Monday, June 30, 2008

Back towards Frankton

We had a quiet day on the mooring yesterday. There was a canoe race along this stretch and we didn’t want to get embroiled in that. The weather started well, but turned wet in the afternoon.

Canoe Race in the rain.
Today we headed back towards Frankton Junction. A better day, with some bright sunny spells. Apart from a couple of boats that passed before we set off, we saw no traffic all day.

Approaching Aston Bottom Lock
A very pleasant cruise, taken at just over tick-over, saw us finish up just before Perry Aqueduct, about 2 miles from the junction.
This is a splendid spot, on the off-side (strictly speaking it’s a holding mooring for the aqueduct) with just enough room for both of our boats.

Moored at Perry Aqueduct.
Did a bit of painting in the afternoon on Seyella, just touching up really on the stem post, rubbing strakes and fender brackets.
We did some small fiddly bits on Corbiere later, but wished we hadn’t. We did it too late, and the dew settling on it caused it to “bloom” (go hazy). So that’ll have to be done again.

Sealy tried out her new lifejacket….

And I cleaned out the fire flue….
Locks 3, miles 4

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cruising the Monty....

We were a bit short on essentials, so decided to get a Tesco delivery for this morning. There’s road access to a car park alongside the moorings for the van to get to us.

The groceries arrived at 10:45, but it was another hour before we’d got everything unpacked and stowed away. We’ll be eating well for the next couple of days. We tend to indulge in some luxuries when we don’t have to carry them far, and we’re now well stocked up on fresh fruit and vegetables. I know what the sailors of the early long distance voyages felt like; we look forward to fresh food and eat it while it’s at it’s best before resorting to canned goods till the next opportunity. Fresh pineapple and strawberries! Yum!

We were off at 11:45, with just a 10 minute cruise till arriving at Graham Palmer lock. This is a new lock, built to maintain the water at slightly higher level than originally. It’s named after one of the founder members of the Waterways Recovery Group, who were responsible for a lot of the restoration work on the canal.

Graham Palmer Lock
All that we’ve heard about the Montgomery turns out to be true; it’s very pretty, and pretty shallow and narrow too!

Typical Montgomery Canal.

The canal is cut fairly straight, through arable and pasture land. Just the odd farmhouse is seen in the distance, until the road and railway arrives for a short time at Heath Houses.

Restored Warehouse and Heath House Bridge
The next bit of civilisation is at Queens Head with the eponymous pub and smart hotel boats Snipe and Taurus tied up near by.

Snipe and Taurus
The Aston Locks are the last encountered at the current level of restoration, a flight of 3, spaced over a mile. I think the middle one, set in woodland, is high on my list for The Most Attractive Lock award.

Aston Middle Lock
The slimline Red Bridge is next, before more civilisation intrudes as the current terminus is neared. There are visitor moorings opposite the Navigation Inn at Maesbury (recommended for food, apparently) and a little further on, but we pressed on to the last lift bridge and the terminus winding hole.

End of the line. Carol turning in the winding hole at Gronwyn Bridge.
That’s all for now, folks. The towpath can be followed for a while, but the navigation is closed at the bridge.

We turned around, came back through Maesbury with it’s unusually designed Post Office, stores and Tea Room, and moored between the village and Red Bridge. We’re looking out across open fields, here.

Maesbury Post Office. Yes it does have a corrugated iron roof……
Red Bridge
The weather remains much as it has been, cool with odd showers and the occasional glimpse of the sun.
Coming down here is a bit of a relief from the hectic activity on the Langollen. Access is restricted to only so many boats per year, as the area is a designated SSSI.

While we were at the moorings on the Weston Arm, Carol negotiated with a couple on another boat for a redundant dog life-jacket. So here's Sealy, sporting her rather snazzy fluorescent red number...

Locks 4, miles 7

Friday, June 27, 2008

Off the Llangollen and onto the Montgomery.

Just a short day today. I’d booked passage through onto the Montgomery Canal for today, and the locks are only open between 12 and 2, so we were in no rush to get going. Carol arrived at 11:00, having stayed up above the locks last night, and we moved off together at 11:40.
The 3 miles back to Frankton Junction were very busy with boats coming the other way, but, apart from Carol getting tangled up with 2 Canaltime boats at Maerstermyn, we made it without incident.

We arrived at 12:50, and joined the queue to go down the locks behind one other boat. There was a bit of a hold-up, with a broken down boat being manhauled up the locks, but we were on the way again shortly and were through the staircase and the 2 singles by 14:00.

We’d decided to stop over at the moorings on the short stub that is all that is left of the Weston Arm, so, after taking advantage of the facility block sited here, were moored by 14:15.

Moored on the Weston Arm
Feeding the Menagerie with a bit of leftover ham.
It’s been a blustery day, with spits of rain in the wind.

