Monday, January 15, 2018

A small project and an ethical decision.

Last Thursday and Friday we made the trip back into England to moor at the Poacher’s (again!). Thursday was fine and bright, Friday less so but at least it stayed dry.

Looking back to the aqueduct.
Like the Roundhouse at Gailey and High Bridge on the Shroppie there’s a compulsion to take a picture as soon as the opportunity presents itself…

Newbridge Railway Viaduct further upstream.
The A5 road bridge makes up the set of three high-level crossings at this end of The Dee.

Sunlight streaming through Scotch Bridge as we turn to head southDSCF2236

We split the journey by mooring just shy of Whitehouse Tunnel, then set off again on Friday mooring at 09:00.

Very misty as we set off…

Chirk Cutting was atmospheric


The tunnel at the end of the cutting was clear of the mist, but there wasn’t a lot to see as we crossed Chirk Aqueduct.DSCF2245

We pulled in on the moorings at Monks Bridge at 10:00, and Richard and Ruth arrived by van to drop us some solid fuel off about half-past. I’d just got that squared away and sat down with a coffee when the Tesco delivery arrived, 15 minutes early! He was early last time we had a drop here, too.

By half-twelve we were on the way again, not far though, just 20 minutes to moor outside The Poachers.

Our friends Val and John have been acting as Post-Persons for us this week, receiving several packages for me to do with the latest project. They turned up with them on Saturday, so I made a start yesterday.

We’ve been toying with the idea of installing a freezer for a while. Not a large one, but frankly almost anything would be better than the freezer compartment at the top of the fridge. The most common for boats seems to be the Shoreline CF35R…

product_231… a 35 litre capacity unit mounted on rails for installing under a bed or dinette. A good bit of kit, but I was unprepared to give up the amount of storage space it would have taken up.

DSCF2249 (2)

A bit of research and plenty of exercise with a tape measure decided us to go with a Dometic CF16. Only 16 litres, this one, but it will fit in the lower ⅔ of the 300mm wide cabinet alongside the fridge. It’s actually designed for strapping into the boot of a vehicle for transporting frozen or chilled supplies. Mounted on drawer runners it slides out to open the lid, then back in behind the door. I had to cut out the rear and sides of the cabinet to make sure there was plenty of air-flow for the heat exchanger, but none of that is visible. 
The hardest task was running a power supply and earth return, threading the new cables through the cabin-side trunking. The fridge supply is right next door of course, but the supply cable to that would be too small for both units. The volt drop over the 11 metre run would be too much. The only drawback is that the controls and digital temperature read-out are on the back of the unit as it’s fitted. But once it’s set up and running they shouldn’t need to be touched. It’s easy enough to lift out anyway.

The other decision we’ve made follows the recent revelations about the amount of plastic in tea-bags, of all things. It turns out that very nearly all manufacturers use a fine polypropylene mesh to reinforce the paper bag. That teabag you thought was completely biodegradeable turns out to be about 20% plastic!
So we’re following Jaq’s lead and have moved to using loose tea, supplied without any plastic on the outside of the box either!
And the tea tastes better. I’d urge you to do the same.

Locks 0, miles 4½.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A misty start but a fine day.

This morning was eerily quiet, a thick mist blanketing the distant sounds from the road down in the valley. It was clearer and very still above us on the valley side, though.

Upside-down sheep reflected in the still waterDSCF2222

The mist started to lift about mid-morning as the sun cleared the hills.DSCF2221

We were moving on today, but were in no rush. Work on the parapet railings on the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct has closed the towpath for the duration, but also the channel between 09:00 and 15:00. So there was no point in getting off till after lunch. By this time the air had cleared and it was a beautiful but chilly day as we pulled pins and got going.DSCF2223


We had an uneventful trip back to Trevor Junction. Going through the narrows between Wenffrwd Bridge and Sun Trevor I wasn’t concerned about meeting another boat, we’ve only seen two in the last three days.

