Thursday, January 29, 2015

Heading downhill again.

The feeders attracted the expected quota of birds yesterday, including a couple of sparrows and thrushes. These ground-feeders only had what was dropped from above, so I put some seed and a broken up fat ball on the ground. They enjoyed their own portions, till this chap turned up and hoovered up the lot!
Inevitable, really. It was raining, and he was holding his tail up over his back like an umbrella…

It was windy and wet most of the day, so we didn’t venture far from the boat. Today started OK, but the fresh wind kept bringing bands of showers over. One minute rain, sleet or snow, the next sunshine.

We’d arranged to go down Frankton Locks today, so had to move otherwise we probably wouldn’t have bothered. The locks give access to the Montgomery Canal, and are controlled by C&RT. Only so many boats at a time are allowed on the canal, due to it’s status as a SSSI.

Heading towards Frankton

During the clearer spells the snow-covered slopes of the Breidden Hills were visible, 12 miles away.IMG_3407

These guys weren’t all that impressed with the weather either!IMG_3405

We arrived at the top of Frankton Locks after around 40 minutes. Time for a brew before the waterways men arrived.IMG_3409

In 1936 a breech occurred not far below the locks, and the then owners, the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, chose to ignore their obligation to maintain the navigation and refused to repair it. In 1944 they successfully applied for an Act of Parliament to abandon the canal, on the grounds that it had not been used for several years!
Fast forward 40 years, and an effective campaign by the Montgomery Waterways Restoration Trust, the Inland Waterways Association, Shropshire Union Canal Society and lots of graft by the Waterways Recovery Group saw the locks reopened, followed by the 7 mile section to Gronwen Wharf.
The restoration further south to Newtown is slowly ongoing…

At around 11:45 our two C&RT chaperones arrived, and we were ushered into the top of the double staircase locks. Mags was pleased, with two in attendance at the lockside I looked after the tiller and she could stay inside.

In the top lock  IMG_3412

Below the staircase an abandoned dry-dock on the offside has become a garden feature, complete with model railway running around it’s perimeter.IMG_3414

Bottom lock of the four, and it’s snowing again.IMG_3415

We’d already decided not to go much further, so pulled in to the end of the truncated Weston Arm, joining the two boats already there.

Snow showers and sunny spells have been and gone this afternoon. We’ll probably head off to Queen’s Head if the weather is half decent tomorrow.

Hi Andy. Yes, she was definitely an ex-Challenger boat, but I didn't get the name. Well spotted!

Locks 4, miles 2

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Heading back upstream…

After a weekend in Ellesmere it was time to move on. Not that there’s anything wrong with the town, I actually quite like it.
The castle mound on the edge of the town is the only evidence of a wooden motte and bailey construction built in the 11th century. Like the rest of the town it seems to have had history pass it by, held by several successive families but never involved in any of the Marcher conflicts.

The town sits on the turnpike from Wrexham to Shrewsbury, so boasts at least two coaching inns, the Red Lion and the Black Lion.
The canal, built in the early 19th century, brought more prosperity, a lot of the more imposing buildings in the town date from the Georgian Period. Beech House, opposite the entrance to the town arm, was built in 1805 as canal company offices and the temporary residence of Thomas Telford, the supervising engineer for the construction of the navigation.

Georgian houses on Church StreetIMG_3385

The Mere from behind Ellesmere HouseIMG_3383

The modern town still has a country market town feel to it, even though it has no less than three supermarkets (two small and one larger) it still has a high street butcher, baker, pet shop, chemist, newsagent… All in all a pleasant place to spend a little time (and a little money…) in.

The town hall sits on the junction of Scotland Street, High Street and Cross Street.IMG_3387

The wharf is an open, paved area now, dominated by the recently-built Tesco store. Only one company warehouse still remains as a reminder of why it was built. A 1950’s Ordnance Survey map shows rather more buildings close to the wharf.

A row of houses on Wharf Street have got to be canal related…IMG_3388

…as must the large house overlooking the basin.    IMG_3389


Sunday morning we had a thin skin of ice on the arm, but it was all gone by lunchtime under the bright sun. It can get really thick on these still waters. But with the proximity of the town the arm is very popular as winter moorings. There is still space for us transients, though.

The manager of the local Tesco has come up with a novel idea to save the struggling supermarket giant a bit of cash…
Tomorrow night it’ll say SCO”…Be right back

I had a good chat with Iain, who used to have NB Gosty Hill and supplied solid fuel on the Ashby and Coventry Canals till about three years ago, putting the world according to C&RT to rights. Then we untied and set off back to the main line.

First port of call was Blackwater Meadow Marina, where we spent ¾ of an hour wedged in the entrance taking on diesel and a replacement gas bottle, then out again and onto the services to fill the water tank.

