Tuesday, April 13, 2021

It's suddenly gotten busy!

 After several months of just seeing the odd boat chugging past, this afternoon has seen a convoy of hire boats heading upstream from Whitchurch Marina to points west. Of course, it’s the first stage of lockdown easing today, and self catering accommodation is now allowed. Boats fit into that category.

There’ll be an large increase in traffic now I expect, as private leisure craft owners can now also have extended trips.  

After a couple of nights on the mooring rings near Roundthorn Farm, during which we had a Tesco delivery (the first for ages!) and Amber and I had some splendid walks around Whixall and Fens Mosses, we cruised up to Tilstock Park today, turned around and returned to moor near Prees Junction.

It’s been a mixed bag of weather, a cold wind with snow and sleet showers, but with spells of warm sunshine too.

On the long straight across the moss last Friday.

A better day today as we left the moorings.

Morris Lift Bridge

Eighty-five turns of the windlass to raise it!

We were lucky to have this done for us by a boat coming the other way on Friday, but weren’t so lucky today.

With boats now allowed to move there’s been a steady stream passing westward towards Wales, mostly hirers, and a few going the other way. Those heading towards the Main Line are going to have their plans thwarted though…

Notice Alert

Llangollen Canal
Location: Between Bridge 3 and Bridge 4, Hurleston, Llangollen Canal
Starts At: Bridge 3, Martins Bridge
Ends At: Bridge 4, Lees Bridge
Up Stream Winding Hole: Stoneley Green Winding Hole, close to Bridge 10, Stoneley Green Bridge
Down Stream Winding Hole: Hurleston Junction

Monday 12 April 2021 13:00 until further notice

Type: Navigation Closure
Reason: Repair

Original message:

Please be advised navigation is closed between Bridge 3, Martins Bridge and Bridge 4, Lees Bridge on the Llangollen Canal due an issue with a culvert.

Stop planks are being installed and we will be dewatering this section of canal to enable our teams to complete the necessary investigations.

An update will be provided Friday 16 April.

You can view this notice and its map online here:

Just as lockdown eases and folk can get out and about the most popular cruising route on the network is closed. Typical.

Locks 0, miles 7½

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Just killing time…

Thanks Carol, we’ve taken your advice and confirmed that booking for hull blacking in Chirk Marina in the middle of next month. It’ll actually be good to spend a few days off the boat, I reckon.

So we’ve got a bit of time to kill now, shouldn’t be a problem, we seem to have spent the last 12 months mostly doing just that!

We moved down to Ellesmere last week and spent the Easter weekend there, then another couple of days waiting for that strong northerly to ease a bit. Such a shock after several fine, warm days to suddenly have a bitterly cold wind and snow!

Still, it was calmer yesterday (not calm, calmer…), so we pushed across to the services for sanitary arrangements then headed off downstream.

The Ellesmere Arm is only half-full, almost unknown for an Easter week. It’ll all change after this coming weekend though! The Glorious 12th has taken on a whole new meaning!

It was quite a dull day, just odd spells of sunshine but not enough to offset that wind.

Ellesmere Tunnel…

…and past Blake Mere.

This chap was looking smug in his best bib and tucker – off to impress the ladies no doubt!

We weren’t sure how far to go; I toyed with the idea of stopping on the rings above Hampton Bank Bridge, but we toddled on another 10 minutes and pulled in on the embankment instead. 

With the wind blowing straight in off the towpath it was somewhat interesting getting tied up… 

Worth it though, it’s sunny all day here. If there is any sun.

While we were in Ellesmere I picked up and installed a remote monitor for the solar controller. The hardest bit was running the comms cable back to the engine room.

As you can see, it’s sunny today. I won’t need to run the engine, the batteries were fully charged again by 11:00 this morning.

Amber met a playful 18 month old malamute called Tia this morning and had a whale of a time.

A couple of days here then we’ll push on to Whixhall Moss and Prees Junction to spend a little time there. Fabulous walks across the mosses that we both enjoy.

Locks 0, miles 5½ 

Thursday, April 01, 2021

New month, new loo.

Regular readers will know that I’ve intended to remove our separating loo, reverting back to a cassette due to the change in CRT’s policy regarding the disposal of solid waste.

Well, while we’ve been pottering about for the last few weeks the bathroom has been reconfigured, the wash basin is now where it started out in the corner and the new Thetford 403 sits just inside the door. I’m quite pleased with the result.

If at some point in the future a workable solution is developed I will be putting a separating loo back in as it’s the most environmentally way forward. It’ll be a DIY solution though, in the space where the Thetford lives now.

Emptying two cassettes the other day reminded me why I disliked the system so much before… Still, needs must.

Mags has had her second Covid jab, so that’s sorted now but we’re still being careful.

