Friday, 17 August 2018

Two recovery days

Mon 6th Aug  Ellesmere to Blakemere

Although the mission was now over, we had a few jobs to do before we could depart.  Firstly we needed to unload our PA system from Chris’s car, where it had been stowed in haste last night.  We had a few helpers to carry it from the car to Gabriel. As we brought things onto the boat, one of the microphone stands caught the cat flap, and broke off the little red wheel that sets the flap as open or closed or one way in.

We stowed the equipment in its rightful place under the dinette, as we won’t be using it again for a while.  The battery powered PA system had been kept on Graham’s boat Dawn Run, and it was duly returned to Roger Garland.

We went to Tesco for some shopping before we departed, with a slow cruise down to the end of the arm and back, past all the mission boats.

Sailing past the fleet

Past Dawn Run

We made the obligatory stop at the sanitary station for cassettes, rubbish, and water before reversing out in a curve to face downstream.  We had applause from the man on the fuel boat!  We set off for just over a mile to Blakemere, where we were pleased to find that our intended mooring was unoccupied.  There are rings to moor onto, and a patch of woodland for Hugo, plus, on the lake, a fishing pontoon large enough for a table and chairs.

We had a dappled sky, and a beautiful lake view.  Tim and Hilary came in their car for a meal later, and they were able to park above Ellesmere Tunnel and walk to the boat from there. It was a very pleasant evening.

Unusual sky

Lake view

Tim and Hilary

0 locks, 1 mile, 1 tunnel

Tue 7th Aug  Blakemere  back to Ellesmere

It was a glorious morning with sunshine filtering through the trees as we had breakfast by the lake. We went a further mile to the winding hole where we turned and cruised back to Ellesmere, mooring just before the arm.

Sunny trees

Breakfast location

Ellesmere Tunnel again

Moored near the junction

We walked into the town and went first of all to the pet shop, where we were delighted to find a cat flap exactly the same as one that was damaged. We decided to buy the whole thing, as the old one was very worn and the “see through” flap was opaque.

We went on from there to the Red Lion, where a lunch time gathering of BCF members had been arranged. It was good to see some we had never met before, and some we hadn’t seen for a while, such as Alan and Hazel Dilnot.

One the way back we paused at Vermeudens for sausage rolls and bacon, but sadly they had no pasties left. We had yet another visit to Tesco before departing via the sanitary station (again!) in the direction of the Montgomery Canal.

We passed Kairos and Gospel Belle, moored near the very noticeable Thursday’s Child, who we saw near Bunbury in June.

Kairos and Gospel Belle

Thursday’s Child

Another sculpture?

We moored for the night near bridge 63 at Tetchill, where we were on our own again, ready for the excursion down then Montgomery Canal tomorrow.

On our own

0 locks, 5 miles, 1 tunnel

Next: Exploring the Montgomery Canal

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Mission at Ellesmere (two)

As the mission was a busy time, We didn't have time to take many photos. Some of the pics we have nicked from others, in particular Tim. Thanks Tim!

Wed 1st Aug  Ellesmere Mission

After our busy evening at the Ellesmere Hotel, we had asked Tim to lead the worship at the team meeting this morning, which he did very well.

We stopped at a cafe for breakfast before visiting the chemist where Hazel had arranged for her prescription to be sent. It seems that only a month’s supply at a time is now allowed, so this will create more work for an already stretched system, as we will need to arrange chemist visits more often.

We eat out more often when we are on missions, as it saves on washing up, and therefore water supplies. However, the facilities in Ellesmere are not far away, so we decided to take the boat and fill what needs filling, and empty what needs emptying. We had to leave a notice to say the mooring was reserved. While we there we witnessed some hire boat chaos, as one boat heading past for Llangollen had to face up to two boats coming the other way, who decided to leave the facilities wharf at the wrong time, one of which was going backwards.

Chaos at the water point

Back into the Ellesmere Arm

We went for lunch at the Black Lion to celebrate Tim and Tracey’s 31 years of marriage and had a pleasant meal.  Afterwards we returned to the boat for zzzzzzz.