Around Bridge 34W there’s a view down the valley to Cefn Mawr on it’s ridge, and if you look carefully you can catch a glimpse of the aqueduct through the trees. Just to the right of centre. Got it? Good.DSCF2225

We swung out onto the junction and moored just before the aqueduct at a quarter to three. The barriers were still there preventing boats from crossing and a work-boat was tied up halfway across, but by the time I’d returned from dropping off the rubbish and recycling the way was clear.

We pulled in just across the way, near the water taps. With the sun dropping behind Pen-y-Graig above Froncysyllte the temperature was dropping just as quickly.
We’ll fill with water in the morning before moving on to stop near Chirk Marina. On Friday we’ll head for The Poacher’s, but we’ve a Tesco delivery and Richard from Chamberlain Carrying coming to meet us on Chirk Bank on the way.
Hiya Jaq. I wish I'd have thought of wishing everyone a Happy New Year in Welsh!

Locks 0, miles 3½

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Quiet times…

Well, we’ve not done much of anything for the first week of 2018. I’ve made a couple of trips down into Llangollen, but it’s too steep for Mags to manage. Meg continues to make steady progress, I’ve now halved her steroid dose to 10mg/day as per the vet’s instructions, and she still seems to be OK. Fingers crossed.

We were a bit blown about by Storm Dylan and then Storm Eleanor, who had me up at half-one in the morning to lash the cover on the top-box down before it disappeared over the horizon, but apart from that it’s been fine in the mooring basin. DSCF2208

One job I got done was replacing the door glass in the stove. It was a bit of a struggle getting it fitted with a new seal, but I got there in the end.DSCF2209
Now we can see the fire as well as feel it! The old glass wasn’t cracked but it was badly crazed, so it was only a matter of time… It was handy doing it here anyway. Being plugged in to power meant I could use a fan heater to take the chill off the cabin when I let the stove out overnight.

DSCF2210On that subject – we had a visit from Jim, the CRT moorings officer for the area, who asked us to unplug. Apparently the power isn’t supposed to be on in the basin. I wasn’t bothered, I consider it an unlooked-for bonus, but a couple of the other boaters here were a little put out. A little later Roger and Roger from the Ellesmere yard came and taped the sockets and RCD covers up.
They can’t turn the power off at the transformer because there’s frost heaters on the water supply, it seems. And I was also told that the moorings here are still restricted to 48 hours, even though there’s a general winter limit of 14 days on moorings otherwise restricted. Unless it specifically states all year round.
That’s gonna put a crimp on some folks’ plans. Forty-eight hours limit and no power! I wonder how long the tape will stay on…

Anyway, we’d intended to move out today. We’ve been here a week, and in our defense we did think it was 14 days… I did the last bits of shopping yesterday, down the hill in the town.

The Dee is a little full after the rain…


A beautiful day for a short cruise, but cold.DSCF2211

Past the wharf…

…and through the narrows, hewn from the rock on the side of the valley.DSCF2216

We didn’t go far, stopping just past Llandyn Lift Bridge in a fine sunny spot. DSCF2218

There’s been a lot of folk up and down the towpath this afternoon, taking advantage of the sunshine. They’ve been well wrapped up though, the wind is chilly.

We’ll stay here for a day or two, before moving on a bit back towards Chirk.

Locks 0, miles 1

Monday, January 01, 2018

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2018, may all your troubles be little ones!
We hope you enjoyed last night, whatever you may have been doing. We were quiet, just the two of us and Meg, but we did see the New Year in, watching the fireworks over The Thames and the less spectacular but still notable fireworks over Llangollen.

We’re in the basin at the head of navigation (for powered boats), having arrived on Saturday. It was quite hard work heading up here, the wind combined with the flow down from Horseshoe Falls made some of the shallow sections tricky. There were several boats about too, and we ran aground waiting for a day boat to sort himself out, and then again while retrieving a rubbish bag that had blown off the roof.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We woke on Friday to another couple of inches of snow.DSCF2192

Needing some groceries that were missed off the Tesco delivery the other day I trekked up to the Tesco in Cefn Mawr, the other side of the river.DSCF2198

From Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, looking down the snowy Dee valley.DSCF2194

The settlement of Cefn Mawr is well named, it translates from the Welsh as Big Ridge and it’s quite a steep pull up to the High Street, especially on icy pavements.

