Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Derr-der de-der-der

….. Why are woodpeckers making this noise when in really they don’t???    what I mean is, on cartoons they der-der but not in real life at 7 o’clock in the morning!!     Well, it makes a change from being woken up by ducks a-quacking!!   Twice this week the woodpeckers have done it ----- and don’t tell me they are chipping out their nests!!!   Oh the joys of living in the countryside - it is truly wonderful.

This week we have moved from just before the Whitchurch Arm; down through the Grindley 3-lock staircase and the 3 more in the flight; down Povey’s Lock; Willeymoor Lock; Quoisley Lock; Marbury Lock to Wrenbury where we are moored right now.    There is a ABC Leisureboats base here which is full of their hireboats which are also spread up the canal, moored on the offside for some way.   Another month and most will be out all the time as this is reputed to be the system’s busiest canal.  

After we had descended Grindley Locks we moored up and spent a “happy hour” topping up the diesel tank and our jerry cans from the garage which is right next to the canal.   “Happy” as the price is 81.5 pence per litre which is about 5p or so cheaper than the last lot we bought.     We then - for a change - decided to have a lunchtime pint so walked over the road to the Horse and Jockey.    Can you believe it?     Eight different real ales so a lot of deciding had to be done!!     We also went for a chip cob each with grated cheese - yummy - real chips!

Wherever we moor, one of the first jobs to do is put out the bird feeders if there is somewhere to hang them on the towpath - I would guess they get out about 70% of the time.    Usual diners are tits (blue and great mainly) with the occasional sparrow and chaffinch.    The robin then generally turns up and asserts his authority by flying at the others and invariably they dart away until his back is turned and they try again.    The robin however cannot use any of the feeders as he keeps batting his wings so cannot get a foothold -- even on the seed feeder which has sticky-out bits at the hole where the bird pecks in for the seeds.    No doubt you all know this but the reason I am saying all this is that last Monday we discovered the robin who can land on the fat-ball feeder and the peanut feeder and feed.    First time we have seen this - you see, no matter how many times you see the norm, something/body/bird comes along and does the opposite!!

Yes - definitely noticing its getting warmer now - both during the day and night.     Boat back doors being left open - much to Foxxie’s delight so she can come and go, on and off as she pleases and we travelled yesterday without coats, hats, gloves, thermals, etc etc.    just sweatshirts.    Before we know it, out will come the sandals and shorts!!

Since last blog we have done … 12 miles and  10 locks
Total since Setting Off ….. 1631 miles and  1271 locks  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

hotter than Hawaii

Well, apparently so for tomorrow!!    Forecast says we will see around 16 degrees C - got to be some drastic change from today then as its blowing a gale and just started to rain.   Ok, so the outside thermometer is registering 10 degrees but with the wind chill it must be around 0 degrees.    

Moored today at the top of the Prees Branch just through Bridge 46 otherwise known as Whixall Moss Roving Bridge.   Dai wants to purchase a bigger funnel to decant diesel from jerry cans into the boat tank so less is lost into the canal so we walked down the Prees Branch as BW have a chandlery there at the Whixall Marina.   What we forgot is that you can’t actually get across the canal from the towpath ---- unless you swim --- so mission not accomplished.

Boat movement now decreased as half term over (although I understand there are some schools on holiday this week) so no more watching hire boat antics - not until Easter anyway!   

We stayed over last weekend at Ellesmere when this time we did venture out to sample the local beers.   Called into the pub past the Ellesmere hotel, turn right past the Indian - no name outside and can’t remember what it is called.    Last year it was up for sale and has now been bought and apparently doing well.    Good.    Real old fashioned pub selling beer at £2 a pint !!    We didn’t try that but did have some other real ale at £2.60 a pint which is fairly “cheap” from what we have been paying lately.    It was good.     Also called into the Black Lion.   Now, 2 years ago we went there and walked out after about 3 swallows of beer as it was disgusting so ventured in with some trepidation.    However, the beer was good so we’ll just say that the previous pint must have been “off” and the Black Lion is back on our list of acceptable pubs!!

First snow of this winter last week!    We woke up on Sunday to about half-an-inch but it was all gone by lunchtime as the sun shone brilliantly all day although temp didn’t get much above 0 all day.

Since last blog we have done … 11 miles and  0 locks
Total since Setting Off ….. 1619 miles and  1261 locks  

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Eccles Cakes Rule

After some deliberation last Thursday we decided to turn around and not carry on the last 4 miles to Llangollen.    We have been over the Pontcysyllte aqueduct quite a few times before and heard that the towpath moorings up at Llangollen were full of winter moorers so it would mean going into the marina.    As it was icy underfoot we decided not to do this as neither me nor Foxxie like frozen slippery pontoons!

So we are now making our way back down the Llangollen and think when we get to the bottom that we’ll turn left and go into Chester and then possibly down to Ellesmere Port.   That’s the plan today but, who knows, it may change over the next couple of weeks!!

We had to de-ice the lift bridge at Froncysyllte last Thursday as I just couldn’t shift it with the windle.    So, along came “muscle man” and (ha ha) he couldn’t shift anything either!      So we ended up pouring boiling hot water between the bridge floor and the wooden beam it sits on when in the down position.     That did it.

Stocked up in Chirk with meat from the butcher there plus a tin full of Eccles cakes which lasted until yesterday!!   So good job we will be in Ellesmere tomorrow for shopping.    

