Left The Monty On A Soggy Wet Day

We stayed put last night as it was raining from 3pm. Today it was softly raining from early light, and continued until well after 3 pm! Typical bank holiday weather……..

We had a travel slot for today; we had to be at the Welsh Frankton locks by 12.00 noon to get up the flight, and onto the Llangollen again. Nothing for it but to push on in the rain…… Stopped off at the services arm to water up, and deposit the rubbish in the C&RT skip. The challenge is that on this arm off the Monty, there is no place to wind (turn around) the boat, the only way out is to reverse the way you came in.

Those who boat know that reversing is an art form, and when other boats are nearby they prove to be a magnet or collision hazard. As I was being observed closely from behind twitching curtains the nerves were jangling…..

Madra Mia…….without touching the sides we moved slowly backwards to the main channel, and headed off towards the lock landing to await our passage onto the Llangollen, with chest out and a sense of pride in not hitting anything or anyone!

We found others waiting in the rain, we were number 5 in the typical British queue……that’s one thing we can teach the world….how to form an orderly queue!

It was impossible to get close to the bank due to low water in the canal, so Jen held onto the centre line (in the rain) while Rusty and I maintained a management position on board!!!!!!

After some delay we moved forwards to take our turn at ascending the lock flight. The locks are fairly deep and water cascades past the gates……while the boat is at the bottom! It was great to reach the last lock and make contact with the Volunteer Lockie Chris, handling the staircase locks.


Back onto the Llangollen and heading off towards Ellesmere moorings…….Tesco’s tomorrow for provisions!

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!).

Today’s A Busy Lock Day

We moored last night at Wrenbury Church Moorings, a lovely soft evening, and we’re lucky enough to choose the right evening when the bell-ringers were practising in the church. The fish were jumping for flies, the birds were having their last song of the day, and the melodious church bells just topped the moment.

It’s become a bit of a ritual; after breakfast, and while sipping coffee, we get out the maps to plan the day.  Today we’ve got 3 lift bridges, 7 locks, and a ‘staircase’ of three locks.


Trying to line the boat up through the locks is a ‘lost cause’, no matter how careful we tried to get through the locks, it was impossible to not knock the boat.  To get past the torrent of water, the boat needs a bit of power behind it, get it wrong and the bigger the knock. Going gently doesn’t work as it’s not easy steer the boat without any power under the tiller. It’s a challenge!

The staircase lock was ‘exciting’, and we were helped by two ‘Velockies’; two volunteer lock-keepers!  Lucky for us the ‘season’ for Velockies started just a few days ago.

There’s lots of plants that I’ve never seen before…  we’re wondering what these are?

Cute little lambs everywhere you look, these cheeky chappies have managed to get on the wrong side of the fence. No matter what species, kids will be kids…

Couldn’t resist taking a pic of this glorious tree!

It’s not a good picture, though it’s to show the little ‘cupboard’ that is in the bridge.  Hundred of years ago employers of barge workers would leave messages in the cupboards for their employees. Also local traders would leave bread, milk, and other provisions in the cupboard for payment.  The only other canal that we can think where there are such bridges is on the Coventry Canal.  No doubt as time and miles go by, we’ll discover other canals with the same ‘cupboards’.

Battling The Wind

Image below is the setting of our overnight mooring. Today we’re looking forward to passing through five locks.  The wind is cool and blustery, but who cares? Not us…. she lied!

We knew it would be a challenge getting the boat into a lock without ‘kissing’ the sides, but we never took into account the water torrents (or by-wash) by the side of the locks.

Alongside each lock there’s a very fast stream, being fed from a weir above the lock.  This strong current, together with strong gusts of wind, pushes the boat away from where it’s being aimed.  There’s no way the boat’s going to glide.

Unlike other canals, the water flows in the Llangollen.  It’s believed 12 million gallons of water a day flows through the canal, and into the Hurleston Reservoir below, to provide drinking water for Cheshire.

Beautiful and ‘brave’ yellow primroses are showing Spring is here.

I’m amazed, and loving the ‘primrose show’!

A great sight to see two lovely traditional haulage barges, well turned out and brightly painted.


Catching Up On The Llangollen Canal

We’re spending this blustery sunny day moored up on the Llangollen Canal. We’ve got over 45 Mg of WiFi, which makes this a good day to catch up with blogging our adventures on NB Cyan.

We’ve had some serious ‘ticking off’ from friends, complaining that we’re not keeping the blog up to speed, and to be honest we’re missing it too because it’s our diary of where we’ve been, when we did it, and without some sort of record, it appears we loose our ‘register’!  When everyday is a new adventure, with new ground (or water) being intrepidly discovered, plus with both our failing memory recall, Cyan’s blog (our on-line diary) is a must for us.

