pictures worth a thousand words

river Nene reminiscing

We've been incredibly privileged during the past nine years to navigate the vast majority of the UK Inland Waterways. Initially for two periods of six months in our first narrowboat (NB) Northern Pride. For the past six years living aboard NBAreandare.

Over the 2015 August Bank Holiday weekend, the Inland Waterways Association held the Northampton Festival of Water, primarily to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Northampton Arm. This waterway connected the now Grand Union Canal to the River Nene, providing a route to the East Anglian waterways, culminating at The Wash.

We decided to pay to be one of only two boats booked to trade at this festival, having not previously experienced these waters.

Or so we thought...

During our descent of the 17 Northampton Arm locks, Barry experienced a flashback, and realised he HAD seen a glimpse of these narrow locks during his UK 'Overseas Experience', in the sweltering summer of 1976.

That one mini-memory evolved into a long-held fascination of the canals of UK.

It attracted us here from New Zealand - initially in April 2007.

A Waterway of Infinite
Variety

We were extremely thankful we chose to venture onto the River Nene. A splendid waterway, well worth making the extra effort required - for a variety of reasons.

The experience wasn't cheap. However we felt the £54   one-week cost of a river licence for the waterway (which   the Environment Agency kindly made two weeks for   festival goers), £10 for an essential lock-key, plus the   festival fee for both Barry and I as separate traders, was justifiable. While it's crucial we continually find ways to sustain ourselves financially, we've never wanted that to be the overriding feature of our plans. Otherwise our chosen lifestyle would become restrictive, repetitive and tinged with regret. Rather than one filled with freedom, flexibility and fun.

If boaters don't hold a 'Gold License', the current 2019 fee for just seven days on the Nene is £59.04. Rather costly considering the time it takes to cruise any distance. We deduce for that reason alone it's one of the less travelled waterways.

There are 38 wide Guillotine locks between Northampton and Peterborough. Continuing on from there, you'd eventually reach the Dog in a Doublet Lock, taking you out to The Wash and tidal waters. We sadly didn't even get as far as Peterborough this time.

At the bottom of each lock there's a guillotine gate.Many are opened manually turning a large wheel 75 times (hard work!); others are electronically operated at  the press of a button. The gate must be left up after exiting, so at every lock you're performing the  manoeuvre twice. Consequently each one is time-consuming. The 7mph 'speed' limit sounds as though you could travel fast and far - but we found we hadn't moved much before another lock appeared.

Whilst operating Western Favell Lock, Sandra found herself in the company of a cute-looking wild pony - little did she know it was infamous for its intense dislike - or maybe fear - of humans. It attempted to take a chunk out of her leg, and she had to be very assertive to extricate herself from its territorial defence. Beware!

We found suitable moorings challenging to find - never mind  pump outs! If only we'd done more
'homework' before our journey. Like reading the amazing dedicated blog page from NoProblem. (Check out the link at the end of this article if you're considering venturing to the Nene.) Also the organisation Friends of the River Nene (FOTRN) now have nine moorings dotted along the route, which they're hoping to expand. We'd bought a pump-out token at Northampton Marina on the way out, but didn't find anywhere we could use it until we returned.

Unsurprisingly the River Nene has a much longer history than the canals, having been  used since the Dark Ages. Along the route heading to  Peterborough are a veritable plethora of impressive historic villages. At times it felt as though we'd done an 'Outlander', and time-travelled hundreds of years. Remarkable churches, an ancient dovecote, thatched chocolate-box cottages, magnificent mills. The  quaint names conjure up images of long ago - Cogenhoe, Wadenhoe, Oundle, Fotheringhay.

 

King Richard III was born at Fotheringhay Castle in October 1452, and Mary Queen of Scots beheaded there in 1587. Sadly the castle fell into disrepair not long after, and was dismantled in 1628. Only a mound of earth remains as evidence of where it stood. Well, that and a pub called The Talbot Inn at Oundle, which used the removed stones in its construction. It's a spectacular mooring close to the Church, but the local farmer may come and prise £4 off any boater staying near the mound overnight, or £2 for a shorter visit. Be warned!

 

During our journey, we'd arranged to hire a car from Peterborough, through Enterprise, as Sandra had a pre-arranged facepainting event near her mum in Worcester. We discovered we couldn't possibly arrive there in time. This incredible company picked up Sandra, and all her facepainting gear, from a small hamlet called Elton - a 30-minute drive away!

