Thursday, September 30, 2010

Welsh chaos!

This week we have done … Ellesmere Arm to Ellesmere Arm ! Via Llangollen! It’s been absolutely chaotic !! Never seen so many hireboats in one week. It’s been a million times more busy than when we did this same canal early July 2009.

The Llangollen is a lovely canal but in future we will only go as far as Ellesmere as we’ve both been up to the end several times now and because of the tunnels, aqueducts and narrows it does get a bit like Piccadilly Circus in rush hour! Plus the fact it is quite shallow which does hurt Jandai’s bottom from time to time.

We spent 2 nights in Llangollen. Costs £6 a overnight but we did get electricity in for this which meant we didn’t have to run the engine whilst up there so saving on fuel. We moored on the towpath rather than in the basin as it’s better for Foxxie rather than being on pontoons but does mean it is rather dark because of the high trees both sides but, then again, cos we had electricity then I could put the lights on without Dai screaming about his batteries!!

It was very busy in the town as it’s a bit of a tourist trap - especially cos the sun shone over the weekend we were there. We walked up to the Horseshoe Falls and watched the canoeists on the River Dee shooting the rapids!!!

On Monday we climbed a mountain ---- well, I would call it a mountain but of course Dai kept telling me it was only a foothill !! My calves and front thighs definitely called it a mountain the next day!

We followed the Llangollen History Trail including climbing the mountain to Dinas Bran Castle which is now in ruins. The castle was built in the 1260s by a local Welsh ruler, Prince Gruffudd ap Madoc, to guard the strategic route through the Dee Valley. It only had a short working life and was abandoned in 1282 (see - the owners leg muscles gave out !!!). Then we trekked to Valle Crucis Abbey which was once the second richest abbey in Wales. Founded in 1201 by Cistercian monks, the abbey was lived in until the Dissolution of the monastery in 1537. Then back down to Horseshoe Falls and then 2 miles back down the towpath to the boat.

We managed to sup a few pints of Welsh beer - one of our favourites - Rev.James by Brains - that evening which passed happily chatting to a group of narrow boaters in the oldest pub in Llangollen.

Where we moored last night - in the middle of nowhere just before the New Marton locks - Dai was wood hunting and discovered some blackberries - I couldn’t believe it, they were really huge and hanging like bunches of grapes!! Sadly no jamjars left to make more jam but I just couldn’t let them go to waste so made some blackberry vinegar instead which will be good medicine for sore throats ….. Wonder if hot water and vodka will mix with it? Even better medicine then!

Going to spend 3 nights here in Ellesmere and then carry on down the Llangollen towards the Shroppie.

Since last blog we have done … 37 miles and 4 locks
This makes total since Setting Off ….. 781 miles and 788 locks.

the Welsh hills are approaching

Chirk Aqueduct and Viaduct

Dai taking us over Pontecysyllte Aqueduct

Almost over the Pontcysyllte !   This Aqueduct is the most famous and spectacular feature on the whole canal system.  It is 126 ft above the River Dee and 1007 ft long.    The towpath side is fenced off with iron railings but the offside is completely unprotected from about 12 in above the water level.  It was constructed by Thomas Telford taking 10 years to complete and opened in 1805 at an estimated cost of £47,018.  Today the aqueduct remains as built, apart from renewals of balustrading the the towpath structure.  The masonry is apparently in prime condition (the very thin masontry joints were bonded by a mortar made from a mixture of lime and ox blood).  The dovetailed joints in the iron trough are sealed with a combination of Welsh flannel and lead dipped in boiling sugar and hardly leak at all.  

  looking down on the River Dee from the Aqueduct

still standing after serious climb to Dinas Bran Castle ruins in Llangollen

ruins of Valle Crucis Abbey

the chain bridge where monks from the Valle Crucis Abbey once crossed the River Dee - unfortunately you can't walk over it now!    There is now a hotel overlooking the river and bridge

Thursday, September 23, 2010

heading towards foreign lands

This week we have done … all on the Llangollen Canal - Hurleston Junction, Wrenbury, Grindley Brook, Whitchurch, Whixall to Ellesmere where we are moored on the Ellesmere Arm.

Had a couple of Bonus Days this week with the weather when it’s been quite warm and sunny - otherwise cloudy and some showers.

