Monday, 22 August 2016

Part  4  2016
Continuing on......Waited in Salters Lode Lock for nearly 4 hours until the tide was right to open the gates and let us through onto the Middle Level Navigations.  It was very late so we spent the night moored up in the middle of nowhere then made our way back to Peterborough and the Nene River the next day.
Leaving Salters Lode Lock onto the Middle Level Navigations

Bridge built in 1628 - a tight fit!

Another low bridge

Miles and miles of wind turbines

Professional dog walker - approx. $20 an hour each dog

Peterborough Town Hall

Peterborough town square

Roof of Peterborough Town Hall
Because we had to be at the Dog & Doublet Tidal Lock  (two hours away from Peterborough) at 6 the next morning we spent the night moored up at the Lock, also in the middle of nowhere, with another boat,  the ‘President Wenslydale’ with Martyn and two of his flatmates from London.  They were the other boat booked to go over The Wash with us on Tuesday. 
Dog & Doublet Lock on the River Nene

We got through the lock at 6 am and then went another couple of hours until we reached Wisbech which turned out to be a large port with big ships moored up.   The tidal Nene, which was probably about 80 feet wide where we were moored up on a floating pontoon, belted in and out twice a day and so we went up and down about 10 feet which was a massive amount of water rushing past the boat.  The Captain kept checking the ropes to make sure we were tightly tied to the pontoon and not getting washed out to sea.
Georgian houses lining the Nene at Wisbech

Moored up on floating pontoon
 Wisbech turned out to be a lovely port village (even though we were still about 11 miles from the coast).  Back in the 1700 & 1800s it handled lots of Dutch shipping and very grand houses fronted the river on both banks – said to be some of the finest Georgian Streets In England which have been used in many film and TV  shows.  The river is lined with great steel edging about 20 feet high to keep the tides under control. 

Laundromat in main street of Wisbech

We went to a National Trust property called Peckover House built in 1722 by the Peckovers, a Quaker banking family – the house which was very lavishly decorated and had an acre of garden surrounding it must have been a very substantial property in its heyday.  

View of River Nene from Peckover House

Huge cornices!

We were supposed to be going out on The Wash on Tuesday morning but got a phone call about 6.00pm on Sunday night from Daryl, our pilot, to say we would be leaving 6.00 am on the tide the next morning.  Quite funny really as we had planned to shop on the Monday morning for supplies so a quick dash up to the township revealed that only one Polish shop was open.   Everything on the shelves was in labelled in Polish with no English subtitles so we had fun stocking up the larder for the ‘Big Trip’.

Next morning Daryl was right on time and so we set off from Wisbech wearing our lifejackets on our big adventure.   The contents of the crystal cabinet were safely packed away too. 

This bridge can be opened when big ships need to go through

Leaving the mouth of the Nene

After a couple of hours we were out at sea with land barely in sight.   It was a beautiful sunny morning and the water was like a millpond.  Apparently The Wash is very treacherous and lots of ships have come to grief on the many hidden sandbars.  There were a series of buoys and Daryl, who was on our boat, kept us on the ‘straight and narrow’.   He told us to look out for a church spire in the distance which was called the ‘Boston Stump’ -  St Botolph’s in Boston.  When we finally saw it we seemed to be heading away from it most of the time but Daryl said it was necessary to avoid the sandbars closer to the coast.

President Wenslydale with Martyn at the helm

Daryl - our pilot
At about 12  o’clock the tide was going out so we beached up on a sandbar and put the anchor out.  Quite strange being in the middle of nowhere with only some seals for company.   They were very timid and dived back into the water whenever anyone went close to them.    Martyn and his friends set up a BBQ on the sand and managed to blacken a few sausages but we had been told that Daryl’s favourite was a Bacon Butty (sandwich) and a cup of tea.  Easy!   The boys went searching for cockles in the sand – this is a big local industry and there were lots of fishing boats nearby also hunting for cockles.  

