Upstream, from Lincoln to Cromwell

When we travelled down the Trent, we were advised to book our return passage several days in advance so we could plan our journey to optimise the incoming tide, which we did. So as suggested We arrived at Torksey in the afternoon and locked through to the top side mooring pontoon.Someone’s got a sense of humour because the lock gates here are adorned with teapots. By evening a little flotilla had assembled, we all prepped our boats, checked the anchors and cleared the props, in readiness for the tide arriving at 9:45 the next morning. We were travelling with a small cruiser who would nip ahead quickly, a narrowboat with a “proper” engine, who didn’t believe we would have enough umph to make it, and a lovely single handed narrowboater, who had engine cooling issues, so was happy to have some company. In theory we should have been carried upstream by the tide which is stronger than the flow downstream, although we saw the water level drop turn and start to rise on the pontoon, we can’t say we actually felt like we were surfing. What we didn’t want to happen was for our journey to take longer than the tide because that would have meant we would be pushing against both the downstream flow and the retreating tide.It’s quite exhilarating going up the big wide river. We wouldn’t want to do it every day, but it makes a fun change.And I got to sit on the roof doing my knitting, safe in the knowledge that I wasn’t going to be decapitated by any low bridges. We were overtaken by 2 big cruisers who left Torksey after us, but as Cromwell lock can only open when the tide is right we all had to wait and go through at the same time. I think there were 7 boats in the lock this time. Firecrest had done us proud and we’re confident we will cope with stronger tidal flow in the future.And the cheery lockie waved us all through,

One of the things we have enjoyed over the past few months is the number of shore power electric points there have been along the river. Newark, Cromwell, Lincoln, Bardney and Boston. It’s meant that we’ve hardly had to run the generator at all, a real treat. Whilst the generator itself is reasonably quiet, the woodwork around it vibrates noisily and it’s hot, an advantage in the winter but not in the summer

Eric’s taken the opportunity to do some tinkering with the batteries, rebalancing them to enhance efficiency and longevity. We were very pleased when we cruised all the way from Lincoln to Cromwell which is about 30 miles and upstream on the tidal Trent. We took 3 days to complete this journey. It might not sound all that wonderful compared to some electric vehicles but we were pretty impressed that Firecrest coped so well on the power hungry river and we’re fairly sure we could have done the additional 5 miles onto Newark if we’d wanted to push on. But Cromwell is a lovely lock with more of those prized electric hook ups. The sun had come out and there were plenty of Blackberry bushes that needed my attention so we broke the journey to make jam.

Byebye Brayford

Brayford pools has been home for a week. We’ve felt safe, secure and well entertained. In fact being in Lincolnshire has felt like a holiday. Our cruising has felt more about the place and people than the waterway and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. There’s a lot of Lincoln still to be explored so I’m sure we’ll be back, but during that last week I found some quirky art work

and interesting things to look at.This was what caught my eye each time we left the marina and walked into town. And of course being a posh waterfront the Brayford had a modern tall hotel on its doorstep with a cocktail bar at the top. which I had to visit, if only to snap a photo from the lofty heights. The Brayford water chimes  were a fun modern feature, and if the wind was in the right direction we could hear a pretty tinkling chime each hour from our mooring. I climbed up to the multistory car park to see it from this angle. On our last day in Lincoln, Eric’s brother Andrew and his wife Anne came to join us as we cruised back to Saxilby. We took a detour through the glory hole and back though I’m not sure I can answer the Bridges question.

Asylum comes to town

AKA the Lincoln Steampunk Festival, (Asylum is the name of the event organisers) For those not familiar with Steampunk, a dictiinary definition says it is…. “a genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology”  that’s not what Eric says but I just say it’s amazing and I want to be part of it. It really does attract alsorts, way beyond the historical, it’s a culture that has many forms of expression. People travel from all over to be part of this 3 day event. And while the streets were filled with people adorned in their finery, strutting their stuff, there were lots of organised events for ticket holders only, so if this is what we saw taking over Lincoln, who knows what went on behind the drawbridge of the castle. It’s very inclusive, and quite diverse.
We thought this guy’s wheelchair was very clever with its cogs and levers.  lots of impressive looking weaponry  though I’m not sure it would see off the aliens, quite a few shoulder pets. Everyone was really keen to show off their costume, stopping to pose for photos.  We had to laugh when we saw a large police presence, I asked if they were expecting trouble from the steampunk, Oh no, there’s a football match today. Not sure the footie fans would stand a chance against the steam punk.

