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

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

There and back again, or twice across the big’ un!

Plans have changed again a little, meaning that we have to be back near Chirk by Friday morning. So instead of spending a few days cruising down to Trevor and back we went a bit further today.

Why not just stay where you are?, I hear you say. Well the tank is only big enough to hold a week’s worth of water, and we won’t be heading up towards the terminus till after Christmas, so we needed to top up and the nearest tap is just before Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. And it was a nice day…

Whitehouse Tunnel, a little shorter than it’s neighbour at Chirk.DSCF2124  

The new owners of Yarwood are keeping it smart.DSCF2125

The canal swings to the left to run above the Dee valley, past the old Froncycyllte lime kilns and moorings. The Langollen horse boats, James Brindley and William Jessop are here, out of the water for blacking.DSCF2127

Through Fron Lift Bridge…

…and approaching THAT aqueduct.

Off into space above the Dee valley

We got to the far end, turned around at the junction, and came back over again!

Cefn Mawr Railway Viaduct, about a mile downstream.DSCF2134

I stepped off, leaving Mags in charge for a minute or two…DSCF2142
…she wasn’t impressed!

It is an awful long way down, but the views are spectacular!DSCF2139

After crossing back over we pulled in for water, then retraced our steps, pulling in behind Yarwood just before Whitehouse Tunnel.

I’m glad we weren’t going through the tunnel!DSCF2144
The latest batch of wood is very smoky!

Yesterday I’d got the new water pump installed, so today it was the second little trouble to be dealt with. I took the stern fender off, poked a hole right through it using a mooring pin and big hammer, then threaded a length of 8mm nylon rope through said hole. With a loop at each end this will be the attachment for the mounting chains, replacing the old corroded links. Should do the job.

Locks 0, miles 4½

Monday, December 18, 2017

Into Wales

On Saturday we made the short trip to moor outside the Poacher’s Pocket where we spent the weekend, then set off again this morning. When we arrived at the pub there was a strange-looking chap wandering around the carpark…


After a pretty miserable couple of days, with regular rain, this morning dawned clear and bright.
We were off soon after 10, following the canal as it swung left to follow Chirk Bank. DSCF2103
Over there, in the sun on the opposite side of the valley, is Wales.

The valley is crossed on the impressive stone-built Chirk Aqueduct, with the railway viaduct running above and alongside.DSCF2107


The River Ceiriog, down in the valley, marks the border between England and Wales.

We pulled in just before the tunnel so I could make a quick trip up into Chirk…DSCF2114

…then headed into the darkness.
The tunnel is 460 yards long and straight, so you can see right through.

The northern end exits into a gloomy cutting, but it’s often the place to pick up some bounty…DSCF2117
I’ve several rounds on the roof already!

We didn’t go much further, pulling in opposite Chirk Marina.DSCF2119

I spent an hour splitting and stacking our latest haul after we’d had a quick lunch.

Meg is not doing well, she seems to have gone a bit downhill over the last day. Maybe only a temporary hiccup on her slow road to recovery. We hope so.

Locks 0, miles 3¼

Friday, December 15, 2017

Don’t they come in threes?

Problems, that is. So we’re expecting another, I guess… But more on that later.

It was a dry bright morning as we set off westward, but the northerly wind was cold.DSCF2086

We had about 2 miles of it blowing on our right side and often sheltered by the bankside vegetation. But then we passed Hindford Bridge and turned into it. The difference was considerable!

Approaching New Marton Bottom Lock
If you look closely you can just see another boat arriving at the top, the only boat we’ve seen on the move today. It was a hire boat, out for a few days from Blackwater Meadow Marina at Ellesmere.

Mags stayed inside, out of the bitter wind, While I worked us up this one then New Marton Top Lock.

The top lock

It was when I was leaving this lock that the first “issue” arose. I’d pulled out of the lock and stopped just clear of the gate to close it. I hadn’t realised, though, that Seyella was drifting backwards, at least until I felt a resistance to the swinging gate which then cleared. When I looked, the stern button fender was hanging askew by just one chain. The gate had hit it and snapped a corroded chain link.
I temporarily supported it with a rope from the bike rack, but it’ll need some surgery to refit the chain.
The second event was discovered when we stopped for water and I retrieved the hose through the tank-hatch. A long time ago I installed a drop down flap in the riser of the top front step to give access to a large space between the water tank and the underside of the well-deck. It’s here that the hose is kept, along with paint cans and some (it’ll come in for something) wood. The water pump is also visible through here, and, following a previous pump leak that caused quite a bit of local damage, is mounted above a shallow drip tray. The tray had water in it, a seal on the pump housing had failed and was leaking when the pump was run. If it had been downstream of the pump I’d have realised sooner as the pump would have been regularly cycling to top up the water pressure. As it was there was a little spillage as the water had slopped over the edge of the tray, but most was caught in the tray.
The water pump is an essential part of the plumbing, without it nothing comes out of the taps! So I sourced a new one online and it will be delivered to our friends before Christmas. Meanwhile I’ve removed and stripped down the old one, bodging the joint with sealant. It seems to be holding up at the moment. At least that’s Mags’ Christmas present sorted now…

