Friday, May 24, 2019

Back to Ellesmere for the weekend.

With no locks or lift bridges to deal with we’ve had a gentle couple of days, heading back east to Ellesmere.
We left our overnight stop below New Marton Locks at around half-nine. It was such a beautiful day it seemed a shame not to be moving.

A demolished railway bridge near Hindford used to carry the Oswestry, Welshpool and Whitchurch Railway.

The railway was proposed in 1861, sponsored by a newly formed Cambrian Railways and the established London and North-Western Railway, but didn’t open until July 1864, following difficulties constructing the route across Fenn’s Moss.
It continued operations until the mid 20th century, when, two years after being amalgamated into the London Midland Region network, it felt the sharp edge of Dr Beeching’s axe. Passenger services ceased in 1965, goods trains hung on in the southern section until 1971.

We seemed to be scraping the bottom more than usual, looking at the level control weirs it appears that the water was down by five or six inches.

There were four boats waiting to drop down Frankton Locks onto the Monty as we cruised past, then shortly after we had the awkward bends and blind bridges as the canal winds around Val Hill.

Frankton Junction

Bridge 66 just around the corner…

…leaving Bridge 65…

…and clear of the bends, heading for Bridge 64.
We pulled in on that pleasant bit of mooring before Coachman’s Bridge at half-eleven.

After a quiet night we were on the move again this morning. A bit cooler and more overcast than yesterday, but still staying fine. We‘d had to hold off pulling out though. Boats were passing in either direction and the one heading our way got well stuck on the muddy bottom on the offside. After 5 minutes of shoving with poles and alternate forward and reverse they got clear and we able to follow them.

Near Bridge 60

We’d filled with water on Wednesday so only needed to stop at the service wharf at Ellesmere to dispose of rubbish and recycling, but weren’t even able to do that…

We turned into the arm, hoping for but not expecting a space only to see that there were plenty. We got pulled in about two-thirds of the way down towards the end.

We’ll be here over the weekend now.

Locks 0, miles 6½

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A multinational border crossing, lunch with friends and queueing for the locks…

After a few days sitting watching the boats go by we decided it was time to move on. Waiting for a gap in the passing traffic we set off, heading for Whitehouse Tunnel. Unfortunate timing though, with a boat heading through which turned out to be two…
…Then a third came in just as the second came out! That’s the problem with these tunnels and aqueducts, they’re all single width and if a boat crew sees a boat moving away from them they’ll dive in no matter who’s waiting.

By the time we got in we were leading a short convoy with two behind us.

There’s about a mile between Whitehouse and Chirk Tunnels, and once again there were boats coming through so we had to pull over. Roll on those quiet winter months!
This time though it was a longer wait, long enough that there were five of us waiting by the time the tunnel was clear.

But fortunately Chirk Aqueduct was empty so we were able to scuttle across there without delay. It would have been interesting with all these boats if we’d had to wait in the intermediate basin…

Crossing the aqueduct back into England I looked back at the family of Texans immediately behind, a day boat full of Irish after them and two Japanese couples tagging along. The final boat was English though.

It was just before noon that we pulled in outside The Poachers at Gledrid Bridge.

We stayed put yesterday, Val and John came over and we treated them to lunch for all the help they’ve been while we’ve been in this neck of the woods.

Waiting for lunch at The Poachers.
We had a very convivial afternoon, and a couple of pints of Hobgoblin washed the meal down nicely.

There was another family looking for lunch too…

So this morning, in bright sunshine after a cold night, we left Gledrid heading towards Ellesmere.

We’d decided to have gentle days to get there on Friday before the mayhem of another Bank Holiday weekend descended.
The popular moorings here had emptied yesterday and first thing this morning; with us off as well that left just two boats.

We both commented on the fact that there seemed to be few boats about, but of course we had to meet one at the awkward Moreton Bridge.
Hello the crew of Calon Lân, thanks for reading the blog! have a good trip.

There was one boat on the water point above New Marton Locks as we pulled in to top up our own tank. There were a couple of boats waiting to go down Top Lock, but they kept on coming and by the time we filled we were fourth or fifth in the queue. At least we hadn’t far to go, unlike some of those waiting that were heading for Ellesmere today!

Queueing at New Marton Top Lock

It was slow going, with a lot of the crews being inexperienced, but we all helped each other and shuffled along until it was our turn. A couple waiting below dropped us down, then we had the quarter-mile to the bottom lock where we had another short wait but the queue had thinned considerably.

After descending this one we pulled in on a pleasantly open bit of towpath to enjoy the sunshine.