Blackwater Meadow Marina, a bit busy in there.IMG_3395

Filled up at both ends we had an uneventful cruise back to Coachman’s Bridge. Uneventful apart from a close encounter with another boat under Bridge 60…IMG_3396
A common occurrence in the summer, but unusual at this time of year.

We’ll be stopping here tomorrow, the bird feeders are up and already being well patronised. Then on Thursday we’ll be dropping down Frankton Locks on the Montgomery Canal.

Oh, talking about bird feeders, KevinToo asked why I didn’t empty the peanut feeder onto the ground as well as the seeds. I was always told that peanuts could choke smaller birds if swallowed whole. On the ground they can’t break them up into bite-sized pieces. So there you go…

You're welcome, Snowy Owl.

Locks 0, miles 1½

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Shopping trip to Ellesmere

After a day off yesterday, and a very pleasant visit from Val, John and the dog Harry, we decided it was time to top up the cupboards. It was only a mile and some to Ellesmere so we were in no rush to get off. I think we’ll be missed, though. Our feeders had attracted quite a few birds, mainly blue-tits.

A spectacular sunrise yesterday… 

…brought our breakfast guests. Great Tit…IMG_3361

Blue Tit


When we were ready to leave this morning I emptied the seed and a fat ball onto the ground (not the peanuts, they should never be left loose), and our other regular visitor, Cock Robin, was soon there.IMG_3371

Leaving the mooring near Coachman’s BridgeIMG_3372

Here’s another one for Snowy Owl…

It was a beautiful day, as you can see, but there was a cool breeze blowing.

We pulled into the services at the wharf…IMG_3377

…before turning left into the arm to find a mooring for a couple of days. IMG_3378

It was busy down towards the basin, but there were two or three spaces. We turned around and moored on the end of the row, just a stone’s throw from Tesco’s.IMG_3380

The first of what will be several trips, to the supermarket and the town’s shops, was undertaken after a brew and a bite to eat. I think we’ll be here to Monday or maybe Tuesday, before heading back to Frankton and spending a few days on the Montgomery Canal.

Locks 0, miles 2

Thursday, January 22, 2015

That’s more like it!

Well, the weatherman was right; last nights damp and drizzle had cleared by this morning. Not a bright start by any means, but at least it was dry.

After Meg’s walk and breakfast, the first task was to clear the roof of logs and get them sliced up. That took 90 minutes, then, after a brew, we were on our way.

Although it’s cold, a weak and watery sun trying to make an appearance raises the spirits.IMG_3349

The day steadily improved, by half-twelve it was quite a bit brighter, by one we had pale blue skies.

Getting better…IMG_3350

…better still!

Maestermyn Bridge is an awkward, blind turn from either direction. I imagine it’s interesting sitting watching the boats go by in the summer…

Maestermyn Bridge and The Narrow BoatIMG_3351

I think this cart has been there for some time… long enough for a tree to grow through it!IMG_3354

We were planning to stop at Frankton Junction, just inside the Montgomery Canal above the locks, but there were two boats there already. So we reverted to Plan B, and cruised another 1½ miles to just before Coachman’s Bridge.

Ingledene and a misty Shropshire Plain in the distanceIMG_3356

Moored near Coachman’s BridgeIMG_3358

We’ll be stopping here tomorrow, we’ve visitors coming. Being as we’re here for two nights I put the bird feeders out in the hedge. I think the birds around here are used to being fed from boats. Within 15 minutes we had a robin checking out what’s on offer, soon followed by a coal-tit and a blue-tit. Could be busy in the morning.

Locks 0, miles 4½

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cold, grey and cheerless.

That pretty well describes today’s weather. If we hadn’t been meeting friends further down the canal on Friday we’d have stayed put. I’m just glad we only had a a couple of hours to cruise.

It started to rain as soon as we set off, which soon turned to sleet then to snow. It wasn’t as cold as it has been, but it felt it, being damp and sunless.

Leaving the moorings at The Poacher’sIMG_3344

We had about 3 miles to go, finishing up just below the two New Marton Locks. I wanted Mags to stay below while I dropped us down the locks, but she was having none of it. I was secretly glad, the wet ropes, windlass and gate rails were icy cold to the touch, soon numbing my hands. Not a good condition for climbing slimy lock ladders.

It’s pointless wearing gloves; they soon get wet and make things worse. Imagine what it was like in working boat days. They’d have had to put up with these conditions day after day, for probably 10 hours a day at this time of year. Pretty grim.

It looks like it’s going to be drier tomorrow, but cold. I can cope with that.

We decided yesterday that I was starting to look like Grizzly Adams. So this afternoon out came the clippers. Now I look like a convict…

I was hoping to get the latest stash of firewood cut up as well this afternoon, but it was too wet. I’ll do it before we move tomorrow.

Locks 2, miles 3

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Back in England

Another fine day after a very cold night. Bring it on, we can cope with this! Much better than wind and rain!

