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Sunday 30 June 2019

Pushing on to Peterborough.

Another lovely nights sleep and not too early a start was a good way to start the day. As we were getting ready we heard a few toots on a steam whistle, so we knew an engine was in steam.

Later we heard the rumble as the engine reversed right past us on the bridge. It went as far as the points and came back forwards on the line closest to us. It was the 92 Squadron, 34081, Battle of Britain Class engine. It had been built in 1946 and it's first shed was Ramsgate where it pulled, amongst others, the Golden Arrow trains. In 1950 it was painted this Brunswick Green and named as it is now after the Spitfire Squadron that was based at Biggin Hill during the Battle of Britain. It was taken out of service in 1964 with 741,111 miles on the clock. It was sent to be scrapped at Barry but survived to be bought in 1976 and brought to the Nene Valley Railway for restoration. In 1998 it was back in full operation after spending £150,000 plus an awful lot of volunteer labour. By 2010 further work was needed and it was taken out of service. After £280,000 it was back in steam in 2016 and contracted to run on the NVR for the next five years.

 Warter Newton Mill was built for J. Compton in 1791. It was converted into flats and a shop in 1986. The four bedroom flats are no going for about £600,000!

The sun came fully out to make the passage into Peterborough all the better. The banks were tree lined mostly and this hid the approaching urbanisation.

Milton Ferry Bridge was built in the 1700's by the Fitzwilliams of Mitlon House that lies to the north.

The last lock of the day, and of the Nene is Orton Lock. It is quite attractive with the Peterborough Cruising Club moorings and sheds lining the bank. We had seen  three boats moving in the opposite direction today and another arrived as we were peeling off the lock landing.

Thorpe Meadows has a rowing course by the canal and along the length is a sculpture park. This was the only one we spotted from the river and it looked like a wrecked galleon to us.

The first three bridges on the approach to the city centre is a new footbridge that leads to the Railway Museum at the station of the NVR. The next is a branch line and the heavily girded bridge is the main line and was built in 1850.

The original Town Bridge was built in 1308 out of wood, and amazingly it stood the test of time, until 1872 when it was replaced by an iron bridge. This one didn't do so well and was replaced in 1934 by the concrete one that is there today. On the north bank is the Old Customs House that was built in 1790. It is now used as the HQ of the local Sea Cadets.

The Old Guild Hall in Cathedral Square was built on the site of an old Butter Cross in 1670/71 to celebrate the restoration of Charles II to the throne. The parish church of St. John the Baptist was rebuilt in the current position in the early 1400's.

The Great West Front is the iconic view of the Cathedral built around 1237, with the the small portico added later. Above the centre one is an effigy of St. Peter, with Sts. Paul and Andrew on either side. The church was a Benedictine Abbey dedicated in 966 and dedicated to St. Peter. It was enclosed by a wall that was called the Burgh, hence Peterborough!

The old Anglo Saxon church burned down and so was rebuilt by the Normans starting in 1118. It is a wonderfully light and airy building the round act at the far end was the original building, and the outside wall.

 Later the church was extended out from the original wall and this beautiful fan vaulting ceilings were added in the early 1500's.

It is just mind boggling to imagine how they could possibly envisage building this on a bench in 3D out of bits of carved stone, never mind making sure they all stayed in place!

Gilbert Scott and Pearson, no not he of the canal guide book fame, did a lot of alterations in the Victorian age but the overall affect is extremely pleasing. We also had a 90 minute tour that was a little too detailed but well worth the cost, free. We did leave a good donation though before you all boo me.

Saturday 29 June 2019

Happily in Heaven.

We had rather a lot of trying to organise things before setting off. Luckily the sun was shining and we had a lovely view whilst we were on the phone and hearing various tunes to cover different length hold. Just before 1100 we were off. Although it was sunny on the straighter reaches the wind was still pretty chilly.

The water meadows are wider here and have varied plantings of poplar and willow. The ground has evidence also of old bends of the river and ox bows.

It was still some way after Warmington Lock that were still seeing the lantern tower of Fotheringhay, maybe strengthening the idea that it was built as a beacon across the countryside.

The river is wide at this point with low banks and large meadows reaching out to the foothills of the flood bank. With the sun shining it was extremely peaceful.

Strangely Elton Mill has been empty since at least 1966 and was built around the mid 1700's and rebuilt in 1840. You would have thought that somebody would have taken on the this listed building by now.

Around every bend in the river there seem to be another spire of tower indicating another village nestled by the river, but on the higher ground. This is Nassington which has been there since the Roman times as useful minerals were found around, iron stone, limestone, clay and gravel.

Just another gratuitous picture of the Nene valley in the sun. 

This is Wansford that at one time was a bustling port. Nowadays it doesn't seem possible to more anywhere near the village. 

The Old Bridge at Wansford was the scene of the reason that Wansford is more usually known as Wansford in England. The story is that a bloke in the days of Charles I was sleeping in an haystack (haycock) as he didn't want to use inns etc as he was very worried about getting diseases from bed bugs, fleas etc. In the night and whilst still sound asleep the river rose up and washed the haycock down the river. It fetched up at the bridge and on asking where he was he was told Wansford. He was still confused by his lucky escape and sleep, that he is alleged to have said 'What Wansford, in England?'.

