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Don’t fall off your bike in Letchworth

Not if you want might need the assistance of East of England Ambulance Services anyway

I had a rather worrying experience last night that damaged my perception of our emergency services: at least the Ambulance Service in the East of England anyway.

On my way home from Scouts last night, I was dropping my son Nick off when we came across a late middle-aged lady sprawled in the gutter. There was another lady and a young man, plus two large dogs. Oh, and a bike.

What appeared to have happened was that she was riding her bike and walking her dogs at the same time. Never a good idea I would have thought, but that’s not the point.

She had fallen and banged her head, which was bleeding from a small cut. She was dizzy, nauseous and had a suspected broken finger. The other lady had just come across her, as had the young man.

We checked she was OK (she was conscious) and then, after covering her with a blanket, decided to let her recover for a few minutes to see what developed. Then she was sick, so I called 999 and asked for an ambulance as she was showing signs of concussion.

After having to repeat everything twice, I was told that somebody would attend. This was just before 11PM. By 11:15, she was getting very cold and was still woozy, but was fully aware of what was going on. She indicated she felt dizzy but we were able to move her to the pavement. During this, I missed a call back from the Ambulance Service.

I called back on 999 and, after having to repeat all the information again, twice, was told that they were very busy and that, in fact, nobody was coming out to take a look. No advice was given about an alternative course of action and I received the impression that we were on our own from that point on.

After discussing the matter, we helped the lady into the other lady’s car and she drove her home. She agreed to call her doctor the following day if she still felt bad.

Now I know that our emergency services are stretched, and I assume this was a result of their triage process. However, I do question whether whoever decided not to send somebody out actually had enough information to which to base that decision.

Later, as I was nearing home, I was called by Hertfordshire Police to find out what had happened. At least they show some sense of care.

Nokomis Day Twelve

Irthlingborough to Wollaston

This was to be our last day on Nokomis so wanted it to be a good one. Luckily, the day proved to be sunny and warm so we made the most of it by cruising slowly up the river.

We stopped off at Wellingborough to empty the chemical toilet, dispose of the rubbish and refill the water tank. Once again, there were swans a-plenty.

You recall the dead sheep I mentioned back on Day One? Well, two of them were still there at Wellingborough Upper lock. We had told the Fire and Rescue people, another boater we spoke to had told the Environment Agency, but they were still there nearly two weeks later.

We got back to Wollaston and tidied the boat up before shutting everything down. We also had to lug back all the stuff we had taken with us. Nearly everything got used, apart from the BBQ, so we did need it all. There was just so much of it though.

Nokomis Day Eleven

Waddenhoe to Irthlingborough

The weather was pretty foul when we woke up so we took it slowly, in the hope that it would improve. It didn’t! There was a mixture of drizzle and driving rain during most of the journey. It finally let up as we approached Irthlingborough, but by that time we’d had enough. It was also cold.

Early in in the journey, we decided to light the stove so that at least we could warm up when we arrived. Of course, by the time we did, the weather had perked up and it was like a sauna in the saloon. Typical British weather.

Not needing to do anything, and having visited Irthlingborough on the way down river, we sat in the sunshine and had a few drinks whilst chatting to the skipper of the boat moored next to us. They had been away since early May and were on their way back to their winter mooring at Peterborough. During the summer, they’d been down to London, across to Bristol, up the Severn and across into Staffordshire, then up to Liverpool and finally back down the Grand Union and on to the Nene. Quite a journey.

Makes our little jaunt sound very puny. We’ve really enjoyed it though.

Tomorrow we head back to Wollaston via Wellingborough, and thus will end our first foray on a narrow boat. It won’t be the last, I’m sure of that.

Nokomis Day Ten

Oundle to Waddenhoe – four miles and three locks

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We decided on a short day today as we really wanted to visit Waddenhoe; particularly The Kings Head. Thus, we had a leisurely breakfast and set off about 10.

Just as we were setting off, we were passed by a boat being delivered up to Sheffield. Apparently, the new owner had slipped and broken his ankle, so he had to have the boat delivered to its new moorings: a trip of about two weeks. We stayed together to the first lock but then parted as we wanted to fill up with water.

The river was more busy today and we saw several other boats before we reached Waddenhoe. We also passed some very novice single scullers on the river. We gave them a very wide, and slow, berth.

You moor at the bottom of the garden of the Kings Head at Waddenhoe, the only requirement being to use the pubs bars. No problem there!

