Saturday, November 30, 2019

Back to Ellesmere for the Winter Festival, a shredded belt and an apology…

I think we’ll take those in reverse order…

Please accept my apologies for not reading, posting or replying to your recent comments. I had a problem with an old email address that was no longer picking up comments from Blogger, all sorted now though. Thanks for the comments for Mags’ health, we’re still in limbo to a certain extent but she says she’s actually feeling fine and doesn’t know what all the fuss is about!

I keep spare belts for the twin alternators on the Isuzu donk, unlike some of the later engine installations we’re still running on vee rather than flat, multi-vee, belts which aren’t as durable but don’t tend to run off with the slightest pulley misalignment! Having said that, I’ve only changed the domestic belt once and the engine belt twice, now.
I‘d started up the engine yesterday morning to warm it up before we set off, and both alternators were delivering a combined 110a which is normal at first. I’d just untied the fore-end and was walking back to the counter when I heard the charge alarm howling away. The engine side warning light was on and the rev counter wasn’t working, both indicators of no drive to that alternator. So I switched off, lifted the covers and there was the remains of the belt wrapped around the engine pulley.
With the debris removed and the spare fitted all was well. I’ve just picked up a new spare from Blackwater Meadow Marina.

We had two steady days heading back from Whixall Junction to here, stopping over near Hampton Bank. Most of the leaves are off the trees now, unfortunately an awful lot of them are in the cut, lurking just below the surface to ensnare a passing propeller!
A quick “chuck back” in reverse clears them – until the next time!

At Bettisfield is an Aqua-Bike…

…and a tandem for couples!

This well-dressed gentleman was strutting his stuff along the opposite bank in the evening…

The temperature dropped to -3° on Thursday night, leaving us with stiff, frozen ropes but a fine sunny morning for Friday.

It was a fine but chilly cruise from Hampton Bank, passing between the meres to the east of Ellesmere.

Cole Mere.

Instead of trying for a mooring on the Arm we pulled in just short of the marina, the towpath is a bit messy here but we had beautiful sunshine all afternoon. And anyway, I expected the moorings towards Tesco to be busy, with the Ellesmere Winter Festival last night. And they were.

After dinner I had a walk up to see what was going on and wasn’t disappointed.

There was a bit of a cock-up at the start; Santa Claus was supposed to arrive at the wharf by boat, but the pick-up point was unclear. The boat was waiting at the entrance to the arm, but the bearded, rosy-cheeked chap was 200 yards up the canal at Red Bridge! Still, they got sorted out to be able to arrive at the wharf on time to meet the crowds waiting.

The old chap got to ride on this dragon.

The parade got under way shortly after, winding through the town and ending at the market hall. The route was packed with people!

The lanterns were pretty impressive!

Apologies for the fuzzy pictures, my camera doesn’t cope well with extremes of light and shade!

We’ll be hanging around Ellesmere for a few days, we’re waiting for confirmation of an appointment for Mags at the local GP.

Locks 0, miles 6½

Monday, November 25, 2019

About time for a catch-up…

I hadn’t realised that it’s been nearly two weeks since I last put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard I suppose… So I better update you with the goings-on.
Now, where were we? A week last Thursday we moved the short distance to Hampton Bank where’s a handy lay-by right alongside the towpath.

Whixall Moss (Prees Branch) Junction.

The long straight across the moss.

Local sentry keeping an eye on things…

In the afternoon I collected an Enterprise hire car, then first thing Friday morning we were heading north for Yorkshire and another visit to Mags’ GP. I think I mentioned that the blood samples taken on the 5th indicate a possible return of the liver problems she had last autumn.

Anyhow, we were there in good time but it took a while and several attempts to get a blood sample, she’s not keen on parting with it…
Blood pressure, temperature a wee sample and weight all OK. so we set off back to Seyella in optimistic mood, only to have it shattered by a phone call that evening. The blood tests showed marked deterioration in Mags’ liver function and she needed urgent medical attention, go to A&E!
Of course, I’d taken the hire car back and here we were in the middle of very rural Shropshire.
Mags wouldn’t hear of an ambulance as she was feeling fine, so we set off for Ellesmere at sparrow’s fart on Saturday, met our indispensable and very obliging friends Val and John there who took us over to Wrexham to collect another hire car. It was a short trip from there to Wrexham Hospital.