It was our 4th Wedding Anniversary last Thursday and we celebrated by soup and champagne for lunch and then a 3-course meal at the Dusty Miller in Wrenbury which was excellent. The pub/restaurant has a new landlord of 2 weeks who was very friendly as were all his staff, so that with coupled with the good beer, good food and good location - right on the towpath - means they should do well.

We went back to the Dusty Miller Fri evening for a couple of pints. Walking in we heard a laugh/voice it is hard to forget - it was Janie who works for the Black Sheep Brewery. All of you who know Dai will know that Black Sheep beer is one of his favourites and we used to travel up to the Brewery in Masham Yorkshire about every 3-4 months for Sunday lunch at their Bistro (when we also used to fetch our bread flour from a local mill near there). Janie’s boyfriend has a narrow boat and he cruises around during the summer so Janie meets up with him every weekend. Janie told us there is one couple (us) and 2 families she always remembers from the Brewery - someone obviously made a big impression !

Got through Grindley Brook locks (3 + 3-staircase) with only about 30 mins wait and then spent a couple of days moored at the top.

Made another batch of damson jam whilst at Whixall - this has to be the last lot as I don’t have any jamjars left now!

A sad pub tale now ------ we had the worse pint ever on our first evening at Ellesmere. I could only manage about a quarter of my pint before I just had to give up. Dai did drink his pint but you can tell how bad it was because he didn’t want to finish mine. However, the pint at The Ellesmere Hotel yesterday made up for it !
The visitor
moorings on the Ellesmere Arm are 72 hours so we are spending 3 nights here. Not a very big town but has everything you need - butchers, bakers, deli, post office, banks, pubs, fish ‘n’ chips and a Tesco / Spar / Co-op. We walked as far round the Mere as we could yesterday in the sunshine - lovely!

Since last blog we have done … 23 miles and 15 locks
This makes total since Setting Off ….. 744 miles and 784 locks.

Blake Mere - right by the towpath

one of the many lift bridges on the Llangollen Canel

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

First human dunking !

This week we have done … Red Bull, Rode Heath, Wheelock to Middlewich on Trent and Mersey. Over the Middlewich branch to Barbridge and now moored between bridges 3 and 4 on the Llangollen Canal.

Autumn is here! Leaves are starting to change colour and cos of all the wind lately they are snowing into the canal. We have had some sunny spells but the evenings are starting to get that bit of chill about them. It’s gusting winds today and I feel seasick!

So who got dunked in the canal this week? Yes, it was me! Only a partial dunking mind - just one leg wet! Well, it was dark when we came back from the pub in Wheelock last Sunday evening and the towpath is like the hills and valleys of Wales, and a real slope from the muddy, puddled path onto the boat and so I kind of toppled in with one leg. Ended up with a 3 inch gash on my knee (feel like a kiddie with a big poor-poor!!) which wouldn’t stop bleeding till Dai shocked it by pouring neat Dettol onto it !! And the next day pushing open the first lock gate I found a duck-egg on me bum ! Expect gangrene to set in any day now ! No sympathy from Dai whatsoever - he even texted my daughter, sister and his brother that I was p**sed and fell in the cut - close to the truth but not exactly the whole truth !

Finished crowshitting (crocheting if you’re posh) first Christmas present this week (blanket) and started on blanket number 2 to put away for Santa.

Winter stoppages just came out so we got the list and maps printed out at the Middlewich library. We’ll spend some time on the Llangollen (and do the Monty on way which is only currently navigable from the Llangollen for about 7 miles) and then turn onto the Shroppie. We need to be south of Hack Green locks by November 8 as the stretch between Nantwich and the locks will be closed from then until Dec 22.

Since last blog we have done … 25 miles and 38 locks
This makes total since Setting Off ….. 721 miles and 769 locks.

We are averaging 8.66 lock miles a day and 4.36 hours of engine time (including those days when we didn’t go anywhere but had to run the engine to charge the batteries). Last Sunday we had been living on the boat for 24 weeks …… where has the time gone??!!

I know I said that Autumn is setting in but, no, this isn't snow - just a salt mountain in Middlewich
Llangollen canal is 44.5 miles with 21 locks - probably the most famous canal in the UK

Foxxie bracing herself against the wind !

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Windy Tales

This week we have done … Higher Poynton, Bollington, Bosley Locks on Macclesfield Canal; then turned northwards on the Trent and Mersey where we moored near the Red Bull pub on Tues and Wed evenings.

