Monday, December 30, 2013

Visitors at Ellesmere

Yesterday we covered the remaining distance back to Ellesmere, another fine, sunny day after a good frost.SAM_7702

There were a few boats about, but it’s still not busy at the moment. We got to Ellesmere at just after one, used the facilities then got moored up on the arm to meet Mag’s son Howard who was stopping with us overnight. He lives and works in Eire, but he’s over for a few days to see the family. SAM_7707

We had a good catch up, only breaking off talking to watch the nutcase Guy Martin beat the speed record on a pushbike. Nearly 113 mph! If you missed it watch it on 4OD. Well worth it!

This afternoon we had more visitors. Friends Mike and Yen are staying with Val and John near Wrexham for the New Year, and we’ve not seen them since they joined us on a trip on the Lancaster Canal in 2011.
Another good afternoon!

Tomorrow we’re heading off, back “downhill” so we can get through Grindley Brook Locks before they close for maintenance on Friday. We should have company at the locks on Thursday. All go, isn’t it!

Locks 0, miles 6½

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Logging on in England

Meg had a relaxing evening after out guests left yesterday….SAM_7672
Both the girls in my life like a good fire!

Today was so much better than yesterday. After a cold night it was bright, calm and dry. What a shame we couldn’t have had yesterday’s company today, but then we might have had to put up with yesterday’s weather today.

Our first tunnel for the day, Whitehouse Tunnel.SAM_7676
Fine brisk lining in this and Chirk Tunnel.

Just beyond the tunnel we pulled in on the offside for the first of our two log stops. Contractors were cutting back trees here as we went up and there was still plenty of smaller stuff to be had. There’s more still, but it’ll need to be sawn on the bank to make it manageable.

A bunch of towpath walkers advised us of a fallen tree in the cutting leading to Chirk Tunnel, something to look out for.

Chirk Tunnel cutting….SAM_7678

…and the fallen tree.
We just scraped over the upper branches in neutral, then I had a “shall I, shan’t I” moment. In the end my altruistic nature won out, we moored just before the tunnel and I walked back toting my trusty bow saw. Of course, having retrieved the tree from the cut, and cut it back to clear the towpath, I deserved something for my trouble, didn’t I?

Heading for Chirk Tunnel, two good-sized lumps of birch on the roof
Mags has just put some wood on the fire, maybe not such a good idea at this point….

See the nice brick lining? No, I couldn't either!
We bumped our way through as  I couldn’t see much with my eyes streaming, and I knew what a kipper feels like by the time we got to the other end!

Relief, out into the basin before the aqueduct.

Back across the aqueduct… SAM_7683

SAM_7685….and into

We had fine sunshine as we headed along Chirk Bank then turned right to head south towards St. Martin’s.

We only met two boats all day, of course one of them had to be at a bridge…SAM_7695

St. Martin’s Moor Bridge

We’ve left the hills and valleys behind nowSAM_7697
New Marton Locks were in our favour after passing that boat at Bridge 14.
Even though we love our life aboard, I can’t help a twinge of envy for the couple who live in the beautiful Top Lock cottage.

New Marton Top LockSAM_7698

Meg and I decided to walk the ¼ mile between the locks, leaving Mags to negotiate another fallen tree.SAM_7699
Someone had already cut a chunk out of the trunk so the towpath was clear, a piece of which looked very tempting…
Trouble was I couldn’t lift it, my shoulders were aching by the time I’d rolled it 200 yards along the towpath to the bottom lock! At least I was able to roll it onto the roof as Seyella dropped down the lock.

We moored below the locks, roughly where we were on the way up, after a long day with the stops and starts. But very enjoyable.

Moored below New Marton Locks 

After a cup of tea I got out the chain saw and set to. By dusk I’d got about half of the logs cut into rounds. Early start tomorrow to get the rest done before we move.

Locks 2, miles 7

Friday, December 27, 2013

Day tripping.

We had a boatful today, Johnny and ‘Chelle, their daughters Abby and Emily, and Peter and Heather.
Peter especially was well taken with the boat and the lifestyle.

Peter on the tillerSAM_7658
We nearly called off the planned trip, the weather first thing was absolutely appalling, driving rain in the strong wind. But by late morning the rain at least had eased, our visitors had arrived, and we set off over the aqueduct. It was still windy crossing over the span, though.

We cruised to the first winding hole just past Bridge 37, turned around and headed back.

However did they get permission to paint the Aqueduct Inn that colour?SAM_7659

Instead of mooring in last night’s spot we went through Fron Lift Bridge and pulled in just past the limekilns.

Johnny and Peter doing the honours at the lift bridgeSAM_7660

I’m really glad we didn’t postpone, although it was windy and we had the odd short shower, everyone enjoyed the trip, particularly the two crossings of the valley. I’d rolled up the cratch cover so those who wanted could have a clear view off the aqueduct.

