Saturday, February 28, 2015

No point in dashing about…

…We’ll have plenty of that to do later in the year!

Another shopping expedition to the village this morning saw us with enough provisions to last until next weekend, so we pulled pins and set off at around half-ten. It was a fine morning, sunny spells but with a rising wind forecasted to bring cloud and rain after lunch.

A rather large swan above Baddiley LocksIMG_3642
Wouldn’t it be weird meeting that in a flight of locks…

There were 9 locks between us and the Shroppie, now there are 6. We only dropped down the Baddiley Three (sounds like an unfairly convicted group of people, doesn’t it. “FREE THE BADDILEY THREE”… ) and cruised 3 miles today. We’ve until next Friday to get to Venetian Marina, so plenty of time.

Mags holds off while I fill Baddiley No 2IMG_3647

These three locks are close enough together to justify walking between them, Meg joined me part way. She was a bit tired, we’d met several dogs in the field over towards the village this morning and she’d had a good run around. She can’t keep it up like she used to.

Baddiley Bottom Lock, beautiful scenery around here.IMG_3649
Another shot showing the clean roof. KevinToo, I don’t need sunglasses, but only because we’re heading north! The International Interdeck I applied 18 months ago was supposed to be sand coloured. It’s lighter than I expected. It shows all the muck…

It’s half an hour or so to the next lock, the top lock of the Swanley pair, but we didn’t go that far, pulling in soon after Bridge 11. Pleasant open countryside here.

Hi Carol. I’ve nothing planned to keep them occupied, I guess they’ll just chill. I shouldn’t be gone all that long; the race starts at 12:30, I’ll be finished by half-two and back home soon after three. There’ll be no point me staying back for the award ceremony…

Locks 3, miles 3

Friday, February 27, 2015

A day late to Wrenbury

Yesterday saw a return to the wet and windy conditions we’d enjoyed earlier in the week. It did brighten up later, but by then we’d settled on staying put.

Today dawned crisp, dry and bright. I had a short run early, took Meg for her constitutional, then we got off towards Wrenbury.IMG_3629

It was about 20 minutes to our first and only lock today, Marbury Lock. There’s a fine lock-keepers cottage alongside, and the lock chamber is, unusually, protected by fancy barley-twist railings.

Marbury Lock
Judging by the style they’re not a recent addition, installed since the cottage was sold into private hands. They must have been there whilst the property was occupied by a company employee. I wonder if he was fond of the odd tipple?

A fair drop of water coming down the by-washIMG_3633

Blue skies and cotton-wool clouds. It could almost be summer…IMG_3634
And a clean roof!

Nearing Wrenbury now, that’s St Margaret’s Church on the skylineIMG_3640

Wrenbury Frith Lift Bridge is locked in the open position.IMG_3635

The mechanised Wrenbury Lift Bridge was next, alongside the small hire base and marina. It’s not a busy road crossing, but by the time I’d let Mags and a single-hander going the other way through, we’d accumulated half a dozen cars, one cyclist and an assortment of pedestrians. All good natured, though.

Mags toddled on while I lowered the bridge and sorted out the barrier, waiting for me just short of Church Lift Bridge. Back to manual operation with a windlass here.

Mags approaching Church Lift Bridge after I’d raised it.IMG_3641

And that was that for the day. We pulled in not far past the bridge. I‘ve made a trip to the village shop-cum-Post Office to top up the stores, cutting across the field and through the graveyard. I’ll go again before we shove off in the morning.

We’ve had a small change of plan. We were intending to head down to Nantwich for next weekend, hiring a car for me to get to my first event of the season, a half-marathon at Oulton Park motor racing track. Mags was intending to stay on the boat as dogs are not allowed on the circuit and we wouldn't want to leave Meg that long, so I was just going to moor on the bank somewhere. But now there’s a good chance that we’ll both be going off on the Saturday, so I’ve arranged a long weekend mooring in Venetian Marina on the Middlewich Branch. It’s on route to the Trent and Mersey and our appointment with the hull blacking brush in Stone at the end of March.
So the small shop here is the last opportunity for groceries for a week, till I pick up the car in Crewe next Friday.

Locks 1, miles 3

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Early Spring?

Or am I speaking too soon…

At 11:00 this morning the sky was blue, the air was warm, the temperature on the roof was 16.5°!IMG_3625


“Spring is sprung, the grass is riz
I wonder where the birdies is?
The bird is on the wing,
but that’s absurd!
Because the wing is on the bird!”

I’d got back from my run at just after 09:00, so by the time I‘d showered, ate and walked Meg it was gone 11:00. We hadn’t planned to move today, but the weather was so glorious that I had to get on with something outside. I removed everything loose from the roof apart from the top box and fuel pallet, and set to with a stiff brush and plenty of canal water.

