Monday, 25 August 2014

Nantwich to Stoke-on-Trent


Monday 18th August

Nantwich to Bridge 4 (Middlewich arm)

We took a bus into Nantwich bus station, and found the pet shop. They didn’t have any suitable cat litter trays. We wandered round the charity shops looking for a vase. We visited the ancient sandstone church and went to Morrisons.  We looked for another pet shop, but found it had closed. 

St Mary’s Church at Nantwich

As we were looking at more charity shops, we spotted a bus, so we seized the moment and hopped on.  We took the long ramp back up to the embankment as we had our shopping trolley.

We set off to turn round, and we passed Gospel Belle, where Peter and Lin were having lunch with Roger and Mirjana.  We went on half a mile to the winding hole, and returned again, with more waves and greetings as we went past.

We paused at Nantwich Marina for fuel, but forgot to refill our 5L can.  Next time.

At the facilities block there was a queue for water, so we emptied our cassettes and rubbish and moved on.

Heading north again, we passed the entrance to the Llangollen, and there were no boats moving up or down the locks.  When we arrived at Barbridge Junction, we turned the boat round so that we could get the bows near the water tap.  We only have one hose. If we had two we could reach to the bows from the stern.  The mooring points are a bit sparse at this tap, so we tied on to a post and a railing.  There was one boat before us, and one after us.

The water point at Barbridge Junction

Barbridge Junction

We reversed out from the water tap to the junction and went into the Middlewich Arm past Midway Boats. We stopped for the day just past bridge 4 where there was some piling.  James walked up to the lock to see who was there. There are rings further up provided once again by the Shropshire Union Canal Society.  There was no one we knew, but there were lots of dogs, so it was just as well we had stayed back a little.

0 locks, 6 miles, 2hr25


Tuesday 19th August

Bridge 4 to Middlewich

It was wet to start with, and we had a bit of a lie in.   Fiery Elias came past, with Audrey Boston at the helm. We exchanged a few greetings before she moved on.

Eventually the sun came out.  It was midday before we set off.

It seemed that most boats were coming towards us, so we didn’t have to wait at locks. We saw a large fox in a field. We see a lot of urban foxes these days, but the ones in the countryside always seem to be in better condition.  We also saw a kingfisher.

Then, looking down from Minshull Lock, we could see something moving on the towpath, but couldn’t make out what it was.  When the boat came out of the lock there was nowhere for James to get on, so he walked on to the next bridge. When he drew near to the moving object on the path, it turned out to be about six small piglets that had found a way through the hedge and were rummaging in the grass.

Something moving on the path

Piglets near Minshull Lock

We stopped at Middlewich, between bridges 28 and 29.  James went for a short walk to see who else was there, and to find which was the best route to the shops.  There was a lovely golden sun going down behind the bridge behind us.

A golden evening at Middlewich

Hugo in “Let’s Play” mood

3 locks, 8 miles, 3hr40


Wednesday 20th August

Middlewich to Paddy’s Wood before Bridge 157

We went shopping in Middlewich, and found an extraordinary rambling shop, which seemed to consist of about three houses knocked together with lots of small rooms. They sold greetings cards, pictures, sweets and small items of furniture and antiques.  We found one room full of old bottles, jugs, mugs and pots.  We chose a small brown pottery pot to use as a vase.

Further up we found Lidl, and did most of our shopping there.  We also bought a new hose – the new expanding sort.  The rest of the shopping was at Tesco, before returning to the boat.  Bridge 29 was not a clever place to join the towpath with our trolley, as there was a stile and then some steps.

Sense of humour at Wardle Lock

We went through Wardle Lock and then turned right onto the Trent and Mersey, going immediately into Kings Lock. 

Split bridge at Wardle Lock

We tied temporarily onto the lock bollards above King’s Lock while Hazel went to buy some toilet blue from Kings Lock Chandlery.  We also bought some fish and chips and consumed them before moving off.

For the first two miles heading south from Middlewich, the canal is accompanied by a busy main road (A533).  There is also a large salt factory. Then road heads into Sandbach, while the canal skirts round to the south.   

 Salt Factory at Middlewich

We had heard about a problem with one of the locks soon after Wheelock, with long queues of boats waiting, so we wanted to stop before then as we thought the Wheelock moorings would be full.

