Friday, and Oundle Marina is an odd place: loads of – err – not so new small cruisers and a few narrowboats in a large chunk of water pretty much surrounded by an industrial estate, but it’s a river marina seemingly without rising and falling pontoons and moorings, and clearly without much money being spent on facilities. Never seen such a scruffy, narrow and difficult entrance into a marina either. Yet amongst other things, it’s still the place where Fairline Boats – serious yacht manufacturers for millionaires – started out, and they still have a large presence. Their HQ is still in Oundle too.
But needing a pump-out, diesel, and some Calor gas, we needed to brave the (well documented as difficult) entrance in gusty winds: oh the crew does love a challenge. The service/visitor mooring was occupied as we approached, so we aimed at another mooring pontoon temporarily, at which point the Captain decided to inspect the facilities in a hurry, jumped ship, ran down the pontoon, then dived into a large overgrown area of shrubs, clearly unhappy with the nearby gardener’s strimmer. At this point we discovered that the rather dodgy pontoon had no mooring rings or cleats… so one of us had to hold the boat on a centre line in strong gusty winds while the other persuaded the gardener to stop strimming for a bit and help in the search for a cat. After some cursing and encouraging noises, Biggles eventually emerged from the undergrowth, and looking rather embarrassed quickly ran back down the pontoon, dived aboard with alacrity and rapidly took up his normal cruising snoozing position as though nothing had happened. Clearly this bit of the marina was less to his liking than the Boat Club moorings the other side. By the time we’d completed the various chores it was lunch time.
Oundle Marina is a mile or so SSE of the town. Buoyed by the information that at the NNE end of town there were useable if unofficial field moorings by the North Bridge that were within a few hundred yards of a new Waitrose store – the cook’s favourite hobby – we headed off. But in getting from one end of Oundle to the other the river makes a huge loop through a couple of locks and several miles, so given the time spent in getting there, mooring up and traipsing around the supermarket we’d decided that we’d stay there the night as it would be late afternoon before we’d finished. Man plans…
Halfway round the loop we passed through Ashton Lock, which lies between Oundle and Ashton, and is one of those guillotine locks that one has to wind by hand. And jolly hard work it is too. We’d spotted some really nice, quiet (and empty) moorings just above the lock in the weir stream, but with the scent of Waitrose in her nostrils there was no stopping the chief cook.
The moorings near Oundle North Bridge proved reasonably accessible and suitable, with Waitrose a 200 yard walk across the fields. But the regular gaps in the overgrown undergrowth each had a piece of paper nailed into the ground saying something like “B6 – no mooring please” from which we deduced that there was an angling match that had either just past or was due to happen. Ah well – shopping first.
200 yards across the fields was indeed the object of affection. Another 400 yards across some more fields and cows to gain access to the road without climbing barbed wire or security fences, and another 400 yards along the road we should have taken in the first place, and we were there…
On the way back, we saw an angling club notice (in about 10 languages including Polish, Russian, French, Greek and several completely unrecognisable ones). The match was tomorrow, and moored boats were expected to be off by 07:30. One member of the crew doesn’t do 07:30 starts, so rather than head off downstream into the unknown at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, we decided to head back upstream around the Oundle loop again to the moorings above Ashton Lock we’d spotted earlier.
Even harder work the second time that day, but despite being latish on a sunny Friday afternoon, there was only one other boat, although another one called Van Diemen soon joined us.
Saturday, and the forecast was for a absolutely sweltering sunny morning with thunderstorms later in the afternoon, so rather than cruise in the sunshine, the Captain decided that we’d stay put and catch up on the cleaning and housework. Good decision to be stuck in the boat on the hottest day this month, sir… We’d also heard that at 10:00 the angling match had still not started. Nice moorings and a sunny Saturday and the moorings soon started filling up. Ah well. It had been quiet!
Late afternoon, we decided to walk into Ashton for a drink: it was too late (and much further) to go wandering round the much vaunted shops in Oundle. Ashton’s an odd little place. The pub and green (including resident peacocks) are very pleasant, but all the cottage terraces are the same, doors and windows painted in the same colour as the footpath gates, and built in the early 1900s by some worthy. Kind of a thatched council estate – all a bit strange and vaguely unnatural.
The forecast isolated thunderstorm arrived just as we’d finished our drinks but narrowly missed us, so we merely got a bit damp walking back to the boat.