Saturday, March 28, 2020

A four day shopping trip.

Four fine days anyway, lovely for cruising. We went back to Trevor so I could toddle off up to Tesco’s in Cefn Mawr, then came back to Gledrid taking two days each way.

Back past the Poacher’s moorings at Gledrid on Tuesday.
Chirk Railway Viaduct, alongside the aqueduct, has these decorative alcoves built in at either end of the span.

It was built by Scottish engineer Henry Robertson and opened in 1848 despite voluble opposition from local landowners.
Originally it had ten arches crossing the River Ceiriog, connected to the valley sides at either end by wooden trusses.

These were replaced in stone ten years later. The recesses seem to mark the ends of the original stone structure.

We pulled in on Tuesday afternoon at out regular mooring just north of Whitehouse Tunnel, then carried on to Trevor Basin on Wednesday.

Good timing as we arrived at Chirk Tunnel.

Chirk Tunnel is dry at the south end and festooned with cobwebs…

…and wet at the north end, decorated with flowstone ribs.

The water running off them forms spectacular icicles when it freezes hard.
From March 2018…

We’ve been through lots of tunnels, some several times. They come in all shapes, sizes and conditions, wide and narrow, high and low, wet and dry, short and long.
But Standedge, the highest, longest and deepest in the country on the summit of the Huddersfield Narrow meets all of the first three criteria along it’s length. A remarkable feat of 18 and 19th century engineering it’s 5 mile length crosses under the Pennines. We undertook the trip in October 2012.

Anyway, back to Wednesday and we toddled along the valley side above the Dee, filled with water then crossed Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. ( I‘ve typed the name so many times recently I can now spell it without looking it up! And I can say it (almost) like a Welshman!).

Looking down into the valley the old watermill still has it’s mill-race intact, emerging from the water-wheel house.

Meg enjoying the sunshine at Trevor Basin.

The boat in front of us is Eirlys, recently one of the pair of trip boats run by Jones the Boat from here. It’s been bought by Richard who intends to take it south and convert it for living aboard.

We had a chat (at a safe distance) and both walked up to Tesco on Thursday morning before setting off in convoy back across the aqueduct.

A last (probably) look back across the valley to Ponty.

Once again we broke the trip back near Whitehouse Tunnel, heading back to the Poachers yesterday (Friday). Richard was on a mission, he’d left even before I got up with Meg at half past six!

Out of Whitehouse Tunnel

Across Chirk Aqueduct
Carol, in answer to your question – that will make an nice round 30 crossings!

We pulled up outside the pub again, right next to the outside seating where it’s sunny. I wouldn’t normally but being as the pub is closed…

The ducks here are used to being fed and are therefore very tame… and insistent!
He did get fed, but only after he’d got off!

Canal and River Trust have advised us not to move unless we need to access essential services. So we’ll be stopping here for the weekend then heading on downstream to fill with water again at New Marton Locks. The next services are at Ellesmere where we’ll also be able to dispose of rubbish and recycling, and to do a bit of shopping. All essential.

At some point we’ll cross paths with coal boat Mountbatten now Richard and Ruth have been able to get up Hurleston Locks. We’ll be sucking fumes by then!
I’d planned to have as light a boat as possible for the slipway at Chirk Marina for the blacking to be done, starting Monday. So I‘d deliberately run the diesel tank down. The best laid plans…

Locks 0, miles 10

Monday, March 23, 2020

Plans Gone Awry…

I suppose in the scheme of things, with the whole planet in the grip of a pandemic, the fact that we’ve decided to change OUR plans is of minor importance. But the human mind tends to concentrate on issues that directly affect them (hence the pillocks who believe that stockpiling loo rolls and baby formula will preserve them from what they perceive as the inevitable collapse of society…) so things happening elsewhere are of concern but those on our doorstep have a deeper significance.

We’re ok, as are all of our friends and families so far; living on a boat means that we self-isolate to a degree as a matter of course, and we’ve always plenty of provisions in. But our planned bottom blacking has been cancelled as a precaution. Not due to problems at the marina, but we were intending to stay with Val and John near Wrexham and he’s recently had a quadruple by-pass and is therefore high on the “at-risk” list. We’d never forgive ourselves if he was infected because of us visiting.

And then there’s our trip home up north. The reason was two-fold. Mags is supposed to have her recently installed bile-duct stent checked and possibly replaced in the summer, and she’s also yet to meet her recently arrived great-great-grand-daughter. With this virus looking to be a long time in resolution it’s unlikely that such none-urgent procedures will take place, and we’ll not be able to visit family up there anyway until it’s safe This being the case we’re postponing the slog up the broad locks to Skipton.