There is a short section of countryside marked as Paddy’s Wood, where we have stopped before, and thankfully there was space so we moored up.  Hugo was very happy to be exploring the hedge. He caught two mice.

Another boat, 3 no trumps, arrived from the opposite direction, and James helped them tie up.  They said they hadn’t been able to find a mooring at Wheelock.

Later at about 9pm, a boat went past in the dark, heading for Wheelock. Where they stopped we never found out.

6 locks, 5 miles, 2 mice, 3hr00


Thursday 21st August

Paddy’s Wood to Pierpoint locks

We stopped here on the delivery voyage of our first boat in 1997, and James went for a short walk in the morning. Some guy was shooting the wildlife, and suddenly lots of lead shot fell all around where James was on the towpath!

There was no repeat this morning, and we headed into Wheelock to use the facilities.  The sign was missing from the elsan point, but James remembered where it was from previous occasions.

Hazel went to the large pet food store nearby, and bought a new litter tray.  The flap on the old one has broken, and we have been unable to get a replacement flap.  The old litter tray is obsolete, so we have carefully taken all the measurements of the space into which it needs to fit.  We tried the new one, and although it is not such good quality, it fits.

We then went through locks 66 and 65, and joined a line of waiting boats.  A CRT man told us they had fixed the leaking lock, but they were now waiting for the pound to fill before any boats could go through.

After an hour we were able to move on again.  The boat in front had no name that we could see, but the skipper was a chap called Dave, who moves boats for a living.  He was towing a small dinghy.  The boat behind was called Frances, and was 29ft long.  Eventually they managed to share a lock with Dave.  We gave a BCF leaflet and “How do Locks work?” to Dave.

When Frances had moved past us to share with Dave, the boat behind was called Fairest Lady.

These locks were originally all in pairs. Now many of the second locks have been abandoned, so only one lock is working.  This causes bottlenecks, because where there are pairs of locks, it is much quicker, but then there is a queue for a single lock.

We passed under the deafening M6, and stopped above the Pierpoint locks 56 and 55, where the noise was less.

Paired locks by the M6, with Dave’s boat on the left

12locks, 4 miles, 3hr50


Friday 22nd August

Pierpoint locks to Kidsgrove

It was colder today, and there were intermittent showers.  We set off once more through more of the paired locks. These are sometimes known as heartbreak hill.

We met a lady called Ruth who knows David and Carole Brennand.

We noticed the water getting progressively redder, due to the iron content from the Harecastle Tunnel ahead.

Red water on Heartbreak Hill

We weren’t in a line of boats today. When we had passed Church Lawton and were in lock 46, we saw people moving around on lock 47, so we left our lock open, assuming there was a boat coming down.  It turned out it was a volunteer who set the lock for us.  Dave from yesterday was also there helping. He said he had read the leaflet, and liked the part where Jesus showed us how to care for one another.

We stopped between locks 42 and 41, where there is a secluded section, with trees and bushes for Hugo.  We walked to Tesco and back.

James had a search online for a church for Sunday morning.  When we had the mission in Stoke in 2005, it was difficult to find a church within range on the canal. The trouble is that Stoke is made up of five towns, and the canal goes between them, and not through the centre of any of them.

The Swan Bank Methodist in Burslem was one option, but it is nearly a mile walk from Longport, and we had heard stories about bored youths at the mooring at Longport.  There is one in the BCF church directory in Hanley, called Hanley Life Changing Ministries.  Looking at the website, the latest entry on their blog was in 2011, and there were no events listed.  We tried sending them an email, but it was undelivered. Their phone number was unavailable, so we guess they have gone away.

Then we tried searching for certain types of churches, and New Frontiers came up with a church called Grace Church, who meet in a warehouse in an industrial park, not far from the Etruria Bone and Flint museum, at the junction of the Trent and Mersey with the Caldon Canal.  We’ll go there.

12 locks, 4 miles, 2hr15


Saturday 23rd August

Kidsgrove to Etruria

It was raining to start with, but then it stopped and the sun came out.  Two boats went past as we were putting our hood down, One of which was called Awesome Wonder.  James does not need much of a prompt to start him on a song, and for the rest of the morning he was humming “Then sings my soul…”

The final lock before Harecastle Tunnel is a pair, and two boats were coming down so we didn’t have to set the lock.  However, the rain started again, so the hood went up again.