We arrived about lunchtime and headed up the slope to the pub. There was a very friendly greeting and a very nice pint of Brewster’s Hopshackle available. That was followed by a pint of Nene Valley NVB.

We decided to have lunch and opted for the special Club Sandwich with hand cut chips and a salad. It was enormous! Even I couldn’t eat all of it and I had to restrict myself to 2-3 chips. Varina managed to finish hers but she did look a bit green at the end.

In hindsight, we should have orderd one between us.

To walk this off, we toured the unspoilt village. It really is lovely. I think it is mainly the property of the Waddenhoe Trust and they’ve done a great job of preserving the best features of a traditional Northamptonshire village. The church was very interesting as well.

Tomorrow, we’re going to head back to Irthlingborough.

The one downside of Waddenhoe, and in fact much of the Nene Valley is rubbish Vodafone coverage so I’m not sure when this will get posted.

Nokomis Day Nine

Fotheringhay to Oundle

As we were pressed for time on our way down river, we missed out a couple of places we wanted to see. The first was Oundle, the second was Waddenhoe. As we had broken the back of our journey back up river, we had time time to visit both. Today was a visit to Oundle.

The weather was variable, but we didn’t actually get wet during the cruise. We got to Oundle just after lunchtime and originally planned to moor up in the marina. Sadly, this was not to be as there were no free berths. We ended up mooring on the river at the Oundle Cruising Club moorings. This was fine. There was nobody else there and we had the place to ourselves.

After tidying up,and buying a replacement lock winder in the marina’s chandlery, we set off into Oundle. It was at this point that it started to rain!

The road into Oundle crosses a backwater via a very narrow bridge. The width limit is 2.1m but even with several warning signs there was ample evidence of people mis-judging the width. One of the limit bollards had a very deep dent in it and all were bare of paint on the inside edge.

We have previously passed through Oundle on the road and were looking forward to visiting what appeared to be quite an interesting little town. Close examination didn’t back this view up unfortunately. There was quite a lot of interesting architecture, but no information available. No plaques, no guides or signs, nothing.

We did get a very nice lunch in one of the coffee shops, but after that we were left with little to do. Naturally, we did visit Nene Valley Brewery and purchase a 4-pint takeout of DXB for consumption on the boat. We then hi-tailed back to the boat and settled down.

Not a particularly exciting day, but relaxing all the same.

Nokomis Day Eight

a challenging and frustrating day

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Day eight saw us cruising from Peterborough back to Fotheringhay; a distance of 19 miles and 7 locks that took just on seven hours.

The day was challenging because of the weather. Although the rain had, largely, gone; it was extremely windy. Most of the time this wasn’t a problem, but it did make access into and out of locks tricky. This was exacerbated by the reason the day was also frustrating. Some anti-social boater has preceded us up the river and failed to reset the locks!

A digression on locks on the Nene

The Nene has locks that are different to those on canals; though they are common on other East Anglian waterways. Canal locks tend to have Vee gates at each end. Most locks on the Nene have a Vee gate at the upstream end, but a vertical guillotine gate at the downstream end. Why? No idea.

Unlike canal locks, which can be left in pretty much any state, there is a strict protocol to be followed with the Nene locks: irrespective of your direction of travel, the lock is always left with the guillotine raised. I believe this is so that the Vee gates take the bulk of the water pressure, other than when the lock is actually in use.

When travelling downstream this means that one has to moor up, lower the guillotine, flood the lock, open the Vee gates, motor in, close the Vee gates, empty the lock, raise the guillotine and drive out. Going upstream you motor in, lower the guillotine, flood the lock, open the Vee gates, motor out, moor up, close the Vee gates, empty the lock, raise the guillotine and then motor off.

Because some a-hole had merely motored in, lowered the guillotine, flooded the lock, opened the Vee gates and then motored off; it meant that we had to moor up, close the Vee gates, empty the lock and raise the guillotine before we could motor in. It may not sound like much more effort, but given that some of the locks have manually operated guillotines with enormous wheels to spin, it fair wears one out. It also added five minutes to the average 15 it takes to transit a lock.

Nonetheless, we got to Fotheringhay about 5 PM and moored in pretty much the same spot as we used on the way down. The weather was deteriorating and we’d already been peed upon once, so we decided to stay on board rather than sally forth to The Falcon.

Nokomis Days six and seven

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Once again, I have consolidated two days into one as they are both related to being in Peterborough.