Past Blake Mere

Ellesmere Tunnel.

We spent the day in A&E, with steadily increasingly qualified medics trying to obtain a blood sample from Mags’ veins, until a very apologetic doctor suggested trying to get some from the femoral vein in her groin.
Undignified and intrusive, he explained, but with almost 100% chance of success. By this time Mags was getting a little tetchy (we’d been there 9 hours and her arms and hands were looking like pincushions) and told him to “just bloody well get on with it!”

He was right, a good sample was recovered easily which went off to the lab. Ninety minutes later we were informed that Mags was to be admitted to stay in overnight.

Up in the ward two very nice nurses got her settled and the night duty doctor came toddling along with the blood test results and told us there was nothing to worry about, levels are a bit elevated but it’s not life-threatening. But she would stay in to see the consultant in the morning.
The upshot of this assessment was that she was discharged and I picked her up at just before ten on Sunday morning. So that was a total waste of time and effort.

We spoke to Mags GP early in the week and she’d been in touch with the surgeon who’d installed the stent which sorted out the problem last year. He didn’t want to get involved at this point as any further intervention would require surgery and we’re not there yet, so she’s now on a two-week course of antibiotics and we’ve registered as temporary patients at Ellesmere so we can deal with blood and urine tests without having to trail up to Yorkshire. So that’s where we stand at the moment.

All through this we’d been moored in Ellesmere on the arm, so last Thursday we untied and set off back to Hampton Bank.

A calm chilly morning on the Ellesmere Arm

Out onto the main line, with Beech House and the wharf on the right.

We stopped on the moorings near the winding hole at Hampton Bank, then on Friday moved the short distance under the bridge to moor alongside that convenient lay-by again.

Yesterday we had a delivery of smokeless, diesel and Calor gas from Richard and Ruth (Chamberlain Carrying Company) who are delivering up here by road until they get Hurleston Bottom Lock rebuilt. Then Mags’ son Howard turned up with friend Penny in tow to have lunch and spend the afternoon with us. Very pleasant.

Getting itchy feet again and despite the rather gloomy weather we moved off this morning, topping up with Welsh water at Bettisfield Bridge. We crossed the border just short of Clapping Gate Bridge, into the tongue of Wales know as The Maelor that extends down to Northwood. The canal crosses back into England half-way along the long straight across Whixall Moss.

Fuzzy picture of a cheeky magpie standing on a sheep’s head!

It’s that buzzard again…

I think we’re being stalked!

We turned around at the junction and moored in the open just this side. We’ll maybe stop here a couple of days before heading back towards Ellesmere.

Boats and buses; see none all day then they all arrive at once!

Locks 0, miles since last post, 15.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Forty feet of locks and four lift bridges.

It was half past nine when we pulled pins this morning and set off under the old railway bridge at the bottom of the Grindley Brook Locks.

The flight consists of three single locks over the first quarter-mile, then a triple staircase, altogether raising the canal by around forty feet. These will be the last locks we encounter until New Marton Locks re-open in a month’s time. Unless we drop down onto the Montgomery Canal, of course.

Mags stayed inside while I single-handed up the first three, then took the tiller as we came up the staircase.

The bywashes weren’t as fierce as I expected them to be…

In the top of the single locks, Lock 4

Coming up the staircase.

We were out of the top and on the long 20 mile pound just an hour after starting off.

I dropped off the rubbish and recycling at the top lock, then mosied along a bit to the first water tap to fill the tank. With the bulk of the locks behind us, we’ve now got most of the lift bridges ahead!

The first of several, New Mills Lift Bridge and the Whitchurch Arm

That wasn’t there earlier in the year!

There are two more lift bridges soon after Whitchurch Marina, Hassels No 1 and No 2.

Leaving Hassels No 2

After passing these there’s two and a bit miles of fine canal cruising, wooded sections alternating with open fields as the navigation heads mainly south through rural Shropshire.