It was warm enough to be up there in bare feet, my preference when I’m walking around on the roof. I should really have put shorts on too….

Anyway, a couple of hours later the roof is looking very much better, the gunwales have been scrubbed and the cabin side washed off.

The day had started to spoil by now, clouds moving in bringing a bit of light rain. The last job was to replace the mounting ropes for the left side rear sausage fender which protects the counter paintwork.
I had to get my head down for an hour afterwards!

We’ll toddle down into Wrenbury tomorrow.

Hi Chas, Ann. Just getting into the zone, now!
Andy, we’ll be in Wrenbury till Saturday morning, then moving on towards Hurleston. Unless you’re going the same way we’ll probably miss you. Next time, eh.

Hi Judith, John. I should have realised we’d have a problem when I noticed that the water was a good foot below the top of the gates when we moved into the middle chamber. I’ll remember next time…

Hi Ade. Thanks for the perseverance and the kind comments. That series is videos is good, isn’t it. I
wish I’d watched them before I started painting Seyella

Locks 0, miles 0

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A little lock work.

The canal drops down nearly 40 feet at Grindley Brook, split between a triple staircase and three individual chambers. The staircase is an effective way of making a change of elevation in a short distance, with each chamber dropping directly in to the next. But during busy periods it can be a major bottleneck. Unlike single chambers boats can’t pass in opposite directions, and the lock levels have to be reset if the direction of travel is changed from down to up and vice versa.

During the summer months a couple of lock-keepers are on hand to organise the traffic.

I had a chat with a C&RT chap this morning, he was filling the lock chambers on the staircase. They tend to drain down overnight. I thought we’d be able to take advantage of the full top lock, but a boat passed us before we were ready to leave.

Heading for the locks, bright sunshine in a brisk breeze.IMG_3613

Setting up to descend, the top lock has to be full (logically), middle lock filled to a marked level, about half-way, and the bottom lock empty. I organised this while emptying the loos and the rubbish, then we started on our way down.

Dropping down the triple staircase

In future I’ll put more water in the middle chamber, Mags barely had enough water to scrape over the cill. They must leak quite a bit…

Below the staircase the three singles are spread a couple of hundred yards apart as the gradient lessens.

One more to go…IMG_3616

Even though all the locks had to be set up, we did really well. In at the top at 11:10, out of the bottom at 11:50. Forty minutes, 6 locks, ⅜ of a mile.

We dropped down another three, spaced out over the next 3 miles. Povey’s Lock was first…

…followed by Willymoor Lock, alongside the Willy Moor InnIMG_3622

Reeds encroach on the navigable channel above Quoisley Lock, shining brightly in the sunshine.

Wonderfully gnarly dead tree.

Quoisley Lock gave us trouble when we came up, the top gate was fouling the cill making it stick part way. No such trouble today, in fact it now swings open on it’s own.

We pulled in a little further on, short of Steer Bridge, No 24.

Moored near Marbury, Meg’s waiting to play ballIMG_3624

We timed it nicely. Although it was breezy while we dropped down the locks the rain held off. A heavy shower blew over as we were having lunch but soon cleared through, giving me the chance to chop the last of the wood on the roof. Apart from that branch picked up at the locks. I’ll get the bow saw out for that bit.

I think we’ll be staying here tomorrow. I’ve a heavy training run scheduled for the morning. We want to be at Wrenbury for the weekend.

Locks 9, miles 3½

Monday, February 23, 2015

Just around the corner…

Today we moved from near Whitchurch to the moorings above Grindley Brook Locks.

Mags heads for New Mills Lift BridgeIMG_3610

Early snow, sleet and rain had cleared away, leaving bright sunshine, but there was a cold wind blowing from the north. It was this that made us decide to stay at the top of the locks, rather than head down. It wouldn’t have been pleasant locking in the wind, especially if a snow shower had blown across.

We pulled up on the moorings above the locks, tomorrow we’ve got to fill with water and empty loos and rubbish before we drop down the locks.

Moored above Grindley BrookIMG_3612

I spent the afternoon dismantling, cleaning and reassembling the old vacuum cleaner, it’s going to a new home soon. Then I got the mounting bracket for the new Dyson fitted to the bulkhead at the aft end. Another job done.

Hi Les, Jaq, good to hear from you. There's a very good chance we'll finally meet this spring. We'll be heading down the T&M while you're heading up. We'll have to keep an eye on each other's posts to make sure we can get together at some point. Looking forward to it.

Locks 0, miles 1

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Finishing off yesterday’s trip.

We cruised just a short distance to near the Whitchurch Arm junction today, chased by sunny spells and wintry showers. North and east, thanks Tom.