In the evening we went to the Methodist Church where Tracey had laid out about 59 chairs in the hall. We wondered how many would be filled, and were pleasantly surprised to find there were very few gaps.  It was the “Blind Boater” talk by Tracey with guide dog Oakley. The first half was the story of her loss of eyesight and what it meant for her. After the interval we sang “The man who calmed the sea” (Stuart Townend) and Father’s Love” (Noel Richards).  One lady was in tears during Noels challenging song.  The second half was more of a declaration of God’s provision, and ended with a call for a response to the gospel. Six people put their hands up.  We ended with a song called “I saw the Light” by Hank Williams.  It was a great evening.

0 locks, ½ mile.

Thu 2nd Aug  Ellesmere Mission

Another team meeting in the Methodist Church was followed by another canal side coffee morning, with many conversations. It was very hot, and after the coffee morning, James went to Tesco and distributed ice creams to all the team.

Coffee morning

Peter and Lin at the tea station

Simon the story telling vicar

In the evening we had a team barbecue by the canal.

No boating today

Fri 3rd Aug  Ellesmere Mission

We held our final team meeting at the Methodist Church, and another canalside coffee morning.

Team meeting

John and Barbara arrived to add to our team and prepare for our big open day on Saturday.

This evening we went to the Town Hall to interact with youngsters in the youth club.  Some of our team were spotted playing indoor football, assisted by Lilly, Andy and Sue’s dog.



Youth night football

James took his guitar and some percussion instruments, and encouraged some of the young musicians. Hazel went prepared to teach canal art, painting on paper plates. For many of us it was an excursion out of our comfort zones, as our youthful days are but a memory, but in the end, the youngsters just needed some positive attention. It was very worthwhile.

On the way back to the boat we paused at the chip shop for some sustenance, and then popped into the Ellesmere Hotel for a drink, and to catch up with the Landlords after our gig there on Tuesday.

No boating today

Sat 4th Aug  Ellesmere Mission

Hugo met a friend this morning as there was another cat on a boat nearby.

Two cats

Today was our open day, and we started with a team prayer meeting on the towpath, with final details of planning for the day.

We were offering a free barbecue, free cream teas, free boat trips and free literature such as Bibles. Every hour on the half hour, one of the team stood on the back of one of the boats and gave a short testimony. Hazel and I sang some folk songs, and Roger and Mirjana played their melodeons and sang as well. 

Roger and Mirjana

John and Barbara were in charge of the barbecue

Sue Standley was preparing cream teas

Eric and Sue did many of the boat trips

Peter used a sacrificial anode as a visual aid

While all this was going on, the fuel boat arrived and came into the arm. We needed diesel and gas, so we left Roger and Mirjana singing songs while we dealt with the fuel boat.

Diesel boat

At the end of the day, when we had dismantled and stowed all the equipment, a number of us went to the White Hart for drinks. Hazel and I had a Chinese takeaway afterwards.

Today was a very successful climax to our mission, with many good conversations.

No boating today

Sun 5th Aug  Ellesmere Mission

Today was the final day of our mission. We had a simple communion together on the towpath, led by Peter.   

Team communion

Meeting by the towpath

Many of us then went to the 11am Methodist Church Service, where we were warmly welcomed. 

Coffee after the service

We followed that with a visit to the Black Lion as a final team meal, and to celebrate Eric and Sue’s wedding anniversary.  Sadly the food and service was very much below standard, and the landlord apologised to us all and did a deal on the price. However, Chris was upset by the incident as he had organised it, and was the prime mover behind the whole mission. He was due to preach that evening at the Cellar Church, and this was a distraction.

We had no agenda for the afternoon, and were able to rest a little. Paul arrived with his car to take us and our instruments and PA equipment to the Town Hall for the Cellar Church evening meeting.  We led the worship and Chris spoke, very well. It was a good final service.

Hazel and I rushed off afterwards with our instruments to the White Hart, leaving some of the team to pack away our PA equipment, which was left in Chris’s car overnight.

The event at the White Hart was a monthly music session, and the room was packed out, although they made room for us round the table in the middle.  We sang a couple of songs, including the Banks of the Ohio, with the attendant gospel challenge that we use.

