We spent a very peaceful weekend in Ashton Backwater near Oundle while others charged up and down the river – including canoes lugged across the lock by healthy young couples.
Oundle is a pretty town dominated by the school and quiet in the holidays. Browsing the independent bookshop, we came away with The Oundle Annual Quiz – fifty questions on film and show musicals. Filling in the gaps became very competitive. All done and ready to post, feeling smug.
Walking in the opposite direction we found Ashton, a model village rebuilt in the early 1900’s by the Rothschilds for their workers. The style is described as Tudor but feels like Arts and Crafts to us – a striking place and the venue for the World Conker Championships.
The good weather continued as we set off on Monday morning. It was warm and still. I stood in the bow looking out for shy birds.
As we went we were quietly breaking the glass of the mirrored surface.
We planned to stop at Islip if the mooring was free. This mooring is tucked away in a little nook beyond the nine arch bridge. It is hard to get a sixty foot boat into – that was the attraction for Dugald.
Back to Irthlinborough (Rushden and Diamonds) on a grey day we ventured into the town for a pub lunch. One of the two remaining pubs closed the previous Saturday. The survivor easily won Depressing Pub 2015. This town is a sad and failing place in what otherwise seems a prosperous area.
As we escaped we met Nick Stuart, former mandarin supreme at Education and Employment, crossing the road. We agreed to catch up over tea later.
I spent some time testing blackberries for ripeness – not ready yet, as we wandered through an imaginative country park full of activity – open access assault courses, mud slides and cycle tracks. I had seen the empty zip wire from the boat as we passed earlier but it was now swarming with children, and I felt too self conscious to have a go. It was refreshing to see after the greyness of Irthlingborough.
Dugald was awed by the immaculate state of Pops, Nick’s boat, but felt better when he realised that she was only a couple of months old.
Memories of DES, DfE, DfEE and DfES were exchanged over tea. We waved at Nick as he moored his boat in Wellingborough the next day.
The weather continued damp and grey and the beautiful river felt a little sad and choked by weed.
We moored at Cogenhoe Mill by the lock and in the evening rain walked up a steep hill into the centre of the village, we thought. Looking at an old photo of Cogenhoe in the village pub, we found our ‘village’ was the edge of a town with quite large shops. Coming from the river you get an impression from the bit you see, which may not tell the story of the whole.
We set off early the next morning, although early is now an hour I would previously have considered late.
It rained heavily last night, and passing a large campsite which had been full of activity on our way down, there was an understandable dampening of spirit and activity.
Padlocks on the lock gates and empty life belt stands tell us we are getting close to an urban sprawl.
Arriving at Northampton lock we found volunteers scurrying around clipping bushes and tidying ready for a big waterways festival next weekend.
We had booked a berth in the marina, and John the very helpful marina manager found us a good spot. We usually choose isolated places to moor, but this enables Ginger Bear to catch up with new friends for a few days.