So we’ve decided to have the rest of the year pottering in the Midlands. From there we can get a hire car more easily if we need to, to get north to Mags’ family, west to Val and John (also considered family) and south-east to my lot. My elderly parents also have high risk conditions, although my brother and sister are local and they also have very supportive neighbours.
So there you have it. A minor inconvenience easily dealt with for us compared to the problems others are facing.

Back to the matter in hand, we left the moorings near Whitehouse tunnel on Saturday, travelling through the two tunnels and over the aqueduct we’ve negotiated several times this winter, finally fetching up outside The Poachers again. It’s closed of course, so it’s quieter moored directly alongside the outdoor seating area than it would normally be.

ABC hire-boat emerging from Chirk Tunnel.
There are quite a few hirers about, more so than private boats at the moment.

Nobody coming across the aqueduct.

Daffodils and Primula at Monks Bridge
Spring has arrived, the drakes are trying to gang-bang the ducks, making a hell of a racket!

Tomorrow we’ll turn around, head back to Ponty for water and moor in Trevor Basin again if we can. A walk up to Tesco in Cefn Mawr should set us up provisions-wise, and a last farewell to Val and John, although at a distance, will then see us heading downstream towards the Shroppie.

I think 2020 is a wash-out now. Roll on 2021. Stay safe everyone.

Locks 0, miles 3  

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Window maintenance and a surprise visit at Trevor.

We left Llangollen Basin last Wednesday, sat out the strong winds and rain near Llandyn Lift Bridge on Thursday, then headed back to Trevor on Friday.
Llandyn Lift Bridge

Looking down at the Dee from the narrows near Sun Trevor.

We arrived at Trevor after an uneventful trip, only passing one boat. Pulling in to Trevor Basin we were surprised to see half a dozen Anglo-Welsh hire boats breasted up against the island.
Still plenty of room for us and they were moved back to the wharf on Saturday.

There are plans afoot to re-open a good part of the Plas Kynaston Canal, almost to it’s original terminus below the Queen’s Hotel. The restored section will end in a small marina, but the whole development depends on clearing or isolating the contaminated ground left behind by the now-demolished chemical works.
I’m not sure if it’s related, but Jones the Boat’s operation in the arm to the left of the “island” is now closed, the lease for the land not having been renewed. Anglo-Welsh will be using the water space from next year to free up congestion on the wharf.

A couple of trips up to Tesco in Cefn Mawr over the weekend have topped up the cupboards (not stockpiled!). Even going up first thing in the morning didn’t avoid the crowds…

Val and John came to visit on Sunday for the afternoon, maybe the last time in view of the latest government advice to stay indoors. John’s recovering from a quad bypass operation so is clearly in the “at risk” group. Hopefully though we’ll all stay bug-free because we’re supposed to be staying with them for a few days at the end of the month.

Monday was fine, sunny and warm, a good day to remove the glass from the galley window. It’s a sliding window, half fixed, half sliding behind the other. The felt runners the sliding section runs in were badly worn and growing moss, in need of replacement. So I sourced some flock lined rubber U channel to install instead.
Fresh air window!

Glass and framing cleaned and ready for refitting…

…when I’d replaced the old seal with the new.
The slider is a bit tight on the new seal, but I’m sure it’ll bed in…

I was out with Meg in the late afternoon when a couple walked past. The chap came back having seen the boat name –it was Maffi, off the Milly M with his partner Susan and dog Molly. We didn’t immediately recognise each other, it’s been a few years!
They were in Wales visiting family and decided to stop to walk over the aqueduct before driving back to Oxford. Their return trip was delayed somewhat as we caught up over tea and cookies.

Maffi, Susan and Molly

Good to see you both.

This morning we pushed off again, out onto the junction and across Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.

After filling with water we negotiated Fron Lift Bridge, cruised along the channel above the valley then turned away from the river under Irish Bridge.

Canine water sports…

Another 10 minutes saw us tied up on the rings just north of Whitehouse Tunnel.

We’ll stay here a couple of nights before moving up to The Poachers for the weekend.