Barry continued the journey alone, getting as far as Wansford, returning to Wadenhoe to meet Sandra a few days later.

He adored a quaint tale from Wansford:

According to local folklore, the name Wansford-in-England originated when many years ago, a local man fell asleep on a hayrick. Upon awakening he found himself floating down the River Nene. Asking a traveller on the riverbank where he was, and upon hearing the reply “Wansford”, asked, “What Wansford in England?!”

The name amusingly stuck.

 

As you can hopefully picture, to really appreciate this delightful waterway, we'd recommend taking your time. In no way did we do it justice. We merely scratched the
surface of the abundance of delights along this historic river.

Maybe it's worth buying a Gold licence, meandering
slowly, and soaking up the gifts on offer? You could even cruise to The Wash, turn left, and hug the coast up to Boston - the subject of one of our previous articles.
Boston that is. Not the Wash. Maybe one day ...

Useful Information:


Barry and Sandra have lived aboard their 60ft narrowboat, continuously cruising, since April 2013. Their blogging journey began in April 2009, after arriving from New Zealand for the first of two six-month adventures living on 'the cut'. Barry spent 35 years as a professional photographer in Gisborne, NZ.
Contact details: Call: 07456 001 553  Email; 
Website link;  Twitter: @nbareandare 


BELOW YOU WILL FIND BARRY & SANDRA'S PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED ARTICLES

revisiting the tidal trent (summer 2018); the river severn to gloucester quays (spring 2018)


revisiting the tidal Trent,

Cromwell to Torksey - Lincoln and Boston

 

The Tidal Trent

We first ventured onto the tidal Trent during our inaugural six-month narrowboating experience in 2009. Naively, we had little idea of the challenges of navigating a tidal river. Though to be fair, Barry says he did. As a laid-back Kiwi, unlike me, he rarely worries or over-thinks. I vividly recall being confronted by a gigantic gravel barge sitting low in the water as I turned a corner. Thankfully for us (though sad for the industries they supported), the gravel barges stopped navigating the river in 2013, the year we returned to England.

Listening to fellow boaters over the past five years, it seems many avoid this section of the inland waterways. Despite a hair-raising experience when Barry misjudged the flow and our previous boat Northern Pride 'crashed' into the wall adjacent to Keadby Lock, earlier this year we were both keen to venture back down the river and re-visit places of interest along the route. 

Richard Parry CRT steering boat on river TrentFrom Newark to Saxilby we had the pleasure of Richard Parry's company, the CEO of Canal and River Trust. He confidently undertook most of the driving. There are good moorings, a number of pleasant pubs, and a railway station in this pleasant village.

Journey times on the River Trent must be planned around tide-times. Lock passages are booked in advance with the respective Lock-keepers, who phone the next lock-keeper in advance so they know approximate timings, and would raise an appropriate alarm if boats don't arrive as expected.

With more experienced eyes, and time to explore, we were enticed by a melange of memorable places along the route. It's recommended to split the journey north into short bursts rather than all at once:

  • Cromwell to Torksey (and continuing to Lincoln and Boston)
  • Torksey to West Stockwith (and the Chesterfield Canal)
  • West Stockwith to Keadby
  • Keady to Trent Falls - though this section is definitely not for the amatuer or feinthearted, and requires a VHF radio and ability to use the equipment

 

Torksey Lock on River TrentA sharp right into the well-maintained Torksey Lock provides access to the 11 mile-long Fossdyke Canal. Many publications state the canals of Britain began at Worsley, thanks to the unrequited love of the Duke of Bridgewater. However, the Romans built the Fossdyke Canal reputedly in 120AD. Similar to their roads, this waterway is as straight as a dye for miles. The Danes also used the waterway when they invaded England, and the Normans to carry stones to build Lincoln Cathedral. 

fossdyke canal

The magnificent spires of the Cathedral can be seen for miles. In 2009 we chose not to visit the Cathedral or the Castle, being on a strict budget we didn't prioritise them in our itinerary. This time we decided to make them essential, limited budget or not!