Locks 4, miles 4

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A bit of sanding, a bit of painting, a bit of cruising....

We spent a couple of semi-productive days on the mooring above New Marton Locks.
Tuesday we spent on Corbiere, stripping the paint off the left cabin side. Yesterday the weather turned against us, wet and windy till mid afternoon. So we rewired Carol’s tunnel light so she can switch it on from the rear control panel, instead of having to dash through the cabin as she approaches a tunnel!

Later the weather improved, so I took a chance and got the second and final coat of black gloss on the left side below the gunwale on Seyella. Just a bit of touching up on the red on the bow and that’ll do for the next few months.

Today we decided to move on, heading down to Frankton Junction with a plan to turn onto the Montgomery Canal tomorrow. Carol was out of essentials, so went for a walk up to St Martins, while we shoved off down to the locks. As soon as we set off it started to rain, but we had an easy passage through the 2 locks, boats were leaving both locks as we approached, and there were others waiting to come up as we left. So we were through after just 40 minutes.

The rain was now coming on quite heavily, and the wind had picked up. So we called it a day just below the lock. I don’t get any joy out of cruising in wet, windy weather.

I see BW have issued a warning about drinking water in the Northampton area. It’s going to be a bit of a pain for boaters having to boil all their water. But at least they can move their homes into unaffected areas....

“Boiling of Drinking Water in Northampton, Daventry and West of Daventry

Wednesday 25 June 2008 until further notice

Anglian Water customers in the Northampton, Daventry and west of Daventry areas are advised to boil drinking water before use. **Please take note of this when using any waterpoints in these areas.**
Only once drinking water has been boiled and allowed to cool should it be used for drinking, preparing food or cleaning teeth. This advice also applies to pets.
For more information, visit

Enquiries: 01908 302500

More stoppages on this waterway:

You can find all stoppages at the url below:”

The problem apparently relates to a water treatment plant at Pitsford, although the water authority haven’t yet isolated the cause. BBC Northamptonshire story here.

And my heart goes out to the 15 year old girl who had her legs trapped by a swing bridge on the Ashton Canal in Droylsden, Manchester. She has lost both limbs below the knee as a result. This happened last Friday, and BW have launched an investigation. The Daily Mail has the story here.

One thing that worries me is the implication in the quotation

“They [swing bridges] are locked and can only be opened with a special key, which is issued to all boaters.”

I don’t know whether this bridge is locked with a BW “Watermate” key, or a handcuff key which is more common in the area. But both of these are readily available from boatyards and chandlers, so are not as the article seems to imply, the sole preserve of the boating community.

Watermate Key and Handcuff Key, both readily available to boaters and non boaters.In fact, during our trip down the Rochdale, several of the security devices on the lock gates had been cut off or broken. And of course, the accident begs the question of how far BW can go to ensure the safety of the public. The Health and Safety Act uses the phrase “Reasonably Practicable”. In the final analysis, people have to take responsibility for their own actions.

Locks 2, miles ¾

Monday, June 23, 2008

Interlude and visitors at Llangollen, an odd duck and a one-legged Coot

We’ve had a mixed weekend at Llangollen. Saturday’s weather was appalling, rain all day, sometimes light but often heavy. We spent the day indoors, watching the hire boats arriving with the steerers faces showing attitudes ranging from “I don’t care it’s raining, I’m on holiday” to “I bet it’s not raining in Ibeza”!

Sunday was much better though. The rain had been blown away by a gale force wind, felt across most of the country. We braved the elements, Meg and I, and climbed up to Castell Dinas Bran, high on a hill overlooking the town. Certainly bracing up there!

Dinas Bran

Llangollen from the ruins

The castle is a thirteenth century fortification, and was quite sizeable. But it was sacked and burned after only a few years.

In the afternoon we had visitors. First it was Mag’s niece and namesake, Margaret, who drove across from Llandudno Junction, followed by friends Carol and Amanda, who live near Wrexham. It was very pleasant to catch up; we haven’t seen any of them for over a year.

Like Carol, we’d wangled an extra night out of the BW mooring warden, but, as she had arrived earlier than us, she had to move out. Not so far though, just 15 minutes down the canal to the end of the long narrow bit. We were able to stay last night, and moved out today, after a last bit of shopping and using the “facilities”. It’s handy on the moorings here; although it costs £6 a night, you have access to water points and free electricity at bollards along the moorings. So we left today, having done several loads of washing, and with our batteries stuffed full of volts!

Leaving Llangollen Moorings

We caught up with and passed Carol, and headed down to the 2nd section of narrows, where we had a bit of a hold up as 4 boats were coming through from the opposite direction. We were off again after 25 minutes or so.

