Friday, February 23, 2018

Up to Llangollen Basin

After a couple of days at Trevor it was time to move on a bit. We’d not been idle, on Wednesday we were picked up and taken for dinner at our friends, Val and John’s, house. John needed some help in cropping an old willow tree growing in the garden too, so a couple of hours later their wood store was full and the tree was considerably smaller. A good job done.

So Thursday morning we set off, struggling over the mud bank under Bridge 29W and wending our way between the hire boats to the head of the aqueduct.

There’s very little water under Bridge 29W!DSCF2547
The bridge numbering demonstrates that this was intended to be the main line of the navigation, heading over through Ruabon and meeting the Mersey at Netherpool, now Ellesmere Port. Bridge 30 is the now-blocked one at the end of the arm, and 31W crosses the Llangollen feeder channel bringing water down from the Dee.

The chicane formed by the Anglo Welsh hire boats.DSCF2548

Under Bridge 31W. Note the similarity in design to 29W.DSCF2549  

We made steady progress against the flow, scraping the bottom occasionally if we drifted off the main channel. We are just about on the limit of the recommended draught for this section.

Heading for the hills…
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Through the first single-width section just past Sun Trevor.DSCF2553

This final upper section of the waterway was not originally planned to carry traffic, it was intended to be a feeder for the Ellesmere Canal. Hence the limited dimensions. It was plagued by breaches, the worst occurring in 1945 which resulted in washing out a section of the Ruabon to Barmouth railway line. The first train of the day, a mail and goods train, crashed into the breach, killing one and injuring two others. Most of the train was destroyed by fire.

In the 1950s an enterprising manager at the British Transport Commission, at that time responsible for the navigable waterways, made arrangements with the Mid and South-East Cheshire Water Board for a supply of domestic water to be taken from Hurleston Reservoir. The reservoir was built around 1808 to supply the Chester Canal. The payback was that the water company would maintain the feeder from Horseshoe Falls to Trevor. The reservoir was extended in 1959 to accommodate the increased demand, and the channel here was repaired and strengthened using the concrete edges in evidence today.

We pulled in at a regular spot, just shy of Llandyn Lift Bridge, with a fine view down the Dee valley.DSCF2555

We had a hard frost overnight, a taste of things to come I think, but the clear skies gave us a bright sunny day for the last hour or so into the mooring basin at Llangollen. It’s only 1¼ miles, but it’s slow going.

Setting off this morning
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We had to give way to a day boat from Llangollen Wharf at the start of the narrows leading to the linear moorings…
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...but that was the only one we saw today.
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More narrows above the town
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Llangollen Wharf.
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We weren’t surprised to see the mooring basin almost empty, just one other boat tucked into the far corner.DSCF2565
With no free power here now it’s a less attractive proposition…
The white structure on the left is the Eisteddfod Pavilion.

We’ll stay here over the weekend, but will need to be back out on the main line on Monday to avoid being frozen in when the Arctic weather arrives.

Locks 0, miles 4½

Monday, February 19, 2018

Back over the border and on to Trevor.

On Friday morning we moved the short distance to the moorings outside The Poachers at Gledrid. Here we met Richard on Mountbatten, taking advantage of a window between the finish of one set of stoppages and the start of the next, at Maestermyn. With him arriving by boat instead of by van, we could fill the fuel tank and take several bags of solid fuel as well as a replacement gas cylinder.

Part way through the delivery I had to leave, though. Val and John had arrived a little earlier to take Meg and I up to the Chirk vet, and time was pressing so Mags dealt with paying for the fuel and seeing Richard off.
The vet was pleased with Meg’s steady improvement, and agreed that we should halve the steroid dosage to 5mg every other day. If there’s no problems we’ll stop them completely in a fortnight. That’s the problem with long term steroid use, you have to slowly reduce the dosage over time or the dog can have an adverse reaction. So far so good… If she does start to suffer with arthritis again we’ll be able to use the Metacam anti- inflammatory that she’s been on for the last three years or so, but only when the steroids have cleared through her system.

So on Saturday we moved on, to moor near Chirk Marina.