I did this after we’d pulled in, just after Morton Bridge. We had intended to stop at the Poacher’s Pocket a little further on, but there’s a large tree been cut up on the towpath side just 50 yards away… and we’ve a bit of space on the roof!

Anyway, we’re just waiting to see what the third thing to go wrong will be. Just hoping it’ll be something insignificant.

Locks 2, miles 5 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Moving on now the weather’s improved.

It's all very nice and picturesque, but after a couple of days dealing with heavy snow it pales a bit, doesn't it.

After rain and sunshine the snow has mostly melted, but the ice, where the snow was compacted underfoot, still lurks ready to upset the unwary.

Ice across the junction after a very cold Monday night.DSCF2070

Sleet last night froze first thing, but the clear skies left us with a beautiful morning.

Leaving Ellesmere, past the maintenance yard.DSCF2072

We had a late start today; Meg didn’t have a good night, wheezing a bit and wanting to go out several times, but she’s had a good sleep today and seems better. So consequently I slept in, and by the time I’d been up into town for bread and milk, then pushed across to fill with water and dispose of the rubbish, it was half-eleven when we finally got under way.

A fine day, but still cold.

Yellow gorse and snowy fields near Val Hill.

Looking south across the flat plain towards ShrewsburyDSCF2078

We often stop at Frankton Junction, reversing in to moor just inside the entrance to the Montgomery Canal, above the locks. But today we toddled on.

Frankton Junction.

Today I wanted to moor away from official mooring sites so I could get some wood cut. We’ve been burning solid fuel for the last couple of days, even though we’ve several logs on the roof. But the weather and location at Ellesmere didn’t lend themselves to using the chainsaw on the towpath…

The plan was to stop below New Marton Locks, but by the time we’d got to Bridge 3W Meg was getting fidgety, wanting a wee, (as did I…) and I remembered a very pleasant mooring just before 4W. I pulled in just shy of the mooring rings, so the wood chippings wouldn’t be a nuisance to other moorers, and set to after a quick bite and brew.

Moored near Bridge 4W…

…with an audience!

I got the logs sliced and diced just in time before the clouds built up and a band of rain moved in from the west. It’s supposed to clear leaving us another fine day tomorrow. We’ve the last pair of locks to do, about 45 minutes away.

Locks 0, miles 4½

Monday, December 11, 2017

Icicles on the icicles!

The temperature here dropped to –5° or –6° overnight, cold enough to form about a ¼” of ice on the sheltered water in the Ellesmere Arm. With tonight expected to go even further south, we decided it was time to head out onto the main line. But first I had to deal with the snow drifts on the roof. At least there’s no more of that due for a bit!DSCF2060
The chap off the boat behind was clearing his roof too, and we got chatting about mobile internet access. He and his wife are here for the winter and they’re struggling for a connection. So I showed them what we have. They intend to start selling hot soup and bread from their boat shortly, they should do alright here, especially in this weather! Look out for them, Dave and Emma, and the boat is called Ida.

With the 8 inches of snow removed from the top boxes I could see where we were going, so set off back to the junction.DSCF2061

The ice got thinner as we headed further out, turning into just a thin scum as we motored out onto the canal to the service wharf.

A kettle-full of boiling water poured over the water stanchion got that defrosted so the water would flow, and I started clearing the snow from the wharf, soon joined by a couple of people from the CRT workshop.

It appears that someone is sleeping rough under the canopy alongside the dry dock.DSCF2065
Not a bad spot with access to fresh water and toilet facilities, but I don’t envy him!

With the tank full and the rubbish and recycling dealt with we pushed across the canal to moor on the towpath opposite. We’ll be here for another couple of days while the arctic temperatures prevail.

Thanks, Ade, Carol. Yes, we think she's coming out of it now. Might be some time before she's fully fit, though.
Locks 0, miles ¼