Lincoln’s cathedral

Lincoln’s Cathedral is a beacon for miles and miles as it towers over the fenland. In fact my sister in law, Anne,  tells me on a good day they can see it from the Peak District Moors, over 60 miles away. And as it offered a tower tour, well I just had to go climb those towers and learn it’s history and see the view.Back in the day when the Romans came to stay, they fortified Lincoln with a city wall. Although it was to later get in the way of one of the cathedrals many extension.Then the Vikings also took advantage of the river access and the deep water of Brayford Pool. As did these folk as shown in a painting hanging in one of the chapels.However it wasn’t until William the Conqueor wanted to stake his claim, and show his Norman dominance on the marauding hordes of northerners, that the catherdral and castle were built out of local stone.  It was a hugely significant seat of power and in 1215 the Magna Carter was brought here to be signed by the Bishops. Lincoln still holds one of the only 4 remaining originals in its library.

The Cathedral’s life hasn’t always been an easy one, 50 years after it was built it burnt down. It was rebuilt but in 1185 it was destroyed by an earthquake. Rebuilding wasn’t always well planned, the person responsible didn’t align the east and the West correctly so the spine along the beautiful vaulted ceiling is wonky and doesn’t meet up as it should.The tower tour takes you right up into the rafters so you can look down onto the lime mortar on the upper side of the vaulted ceiling. You don’t always realise when you look up that there’s another 30 feet of cathedral above what you see.

In 1311 a spire was added to the central tower, reaching 160m, taller than the Pyramids of Gaza. It became the tallest building in the world for over 200 years but being a wooden structure encased in lead, it was a bit heavy and in 1548 it blew down in a storm. In 1807 the north and south tower spires were removed much to the consternation of the people of Lincoln but Health and Safety was being adhered to by then.Health and safety also decreed that although we were allowed in the bell tower, the ropes had to be out of reach. The bells rest in an upright position so that the the first chime is correctly timed. Obviously there’s a huge amount that I haven’t recounted, condensing 1000 years of history into 10 minutes leaves a lot of gaps for rebellions, civil war But I recommend paying the extra to do the tour. Stained glass is always a beautiful thing to see in a cathedral, this one is known as the Bishops Eyeand the rose window opposite is the Deans EyeThis one facing West shows Revious, the monk William the conqueor put in charge of building the cathedral originally. It still contains some medieval glass, when It was a real  honour to be able to walk right in front of it on the tower tour. There is so much to see and most of it hundreds of years old, but there are some new pieces of art work on display. I particularly liked the giant swan. St Hugh of Avalon was one of the early bishops and he befriended this fearsome bird, which terrorised the people whenever St Hugh was away, but behaved like an angel whenever he was in residence.

The Water Rail Way

In times gone by, in order to move the potato harvest more quickly from Boston to Lincoln, a railway was built. It followed the river and was built on the retaining levee, and being slightly elevated it must have been a lovely sight seeing a steam train chugging along.   The tracks are all gone now and have been replaced by an enticing footpath and cycle route; ie it’s flat. It’s known as the Water Rail Way promoted by Sustrans.

Many of the stations and junctions have been turned into beautiful homes.
And there are several sculptures to enjoy. Some can be seen from the river, Some look like they’ve escaped from the River  And some I saw when I got to walk after we’d moored up for the day. This one is engraved on both sides, “For men may come and men may go, But I go on forever.” Which was taken from Lord Tennyson’s poem, The Brook. Tennyson was born in Lincolnshire. I would have liked to have seen all the others, another time maybe.We have enjoyed being in Lincolnshire. The actual cruising has been a little tedious, long straight stretches with restricted views and limited mooring opportunity, but once we climbed up onto the path we  could see for miles, all the way across to Lincoln cathedral.And for part of our journey we had dramatic storm clouds billowing overhead rather ominously.Thankfully the rain fell on someone else.

