Monday, February 27, 2017

A helping hand on the way to Llangollen.

Yesterday we moved down to Froncysyllte, mooring overnight just short of the aqueduct. Large mats of vegetation  were floating down the canal again, this time I’m blaming Storm Doris rather than the veg cutting crews. There was a extensive raft at the northern end of Whitehouse Tunnel, but it had broken up by the time we left.

Whitehouse tunnel.

With it’s north/south orientation, at this time of year in the morning the sun almost shines straight into the southern entrance. If we had any, that is!

We were followed along the Dee embankment to Fron Lift Bridge by a couple in a canoe, and I was thinking that they’re deliberately holding back so they could take advantage of me lifting the bridge rather than having to carry their boat around it. I shouldn’t be so cynical; as we approached the bridge they shouted across that if they could borrow a windlass they’d open the bridge for us! I handed one across, they went past and Megan jumped off, lifted the bridge and we both went through.

Thanks, guys

We pulled around the corner and moored just past the water point while they carried on across the aqueduct to Trevor.

It was a windy night, but it had dropped by this morning. Our guests, Val and Caroline, arrived just after 10 and we set off after coffee.

Caroline and Val (and Meg!) on Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

We’d waited for a shower to ease, and had good views both up and down the valley as we crossed the aqueduct.

Cefn Mawr railway viaduct crossing the Dee downstream.IMG_3612

Gate Road Bridge just upstream
A fair bit of water in the river today.

We swung hard left under Bridge 31W and headed for Llangollen. At this point we had a decision to make. Plan A was to turn around at Bryn Howell Bridge and go back to where we started, but the alternative was to push on to Llangollen if the girls could get picked up from there. A phone call to Val’s husband John OK’d that, so we carried on through sunshine and showers.

All went well until we’d passed the first narrow section just beyond The Sun Trevor. There we came upon a CRT gang removing a tree that had fallen, blocking the channel.
We were asked to wait for a few minutes till they got the worst out of the way, then we were waved through as they moved the work-boat over to the offside. As we got alongside the tree we ran aground, not on the towpath side as I’d feared we might, but in the middle, leaning over to the left. And no amount of forward and reverse, rocking and pushing, would get us off. After 15 fruitless minutes one of the guys came up with a brilliant idea of towing us off backwards – with their Landrover. No problem with that!

With us out of the way they could poke around for the obstruction, and it turned out to be another limb of the fallen tree, broken off and trapped under the water at one end. With the aid of their boat they got it free to clear the channel.IMG_3620

If it’s still around when we come back it might get cut up and on our roof!

The rest of the trip was uneventful, and we arrived at the mooring basin at around 2 o’clock in a heavy, sleety shower. The rest of the crew were conspicuous by their absence…

Through the narrows above Llangollen

Heading for a pontoon in that squally shower.

I had to get changed when we were tied up, then we had lunch before John came over to pick our guests up.
Although the weather was a bit mixed we had a good day, I think Caroline has now got the boating bug. She was asking about hire boats… We’ll no doubt see her again before we leave the locality.

Now we’re here again we’ll stay a few days. Mags has a niece over on the coast, and she might be able to get across to see us. All go, ain’t it!

Locks 0, miles 7 (2 days) 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Back to February weather, and back into Wales.

We’ve had wind and drizzly rain again today. Not windy enough to make cruising difficult, though.

We were on the move by half-nine, I knew we’d be hanging about in the chamber of New Marton Bottom Lock and didn’t want to hold anyone up.

There was this pile of wood you see, on the other side of the lock bywash…IMG_3568

…which had a specially prepared space on our roof!
There’s still plenty there, but you’ll need your boarding plank to get to it!

Mags took the tiller coming up the two locks.

Courtesy of Storm Doris
The email notifications from CRT yesterday morning were full of closures due to fallen trees. Fountains, the contractors, will have been busy.
We passed one tree yesterday, partly blocking the navigation, but the crews were already on hand to tackle it.

Good, no-one coming the other way on Chirk AqueductIMG_3578

Some nasty weather moving in from the west…

Over the border yet again!

We pulled in just beyond Chirk Tunnel so I could have a quick trip up to the shops, then carried on through the cutting.

I thought our luck had run out when I saw this across the channel….IMG_3582
…but we’d passed two boats going the other way so there must be room to squeeze through.

And there was – just!

Another casualty


We pulled in on the visitor moorings just before Chirk Marina, had a spot of lunch then I set to and cut up the latest addition to the fuel stores. At this rate we’ll be carrying several bags of smokeless fuel around all summer!

Just a short day tomorrow, mooring either before or after Fron Lift Bridge. Not decided yet.

Locks 2, miles 5¾

Friday, February 24, 2017

Away from Ellesmere – back to Wales!

