Thursday, February 27, 2020

Toddling up to Trevor, and a fine boat for sale.

Anyone looking for a quality widebeam boat would be hard-pressed to find one as good as Still Rockin’, George and Carol’s vessel usually based on the Thames. The couple have decided it’s time for a change, so SR is for sale.
Bespoke designed and fitted out by a well established builder, she’s been well maintained and is in immaculate condition. The advertisement is on Apollo Duck here, well worth a look if you’re in the market.

We left the moorings outside the Poachers on Tuesday, heading upstream to cross back into Wales over Chirk Aqueduct.

I can’t resist taking the picture…

The sun was behind us as we entered the following tunnel, lighting up the interior brickwork for 50 yards.

We continued on past Chirk Marina and through Whitehouse Tunnel, tying up on the moorings between the tunnel and Bridge 26W, surprisingly empty.

After a day off yesterday with a few odd jobs to do, we left this morning, later than usual after 11:00. The last couple of nights have been colder than of late, with a brisk north-westerly blowing. So we left it until the sun had warmed the air a little. It was still chilly though.

Along the channel above the Dee

We negotiated Fron Lift Bridge and swung right, past the long-term moorings and pulled in to fill the water tank. Not before time, the pump had started to suck air during the washing machine’s rinse cycle earlier.

It was cold and blowy crossing Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the wind pushing us against the towpath fender.

But at least we couldn’t go anywhere but straight on!

We’d decided to try for Trevor Basin, hoping for space there, so threaded our way between the Anglo-Welsh hire boats and under Scotch Hall Bridge. The dredgers had long gone, leaving plenty of water under the bridge. A welcome change from the bottom-dragging progress we’ve had in the past.

There was only one boat here, and they left an hour after we arrived, so we pulled back to where they’d moored. We were on the bollards near the bridge at first, a potentially awkward spot for boats coming through the bridge and wanting to turn around.

We’ll stay here for the weekend now. The weather looks like it’s going to be a bit grim again, and we’ve Richard and Ruth delivering fuel on Sunday. It should be the last van delivery they make, C&RT intend to re-open Hurleston Locks around the 17th of March, so they’ll be bringing the fuel boat Mountbatten up to supply us boaters from the water.

Locks 0, miles 5 

Monday, February 17, 2020

Not Ellesmere again!

Oh yes, for a couple of days anyway. We moved to Frankton Junction on Friday, only 20 minutes or so under grey skies.

We moored up to wait for Richard and Ruth with Saturday’s fuel delivery, and to wait out the imminent arrival of Storm Dennis.

Both came, one considerably more welcome than the other. By Sunday the towpath there, always a bit damp, had turned distinctly squelchy and during a short break in the weather we pushed on, just a quarter mile, to a drier bit of bank and more shelter from the wind.

Today dawned damp but calm, and we were on the move at ten o’clock. The sky brightened up through the morning, with shafts of sunshine breaking through the cloud.

All the way along the canal there’s evidence of the two storms coming almost back-to-back, downed trees, debris in the water and flooded fields.

The garden of the canalside cottage at Bridge 62 is partly submerged, water a foot up the sides of the greenhouse.

Unusually inquisitive squirrel…

We pulled in to fill with water and dispose of the accumulated rubbish and recycling opposite the crew putting new sheet piling on the towpath bank…
…then cruised down the arm, securing a spot about halfway down. This will do for a couple of nights. Tomorrow morning Mags has an appointment with the local surgery for another blood test, just a precautionary measure to make sure things are still improving.

Meg seems to be struggling a bit. The new anti-inflamatories she’s now on are making her sleepy and off her food, and she’s also got a touch of the trots. I’ll persevere for a few more days though to see if she adapts to them. When we’re passing Chirk on the way back upstream, if she’s still not right, I’ll whip her up to see the vet.

Hi Sue. Yes, we do seem to pot the first lambs most years don’t we. I think here they’re earlier than most, a mild climate and rich grazing allow the farmers to bring them on a little sooner.
You’re pretty well guaranteed to get the cygnets though!

Locks 0, miles 4¼

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Taking advantage of a lull in the weather.