A beautiful morning as we turn onto Chirk BankDSCF2524

More daffs out now near Monks Bridge
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Crossing over the River Ceiriog into Wales – again!DSCF2527

As I swung round to enter Chirk Tunnel at the end of the aqueduct I could see the silhouettes of several canoes against the light from the west portal. Not being able to tell whether they were coming or going I waited in the basin for a few minutes until it was clear they were moving away, then followed them through.
They pulled in to let us pass in the cutting…DSCF2530

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Chirk Marina
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We spent Saturday and Sunday evenings just along here, then set off again this morning. A bit damp and drizzly, but not too bad.

Whitehouse Tunnel.
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I made a mistake by putting some fuel on the fire, forgetting how close the tunnel was. Luckily the draught was blowing the same way as us, taking the smoke forward… Made a couple walking on the towpath cough a bit, though.

We’d just got Fron Lift Bridge up when another boat came around the corner from the direction of Trevor, so I didn’t have to drop it again after Mags had gone through.DSCF2540

We topped up the water tank then crossed over the Dee on Pontcysylte Aqueduct.

Looking up the valley from near the lift bridge. It really is pretty impressive...DSCF2538

Looking upstream, the cloud is on the tops and it looks gloomy.DSCF2542

But it’s brighter to the east.
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We wiggled our way through the chicane formed by the moored up Anglo-Welsh hire boats on the Trevor Arm, then turned at the bottom and moored up.

Mags photo-bombing a picture looking back up the armDSCF2545 (2) 
A couple of nights here, I guess.

Hi Alf. Owl nesting boxes, eh. It seems they put them up in pairs. One for the wife and kids and one for Dad to get away for a bit…

Hi Jennifer. I couldn’t just leave Shaun there, could I. You’ll be due across some time soon, won’t you? Might get to meet up. Hope so.

Locks 0, miles 5¾

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Choosing the fine days.

We moved out of Ellesmere on Tuesday, after only the one night to top up the cupboards. We need to be back towards Chirk by Friday for Meg’s health review. I’m sure the vet will be pleased with her progress, I hope we’ll be able to reduce the steroids to a minimal dose, or even stop them completely.

Although the overnight forecast was for frost, there was no ice on the Ellesmere Arm as we pulled out, back onto the main line. Unusually we didn’t have to make use of the services; we’d topped up with water and disposed of rubbish and recycling before we left the Montgomery.DSCF2501

I mentioned the bridge repairs earlier, and the fact that they tend to get a bit battered through the “Silly Season”. Coachman’s Bridge, number 62, has protection both at water level and at handrail height. A good idea.DSCF2503

This cruiser was afloat a month ago, but now it looks like another abandoned boat to be recovered at C&RT’s expense…
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Those surprised sheep again at Val Hill…
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Passing Frankton Junction
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It’s still very quiet on the canal, a boat a day is about normal. We’d already seen our quota heading in the other direction, so I was surprised to see a boat ahead, crawling slowly through Bridge 2W.DSCF2511
The reason for his lack of progress became apparent as we got nearer. It was the tug Minnow pushing a pan loaded with equipment being moved from the completed bridge repairs at Val Hill to the pending repairs at Maestermyn House Bridge. I was content to stay behind, we only had a mile more to go before we stopped, but he pulled over to let us pass.

We pulled in on the pleasant moorings just before Maestermyn. I’m glad we’d been waved past, we were tied up, TV set up and having a cup of tea by the time Minnow slowly chugged past.

We saw it several times later in the afternoon and in the wet windy weather yesterday. Upstream pushing a loaded pan, back downstream empty. We stayed put, it was just a bit too miserable for us…

I did my good deed for the day later in the afternoon. I heard a plaintive bleating on the other side of the hedge, and discovered a young sheep trapped up against the fence, it’s fleece entangled in briars and hawthorn. It had been there a day or two, judging by the condition of the ground. I managed to get it free, leaving several lumps of wool hanging on the bushes, and it toddled off across the field. Then I spent a jolly hour or so with a needle picking thorns out of my hands. I should have gone back for my gloves...

This morning dawned dry and clear, bright blue skies but a freshening breeze for our trip today.

