Sunday, 29 May 2011

Sunday 29th May
This morning started dull and wet, just as the forecasters had said. It was only very light so we set off heading for the first of the day's locks. The rain continued on and off during the three mile trip and let up just long enough for Cath to operate the lock. Another mile brought us to the service area where we used the facilities before heading up to the 4 Frankton Locks to wait for the lock keeper to let us out at midday.
Along with the rain there has been a stiff breeze all morning. When we arrived at the locks there were two boats already moored up waiting. With only room for two boats we managed to get a rope around the last bollard but there was nowhere to hold took the back rope. The wind took the back end across the canal and because there was no traffic I decided to just leave it there until boats started to move when I should be able to get onto the bollards. Bad move! I should have stayed back and used mooring pins in the bank. The back end got stuck and I had a devil of a job getting it to move against the wind when traffic did start. Life really got difficult but it was my fault for being lazy and not pinning out.
Too make matters worse our washing machine has developed a fault and I haven't been able to trace it. I think it is an intermittent earth fault when it starts to shake during the spin. It's going to be a sod to find!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Saturday 28th May
When we got up this morning it was to find a dull day, with drizzle dampening everything. Luckily I could see a bit of sky starting to brighten up in the distance and soon we could see the sun. Setting off, our first lock of the day soon appeared, Aston top lock, with two more to follow at about 300 yd intervals.
The countryside gliding by was quiet and peaceful with the canal edges planted with irises and reeds. To keep the edges looking good there is a speed limit of 3 mph lowering to 2mph in some places in order to stop the wake from washing the soil away. As we have found around here the shallowness of the water makes going fast imposable for us anyway.
The limit of powered navigation at Maesbury Marsh was soon reached. Here there is a lift bridge which you go through before reaching the winding hole where you must turn around.
there is a fine cafe canalside where we lunched on bacon sandwiches. Wonderful local bacon!
After lunch we set off back and have now moored up in the same place as last night ready to get to the junction locks by 12.00 tomorrow.
As last night I tried to upload some pictures but the connection wouldn't have any of it so I'll try again tomorrow night.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Friday 27th May
Yesterday we retraced our steps from Trevor, and in less than fine weather we plodded on as far as the top of New Marton locks. Here we decided to spend the night. Our plan was to get to Frankton Junction, this leads onto the Montgomery Canal by 09.30, this was the time stated on the canal book that the locks would be open. When we got there we found that the times had changed and they now open once a day 12.00 until 14.00. This spoiled our timing somewhat but not enough to cause trouble. We'll now spend two days here instead of one.
We had been told this canal was very beautiful, and they didn't lie. Because the number of boats is restricted by the short lock opening times it isn't busy and there is only one place to shop near the canal in the entire navigable length, only 7 miles, and that, we are told is very limited.
I was going to put a picture with this post, but the computer signal signal around here is too poor and won't accept it so I'll do it at a later date when I can.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Today's the day. We will at last cross the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.
Out trip continued along the waterway through the lovely scenery. You could become blase about the beauty if you aren't careful.
The canal is definitely shallow around here, at every bridge hole we nearly come to a stop as the water rushes by on either side.
Our first taste of high flying is the Chirk Aqueduct. Here the effect is somewhat overshadowed by the presence of a railway viaduct next to it, which is taller (see bottom pic). this followed immediately by Chirk Tunnel. Here we have to wait while boats are coming the other way, there are 6 in all before we can start through. Here again the lack of depth of water makes itself apparent and as we crawl through there are times when I reckon we almost stand still despite the power of the engine.
At the other end there were at least 6 more boats waiting to go through, so we were lucky that they all didn't follow in convoy or we might still be waiting.
Next up is the shorter Whitehouse Tunnel and then, the jewel in the crown, the mighty Pontcysyllte itself. For those who have 'done' this trip I don't need to describe the feeling, but if you haven't then all I can say is do it. The trepidation of looking over the open side and wondering how that thin looking piece of ironwork stands up to boats banging along its length. The exhilaration of the view if you can stand to look at it, and the wonder of the engineering done all those years ago, without machines. The joints of the sections are sealed with flannel and lead, dipped in boiling sugar. Now who came up with that concoction?
At the end of the aqueduct we pulled into Trevor where there is short but very crowded arm. Expecting to have to turn around at the end we travelled down it and to our amazement found a spot to spend the night.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