Just round the corner was the tunnel, and boats were coming out of it as we arrived.  There was a CRT man who was trying to give James a leaflet on health and safety while he was trying to steer Gabriel out of the way of an oncoming sideways hire boat.  We have been through this tunnel six times before, but still he had to go through the list of “no smoking”, “no naked flames”, etc.

We never did tie up – we lowered our pram hood and went straight in, third in a line of five.  We never had time to look at the leaflet until after we emerged at the other end.

Into the tunnel

Awesome Wonder was first, and seemed to be going very slowly.  If you go too slowly, you lose steerage and get sucked in to the sides, so it was a frustrating journey, taking over 45 minutes, instead of the 35 minutes recorded last time.  The tunnel is two miles long.

Being followed

At the other end we put up the pram hood again as the rain was coming down hard.

It is nearly four miles through Stoke to the junction with the Caldon Canal, past fascinating industrial scenery, with bottle kilns and old warehouses and factories.  We paused at the facilities to fill the water tank and empty the rubbish and cassettes, before tying onto mooring rings in the small park there by the footbridge, where we moored for the Mission to the Heart in 2005.

Moored by Etruria Industrial Museum

We lit the coal fire to take the chill and damp out of the boat. A boat called Paws for Thought moored in front of us.

1 lock, 6 miles, 1 tunnel, 2hr40


Sunday 24th August

Etruria to Westport

We walked towards Hanley and found Grace Church, in a warehouse. They are a very young church, mostly in their twenties and thirties, with young children.  We had a warm welcome.  The worship was ably led by Jez, who played guitar, and thumped a bass drum with a foot pedal. There was also a keyboard player and a girl singer, who could have done with being turned up a little. The talk was based on psalm 73.

Grace Church

Jez leading the worship

The church was not there when we had our Mission to the Heart here in 2005. We might have been able to work with them as they have an outreach aspect, with Alpha courses and a food bank.

We walked up the hill into Hanley and explored the shops, before returning via Tesco to the boat. We hadn’t found anywhere for lunch, so we moved the boat back to the Toby Carvery where we had a very nice meal at about 3pm. 

We then moved further back to Westport Lake where we plan to sit out the wet day that is forecast for tomorrow. There is also a folk event every Monday at the Packhorse Inn, entitled “The Full English”.  Not quite sure what that involves, or if we should take our instruments and participate, or just go along to listen.

Westport Lake moorings

Next week we plan to go up the Caldon Canal and through the very low Froghall Tunnel. Our last boat was too high. Then possibly the Leek Canal, probably returning for church here again, before going south the following week for the BBQ weekend at the Taft near Rugeley. The speed of travel will largely depend on the weather.

0 locks, 3 miles, 1hr10

Monday, 18 August 2014

Ellesmere to Nantwich


Monday 11th August

Ellesmere to Whixall Moss

We went to Tesco for some vital supplies, and walked round to Blackwater Meadow Marina to check out their chandlery. All we came away with were the two free magazines: Towpath Talk and the Tillergraph.  James found a bank vole under a metal notice board lying in the hedge.

We were getting low on fuel so we used one of our two 5 litre fuel cans, as the marina was very expensive (£1.04 per litre) and they were not serving fuel on Mondays.  The next place is Whixall Marina, but they are closed on Sundays and Mondays, so we couldn’t check the price. It surely has to be cheaper than £1.04.  On a rough calculation we can go for two hours on a litre.

We put down our pram hood, and swept away some of the bits of fir tree that covered the boat after the winds.  As we left we realised that the boat in front of us (the guy with the cat on a lead from last night) was Tupelo, who had been moored with us at the end of June at Middleton Lakes, on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal.

We headed to the sanitary station to empty the cassettes and throw away the rubbish. Thankfully our water tank was mostly full, as there was a queue for the water taps.  We reversed out with precision, letting the strong winds take the bows round to point downstream, and we set off through Ellesmere tunnel and past Blake Mere,  giving a farewell wave to Bill as we went past his amazing home overlooking Cole Mere.  It is three weeks since we saw him on the way up.