We had home-made soup and hot bread rolls for a late lunch, then sat and chatted for an hour before our guests left us.SAM_7666
I’d set the camera on 10 second delay then clambered through everyone to sit on the step, burning my arm on the stove. That’s why I’m holding it with a pained expression on my face!

End of a good day, Johnny, Heather, Peter, ‘Chelle and Abby. Emily’s camera shy, hiding behind her mum…
Thanks for coming, we really enjoyed your company.
Johnny's posted a video of our return crossing on his Facebook page...

Tomorrow we’re heading back across the border, intending to moor above New Marton Locks. We’ve another visitor on Sunday night, meeting us at Ellesmere. All go, ain’t it!

Locks 0, miles 4

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A great day, then back to Trevor

On Christmas morning we were collected, fed and watered by our good friends Val and John at their house near Wrexham, then delivered back to the boat in the evening. We had a great day, lovely food and good company. Most of Mags’ family came on the phone in the afternoon, using Val’s iphone they had video calls via Facetime. My Sony smartphone doesn’t support the Apple application.

The dogs had a good time too…

Dad, Meg’s nicked my Christmas present!”DSC_0132
Just look at Harry’s face! Of course, Meg’s got her “butter wouldn’t melt” expression. “Who, me?”
Thanks guys for such a lovely day.

After a frosty night, we decided to move back down to Trevor (well, Froncysyllte actually). We’ve got visitors tomorrow, Val and John’s son, his family and the in-laws are joining us for a trip across the aqueduct, followed by lunch. We’ll actually go across twice, being as we’re mooring on the south side facing north.

Looking back to the hills towards the head of the Dee valley.SAM_7646

It’s been busy today, we’ve actually seen three other boats moving. The towpath has been busier, couples and families walking off yesterday’s excesses.

Camo-squirrel pretending to be a tree bole…SAM_7650

Back across the Dee again….

We turned round at Fron, just before the lift bridge, then moored up facing the aqueduct, ready for tomorrow.

Heading back to moor.SAM_7656

It’s been quite a pleasant day, spells of sunshine, with just a light shower this morning. In between chatting with walkers I got a load of wood chopped that will last us for a few days. I picked up some logs today that I’d spotted on the way down, but I know where there’s more as we head back. Now there’s space on my “roof rack”for it.

Hi Tom and Jan. I know, I was being optimistic. But I did say a really good day.... Like maybe midsummer in the Sahara? I got all of 0.1 amps this morning at 9 o'clock!

Locks 0, miles 3

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A touch of the sun…

Only a very minor touch, though.
A 30 Watt solar panel!
Prices are falling quite dramatically now, less than £2 per Watt, and everyone seems to be sporting some sort of solar array these days, so we thought, let’s give it a go.

One reason I’ve been reluctant to go this way was where to fit it. As most Continuous Cruisers will know, roof space can be at a premium in the winter when you come across a good cache of firewood. Then I had a brainwave. A thin enough panel of the right size will fit between the hatch slides, an area you can’t use for anything else. When cruising with the slide open it covers the panel, but the proportion of amps from the panel compared to the alternators would be minimal then anyway. You just have to close the slide when you turn the engine off.

The whole lot, monocrystaline panel, controller, cabling and glands cost just £90, which equates to around 100 hours of engine use for charging batteries. On a really good day we might get 25 Ah out of the panel, about 20 minutes on the engine. So we just need 300 good days to break even. About 10 years, then…

After our long weekend in Llangollen mooring basin we decided to head back down the canal this morning. Last night we didn’t get a lot of sleep, the wind was howling around the roof ventilators and the boat was rocking from side to side driving rain rattling on the windows and roof. But this morning it was calm and relatively dry as we got ready to move off.

A sprinkling of snow on the higher groundSAM_7621

We filled with water before we left the basin, so just had a loo to empty and a bag of rubbish to dispose of before we cruised past the last of the winter moorers and into the first of the narrows.

Horse-drawn trip boats James Brindley and William Jessop laid up for the winter.SAM_7624 The horses have the winter off.

Another boat out of the basin overtook us on the services, so they acted as interference for us through the constricted channel. I had to pause to collect a couple of logs on the offside, though.

Not this one, although I was tempted…

When you’re heading towards Llangollen you keep your eyes to the fore, missing the dramatic scenery opening up behind. You have to wait till the return journey to get the full effect.SAM_7626



NB Anna, an Anglo Welsh Bond Class boat, leads the way.

We pulled over at Bridge 44W, opposite the Sun Trevor Inn, where we’d stayed overnight on the way up. We had TV then, but tonight nuthin, nada. Don’t know why. We’d intended to stay here for a couple of days, but unless I can sort it out we’ll be moving on, I guess, to where we can get reception. Lots of soap drama over the coming week, I fancy…

Have a jolly happy Christmas out there.
Locks 0, miles 2

Saturday, December 21, 2013

End of the navigation

We got off a bit earlier than usual today, we’d got a lot to do this afternoon when we arrived at Llangollen.

Away before 10!

