Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Now then, where were we?

Blimey, it’s been a week since I last posted! Must try to do better…

Ok then. We moved on to moor outside The Poachers last Wednesday, a steady run under grey skies.

New Marton Bottom Lock

Leaving the Top Lock

The snowdrops are out!

We spent three nights there, hiring a car to go to Shrewsbury Hospital for Mags to have a follow-up blood test after her procedure 10 days ago. No results yet…

Then on Saturday we pushed on, above the Ceiriog Valley on Chirk Bank.

Crossing into Wales on Chirk Aqueduct.

Chirk Tunnel at the end of the aqueduct.

We pulled in after passing through the shorter Whitehouse Tunnel. A good towpath here with mooring rings and after a while you don’t notice the trains running past…

We had a long weekend there, then chose today to move on as the weather had improved somewhat.

Leaving the moorings near Whitehouse Tunnel.

A sharp left turn just past Irish Bridge takes the canal parallel to the River Dee down in the valley.

Cefn Mawr Viaduct takes the railway across the river…

…and Pontcysyllte Aqueduct does the same for the canal.

After negotiating the lift bridge at Froncysyllte we filled with water then pushed across the canal to moor just south of the aqueduct. I say pushed, basically I untied the ropes and the brisk breeze did the work for me!
Work on the towpath handrails on the aqueduct is proceeding apace, but it needs the channel and path to be closed. Before 9AM and after half three though they clear the channel to allow navigation across.
 So we waited behind a hire boat, then were able to go across soon after three. They’d finished a little early as it was so windy. It’s a little exposed crossing the span…

Whittington Wharf hire boat Elizabeth Rose heading for Llangollen at the north end of the aqueduct.

We didn’t follow them, instead we threaded our way between the Anglo-Welsh fleet at Trevor Wharf, ran aground as usual under Scotch Hall Bridge into Trevor Basin, turned around and moored up.

A bit thin…

Billy-no-mates at Trevor Basin.

Meg enjoying a bit of grass in the sunshine.

I think we’ll be here for two or three days now.

Since last post – Locks 2, miles 8½

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Back up the locks.

With the temperature dipping to -3° last night it was no surprise to see ice on the water when we got up this morning. A rather more extensive coverage than yesterday though, and up to a ¼ inch in places.

We intended to get off at 10 drop off rubbish at the Weston Arm then head up to the locks to wait for our passage back up onto the Llangollen. But Phil from CRT rang and said he’d take us up when we arrived, so we saved an hour at least.

Owl boxes alongside the canal near Graham Palmer Lock
Apparently Mr Owl is quite prepared to support his new family by sharing the hunting with Mrs Owl, but is not willing to put up with the youngsters overnight. So an adjacent box is provided so he can get his eight hours in.

We did drop off the rubbish and recycling as planned, then struggled against a sheet of ice to get the fore-end pointing in the right direction towards the bottom of the locks.

Phil had set up the locks ready for us so we could go straight up. Two singles then the double staircase were ascended in 40 minutes, then we were on our way, turning left towards Wales on the Llangollen.

Part way up the locks is what used to be a coal yard with a dry dock alongside.
This is where the boat Cressy was converted for leisure use back in 1929. She was later bought by the engineer Tom Rolt, and it was his journeys around the slowly decaying network that inspired him to write the book Narrow Boat and to be one of the founder members of the Inland Waterways Association which spearheaded many of the restoration projects that have kept the system viable.

The locks were quite busy in their heyday, there was a pub on the towpath side halfway down, and another at the junction with the Weston Arm at the bottom along with workshops and stables. A small stable block now houses the sanitary facilities further along at the current terminus of the arm.

A left turn above the locks

We made a comfort stop near Maestermyn, then pushed on for another hour to moor below New Marton Locks.

Tomorrow we’ll toddle on to Gledrid.

Locks 5, miles 4½

Monday, January 20, 2020

Back to a full crew.

Mags’ procedure went well on Thursday, almost according to plan in fact. She wants to thank everyone for the good wishes and supportive comments. She was still in recovery when I arrived for afternoon visiting, but was back in the ward shortly after. She was very dozy though. Friday’s visiting started as normal, but I wanted to find out when they were going to discharge her. I was surprised and elated when the nurse told me that they were just preparing the paperwork and then she could go. We were packed and waiting when the doctor arrived with the necessary reports, then we were away, zooming down the corridor like rats deserting a sinking ship!
To be fair the staff were very good, attentive and caring. but it’s still a hospital, after all.

With Mags safely installed back on board we had a quiet weekend, then first thing this morning I took the hire car back and we were on the move away from Queens Head at 10 o’clock.

A bright morning after another frosty night.

Thursday morning Meg and I went back to Lower Frankton to fill with water and dispose of rubbish, a damp, cold trip, slightly better on the return to Queens Head.