A welcome few unexciting days

A few days cruising, just us, Firecrest and nature. We were looking forward to a less exciting few days before we got back into Lincoln. We’ve had such a super time recently, we need a few days just to slow down and enjoy nature again. Leaving Dogsdyke, we cruised upstream along the River Witham taking in the peace and tranquillity. Sadly the beauty of the River was scarred by rather more than usual dead fish floating along the banks. A few questions to locals revealed that there had been a chemical spillage in the spring and 100 000 fish died. The river has been restocked but we dread to think how long it will take the whole ecosystem to recover. We’re not sure if the amount of duck weed is as a consequence of the chemical, but it was an un-nerving experience travelling through it.We wondered how it would affect the fish but were reassured when we saw this sole floating  by.And what with the willow trees and hidden entrances to the Drains, on it did brighten what could have been a tedious journey.

The Hanger, not hangover.

The Packet Inn mooring is the perfect place to go and see the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, as that’s where they hang out. And from Monday to Friday volunteers will take you on a Hanger tour at RAF Conningsby.  Being summer not all the planes are on base as they try to get out for displays, but we were lucky. The Lancaster was on the runway just about to take off on its way down to Southampton.

The Lancasters played a vital part in Britain’s war effort. They were the huge heavy duty bombers, capable of night flights, and often, if they had been hit, able to limp home on only 2 of their 4 engines. Sadly being part of a Lancaster crew was still one of the most dangerous places to be in the RAF. Out of the 7377 built, 3249 survived and only 35 completed more than 100 sorties. The crew of 7 had only a 15% chance of being able to bail out if hit, and due to the cramped conditions in the turrets, the gunners would often have removed their parachutes. Life expectancy of a rear gunner was rummered to only be 4 weeks, exposed and unable to escape they were very vulnerable. Unlike today’s stringent rules with supervised flying hours before obtaining a pilots licence, some of these men were lucky if they got 2 weeks training.  Consequently a lot of the tragedies occoured when landing back on home ground due to sheer lack of experience.  Probably the most famous Lancaster  mission was delivering the Dam Busters bouncing bombs. The Spitfires were midgets compared to the Lancasters.  They were the short range high performance single seat fighters. They often flew photo reconnaissance missions unarmed because they could fly higher and faster than the enemy.  Their design was streamlined and although costing a lot more, the air force insisted on flat rivets because it allowed an extra 15mph. We wonder if some boaters realise this, as there is a trend for having raised rivets added to hulls purely for the aesthetics. Going 15mph faster might not actually be possible but going 15mph slower would have a very negative impact….

Although the Spitefires have captured the public’s affections, the Hurricanes were responsible for 60% of the enemy losses during the Battle of Britain.  They were essentially a fore runner of the Spitfire using tried and tested cheaper manufacturing methods.  They were straightforward and easier to fly, also easier to repair, but the agility and speed of the Spitfire was too beneficial to ignore. The Douglas Dakota was used primarily as a military transport plane but looks equally impressive when seen as part of the team.The BBMF has to undergo strict and rigerous maintenance throughout the year. The cogsand pistons gleam   (or to be more corrct the Camshaft and followers, as pointed out by Steve and probably a lot of others who have kept quiet at my mistake, cheers mate)

And each time the planes are repainted, the colours of the various countries that played a part in the allies victory are chosen, this shows the Polish Boxing Bulldog. The French Spitfire is silver with the French Flag but this plane isn’t flying this season. The pilots also undertake many hours of additional training before they are allowed to fly any of the BBMF. There is only one Lancaster left in Britain that is able to fly and the RAF is doing their best to preserve it for as long as possible.  It certainly gave us a huge thrill every time we saw it flying over. The deep rumble is quite unique. And as we were in Lincolnshire for nearly a month we got to see and hear it many times.  It’s been a highlight of our summer and in true narrowboat life totally unexpected experience.