The old loo and associated bits and pieces went off to its’s new home yesterday where it’ll be installed in a converted horse box. Good old eBay, eh.

We’re a half hour outside Ellesmere today, and will be heading there for the weekend again. There’s a few more boats about as well now, but it’ll get really busy in a week or two as lockdown restrictions ease further.

A few photos from the last week or two…

Those strong winds brought down a large tree across the River Ceiriog…

Mags enjoying a sunny trip down New Marton Locks.

That pair of Mandarins again

Bovine gongoozlers near Val Hill.

We’re still up in the air as far as plans are concerned; I‘d like to get Seyella’s bottom blacked while we’re on the Langollen, we’ve an invitation to stay with friends Val and John when the rules allow, and have a chance at a slot in the middle of May. Not sure whether to take it or book a dry dock for DIY further away.

Locks 4, miles 27

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Backwards and forwards and thoughts on loos…

We left Ellesmere after the weekend before last, heading back upstream to moor conveniently for me to be collected by taxi and taken up to Gobowen for my first Covid jab. That was on the Wednesday 3rd and all went well. In fact I was only gone for 45 minutes and that included a 15 minute wait for the return lift!

Following that we returned to Ellesmere for the weekend, topped everything up again, and set off on Monday, back towards Chirk.

Cruising near Bridge 4W

Since we left Mags has got her appointment for her second jab, on the 17th, so we’ve turned around and are going to fill again at Ellesmere before heading for The Poachers this side of Chirk where we can get a hire car. Unfortunately, due to Mags health status she has to go back to the vaccination centre associated with our GP, and that means a trip back up the M6 to the edge of the Lake District. Needs must, as they say.

Amber enjoying a lie-in with Mum

So that’s our plan for the next week. Not sure what we’re doing after that. But I’m sure Ellesmere will be involved at some point. 

Longer time readers may remember me installing a separating loo back in early 2016.

This replaced the cassette type the boat came with and was driven by us being stuck in Granary Wharf in Leeds for over two weeks over the previous Christmas and New Year while the Aire was in flood. The nearest Elsan disposal was across town at the Royal Armouries… Not a pleasant experience carrying a rucksack with a full poo tank inside a mile each way!

The separating, waterless, or “composting” toilet offered an alternative that would provide a longer period between empties, and also would save water. You’ll notice I put composting in inverted commas. These loos themselves only separate the liquid from the solids, enabling the end user to compost the solids over time, which may take up to 12 months until the contents are completely broken down.

But we weren’t going down that route. Advice from Canal and River Trust was that the solids should be composted, but if this was not an option (our case) then they should be securely bagged and disposed of in their general waste bins. 

So that’s what we’ve been doing for the last five years.

Moving on, and the recent Canal and River Trust newsletter contained an article that really put the cat among the pigeons in the boating community.

Extract -

Do remember though, if you can’t keep it [the solids] stored until it’s ready to use [as compost], it will still need to be disposed of in an appropriate way – for example a suitable composting site away from the canal. It should not be put in our bins – and absolutely must not be disposed of on or near the towpaths. Liquid waste can be emptied down an Elsan point. 

(My additions in brackets [])

Change of policy then! Note that it states “should not” rather than “must not”, so it’s implied that it’s advisory rather than compulsory… at this time.

It appears that it’s the waste management contractor who’s driving this, having noticed the increased number of bags of human poo appearing in the bins as these types of loo become more common.

Now in relative terms there are still only a few boaters bagging and binning, so it seems unlikely that CRT will install ??appropriate?? facilities for solid waste from boats. They already provide Elsan facilities (of varying quality) and they’re not contractually obliged to do that, nor are they even obliged to provide refuse disposal.

So this is going to go one of two ways. Either the waste handler will agree a new contract with CRT that includes the handling of human waste, or they will refuse point-blank to take it, forcing the Trust to introduce a ban. I can’t see the first option happening, and in the instance of the second, those who have no option will continue to dispose of their poo in the time-honoured fashion, disguising it as best as possible, and possible leading to the contractor withdrawing their services through breach of conditions. Not a situation anyone wants.

There is an active lobby group trying to convince CRT that there is way forward that will suit all concerned, and I hope they find one, but I’m not holding my breath…

Now, in our situation (and that of most continuous cruisers) we don’t have the space to store several containers of composting material as it breaks down, and even if we had we’d have to find somewhere to dispose of the “finished product”. It’s not allowed to just dump it in the hedge bottom, you need to have permission from the landowner.

Yes, I hear you say, but it would be simple and fairly cheap for CRT to locate storage bins on the network for the finished, crumbly and dry compost. They could even sell it on for fertiliser! But how long would it be before someone emptied an uncomposted bucket of poo in there, defeating the whole object!

