Bruerne Top Lock

With the Easter School holidays, Stoke Bruerne had a good number of visitors and trip boat Charlie was busy. The boat we shared locks with had not been this direction before and we a little uncomfortable about Blisworth Tunnel. We tried reassurance and they followed us through although at some distance behind. We met five boats coming the other way through the tunnel so our passage was slow. We also hung around after leaving the tunnel to make sure the following boat was OK.

We stopped for the night opposite Gayton Marina. The road noise from the A43 was a bit intrusive but mooring there did mean we could have a good start on the Northampton Flight on Friday morning.