We’d managed to get moored at the end of the Ellesmere Arm on Wednesday morning for Andrea and Chris to come to see Mags. I’m glad we did, even in this fairly sheltered spot Storm Doris certainly made her presence felt!

It’d didn’t seem to bother the ducks, though…
…they just jauntily bounced around on the waves!

It was a different world this morning, blue skies with fluffy white clouds, and a cool but gentle breeze.IMG_3545

The veg-cutting contractors have been busy further upstream. Mats of gorse cuttings and small branches kept fouling the prop and collecting around the stem.

I suspect that the number on Bridge 68 has been “recycled” from another canal…IMG_3555

I think I know where it’s from. I’ve mentioned before that the originally planned main line started below Bridge 1 as it joined the Shropshire Union at Hurleston, and ended beyond Bridge 158 at Newtown, the latter section from Bridge 69 at Frankton being now known as the Montgomery Canal. Bridge 89 on the unrestored section of the Montgomery was a railway bridge, now demolished. But it looks like they saved the cast iron number!

Empty moorings above Frankton Locks


Cormorant taking off as we get too close

It was a very pleasant and uneventful cruise, ending below New Marton Locks in a quiet spot after the hustle and bustle of the metropolis of Ellesmere.

The awkward turn under Maestermyn Bridge

While we’ve been at Ellesmere I’ve just chopped enough wood to get by day-to-day, because of the number of folk about. I caught up with the remainder when we stopped, stacking it in the cratch. We’ll need the roof space…

Now then, why are we heading Wales-ward again, instead of making our way steadily back to the Shroppie? Well, there’s this good friend of Val and John’s who was unable to join us on the last trip across Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, but she’s free on Monday.  So we’re going to do it again. Lovely.

Locks 0, miles 6½

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Fixing stuff…

Well, in most cases, anyway.

We’ve stayed put here at Ellesmere, it’s handy for the visitors we’ve had. Val and John came over yesterday, bringing Val’s iPad with a cracked screen, and a replacement sourced off good old ebay.
I’d not changed one of these before, but there’s a handy video on YouTube…

Getting the old one off was the hardest job.

Finished and working again, what a relief!
Yes, it’s now white instead of black. Val fancied a change!

I’ve also serviced and tested the Webasto Thermotop water heater, now set aside as a spare while the Eberspacher remains reliable after it’s recent rebuild.

Heath-Robinson test rig…

And finally I’ve recovered my Eric Clapton blues CD from a new radio/CD player that was faulty and refused to give it back!

Our old radio died with a smell of burning, pretty terminal I guess. So I thought I’d get a replacement off ebay (again!), new but cheap. Too cheap, I guess, it didn’t work!
Well, it did, partly. But none of the buttons on the removable front panel did anything, the functions only worked from a remote control unit that came with it. I put the aforementioned CD in the drive to check that out, without realising that the eject button was one of the non-functional ones on the front!
I’d bought it from a UK supplier, but my emails were replied to from the head office in Hong Kong. With the time difference this meant that a meaningful dialogue was somewhat sporadic, with their office hours being our early hours of the morning. But they eventually agreed to refund the cost in full, and also told me they didn’t want the unit back, so I could happily dismantle it to get Eric back…

Out he comes…
… completely undamaged.

I had a look at the connections to the front panel while I was in there, but couldn’t see anything obvious and I’m not a radio engineer anyway. So it’ll get it recycled at the next opportunity. It cost me nothing but time, after all.

A couple of weeks ago we got in touch with one of Mags’ god-daughters who she hasn’t seen for – well let’s say – a lot of years! She came down from Manchester to see her again, and an enjoyable afternoon of catching up and gossip kept us all entertained.

Mags with Andrea and Chris yesterday afternoon.
We’ll not leave it so long next time!

We were planning to move today, but with Storm Doris now making us bounce around we may hold off another day.

So – Locks 0, miles 0

Friday, February 17, 2017

A chance to top-up the cupboards.

We took two days to get to Ellesmere, stopping overnight at Frankton Junction above the locks.

A fine day as we head towards Lower Frankton

It wasn’t to last though. By mid afternoon it had turned to showers. We only had less than a mile to go to the junction, where we met Brian off coal boat Alton.

Frankton Junction
About once a month he deliveries on the Llangollen, but by road rather than boat. We could have used the local coalman like we did on the way up, but we needed a gas bottle as well as solid fuel, and while we were at it I ordered some diesel as well. He’s been delivering on here since ACCCo. ceased trading last April, hoping to keep their customers for a buyer for the working pair Mountbatten and Jellicoe. No sign of one those at the moment, though. It was good to see him, it’s been a while.

So this morning, now weighing in at 300-odd kilos than we did when we arrived, we set off on the 3½ miles to Ellesmere.