We were going to do the Montgomery Canal on our way back but have decided against it as we do need to get to some shops and today we walked down to the Queens Head pub which is about halfway down the navigable length.     No ice at all now though.    It’ll still be there when we come this way again and, who knows, maybe the restoration will have opened up some more by then.

Wales did good again last Sunday beating Scotland but no games this coming weekend.   Next matches weekend of Feb 25 when Wales play England - exciting !!
Thought I'd share this link - I just love this Aldi TV ad - first seen last night 
Aldi tea ad
just locking up as we go for a walk
down the Montgomery Canal

we think this must be an old water pump on the
Montgomery Canal.    Spotted a few during
first 4 miles of the canal from Frankton Locks.
Are they?    If not, what are they?

on the Montgomery Canal by Graham Palmer Lock.
Pity his face is wearing away 

Foxxie intent on something (which she didn't catch)

---- instead of usual max speed of 4 mph.
Slower speed because of rare weeds growing
side of Montgomery Canal

several of these seen on Montgomery Canal.
Dai says they are owl boxes - is he right?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Jones the Boats

We had to laugh at this sign tied to a railing on the edge of Ty Mawr Country Park when we took a walk in the vicinity of Trevor Basin / Froncysyllte this morning - yes, we are definitely in Wales!

Tonight moored just before the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and it’s cold and frosty ---- but, we haven’t seen any snow at all, while the rest of the UK seems to have been blanketed.   

Haven’t moved far since last Wednesday but we did pass “Border Control” finally yesterday.    As you travel along this canal, you are in and then out of Wales as it twists and turns between Wales and Shropshire.   

Walked around Chirk yesterday as we had to pick up some mail sent to the Post Office there by my sister.    Not a very big place but does boast a butcher, baker and greengrocer and a Spar supermarket.    Lovely stuff purchased from the greengrocer and homemade sausages / dry cured bacon from the butcher -  who also sold cakes and bread so we treated ourselves to some Eccles cakes and a loaf which were both very obviously homemade as truly delicious!    Must get some more on the way back!

Did a bit of an explore from our moorings earlier in the week near New Marton locks - over the fields to St. Michaels.    Could only find a vets, Chinese takeaway and petrol station selling basic grocers - oh, and a fish ‘n’ chips shop which hadn’t opened for lunchtime trade when we walked by.      Went again over the fields a different way the next day and this time found the Post Office and a huge Nisa supermarket but rather a long uphill/down dale trek to do any serious shopping there!

Six Nations rugby comp started last weekend so we’re obviously cheering on Wales - especially after their impressive win in the first game!

Since last blog we have done … 8 miles and  2 locks
Total since Setting Off ….. 1597 miles and  1259 locks  

we kept checking the water point
hadn't frozen by keeping the tap dripping

then the day we went up new Marton locks
to the water point, someone had turned the
tap off completely and, yes, it had frozen.
After some hot water treatment though
the water flowed again

but then our water hose had frozen!
Plan A:  bash it with the hammer

Plan B: manual twisting, turning, pinching
Plan C: use the spare hose and put this
one into the shower to thaw !

Chirk Aqueduct with the "last pub in England"
in the foreground

Chirk Aqueduct -
one structure is the canal, the other is the train line

Going over chirk aqueduct one cold and frosty morning

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ice foils The Grand Plan

Today we should have gone onto the Montgomery Canal - however instead we are moored just before the New Marton locks (two of them) on the Llangollen Canal heading northwards!

We had a walk down the locks at the Llangollen end of the Montgomery yesterday and they were clear but but but ----- round the corner where the Weston Branch (disused) goes off to the left (where the services block is) ice was covering the canal.   We walked on for a bit but was obvious the ice carried on.       Ummmm.     What to do.    In the winter months you have to book passage through the Frankton Junction locks by giving BW minimum of 48 hours notice and then another 48 hours notice to come back.    Currently you can only go about 8 miles on the Montgomery as that’s as far as it’s been restored from this end.       After some humming and arring we decided we’d better cancel as (a) didn’t really want to be ice breaking and (b) if the ice got worse, then we didn’t want to be stuck for goodness knows how long down there!!    We will do it on the way back by which time hopefully the ice will be gone.

So we are going on down the Llangollen - no ice on here except for a very thin covering noted in the New Marton Locks this afternoon but that shouldn’t be too much of a barrier tomorrow morning.

Saw first lambs of 2012 yesterday in the field by Frankton Junction.  Way too cold for the little things - no wonder they were gambol-ing around like jack-in-the-boxes.

We spent several days on the Ellesmere Arm where there was - very surprisingly - only 2 boats over-wintering.    It’s normally full of winter moorers.    If we were to ever over-winter anywhere, then this would certainly be a location of choice.    Ellesmere is a lovely place with some great walks by the Meres.   Tesco still there so we expected a lot of shop fall out in the town - but no, still two butchers, bakers, little Spar and little Co-op as well as other shops.    In fact, I could only see one place closed down since we were last here in Sept 2010 when Tesco hadn’t been open that long.   

Since last blog we have done … 12 miles and  0 locks
Total since Setting Off ….. 1589 miles and  1257 locks

So the proposed Trust is for sure.
Van in Ellesmere Yard

Close up of the new wording

Four narrowboat bloggers in a row
moored in front of us on Ellesmere Arm

more development at Ellesmere behind Tesco
photographed from canal.    Not sure what they
are building but someone told us a medical centre, pub
and some retirement housing

ice at Frankton Junction,  February 1
top of Montgomery Canal