Cefn Mawr, and the neighbouring village of Cefn-bychan (Little Ridge) were heavily industrialised, with collieries, quarries and forges busy during the 18th and 19th centuries. The opening of the canal made shipping the mineral wealth of the area a lot easier after 1805, when the aqueduct was completed.

Looking up the Trevor Branch from Scotch Hall BridgeDSCF2196

This should have been the main line heading up and over the hills between Pontcysyllte and the River Mersey at Netherfield, had the original plan been followed. But costs escalated and the route was changed to what we enjoy today.
The end of the branch has two arms; the one to the right, east, is actually a stub of the Plas Kynaston Canal, built in 1820 to service the local industries but mostly buried under the Monsanto chemical works in the early 20th century. The works has now closed, and there’s a proposal to re-open the canal, with a marina at the terminus.

Plas Kynaston Canal in 1898
Plas Kynaston Canal

We had guests aboard for the trip up to Llangollen on Saturday, Val, Yen and Mike arrived at around 10:30 for coffee, then we set off across the aqueduct. 

It was a bit blowy on the exposed crossing but I was hoping that as we turned to the west the hills would shelter us. But if anything the wind was worse at times, funneling down the valley.
We made use of the passing place on the first set of narrows just up from Sun Trevor, as the Thomas Telford, the Aqueduct Cruises boat, was coming the other way.

The second one-way length, taking the canal to the moorings above Llangollen, doesn’t have the luxury of a passing place, so Mike walked ahead to look out for oncoming boats.

Looking down on the town

Moored in the basin, it’s busier than we’ve ever seen it in the winter!DSCF2206

A couple of boats have left since we got here, aiming to get clear of New Marton Locks before they’re closed for maintenance tomorrow. One of those was Oleanna, with Pip and Mick aboard.
We’d had a chat earlier in the morning as they walked past while I was knocking up another satellite dish mount to replace the wind-damaged one.

So that’s it, all the excitement over for another year. We’ll be here for a few days before heading back towards Chirk. I’m going to be struggling to find things to write about for a bit, as we’re now confined to the stretch of canal between here and St Martins due to the stoppages. Seyella is being blacked at Anglo Welsh at Trevor Basin at Easter.

Locks 0, miles 5

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Back to Ponty…

Well, we hope you all had a good Christmas. Good food, good company, and not too much plonk…

We certainly did. we were collected on Christmas morning and spent Christmas day and night with our friends Val and Johnny. We shared an excellent lunch and the chat went on into the small hours. We returned to the boat mid-afternoon on Boxing Day, fired up the heating and soon had a blazing log fire going to take the chill off.

So yesterday it was time to move on again. We were pointing in the wrong direction though, so needed to turn around. The next winding hole was only just down the canal, but we chose to go a little further, to turn around at Lion Quays, which would give me the chance to collect some more firewood from near Moreton Bridge. If there was any left…

…and there was, although all the good stuff has now gone.DSCF2173  

We turned around and I pulled in for a few minutes to collect enough for a couple of days, then we moved on a hundred yards or so to get the longer bits cut up and to get a bite of lunch. We were in no hurry; we’d got a Tesco delivery organised for between 2 and 3 at Monks Bridge.

Returning past The Poacher’s

I was just pulling in on the moorings at Monks Bridge at a quarter to two when Tescoman arrived.
He explained that he was early because a previous customer had turned him away, claiming that they hadn’t gone through as much food as they expected, so they didn’t need the delivery. Why they couldn’t have cancelled the previous evening I don’t know. I wasn’t complaining, we were on our way again long before I thought we’d be.

