What A Glorious Spring Day!

After a grey day yesterday; waking up to beautiful sunshine is such a treat.

We’ve made today’s target, which was to moor up after Platt’s Bridge (#4), and what a great place it is to moor!

Cyan is soaking up the hot sun along her broadside, the solar panels are facing the sun full on, they are on ‘warp force’ capturing all that free electricity – currently our battery pack is on ‘float’. With 100% strength and quality for  FreeSat TV, and 3 bars of 4G, we’re cool!

Coming back down the Llangollen, we’re struck at how nature has moved on in a little less than 3 weeks.  Just had to to snap the beautiful bluebell wood as we passed (while wishing I had a better camera).

Living with this as our ‘backyard’, life is good!

Off To An Early Start

We were ‘on parade’ for 9.30 a.m., washed, fed, chores done, dog walked…. and we ‘casted’ off for our new day’s adventure.

Cruising down the canal, we can’t help but bask in nature.  We passed through a wooded conservation area where there was such a cacophony of bird song.  By next year I’m hoping to have learnt to identify every bird’s song.

As mentioned, after 15 or years in Spain, we’re really enjoying the amazing burst of an English (or Welsh) Spring. I’ve been fascinated with the wild primroses, but I’m even more fascinated and delighted with the cowslips that have suddenly bloomed. It doesn’t look like cowslips are an endangered species anymore.  Perhaps the wild seeds that people have been encouraged to plant has worked.

We passed several Mr & Mrs Ducks with their broods, the ‘little uns’ comically flapping and bobbing about in the water. Their little legs can’t half make their body move.  One tiny duckling appeared to be all alone in the world as we passed, we couldn’t see where its mother or siblings had gone.  Until we saw, further down the canal, a duck with 3 ducklings.  We couldn’t help wondering if she was the ‘careless mother’?

We’ve also been enjoying the antics of the young lambs in the fields, but were sad to see two of them drowned in the canal.  I expect they fell in. Wonder if the farmer realises he’s loosing lambs?

This is Cyan descending down the staircase of 3 locks at Grindley Brook.  After the staircase lock, where we were helped by three volunteer lock-keepers, we descended down a further 3 single locks. While I was opening one of the gates, a cheeky swallow flew under the beam in a wonderful display of flight agility!  Only one swallow mind, summer’s not quite here yet.

We’re now moored up just past ‘Jackson’s Bridge (#26).  WiFi is 5 bars of 3G, which isn’t too bad.  We’ve been spoilt; while mooring at Ellesmere we were getting 55 Mpbs.

We’re hoping to make it to the top lock at Hurlesden Junction by tomorrow afternoon. That’s 7 locks, 3 lift bridges, and 11 miles. We’ve planned to go down the four locks at Hurlesden Junction, and rejoin the Shroppie on Sunday – just in time for St George’s Day! (we have ‘the’ flag to be displayed on the day!)

Planning Our Next Journey

Our cruise up and down the Llangollen Canal is almost at an end.  We’re now planing our next trip which we’ve decided is to be Marple locks, where we hope to catch up with friends.

First thing first, food….. As Tesco is right on the bank of Ellesmere wharf, packing the boat with provisions for a couple of weeks was easy.  It’s really satisfying to pass bags of grocery, from the trolley, and in through the side hatch, straight into the galley.  After food provisioning, it was a very short pootle to the waterpoint to brim Cyan’s water-tank.  Then it was another quick pootle to Blackwater Meadow Marina to brim her diesel tank.  At the marina we also picked up two more bags of smokeless fuel for the stove for cosy evenings. Our trick is try and buy just enough coal for the chilly Spring nights, before the balmy summer evenings arrive.  We’ve no desire to haul bags of coal around throughout our summer journeys.

We moored up for the evening just past ‘Hampton Bank Bridge’ (#50).  The WiFi wasn’t up to much, so we were disappointed we couldn’t use the internet much for planning our next journey.