Tomorrow we’ll head past Frankton to moor near Coachman’s Bridge.

Locks 2, miles 6¼

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Heading back…

After a couple of days moored at Trevor we’re now heading back downstream towards the Shropshire Union. We decided not to go all the way to Llangollen, it’s too busy at this time of year and I reckon we’d have spent most of the trip scraping the bottom as we avoided oncoming boats.

Yesterday we spent a lovely afternoon with friends Val and John. Lovely as in the weather, lovely as in the company.

Mags enjoying the sunshine in the garden.
It really has been a fine few days, but it’s set to change again this weekend. Still, it was good while it lasted.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct from just upstream on the Dee
Pity about the water treatment plant pumping station, though.

Leaving the Trevor Branch this morning.

We dropped lucky at the aqueduct, just a couple of boats heading across to wait for.

Our shadow cast down onto the football field below

Then we filled up with water at the Fron moorings and toddled around the corner, through the lift bridge and past the limekiln moorings.

If we’d left a half-hour later we’d have to wait for the six or seven boat convoy we met after the moorings. They just kept coming…

Thankfully there was no-one coming at that awkward bend under Irish Bridge.

We didn’t go much further, past Whitehouse Bridge and pulling over on the moorings before the tunnel.

We’re going to have a steady trip back to Hurleston then decide which way to turn when we get there.

Locks 0, miles 2½

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Two tunnels, two aqueducts and lots of boats…

Okay, so what have we been up to since the last post. Well, we left the Poacher’s moorings on Friday morning, an overcast sort of day but dry, at least. We were heading round onto Chirk Bank, then across the aqueduct carrying the canal over the River Ceiriog, and over the border into Wales.

The bluebells are out near Monk’s Bridge

We were hoping we’d timed it right to get across the single width Chirk Aqueduct and through Chirk Tunnel without having to queue or wait for boats coming the other way. And that’s how it turned out.

Chirk Aqueduct, with the slightly later railway viaduct alongside.

Into the tunnel.

The tunnels and aqueducts make slow going, pushing against the steady flow running down from Horseshoe Falls.

By the time we emerged back into daylight there were a couple of boats waiting to go through the other way.

Through Chirk Tunnel cutting.

We needed diesel so pulled into Chirk Marina, a bit tight to turn around but we got onto a pontoon and had to wait for half an hour or so before we were dealt with.
I’d already rung to ask about convenient times and days, with hire fleets to service and turn around it’s not always possible for private boats to be helped at the marinas. I was told to be there before noon, and we pulled in at around half-ten, leaving soon after eleven.
I expected an eye-watering bill for the 140 litres we took on board, but in fact the base rate for the diesel was a very reasonable 75p per litre. And we could self-declare our usual 20%/80% split.

Out of the marina and we pulled in just a few hundred yards on.

A job I’d been putting off for a while was the cleaning and painting of the swim under the battery tray. There’s no room to get in there without removing the batteries, quite a big deal.

So I set to first thing on Saturday, disconnecting and removing the six batteries, then connecting temporary leads to a couple of them to keep the water pump and fridge and freezer running. Then I had to cut the ½” ply base board in half to get it out, as the cabinet work had been completed before the electrical gubbins was installed. I could have removed the invertor, charge controller, solar panel MPPT, fuse boxes for the invertor and VSR and the Voltage Sensitive Relay itself, but that would have been a step too far!

With the floor of the compartment out the steel of the inner surface of the swim was exposed in all it’s glory, and it wasn’t as bad as I supposed. Being close to open cell lead acid batteries for a considerable time had stripped some of the paint and started to rust the exposed steel, but it was only on the surface. (Remember the 1960s motor cars with the battery in a tray on the inner wing? In a couple of years the tray had started to disintegrate, another couple of years after that the inner wing had gone the same way!)

A good wire brushing…

…followed by a couple of coats of Hammerite…
…should see it through the next several years.

All re-assembled and running again by half-six.

There were a few bits and pieces to sort out on Sunday, cable runs to clip neatly, things like that, then I could put my feet up.

So yesterday (Monday) we were on the move again. Whitehouse Tunnel was around the corner, it’s short and is the only one you can see through without sticking your nose in if you’re heading west.

Whitehouse Tunnel, you can see if anyone’s coming from a distance.

An awkward left turn takes the canal along the slope above the Dee Valley.

A fleeting glimpse through the trees of THAT Ponty-watsit aqueduct!

Just after Fron Lift Bridge the canal makes a right turn, heading for the crossing over the Dee. Up until now we’d only seen two or three boats, but it was all to change as we waited for the water tank to fill at the end of the Fron long-term moorings.