White Hart music session

Music at the White hart

No boating today

Next: two days to recover from a very busy but rewarding mission, followed by a cruise down the Montgomery Canal.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Mission at Ellesmere (One)

Wed 25th Jul  Tetchill

Morning sun

James went for a walk to the farm to buy some eggs, and on the way back had a chat with a guy called Andy, who had a boat called Constance Irene with a butty workshop and a ginger cat.

Tim and Tracey left on Sola Gratia heading for Ellesmere.  David and Carole left soon after on their hire boat to turn round at Frankton Junction.

We needed to practise a few songs, and David and Carole went past again, now heading for Ellesmere.

A lady on a boat called Utterly Rudderly said “There’s the fish” and then “oh, we’ve met you before!”  We are not sure where we have met them. They may have met another Canal Ministries boat.

James spotted a large bird in a tree across a field, and went to investigate. It turned out to  be a buzzard but it flew off before he got near enough for a photo.

Lots of boats went past in both directions, including a cruiser called Lord Sooty   We have met Brian before, sharing the Wigan locks and moored together in Leicester.

We had a good relaxing day, and were just commenting on the peace and quiet, when a harvesting team entered the field behind us and started bringing in the crop. There was noise and dust.


Pink sky

No boating today

Thu 26th Jul  Tetchill to Ellesmere

In the early hours there was a clear sky and the moon was reflected in the water.

Reflected moon

We cruised into Ellesmere, and found Gospel Belle, Kairos and Springwater all moored up. They invited us for a BBQ later.

Gospel Belle



We paused at the facilities to empty all our cassettes, fill with water and dispose of rubbish, in preparation for the mission. We moved into the Ellesmere Arm and found a space within our allocated moorings, just where we wanted to be, with bushes close by for Hugo.  We hung out our washing.

We went shopping and met Amanda and Edward, last seen in Roger and Mirjana’s home group.

We put out our chairs and a table and chatted to people going by, giving out the coasters with the mission information.  Brian from Lord Sooty came past and said he would come to our gig in the Ellesmere Hotel.

The boat behind was called Tin Slug and he said he called it that because all narrowboats are ditch crawlers. He thought many narrow boaters were lazy as their boats were untidy. He also said he doesn’t like washing hanging out, so he has a tumble drier on board.  We had just taken our washing in.  He was also touching up his paint below the gunwales with a brush as it had a few small scratches. He said he preferred being at sea on his Sunseeker yacht.  However, his narrowboat had some interesting features such as bulkheads that were also diesel tanks, not needing to be pumped, and a remote control system that meant that he could steer the boat in and out of locks without being on board.

We went round the corner to join the others for a barbecue. It was good to spend time with everyone before the mission.


Fri 27th Jul  Ellesmere

Our team boats moved into the Ellesmere Arm when space became available. Canal and River Trust had reserved the final end of the arm for us, and there was enough for all of us with about 45ft spare, which we kept as a space at the very end.

Roger Garland appeared with a portable battery powered amp and small mixing desk, which we tested out with Graham’s help. Apparently we could be heard from the junction and from Tesco, so we decided that we would use it for the open air service, and possibly for the open day as well.

We had a planning meeting with Phil Wright from the Cellar Church (TCC), Chris Buck and ourselves. Peter was meant to be there, but Lin had fallen and hurt her head, so he needed to be with her. We discussed who was doing what and when.

We needed to do some more shopping, and then we went to a general briefing meeting with all the team, going through the plans for the week.

A lady called Judy Raymont arrived. We had met her last year at the foot of Caen Hill Locks, and this year she had tracked us down as she was a freelance journalist and wanted to write an article about Canal Ministries for Plain Truth magazine.

When all the business was over, the two of us went for a curry at Asian Spices restaurant. Who should be at the next table but Roger and Mirjana! It seems they know everyone in Ellesmere as they were chatting to people on another table as well.

No boating today

Sat 28th Jul  Ellesmere Mission

James but up a “Boats of Hope” banner, acquired from Tim.

Roger had very usefully supplied the team with three A-boards, so we put one out by our boat with details of the Ellesmere Hotel gig.