Linclon CathedralWe were delighted to discover we could save 20% buying tickets to visit both historic buildings (the cheapest time to see the Cathedral is on a Sunday, when entry is free, though with some restrictions). In March the cost was £16 each - sadly it's since increased to £17.20. For the Cathedral a return visit within six months is included - which turned out to be advantageous as we took the better part of a day just marvelling at the Castle, recently restored at a cost of £22 million. We were mesmerised by the stories in the jail, fascinated by tales walking the Medieval Wall, and amazed at the vault containing the Magna Carta - one of only four remaining. King John signed this founding document in 1215 under duress, and attempted to destroy all evidence of it after consulting with the Pope to have it annulled. 

Lincoln Castle

In 1976, a little known story about the Magna Carta occurred - auspiciously the same year Barry first travelled to England as a 20-year-old kiwi. The United States of America requested to borrow a copy as part of their 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. The Lincoln copy was chosen, but transporting and insuring such a precious cargo seemed problematic. It was uninsurable. No commercial routes were viable. The solution was to take it by Vulcan Bomber from RAF Waddington. A member of the crew who retrieved it safely from the USA at the end of the year, is now a narrowboater - his partner informed us it was all top-secret and highly guarded. At the end of the exercise the crew were presented with a wine goblet each, with the cathedral etched on it, and 'Magna Carta, San Francisco - Lincoln, 1976', etched on the base.

Lincoln Cathderal

 Lincoln Cathedral from Lincoln CastleLincoln Cathedral from Lincoln Castle

Lincoln Cathedral, originated in 1072, and is magnificent inside and out. It's suffered fire and earthquake damage, the collapse of the central tower in 1237, and Oliver Cromwell consciously caused significant damage during a siege in 1644. Unsurprisingly there's continuously restoration work being undertaken. 

Inside Lincoln Cathedral inside Lincoln Cathedral - rick Wakeman concert

The acoustics within are remarkable. We stayed for an Evensong service, enthralled by the angelic voices of the Choir, and fortuitously found ourselves at the right time and place for a sensational Rick Wakeman concert the following evening.

 

Lincoln Empowerment Sculpture over River WithamLincoln to Boston

We suspect this is another route less travelled, maybe even more so. Having done it we'd highly recommend it. Not necessarily for the River Witham, which, like many larger waterways can be bland and uninteresting, but for the possibilities along the route, and Boston itself. In addition we saw an abundance of wildlife and birds, such as white egrets, we wouldn't normally see on a canal.

TYPHOON JET OVERHEADBarry walked from the mooring to the end of the runway of RAF Coningsbury  and watched in awe as thundering Typhoons landed. 

He also visited nearby Woodhall Spa, where 617 Squadron RAF 'The Dambusters' began their history-making flights in WWII . There's a memorial in the town, as well as various pubs where the crews drank. Barry's father fought for the British in WWII, so he's particularly interested in these places.

THE STUMP IN BOSTON

Boston's skyline is dominated by the 'Stump', which at 272 feet and 6 inches is reputedly the highest church spire in England. The Stump's official name is St Botolph's Church of the Parish of Boston, and was used as a marker in World War II for British airmen to navigate back to base in Lincolnshire. We hoped to climb to the top and marvel at the panoramic views across the fens, especially as we walked there on a cloudless day. 

Notices nearby sadly stated it was closed on a Sunday, so we left most disappointed. The following day, in stark contrast, it was closed due to the danger of slipping on frosty stairs! Barry discovered to his annoyance it WAS actually open on Sundays, from 1pm to 3.30pm. Such a shame they openly advertised differently, and we missed our only opportunity as we left Boston the following day. Unlike Barry he made his downhearted feelings known, so we're hopeful they've now updated the notices! If anyone's visiting, do let us know.

Interestingly, in 1630 the Puritan emigrants, who followed the Pilgrim Fathers to found a new Boston in USA, were linked with the church.

The Beast from the East

Frozen moorings on the River TrentOur return journey to Lincoln and back onto the tidal River Trent was delayed somewhat due to sudden severe weather conditions, and we found ourselves frozen in and marooned on moorings at Bardney for a few days. The isolation of the area was a challenge, but also breathtakingly beautiful. Thankfully a friend living nearby put out a plea for help from anyone with a four-by-four, who brought us much-needed provisions of essential groceries and coal. 

Nothing to do then but sit and enjoy living on a narrowboat and be thankful we didn't have to travel anywhere for a while ...