Last week I wondered if we were having Part Two of Summer ….. Well, the hot and sunny weather continued until Sunday when the wind started which got worser and worser until a full torrential storm on Monday evening and through the night. But at least this blew the wind away and Tues and Wed returned to hot and sunny with no wind.

During this windy session we were coming down Bosley Locks on the Mac and steerers needed all their skill and concentration - this didn’t apply to one chappie on a hire boat who obviously thought the wind was just raging round his boat and no-one else was getting it, as he refused point blank to come out of one lock despite me going from “you need to come out now please” through various more encouraging comments right up to “a***hole” until the coast was clear for him to belt across the pound straight into the next one (he was going up). Needless to say it was a good job I was doing the locks not Dai else as well as the wind he would have been very wet too as he was knocked unceremoniously into the canal. At one stage I thought Dai was going to reverse back into the lock we had just vacated and then we’d have had impasse !! You can just picture the scene can’t you !!! Arrr well - its been ages since Dai had a rant !

We also got held up on the Mac just after Congleton cos of the wind as a huge tree had come down blocking the canal - but you have to hand it to BW when something like that happens …. They were chainsawing as fast as they could to get the waterway open again.

Spent a couple of pleasant days again at Bollington on the Mac including a few beers at The Vale same as when we went up the Mac a few weeks ago - it was still as good !!!

Since last blog we have done … 25 miles and 14 locks
This makes total since Setting Off ….. 696 miles and 731 locks.

bit of a blockage

t'was no more !

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Three never-been-seen befores

This week we have done …  Bolllington, High Lane to Marple on Macclesfield Canal; then turned onto the Peak Forest Canal down to end at Bugsworth Basins.   Then return back up the Peak Forest to Marple and turned onto the Macclesfield and are now moored at Higher Poynton.

We’ve had all weather this week (including a frost if you believe the man on the boat behind us !!).    Torrential rain; gale force winds and brilliant hot sunshine!    ….. And it’s been hot and sunny now since Monday - maybe Part Two of Summer ??

We got up to Marple on the Mac and then turned down the Peak Forest Canal which is even more lovely than the Mac.  Very shallow though and a couple of hefty lift bridges and 2 swing bridges but no locks.   Its only just over 6 miles from Marple Junction down to either Whaley Bridge or Bugsworth Basin - we decided to go straight into the Basin which, as it turned out, was a wise decision ….. North Cheshire Crusing Club were holding their Aug Bank Holiday Fun day on the Sunday and so it got pretty packed with boats from Fri pm with no space left by Sat lunchtime.    The Navigation Pub also had a Fun Day on the Saturday.    So with all the boaters and visitors, the Basin was rocking!!!  

We had the chicken curry at the Navigation’s Friday Curry Night which cost £6.45 for the curry plus a pint of real ale - value !    Then on the Sat we wandered up again (well, there was no telly and no radio reception so what were we supposed to do???) and were entertained grandly by two chaps with guitars playing mainly 60s music.

Bugsworth Canal Basin is a Scheduled Ancient Monument (County Monument No. 242), and is thus protected by law under the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act of 1979.  Bugsworth Canal Basin was the largest and busiest inland port on Britain's narrow canal system and the only one to survive intact.   Volunteers of the Inland Waterways Protection Society (IWPS) have restored the site over three decades.  It is quite an amazing place and you can find out more by visiting this website Bugsworth Basins

This week we've had 3 new sightings :  
1.  a pair of black swans while walking on the Peak Forest Tramway Trail
2.  Mink swimming in the canal
3.  A crayfish caught by Dai (and only one I could grab the camera in time for)

Today is September 1st and looking at Jandai Log for 1st Sept 2009 - this is an extract of what I wrote: Where did “summer” go???  Just before going down Stockton Locks (on the Cauldon Canal), almighty thunderstorm and got soaked to skin through the 4 locls - rain, hail.    After we moored Dai watching John Wayne film on satellite but kept losing signal cos of the heavy rain.  Had 2 bottles of wine then slept for 2 hours in front of hot fire before dinner

Since last blog we have done …  24 miles and 0 locks
This makes total since Setting Off ….. 671 miles and  707 locks.

To view the following 2 pictures fully, just click on each one which will enlarge the photo

Bugsworth Basin

Disley from the Peak Forest Canal