Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Pastures new-ish

It was still breezy this morning as we set off from near Lion Quays, after a blustery night. But the sun was out and the birds were chirping in the trees, making it easier to forget how chilly the wind was.

It stayed fine until we got past St Martins, but then the first of several squally, wintry showers blew in. Of course, the snow had to arrive as we crossed the exposed moor…

The New Marton Locks proved challenging, especially the lock landings. The wind was now picking up, blowing straight across the canal, making mooring difficult.

New Marton Top Lock

You’d have thought though, with a three week stoppage to work on the gates, someone could have mixed up a bucket of mortar and found a few bricks…

The skies cleared as we left the bottom lock, but not before they dumped another snow shower on us.DSCF2329

At Hindford the canal swings to the east, so the wind was now behind us rather than on the side.

Approaching Maestermyn it was looking a bit dodgy to windward…
We almost got away with this one, just catching the fringes.

We pulled in just past Bridge 4W, a fine open stretch of moorings with sunlight streaming in the side windows. Well, for a while, anyway.

Bridge 4W
There’s a dirty great hole in the brickwork at water level on the offside, the reason why it’s being closed for repair from the 19th of February for 3 weeks. We’ll have to be back up from the Monty and through here by then, otherwise we’ll be cut off from the western end of the canal. We could always go to Ellesmere for a bit though, after the 22nd when more bridge repairs are supposed to be completed.

If you get a break in the cloud don't forget to have a look at another Super Moon tonight.
It's at the closest point in it's orbit now, making it appear larger and brighter. It's also a "Blue Moon", the second full moon this month. And to top it off, further east there's a lunar eclipse, giving it a red-tinted aspect. So they're calling it a Super Blue Blood Moon. Apparently it's not happened for over 150 years...

Locks 2, miles 4½

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A short foray over the border, then on to a change of view.

We spent the weekend and yesterday moored outside The Poacher’s. It’s becoming a bit of a home from home… We had a bit of interest, apart from the three boats that passed. The local sniffer dog team was training the dogs for water-work, using a RIB with a platform on the bow.DSCF2312

Three dogs were involved, a Spaniel, German Shepherd, and a young Labrador. They all did well, finding the scent of the underwater bait, but the lab would insist on falling in…

We’d arranged a Tesco delivery for this lunchtime, planned for between 12 and 1, so moved off at 11:00, turned around a little further down and headed back to Canal View. We should have had plenty of time to spare, but like the two previous deliveries, he was early. Half an hour in this case!

Tescoman waiting patiently…

With the groceries loaded up stashed (the new freezer is full to the top…) we had lunch and then moved on, over the Chirk Aqueduct to wind in the basin just before the tunnel.

The daffodils are really getting going now.DSCF2315

Onto Chirk Aqueduct.

It was worth the detour into Wales, although we had no choice anyway. Someone had been tidying up on the tunnel embankment -

So I helped out!

A couple of guys were setting up a drone as we crossed into Wales, on the way back it was up and flying.

They said they’d some good footage of us as we crossed the aqueduct. I’m hoping that they’ll put it upon YouTube.DSCF2323

We cruised back, past The Poacher’s, and moored on the offside near Lion Quays. Those branches are now sliced up into stove-sized pieces, some will go straight in, others will have to be split.

Tomorrow we’ll head east, filling up with water above New Marton Locks, then descending the two before finding somewhere to moor. On Friday we’re booked to drop down Frankton Locks for a short sojourn on the Montgomery Canal. We’ve got to come back though, Meg was her next review at the Chirk vet in a fortnight. Still, it’ll be nice to have a change of view.

Locks 0, miles 3

Friday, January 26, 2018

Is Spring Sprung?

Maybe. At least it’s on it’s way! Our first snowdrops spotted today…DSCF2308


…and even some daffodils! Welsh ones, of course.DSCF2306

I spent half an hour this morning slicing some rounds off the end of that felled tree that we’d moored alongside yesterday. I would have taken more, but we’d arranged to meet the Chamberlains for fuel later on in the morning, and we had an hour to cruise before arriving at the rendezvous.

It was a gentle hour, through Whitehouse Tunnel first, then past Chirk Marina, through the cutting and Chirk Tunnel, and over Chirk Aqueduct. It was a bit clearer than when we did the same trip a fortnight ago

The Kronospan factory chimneys were smoking well this morning. DSCF2294
The site produces chipboard and MDF, and gets through a lot of timber. The process produces lots of dust, a hazard that has caused several fires over recent years, the latest just last September. Thankfully they’ve only caused material damage, no injuries.

Chirk Cutting

The sun was streaming into the southern end of the tunnel…DSCF2300

Looking back across Chirk Aqueduct

We met Richard and Ruth as planned at Monks Bridge, then moved on around the corner to moor at The Poachers for the weekend. It looks like it’s going to be mild, but a bit wet and windy. Never mind.

Locks 0, miles 3

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Not a lot going on…

Sorry I’ve not been posting, but I‘ve not had a lot to say, frankly! Oh, Mags says hi…DSCF2292 

We stayed in Trevor basin through the wind, rain snow, sleet and frost we’ve had through the last few days. Although to be fair there were the occasional spells of sunshine.

I had a couple of trips up into Cefn Mawr, mainly for shopping but I also tried to trace the route of the old Plas Kynaston Canal. Without much success, I might add.