Sign at Blake Mere. Are we allowed to talk quietly?

It wasn’t long before we were at our destination for the day: Whixall Moss.  We moored exactly where Amy Em had been moored three weeks ago.  They are now in Droitwich.  We had planned to go for a walk in the afternoon, but the wind was really strong, and the threat of rain loomed, so we stayed on board.  This apparently was the remains of Hurricane Bertha.

There were several boats going past and they were evidently in a hurry, because after two had steamed on without slowing down, our mooring pins at the stern came out, and the boat swung out in the canal.  It was just as well we weren’t out on a walk as planned, as we were able to tie up again.

The pram hood went up as the rain came down again.

Hugo caught a mouse. He doesn’t seem to mind the rain.

Moored by Whixall Moss

0 locks, 7 miles, 2 mice (1 Hugo 1 James) 2hr40


Tuesday 12th August

Whixall Moss to Tilstock Park Lift Bridge 42

We got up early while it was less windy and before any rain started.  We went for a walk on Whixall Moss.  This is a raised peat bog and we are told this is left over from the ice age.  The information boards tell us that there are curlew, peregrines, short eared owls, adders and raft spiders here, but we didn’t see any. However, we had a very pleasant walk, seeing buzzards and a cormorant.

Whixall Moss

Cotton Sedge

Heather

Old peat Cuttings
 
On our return, and after breakfast, we cast off and went down the Prees Branch. This was our first ever visit here, as we decided to leave it last time as we had gear box problems (in 2000). 

Turning into the Prees Branch

There are two lift bridges in the short arm, and the first one was straightforward. James got off the boat and raised the bridge with a windlass, Hazel steered the boat under the bridge, and James dropped the bridge back down again.

At the second bridge, a young lad had raised the bridge for a boat coming the other way.  James suggested that they come through first, with the boy getting on the boat as they went through, and James crossing across our boat to put the bridge down again.  For some reason  the man at the helm of the other boat pulled into the side and beckoned Hazel on, so James went across Gabriel and the young lad leapt onto their boat as it went past – no hands – very worrying. James then put the bridge down. 

At the end of the Prees branch is Whixall Marina, and we obtained some diesel at 96p from a machine. It will keep us going until we get back to cheaper diesel areas.

Whixall marina

Then of course we had the two lift bridges again, the second of which we could leave up, as two boats were coming the other way.  Round the corner onto the main line of the canal once more, there was one more lift bridge, a very low one that actually rests in the water (Morris Bridge).

We only went another two miles, and moored on rings just before Tilstock Park Lift Bridge.

0 locks, 5 miles, 5 lift bridges, 2hr00


Wednesday 13th August

Tilstock Park to Whitchurch

As we were preparing to leave, a hire boat came past, and we agreed that they would put the bridge up and we would put it down.  We followed them through the bridge and James took the windlass and put the bridge down as agreed.  We were hoping we could do the same for the other two lift bridges, but we never saw them again.  They were travelling quite quickly, probably not slowing down for moored boats.

We operated the two Hassels lift bridges on our own and entered the Whitchurch Arm. 

Turning into the Whitchurch Arm

This has a winding hole, so we turned, and reversed in to a mooring space behind Heron, which belongs to Ron and Mary Heritage, keen IWA people who are always at the Banbury Canal Day. Sadly we didn’t see them on this occasion.

Moored in the Whitchurch Arm

We received a text from Roger and Mirjana about a folk session in Whitchurch this evening, and also to let us know that they had a pallet for us to put on the boat roof. We told them where we were, and suggested we take them for a meal before the folk session.

We went to find the bus into town mentioned in the First Mate Guide.  We found the bus stop, but the timetable said no service Mon-Fri or Sun. It was Saturdays only.  We walked instead along a pleasant path past the remains of the canal and a stream.

We pottered round the shops looking for a small vase to take a few wild flowers.  No success. When we arrived at Tesco we saw a 205 bus, so we asked the driver for information. He said it runs every half hour, and the timetables were printed wrong!!!  We took the bus back when we had our shopping from Tesco.

