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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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