After a couple of hours the tide started coming back so we packed up and got back on our boats and floated off.   We had to get to Boston by 4.00 pm to get through the big lock with the tide onto the River Witham.   Totally different to the morning ‘sailing’.  The wind had got up so it was quite choppy with waves breaking over the bow.   Daryl told us to speed up so it was a bit bumpy but we made it into the Boston Lock right at 4 o’clock. 

The wind's blowing!!

Arriving at Boston Port

St Botolph 'The Stump'
There were a few teenage boys looking at us as we went through the lock.  “Where’re you from?” they asked.   Marty replied “London”.   “Geez – you must be rich mate” the kid said.  Then he yelled out to me “Where’re you from”.   When I said Australia he said “Geez – do you live on that boat?   Are you Gypos?”  Thought it was quite funny but suppose we are ‘travellers’ when we’re here.

Arriving at the lock at Boston

Moored up on a floating pontoon in Boston surrounded by thick Duckweed.   Looked so much like lawn that a couple of dogs had to be rescued when they stepped off their boats onto the ‘lawn’ surrounding their boats.  It’s a huge problem so there are specially built boats harvesting the duckweed.  They can pick up a couple of tons at a time but it’s a losing battle as the stuff just keeps spreading.

Boat on a green 'lawn'

Just after we moored up we had a phone call from Sooz so we caught the train down to London next day for some school holiday granddaughter minding. On Wednesday took the girls to see BFG (Big Friendly Giant) at the lovely local Dulwich Cinema – quite a good show and a real eye-opener with the special effects they can do these days. 

On Thursday we caught a bus to the nearby Crystal Palace Gardens.  The Crystal Palace Exhibition set up by Prince Albert in 1851 began in Hyde Park but was moved after the exhibition closed in 1852 to this 200 acre park which became the permanent site of the new Crystal Palace.    It started to rain when we arrived so had lunch until it eased off.  There was an old-fashioned Punch & Judy Show outside the cafe.  Thought the girls would think it was terribly ‘old-hat’ but they seemed to enjoy it.   Hadn’t realised how violent the show is – Punch seems to kill everybody else in the show – and there were lots of ‘bottom’ jokes which made the audience laugh but probably not the ‘proper’ thing to say these days.

Watching Punch & Judy

Hired a pedal-lo boat and managed to crash our way around the lake for an hour or so.  Quite hard work but the girls insisted on doing some of the pedalling. 

Then it was off for a walk around the lake with large dinosaur statues lurking around each corner.   The park looked like it could do with lots of money spent to bring it back to its former glory but there were heaps of people enjoying it anyway.     

Next day it was off on a double-decker to Brockwell Park where the girls spent a few hours on the huge adventure playground and then got terribly wet in the fountain/wading pool area.  It was a really hot day so they dried out pretty quickly before the bus ride home.

Made our way back to Boston on Saturday and had a look around the town.   This was the second most important port after London in the 1300s & 1400s.  Most of the city sights were closed but we had a look through St Botolph’s Church (nicknamed ‘The Stump’ by sailors coming in by sea) built in 1309 and completed in 1510.  It is coming back to life with lots of the Polish (eastern European) immigrants attending now.   Lovely old church with so much history.   

Magic carpets?

One of the many drains around Boston draining the Fens

 Windmill in Boston - still working
Boston is the town where the Pilgrim Fathers left for their new life in America in the 1600s because they didn’t agree with Henry VIII’s new Church of England teachings.   They were betrayed and imprisoned in 1607 for planning to escape from religious persecution and seeking to leave without the permission of the King.

Left Boston and next stop was Kirkstead Bridge where we walked a mile or so to Woodhall  Spa – a very trendy little village.  Lots of people drinking coffee in the front of tiny shops. 

Even the bus shelter has been decorated.
 Walked up a narrow arcade and right at the very end was a small shop with a large decorated cake in the window.  Turned out to be a copy of Charles & Camilla’s wedding cake.  The lady inside beckoned us in and gave us a tasting of her ‘special’ wedding cake mix.  Turned out her out her son worked for Prince Charles for a number of years and recommended his mum to make their wedding cake.  As well as the main cake she had to make 2,500 slices of cake to go in commemorative tins.  This was all done in secret in the local Methodist Church so people couldn’t see in through the windows.  