Soon after we arrived back we met a guy carrying a guitar and a didgeridoo.  We told him about the session in the Old Town Hall Vaults that evening and he said he might come along, but he avoided pubs generally as he was an alcoholic. We said we would be off alcohol as well.  James is finding it aggravates his cough at the moment.

Roger and Mirjana arrived with the pallet, which we put on top of the boat. We will need to modify it a little to cope with the curve of the roof.

As were getting our guitars out on the towpath, the guy from earlier (Alan) came past again, and said we may see him later.

We then went in their camper van (jokingly known as the truck), and had a good meal at the Black Bear, before going the Old Town Hall Vaults for the session. It was great fun, with several melodeons / concertinas, a monologue man, and some singers.  We sang Well well well, Long Way Down, Here come the Navvies, Waterloo Road, and Streets of London (a request). Alan turned up with a steel guitar and did some blues including bottle neck style. Very good.  We think he enjoyed himself.

Back to the boat in the truck.  Lots of slugs and snails all over the path plus a frog.

0 locks, 3 miles, 3 lift bridges, 1hr20


Thursday 15th August

Whitchurch to Grindley Brook

Roger and Mirjana had told us that Peter and Lin were back on their boat, so we sent them a text asking where they were.  “Whitchurch” they replied, “By the lift bridge”.  We said we were just leaving and would stop by their boat.

On the way we passed Alan’s boat Ruth Marie, and we had another chat with him. He has only had the boat for three weeks. He has split up from his wife.  He comes from Mirfield, a place we know well.  We gave him our details, plus a “How do locks work?” leaflet, and he gave us three copies of his CD.

Alan

As we left the arm, we had to turn left and use the winding hole, in order to turn right, as the turn was too tight.  We operated the lift bridge, and moored behind Gospel Belle for a chat.  We gave them two of the CDs, one for them and one for Roger and Mirjana, as they were going to be seeing them.

Lin with Gospel Belle

We moored just before the Grindley Brook locks and put up the hood as it started to rain. We went for breakfast at the cafĂ©.  It was after 1200 by this time, but they still served us.

Grindley Brook Lock House

Then we had water, loos and rubbish to deal with, before going down the staircase of three and the three single locks.  We stopped just round the corner at 3pm. We hadn’t gone very far.  Hugo caught two mice.

It wasn’t a wonderful place to moor, because every time a boat emptied the lock, the boat surged and banged the side.

6 locks, 1 ½ miles, 1 lift bridge, 2 mice, 3hr30


Friday 16th August

Grindley Brook to Wrenbury

As we were putting down our pram hood, preparing to leave, Gospel Belle arrived and moored two boats back. They had done the Grindley Brook locks early and were having a pause before moving on.  Like us, they are heading for Nantwich for Saturday night, with church there on Sunday morning.

Shroppie Fly Boat Saturn moored near Grindley Brook

At Quoisley Lock the man was there again selling locally grown produce. We bought some huge onions, a cabbage and some carrots.  He is a helpful chap, and has a windlass, and he set the lock for us as we approached.

When we arrived at Wrenbury, Hazel was prepared to get off and operate the electric  lift bridge, but a boat came the other way and kept it open for us.  We moved on through the second (manual) lift bridge 19 and moored between there and bridge 18.

Lift Bridge at Wrenbury

We were surprised to find a TV and internet signal there, because last time, between the two lift bridges, we had no signals at all.

4 locks, 6 miles, 2 lift bridges, 2hr40


Saturday 17th August

Wrenbury to Nantwich

Hugo was not in his usual place on the dinette this morning, but we weren’t too worried as it was easy to get to the other side of the hedge to flush him out if necessary.

While we were having breakfast, a line of 6 boats came through the lift bridge and  passed us.  We could imagine the lock queue at the first of the three Baddiley Locks just over a mile further on.

We had shopping to do, so we took the path from the next bridge, and returned via the lift bridge path. 

Hugo was back on board, so we prepared to leave. As we left, two boats came through the lift bridge behind us, and it transpired that the second one was Gospel Belle.

When we arrived at Baddiley Locks we were the second in a queue of four.  At most of the locks there were boats coming up so we didn’t have to fill them.