Hi Adam. Thanks for the comment regarding the government’s possible plan to allow us to keep using red diesel for domestic use. (See
That will be fine for those boats that have a separate tank for their heating system so they can segregate the two fuel types, assuming marinas are willing to stock both white (road diesel) and red, which is unlikely.
But for us, the cost of installing such a tank in order to supply our heating which uses just 0.8 lltres a day is uneconomic. I reckon on using the engine for 1½ hours per day as a generator for domestic power, cruising or not. But that will have to be fuelled from the main tank containing derv. So being able to use red for domestic use really doesn’t apply to us, or, I imagine, the majority of boaters.
And I forgot that, although the difference between red diesel duty (11.14ppl) and white diesel duty (57.95ppl) is as I suggested around 48 pence, white attracts a full 20% VAT while red is discounted at only 5% VAT. So expect to be paying around 60 pence per litre more when the new legislation is applied!
Locks 0, miles 6¼ 

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Loafing around Llangollen

We’ve had nearly a week lurking in Llangollen basin, enjoying some fine days, keeping our heads down when it was wet and windy.

The River Dee from Dee Bridge last Friday.

When we’re here I mostly shop on the High Street, there’s a good butcher, grocer, bakers and around the corner a useful hardware store. But on Monday I decided to check out the fairly recent Aldi at the northern edge of the town. The supermarket was ok, but the walk along the riverside was probably the finest trip to a shop I’ve ever made. Even on a gloomy day…

A few minor jobs got done while we were hanging about, restitching some of the seams on the cratch cover, a bit of rewiring. But generally we just chilled.

We needed a change of scene though, so today, in a brisk breeze but under blue skies we backed out of our slot in the basin and headed back out onto the cut.

The moorings had never had more than five boats occupying the 30-some berths while we’ve been here, with us and a Canaltime boat leaving this morning that left just one.

Past Llangollen Wharf…

…and along the single-width narrows.

We pulled in on the rings just before Llandyn Lift Bridge, after just a mile.

From here we look out across the canal and up the hill to the silhouette of Castell Dinas Bran…

…and in the field below a group of locals and their offspring.

I see that Boris’ new Chancellor has done what he promised and scrapped the tax break for red diesel for pleasure use. That means that by March 2022 we’ll be buying Derv from marinas, or red diesel at Derv prices. An extra 48p per litre. Ouch. Still, the writings been on the wall since the EU told us we shouldn’t be getting the tax break in 2008. And then the Court of European Justice underlined the ruling last July, making it illegal. You’d have thought that their decision would no longer be valid though, us not being in the club any more…

Locks 0, miles 1

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Basin to Basin

Yesterday we moved on from Trevor, ending up at the head of navigation at Llangollen mooring basin. It was grey and a bit damp at times, but at least that pesky wind had dropped.

Leaving Trevor Basin, looking back at Jones the Boat’s base, now no longer operating.
The CRT lease hasn’t been renewed, and the buildings associated with the trip boat company have been demolished. Local word suggests that Anglo-Welsh will be taking over the wharf. It might relieve some of the congestion between Scotch Hall Bridge and the junction.

A sharp right turn took us under Rhos-y-Coed Bridge and along the concrete-lined and tree-fringed channel. The trees thin out after a quarter mile or so, just as the channel gets really shallow.

We scraped along to the next bridge where there’s more water under the base-plate. It’s never deep on this final stretch, making progress for anything with a deeper draught than a washing-up bowl pretty slow.

Looking back down the valley to Cefn Mawr.
If you look closely you can see the grey line of the aqueduct just above the tree line. There used to be more visible, but trees grow…

The channel winds along, with the river Dee down on the left, and, as it approaches the moorings and pub at Sun Trevor, the Llangollen Road on the right.

Following the pub the first of the two single-width sections is encountered.
At this time of year you can hope that nothing is coming and carry on, but in the summer, forget it!

Looking up the valley.

The road is left behind at the end of the narrows as the canal ducks under Wenffrwd Bridge, then it’s about a half mile to Llandyn Lift Bridge (locked open), closely followed by the final narrows ending at the moorings above the town.

You can understand why they weren’t prepared to make the channel full width!

The winter moorings, normally quiet popular are almost empty this year, just two boats up at the town end.

Passing along above the town.

The mooring basin is off-line at the end of the navigation, at least to powered private boats. The horse-drawn boats from the wharf take passengers up to Chain Bridge Hotel, just a short walk from Horseshoe Falls and the feeder for the canal.

Moored in Llangollen Basin.

It’s about as busy as we expected, just 4 or 5 boats occupying the 30 berths. Not been here in the summer, though…

Locks 0, miles 4½

Monday, March 02, 2020

The Ellesmere and Plas Kynaston Canals.