She has since made cakes for both Charles and Camilla’s 60th birthdays, many other society weddings and other functions.  We looked through her ‘show’ books and she does the most amazing cakes.  The present project is decorating a cake for a fly-fisherman, complete with tiny hooks and a life-like trout rising out of the cake.   The things that these little villages hide away!

Some more of Dawn's cakes:

Prince Charles's 60th birthday cake - corner of his garden at Highgrove House

Next stop was Lincoln – which still has part of its Roman wall and is the UK’s fourth largest city.   We moored up in the heart of the action – right next to The Witch and Wardrobe pub – the oldest building in Lincoln.   It was built in the 13th century and is haunted by a lady who fell down the stairs a couple of hundred years ago.  We didn’t see her though – just all the old fellows who came out to hang over the rails next to our boat.   They all said “Ooh–ah it’s a looverly boat that it is”.  Amazing that we’ve been moored up right next to pubs all over the country and have never had any trouble or been kept awake by any noisy behaviour.

Visited the Guildhall where the Lincoln Council still meets.  Another very old building built in the 16th century with timber from Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest and visited by lots of royalty including King Richard II and Henry VIII.  It was last restored during Queen Victoria’s reign when the town thought she would be visiting.  However, when Victoria married Prince Albert she asked Parliament for a yearly allowance of £50,000 (a huge amount of money even in those days) for Prince Albert.  The local MP for Lincoln said this was a ridiculous amount and so Prince Albert was only given £30,000 a year.   Queen Victoria was so annoyed she vowed never to set foot in Lincoln while that MP was alive – and she never did!  The Guildhall has a sword given by Richard II amongst its large collection of silver.

Went through the large shopping centre High Street and then started to climb up, up and up through the cobbled Straits, then the aptly named Steep Hill til we got to the top. 

Here Lincoln Castle (built in 1068 by William the Conqueror and home to one of the only four surviving copies of the 1215 Magna Carta as well as the 1217 Charter of the Forest Walk) as well as the massive Lincoln Cathedral sit overlooking the whole town.   Only after we went through the Castle gate did we realise that we had been there 5 years ago when we first bought the boat and were waiting for the Trent River flood to go down so we could start our adventure.   However, there presently is an amazing ‘Wave of Poppies’ display coming down from the castle wall commemorating 100 years since the First World War so it was not a wasted visit this time. 

Prison in Lincoln Castle

Next we went across to the huge Lincoln Cathedral which we didn’t visit last time.   It’s a massive Gothic building started in the 13th century.   It has survived fires, storms and even an earthquake and is now the third largest cathedral in Britain.  It  probably has the most decorated stonework and woodwork carving inside that we have seen so far.

Entrance gate to the Cathedral

 Joseph Banks came from Lincoln

We visited the great Museum of Lincolnshire Life which occupies a former army barracks built in 1857.  It’s one of the best museums we have been to being the largest and most diverse community museum in the country with separate rooms showing life in Victorian times, shops, farming equipment and army equipment and vehicles too.  


Basket maker


Grocery  shop



During the First World War a group of men got together in secret at the White Hart Hotel in Lincoln and designed the first tank which was made to go over the trenches in the battlefields.  Two factories in Lincoln got the orders to build the first 150 tanks. Because this was so top secret the tanks were labelled “Water Tanks for Mesopotamia” in case the enemy saw them.  The name stuck and they’ve been called tanks ever since. 
Lots of air force bases were in the Lincolnshire area during the wars and today there are several bases still being used.   We frequently had jets flying over us while in this area – we heard them mainly because they were very very loud and going so fast they usually disappeared out of sight before you could see them.
Ellis's Mill built 1798 and still  working
Roman wall

The 'Glory Hole'

We’re now heading along the Fossdyke Navigations built by the Romans in 110 AD to connect the River Trent with the River Witham to reach The Wash. We will go upstream on the Trent to Cromwell Lock which a massive tidal lock and then on towards Nottingham

More news later........