We had about an hour to cruise to moor near Chirk Marina. It takes a lot longer going “uphill” over Chirk Aqueduct and through the tunnel, pushing against the flow coming down from the Dee.

Coming to the end of the aqueduct, with Chirk Tunnel just ahead. DSCF2177
The hire boat has had to wait for us after coming through the tunnel.

We pulled up on the moorings just short of Chirk Marina after a stop-start but enjoyable short cruise.
We had rain overnight, which turned to sleet and then snow before the sky cleared and froze the damp patches. But it left us with a beautiful but cold morning.

Passing Chirk Marina as we left this morningDSCF2182

Whitehouse Tunnel was partially lit from behind with the sun low in the south.DSCF2185

We swung to the west after Irish Bridge, following the Dee upstream but 126 feet above the river in a concrete channel.

Froncysyllte Lift Bridge
I intended to leave Mags inside, the wind was biting, but as I was just finishing winding the bridge up she appeared at the tiller. So she brought the boat through, but went back in out of the wind as soon as the bridge was down. We pulled in to fill the nearly-empty water tank at the end of the long-term moorings, then moved on just a few yards to moor almost in sight of the south end of Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.

The aqueduct is just around the corner.

The weather is looking pretty grim for the next day or so, wind driven rain and snow expected so we’ll stay here. Then we’ve guests for the last leg up to Llangollen on Saturday.

Locks 0, miles 4½

Friday, December 22, 2017

Back in England for Christmas

We passed through two tunnels and across one aqueduct on Wednesday, returning across the border to moor at The Poachers Pocket again.

Whitehouse Tunnel

The woodsmoke wasn’t too much of a problem, these tunnels are high and wide, and the draught was going our way too.

After cruising past Chirk Marina and through the cutting, we pulled in just shy of Chirk Tunnel. This one’s a bit longer than Whitehouse, and the fire was now smoking vigorously, so I stopped to go shopping at this end rather than go through first.DSCF2154

By the time  returned the smoke had cleared a bit as the logs got going, so on we went, through and out into the basin at the other end to line up for the aqueduct.


Over the Ceiriog and back into England

We followed the top of the Ceiriog valley along Chirk Bank before turning south and mooring outside The Poachers.
Plenty of room on moorings here.

A cheeky robin turned up looking for food and was rewarded with a few crumbs of brown bread…

…followed by half a dozen of these guys on the other side of the boat.DSCF2171
You’d have thought, after having had a good feed off us, they would have considered sacrificing one of their number for our Christmas dinner, but the suggestion fell on deaf ears. (Do geese have ears? I guess they must…)

On Thursday morning Richard, on the coal boat Mountbatten, came past on his last trip this way for a while. Stoppages at this end of the canal will prevent him coming up till March, but he will be delivering by road.
We filled with diesel and took some solid fuel as well. We’ve still got plenty of wood, but there’s a long winter ahead.

Today Meg and I were picked up to go into the vet at Chirk by Fiona, of We Love Paws and Tails. An excellent service.
It’s often difficult finding taxis that will take dogs, and Fiona waited for us while we were in with the vet, then even took me took a chemist afterwards. Lovely people.

The vet was happy with Meg’s progress, although he’d not seen her before we’d had all the recent history faxed over from Middlewich so he was fully informed. He gave her a good going over, her chest seems to be pretty clear now, there’s just the dry cough that she has now and then, which has made her throat a bit tender. He was happy to prescribe another month of steroids that are doing a good job keeping her breathing comfortable, and have the secondary effect of improving the condition of her arthritis. I’ll reduce the dose after a fortnight, to see if she can manage on less of this powerful drug. I didn’t think there’d be a problem, she’s certainly bucked up although not back to her normal self yet. But that’s one of our Christmas wishes granted…

We’ll be spending some time with good friends Val and John over the next few days, they’re only 15 minutes away by car.

So it only leaves me to say have a great Christmas. Enjoy!

Locks 0, miles 3