These last two days we’ve shuffled on a bit, catching a few wintry showers yesterday but having a fine, sunny but breezy trip today.

A couple of small trees, blown down in Chirk Cutting, restricting but not blocking the channel.

I pulled in on the moorings just north of the tunnel mouth to make a trip up into Chirk. Handy for the town, it’s a bit too soggy and gloomy to stop overnight here.

Through the tunnel and we pulled in between the tunnel and the aqueduct for the night.

I wouldn’t consider stopping here during the season, but there’s no boats about needing to wait here.

The showers blew away late afternoon, leaving a fine, sunny evening, casting long shadows from the aqueduct and viaduct onto the meadow below.

A clear, cold night gave us a beautiful morning, with barely a breath of wind.
A pleasant change from the recent gales!

Snow on the hills, a legacy of Storm Ciara

But it wasn’t to last. By the time we’d got to Marton Moor the westerly had picked up again, making negotiating the locks a little interesting.

I thought our good progress was going to be halted after Hindford when we came up to a work crew conducting bank repairs near Bridge 9W, but after they got over the surprise of actually seeing a moving boat they shifted their gear enough for us to pass.

We have lambs!

We stopped on the pleasant moorings just past Maestermyn, in bright sunshine. It’s all downhill from here though. More wet and windy weather as Storm Dennis heads in off the Atlantic.

We’ll stay here till the weekend, then move up to Frankton Junction to meet Richard with a fuel delivery. Then we’ve got to move to Ellesmere on Monday for Mag’s visit to the doc’s.

Locks 2, miles 8

Monday, February 10, 2020

Bounced about but we got off lightly.

On Saturday we moved on a quarter mile, just through Whitehouse Tunnel, to moor opposite Chirk Marina. It’s maybe a tad more sheltered here.
Storm Ciara made her presence felt on Saturday night, and all through yesterday we were bumped and jostled by strong gusts of wind and battered by periods of torrential rain.
Several canals were blocked due to fallen trees, and the river navigations were closed with rising water levels.
But we got off pretty lightly compared to some of those on on Scottish borders and in the valleys of Calderdale and the Eden.

Today has been better, less windy and even a bit of sunshine, but colder, cold enough for some of the showers to turn wintry…

We have snow!

It’s supposed to stay windy tomorrow then there’s a brief reprieve on Wednesday. We’ll probably move on a little tomorrow, but save the locks at New Marton for the lighter winds. They are exposed to the west, making getting on to the landings challenging when it’s windy.

We’re heading back to Ellesmere for Mags to have another follow-up blood test to make sure that all is still well. But that’s not until a week on Tuesday morning so we can pick and choose our cruising days. We’ll be stopping at the tunnel for me to trip up to Chirk for some fresh groceries, and for Meg’s new meds, ready for her to start them next weekend.

About the planned Pontcysyllte Aqueduct emptying – I heard through the grapevine, though not officially, that there were issues with extracting water from the Dee to maintain the level downstream of the aqueduct. With the channel closed a supply to keep Hurleston Reservoir topped up would have to come up from the river using pumps. Only emptying it partway means that a steady flow can be maintained by allowing water in at the upstream end and pumping it out at the other.

Locks 0, miles ¼

Friday, February 07, 2020

Downstream, upstream and downstream again.

We stayed near Whitehouse Tunnel till Tuesday, then set off heading downstream to meet a Tesco delivery at Monks Bridge.

Rainbow over Chirk Marina

Back over the River Ceiriog into England.

The daffodils on the sheltered bank near Monks Bridge are usually the first to open, and this year is no different…

Tescoman arrived as planned, then we moved down to the moorings outside The Poachers for a couple of nights.

Yesterday we turned around on the bend just up from the moorings and headed back. I know, it’s getting boring…

Back past The Poachers

In fine weather there are few views on this canal that can beat that of Chirk Aqueduct, with the railway viaduct alongside and the tunnel in the distance.

Chirk Tunnel reflections.

Flowstone ribs at the north end of the tunnel, caused by water dissolving minerals out of the brickwork and depositing them as it leaks through.