One of the many fine scenes around here

For once the weatherman did get it right. Our decision to stay put on Monday was a good one. The wind and rain were conditions not to be out in and it gave us the impetuous to get some cleaning and maintenance done.
Today we set off heading towards Llangollen. The wind is still quite strong and you have to be careful not to slow too much when passing moored boats as there is a chance that the wind will blow you into them. However the sun is nice when the clouds part for a while.
We passed the junction with the Montgomery Canal and carried on to New Marton Locks. After going through we have now moored up for the day and will carry on over the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct Tomorrow and travel as far as Trevor. This will be the limit of our incursion into Wales as from there the canal is too shallow for us.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

View across Blake Mere from the canal
We had intended to move just a short distance today but in the end thought that going to Ellsmere was a better bet. We'll stop at Whitchurch on the way back.
It was an easy journey today, no locks, but several lift bridges. Our 13 mile journey took us about 6 hours. Arriving at Ellsmere we decided to take a look up the town arm just in case there was a space for us. As we motored down the long line of moored boats we thought, oh well turn around at the end and find somewhere along towpath, but just as we reached the end of the arm there was a there was space, so in we nipped.
We'll stay here tomorrow, and if the weatherman is to be believed we may end up staying Monday as well. They are promising very strong winds but we all know how reliable their pine cone and seaweed are!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Wonderful lock cottage at Grindley Brook
Rising in Grindley Brook staircase locks
The canal continues its lovely rural way through the Shropshire countryside. The occasional lock breaking into our lazy wander along the way.
Although the sun is doing its best to shine there is a fair bit of cloud and a strong breeze which adds to the feeling of chill. This is flat Shropshire dairy country so the canal isn't very curvy and there are some longish straight stretches.
We soon arrive at Grindley Brook locks. Here there are 3 conventional locks and then a staircase of 3 more. In all the rise is 38 ft. the staircase has a lock keeper to assist and make sure you don't make a mess of the procedure. At the top of the staircase is a lovely Thomas Telford lock cottage, and at the bottom is a cafe and stores where a lot of people gather to watch the boats going through.
We've moored up just above the lock flight and will take a short trip tomorrow only as far as Whitchurch

Thursday, 19 May 2011

A lovely mooring
Wrenbury lift bridge
Thursday 19th May
A lovely bright sunshiny day greeted us when we surfaced this morning. A short stretch of canal brought us to the three locks of Baddiley flight. The canal is fairly busy, as we had expected, this is a very popular route, which means you usually meet people at locks which makes life much easier and of course you have a friendly chat as well.
After the locks we stopped near Wrenbury and I walked into the village to get some bread and this week's MCN. Another pretty, unspoiled place with a very small shop, but it provided what we wanted.
Carrying on we came across the first lift bridge we have seen for a long time and this was quickly followed by another one on the main road into the village. (see pic). One more lock, Marbury, and we started looking for a mooring. We've found a lovely spot, where, unusually, we have managed to get close into the side without grounding.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Rising in Hurleston Locks
Wednesday 18th May
After a lovely couple of days in Nantwich we set off headed for the Llangollen Canal. We decided to travel a fair way today in order to give the batteries a good charge and cook a chicken in the slow cooker.
Despite the weathermen telling us it wouldn't rain it very quickly called them a liars and started to tip it down so we decided to moor up for a while and see if it would stop. After about 20 minutes it looked a lot brighter so we set off again. 10 minuets later I noticed that the rev counter wasn't working and suspected that the alternator/water pump belt had failed. Once again moor up and investigate. Sure enough it had lunched the belt but I carry a spare so no problem. In order to get to it the Travel Power drive belt must also be removed so I decided to change this one as well because it was the wrong length. When I bought it the place I got it from couldn't supply the correct 6PK1185 belt but offer one at 1190 so I took it. Turns out that the 5mm extra length did make a difference, although the belt worked, tightening it was difficult so now the correct one is in place and is much better.
Setting off again we soon reached Hurleston Junction and turned up the Llangollen. As soon as we started the locks the rain came down again. Once started you must complete the flight so we plodded on and then stopped at the top to let it blow over. After about half and hour the sky brightened so we set off again. This canal is a change from the wide, straight Shroppie. It's much narrower, and is shallow. Hopefully our 2'6" draught will pass through, I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
We're now moored up in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by beautiful countryside.