Peterborough isn’t really a vacation destination for us; after all, it’s only 45 minutes up the road. That said, we’ve never spent any time there. Generally, we are either shopping or pub crawling 🙂 Thus, this was an opportunity to spend more time visiting. Sadly, it was not to be.

Getting into Peterborough was easy enough. We were only five miles and one lock from the moorings by the Town Bridge, so we were there by midday. Unfortunately, the weather was pretty grim. Whilst we didn’t actually get wet during the voyage, we certainly did once we were there.

Inevitably, we needed to stock up on provisions, so our first stop was Asda. Our main reason for speeding to Peterborough was a dinner date with Nokomis’s rightful occupants, so we then needed to tidy Nokomis up a bit before they arrived. After all that, and what with the weather, we didn’t actually get to do much. Oh, we did manage to visit The Brewery Tap and The Palmerston Arms, but that’s not really touristy stuff; that’s CAMRA beer tasting business 🙂

The Palmerston Arms used to be one of the best pubs in Peterborough. It’s a Bateman’s pub but has a very open licence so it sells a wide variety of ales, ciders and (in theory) perries. Varina is a cider and perry drinker and was building up a thirst for a nice fruity perry. Unfortunately, there were none on. The beer was OK, but noting special.

For dinner, we went to The Grain Barge, which was only 100m upstream from where we were moored: definitely staggering distance. We had a very good meal and excellent service.

Sunday’s weather was even worse, so we needed something primarily indoors to do. I discovered that the Nene Valley Railway were holding a Steam Gala over the weekend, so we decided to go there. We spent a very enjoyable few hours trundling back and forth on the line in different types of rolling stock and fortified by Nene Valleys own NVR beer!

Nokomis Days Four and Five

Thrapston to Fotheringhay. 15 miles, 3 locks and Fotheringhay to Ferry Meadows. 15 miles, 6 locks

Day Four

Day four saw us travelling from Thrapston to Fotheringhay; a distance of 15 miles and eight locks. It took us about six hours.

We travelled further because we want to sure of being at Peterborough by Saturday so we can meet up with Paul and Ron for dinner. This meant cruising at a faster rate, which in turn meant us burning more oil. The engine in Nokomis is a three cylinder Lister two stroke diesel and it’s quite old. Consequently, it burns quite of lot of oil when it is pushed. The give away is the 100 litre drum of oil in the Cratch!

The scenery is varied through this part of the Nene. Mostly, the river meanders along its course but there are stretches where it passes through limestone breaches. It’s mostly wooded and we saw lots of wildlife: swans in abundance, ducks, kingfishers, herons, thousands of dragonflies, etc.

Although the weather was cool and cloudy in the morning, it brightened up to be a sunny and warm afternoon. But the time we reached Fotheringhay, we were in tee shirts.

Fotheringhay is best known as the site of the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, but it was also the birthplace of Richard III; Fotheringhay Castle being the home of his parents, Richard of York and his wife Cecily. The parents are both buried in the splendid church up on the hill. I have a soft spot for Richard III. I agree with others that his reputation was trashed by the Tudors, so I’m always interested to learn more about him.

The moorings are below the church and just upstream of the bridge. They’re private, and there is a small fee, but they are perfectly sited. Hopefully, the pictures do it justice.

We ate at The Falcon Inn, the Falcon being the family crest of the York family. It’s a well recommended Gastropub and we had good beer and an excellent meal. I’ll do a Tripadvisor review when we get back, and it will be good.

Day Five

Day five saw us proceed from Fotheringhay to Ferry Meadows on the outskirts of Peterborough. This is a distance of 15 miles with six locks. It took us about six hours.

Another long cruise but we ended up only four miles from Peterborough. We could have carried on the Peterborough itself, but we wanted to stay at Ferry Meadows.

The moorings are in Overton Lake, one of the three sand and gravel pits that make up the park. We moored against pontoons just by the Visitor Centre and were immediately mobbed by dozens of squawking ducks and geese who are obviously used to being fed.

The weather was ok when we arrived but was going downhill all the time. We went for a walk around the park and got back just before it started to rain, hard!

Despite this, we ventured out to the local pub, a Beefeater, and had dinner.

Nokomis days two and three

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There’s not a lot to say about day two. We stayed moored up at Wellingborough Embankment and took a walk into Wellingborough.