When we first planned this trip from Trinity Marina, to Llangollen Canal Basin, starting on 13th February, we anticipated it would take 25 days…. well here we are at 26 days over plan, and we’re ‘Not There Yet’, which brings to mind the name of the boat we passed yesterday – the boat was aptly called ‘Theft of Time’!

Yesterday after leaving ‘our overnight spot’ on the Shropshire Union Canal, which was just past Overwater Marina, and before Bennets Bridge No 80, we’d decided to have a more leisurely day after the ‘marathon’ 15 locks at Audlem. Our plan was to skip down the last two locks of the Shroppie, fill up our water tank, and moor up just before Hurleston Junction, and where we turn ‘left’ onto the Llangollen Canal.

We had a brilliant cruise through Nantwich. Many boaters were sitting on their boat’s decks enjoying the welcome Spring sunshine, and quite a few were feeling energetic enough to give their boat a good polish.  On passing one of the ‘gleaming’ boats, John had to comment to the owner on his boats appearance.  The boater offered up his bottle of ‘baby oil’ he was using to polish his boat, and with a mutter he said something like “Don’t tell ‘her’ up in front”!

When we got to our planned mooring, we thought we’d be settled until the morning.  The washing line ‘twirly thing’ was set up, and charged with washing to be dried.  But that was before a boat went past, and even though it went past gently, it caused an almighty crash to our boat as it hit something near the bank.

Under CC Attribution – with thanks to Chris Jones

On inspection of our mooring, we discovered there was a sort of shelf, under the water, which was causing Cyan to crash into it.  After several boats went past, we decided to dismantle the washing drying, and cast off, with me striding out over the ‘Hurleston Rover Bridge No. 97’ to set the lock which is at the entrance to the Llangollen Canal.

We swapped lock duty when the boat was raised, and it was safe to board Cyan (and unboard her), with John on lock duty for the flight of 4 locks.

We’re now ‘sitting pretty’ on ‘Burland Visitor Moorings (North), just before Lee’s Bridge No. 4!

Fair Exchange Was Robbery!

After April 1st when her indoors felt we needed to ‘exchange’ duties, i.e. “Your turn to work the locks!”, my shoulders recovered well from the 5 locks down at Adderley that day. “Are you fit to continue?” she asked!  Yes Mam ready to go again. I should have known that there was a catch….hmmmm. Just about a mile from our overnight came the first of 15 locks in the Audlem flight! Male pride, ego, stubbornness or what, this was a challenge not to be passed over!

The sun was up as we reached the first lock which was set against us, the chamber had to be filled before we could descend to the lower level. Lots of windless twirling later we were off….. Another lock, and we came across a boater coming UP the locks….., so we now had lock chambers full, no need for windlass twirling before descending, great!

Under Bagley Lane Bridge (#76) the full extent of the Audlem flight came into view. Oh my giddy aunt!

Windlass twirling is a very sociable occupation, I met several ladies, doing ‘men’s work’, pausing for a chat, tips on best lock technique, things to observe during our planned voyage. There was an ‘Honesty Box’ half way down the flight, with free range eggs and cakes for sale. Just leave the money in the cashbox……..

I had started the day with 3 layers of clothing, but by now I was down to tee shirt and jeans. As the locks are fairly close together it is impractical to ride, so walking to the next lock is the norm…….., I didn’t realise I would be walking the mile and a half to Audlem as well as windlass twirling. It was at this point I realised the exchange of duties was robbery!

Under Audlem bridge before lock 13 there appeared a pub! The Shroppie Fly, I insisted we moor up and take some well earned refreshment, well it would be rude not too 🙂

Oh no the pub was closed?

Change of management or something, but it was securely locked on a gloriously sunny Sunday lunchtime!

Fortunately there was an alternative source of refreshment, the Bridge Inn was serving Marstons……..

Suitably refreshed we returned to CYAN and ready to take on the last 3 locks. As we were about to board a stranger approached us, enquiring about the boat, how long had we been on the network. All the usual questions boat owners like to talk about! This polite, neatly turned out gentleman (John) was from the ‘Friends of the Canal & River Trust’. It was like the moment at motorway services when the ‘AA’ man asks you ” Are you a member sir?” We were hooked!

Twenty minutes later we were signed up for a £5 monthly donation to the trust and given badges, books, leaflets and magazines. Well it is for a good cause eh……., well done John, excellent sales technique ……

The final 3 locks were accompanied by several Gongoozler moments, it was warm sunshine, a Sunday afternoon, and they were a friendly lot. One couple had just moved to Audlem and didn’t know there was a canal nearby! We discussed the history and engineering and they vowed to take out a hire boat to try boating for themselves!

Completed Audlem Locks

At last Lock 15………yes. Now for some TV footy and a relax with a can or two