A Fun Day

We had a great day on Wednesday (19/04/17), as we had a visit from our family. We met up at Ellesmere, and took a cruise down to the junction at the Prees Arm of the Llangollen, where we ‘winded’ Cyan, returning back to Ellesmere.

Day started with the obligatory bacon sarnie for breakfast at the tiller, then for lunch we stopped by a lovely spot where we had a picnic, followed by party cakes for the ‘Birthday Girl’ Llio, who was having her birthday the next day.

It was a fantastic day, and I heard our ‘Captain-For-The-Day’, Aled, was soon asleep in the car on the way home. Think we were all shattered too.

Thank you Ceryl, Chris, Cara, Llio and Aled for visiting, and giving us great memories of a beautiful day!

Venturing Onto The Montgomery Canal

It’s been a pretty ‘gruelling’ week as we’ve been continually on the go, and when we’ve moored up, we’ve felt shattered. Fresh air can be very tiring! It wasn’t until we cruised down from Llangollen did we realise how difficult, and hard on the engine, it was battling against the daily 12 million gallons of water flowing down the canal, and flowing against us.

We found a nice mooring, with a reasonable digital TV signal, and WiFi, and we settled down for a couple of days to catch up on chores. John was desperate to check the engine’s oil level, and clear the weeds and other possible dross that could have collected around the propeller. Luckily the engine didn’t need topping up with oil, although the weed hatch investigation discovered a knotted length of rope had wound itself around the propeller shaft.

Mother nature has decorated the old bridge’s ‘message cubby hole’ with a window box!

As we had time to spare, and were moored just around the corner from the entrance of the Montgomery, John thought it would be a great opportunity to venture down the ‘Monty’.  The Monty is in the process of being reclaimed after from being abandoned. The canal fell into disuse following a breach in 1936, and was officially abandoned in 1944. Some thirty or so years later, enthusiasts started to reclaim the canal, and work is still being continued to bring the whole canal back to life. Presently only half the canal is navigable to a boat like ours.

The canal is being heralded as a nature reserve, and only 12 boats a day are allowed to venture onto the canal. Passage onto the canal has to be booked in advance.  There are two lock-keepers in charge, and they help boats navigate two single locks, and a double lock (staircase) at the entrance to the Monty. Everyday there’s just a two hour slot (noon till 2 pm) where boats can pass through the locks.

This is us on Thursday at 11.30 a.m., waiting to be escorted down the locks.

Cyan sitting in the first lock, waiting while the lock-keepers organise boats coming up to rejoin the Llangollen.

There’s not much water on the Montgomery, so it’s important the water flow is managed.  Unfortunately, another boater on his way up wasn’t listening too well to the lock-keepers, and caused a bit of chaos as three boats (including Cyan) grounded in the lock pound.  After rocking Cyan from side to side, John managed to free her while I watched helplessly on the bank.

The canal is very quiet as you can imagine. When we approached the Aston Locks, I saw a man in the distance hopping over the lock gates towards the brick hut on the other side.  As I volunteered to do the locking, I jumped off Cyan at the ‘lock landing’, expecting to see another boat using the lock. But the man had disappeared, and there was no boat. I was a bit worried that he was hiding in the hut for some reason; the hut was derelict and had part of the roof missing.  The hairs on the back of my head were electrified, the situation was just so odd.

On the way back, I was still on lock duty, and feeling really nervous about the ‘horrible’ feeling at the lock; my antennae were sticking well out!  After Cyan got through the lock, and I had jumped back on Cyan, John looked quizzical, and wondered where the man had gone.  “What man? I didn’t see a man!” Apparently while John was busy manoeuvring Cyan, trying to stop her from getting stuck/grounding on the shallow water as she approached the lock, he saw a man, dressed in dark clothing on the towpath. I felt ill!

At the next lock, while waiting for the lock to empty, I met a lady and her dog. We had a little chat before she walked on towards the ‘spooky’ lock.  I didn’t say anything about the ‘disappearing man’, but when I was working the third lock, the lady walked back towards us, saying she turned around before the (spooky) lock.  Did she unconsciously feel uncomfortable and turned round?

