The Cruise of the Dondevoy


I went up to a boat coming up through the lock to ask for a tow, and the master of the vessel informed me that the boatyard was open, so I took the motor over. They replaced the sparking plugs and cleaned out the carburettor, and charged me one pound seventy-five, I could not afford to pay straight away, so they agreed to wait until pay-day. I immediately set off, and got to the Northampton Lock in the afternoon, after a stop for lunch just below another lock with a curved bottom gate. I spoke to a family who were lunching at the same pub; I had been following them up river, and had to wait at the locks as they went through.

At the Northampton Number One Lock I enquired at the dinghy hire shed about moorings for the night. He offered me a site behind the island in the weir stream, at a rent of sixty pence per week. Again, I could not pay in advance, but he agreed to wait as well.

The lock gate cannot be opened by any key in the set I had been given, so the way to do it was to borrow the key from the lock keeper's cottage up river on the right. Unlike the other locks on the Nene, it had to be left with the guillotine gate closed, and both pointing doors open; I cannot think why.

In the evening I strolled across to the beginning of the Northampton Arm and got as far as the second lock, after helping a boat through the bottom lock. The locks seemed to be in reasonably good condition, but I have heard that the weed growth is heavy, and I could see for myself the narrowness of the channel, and the dangerous-looking bricks just below the surface under one of the bridges.

As I walked gently back again I met a man standing on the water's edge beside a disused hand-operated lifting bridge, and we had a long conversation. We talked about wildlife and general conservation. he told me an amusing tale about a gudgeon he had caught which was attacked by a tench, which in turn was attacked by a pike, and all three fish were pulled out on the same hook! I do not know whether to believe it or not, but it was a good story. It turned out that he kept a watchful eye on that particular pound of the canal, and always opened the top gate of the lock so the next boat through would carry all the floating weed down into the river, so the water would be clear for him to enjoy on his evening ramble. All this time his wife was sitting dutifully in his car, while we watched the light fading over the quiet water, and saw the fish rising to the gnats dancing over the surface.

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