Friday, January 29, 2021

There and back again…

I left you last Thursday wondering if our delivery would be early enough for us to start heading back towards Ellesmere on Friday. Well, it was and we did.

So now we’re the proud owners of two new tub chairs, ordered on Thursday before lunch and delivered to our doorstep at a quarter past eight on Friday. Pretty good, eh!

I had to dismantle the old, saggy swivel recliners before I could bring them in, but that didn’t take long.

We’re pleased with them, we’d decided that a sofa would dominate the area too much, these are comfortable but compact enough to leave us with space.

Anyway we moved on about lunchtime, just a short way to moor at Hampton Bank for the night, heading for Ellesmere on the Saturday (23rd) after a light overnight dusting of snow. We crossed briefly into Wales at Bettisfield and filled with Welsh water while we were there.

Arriving at Ellesmere we pulled onto the wharf for rubbish and recycling disposal, then managed to get the last mooring spot on the arm.

Sunday was snowy and cold, the forecast was spot on for a change!

Of course, the arm froze over so we hung about until it had thinned enough to head down to the end to turn around, cruised across to fill with water and dispose of rubbish, then reversed off and set off back towards Whitchurch. 

Mist rising off the still lingering ice on Blakemere.

Muskovy ducks near Lineal Wharf

Not the prettiest of God’s creatures…

We pulled in on Hampton Bank, stayed for a couple of nights and today have moved on to moor near Prees Junction.

Richard and Ruth are due tomorrow with a coal and diesel delivery, then we’ll wait out the snow on Sunday before moving on a bit.

Locks 0, miles 15

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Rain and mud, snow and ice, and starlings…

We moved from Hampton Bank last Sunday (17th), heading to a fine open spot near Prees Junction on the mosses.

First thing Sunday morning…

It was a short but fine trip, with a stop for water at Bettisfield.

Amber and I enjoy long walks across Wixhall Moss, but the recent rain has left the tracks almost impassable in places. Amber is very fastidious and doesn’t like to get her paws muddy!

Luckily there are drier alternatives!

The viewing tower on the Welsh/English border has been finished and gives fine views over Wixhall and Bettisfield Mosses.

Last night’s final wee trip was a bit of a shock for her, 2-3cm of snow had appeared since she last stepped off! This morning it had deepened to a couple of inches, with an icy crust on top. She enjoyed rooting around in it…

At sunset for the last few days we enjoyed the spectacular displays of a murmuration of starlings, swooping and wheeling around before settling down for the night…

This morning, in bright sunshine, we headed down to Tilstock Park to turn around and return to the moorings at Roundthorn Bridge. We’re expecting a delivery tomorrow and the small parking area alongside the mooring is ideal.

Leaving the winding hole just above Tilstock Park Bridge.

Lunch for a pair of white horses, confined to a smaller paddock than normal with the flooding.

Tied up at Roundthorn Bridge.

Depending on what time our delivery arrives tomorrow we’ll move on back to Hampton Bank, or stay here another night.

Locks 0, miles 6¾

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Just pottering along

We’ll not be doing much while this lockdown is in place. We moved down to Ellesmere last Saturday (the 9th).

Amber and I enjoyed some fabulous early walks while we had that spell of fine weather.

We were planning to go on Friday, but the wintry showers were a bit offputting so we postponed the short trip for a day. A good move as it turned out, it was a beautiful day. Chilly but it is January…

One of the best buzzard pictures I’ve taken…

Richard and Ruth delivered solid fuel and diesel on the Sunday, they do a sterling job keeping us supplied with fortnightly runs to Fron and back. Mountbatten draws too much water for the shallow stretch from Trevor to Llangollen, so boats upstream of Pontcysyllte Aqueduct are serviced by road.

Shopping done and water tank filled we left the town on Tuesday, still heading downstream.

Into Ellesmere Tunnel

The weather was a bit mixed, gloomy at first but brighter later.

Passing Cole Mere

It was quiet, we only passed one boat all day.

We pulled in on the mooring rings near Hampton Bank but only stayed the one night, moving around the corner onto the embankment yesterday. The towpath is drier here, although there’s not a lot to choose between them.

Hampton Bank official moorings

I rate towpaths on a scale of 1 to 4. Category 1 is trainer towpath, clean and dry.

Cat 2 is boot towpath, fairly good with muddy patches, Cat 3 brings us to welly towpath, generally muddy, and Cat 4 is almost bog snorkling, standing or running water sitting on deep squishy mud. 

Cat 3 towpath near Ellesmere

When we’re not cruising much I get bored and start looking around for things to do. Of course there’s the day to day maintenance, but when that’s done it’s time for a project or two.

Before Christmas I removed the small, homemade bathroom cabinet and replaced it with almost a full bulkhead sized glazed unit. With LED spotlights in the corners the bathroom is much lighter and appears bigger. And there’s a lot more shelf space!

Another idea we’ve been toying with a while is moving the TV from on the front bulkhead alongside the door to a spot under the gunwale, completing the change by putting both chairs on the opposite side with a small table in between.

There was a possibility of replacing the chairs with a small sofa, but with a centre passage in the adjacent galley the width would be a problem without extensive changes to bookshelves and a radiator. So I think we’ll just replace the knackered chairs with new ones.

So that’s it for the time being, in a couple of days we’ll head on to Whitchurch but it’s unlikely that we’ll drop down Grindley Brook Locks. Instead we’ll turn around and head back upstream.

Locks 0, miles 8¾

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Another year, another lockdown.

Who’d have thought, this time last year, that we’d be fighting a major pandemic that’s killed nearly 2 million people globally, 76,000 in the UK. And still rising…

So here we are in another lockdown, but maybe, just maybe, there’s a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Mags had her inoculation last Thursday, and it looks as though the roll-out of the vaccine is proceeding moderately well. We’re just waiting to hear when she’s to go back for the second, it seems it may be some time.

Anyway, I hope you all had socially distanced fun over the festered season. We had Christmas Day with Val and Johnny, but limited outside contact apart from GP’s surgery for a blood test and The Jab. And it’ll stay that way for the next few weeks. Mags will be staying aboard and I‘ll do the shopping at quiet times.

My favourite picture of Amber to date...

We’d stayed outside The Poachers for the duration, but on Saturday we decided to head back downstream to Ellesmere. We were planning to go up to Wales, but with their lockdown in place, and now ours this side of the border, it didn’t seem such a good idea. We had to sneak over the border though to turn around just below Chirk Tunnel.

Back across Chirk Aqueduct after turning around

We didn’t go so far, pulling in near St Martins to enjoy the late afternoon sunshine.

Sunday was another short trip, we were getting very short of water so had to fill above New Marton Locks, then we dropped down and moored below.

New Marton Bottom Lock, we moored a couple of hundred yards further on.

Yesterday was a fine sunny day, but cold with a brisk north-easterly keeping the temperature in the low single figures.

We pulled in just past Bridge 4W, a regular stop for us with open views and plenty of sun. The panels went up to capture any passing photons…

…and they did quite well for an hour or so.

We stayed put today, and probably will tomorrow too. We’re well stocked at the moment so don’t need to be in Ellesmere till the weekend.

Locks 2, miles 7½