What a great way to spend a Saturday morning.  Kids and adults were having a great game of water polo (?) in canoes. This looked great fun! We spoilt their fun, as obviously they had to get out of the way, and they had to slide their ‘goal nets’ out of the way for us to pass.

A historic wharf and warehouse looked in splendid condition. The image of ‘turn-around bridge’ clearly demonstrates how the horses, who pulled the barges of old, would be taken over the bridge when the towpath changed sides.

This is the other side of the bridge.

A delight to see the first sighting of bluebells!

 

 

 

 

Back Tracking Over The Aqueduct

What happened to the weather this morning?  Leaving our mooring at Llangollen Basin it felt very chilly. We thought we’d travel early as there’d be less boats to meet coming up into Llangollen, as we cruised down. There are several places, and two in particular, where the canal is so narrow that boats cannot pass each other.

The ‘Canal Authority’ recommends that one of the ‘crew’ is sent on in front to warn/stop other boats entering the ‘narrows’.  Rusty and I set off along the towpath ahead of John and Cyan, we had about a mile of walking to do.  John and I really should get our ‘act together’ as he was trying to keep me in sight, and I was on a mission trying to get ahead in front to see if anything was coming around bends.  I nearly keeled over through exhaustion.

Another cute brood of ducklings.  They were happily bobbing up and down in the water, just like corks, until we came close.  Then mother duck frantically gathered together her ducklings until we passed.  Boaters can be such a pain!

Here’s a few pics taken going back over the Aqueduct.  Pics taken by a very nervous ‘snapper’.

 

 

It’s a relief getting to the other side.  Notice the pedestrians holding onto the railing like grim death as they walked over the Aqueduct.

We noticed this bridge on our journey, it’s ancient as you can see because of the worn stone.  We’re wondering if this is a ‘turn around’ bridge for the horses?

‘Flying Experience’ Over Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

On a beautiful Spring day, with a recorded temperature of 18C, it was a perfect day to pass over the ‘The World Heritage’ Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  People from all nationalities were out and about on the Llangollen Canal.

We were delighted to see mother duck (on the edge of the bank) having a good wash and preen, while watching and guarding her new brood of ducklings.

On the way to the Aqueduct we had to venture through the Whitehouse Tunnel, tunnels are not one of my favourite experiences, there’re not Rusty’s either as he was literally quaking!

At the approach of the Aqueduct was an enterprising narrowboat selling ice-cream and sweeties.

Here’s a little YouTube about this fabulous Aqueduct.

We videoed (by our Panasonic camera) our crossing, but unfortunately as yet, we’ve not been able to convert the .TDT file into a format that YouTube accepts. Because I had my hands full with the camera, and John grasping the tiller tightly, we didn’t take any still pics. Promise though to take some on our way back over.

The Llangollen Canal is very high up on a ridge.  We were amazed to find that we are actually travelling up hill! Apparently defying the law of physics. The ‘illusion’ is because daily 12 million gallons of water flowing from the River Dee into Hurleston Reservoir, travelling down the Llangollen Canal.

 

Approaching our destination at the Llangollen Basin where we will be mooring for the night, there’s a lovely tea shop where you can have a ride on a canal boat journey that is powered by a horse.  The ‘horse powered’ boat continues on the canal, powered boats are forbidden on that part of canal.

Surreal Feeling Of Defying Gravity

We spent last night at a lovely spot just outside Chirk Marina, and with over 50 Mg of WiFi. It was a glorious Spring day yesterday with temperatures around 18C.  The evening was soft, and all three of us sat outside listening to the hedgehogs shuffling through the undergrowth of a hedge.

The day started early, and we must have cruised for 7 hours, stopping only once for a brunch.  We had two locks to manoeuvre, meeting hire boats descending on each lock.  Both boat parties were full of bounce and obviously enjoying their experience.  Etiquete has it that when you leave the lock, all paddles are down and gates shut. Unfortunately the first party thought they set the paddles down, but unfortunately not all the way, resulting is the lock taking an age to fill up, until we realised! Happy holiday makers is going to be a ‘happy’ learning curve.