A little further downstream is the old A1. This bridge was built in 1929 and even though of concrete they have sort to embellish it some what as it marks the boundary Soke of Peterborough that was once part of Northants, but now Cambridgeshire.  The County of Huntingdonshire was lost in the boundary changes of 1974.

Just the barest of glimpses of Stibbington Hall can be seen through the trees. It is a magnificent Jacobean mansion that was on sale in 2017 for £3.5 million. In 1860 Capt. John Alexander Vipan lived here and he was a great naturalist and apparently kept an excellent collection of freshwater fish in a couple of greenhouses that were donated to London Zoo a few years before his death in 1939. This memorial was erected by him, but for what reason I can't determine.

A little bit further on and you pass under the Nene Valley Railway and just through the bridge there is an EA pontoon that had nobody moored on it, so we felt it would be rude to pass by. In fact we haven't seen a moving boat all day. Once moored up and lunch out of the way we went for a walk. True to our timing the refreshment room and gift shop were closed but we had a quick look about. It is the home of Thomas the Tank Engine, but this is not he.

Looking from the level crossing just before the bridge over the river and over the old Great North Road. At it's height there were 40 passenger trains a day, plus all the freight. As this little quiet was the Great North Road until 1959 you can imagine the disruption that this caused.

There is a footpath over the rail bridge so we went for a walk to the other side. The pontoon looks like it can accommodate 1.5 60 foot boats.

We went for a walk to Sutton to see what we could see. There was this part of a mushroom fairy circle. The temptation was to pick some for our tea as they looked just like 'the real thing'. Helen wouldn't let me as we are not 100% sure of them. There were some massive newer houses in the village, a lovely stone wall, a tin tabernacle that was been smothered by ivy and the little Church of St. Michael and All Angels that was looked. We enjoyed the walk in the sun but it would have been much better if they had had a pub too!

Friday 28 June 2019

Chugging along from Achurch to church.

Other than being a bit miffed that the pub was closed, and the almost constant drizzle, I really enjoyed looking round Wadenhoe village. We topped up with water before setting off.

The first lock was almost straight away. Despite the lack of sun the scene still looked like an old Constable painting.

It seemed even more like an old Master's painting when we got a bit closer and had the cattle in the field by the river too. The church at Achurch! is St. John the Baptist.

The setting Lilford Lock is pretty nice with the trees surrounding. It would be even better if the brief show of the sun had continued.

The quite ornate bridge after the lock leads to Lilford Hall, that can barely be glimpsed through the trees. It seems that it is currently up for sale for £50 million. Mind you it is Grade I listed with 100 rooms and 350 acres of parkland. The earliest part dates from 1495, with the majority being added in 1635 and 1750.

At Upper Barnwell Lock the old Mill. It dates from the 1690's but was changed into a restaurant  in 1960's and then was completely refurbished and altered into a boutique hotel with restaurant in 2008. It was flooded a few years later but won honours for the restaurant. However it was closed in 2014 and was up for sale for just under a million pounds.

After passing under the modern A605 road bridge you come to the old bridge leading in to Oundle. It is another at a skew to the river. The first bridge was sited here in 1329. There have been several iterations since then, 1570 and 1835 for sure as a tablet from the former date was incorporated in the later. The current bridge dates from 1912 but now has a weight limit on it of 3 tonnes as the Council cannot afford the £750,000 to repair it.

After Cotterstock Lock there is the strange church of St. Andrew's. The original part of the church was Norman but the seemingly out of proportion chancel was added quite a while ago as it was built as the largest private college in 1338!

As we have progressed down the Nene we have noticed that there are an awful lot of herons and swans.However the swans seem to have many fewer cygnets than last year.Whether this is to do with being on a river and the heavy rains of a week or two ago, or just the number of swans competing we don't know. Last year on the canals many families seems to have 5,6,7 cygnets. On the Nene  this year they seem to have 1,2 or three!

The view of St Mary and All Saints church at Fotheringhay is quite beautiful as you pass down the river. I understand that the octagonal lantern tower was actually used like a 'lighthouse' to navigate through the old Rockingham Forest.

Fotheringhay road bridge is another that is askew to the flow of the river. The original bridge was built in 14 98 and was wooden. It was rebuilt in 1551 and 1581. The current bridge was built in 1722 and has been closed often when damaged by traffic on the top, rather than passing through.

We moored up just through the bridge, just by the mott of the old castle here. Just out of shot is a lump of masonry and brick that was originaly from the bailey or castle that was on top of the mound, and now enclosed by railings. The castle is 'famous' as it was where Richard III was born in 1452, at the home of the Duke of York. It was Richard III who was found under the car park in Leicester and we saw his tomb where he was re-interred as we passed through earlier this year. It is interesting to know that the 3rd Earl of Albermale briefly took the castle in 1221 and he was the grandson of the founder of the town where we live, Hedon. The manor and castle passed to David, King of Scotland for about a hundred years and years after it reverted to the English crown it was the place that Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded, after three stokes of the axe, in 1587.