 


The River Severn to Gloucester Quays

Much of our leisurely travelling time has been undertaken early in the year, due to trading commitments since the spring of 2014. Last April, returning from a month in New Zealand, we chose to venture southwards to explore at Gloucester Quays - and experience what the Gloucester Sharpness Canal had to offer. Those were in themselves a joy to visit. An additional, unexpected thrill, was the picturesque and fascinating sunken ships on the banks of the River Severn, able to be extremely easily accessed from the Canal. 

The River Severn is reportedly the longest river in Britain, flowing for 220 miles emerging from the Welsh mountain Plynlimon (try saying that after a glass of home brew!), and dropping 2,000 feet over its course before merging as The Severn Estuary following the second Severn crossing just before Bristol. It also boasts the highest tides in the world, amazingly reaching up to 50 feet. There’s fascinating online footage of surfers taking advantage of the spring tide and its famous Severn Bore . For years Barry has longed to travel from Portishead to Sharpness, or the reverse, on a narrowboat, though unsurprisingly I’m not in the least keen. Maybe one day those dreams will materialise; never say never ...

As an aside, the name of the Severn apparently derives from the Celtic word ‘Sabrinnā’ , and was subsequently immortalised by a mythical story of a nymph named Sabrina, who legend regales drowned in the river. This vast body of water not only flows from Wales to England, it also forms a boundary between the two countries. It’s magnificent to gaze in awe as the landscape reinvents itself with each changing tide. As Geoffrey Chaucer said, and something we wholeheartedly agree with, “ Time and tide wait for no man. ” We have no doubt that had we not been living on a narrowboat, cruising the Inland Waterways of England and Wales, we would never have experienced mesmerising sights such as these.

Gloucester QuayWe’d previously cruised only as far as Tewksbury on this river in 2009. Arriving into Gloucester Quays eight years later, we were immediately impressed by the vastness of the basin, and the way the city openly embraces waterways related businesses and welcomes boaters. There’s a National Waterways Museum sited here, though sadly we didn’t manage to fit that into our schedule. There’s a café boat. Stand-up paddle boarding lessons. Plenty of visitor moorings. And a brilliant buzz from a variety of thriving Quay-side businesses.

After exploring the area for the time we had available, Barry continued on cruising down to Sharpness on the Gloucester Sharpness Canal, while I jumped on a train to fulfil commitments on land to family and facepainting. Many years ago this waterway was used for transporting grain and timber up to the Midlands, and industrial products down and out into the world. 

Returning a week or so later, via a circuitous public transport route (a frequent occurrence for me!), I re-joined Barry at a rather remote looking place called Hinton Turn . It was a lengthy but fascinating walk back to where Areandare was moored, crossing over the large lock at Sharpness where brave and fearless narrowboaters emerge from their heroic tidal journeys. One-day maybe Barry ...

Ladies of Purtpn; Purton WrecksThe Ladies of Purton

The following day we moved a short distance up the canal to moor at Purton, and watch the tidal shifts of the River Severn. We also made time to wander around the Purton Ships’ Graveyard , more commonly referred to as The Purton Wrecks , or my favourite is The Ladies of Purton - which I recently zoned in on listening to Jeremy Paxman’s ‘Four Rivers’ TV Channel 4 documentary. Boaters are in a prime position to visit this fascinating place, as the canal hugs the river for a short distance, and there’s sparse nearby vehicular access.

There’s known to be an assortment of 81 vessels on this Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), which were deliberately breached and wrecked, beginning in the 1840s up to the 1950s, to enable them to become and remain partially submerged here. It sounds bizarre, but the purpose was to save the River Severn from erosion, and importantly protect the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal (there’s only a sparse slither of land between river and canal), and they’ve unwittingly evolved to become the largest collection of maritime artefacts on the foreshore of mainland Britain. That’s quite a mouthful! 

LADIES OF PURTON, PURTON WRECKSWalking around these remains was surreal, and thought provoking. We’ve long held some sort of morbid fascination with graveyards, though obviously of the human kind, and this felt like a watery extension of that. Human carcasses generally have engraved stones accompanying them, portraying a miniscule snippet of the story each life. At Purton , thanks to dedicated work to expose and record the wrecks’ remains, Archaeologists’ have been able to identify and place the history of each one nearby for posterity. A local Maritime Historian Paul Barnett set up the Friends of Purton group in 2008, and lists each coaster, schooner, trow or barge on their website. There’s even a ‘Wood Barge’ called Barry! Their mission is to get English Heritage recognition and listing, to increase exposure and protection.