We’d had rain and sleet most of the morning, but there was a fine spell at around 11:00, so we set off.  IMG_3604
It wasn’t to last, grey clouds rolled in again by the time we’d go to the first of the two Hassell’s Lift Bridges.

A kestrel was hunting in the field alongside, I struggled to get a good picture but failed. This is the best of a bad bunch…
…I hadn’t realised he was looking at me!

A light rain started falling as Mags brought the boat between the bridges while Meg and I walked the short distance. I got the bridge up, Mags came through and I waited for another boat coming the other way.

Hassell’s No1 Lift BridgeIMG_3609
She picked us up under the Wrexham Road Bridge, then we went just a little further, past the ABC Leisure hire base, and moored just short of the arm.

The forecast is pretty grim for tomorrow so we’ll stay put, probably moving on on Monday.

I’ve an 11 mile run first thing, could be a little uncomfortable.

Locks 0, miles 1½

Friday, February 20, 2015

Mixed countryside and a bit of luck

Leaving Ellesmere the Llangollen Canal passes through a changing landscape as it heads generally north and west towards Whitchurch. We threaded our way between the meres yesterday, emerging into rolling farmland.
Today we followed the 300 foot contour, winding around the higher ground before reaching the flat, open countryside of Whixall Moss.

Our only opposing boat today, met near the moorings in BettisfieldIMG_3585

The route across the peat bogs of Whixall Moss is carried on two long, straight embankments. The first one, south of the junction of the Prees Branch, is wooded on both sides.

Across the mossIMG_3586

Some of the trees look a little precarious!IMG_3587
We’ve been back in Wales for the last 2 miles!


A historical area of north-eastern Wales is called the Maelor, and includes a peninsular jutting south-east into Shropshire for about 10 miles.

Beyond the branch junction the moss has been more cultivated, and scattered farmhouses follow the line of the canal.IMG_3592

Some fields are more suitable for rice than for anything else!IMG_3594

Although the evidence makes you think otherwise, the peat bogs have been slowly drying out since they were exposed some 20,000 years ago. The land has steadily subsided, making it necessary to shore up the sides of the canal.

Recent bank repairs.

The open land gives way to undulating pasture again after Platt Lane.

Platt Lane Bridge.

There are 48 hour moorings here beyond the bridge but they can be a bit soggy. A better option is to moor the other side of the bridge, back around the corner.

A bit big for my 14” chain saw…

We’d passed one lift bridge near the Prees Branch, there’s another at Tilstock Park, unusually painted a fetching shade of (peeling) olive drab.

Tilstock Park Lift BridgeIMG_3602

Our intention was to get to Whitchurch today, but the new moorings near Duddleston Bridge looked inviting, so we pulled in there instead.
These rings were installed last summer. I thought I might be able to offer an update to Paul Balmer for his excellent canal guides, but someone has beaten me to it.

Shortly after we stopped I heard the plaintive whine of a chainsaw somewhere ahead of us, then a little later a Trust workboat passed with a couple of large logs in the hold and fresh wood chippings on the gunwale. Worth investigating…
A short walk to the second set of mooring rings closer to the bridge was worth it; they’d dropped a small heap of thinner logs on the towpath. So I moved the boat up, unlimbered the trusty chainsaw and sliced them up. Enough for a few days, anyway. Never look a gift horse in the mouth, I say!

We’ll move on down to Whitchurch tomorrow morning, only about an hour away.

Locks 0, miles 6½

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Ta ta Ellesmere…

Hello Hampton Bank!
Yes, we’re finally slowly heading back towards the Shroppie.Our minor change of plan incurred another modification when friend Val decided to pop across to visit yesterday evening. We had to head back into Ellesmere in the afternoon rather than leaving it till today. It did us a favour, actually. It’s rained all morning and we’d have got wet moving earlier. As it was we left it till gone 12 before getting away, the rain easing and just a hint of brightness in the sky.

I also picked up the new Dyson cordless vac and had a play before our guest arrived. It does what it says on the tin…

Away out of the Ellesmere Arm today after the rain stopped.IMG_3574

Hurleston bound, 25½ miles away. Should be able to do that in a fortnight… IMG_3575

Through the short Ellesmere Tunnel takes the canal into what is locally known as the Shropshire Lake District. This area of nine shallow meres is the result of glacier melt at the end of the last Ice Age. The last huge blocks of ice which formed the depressions persisted till around 18,000 years ago. This area, and westward into North Wales, was the furthest south the ice came at that time.

Ellesmere Tunnel

Blake Mere…IMG_3581

…and the largest of the nine, (apart from THE Mere at Ellesmere), Cole Mere.IMG_3583

I hope this chap has more luck foraging for food than we have had looking for wood.