At the second lock, it was the hire boat’s party’s first lock experience. I was greeted with a panic stricken mother who was worried they was holding us up.  She was soon reassured that no one rushes about on the canal system, and that when their boat is in the lock, they own the lock!  There was another excited little person in that party, he was about 5, and couldn’t wait to gush that “Granny had fallen in the canal!” Poor Granny, on her first day, at 8 a.m. that morning, had managed to be a ‘woman overboard’!

Canal holiday makers have added a whole new dimension to life on the canal, one that looks like a lot of fun!

The scenery looks beautiful and serene, but little did we realise we’re quickly approaching Chirk Aqueduct and Tunnel!

The thought did pass our minds; what would happen if ever the canal breached here!  Amazing views right over the valley.

The Chirk Aqueduct crept up on us quickly.  Problem: We had attempted to moor up for the day at a visitor’s mooring, only to find the ‘mooring rings’ set into the concrete towpath were too far apart, it meant our mooring ropes would have to stretch several yards at each end of the boat.  We aborted the mooring, in favour of another visitor’s mooring area a little further on, but rather lazily we left two fenders hanging from the boat in readiness for  the nearby mooring.  The mooring we had in mind was in a dip, and experience has taught us that’s not good for WiFi nor TV reception, so we pootled on to what we thought was another nearby mooring.  Wrong… straight in front of us was the aqueduct, and we had our fenders out!  No worries, we’re ‘big, brave boaters’ now, and the fenders were quickly retrieved.

Chirk Aqueduct is a 70 ft (21 metres) high and 710-foot long that stretches across the Ceiriog Valley.  The Aqueduct was started in 1796, and it opened in 1801!

This is all good training as we’re venturing across the  Pontcysyllte Aqueduct today, which is 38 metres high!

The ‘bridge’ above carries the railway.

Only one boat at time can use the Aqueduct for obvious reasons – yet that didn’t appear to deter a hire boat attempting to come towards, venturing to ‘share’ the Aqueduct with us.  A quick blast of our horn ‘woke’ the happy holiday makers from their mistake.

Straight from the Aqueduct, there’s the Tunnel!  At 421 metres long, I was very pleased when we passed through it. Not before yet another ‘happy hire boat’ tried to join coming in the opposite direction.  In the tunnel we met two single cyclists on the towpath….. how could they venture in there alone?  Gives me collie-wobbles to even think of it!

Shopping In Tesco

Last night we moored up at Duddleston’s Bridge Visitor Moorings, and were horrified to find the area had less than 1/4 Mg wifi!

Today we aimed to go through 3 lift bridges, on our way to Ellesmere Wharf Visitor Moorings.  Luckily we discovered the wharf has a Tesco store!  We’ve not really shopped for 3 weeks, apart from the odd local store for a loaf, milk, and fruit.

As luck would have it, we followed 2 boats through the 3 lift bridges. We soon developed a ‘system’ where a person from the first boat opened the bridge, and waited for the 3 boats to pass under; we sort of played ‘leapfrog’, and we all got a ‘turn’ of opening a bridge.

What a beautiful cruise today, for miles both sides of the canal was a nature reserve! John got excited by a forked tailed bird with yellow flashes, think we’ve identified it as a yellow wagtail.

It’s a bit odd though, we’ve noticed there’s hardly any ducks and moorhens on the water.  Because fresh water is running through Llangollen Canal, the water is very clean. Comparing this canal to areas of the Coventry Canal where there’s a lot of detritus in parts, yet the population of ducks, swans and other waterfowl there is abundant.

Here’s another one of those bridges with a cubbyhole, though without the door.  The bridge was ‘pretty’ with patches of dandelions growing between the brickwork.

Our cupboards are now fully provisioned thanks to Tesco. Tomorrow we hear is going to be a glorious day, so we’ll be up early as we make our way to Chirk (I think!).