Flew into London on Tuesday 24 May and spent a couple of nights with Sooz, Ten and the girls - nice to catch up with Rita (Ten's Mum) and even managed to see Olive's tap dancing concert at her school. Eight months since we have seen the girls and they have grown up so much.
On Thursday morning we caught the train to Market Harborough, the nearest station to the marina where our boat had spent the winter out of the water. The marina staff had already put it back in the water and after getting a new starter motor battery we were ready to take off when we had stocked up on provisions.
Travelled to Market Harborough to meet Sooz etc who were spending the long Bank Holiday weekend with us. We celebrated Ten's birthday at the Foxton Inn on Saturday night and the next morning were ready to go up the famous Foxton Locks (ten locks in two sets of five). Freezing weather but not raining. Hoards of tourists watching the proceedings - and the best part - lots of helpers with the gates.
Stopped for lunch when we reached the top and then continued on up the Welford Arm to Welford Village. Spent the night there and then returned to Foxton Locks on Monday morning. Sooz & Ten had booked their return train to London at 4 from Market Harborough but we were held up half way down the lockis for 2 hours so they had to get a taxi back to the station.
We spent the night at Foxton and then returned to Market Harborough to meet our friend Glenys (from Melbourne) who flew into London that morning. We spent the next day showing her around the town - a very old charming market town. That night we celebrated Terry's birthday at a local restaurant (great fun smuggling his birthday cake in).
Set off the next morning back to Foxton Locks to show Glenys how the lock system works. All rugged up in many layers of warm clothes - it was still freezing. Again lots of people visiting the locks so we had helpers pushing the gates which always makes it easier.
Stopped the night at the little village of Crick which has lots of thatched cottages, 2 general stores and three pubs! Next morning we came down the 8 locks at Watford and then turned onto the Grand Union Canal heading south towards London where we had to tackle the very tough Long Buckby flight of double locks. We think Glenys has found some muscles she never knew she had!
It suddenly warmed up as we were travelling along - quite hot in fact! Spent the night at Weedon Bec - another charming village renowned for its antique shops. Unfortunately it was Monday morning and most were closed but we did manage to spend a long time at one very large shop which was open.
We then turned off the Grand Union onto the Northampton Arm. Down 17 locks into the large city of Northampton where we moored up in the centre of town. Spent a couple of days exploring the city - some lovely old buildings especially the magnificent Guildhall.
Caught a very fast local bus to Lamport Hall & Gardens. Just arrived in time for the tour - very knowledgeable young guide who showed us around the house which was built back in the 1500s with lots of changes through the centuries by different owners. Beautiful gardens and extensive lawns and woodlands surrounded the Hall.
Set out from Northampton on the River Nene (pronounced Nen at this end). This area is under the control of the Environment Agency instead of the Canal & River Trust which covers the rest of England. Totally new territory for us from now on - lots of guillotine locks. These operate like the other locks at one end but have a huge steel gate operated by pushing a button (much easier!) at the other. Only concern was that the 'work box' at each lock was locked to keep vandals out which was very hard to open with a flimsy key.
Very quiet on the Nene - only saw one other boat the whole morning. Not many mooring spots along the river bank so we decided to spend a couple of nights at a lovely new marina near Earls Barton. Walked to the village - quite small but with a very interesting chemist shop which has been owned by the one family since 1635 so lots of historical items on show upstairs in the museum. Also had a toy museum and a dolls house/furniture museum.
We're now moored up at Wellingborough - not quite as big as Northampton but still quite a large city. This weekend the Queen's 90 birthday celebrations are everywhere. Today we had champers and decorated patty cakes with the mayor - resplendent in his robes - at a gathering in the church grounds which we just happened to 'gate crash'.
We're now continuing down the Nene towards Peterborough. More news later.