We’ve got to the stage now that all the timber cut by contractors at the end of last year has been discovered. The only possibility now is a conveniently situated casualty of high winds. Ah well, we’ve done well this year.

We had a couple of light showers blow over as we headed steadily west, but nothing worth putting waterproofs on for.

We pulled over at Hampton Bank, where the canal traverses a wide valley on a long embankment. From here you get wide views out over the Shropshire Plain, but, more importantly, a clear line-of-sight to the Sutton Coldfield TV mast. IMG_3584

We’ll find out who killed Lucy Beale tonight…. Me? No, I don’t watch the soaps… I wonder who's going to find Nasty Nick's remains?

Oh, Chas, Ann. No I didn’t forget! They were lovely!

Locks 0, miles 4  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A minor change of plan.

We’d intended to be away today, retracing our journey back towards Cheshire and the Shropshire Union. It would have been a good day for it, too. Despite a cool westerly it’s been fine and dry, with good long sunny spells.

But I’ve been intending to get a cordless vacuum cleaner for a while; I get fed up having to fire the engine up to clean up, with a cordless I can charge it while we’re cruising, and use it while we’re not.
Of the three main options (Bosch Athlet, GTek AirRam, Dyson Digital) I opted for the Dyson as we’ve had these while living in bricks and mortar.

Checking prices there’s some good deals on at the moment, Argos and Tesco are both offering about £50 off, but it was really a no-brainer. I got another £50 off with my Clubcard vouchers, and I can pick the machine up at the canal-side Tesco in Ellesmere. So that’ll be Thursday morning.

We had visitors yesterday, so stayed in Ellesmere, down on the arm. But today we’ve left, just moving half a mile upstream to moor where we stayed for a couple of night last week.

Out onto the canal, Beech House and the maintenance yard dead ahead.IMG_3566

Lots more spring lambs around now.IMG_3572

I’m having chops tonight but Mags is having fish. She hates the thought of eating these little cuties.  I have no such scruples…

Locks 0, miles ½

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Hanging around.

That’s what we seem to be doing at the moment. While there’s a threat of ice we don’t really want to be moving off the Llangollen Canal, and towards the end of the month the long-range forecast predicts another cold spell.

It actually works quite well; I’ve a half marathon at Oulton Park on the 8th March, so we’ll book into a marina for that weekend. The preferred spot seems to be Swanley Bridge Marina, we’ve stayed there a couple of times before. I can get a car out of Crewe, and the race course is only about 10 miles north. So we’ve three weeks to get back up to nearly the end of the canal again.

So after pottering about for a few days just out of town, we returned to Ellesmere today.

Where we’d stopped is a good spot. Very nearly deep enough, handy for the winding hole and with a dry grassy towpath. Apart from the molehills. They seem to be very industrious around here… Oh, and thanks to Lesley for pointing out that the little blighters can swim well, I was a little concerned for their welfare if they burrowed too close to the canal.Surprised smile

Leaving this morning.

It’s been a bit grey and damp these last two days, and today was much the same.

We only had a 15 minute cruise to the service wharf where we topped up the water and got rid of rubbish, then headed down the arm, winded at the end and tied up.

Turning round at the end of the Ellesmere Arm, probably the last time this winter.IMG_3565

We’ll stay here tomorrow, I’ve an 11 miler to do in the morning so I’ll need a lie down afterwards…

Although we’ve been hanging around a bit, we still meet the Continuous Cruising “Guidance for Boaters Without a Home Mooring” This controversial document seeks to establish ground rules for mooring on the canal network, but is considered by many to be too vague and open to interpretation to be workable. Notably, those who live aboard but also need to stay “local” for school and work are deemed to be in breech of the guidelines if they don’t move out of the neighbourhood, It’s the term neighbourhood that is open to confusion, as it’s not clearly defined.

Now, I’m not going to get into a debate about the rights and wrongs of those who choose a canal-based lifestyle merely to be able to live cheaply and work in a major city, although it’s obvious that some boaters seem to take advantage of the existing confusion.

In order to address this issue, the C&RT has recently released a Policy Statement. It still fails to clearly define the central question of what is a neighbourhood. But what it does do is recognise that these are often local problems and that a central solution is not appropriate. The burden of control of moorings is thrown back into the lap of the local offices and Enforcement Officers. The policy states, somewhat optimistically, that
“…if you are worried about your range of movement, or want to know more about what else you need to do to comply with our guidance, please speak to your local enforcement officer (or contact your local Trust office). In many cases, making some small adjustments to a cruising pattern is enough to meet our guidance, while in other cases taking up a home mooring may be more appropriate.”
I can see that happening, eh.

Locks 0, miles ½