Retracing our steps, Tattershall and the Castle

Boston marked the end of our journey east. We are now on the return leg of our great 2018 River Adventure. Time to visit all/Some of the places we missed on the way down. First would be Tattershall Castle. The 30 minute walk along Dogdyke was well rewarded as an impossing tower came into view, the one we had seen from Boston’s stump tower.  Built in 1430 by Ralph Cromwell, out of 700 000 bricks, it was very unusual for the time, not because Lego hadn’t been invented, but because most grand buildings were built of stone. Of course, such a tower just begged to be climbed. Despite it being a NT property it didn’t feel over commercialised and the audio tour was well done and informative as it guided us, first down the 12 steps into the servants quarters, then up 149 steps through various floors, each one getting grander the higher we climbed. until we reached the roof. And oh what a viewLooking south east, we could see the white buildings of RAF Conningsby and the water park lake.  And in the far distance, about 11 miles away was the Boston Stump.When we looked to the north west, Lincoln cathedral dominated the skyline about 20 miles away.Coming down the steps was much much easier than the Boston Stump, the handrail was smooth stone set into the bricks.One of the notable features of Tattershall castle are the 4 magnificent stone fireplaces. I reckon if they had been a bridge we’d have got Firecrest through with room to spare. We are lucky to still have the fireplaces, because the castle had fallen into disrepair and the NT declined to purchase the building.  In 1910, just before it was about to be demolished, the fireplaces were sold to the Americans, but a local vicar contacted the philanthropist, Lord Curzon. He stepped in and purchased the castle for a few thousand, and demanded to know “where were his fireplaces”. After a bit of detective work he found they were sitting at Tilbury docks awaiting their passage. Luckily he had the funds, from memory about £5000 but definitely more than he paid for the castle. He was able to buy them back and he restored the castle at his expense before bequeathing it to the NT after his death in 1925 for all to enjoy.Across the moat, is Tattershall church,which has interesting tales to tell. You might be able to see the furnishings are draped with blue cloth. This is because the church is home to a colony of bats. Not just in the belfry, but throughout the whole church, and the evidence was clearly seen. Whilst I admire wildlife preservation, I think the novelty of bat poo in a well used building would wear rather thin in my opinion. But the bats aren’t the churches only claim to fameIt is where Tom Thumb is buried. He died in 1620 aged 101. I make no claims about this tales acurracy.

After an enjoyable day exploring, we decided to eat out at the Packet Inn, good food reasonably priced, but sadly it was to be our farewell meal with Ian and Cherryl. They had commitments to honour so needed to travel faster than us. We’ve learnt a lot about boating life from Ian and Cherryl. They have a wealth of experience and while we share a lot of the same dreams, Cherryl has written their story into a book called Dreams Really Do Come True

Give me a few years and maybe my inner author will make it off the blog and into paperback.

Reasons to travel to Boston

In Eric’s case it was simply “why not?”  We have come so far, why not complete the trip as far as we can navigate.  After all it is our plan to see as much of the country as possible. And I agree with him. Boston gets mixed reviews but as always we like to make our own judgement.

Ian and Cherryl would like to take Seren Rose out onto the Wash and around the coast, they wanted to look at all the practicalities before planning their big voyage.

Me? I’d done my homework and googled “events”. I wanted to attend the “fisherman’s feast festival” happening over the weekend.  I was keen to find the TIC to pick up details, because there didn’t seem to be any posters advertising it.

Ian and Cherryl were first off the boat because they’d also done their homework and knew it was high tide at 10am so wanted to see the lock keeper. The Grand Sluice lock is a bit of a muddle to understand, it’s underneath the rail and the road bridge. And there’s particular ways of passing through depending on the time tide and size of your boat. They picked up a lot of useful advice and contacts, but we just observed, Unlike Seren Rose, Firecrest is a canal boat and although we could make her seaworthy, it isn’t something high on our priority list right now. But never say never, there’s usually a handful of intrepid travellers who do it each year.

Having done the boaty bit we set off to see more of Boston and find out what it’s all about. The TIC is in the Guild Hall. But funnily enough, they didn’t seem to know anything about the fisherman’s feast, but as I insisted, the website said it was on this weekend and the grand procession carrying statues of the Madonna to bless the fishermen, had taken place every year since the early 1910.  The penny dropped and the smiles emerged. Wrong Boston. I’d looked at Boston Massachusetts, USA and there was no way we were taking our boats across the Atlantic for a fish and chip supper.But undeterred by my apparently common mistake, we had a good look around.

In 1390, the religious order of St Mary formed a guild for the wealthy wool merchants.  Unusual for it’s time, it was a 2 story brick building, downstairs was the chapel and alter over which deals were struck. Upstairs were the banqueting rooms, to celebrate the deals. I looked somewhat surprised at this arrangement, but it made sense when the guide explained that deals done in church were made in the sight of God, therefore neither party dared renege on the deal.