As this last 4 miles was built primarily as a feeder to supply water from the Dee, when the going got tough the channel go narrower! Where the slope above the valley is steep and there’s not a lot of room for the channel, it turns into a single-track canal.SAM_7609
There are two of these narrow sections, and the recommendation, as shown on the sign, is for someone to walk ahead to check for oncoming boats. It was blowy and showery this morning, so, rather than drag Mags out into the weather, I took a chance which paid off, not meeting another boat in either section.

In the first narrowsSAM_7610

Looking down onto the Dee.

The river and canal are at the same level at Horseshoe Falls, just 3½ miles upstream.

There’s a bit of a breathing space for 20 minutes while the canal returns to normal width after Bridge 42, then the final 550 yards to the moorings above the town have to be negotiated. Narrow and very shallow, with vertical rock on the right, it’s hard going, too much power and you’re bumping on the bottom, too little and you get nowhere against the flow which is over 1 mph in the narrow sections.

In the final narrow sectionSAM_7614

It’s so slow going that it took us 15 minutes to cover the 550 yards. The on-line moorings  on the left finally came into sight, though.

We topped up with water, emptied a loo and rubbish at the wharf, then pushed on up to the limit of navigation and the mooring basin.

Looking down on the town

SAM_7618Bridge End Hotel and the River Dee beyond

There was room on the moorings above the town, several boats are on winter moorings here but there’s still room for visitors. But we decided to moor in the basin. It’s a bit further to the shops and a bit more exposed, but there’s less passing foot traffic, and there are open areas for Meg to play ball and chase the rabbit population.

Billy no-mates in the basinSAM_7620
Last time we were here the water and electricity supply were both off, this time they’re on, and mooring here in the winter is free. Result! Water on tap and free electricity!
The batteries will be fully charged and all the laundry done before we leave...

I made a couple of trips down to the town for shopping before the wild and windy weather came in this evening. We’ve visitors for lunch tomorrow so I’m doing roast beef with all the trimmings. Looking forward to it.

The river from Dee Bridge.DSC_0130
The plume of smoke left of centre is from the engine of one of the Santa Specials running on the Llangollen Railway.

It's the Winter Solstice today, shortest day of the year. So from tomorrow the days will get longer, though it'll be a while before we notice!

Locks 0, miles 2

Friday, December 20, 2013

Not quite all the way…

Some pictures around the aqueduct before we moved on today…SAM_7563


At over 200 years old the odd leak is to be expected. Spectacular in icy conditions

Towpath side. The path is cantilevered out over the water, boats move easier across this one than Chirk because the displaced water can run back alongside.

Only the edge of the cast iron trough separates boats from a 126 foot drop…


As we’d hoped for it was bright, chilly but fairly calm as we set off to cross the valley.

Onto the aqueductSAM_7577

The low sun projects the arch's shadows across the valley slopes.SAM_7580
The slight hump above the white building is our shadow.

Fantastic views upstream…

…and downstream.SAM_7584

The highest point, 126 feet above the River Dee.SAM_7589

All over as we arrive at the far end.
Even though we’ve crossed several times now I still find it exhilarating and a little un-nerving to motor across the valley in a cast iron trough that’s over 200 years old. It was completed in November 1805, 5 weeks after the death of Admiral Lord Nelson at Trafalgar.(There’s a link to JP’s trip down to Oxford on his boat Temeraire. I wonder how he’s doing…)

Dead ahead is Trevor Basin, with moorings at the end beyond the Anglo-Welsh hire base. This should have been the main route from Chester as originally envisaged.
The route onwards to Llangollen is a hard left turn under the bridge on the left. This section wasn’t finished until 1808, it’s main function to bring water for the canal down from the Dee above Llangollen.

Looking back along the trough

Some stats, if you’re interested…the span is 1007 feet long, 11 feet wide and 5¼ feet deep. The trough consists of cast iron plates bolted together, sitting on 19 masonry pillars. Each individual span is 57 feet wide, and the whole lot took 10 years to design and build at a cost of £47,000. That’s around £3¼million in today's money, but the actual cost would be considerably higher when comparatively higher wages, planning permissions, purchase of land, taxes and Health and Safety requirements are factored in.
The design was attributed to Thomas Telford, but recently there’s been some doubt as to how much input he actually had. William Jessop, a skilled and experienced canal engineer and Consulting Engineer for the Ellesmere Canal, is believed to have had more to do with the structure than previously thought.

On the “feeder”, hills starting to rise ahead.SAM_7598


Approaching Sun Trevor, Castell Dinas Bran on the hilltop dead ahead
George and Carol, Anne, me and the dogs had a trek up there in February 2012. I’ll maybe repeat the climb while we’re here this time, if we have a good day.

We pulled in on the moorings here, ostensibly to let Meg have a pee and to check whether there’s a TV signal for future reference, but then it started to rain and has done on and off all afternoon, so we’ve stayed put. We’ll do the last 2 miles into Llangollen in the morning.

Locks 0, miles 2½