Ellesmere Hotel poster

There was a light shower – the first for some time – so we brought in the A-board again.

Peter and Sue arrived for a song practise as they planned to sing “I the Lord of Sea and Sky” with our instrumental accompaniment. This was for the open air service tomorrow.

Later James commissioned our new laser printer and designed some song sheets for the service.

We had pizza and salad on board.

No boating today

Sun 29th Jul  Ellesmere Mission

James finished the printing of the song sheets before we walked to the Methodist Church for their Sunday service at 11am.  Paul was speaking, and James was called up to the front to explain some of the things that were happening.  Paul had chosen some songs, and one was the popular “Lord I lift your name on high” written in 1989, and sung everywhere, or so we thought. They didn’t know it, and the organist couldn’t play it, but they found it on a recorded organ-led track.  We had a warm welcome, and they have generously offered their premises for our team meetings every morning.

Afterwards we went to the Black Lion for lunch with Paul and Sue. The food was good and so was the service, as Sue has allergies and had to have something that wasn’t on the menu.

When we had finished, we walked through to another room and found more of our team having lunch, including Peter and Lin, Sue and Eric, and Graham.  We have three Sue’s on the team, but otherwise no duplicates.

We returned to our boat for zzzz before the open air service at 6pm.  It was raining for some of the afternoon, but it stopped for our service. We had prayed for a dry patch and our prayers were answered.

We discovered that one of our mics was not working, so we brought out our spare one. Roger’s PA system worked well.  People from TCC, and the Methodist Church joined us, as well as Roger and Mirjana, and Amanda and Edward from the Anglican Church.

Afterwards, many of us squeezed onto Gospel Belle as the rain started again.

No boating today

Mon 30th Jul  Ellesmere Mission

We had the first of our team meetings at 8.30am at the Methodist Church. We met in the coffee lounge area, and we led the team in three songs, Paul shared a word, and we spent some time in prayer. Chris then led us through some of the practicalities for the day.  This was to be the pattern for the rest of the week.

We had a coffee morning by the boats, with cakes and hot drinks available to anyone who would stop.  There were a lot of people passing by, including both boaters and locals.  We had two gazebos up to provide much needed shade.

In the evening we decided to go to the Greek Meze with Graham. We discovered it was closed on Mondays. We thought we might go instead to the Boathouse on the Mere, but that was also closed. We ended up at the Red Lion, which was very good. This was our third visit.  We had Mexican Chicken which was excellent, but it left no room for dessert.

We walked back via the Mere and some footpaths through woods.

Hugo had found a way in to the old factory site, through a tiny crack between the end of a wall and a tree. This served him well as the trees and bushes were a bit far away and there were lots of dogs going past, not all of which were on leads.

We planned a few songs for our gig tomorrow, and had an early night.

No boating today

Tue 31st Jul  Ellesmere Mission

The day started with our team meeting at the Methodist Church, followed by another coffee morning by the boats. Well, we had cake left over from the previous day!

We decided to eat at lunch time as we were performing in the evening. We went to the Greek Meze, which was open, and had some very nice tapas. We then had a rest in the afternoon.

Paul arrived with his car, and we loaded all the PA and instruments into the car and went to the Ellesmere Hotel to set up. Graham was a great help with getting the balance right.

The pub was full, which was very pleasing. Our publicity had worked.  We sang 21 songs in three sets, and Roger and Mirjana filled in the gaps with their melodeons.  It was a very successful evening, and landlords Mark and Sandra were delighted with the event.  We sang a mixture of boating songs, folk songs, and gospel songs, and were able to give a low key gospel message by way of introduction to some to the songs.  Tim took a video of almost every song, some of which will appear eventually on YouTube.

We had lots of help from the team to carry the equipment back to the boat at the end. Thank you guys and gals.

Gabriel in action

No boating today

Next: the second half of the mission week.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Trevor to Tetchill via Chirk and Trevor again

Sat 21st Jul  Trevor to Chirk Bank

It was slightly overcast today as Peter and Lin reversed out. They were going back to Ellesmere in one go.