The church is far more than would be expected in a little village, as it is today. There is really just half of the church left from that started to be built by Edward III. Beyond the current chancel was another chancel and a lady chapel. The church has a beautiful ceiling below the tower and has large windows making the building very bright.

The box pews and pulpit with the many windows give it a very open look. The stone memorial imitates another similar on the opposite side of the altar, that are dedicated to Richard Plantagenet and his son Edmund who both died at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460 and re-interred here in 1476. On the other side is a similar tomb to Edward 2nd Duke of York who died at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.

The weather vane atop the church is a falcon with in a fetterlock. This was an early heraldic emblem of the House of York, before the White rose took over. A fetterlock was a 'D' shaped lock that clamped over the leg of a horse to stop it straying.

Thursday 27 June 2019

Wildlife and Wadenhoe and 'Red Wharf' too.

We woke up to rain but after sticking my finger out of the window, and checking our weather station (pine cone) I decided that as it wasn't raining at 0930 we should head off as there was little chance of much rain for the rest of the day.

These boaters had found a spot underneath the A14 bridge. I thought that they must be deaf, but actually right under the bridge it was pretty quiet. Mind you I would hate the lake of sun. In the distance are the nine arches of the Midland Railway line that went from Kettering to Huntingdon but closed in 1959. On the approach to the A14 bridge I saw a badger shuffling about by the bank before looking up and scurrying off.

More interesting than either of the earlier bridges is the Thrapston to Islip bridge. The original Medieval bridge was largely swept away at the end of the 1700's and rebuilt. It is another one that is built with no regard to the passage of water borne traffic as it is across the current. There is a water point and moorings just down a little arm right next to the left of the bridge. I'm not sure if there is room for you to turn once in or have to reverse out. All very interesting if there was a good current running.

As we passed through Islip Lock we saw a stoat scurrying about by the lock and then run across the bridge. Just after the lock I heard someone say 'I wondered if we would see you today' and there was 'Red Wharf' on the EA moorings and Sam! We pulled over and had a chat for half an hour. Sam regularly comments on the blog and had recently come across the Wash Boston to Wisbech. It was great to meet you both and no doubt we will now regularly bump into each other on the system.

The next lock was Tichmarsh and light rain had started but only just enough for me to put my waterproof for a short time. The old mill is now the home of the Middle Nene, now definitely called Neen since Thrapston

We watched a big bird hunting over the grasslands by the river and then watched as two of them perched in trees by the river. We thought they were Hen Harriers, especially as we were later able to compare them with several red kites that were about.

We were heading for Wadenhoe and had decided to more by the Kings Head and eat/drink there this evening. However we were out of luck as the pub is shut at the moment. The Kings Head is owned by the Wadenhoe village Trust and is to let for £1667 per month. It was mostly built before the English Civil War. We walked up to the church that is easily seen above the river. It is a 13th century church built on a 12th century previous model.

There are a couple 'green man' carvings on the pillars of the church, being suitably irreverent. 

On the road down to the Church, church hall and Kings Head are lots of really pretty houses. The thatched cottages date from the 17th and 18th centuries and the pantiled terrace of cottages were once four houses, now two.

Further up Church Lane is Caroline Cottage that was built in 1839 by Mary Caroline Hunt as the village school. I'm not sure how far it goes back but it closed in 1955 when there were only 6 pupils. It looks like it would accommodate many more anyway!

This looks like the lodge house for the drive up to Wadenhoe House. The village was in the Domesday book and was an estate that was owned by the Ward Hunt family from the early 18th century. The last of the family, George Ward Hunt and his wife Edna had no children but wanted to ensure that the estate and village did not just become a sterile and second home/holiday home village so set up a trust that owns much of the village. George took over the estate at the age of 3 when his father, also George, was killed in WWII. He died in 1993 and his wife in 2008.

This terrace was built in 1865 by George Ward Hunt senior as estate workers housing and were a real improvement for them. George Hunt senior is well known to us all today as he forgot his red dispatch  box on Budget Day, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer under Disraeli in 1868. This is why to this day when the Chancellor leaves No.11 Downing Street to go to the House of Commons he holds up the red dispatch box for the waiting press and camera crews.

The main house that had been sold off to help maintain the village and had become a restaurant/hotel/spa but has recently been sold again for around £2.2 million and to somebody from the BBC!! Judging by the number of decorating company vehicles outside there is a lot of work going on. Behind the building are the working areas. This dovecote was built during the Napoleonic Wars and had boxes for 500 birds. It seems that the top level was a laundry built in the Victorian era. It must have got a bit ripe in there in the summer.

The mill house was built on the site of  a 12th century mill in the mid to late 1700's. It was rebuilt in the 19th Century and then converted to a house in 1972.

As we walked around there was a drizzle falling but stopped by the time we got back to the boat. It will be a nice quiet mooring once more I should think.