So all things considered and after a week of agonising and sleepless nights, we are taking the backward step of refitting a cassette loo. I don’t want to, apart from the cost it won’t be as convenient, potentially introducing the same problems that caused us to swap in the first. But I can’t see any other option.

We’ve a Thetford C403 on order which will actually fit nicely in the space available, and has a slightly larger capacity than the older C200 we had previously. With a spare cassette we’ll last 8-10 days. Just hope we don’t get frozen in – again!

Locks 0, miles 11¼

Monday, March 01, 2021

Change of month, change of weather.

We moved to Ellesmere on Saturday, fine and warm. A splendid early spring day.

Several trips up into town got the cupboards and fridge topped up before we topped off the water tank and disposed of the accumulated rubbish and recycling, then turned around to head back upstream. 

Beautiful frosty morning walks over the weekend.

All change today though. At half-seven it was quite misty, but with a promise of the sun breaking through.

Love this one…

A brief glimpse though, then the fog came down again, just clearing enough to make the day a typical early March one, grey skies and cold with it.

We pushed on past Frankton Junction and pulled in near Bridge 4W (as usual!), and we’ll stay here till Wednesday morning. First thing on Wednesday we’ll move up to moor opposite Whittington Wharf so I can meet the taxi outside the Narrow Boat Inn for my trip to get my first Covid vaccination. Mags and Amber will stay aboard, I shouldn’t be very long.

And that’s about it. It was great to enjoy that brief spell of unseasonable weather, but it looks like we’re back to normal now for a few days.

Hi Tom, Jan. I wasn’t sure what you were on about in your comment, till I re-read the text on the last post. Gonna have to sack the proof-reader. But we are in rural Shropshire after all…

Locks 0, miles 11

Friday, February 26, 2021

It’s all going swimmingly!

As planned we used the moorings outside The Poachers as a base for visits last week. Tuesday was a run down to Shrewsbury for Mags’ Covid test. Then Thursday it was Shrewsbury again for her pre-admission check up and blood tests, and Friday back again for her procedure.

All went well, old stents in her bile ducts replaced. No stones to remove this time, so that’s a good sign. Can’t praise the Endoscopy team at the Royal Shrewsbury enough, caring, professional and sympathetic. Lovely people. We’ll see them again in 6 months…

We stayed put on Saturday, we were both a bit tired after a stressful week. Then Sunday we headed up towards Chirk, turned around in front of the tunnel then back past The Poachers to moor above New Marton Locks.

We waited out the wet and windy weather there, meeting Richard and Ruth on the fuel boat Mountbatten on their regular run to supply us boaters with diesel, solid fuel and gas.

Mountbatten coming up New Marton Top Lock.

We left it till yesterday before carrying on towards Ellesmere, but we’ve taken a day out near Bridge 4W. We had intended to be in the town today but the weather was too good to spend it on the busy towpath there. Much more peasant here.

Fine cruising in the sunshine yesterday.

We’ll be there tomorrow though, as coal bags have been emptied they’ve been repurposed to hold rubbish and recycling and we’ve now several on the roof. The problem with this stretch is there’s no rubbish and recycling facilities.

I spent a couple of hours doing a full service on the engine and gearbox this morning, and swapped the nappies used to collect the inevitable condensation that collects on the bare steel of the engine bay in the winter. Apart from that we’ve just been chilling. Good walks with Amber and reading.

With Boris’ “roadmap” to get us out of these lockdowns we’re in a position to make plans for the summer and autumn, but they’ll not be set in stone. We’d like to get to around Loughborough on The Soar to see my folks, then up to Gargrave on the L&L to see Mags’ family. We’ve got a wedding up there in October all being well.

And with me getting my first Covid jab next Wednesday we’re both feeling more positive for the future. Hope it’s not misplaced optimism…

Locks 2, miles 7¾ 

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Ice, Ice, Baby!

We’re heading back to The Poachers now, to enable us to get Mags’ Covid test and for her pre-admission review and ERCP procedure on Thursday and Friday. Hopefully this week won’t be postponed again.

We turned around yesterday, heading down to Frankton Junction then back to moor opposite Whittington Wharf. A dry day, but that biting easterly made it feel so much colder than the temperature indicated.

More lambs, I feel sorry for them in this weather.

And today was the same as we carried on and up New Marton Locks. Apart from it being cold there were no problems… until we reached the bottom lock. It was full, set against us, and contained a thick layer of ice.

I lifted the paddles then had to break the ice holding the top gate partially open before the lock would empty.

With the lock empty I still had to clear the ice clinging to the bottom gates before they would open.


There was lots of crunching and cracking as I pushed into the lock and as it refilled.

The top lock wasn’t anything like as bad, just a thin film of ice in the chamber. This one is sheltered from the Siberian wind…

We moored just past the water point, we’ll stay here tomorrow then head on to The Poachers on Monday after topping up the water tank.

Locks 2, miles 4¾