We had to hold off while a couple of boats came across the aqueduct, then set off ourselves, following a hirer. Another two joined our little convoy shortly after we’d embarked on the crossing.

Over the Dee.

Mags didn’t like me getting off to take photos…

Instead of turning left under the bridge to Llangollen we went straight on, past the Anglo-Welsh base and under the bridge into Trevor Basin. We’d hoped to moor here, but alas there was no room, so we came back out and moored on the left side just before the footbridge.
I’m glad we came in when we did, the two following boats also tried the basin and had to turn around, and there’s not a lot of room. Then Jones the Boat, the trip boat that runs across the aqueduct from there turned up, and they took half an hour to get themselves sorted out.
Meanwhile we were say smugly on the only free mooring in the place…
In the winter both sides of the arm leading to the basin are full of hire boats laid up for the off-season. But at this time of year you can moor on the east side – if there’s space!

Locks 0, miles 5 (since The Poacher’s)

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

We’ve never seen it so busy…

If this is what it’s like on here in April and May, I’d hate to be heading up to Llangollen in the summer!

It’s been about a week again since I last posted. To be frank there’s nothing much to say, the number of times we’ve come this way I’ve pretty well said it all!

We headed to Ellesmere last Wednesday, passing the base of the Lyneal Trust where the charity’s boats are based.

Huddled together to keep warm…

After a few miles of beautiful open countryside, the canal now enters the wooded area surrounding The Meres, like the Mosses further downstream an ancient landscape dating back to the last Ice Age.

As the ice melted it left a network of shallow lakes or meres filled by meltwater. Some of the smaller ones filled with vegetation over time, which decayed and formed peat in the mosses around Whixall. But these have remained open, the largest, Ellesmere, sitting to the west of the town of the same name.

The wooded section ends at the ridge that is pierced by 87 yard Ellesmere Tunnel, then there’s about ¾ of a mile to the junction with the short Ellesmere Arm.

We pulled into the arm to moor for a couple of days.

So on Saturday we were on the move again, pausing to fill the water tank and dispose of rubbish and recycling at the old wharf.

Ellesmere Wharf was the canal company’s main maintenance depot, with workshops to cater for the needs of the boats. Alongside is Beech House, once the company offices and residence of Thomas Telford, now apartments.

The lambs are getting fat now…

Beautiful countryside.
It was bright and sunny but that wind from the northeast kept the temperature down to around 10°.

We found a pleasant spot to moor past Coachman’s Bridge, open to the sun but sheltered by a hedge to windward. A field of rape wafted it’s perfume across to us.

Come Monday we were on the way again, joining the procession of boats heading west. Ahead of us the canal twists through a series of bends and blind bridges as it winds around Val Hill, not a place to meet oncoming boats.

Of course it was inevitable that we would…
But only the one, luckily.

The last time we came this way this field was full of sheep - eating turnips, or should that be sheep, eating turnips?


…and clear again!

Looking west across Shropshire to the hills on the Welsh Border beyond Oswestry.

Frankton Junction was a little frantic as we came past, with one boat winding and another trying to turn in towards the locks.

Both trying to avoid a couple of grumpy anglers.

The bridges from here to Llangollen are now numbered starting from one again, with a suffix”W” to avoid confusion. This is because the original line should have followed what we now call the Montgomery Canal.

The awkward Maestermyn Bridge, with The Narrowboat Inn just beyond.

The fine curved brickwork of Bridge 6W carries the towpath over to the left side.

We pulled in yesterday lunchtime below New Marton Locks, and spent the afternoon watching boat after boat passing in both directions.

The early rush of a half-dozen boats passed us this morning before we were ready to move on. We just hit it right, one boat was just going up New Marton Bottom Lock as we arrived.

It’s only 5 minutes between the two locks, and we caught up again at the top lock. There was a hirer waiting to come down, and judging by the lady steerer’s stress levels she’s not going to forget this holiday in a hurry! I gave them a run-down on locking principals and practice and helped them down. I hope they managed ok on the next one…

Mags finally coming up New Marton Top Lock

We topped up the water tank above the lock then toddled on, across St. Martin’s Moor. The open flat land to the southwest can make it challenging on a windy day, but today the wind was light.

An hour’s gentle cruising and we arrived at our destination, the moorings near the Poacher’s Pocket.
We arrived at the right time, there were a couple of spaces to choose from, but now it’s full.

We’ll be here for a day or two now.

Locks 2, miles 14 (since last post)