Waiting for our turn through the narrow bit.
Mags carefully negotiating the narrows. Watch the new paint!
Another short wait for a couple of boats, then we popped out into Trevor basin, and made the hard right turn onto Pontcysylte Aqueduct. After meeting so many boats in the last couple of miles, we were amazed to see the long channel clear of boats.

Onto the Aqueduct.
We weren’t so lucky at Chirk though. We had to wait for 2 or 3 boats to come through, although the wait was mitigated by the chance to admire the pair moored near the entrance. They’re going to have fun on the narrow shallow bits!

I missed the name of the motor, but it’s just about to take up the tow on Butty Gosport.
On the exit to the tunnel, it was almost as bad as last time, with boats waiting for those coming off the aqueduct. But once again, we only had about 20 minutes before we were away.
I noticed something a little odd on the way over. The sign that welcomes you to Wales is at one end of the trough, and the one that tells you you’re back in England is at the other. So is the hundred yards or so of suspended water officially no-man’s land? The border follows the line of the River Ceiriog at this point, so you’d have thought that a vertical from the middle of the river up to the structure would be the actual boundary. On the other hand, does it really matter? Although it would be a fine spot, in the middle of the span, for a Customs Post!
If you've a reasonable connection, BBC Shropshire has some good pictures.

From Chirk Bank we met 7 Wrenbury Mill hire boats, one after the other (and usually at bridges…). It must be a timing thing. Pickup was probably Saturday, so this would be day 3 of a 6 day dash to Llangollen and back.

We ended the day at the 48 hour mooring not far above the first of the New Marton locks.

Just alongside is a field that is perfect for dog ball flinging…
Can anyone identify this duck at Llangollen? It might be a hybrid. It hangs about with a group of Mallards.
And also spotted… a cootling (there’s that word again..) on one leg. I hope it actually does have 2…
We had a dry day, warm in the sunny spells but a bit cool in the shade. The week is set to improve, though. Could be painting weather!

Locks 0, miles 11½

Friday, June 20, 2008

Reunion at the end of the line.

We were off early again today to try to beat the rush. Just before the aqueduct we passed Creagamor and Sandpiper, both boats out of Orchard Marina. Creagamor had broken down, with a snapped throttle cable, so Sandpiper was going to tow him across the aqueduct to the Anglo-Welsh base at Trevor Wharf.
We went on ahead, and warned a waiting boat on the other side of the situation.

Over the aqueduct
Trevor Wharf
A sharp left turn under the bridge takes you onto to final leg to Llangollen. It’s very shallow along these last few miles; several times we were scraping the bottom. It is not recommended for boats deeper than 27”; we draw 28”!

Narrow and shallow. This is one of the wider bits!

The channel is cut into the slope rising from the valley bottom, and, as you get nearer to the town, is only 1 boat width. I walked ahead to make sure the way was clear while Mags brought the boat through.

We arrived at the moorings above Llangollen at 11:30, passing Corbiere and giving a toot on the horn. A voice shouted, “I’m in the shower!”, Seally started barking, so we went down to the mooring basin at the limit of navigation, winded and came back up to moor behind a now fragrant Carol. (Not that she wasn’t before, of course…).

Moored in Llangollen

After spending a couple of hours catching up and playing ball with the dogs, we went down to do a bit of shopping in the town.

Mags and Carol on the Dee bridge with Banoffee ice-creams.

The repaired Creagamor, followed by Sandpiper, arrived later in the afternoon, full of praise for the guys at Anglo-Welsh.

Locks 0, Miles 6

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Croeso I Cymru! (That’s “Welcome to Wales”)

We went for another early start today, hoping to avoid the queues at New Marton Locks. But, although we were there by 08:45, we were still the third boat waiting.

The brisk crosswind didn’t help, either, pushing us back off the lock landing. We got through both locks by 10:00, so it wasn’t too bad.

As you clear the top lock you are on the summit level, and the hills start to make their presence known.

Looking west towards Wales
From here the open views are lost, as the canal winds its way through wooded cuttings, clinging to the side of the valley.

After Chirk Bank, the first of the 2 major aqueducts is reached.

Crossing Chirk Aqueduct into Wales. The railway viaduct runs alongside at a higher level.

It’s been pretty busy with boats in both directions today, and most of them seemed to be milling around at the entrance to Chirk Tunnel! There were 5 boats waiting at this end, while a convoy of 4 came through from the north.

Waiting for the Tunnel.
Another mile or so and Whitehouse Tunnel is reached, the last one before Llangollen. These tunnels are quite difficult to pass through heading upstream. The flow is increased in the confines of the narrow, shallow channel, but if you put too much throttle on to force through, the stern digs in and bounces on the bottom!

We pulled over ½ mile or so further on, on the first of the moorings before Froncysyllte. I had a walk along to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct with Meg, and took a couple of pictures from below, showing the stone pillars supporting the cast iron trough.

The aqueduct from below.
It’s been a sunny day, but still cool in the fresh breeze.