The top of Frankton Locks this morning.
It should have taken a little over an hour, but we had a hold up…

The veg-trimming contractors have been busy along here, not just grass and hedge cutting, but also lopping back some of the overgrown trees on the offside. If I’d known I may not have got 10 bags of smokeless off Brian, but then again, it may look like an early Spring, but it is still only February…

Couldn’t get near the side for these…

…but got close enough for some of this.

There’s lots to be had, if you’re prepared to use a plank to get ashore, but we weren’t greedy, and anyhow there wasn’t a lot of room on the roof!
There was some more on the towpath side just before Bridge 66, so I collared that and pulled in on the moorings here to get my booty cut up.

That done we set off again, arriving at the services at Ellesmere Wharf at around 2 o’clock.

The overcast start cleared to leave us with a beautiful sunny afternoon, the flowers on the gorse bushes near Val Hill almost glowing in the bright light.IMG_3529

I hope the contractors carry on up towards Ellesmere, there’s a lot of overhanging stuff on the offside that needs removing…IMG_3532

We filled the water tank and disposed of rubbish and recycling at the wharf, then just pushed across the navigation to moor up. We were planning to moor down on the arm, but a boater leaving told me there wasn’t a lot of room left. So we chose to stay here.

First trip to Tesco has been done. There be another couple yet.

Locks 0, miles 4½.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Back over the border.

We’ve been steadily heading generally eastward, taking Friday and Saturday to get to the Poacher’s Pocket, just over the border into England.

First time for ages, Mags on the tiller through Fron Lift Bridge!IMG_3470 

Old wonky horns again near Whitehouse Tunnel

Moored for the night opposite Chirk Marina.

Back into England over Chirk Aqueduct on Saturday

Daffodils! It must be nearly Spring!

On Sunday we had guests. John and Val had walked across Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, but never crossed it by boat. We intended to correct that omission…
It was a cold damp day, so warm clothing was in order…

Having a brew before we set off – and John nearly smiled!IMG_3485

Whitehouse Tunnel

John expertly guides Seyella under Fron Lift Bridge.

We crossed over the aqueduct, turned around at the entrance to the Trevor Branch, then came back again.

Val, John and Harry the dachshund on the way back over.IMG_3492

I had to struggle through crowds on the short bit of towpath that’s currently open to get the last picture!
File 13-02-2017, 09 23 03

The only other moving boat we saw all day, and it had to be at the congested bit at Fron Limekilns!IMG_3493

We stopped for Sunday lunch on one of the mooring lengths above the Dee, then pressed on to return to the pub moorings. Odd drizzly showers blew over, but the heaviest sleety rain occurred while we were eating, so that wasn’t too bad. All in all a good day, one which we all enjoyed. And the longest day’s cruising we’ve done in a while!

It’s a pity we couldn’t have done the trip on Monday, it was a far better day. But while work is going on on the towpath, the aqueduct is only open all day on a Sunday.

Yesterday we were off again, in warm sunshine.

Blue skies and sun at St Martin’s Moor Bridge
But the temperature dipped sharply in the shade…
Unlike when we came the other way, you could see across the moor…IMG_3503

…and we didn’t have to defrost the water taps above New Marton Locks with a kettle of hot water!IMG_3504

Mags took the tiller again to drop down the two New Marton LocksIMG_3507

IMG_3507 cropped
It’s great to see her back again!

We pulled in for the night below the locks. I had a new radio to install, after the old one went into melt down. But it didn’t work properly, so I‘m now in conversation with the ebay supplier… I’m sure we’ll resolve the problem amicably.

So, on to this morning and we’re back to the cold, overcast weather we’re more used to. No locks so Mags could stay in the warm, but not so far to go anyway.

Splendid roving/turnover/snake/changeline bridge near Maestermyn.IMG_3512
This elegant design allowed the boat-horse to cross the canal, where the towpath changes sides,  without having to unhitch the tow. Different regions have different names for them.

We stopped just past Bridge 4W, the moorings here are nice and open, and the towpath is grass and tolerably dry. Always good at this time of year! I think we’ll be here a couple of nights, before moving on to Frankton to meet Brian and Ann Marie for fuel, then on to Ellesmere for the weekend. The cupboards and fridge are looking horribly empty.

Hi Diane, Ray. Your question about Llangollen mooring basin - Yes, while we were there, there were several of the service bollards that were live. Three opposite the entrance, and another three at the upstream end. Not sure whether they are supposed to be, however. You'll know what I mean when you get there. The water was still on, too, a tap at the end of each pontoon. And as an added bonus, during the winter you don't have to pay the mooring fee, and the 48 hour moorings become 14 days! Result!
Thanks for the kind comment about the pics. We aim to please.

Since the last post – Locks 2, miles 24