Monday, 16 May 2011

After moving on from Audlem Sunday we only travelled a few miles looking for a spot where I could get rid of some more ballest. As I have mentioned before we are too deep in the water as a result of my putting in too much of the stuff during the build. I still don't know how it happened, but it did.
To get at the stuff I have to dismantle the bed and floor covering before I can get at the plywood main decking. Having done this I managed to remove a fair bit more of the heavy stuff. It's dry as a bone down there which is a bit of a relief because I keep thinking that it could be water causing us to be too deep. the result is a small reduction in our draught, and every little bit helps. Hopefully it will allow us to get up the Llangollen. Only time will tell.
Today we continued on to Nantwitch, a good sized town the main centre of which is about a mile from the embankment which carries the canal. there is a long staircase up from the road to the level of the canal. We will stay here tomorrow and visit the health centre to get more prescription medicines as well as doing a big provisioning at the supermarket before moving on to the Llangollen Canal on Wednesday.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

The first 11 Audlem Locks
Audlem church
The Shroppie Fly
Saturday 14th May
We got a nice early start yesterday morning with the intention of dropping 12 of the 15 Audlem Locks as far as the village of Audlem. Once again, as so often on this canal the flight is very picturesque as it flows along its straight path for the first 11 locks of the flight. Here we decided to stop and have a look at the mooring between locks 12 and 13 before moving down further. We then felt that where we were was a better bet, except for the shelf just under the water's edge which causes us to tip over slightly.
I took a wander into the village for a look and found it to be quite small but with the dominating presence of a large church on a hill at the centre of the place.
Audlem is also the home of the well know 'Shroppie Fly' public house. the title refers to the fly boats which operated along this canal. They were the express cargo boats of their day, running day and night carrying perishables and other important loads. Cath is treating me to a meal there tonight (Saturday) for my birthday. The bar in the pub is built to resemble a narrow boat.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

The Butter Cross, Market Drayton
We decided to move on today, but before we did I thought it was time I got the bike out again. I haven't been riding it because any exertion made me too out of breath but I've improved lately so I oiled up the cogs and chain and set off for town. This trip was necessitated by my silly trick of taking some pictures in town yesterday but when I got back to the boat finding I hadn't put the memory card back in. Doh!
The ride went ok so I'm looking forward to doing more riding in the future.
After that we set off for a short day, only travelling few miles and then dropping through the 5 Adderley Locks before tying up for the day.
At Adderley top lock there was a charming lady selling fresh scones, cakes and among other things some home cured bacon. I had a small cake (well it is my borthday!) and we also got some of the bacon, it looks wonderful, we hope it lives up to the promise.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Tyrley bottom Lock
We're moored up at the very pleasant little town of Market Drayton. The set of 5 locks which make up Tyrley flight are quite picturesque. Just for once we actually arrived at a place on market day. We usually get there a day late. This a great little place with everything most people would need. the town centre is about a ten minute walk from the canal, and boasts a good selection of shops, including a supermarket. Right on the market square is a small tea room serving excellent food. Cath had a black pudding and bacon salad and I had a mushroom omelet. Both were fantastic.
We haven't decided yet whether we will stay or move on tomorrow, we'll see what the morning brings.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Aqueduct over the canal
Lazy start as usual today. After breakfast we moved up to the facilities point and availed ourselves of all the amenities, water, elsan, and rubbish. The water flow was its usual slow self and you try not to feel guilty taking up the water point for a long time, but it's the same for everyone.
On our way again we still wonder at the engineering of this canal. long straight sections, with slight curves and still no locks. We travel through deep cuttings and over high embankments, all done to ease the passage of goods all those years ago. An idea of the depth of cutting can be gathered from the bridge in the picture. It's not actually a bridge but an aqueduct to take a stream across the canal.
We are now moored up at Goldstone wharf near Cheswardine and will go down through the 5 Tyrley Locks to Market Drayton tomorrow.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Norbury Junction