At the time over three million sheep fleece were being exported which meant that other luxuries such as silk, fur and wine could be imported creating the opportunity for Boston’s fairs and markets to become an integral part of the town. Sadly over time, the value of fleece declined and the river silted up, until the agricultual revolution in the 18th century when Georgians revitalised the area and its waterways.

Today Boston still benefits from agriculture and has become home to a large number of Eastern Europeans. Sadly as manual field labour doesn’t command high wages, it has left Boston with a somewhat run down feel to it. Hence the reluctance of some boaters to journey this far. In our opinion quite sad because Boston has a fascinating history and some beautiful buildings. One thing it lacks is plentiful mooring for narrowboats which meant that we only stayed 2 nights, even though I suspected there was a lot more to explore.

Leaving Boston has to be carefully thought out if you want to go out onto the the sea, that nice deep river we saw at full tide, looks like this on the retreat. The Pilgrim Fathers also had trouble leaving Boston during the reign of  Elizabeth I. They were a group of likeminded families, known as the Scrooby Separatists, who were being persecuted for wanting a more Bible centred faith as opposed to following the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer that Henry VIII had introduced. They had secretly arranged passage from Boston but were betrayed by the captain. Luckily for them, the people of Boston had some sympathy for them and although they had all their belongings confiscated they were only held under house arrest in the Guild Hall until they were sent back to their villages penniless.  In 1620 they made another bid for freedom. On two ships, the Speedwell for passengers and the larger Mayfair for the essentials needed to build a new life in America. The Speedwell began taking on water before it had even left the British coast, the intrepid settlers had to set sail once more from Plymouth on board the Mayfair. But after 2 months at sea they made it, and built a new colony called Boston in honour of their starting point. I’m not sure if the Pilgrim Fathers would have approved, because of its Catholic roots, but some years later fellow immigrants to Boston Massachusetts began a festival called the fisherman’s feast, which I believe is an event worth attending.

The Stump, what a view.

The good folk of Lincolnshire certainly like to make a statement. And just like Lincoln, our first sighting of Boston was the church, St Botolphs.  Known affectionately as “The Stump”.  This towering beacon guided us along the river to the visitor moorings, where a fellow boater said “….you do know you can go up to the top….” of course I didn’t need telling twice.  Despite the clouds, the forecast suggested this would be the clearest day for the best view. So with my eager accomplice Cherryl, we persuaded our boys that it was only 220 steps and off we went. Only 220 steps indeed, we were both looking for the oxygen cylinders by the time we got to the top. But then we realised it was the view that claimed the breath taking prize. We were able to stand outside on all 4 aspects of the tower. Looking down we could see the market and some of the grand Boston properties built in its thriving heyday. And if we followed the river west, in front of the Grand Sluice, Boston lock, (under the rail bridge) the tide had retreated revealing uninviting mud going out to the estuary, but Seren Rose and Firecrest were moored safely upstream in non tidal water.Looking straight out we could see over to the Norfolk coast and the in/off shore windfarms (we’re still debating which term is correct).To the north was a “proper” 1820s windmill, this is one of the largest still operating in England. Looking to the west were the great, soon to be redundant, cooling towers of the coal power stations on the Trent and medieval Tattershal castle. On a good day you can see over 30 miles and Lincoln cathedral but it was too hazy for us.I don’t usually like heights but the stone balcony encased us safely. We had climbed 145 feet up, the remaining 100 feet was closed to public access.Coming down was harder than going up, narrow spiral stairwells are good for the defending soldiers wielding swords. Ian and Eric obviously didn’t meet the enemy as they practically flew down. Cherryl and I took a more ladylike descent, and emerged triumphant and in need of a cuppa-provided by a very pleasant cafe in the church. St Botolphs seems to be a very welcoming and inclusive church. Lots of beautiful architecture but more importantly full of people.There were several community activities going on, the local art club had an exhibition, there were some spinners and knitters creating a WWI remembrance display of red poppies, there was a replica of St Botolphs being made out of Lego, a wood carving group working on church restoration, a cafe and a large second hand book area. The following day I had the joy of attending an organ recital, but sadly as we only had 2 nights in Boston we missed taking part in any of the many Christian worship activities also advertised.