Moles in rows at Baddiley Locks

After the two Swanley Locks we passed Swanley Marina, and as we were nearing bridge 5, a man waved us down. He was BCF, from Miss Heliotrope. We pulled in and moored up.   Peter and Muriel came on board for tea, and brought some wonderful custard creams they had made yesterday. We had met last year at Hawne Basin.  This year they had come onto the Llangollen Canal in February, and were travelling slowly.  They said they only move when they need water, about once a week. 

We spent an hour with them, during which time, Gospel Belle went past, and we said “See you at Nantwich”

Peter and Muriel (Miss Heliotrope)

When we arrived at Hurleston Locks there was a queue of six boats.  We were able to dispose of rubbish and empty cassettes while we waited. Gospel Belle was two in front.

When we finally set off down the locks it only took 30 minutes, despite getting stuck in a low pound.  We had to let some more water down, and James had to haul the boat with a rope from the bank.

Although our plan is to go left towards Middlewich, we turned right and travelled the two miles to Nantwich for church in the morning.  

 Horse sculpture at Nantwich

The first set of visitor moorings were all full. After the aqueduct, on the grassy embankment, there is a line of moorings marked “Permit Holders Only” and there were a couple of spaces.  We saw Barolo moored up, and asked them if they thought it would be OK to moor here, and they said they treated this like visitor moorings.  We pulled in, and saw that Gospel Belle was three boats further along.  We had seen Barolo earlier this year between Napton and Braunston.

Hugo wasn’t too keen on the exposed nature of the surroundings – just a grassy slope, with one small sapling nearby.  He went out after dark, but we don’t think he went very far.

9 locks, 8 miles, 5hr10


Sunday 18th August

Nantwich

A boat went past before 0600. Although he went fairly quietly, he still woke up all the boaters.  Another went past at about 0700, without appearing to make any attempt to slow down, so everyone was wide awake by this time.

Peter and Lin called for us at about 0930, and we all went down the steps from the embankment and walked into Nantwich. We found Market Street Church and were some of the first there.  In the end there were about thirty people.  The worship was led by the minister with a guitar, apart from one song projected from youtube.  The preacher was a retired URC minister who spoke about the woman at the well.  We had a very good welcome.

Market Street Church

We all walked to Morrissons for a few items, and then went to the ancient timbered building which is the Crown Hotel for a very pleasant lunch.

Crown Hotel

Back on the boat we had a relaxing afternoon.  zzzzzzzz

No boating today

Plans: Up the Shroppie to Barbridge Junction, turn right to Middlewich, and head slowly down the Trent and Mersey aiming for the Taft BBQ in early September.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Montgomery Canal: Ellesmere back to Ellesmere


Wednesday 6th August

Ellesmere to Aston Locks

We got some supplies from the bakers and Tesco, and as the weather was better than originally forecast, we phoned CRT to change our Frankton Locks booking to today.  We also booked our return for Saturday, so that we could go to the Cellar Church in Ellesmere on Sunday.

Mirjana came past on her bicycle and brought our final item of post – a part for Hugo’s cat flap.  We made a tentative arrangement to meet on Saturday somewhere for a meal.

As we were not far down the arm, we reversed out, rather than go to the end and turn round.  We went first to the facilities block, where we emptied cassettes and disposed of rubbish, before making the one hour journey to Frankton Locks.

There were six boats already waiting, so we moored up and waited our turn.

The lock keeper arrived on time at midday, and boats started to move down the two-lock staircase.  Two boats down and two boats up was the plan, except that there were twelve boats to go down, and only two to come up.  James was helping to reset the top lock with his windlass. There were several boaters standing around watching, without windlasses.  We weren’t sure which boats were before us and there was a point at which there were no boaters waiting at the lock, so we set the lock and prepared to go in.  Then a lady sitting on a boat further back shouted “It’s our turn!”  Hazel shouted back “You’d better get down here with a windlass then!”

Frankton Top Lock

Leaving the staircase

After the staircase locks there are two separate locks, following by a sanitary station in the Weston Arm, where we filled up with water. 

There follows another single lock, which is very shallow.  This is dedicated to Graham Palmer who started the Waterways Recovery Group.