Sadly however, it’s not known how long this historic collection will last. The vagaries of the tides have helped lodge them as they fill with silt, which was of course intentional, but it’s also burying them deeper day-by-day. Horrifically the other main challenges are human destruction of the negative kind. Mindless graffiti, people ripping off timbers for firewood and alfresco barbeques (unimaginable!), and it’s reported some have stolen timber for local house construction! How appallingly short-sighted and selfish can some people be?

Barry captured some splendid shots of the artefacts, though sadly we didn’t record which image belonged to which vessel. Maybe someone reading could identify them?

purton wrecks   

    I believe picture number two was a boat called ‘Dursley’, bearing the name of a nearby Cotswold town. Constructed in 1926, in its heyday, this vessel transported up to 40 tons of timber along the Sharpness to Gloucester Canal. It was beached at Purton sometime in 1963.

Each wrecked boat is listed on the Friends of Purton website, with as many details of their history as has as yet been discovered. I’d recommend reading about them before visiting, and treating each one with the reverence and respect these previously hardworking ladies deserve.

Links:

Gloucester Quays

Friends of Purton

The 81 vessels

Jeremy Paxman ‘Four Rivers’ documentary episode 2 (13 minutes in) 


Introducing Barry Teutenberg and Sandra Walsh

Barry was born in Gisborne on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand, living there all his life apart from 6 months in 1976 when he travelled to England with some friends and initially caught the 'boating bug' after spotting narrowboats near Northampton. He ran a successful photography business for 35 years, before selling it in 2008 to pursue his dream of travelling the Inland Waterways of Britain by narrowboat. Having spent many years photographing weddings, schools, family portraits and commercial work, Barry loved capturing the essence of the canals, rivers, and places along the way.

Sandra is a qualified nurse and midwife, having practised in a variety of roles and locations for 35 years. She fulfilled a long held dream immigrating to New Zealand in January 2005, and met Barry in January 2006. Without sharing the whole story, he surprisingly persuaded her to return to England for six months in 2009 to buy and live aboard a narrowboat! So the saga began. That definitely hadn’t been on her ‘bucket-list’ agenda ...

Barry and Sandra married (twice!) in 2009. Firstly in England on the roof of their narrowboat in September, then in New Zealand on Wainui Beach in December. Sandra chose to retain her maiden name and vice versa. Between them they have four grown up children, in NZ and UK - as well as two gorgeous grandsons in England.

Over two six-month periods in 2009 and 2010, Barry and Sandra travelled almost 2,000 miles on the waterways of England and Wales, following which they sold their beloved 'Northern Pride' . After much thought and planning, in March 2013 they sold, packed or gave away the majority of their ‘stuff’, and returned to England 'indefinitely', so long as Barry could obtain a Residency Visa (Sandra has permanent residency status in NZ), purchasing another Narrowboat called 'AREandARE '. Their boat is their home; no house to fall back on in either hemisphere.

Sandra's had articles published in many nursing and midwifery publications, the Reader's Digest , Waterways World , and the Gisborne Herald Weekender, and is the author of the words of the blog posts.

Barry set up a home brew supplies business from the boat, built a magnificent website (The Home Brew Boat), and has had his photography published in Canal Boat (he was the subject of their ’20 Questions’ in September 2015)and Waterways World - with a scoop of their front cover page in June 2015. Most recently (March 2018), his image of ‘Little Venice and reflections on the canal’, has appeared in a waterways related article in The Wall Street Journal ! He also sells a range of stunning waterways images on Greeting Cards and framed pictures.

It's all a work in progress following the first successful stage of his UK Spousal Sponsored Visa in October 2013, the second round was in July 2016, with the carminative 'Indefinite Leave to Remain' stage in late 2018.

Sandra and Barry established a popular blog in 2009, combining Sandra’s words and Barry’s complementary photographs. They moved to Wordpress in April 2014 , and have decided now’s the optimum time to target sustained energy into this partnership.

Having cruised the vast majority of interconnected Inland Waterways of England and Wales over nine years, there’s not many left to ‘tick off’ their list! They’re acutely aware some routes are far more popular and frequented than others, for a variety of reasons. What they’re hoping to share with readers is their perspective on some of the less travelled places, both on and close-by canals and rivers.

Barry and Sandra are driven and determined to make their chosen 'alternative' lifestyle sustainable and importantly enjoyable for the foreseeable future, and hope you’ll enjoy journeying alongside them ...