We decided to move on today, but not too far. So we left it till gone 11 before we untied the stiff, frozen ropes and set off.

Above the Dee river valleyIMG_3323

Turning south after leaving the Dee we had the sun in our faces, but although we couldn’t see where we were going it was quite pleasant. It did mean that the southern end of Whitehouse Tunnel was well lit as we approached…

Just beyond the tunnel there’s a stash of wood on the offside that we’ve picked over the last two years. Today we picked up the last that could be sensibly cut with the bow-saw. The rest will need a bit more power… Maybe next winter, if it’s still there.

I mentioned that the main line rarely freezes, but the offline basins and arms do. Chirk Marina is a case in point.

Through the cutting to the north of Chirk Tunnel, cold but a bit of relief from the sun’s dazzle that was getting a bit wearing… IMG_3335

…then into the dark of Chirk Tunnel.

Out of the tunnel we crossed Chirk Aqueduct over the River Ceiriog and back over the border into England.

There’s never a train coming when you want one…IMG_3341

Over the border

We caught up with a boat here, he seemed to be struggling along the concrete lined channel above the Ceiriog. Maybe he’s deep draughted. It’s still fairly shallow along here.

We both pulled in on the moorings at The Poacher’s, us nearer the pub to see if we can pick up the free WiFi available… Oh yes!

It’s not going to be quite so cold tonight, cloud cover obscures the clear skies we had last night. And it’s just started to snow…

Locks 0, miles 3½

Monday, January 19, 2015

Going with the flow…

It’s turned decidedly wintry again. Saturday’s snow still lingers in shady spots, and it’s cold out of the sun.

Yesterday morning at daybreak… brrr!


Today we left the basin above Llangollen, retracing our route back towards Chirk. It’s been handy being here, though. The town is reasonably close for supplies, with a good range of shops. The hardware store provided a new Carbon Monoxide alarm to replace the one that died yesterday; Spar and Nisa the groceries, the greengrocer fresh veg and the chemist a cold gel pack for my right foot. But more of that later.

After my shopping expedition we pulled out of the basin, then paused again at the services to empty the loos. The water and rubbish we’d dealt before we left the mooring.

It was getting on for 1 o’clock before we entered the narrows above the Wrexham road.IMG_3306

Not expecting to meet anyone coming in I didn’t bother to walk ahead to check. It’s a good job we didn’t delay any longer at the services else we’d have met this boat in the narrow stretch.
He was one of only two we saw today.

The day was bright and sunny, but cold in the shade.

The shorter narrow section starts at Bridge 42W, Wenffrwd Bridge. IMG_3312
The turn into the bridge hole is as awkward to negotiate as it’s name…

We didn’t meet anyone in or near this narrow bit, and the rest of the trip to Trevor was uneventful.

Plas-y-Pentre Bridge, aka Bridge 34W, gives the first glimpse of that brilliant bridge from this direction.IMG_3313
It was not long afterwards that we made the sharp right turn at Trevor and had a view along the trough instead of at the side of it.

I didn’t bother taking any pictures forward, the sun was just above Pen-y-graig, almost dead ahead.
But looking to the left, the railway viaduct, further downstream, was clear to see.IMG_3319

Looking back as we leave Pontcysllte Aqueduct.IMG_3321
There must have been railings on the offside at some point, judging by the square holes pierced through the edge of the wrought iron trough. 

Mags took over on the tiller to go through Fron Lift Bridge, then we had another 15 minutes before pulling in on the moorings above the river valley. It was 3 o’clock, and starting to get cold as the sun disappeared behind the hills.

Not sure what we’re doing tomorrow, depends on the weather.

Now then, why I need that gel pack… I’ve been using a bag of frozen peas for a week or so to relieve the pain in my right heel but it’s getting a bit care-worn. It’s a reccurence of the Achilles problem I had last year, where the tendon attaches to the the heel bone or calcaneus. The bursa, a sac of fluid which prevents friction, has become inflamed and a bit swollen. Normally the pain disappears after 10 minutes of walking or running, but at around mile 12 on yesterday’s run it came back. With a vengeance. It’s never done that before.
So I’ll be on a regime of RICE for a few days. Not the boil in the bag variety, the acronym stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. The mantra for injured athletes. And me.
No running, but I might have a pedal on the old bike. At least I’ve plenty of time to pick up the training again without too much loss of form. I was just coming to nicely as well. Ah well. must be getting old, eh!

Hi Gary, Carolyn. I think the info you were given is a bit confused. The basin is the only mooring available to casual visitors in the winter, the linear moorings above the town are given over to winter moorings. We’ve moored in here for a short time in the winter for the last three years. If you’re lucky the water and power are still on, too! Sorry to read about Molly. What a shame. Our last dog, Bruno, had the same trouble.

Locks 0, miles 5½