Locks 2, Miles 7½

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Showers, aromatic animals and not narrow enough boats

Back to normal today after 2 early starts. I’m blaming the weather, it was persistently wet when I woke at 07:00, so I rolled over and went back to sleep. The Eberspacher boiler woke me up again just after 8 with it’s “clunk clunk clunk” start up sequence. It comes on for just an hour each day to take the overnight chill off the cabin and give us hot water for abluting.

It was still a bit damp when I took Megdog out for a perambulation, but started to fair up later in the morning while I was catching up on yesterday’s blog entry. Fleeting glimpses of the sun encouraged us to get on, so we cast off at just before 13:00, with the intention of getting up near Chirk.

We didn’t really want to stay another day at Frankton anyway, the channel is narrow here, so passing boats, even those going slowly, cause us to move about a bit. Meg gets a bit nervous if we jolt the bank. It must be something to do with the fact that she can’t see what’s going on.

Anyhow, off we went, me in just a T shirt (and shorts, socks and boots of course, what do you take me for…) in a warm sunny spell which lasted all of 5 minutes before the wind gusted and a heavy, near horizontal shower hit us. Mags scuttled back inside, leaving muggins struggling to steer and get a jacket on at the same time.

Even the sheep had more sense than me!
Maestermyn Cruising Holidays. Apparently Harrison Ford hired a boat here in 2004. Indiana Jones and the Last Cruise-ade? Groan!!

We pressed on with the rain easing, till the next shower convinced me that this is not what I want to be doing on a Wednesday afternoon. So I tried to pull in on the moorings between bridges 6 and 7, but Seyella was having none of that, dragging her bum on the bottom while we were still 2 feet from the bank.

The next “moorportunity” was better, and we got the bow in with the stern only a foot from the bank. Tied up within sight of bridge 9, we decided that an hour’s cruising is quite enough for today, thankyou.
There’s a lot of sheep in the fields around here, and unfortunately the field immediately upwind of us seems to have more than it’s share of particularly smelly ones. Still, they’ll probably be a little less aromatic when they dry off.

Moored up. The pongy ovines are off camera to the left…
Just witnessed one of those scenes quite common on this canal at bridges; 2 hire boats trying to go through at the same time, from opposite directions! The private boat this side is keeping well out of the way.

Locks 0, miles 2

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

To Frankton Junction and cheeky birds at Ellesmere…

We had another fairly early start today, off at 08:30. Doing it this way you get an hour or two’s cruising before the traffic starts to build up.

We spoke to Carol yesterday evening; they are up near Crick and are going to have a look around the castle. We probably won’t catch up now till Llangollen.

The canal is very bendy on this stretch, following the contours of the hills, and it’s inevitable that you meet a convoy coming the other way on a blind bend!

Near Bridge 51 is the home of the Lyneal Trust, an organisation that specialises in providing holidays for disabled people. Most of these schemes seem to be run on canals in built up areas, I suppose it’s easier to get government funding. Anyone having the opportunity to use this one is in for a treat.

The Lyneal Trust.
Alongside Cole Mere and Blake Mere is delightful, heavily wooded and full of birdsong. There are some idyllic moorings in the woods along here.

Moorings at Cole Mere.

Canal boating seems to be the least chauvinistic of all leisure pursuits. It’s usually the female half of the crew who seems to be doing the donkey work, while the bloke stands at the tiller. Here, in a shallow winding hole near Blake Mere, the woman is hauling the bow of the boat round from the bank as the man stands on the stern.

More convolutions takes us to Ellesmere tunnel, one of 3 on the canal, and at 87 yards long, the middle one in terms of length.

Ellesmere Tunnel, West Portal.We stopped at Ellesmere services to get rid of rubbish and empty the loo. We’d filled up with water at Bettisfield yesterday, so we didn’t need that. I came out of the sluice room to see Mags surrounded by ducks and sparrows, all clamouring for breadcrumbs. I’d forgotten how tame they are around here.

Duck and Sparrow on roof, Meg looks on…About 3 miles past Ellesmere is Frankton Junction, where the Montgomery Canal heads off in a south-westerly direction towards Newtown. Only 7 miles is accessible from the junction, but restoration is ongoing. We may well have a look down here on the way back, it’s supposed to be well worth a visit.

The Double Staircase Lock leading down from the junction
Moored at Frankton Junction
We decided to stop for the night here. I was ready for lunch, Meg wanted a pee and the towpath is now on the left so I was able to rub down the left side of the gunwale area, prior to its second coat.
It’s been another coolish day, with just a few breaks in the cloud. I’ve lit the fire again this evening as showers move in.
Tomorrow’s weather looks a bit dodgy, windy and rainy. We’ll wait and see, if it’s not so good we’ll maybe stay here.

Locks 0, miles 6½