Tilstock Lift Bridge was the last we tackled today, then soon we were out on the levels of Whixall Moss with the canal heading towards the junction with the Prees Branch.

We didn’t get to the junction though, pulling in on the moorings near Roundthorn Farm.

Tomorrow we’ll push on to Hampton Bank, a shorter day but we wanted to get some miles done while the weather was kind.

Locks 6, miles 6

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Short trips to avoid the weather and plans in disarray.

Over the last few days we’ve been selective on out short trips, trying to avoid the rain. And we’ve mostly been successful.

On Sunday we moved on from Wrenbury, first passing through Church Lift Bridge…

…then the mechanised Wrenbury Lift Bridge.
With it being Sunday morning we hardly disrupted the traffic at all!

Wrenbury Frith Lift Bridge was chained in the open position, so we toddled through and on to moor just past Thomason’s winding hole.
A fine, sunny spot.

Yesterday was another bright morning so we shoved on, up Marbury Lock and finished up mooring below Quoisley Bridge after just an hour.

Railings along the edge at Marbury Lock.

Sunny morning.

The weather turned yesterday afternoon, and rain persisted into today. We would probably have stayed put, but plans have changed and we need to move on, so with the sky brightening a bit we untied at about half-one and set off.

We had a couple of light showers as we moved up the three locks to the bottom of Grindley Brook, but nothing too bad. In between there was the odd shaft of sunshine.
Quoisley Lock

The bywashes are running well with the amount of rain we’ve had. Should be interesting crossing those particularly fierce ones below the Grindley Brook singles.

The compulsory picture of Willy Moor Lock Inn

The wind lifts the skirts of the trees, highlighted by the sun against a very grey sky.

Poveys Lock was our last, then 20 minutes later we were tied up on the moorings below the Grindley Brook Locks. It’s supposed to be fine, if cloudy, tomorrow, and we’ll tackle the three singles and triple staircase in the morning.

I mentioned a change of plans, well we’ve had Mags’ GP on the phone and she wants to see her because it looks like she’s got a recurrence of the liver problem she had last year. So we’re heading on a bit to moor where I can park a hire car alongside. We’re heading north again on Friday. Mags doesn’t know what the fuss is about, she feels fine.

Locks 4, miles 6¼

Saturday, November 09, 2019

A fine autumn cruise to Wrenbury

Yesterday there was a gap in the seasonal lows moving in from the Atlantic, giving us the opportunity to move on in the dry, so we took it.
The two Swanley Locks were just around the corner and we were getting ready to go when a private boat went past, followed by a CRT push tug and barge combo. So we gave it another 20 minutes before following on.

There has been a surprising number of boats heading upstream since we pulled out of the marina, presumably having come up Hurleston Locks before last Monday’s closure. It could be busier than usual up here this winter…

We arrived below Swanley No2 as the CRT crew were just emptying the lock, so hung back until they moved off the lock landing.
But they couldn’t get into the lock…
A control box for the hydraulic support jacks was hanging over the gunwale and the boat had jammed in the entrance. Rocking and revving and a degree of pushing finally got it free so they could swing the box inboard and get into the chamber.

We followed them up, keeping back to avoid the considerable amount of water coming up around the cill. The gate wasn’t fitting properly up against the liner.
It’s Swanley No1 that they’re going to be working on starting Monday, hence the workboats going up, but this morning a stoppage on No2 was announced, presumably to rehang the top gate. Unfortunately anyone hoping to get back below Swanley Locks before Monday are now going to be stuck…

Swanley Lock 1

There was a bit of a cold breeze, I’d shunned shorts today in favour of long trousers for the first time this autumn and was glad I did. But the sky was blue, the birds were singing and the sun was lighting up the dying leaves.

The recent rain has left large areas of standing water in the fields.
We got up the three Baddiley Locks without problems, then cruised on for another half-hour or so to moor before Church Lift Bridge at Wrenbury.

Baddiley No2

Today we’ve not seen any of the forecasted sleet but it has rained continuously since mid-morning. A finer day tomorrow will see us tackling the first of the lift bridges. Deep joy…

Locks 5, miles 4