Back in 1791 a group of local businessmen and bankers came together to discuss an ambitious project. The success of canals like the Bridgewater and the Trent and Mersey encouraged them to propose a canal running south from the Mersey to join the Severn at Shrewsbury, taking in the Dee at Chester on the way. The suggested route would pass the coal and iron ore producing areas around Wrexham and Ruabon, and would include branches to Whitchurch to the east and Llanymanech to the southwest. Several shorter branches would connect to existing collieries to the west, the idea being that the canal would allow access to raw materials for the industrial centres of the west country, and also to the coast at Chester and on the Mersey estuary. Most importantly, a reservoir and feeder were to be built in the hills west of Wrexham to feed the canal.
The Ellesmere Canal Company was formed and an Act of Parliament granted to start construction. The first sod was cut the following year and work continued apace, the Llanymynech Branch from Frankton to it’s namesake opened in 1796, joining up with the under-construction Montgomeryshire Canal at Carreghofa Locks.  In the same year the short contour section was finished from the end of the earlier Chester Canal to the Mersey at a small village called Netherpool, later to become the inland complex of Ellesmere Port.
 But all was not going well, with spiralling costs and the increasing threat of railway competition on the horizon. In 1800 construction of both the northern and southern sections were abandoned, the central section terminating at Trevor Basin just north of Poncysyllte Aqueduct and the channel to Shrewsbury petering to a stop at Weston Lullingfields, 10 or 12 miles short of it’s intended destination. The eastern branch to Whitchurch was to be saved, however, and extended to join the Chester Canal at Hurleston just north of Nantwich, and opened in 1806. The cancellation of the northern route to Chester posed a problem. With it went the new reservoir at Hope Mountain and the feeder, Ffrwd Canal.
In 1803 an alternative was decided on, and by 1806 the navigable feeder line running from The Dee above Llangollen was open, bringing much needed water to the main canal.

The cancellation of the Chester route also meant that the local industries around Acrefair and Cefn Mawr remained reliant on poor road transport, so part of the 1803 discussion was to provide a short canal, starting on the line of the original proposal but looping around below the slopes of Cefn Mawr to a terminus below the Queens Hotel.
It took a while, but this, the Plas Kynaston Canal,  was finally completed in 1830, giving boat access for the foundries, chemical works, tile works and pottery lying in the shadow of the hill. The industries further afield were serviced by a network of tramways running back to Trevor Wharf.
By the middle of the 20th century traffic on the canal had declined, and most of the channel was filled in. But with the closure of all the industry adjacent to the canal the Plas Kynaston Canal Group was formed in 2010 with the aim of recovering the now lost navigation.

Back on the main line, British Waterways, the authority for inland waterways that took control in 1962, rebranded the navigation as the Llangollen Canal, effectively the route from Hurleston to Llangollen. The Llanymynech Branch of the Ellesmere Canal from Frankton became the northern half of the Montgomery Canal, and the Montgomeryshire Canal to Newtown lost it’s shire. The branch up into Whitchurch itself was filled in, as was long lengths of what should have been the main line to Shrewsbury, leaving just a short stub below Frankton Locks.

And that’s pretty much what we have today. A pretty, popular canal, but think of what might have been. A route from Ellsemere Port to the Severn, then down into the Black Country. And another off west into Wales. Wow.

I had a walk around the basin here at Trevor this morning, camera in hand…

Trevor Wharf, now home to Anglo-Welsh, still has evidence of the tramways that connected to the quarries and collieries away from the canal.

Trevor Basin, with loading wharves on the left and what should have been the Chester route to the right.

The bridge at the end of the basin is blocked, the short arm to the left was once a covered dock.

The route of the Plas Kynaston Canal ran over there somewhere, across the cleared industrial landscape. Apart from the parapets of the Queen Street Bridge there’s little sign of the route.

Richard turned up early on Sunday morning bringing our fuel delivery.
He’s hoping that this weekend’s van runs will be the last up here. Hurleston Locks should re-open in a fortnight and Mountbatten will be one of the first boats through, able to start delivery by water again.

And the water quality in the basin must be fairly good, we’ve had the company of this cormorant for the last 3 days, so there must be fish here.

Unless he’s getting a take-away…

Visitors tomorrow, all being well, then we’ll shove off towards Llangollen on Wednesday.
Not forgotten about your request for a brief guide to facilities and moorings on the canal, Tony. It’s a work in progress…

Locks 0, miles 0.