The weather was not very nice so we spent most of the time in a truly excellent pub: the Coach and Horses in Oxford Street. 10+ beers, 9 (I think) ciders, knowledgable staff and great music meant that we were very happy.

After spending a quiet night at Wellingborough, we proceeded down the river as far as Irthlingborough. Our initial plan had been to stop at Irtlingborough for lunch and then carry on to Thrapston, but we were delayed getting away in the morning and decided to stay on at Irthlingborough after lunch.

Wellingborough embankment is known for its swans. There were nearly 20 of them plus dozens of ducks. Somebody came along and started to feed them bread and they went wild. On top of this there was one male that was intent on reinforcing his dominance by harassing loads of other males. All very amusing.

Wellingborough to Irthlingborough is just over four miles and three locks. Two are traditional with pointed gates top and bottom. The other has a radial bottom gate: a bit like the Thames Barrier. Varina handled them like a professional.

When we arrived at Irtlingborough, we were the only boat on the mooring, but more of that later.

The moorings are right by what was the ground of Rushden and Diamonds AFC. I say was, because they went out of business in 2011. The ground is now home to Kettering Town FC. The irony is that Kettering used to be Rushden and Diamonds’ closest rivals.

The site also used to be the home of the Dr Martens’ factory shop. This too has now gone as Dr Martens’ footwear is now made in China!

We moored up and had lunch and then made the decision to stay on. The weather was deteriorating and the time it would take to reach Thapston meant that we would be in trouble if there were no free moorings: Nakomis not having any navigation lights and me not wanting to sail at night anyway.

Having made the decision, we headed off into Irthlingborough to do some shopping and have a nosy. The latter didn’t take long as there isn’t a lot to see. There is a very interesting looking church, but there was a service going on and we didn’t want to interrupt proceedings.

Thus we headed back, had a couple of drinks and then I cooked up a splendid chicken curry. I also set my radio up and made a few contacts on 40m before the battery on my FT-817 dropped below the point where it would produce a decent signal.

I was amazed at how quiet 40m was. At home it’s a nightmare, with over S9 QRN. I contacted stations in Donegal and Berlin as well as a couple in the UK. I must operate away from home more often.

As the evening closed in, the moorings filled up until there was no space at the inn. One boat even arrived after dark and gave us a start as its headlight appeared alongside. I’m glad we decided to stop when we did.

It’s nice and quiet here: just the sound of cows munching grass on the other bank 🙂

Tomorrow, we’ll head down to Thrapston.

Day one on Nokomis

Adventures on the river

For some time now, my brother in law’s friend has been suggesting that Varina and I take Nokomis away for a few days. Nokomis, named after Hiawatha’s grandmother, is a 49 foot narrow boat based on the River Nene near Wellingborough. It used to be a house boat but now sits idle for most of the time.

This year, we decided to take them up on the offer and plan to pootle down the river as far as Peterborough, visiting various places along the way.

Nokomis is moored at Wollaston lock, and after loading a mass of gear, food and booze, we got way about 1:30. The Nene is a lovely river, but public moorings are few and far between, so we opted to go only the short distance into Wellingborough on day one as we wanted to take a look round the town and visit a couple of pubs.

We only needed to navigate two locks on day one, Wollaston itself and Wellingborough Upper. The latter was interesting as there were two dead sheep floating in the entrance; one of which preceded us into the lock and got trapped behind one of the lower gates. This made the exit a bit tricky, particularly as it was stuck behind the port side gate and the ladder was also on that side. Varina was working the lock and had to hop aboard from that ladder.

No matter, we got to Wellingborough and moored up just after the bridge. We are on the bend, so only the stern is alongside, but that’s OK. We had been warned about the occasional pranks of the locals, mainly casting off boats in the middle of the night, so we are chained up as well.

After spending some time getting organised, we had a few drinks, a nice leisurely meal and played a few board games before having an early night. So far so good, until we were rudely awoken by one of the CO detectors going off. The boat is old and uses gas for heating water and cooling the fridge. The fridge is temperamental at the best of times and I put the problem down to that. We turned off all the gas, opened the windows and went back to sleep. Oh, we also removed the batteries from the detector. Bad boy!

As we awoke refreshed and alive, I assume we were OK. I know it’s probably not the best course of action, but I reasoned that the source was removed and the windows were open to clear any residue.

Unfortunately, the weather had taken a turn for the worse overnight and there was rain in the air. Ho hum.