Maestermyn House Bridge, 6W
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The towpath is already closed, the navigation will be closed on Monday for 3 weeks. The pipes on the left will carry the downstream flow when the stop planks are in place and the section dewatered.

And this why…DSCF2516

…a dirty great hole at water level.
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Approaching New Marton Locks, now heading north, and the westerly breeze was now a wind, blowing in from the towpath side. The landings for the locks, top and bottom, are exposed, so I wasn’t looking forward to having to tie up below to set the lock, then again above to close up after we’d ascended. Mags was banned from the tiller, the wind was much too cold.

As we got nearer I could see someone up at the lock, and the bottom gates wide open. Result. Even better, the lock was done for us by one of the crew working on the bywash weir!
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The top lock was also part open for us, so I thought I’d be able to nudge the gates open. But the water level was down with the work being done on the weir at the bottom lock, and we were scraping the mud at the entrance. With judicious use of the throttle and the tiller we were able to slowly wiggle our way in, though.

New Marton Top Lock
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We pulled in above the lock to fill with water, then, after struggling to get off the bank against the wind (the towpath is now on the right), we off across St Martins Moor, mostly sideways.DSCF2521

We pulled in just past Morton Bridge in bright sunshine. Meg decided she’d done enough for the day…
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It’s been a good day, even with the wind. Behind glass the sun was warm, and the solar panels finished off topping up the batteries. There’s supposed to be more good weather for the weekend, too.

Tomorrow we’ll head a short distance to The Poachers. Richard, Chamberlain Carrying Company, is heading this way on Mountbatten now there’s a brief window of opportunity, so we’ll fill the diesel tank and get some more solid fuel as he passes. And Val and John are coming in the afternoon to give Meg and I a lift up to the doggy doctor in Chirk.

Locks 2, miles 9 since Ellesmere.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Back up onto the Llangollen, and a shopping trip to Ellesmere.

On Thursday we moved the short distance to the moorings on the stub of the Weston Arm. A bit cloudy and warmer, all the previous day’s ice had melted overnight.
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Triangular bird-boxes along the canal.
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I wonder if the design is for a specific species, or it just easier to make them that way?

Up through Graham Palmer Lock, around the corner and under Bridge 70 took us to the moorings where we stayed until this morning.

Plenty of room on the Weston Arm moorings.DSCF2475

The weather was a bit mixed over the weekend, we’ve had rain and snow, wind and sunshine. Often all within a few hours! But the highlight was a visit on Saturday by Dave and Lisa who we haven’t seen for nearly 2 years. They were part of our convoy that crossed the Wash back in 2015
We had a great few hours, catching up before they had to up and leave. They tend not to cruise in the winter, so they’d come up by car, stopping for a few days at the Chain Bridge Hotel up the Dee from Llangollen.

So today, after filling the water tank and disposing of the rubbish and recycling, we moved up to the bottom of the Frankton Locks.

A beautiful start to the day today. Calm and cold after a frosty night, with just a thin smear of ice on the water.
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We got to the bottom lock at 11:00, an hour earlier than the scheduled “window” of 12 till 2. But Chris the lockie was pottering about at the staircase and told us to set off as soon as we were ready.

The two single chambers were empty with the lower gates open, so it didn’t take long to pass those.

Lock 3
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A little bit of history, here, too…
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Tom Rolt’s book, Narrow Boat, is probably the most common book on boater’s bookshelves.

Coming up the staircase pair.
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We thanked Chris, then set off, turning right at the junction and heading for Ellesmere. The canal twists and turns around the rising ground of Val Hill, and there’s two bridges here that have only recently re-opened after a 3 week closure for underwater repairs.
They’re still clearing the equipment they used.DSCF2492

Nice new brickwork
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All of the structures on this canal tend to get a bit battered, due to it’s summer popularity.

What, never seen a boat before?
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Just over an hour from Frankton Junction we arrived at Ellesmere, passing the maintenance yard and turning into the Arm to moor.

Ellesmere yard and Beech House
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One trip to Tesco’s has made a start on topping up the stores, I’ll be going up into the town tomorrow for a few more bits before we set off, heading back towards Wales.

Locks 5, miles 5