Monday 9th May

On Saturday we turned onto the Shropshire Union Canal heading north towards its junction with the Llangollen Canal. We've learned from looking in the canal guide that we not be able to travel the whole length of the Llangollen because we may be too deep draughted. The recommended maximum draught to get to the end is 21 inches and we are 29 at our best (low on fuel) and more usually 31 or 32. We'll have to see when we get there.

We had hoped to get to Wheaton Aston in time to catch the garage open for its cheap fuel but we got there 5 minutes late so we moved on up and found a good mooring out in the country. I then carried out an engine oil change and fuel filter change. Pumped the bottom of the fuel tank to check for sludge, found some but not too much. That night there was a cracking good thunder storm to freshen things up a bit,

Sunday we stayed put and relaxed because the garage didn't open.

Today we got up fairly early and started back to Wheaton getting there about 8.30. Unusually there was no queue for the fuel pump so we were straight in and filling up. We took nearly 300 litres which should last us nearly 2 months I hope.

Turning around again we set off intending to reach Norbury Junction in time for lunch. The bright sunshine started to cloud over around 11.00 o'clock and a sharp storm blew up as we travelled across Shelmore Embankment. I had hoped to get some descent pictures of this because it is one of the great achievements of the canal age. A massive embankment to carry the canal through the countryside without following contours or needing locks. It took a huge effort in an age when there was no machinery and to be fair it has had its troubles with leaks and collapses over the years. No pictures though because all the work is hidden by trees.

We're now moored up at Norbury for the night.

PS There's just been a terrific thunder and hail storm.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Thursday 5th May
After doing the shopping in Penkeridge we decided not to stay here but to carry on and get a mooring out in the country for tonight.
The day was slightly overcast, but with a warm wind, I believe it's coming up from Spain or somewhere nice and warm which makes a change from the cold blasts we've been having lately. The canal continues on its lazy way with the tranquillity only broken where it runs alongside the M6 for a short way. It's good to be reminded of the things we don't miss about the other world out there.
We found our calm spot for the night, but it came with a comedy moment when a group of young kids came along getting their first taste of canoeing. I think the instructors need a bravery medal.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Wednesday 4th May
Yesterday we moved on down as far as Radford Bank which is as close as you can get to Stafford town. Cath walked to Hobbycraft to get some wool to make herself a hat and later on I went into town to get few things.
Today we have carried on down the canal as far as Penkeridge. On the way saw a mother duck with 16 or 17 little ducklings, there were so many that I lost count.
Once again the sun shone and once the night cold had been dispelled it was another fine day. We stopped off at the canal side chandlery but they didn't have the spares we needed for our vacuum toilet system so I'll have to try elswhere.
We remember Penkeridge fondly as it is quite a pretty place and also provides a very good butcher, veg shop and bakery. We may well stay here tomorrow but no decision yet.

Monday, 2 May 2011

The River Trent sparking in the sunshine
Monday 1st May
Another glorious day with an almost cloudless sky. The only downside was once again the wind.
After spending a fine lazy day in Rugeley we decided to move along to the Staffs & Worcs canal and moor up on the beautiful Tixall Wide for the night.
It's bank holiday Monday and the canal is full of boats meaning there is a queue for the locks but the upside of this is you get a chance to chat with people and of course there are more hands to operate the lock.
As I mentioned before the small amount of rain the other night left the boat covered in dust so when we found the water point at Great Haywood wasn't being used we decided to stop and give the boat a bit of a wash. We can at least now see that it's meant to be blue.
After that we moved down to The Wide and moored for the night.