The canal led off the basin to the right, here, under that bridge.20180118_101002
The short arm to left is shown covered by a shed of some sort on early 20th century maps, so could have been a boatbuilder or a covered loading area. Information is sketchy, although one of the cargoes regularly loaded here was slaked lime, which had to kept dry. So it could have been constructed for that purpose.
The whole area around the basin was serviced by tramways, on the centre peninsula, now heavily overgrown, and alongside the wharf now used by Anglo-Welsh.


The bridge is blocked and all the remaining length of the canal is filled and has been built over by industry. Ironically that industry has now gone as well.

There was a bridge carrying Queen Street over the channel…20180118_102640

…which doesn’t exist any more.

Then the canal headed north-east for a couple of hundred yards before turning left, south, through the now-demolished chemical works.20180118_102655
That’s a service road in the picture, the canal was up on the left bank.  It finally terminated somewhere behind the Queens Hotel, but I couldn’t find any sign of it.

I mentioned in an earlier post that there’s a proposal to recover this short canal, now that all the industry has gone. What I didn’t realise is that it’s part of a much broader regeneration project.
There was a short item on the scheme on BBC Wales evening news on Monday, which included some video of the basin and the end of the aqueduct. We saw them filming from Tommy 2, one of Jones The Boat’s trip boats, and there was even some brief footage of Seyella!

I went up onto the ridge on Saturday morning, but the accompanying snowstorm didn’t do much for the view!20180120_111958

So Tuesday we pulled out of the basin, threading our way out between the hire boats and crossing the aqueduct again. The sun was low and dazzling as we had to wait till 3 o’clock before the repair work had finished for the day.DSCF2282


It was also very windy, probably the windiest crossing we’ve ever made.

After filling with water at the tap at the south end of the aqueduct we moved on a bit, through Fron Lift Bridge and tied up looking down over the valley.

Heavy showers and gusty winds overnight kept us awake for a while, but the thunder and lightening stayed well over to the south. We pushed on for a half-hour today, getting tied up just short of Whitehouse Tunnel before another band of rain moved in soon after lunchtime.DSCF2290

A casualty of the recent gales, that felled tree looks a bit too tempting, as we’ve moored alongside. Just need the rain to stop for a while…
Tomorrow we’re meeting Richard and Ruth for fuel at Canal View, before toddling on to The Poacher’s for the weekend.

We’ll have the opportunity to extend our cruising range after the weekend, too. The repairs at New Marton Locks are due to finish tomorrow, and the next stoppage at Maestermyn House Bridge doesn’t start until the 19th of February, so we might have a week or two down on the Montgomery Canal before heading back this way before the stoppage is imposed. We’ll see.

Locks 0, miles 2

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Visiting Trevor…

Yesterday we left the moorings near The Poachers, heading back towards Wales. Although cold it was at least bright and dry.

Crossing back into Wales over Chirk Aqueduct.DSCF2252

At least we could see ahead this time!

Just north of Chirk Tunnel, in the cutting, I spotted this buzzard…DSCF2257

He didn’t wait for us to pass beneath, though.

The sun came out as we approached Whitehouse Tunnel, shining into the bore from almost directly behind and making the tunnel light redundant for the first few yards.


We stopped overnight on the moorings above the Dee valley, and had a lazy morning before getting off at 2 o’clock. There was no point in moving any earlier; the repairs to the towpath railings on Pontcysyllte Aqueduct are still underway, so we couldn’t cross until after the workforce knocked off at three.

This chap was mooching about looking for breakfast.DSCF2268

We filled with water while waiting, keeping a wary eye on the steadily strengthening wind. It can be pretty exposed crossing over…

The workboat comes around the corner off the aqueduct, our cue to get going.DSCF2270


Unlike Scotland, Wales has only had a dusting of snow on the tops.DSCF2275
It was a bit blowy crossing over the valley, but with 80 mph gusts forecast it’s going to get a lot worse later.

Gate Road Bridge crossing the Dee just a little upstreamDSCF2276

I pulled in just at the upstream end of the aqueduct and trotted ahead to see if there was space at the end of the Trevor Arm. There was, so we threaded the needle between the fleet of Anglo-Welsh hire boats laid up for the winter.

We moored up beyond Scotch Hall Bridge after turning around where the arm splits.DSCF2278
Behind us the arm ends at a blocked-off bridge, where the Plas Kynaston Canal continued on to service the industries on the ridge. Collieries, a pottery, a foundry (built to cast the ironwork for the aqueduct) and a quarry all took advantage of water transport.

This was intended to be the main line of the route between the Severn at Shrewsbury and the Mersey at Netherpool. The project went through several iterations to become the canal we have today, nothing like the  original plan. There’s a lot more information about how the canal scheme developed on an earlier post here.

It’s likely we’ll stay here for the weekend now. Meg is going to visit the vet in Chirk on Friday, and the Tesco up in Cefn Mawr is only ten or fifteen minutes away for weekend groceries. And it’s pleasant, plenty of grass for ball playing…

I see that Paul Balmer of Waterways Routes has just released a new addition to the indispensable set of DVD-based maps of the waterways. The Middle Levels Navigations will be useful for those heading for the Great Ouse and Cambridge via Northampton and the River Nene. Pity Christmas has just passed… but birthdays are coming up, surely?

Locks 0, miles 5