We noticed some discrepancies with bridge numbering. What was in the Nicholson Guide differed to the actual numbers on the bridges, but there were two bridges with the number 73 attached.  My summary is as follows:

Nicholson      Actual       Should be
    70                 1W              1W
    71                  70               70
Perry Aqu.         --                71
    73                  73               72
Rail Bridge       73               73
    74                  74               74   

There is a long straight stretch along this section, with trees and bushes on one side making the canal quite narrow.

An old warehouse at Heath Houses

We had planned to spend the night at the moorings by the Queen’s Head pub, but these were alongside a busy road that was not easy to see on our Nicholson Guide, as it was covered by the canal on the map.  Also the A5 crosses the canal just beyond, and it was both noisy and unsafe for cats.

We continued on to Aston Locks, and moored on piling halfway between the first one and the second.  It was very quiet.

Aston Locks

We had a phone call from Oliver, with car breakdown problems. We think he managed to sort it out OK.

6 locks, 8 miles, 4hr15


Thursday 7th August

Aston Locks to Maesbury

The Aston Locks all have numbers on, but in the Nicholson Guide they are not numbered. On page 67 of our guide it shows two locks ¼ mile apart, marked Aston Locks. At the top of page 69 it shows two locks ¼ mile apart, marked Aston Locks.  We had assumed that these were the same two locks, so it was with surprise that we discovered a third, called Aston Lock no 3.   We worked out that page 67 shows 1 & 2, and page 69 shows 2 & 3.

There is a winding hole marked further on, which we had crossed out in our guide, as it was roped off in 2004.  Now it seems the rope has gone, and it is usable as a winding hole again

There were a few moorings at the Navigation Inn but the sun was hot, there was no shade, and the towpath was narrow.  We noticed some better moorings a little further on. 

A boater coming the other way told us that the lift bridge was very heavy to raise, but when we got there, it was no worse than the others on the Llangollen Canal. It took about 50 turns of the windlass to raise it, and 30 to lower it.

On the right here is Maesbury Hall Mill, where our last boat was built by Barry Tuffin. It seems to be just moorings now.

A newly restored section of canal has recently been opened, but there is no winding hole at the end, and there was a gate across, so we turned round at Gronwyn Bridge 82, where Barry Tuffin lives in a cottage.  We moored up under the bridge and walked the new section to bridge 84.

Gronwyn Bridge 82

Pryles Bridge 84

 The next challenge

Moored under the bridge

On our return to the boat we spotted Barry in his garden and had a good chat with him.

Barry Tuffin

We set off again and moored by Spiggots bridge, a 48H mooring with rings.  There is only space for two boats, and a canoe club has their launching place in between them. We tried to get as far back as we could, using the final ring, but there was an obstruction under the water, so our stern was out a little.  We put our chairs against the hedge in the welcome shade.

A lady and a young girl came to launch a Canadian canoe, and as we watched, the lady was in the boat and holding onto the bank, and the gap was getting wider and wider.  James ran to help her and pulled the canoe back into the side. She very nearly got wet. 

Later we had a snooze, and Hazel overheard a silly comment from some other people launching a canoe: “They didn’t leave us much room. You’d have thought, being Christians, they’d have known better.”

All the canoes in the club were the same size, and there was enough space between the two boats to launch them.  We were as far back from the launching place as we could be.  Why do people make comments like that?  I didn’t hear about it until well after the event, and perhaps it is just as well or I may have said something that might have made it worse.

Later we walked along to the Navigation Inn, where we had a meal with Dave and Lizby Beare, friends from 40 years ago in our Cobham days. It was good to catch up with them.  The food was good but a bit overpriced.

Dave and Lizby

Navigation Inn

We noticed that there is fridge food for sale in pub – milk, cheese, eggs etc.

2 Locks, 2 miles, 2 lift bridges. 1hr55


Friday 8th August

Maesbury to Weston Branch

As we set off today we noticed a sign saying “Canal Shop” at the Canoe Club. We didn’t want to but a canal so we carried on to the facilities black at Maesbury for water, and loos.

From there we walked to the farm shop that was advertised.  When we got there we discovered that it was unmanned, and there was an honesty box. As we hadn’t brought any change with us, and the cash box was locked there was no sale.  

We continued on through the three Aston Locks and we moored at the top on the offside where we had noticed a bit of piling for the stern. We had to put out a long rope for the bows, with a mooring pin.