Gospel Belle alongside

Farewell to Peter

We left about 30 minutes later, and found the Anglo Welsh hire boats were almost filling the basin, and they were loosely moored, so that they moved out and banged into us as we tried to get past. To complicate things, there were people with canoes trying to get organised, and day boats making ready to depart.

How did we fit through there?

The narrow way to Llangollen

We set out across the aqueduct once more, and saw the field where the music and fireworks event took place last night. There was a team of litter pickers cleaning up. There were three day hire boats following us across. The first had lads wearing pirate hats.

Onto the aqueduct once more

Aqueduct video

Clearing up the field

Pirate hats on a day boat

We stopped for water at Froncysyllte, and all three day boats went past. The water point had very good pressure. We had placed our old printer, which had no ink cartridges left in it, on top of our roof, as we had not found anywhere to leave it as yet.  We noticed that it had leaked ink in yesterday’s rain, and had made a mess of the roof and side of the boat.  Fortunately it came clean fairly easily. We do need to dump the thing.

The water point.

Ink stains from the printer

We left the aqueduct area, passing the old lime kilns on the right, and the railway viaduct marching over the valley to the left. We went straight into Whitehouse Tunnel, and also Chirk Tunnel and Aqueduct.

Lime Kilns

Railway viaduct

Leaving Whitehouse Tunnel

Chirk Tunnel

On to Chirk Aqueduct

Chirk Aqueduct video

Passport Control

We moored on rings at Chirk Bank as we had planned. Later a couple from Seattle enquired about Canal Ministries, and they stopped to pray with us for the mission.

Moored at Chirk Bank

0 locks, 4 miles, 1 lift bridge, 2 tunnels, 2 aqueducts.

Sun 22nd Jul  Chirk Bank

We walked up by the tunnel to St Mary’s church in Chirk for their 1100 service. It was more formal than we are used to, with a set order of service and traditional hymns with a small choir. The talk was about Mary Magdalene.  There was coffee in the hall afterwards, and interest in Canal Ministries and the mission.

Up the hill to the church

St Mary’s Church, Chirk

Before the service

We had lunch at Castle Bistro, which was very good. Sadly for us the butcher, fruit and veg shop, and the bakers were all closed on Sunday, but we bought a few items at the Spar.

Our lunch venue

Train on the viaduct

We wandered back to the boat across the aqueduct. Later we met Sue Barnett, a BCF member. She volunteered to put up one of our fliers in her window which is very visible at it used to be the post office.

Chirk Bank

No boating today

Mon 23rd Jul  Chirk Bank to Gledrid then to Trevor and back to Gledrid

We moved off from Chirk Bank, hoping to find a mooring by the Poachers, 20 minutes away. There was a space, so we went past, turned in the winding hole, and moored up. We saw that our roof was covered with sap from the trees at Chirk Bank, and when we moved the rope, there was a mark like a snake or a slug trail where it had been.  We set to work to clean the roof as best we could using canal water.

Sticky roof


Andy and Vicki arrived from Anglesey, and we set off back through Chirk Bank and over the aqueduct.

Andy and Vicki

We had no wait for the aqueduct or tunnel.  We saw Brian and Jackie Glover, from Byfleet Boat Club, walking along the towpath to visit Chirk Castle. They have a Sea Otter called Whisper, moored in Pyrford Marina.

We also saw Tim on Sola Gratia, although he didn’t see us. He was in the marina sorting out some welding on his boat. 

Whitehouse Tunnel was clear for us, but soon afterwards we encountered some canoes on the canal, and they didn’t seem to apply any normal rules on navigation, zig zagging around and going slowly.  It transpired that they didn’t know we were there as they were apparently shocked when they saw us just behind them.

We needed to open the lift bridge at Froncysyllte, which needs a windlass. 

Under the lift bridge

On the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct we had to wait for another canoe heading towards us, followed by a trip boat, before we could go across.

We moored opposite Anglo Welsh and went for a meal in the Chapel Tea Rooms, followed by a look around the visitor centre and ice creams from Anglo Welsh.