We pulled in opposite Chirk Marina and I set to, converting the day’s booty into something that would fit in the stove…

This morning we were on the move again, heading up to the moorings just this side of Pontcysyllte Aqueduct to fill the water tank. Normally we’d cross the aqueduct and turn around at the other end to come back, but it’s closed for maintenance so I turned around just past Fron Lift Bridge and reversed the 200 yards to the water taps.

After we’d filled I walked along to see how they were doing, and was surprised to see the trough still full, but with large pumps taking the water out.
I wonder if the closure was delayed, maybe by the dredging operation in Trevor Basin. They’d planned to start work on Tuesday. And I understood that they’d be pulling the plug over the river to empty it, rather than the rather mundane method of pumping it out.

Crossing under the end of the aqueduct the 214 year old structure still impresses.

Leaks at the ends where the iron trough meets the stone abutments are faster in the winter when the trough shrinks. They slow down in warmer weather.

With the tank full again we headed back, through the lift bridge and along the channel above the river, turning away from the valley at Irish Bridge and mooring up on the rings just shy of Whitehouse Tunnel.

We’ll be here till after the weekend, it’s looks like Sunday is going to be pretty grim…

Locks 0, miles 7¼  

Sunday, February 02, 2020

On the move again…sooner than planned.

Thursday morning at eight o’clock I was out with Meg watching a Land and Water dredger hauling it’s way through the shallow water under Scotch Hall Bridge. They had to resort to using the bucket to drag the hull through. I had a chat with the crew and it turned out that they’d been asked by C&RT at short notice to dredge the moorings and approach to the basin.
Luckily we were the only boat there, and we could have stayed, moving as required to keep out of the way. But we’ve been moored near dredging operations before and it’s a bumpy and often smelly experience. I made a quick trip up to the shops in Cefn Mawr, then as soon as they’d moved the dredger and a pan behind us we hightailed it out.

Dredger and pan at the end of the basin.
They’ll be well aground there! The chap on the right was checking the water oxygen level. Dredging often lowers the oxygen saturation to dangerous levels for fish, especially in enclosed areas like this. The debris and silt absorb the gas as it’s disturbed. This is also why they’re starting at the far end and working back rather than clearing the entrance first. It gives the fish somewhere to escape to.

After the dredger had bulled it’s way through there was plenty of depth for us to get back under the bridge, but then we were stuck in between the hire boats.
Rothen’s, the other contractor used by C&RT, had decided to drop their own work-boat and small barge in by crane, blocking the way past the wharf for us and the dredging team. A case of the left hand not knowing what the right is doing…
Rothen’s are doing the aqueduct inspection starting on Tuesday.

Another bit of excitement, a mobile facilities trailer arrived while all this was going on.
The JCB on the left belongs to the dredging team, to offload the pans into waiting trucks.

It all got sorted out in the end and we were able to make our way back across the long iron trough.

We moored at the far end, then on Friday filled the water tank and toddled on a bit, under the lift bridge at Fron and pulled in again looking out over the valley.

Saturday’s trip was longer, but not by much. We’d arranged to meet Richard the fuel man just before Irish bridge so drifted the 10 minutes there first, loading up with solid and liquid fuel before continuing on to moor in a regular spot just before Whitehouse Tunnel.

While we were waiting for Richard I took the opportunity to get a better picture of the impressive Cefn Mawr Railway Viaduct than you can get from the canal.
And I got talking to a pleasant chap out for a walk with his camera, and he took a couple of pictures of yours truly and Meg. It’s not very often that my mugshot appears here, so here’s a treat for you! Or perhaps not…

Thanks Tony!

We’re still mooching about, killing time. Mags continues to improve after her extended hospital stay and ERCP, but she’s still confined to quarters. No tiller work for a few weeks yet. Meg is getting more wobbly, we don’t think she’s in much pain but her arthritic hips are now very weak. I’m working with the vet at Chirk to try a different anti-inflammatory but first she has to be weaned off the steroids.

That’s it really. It’ll probably be a few days again before it’s worth putting pen to paper. Till then, toodle-pip!

Locks 0, miles 2