Monday, February 02, 2015

End of the navigation…

I couldn’t post yesterday; quiet and rural as the mooring was, there was no internet and you had to walk around on the towpath to get a phone signal.

So… we moved down from Queen’s Head yesterday. It’s not a place you’d stay if you didn’t have to. The towpath with the mooring rings is awash at this time of year, alongside the old warehouse is dry but there’s no TV reception.

There are three locks left to do before the current end of the navigation, well kept and easy to use.

Aston Lock 1IMG_3447

Below the top lock the horse boat Saturn is mooredIMG_3448

Between the locksIMG_3449

There’s an extensive wetland nature reserve alongside the locks, created when the canal was re-opened…
And a curious small brick building alongside the bottom lock. No chimney so it’s unlikely to have been a lock-keepers hut, and the basement is flooded.

We didn’t go much further, there’s a length of piling just before Park Mill Bridge where the water is just about deep enough.

The wind, strong when we set off, steadily eased through the day, leaving us with a still, starry night… and ice in the morning!IMG_3453

It was still below zero when I set off for a run, the first for 14 days as I’ve been nursing an injury to my right ankle joint. It went much as I expected but not as well as I’d hoped, a bit sore for a start but easing to bearable discomfort after a mile or two. I’ve got to get back into it though, my first race, a half-marathon, is on March 8th, then the BIG ONE, the Manchester Marathon, is 6 weeks after that. Which is a suitable link to remind those that haven’t already contributed to my fundraiser for Macmillan Cancer Support, there’s a button to click on over to the right, or get that text finger working. Ta.

After breakfast Meg and I took a short but slightly muddy toddle across the fields to St Winifred’s Well.

The well has a half-timbered structure over it.  IMG_3454
St. Winifred (Winifride) was a 7th century princess who was murdered by a rejected suitor by the usually effective method of decapitation. But not so effective in this case, her uncle St Beuno, was on hand, re-attached her head and restored her to life. The uncle then turned his attentions to the jealous would-be lover, Caradoc, invoking the Chastisement of Heaven, and causing him to be swallowed up by the earth. Not a guy to mess with, old Uncle Beuno.
Don’t you just love a happy ending.

Anyway, at the site of her “death”, a well sprung up, and is still a place of pilgrimage for those seeking cures for maladies. All this happened in Holywell, over in Flintshire.
She became a nun and ultimately Abbess at Gwytherin Abbey, dying (conclusively this time) in around 660. Her remains were interred at Holywell, but, in 1138, some relics were transported to Shrewsbury Abbey to create a shrine, and the caravan rested here, near Woolston, overnight.

Miraculously this spring appeared.   

These waters are also claimed to have healing properties, and cisterns have been built below the spring to allow bodily immersion.IMG_3460

Meg had a dip, but decided it was too cold!IMG_3462
Tasted OK though, apparently…

The building above the well was the medieval chapel for prayer and meditation, but is now a holiday let owned and run by the Landmark Trust.

On the way back, frosted grass and muddy paws.

I was thinking that we’d have to break ice to go down to Gronwen Wharf and the current end of the canal, but a Trust workboat crunched past at around ten, leaving a slot cut for us to follow. But before we did I spent 90 minutes slicing and dicing the latest acquisitions on the firewood front.

Approaching Maesbury Marsh, the chimney is attached to the now-defunct animal feed mill. IMG_3465

The village was quite a hub at one time, being the closest on the canal to Oswestry. The Navigation Inn started life as a warehouse, with a coal wharf now serving as the pub garden.

On the other side of the road bridge the town wharf is now occupied by a smart new sanitary station. IMG_3469

Past the empty visitor moorings and the tin-roofed shop/tea rooms, around the corner is Crofts Mill Lift Bridge.IMG_3471
Up until the latest phase of restoration this bridge was impassable for boats, the original brick arch having been replaced by a flat deck just above the water. The lift bridge allows passage of both forms of transport.
To the left in the picture is the arm servicing Croft’s Mill, now used for moorings.

And that’s about it for the time being. Another couple of hundred yards brings you to Gronwen Wharf, the navigable limit. IMG_3472
The winding hole here is in fact the junction with another derelict and filled-in arm, built for loading coal brought by tramway from Morda and Coed-y-Go.

The bridge is the end of navigation for powered craft, but the barrier across the canal has been removed, allowing a horse-drawn trip boat access onto the next section in water. IMG_3473

IMG_3473 cropped

There’s no winding-hole further on, which is why we can’t go further. The trip-boat is double ended, and can be towed and steered from either end.

We turned around at the wharf, having an easy time of it as the work-boat had already done the same, breaking the ice. They were trimming back the offside vegetation further back towards Maesbury.

Back through the lift bridge, then we pulled in on the first of the lengths of 48 hour visitor moorings.

This sparrow seemed to enjoy a ride down and back up again on the bridge balance weight…

Moored near MaesburyIMG_3477
It’s likely that we’ll be frozen in again in the morning; the temperature is already below zero now, at 7 o’clock. We’ll see how it goes.

Locks 3, miles 2¾


nb Chuffed said...

Glad to hear you're running again. Take it easy!
best wishes

Geoff and Mags said...

Thanks Debby.
The jury's out still, though. I'll know at the weekend...