We needed to empty two cassettes and although it was good to have a facility, the design was bizarre.  There was a seatless toilet, and a hose alongside.  There was no proper tap on the hose, just one of the heavy buttons to press, which delivers a measured amount of water. The amount of water, instead of about two cups full, was several litres, and almost filled the cassette. There was no drain in the floor, so any water spillages could not run away. The floor was therefore awash with water.  This was a council facility, and it would appear that no boater was consulted.

The Elsan point with no drain

We turned round in Trevor Basin, where we had encounters with canoes again and had to make way for a trip boat coming out of Jones the Boat.

Turning round

Chaos in Trevor again

Mandarin ducks keeping out of trouble

We didn’t need to wait for the aqueduct, so we set off once more. This was our twelfth crossing.

Once more across the heavens

A long way down to the River Dee

Andy and Vicki relaxing in the bows

The aqueduct from a distance

We had an incident with a hire boat which was on the wrong side on a blind bend. We were grateful for our Axiom propeller which helped us avoid a head-on.

We had a long wait for Whitehouse tunnel – 7 boats were coming the other way. While we were waiting, Hugo decided to go for a walk into the bushes.  James had to go around the other side and shake a bag at him to get him back on the boat.

Waiting for Whitehouse Tunnel

The tunnel towpath.

We saw Brian and Jackie again, on their way back from Chirk Castle. We were able to go straight into Chirk Tunnel, but as we emerged, a hire boat set off too soon, into the space we needed in order to turn towards the aqueduct.

Chirk Tunnel

As we passed a boat called Annie the lady asked for information about the mission, so we gave her two of the coasters with all the details.

We passed Sola Gratia at Chirk Bank but no-one was around. Later we discovered that Tim and Tracey had also gone to Chirk Castle.

Moorings were full at the Poachers, but we found a spot just round the corner. There was also a place under a tree where we could sit for wine and nibbles. Vicki called it the Arbour near the Harbour.

Moored at Gledrid

Brian and Jackie went past on Whisper

We went for a meal at the Poachers, where we had erratic service. We think it was the honeypot location syndrome. Andy and Vicki set off in their car back to Anglesey.

It was a clear warm night, except for some unusual clouds.  We slept with the side doors open.


0 locks, 10 miles, 2 lift bridges, 4 tunnels, 4 aqueducts.

Tue 24th Jul  Gledrid to Tetchill

Morning at Gledrid

It was warm but cloudy this morning, as we set off early to avoid queues at New Marton Locks.

We met a chap on an Anglo Welsh hire boat, and he was asking about Canal Ministries – he goes to a church in Lancaster.

The water tap above the locks had really good pressure, so it didn’t take very long to fill the tank, and then we went through the two locks.

New Marton Top Lock

A long weir at New Marton Locks

A few minutes later we saw a lot of water on the floor near the dinette. For a while we thought it was coming from a radiator but then we saw drops on the outside of the side doors.  There must have been a jet of water coming out from the lock side, and it came through the gap between the side doors.

We needed some gas, so we phoned Whittington Wharf, but they don’t stock 6kg propane. We also left a message with Blackwater Meadow Marina but we had no call back from them. We never had a call back before about moorings there.

Frankton Junction

We moored at Tetchill, and were pleased to see Mirjana taking Biggles for a walk along the towpath. She said she may come back later.

The Tim and Tracey with Oakley arrived on Sola Gratia and they joined us. A hire boat going past said they had a problem with the rudder, and Tim helped them clear a fender from their propeller.

Another hire boat arrived from Ellesmere, with David and Carole Brennand on board. It was good to see them.

There were a lot of hire boats going past, and one went really fast, causing the man on the boat in the distance to shout at them to slow down. They were making a big wave.

We all agreed to have our meals and then assemble on the hire boat. As we did so, Roger and Mirjana joined us, so we had eight people and two dogs. Hugo made himself scarce. We had nibbles and wine, and we tried some Campari. Several people independently thought it tasted like cough medicine! David and Carole seemed to like it.

Sunset at Tetchill

2 locks, 8 miles

Next: a day of rest before going to Ellesmere for the mission.  Blogs may be infrequent as we will have so many other things happening, e.g. preparing songs, talking to people, and taking part in events.