Going up Aston Locks

Reedy section

The reason for stopping was to explore a nature reserve, with ponds built by the Waterways Recovery Group, to accommodate some of the rare aquatic plants from the canal. This is a good way of keeping both the naturalists and the boaters happy. As I am both I am very happy.

Brimstone in flight

We picked our first blackberries of the season, although friends of our on the Kennet and Avon had picked some about three weeks ago.

After our walk we moved on, and in the narrow section between Heath Houses and the Perry Aqueduct we met four boats who had come down the locks today.  One was the friendly guy we had met when we lost Hugo.

We moored in the Weston Branch, and walked to the end, where once again they have kept a section for the rare plants.

We were treated to a glorious sunset, and when it was dark, Hugo had a game with us, hiding behind the picnic tables and water points, and then rushing out and grabbing our legs before rushing off into dark again.

Sunset over the Weston Arm

4 locks, 6 miles, 3hr25



Saturday 9th August

Weston Branch to Ellesmere

We moved up from our mooring to the water point to fill our tank.  No sooner had we done so than the boat who was moored behind us moved up into our mooring space.  We then had no choice but to move to the foot of the Frankton Locks, two hours early.  There was no space on the lock bollards so we had to use mooring pins on a narrow part of the towpath.

Waiting for Frankton Locks

Caterpillar

The locks are only open from 1200 to 1400, and they allow two boats up and two boats down. It was all fairly straightforward this time.

Up the staircase

We cruised into the Ellesmere Arm, where we planned to stay on Sunday, while the forecast storm was due.  All the moorings were taken, so we turned at the end, and moored on some bollards by the old warehouse.

Very soon we realised that we would be in the way of turning boats here, as a longish Black Price hire boat tried to turn and was pushed by the wind onto the end of the basin.  He tried several times to get off again, but in the end James had to take his bow rope and pull his bows round so that he could complete the turn.

We decided to move back up the arm, and we discovered that a boat had left, leaving us an ideal mooring place, by a hedge of fir trees.

We went shopping in Tesco for some basics, and Mirjana came by car to collect us for a meal at their house.  The original plan was to eat out at the Thai restaurant, but someone was due to call in at their house to view Roger’s car which was up for sale.  He did arrive, and bought the car.

We had a great time with them, and then Roger drove us back to the boat.  

Heavy rain and high winds in the night.

4 locks, 3 miles, 1 mouse, 2hr35


Sunday 10th August

Ellesmere

There was more heavy rain this morning as we walked to the Cellar Church, in the basement of the town hall.  This is a church plant from Wem Baptist Church, and it was fairly crowded. We had a great welcome.

Cellar Church under the town hall

They offered us coffee, and before James could even add any milk, he somehow spilt it down his front, scalding himself.  He rushed to the toilets and soaked the area in cold water which eased it a little.  Everyone was wet from the rain, so a wet shirt went mostly unnoticed! 

The worship was unusual, in that the only instrument was a flute.  The young lady playing said she would look up when it was time to join in. (You can’t sing and play the flute at the same time!)  She was very good and everyone sang enthusiastically.  The rest of the worship team were at Wem for a holiday club special service.

Cellar Church worship on the flute

The talk was about the woman at the well. It had never occurred to me before that the woman was there at midday because she was an outcast. The other ladies probably went to the well in the early morning or late evening, when it would have been cooler.

Cellar Church chatting after the service

After another coffee, which went down on the inside this time, we sought out a chemist where we bought some burn ointment.  James had several small blisters, and a large red area on his chest and stomach.

We watched the cycle ride on our TV, looking out for familiar landmarks and faces. Sadly, there was a short break in transmission just as they would have been going through Weybridge and past the Methodist Church. A very exciting race.

We met a guy called Tudor, whom we had met ealier in the year at Hillmorton. He is on a boat called Out and About.  He is heading for Llangollen.

We went for an evening meal at Asianspices, and had their evening buffet.  It was OK, but there was not a lot of choice.  Most people chose a la carte.

There were very high winds, which blew lots of bits from the fir trees onto our boat.

We noticed some plums on the trees opposite, and thought we might try to pick some as we left in the morning.

There was a man with a Siamese or Burmese cat on a lead, and we told him we normally let ours out.

No boating today