Safely through Newark, but only just.

After some mindless hooligans spoilt our last visit to Newark we were a little apprehensive.  We delayed our entry into the town to avoid the weekend by using the Muskham Ferry patrons mooring. We anticipated they’d be quite tricky to get onto due to the river flow and the short angled pontoons. The easy solution would have been to go in bow first but you cant use the pub if you cant get off your boat easily, so that would defeat ths object.  Eric’s helmsmanship was well and truly tested, they don’t do reversing around a corner whilst going upstream in boat school. Thank goodness we’d chosen to arrive in the morning before the gongoozelers were watching, it took 2 attempts but we made it.  I made sure he was well rewarded and we fulfilled our “patrons duty” with several pints and a good sunday lunch.And before the anticipated weather change, I got to finish the shawl I was knitting and took advantage of the sunshine to wash and dry it flat on the roof.

Well replenished we set off to for the last few miles into Newark.

We steamed ahead towards the castle and in our excitement forgot to read the map, I mean what could be so hard to navigate, under the bridge and moor up on the right….Oops, when you have an 8 foot radio mast, it pays to to go through the middle arch with enough headroom. Luckily I don’t think the damage to the bridge was severe enough to stop the traffic. And it really was only the tip of the ariel that scuffed the already flakey brickwork.  Much relieved we moored up at Farndon and I went for a walk. One of the last remaining working  willow holts a is just off the mooring. Both a fascinating site for the number of varieties of willow trees, a haven for wildlife. This Comma Butterfly obliged me by posing for a photo.

A week away

Having left Eric safely moored in Newark, or so I thought, I caught the train back to Suffolk so I could enjoy some precious mum and daughter time. Heather and I had booked our annual outing to indulge our creative souls. We were going to Fibre East; a 2 day extravaganza and shopping paradise for yarnies like us. We have a thriving and exciting independant fibre industry in this country and although it might not be going to make many millionaires, it makes a lot of people very happy. Sadly commercial sheep farmers have a hard time making money out of selling fleece due to the cost of shearing etc, and a lot of the yarn we see in shops is imported acrylic. Which I hasten to add has it’s place in the knitters world, it’s cheap cheerful and accessible. But if you are prepared to pay a bit more, you can get soft easycare woollen blends. But still being commercially dyed the colours are precise neat and tidy. The past 20 years and the advent of online sales has seen small independent companies, often kitchen table affairs grow, preparing, spinning and dying fleece and fibres in an array of colours way beyond the rainbow. And as knitting is now a hobby craft done for primarily for pleasure not just to keep the family warm and clothed, using exquisite quality materials just adds to the pleasure. And yarnies are sociable people, we ply our craft in small social groups, where we “knit and natter,” we join guilds to learn and help teach our skills to others and we recognise that we are healthier, happier and more content when we are immersed in fabulous fibre. Both Heather and I dye spin knit crochet and play with felt. Heather also weaves. And for us acquiring “stash” is an important part of the enjoyment. We’ll often buy a skein purely because the colour shouts buy me buy me. And because handproduced yarns and fibres aren’t cheap we rarely buy enough for a big garment so they sit in a colour candy box waiting for just the right pattern. And this weekend lived up to our expectations. Not only did we meet friends from around the country, including Martina from narrowboat Burnt Oak, and several sellers who work from their narrowboats. Heather also met friends who combine their hobbies, who are glass lamp workers as well, like she is.We were very restrained this weekend knowing that storage on a narrowboat is limited and I am trying to work on a one in one out principle, and that Heather was on course to have enough fibre to add a layer of insulation in the house. We both came home happy.

Sadly the same couldn’t be said for Eric. Our perfect mooring, beneath the castle, within easy walk of all the essentials, turned out to be too tempting for the local hooligans. And as we’d had to moor against the wall the roof of the boat was parralel with the towpath, it was just too much of an invitation to the thoughtless, that they found it amusing to jump onto Firecrest and run along at 1am in the morning. Other boaters had their ropes untied. The police were called and the flashing lights scared the villians off. Eric was equally scared and along with the other boaters moved to what they thought was a safer mooring. Only to have more trouble the next night, and again after another relocation for a third night running. We have repairable damage to the boat, but the damage done to our confidence has been huge. Boaters will always be more vulnerable than those inside bricks and mortar, and what seems to be petty intimidation to the hooligans, potentially has serious consequences to the boaters. We weren’t impressed with the police support. The culprits ran and hid, which seemed part of the game and certainly no deterrent not to do the same again to the next lot of boaters. On a positive note, we spoke to other boaters who had never had any trouble in Newark and likewise we have been moored where the doomsayers had warned us about areas that we felt safe in. We won’t let 3 nights trouble spoil the many many that have been idyllic and perfect.Eric eventually found safe harbour a couple of miles upstream. Close enough for him to be easily cruise back into Newark to collect me when I returned from my jaunt.

A Fine Weekend at Newark

We approached Newark apprehensively because we had heard that there was a festival that weekend and all the moorings were taken. However, much to our great delight, we found the 14 day wall mooring alongside Riverside Park was completely free, and what’s more it was opposite the castle. I don’t think we have ever had such a pretty town mooring before. But a good job the townsfolk werent defending their castle because they also had a good view of Firecrest from their windows.

A quick Google search revealed a program of Morris dancing, folk singing and story telling going on throughout the town and in the castle. Assuming there would food as well, we set off looking for lunch and a bit of entertainment. We struck gold. Up the ladder, onto the park, over the bridge and into the castle grounds all in 5 minutes. The castle turned out to just be the remaining wall and tower, but was a perfect communal gathering place with a bandstand. The Morris dancers were jingling their bells and shaking their sticks, we got fish and chips and best of all, the Notts spinners guild was demonstrating. These were the people we had met the previous weekend at Greens windmill so recognising each other, Knowing my wheel is portable I scurried back down to firecrest to fetch it, as I was invited to join them for the afternoon. Most of the spinners had to leave at the end of the session, but Sue and Rob sat talking and as we watched the evening light creating the most gorgeous of reflections, our traditional folk evening appropriately ended up in the 15th century coaching inn, the Prince Rupert Pub.Try as we might Sue and I failed to identify the true Prince Rupert.