Meg wrapped up against the cold drizzle last Thursday.

But today was in marked contrast, bright and sunny, almost warm in the sunshine.

I’d spied some logs on the towpath the other day, so we pulled over and the chainsaw was put to use.

I think it’s beech, but to paraphrase Bachman-Turner Overdrive from 1974 (You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet) …any wood is good wood, so I took what I could get…

Rednall Basin, a now-overgrown transfer basin between the canal and the adjacent railway.

The long straight down to the aqueduct over the River Perry, a haunt of the local kingfishers.

None around today, but I‘m sure they appreciated us breaking the thin layer of ice on the water.
We pulled in just before the aqueduct on the offside mooring, after several days moored next to the road at Queens Head the peace and quiet is blissful. I got all the wood chopped and stacked in the cratch then we just sat and chilled.

Tomorrow we’ll be heading back up Frankton Locks onto the main Llangollen Canal, then west back towards Wales. Mags has got to go back to Shrewsbury for another blood sample in the week, just to make sure that things are moving in the right direction. Until we get the results of that we can’t really make any decisions on where to go, but I don’t think there’ll be any problems. Every day she’s a little better.

Locks 2, miles 9½ since last post.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

The extended version…

Well. Plan B started ok (see previous post), and we’re still on it, but it seems to be lasting longer than expected…

We returned to Franton Junction a week last Monday (the 6th), loaded up with coal from Richard on Tuesday then dropped down the locks to moor on the Weston Arm on Wednesday.

Frankton Locks down onto the Montgomery Canal

We did get to hear about Mags’ urgent appointment at the Royal Shrewsbury, it was for a consultation on the 9th of March! By then Mags would have been in a serious condition, she had no appetite so was rapidly losing weight, and she was dehydrated too. So I got onto Ellesmere surgery and arranged for a doctor to see her that (Wednesday) afternoon after we descended the locks.
The upshot of that was that we were collected by ambulance early Thursday morning, spent most of the day undergoing tests then Mags was admitted in the evening. Meanwhile I’d taxied to Enterprise, picked up a car, driven back to Lower Frankton to pick up Meg and returned to Mags.

On Friday I moved the boat on to Queens Head as planned, getting a taxi to take me back to Lower Frankton to collect the hire car.

Graham Palmer Lock

Queens Head, noisy but handy for the A5.

Since then she’s been on and off a drip to rehydrate, has had a scan to determine the problem and has had antibiotics to deal with an infection caused by the blockage in her bile duct. After a week in there, even though I’ve visited twice a day, she’s well pissed off. But all should change now. All being well, as I write this, she’s undergoing an ERCP (look it up…) a procedure that she had in November 2018 and which was very successful then. Hopefully it’ll be as effective this time.

They reckon she could be back aboard this weekend. It’ll take a few days to be completely well again, then she’s got to recover her strength, but with the blockage and associated infection dealt with she’ll start to eat properly.

Tomorrow I’m going cruising again, back to Lower Frankton to fill the water tank and get rid of rubbish, then returning to Queens Head. I’ll be back in time to shoot off to visit Mags again in the afternoon.

Locks 5, miles 4

Sunday, January 05, 2020

On to Plan B…

…or C, maybe even D! I said, back in December when we left Ellesmere for points west, that we wouldn’t be coming back until March. Well I was wrong and we are!
We’re still waiting for Mags’ appointment at Shrewsbury hospital, and with a delay to our coal delivery from Richard and Ruth we decided to change the location of the delivery to Frankton Locks then drop down onto the Montgomery Canal. Moorings at Queen’s Head are only 13 miles from Shrewsbury, straight down the A5, the closest approach by canal. So that’s the plan but it is subject to change…

With a day to spare we’ve headed up from Gledrid to Ellesmere to top up the cupboards before cruising back to Frankton Junction tomorrow.

First we had to reverse to the winding hole just down from The Poachers…

…then we were away.

Back down the two New Marton Locks.

A whole family of black sheep!

We pulled over at a regular spot near Maestermyn. Meg really prefers a grass towpath, she loves a good roll.

After a quiet night we were on the move this morning just before ten.

Looking over Broome Farm south into Shropshire.

The plastic cruiser moored just outside Ellesmere has succumbed to neglect…or collision.

We topped up the water tank and got rid of accumulated rubbish and recycling at the wharf, then moved off down the arm turned at the bottom then moored maybe half-way back to the main line.

Plenty of room on the Ellesmere Arm.

The canal company warehouse at the terminus.

Tomorrow as I mentioned we’ll head back to Frankton Junction, though the weather’s not going to be as kind as it has been these last two days.
The coal should arrive on Tuesday, then we’ve booked to drop down Frankton Locks on Wednesday. We’ll moor on the Weston Arm till we hear from the hospital, then move on to Queen’s Head.

Locks 2, miles13.