Monday, 9 July 2018

6-8 July 2018: Northwards from Nantwich to Chester

Friday 6 July 2018: Nantwich (1 mile, 0 locks)
We have had a few days in Cardiff, supporting our daughter Jo, who was being interviewed for a Consultant Anaesthetist job. Sadly, she didn't get it, but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger! She was told that her interview was very good by one panellist, so as biased parents we figure they were frightened by her brilliance! She has great plans for the next year, so go for it, Joanna!
We had a difficult four hour journey back to Annie at Nantwich, so filled up with food and drink at Morrisons, before moving Annie towards the car, loading up at the aqueduct, and moving just out of town for a sunny evening watching Belgium beat Brazil in the World Cup: What a game!

Saturday 7 July 2018: Nantwich to Bunbury Iron Lock (7 miles, 4 locks)
John reversed to the nearby winding hold and winded, before idling past all the moored boats, over Nantwich Aqueduct, past Nantwich Marina and Nantwich & Border Counties Yachting Club through sunburnt countryside to Barbridge Junction. Lambs were quenching their thirst in the canal. There seemed to be a few dodgy steerers around this morning: four elderly ladies sharing the tiller, were keeping to the left, and John had to stop and reverse for them; two boats came out 30 yards in front of us, causing more manoeuvring. One let us past, eventually, not that we were in a hurry. At Bunbury double staircase Locks, the two volunteers had us go down with another boat and cross over with a third, which we have never done before!As the chambers levelled, we were shuffled!: One boat moved forward into the bottom lock (beside the boat coming up), we moved sideways to take their place, while the third coming up moved forward into Annie's old position. Interesting!
We moved gently to Tilstone Lock and Beeston Stone Lock, taking our time in the strong sun. As we couldn't get a tv signal for the England v Sweden soccer match, we moved on to just above Beeston Iron Lock, where Liana met a particularly idle young man: He and his young lady sat beside their boat moored on the lower lock landing, and didn't help with the boat going down ahead of us. When Liana started to close the bottom gates before filling it, he shouted that they were coming up, and could she shut the gates once he was in, as he was single handed! Odd, as his lady was present. When Liana did, he stayed on his boat and asked her to do the lock for them! Liana returned to Annie, in disgust, to find I had got a tv signal, so we reversed off the lock moorings, moored and sorted the tv for the England v Sweden World Cup match. When the young man and his companion left the lock, they left the top gates open, so John pointed out the error of his ways to the young man, politely. Luckily, there are not too many boaters like that.
What a great England performance! England 2 Sweden 0, a well deserved victory :)
We decided to chill and watch the Russia v Croatia match, too. This World Cup has been really good.

Sunday 8 July: Bunbury to Christleton near Chester (8 miles, 2 locks)
Up in the relative cool of the morning, we shared Bunbury iron lock, to see if we could fit: Although it recommends one boat at a time, we fitted with inches to spare. There are horizontal projections and the lock probably narrows as you go down, but we were ok. Liana let the water out slowly, just in case! On the left you pass a huge artificial hill, once a World War II secret fuel store. Now, small  concrete doorways hint at the complex below. One more lock together, then miles of flat countryside to the outskirts of Chester. Beeston castle stands proudly on a high hill as you pass. Two miles of moored boats alongside a farmer's fields seemed excessive to us: Maybe there should be a maximum length before people have to build a marina so boats are moored offline? Also, there is clearly little regulation of boats moored in this way: Liana counted 52 out of 104 boats not displaying current CRT licenses, which must cost CRT tens of thousands of pounds lost. At our boat club, we all have to have current licenses, bought through the club, which gets 5% of the fee. CRT maybe should extend this, rather than trying to remove it, as 95% is much better than 50%, making the farmer take some responsibility in return for the income!
We moored by the Cheshire Cat pub in Christleton, a mile or two before Chester, as advised by local boaters, and enjoyed a Sunday roast.
We decided to collect the car from Nantwich, so caught the hourly 84 bus (from Chester to Nantwich and Crewe) at Littleton, the next village to Christleton, on the A51 road. The nearly 2 mile walk probably did us good!

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

28 June - 1 July: Concluding our Llangollen Canal sojourn

Thursday 28 June: Ellesmere to country moorings near bridge 38 before Whitchurch (11 miles, 0 locks, 2 lift bridges)
We slept in, getting off about 1000, reversing out of the arm.
Ellesmere Tunnel

Lutra is Otter in Latin!
This stretch of canal is very pretty, particularly around the meres. The Lyneal Trust have three new boats for handicapped folk, Shropshire Lady, Lass and Maid. Bettisford Boats, the scrapyard near the Prees Branch and farm shop had all gone. We dawdled along in the sun until shade, red wine, reading and World Cup called at country moorings. Another lovely day!
Liana sunning herself at mooring by bridge 3 Llangollen Canal
England's reserves lost 1-0 to Belgium's reserves, but it may not be a bad thing, looking at the draw :)


Friday 29 June: Whitchurch to Wrenbury (9 miles, 10 locks, 5 swing bridges)
Our shady country mooring between bridges 38 and 37 was lovely. Blue skies mean cool air in the early morning. John made himself a full English breakfast after being woken at 0700 by a boat! Liana was tempted up by tea, eventually, so we set off about 0800 for Whitchurch, sharing lift bridge work with hireboaters returning their boat to the Whitchurch ABC base. Poor Liana banged her head on one of them. At the triple staircase locks we were third in the queue, and emptied loo holding tanks plus rubbish. The volunteer got us down quickly, as no one arrived to come up. Tea was welcome after Quoisley lock. We nearly had a head on collision at blind bend bridge 25: John gave a long honk, heard no reply, so continued, only to see a boat appear: Cue lots of reversing!! We managed to avoid a bump. The two experienced boaters (they said) hadn't sounded their horn or responded to ours …. ah well, these things happen! There were plenty of cheerful and helpful boaters to chat to as we passed through ten locks and lift bridges to shady moorings after Wrenbury lift bridge. Liana guided us to the Cotton Arms for drinks. Well done, that woman! We found we could return to the boat via the caravan park behind it. Shade, reading and red wine seemed sensible :)
Walkers recommended the pies at the Dusty Miller pub by the swing bridge, so guess where we are now! Happy days!


Saturday 30 June 2018: Wrenbury to Hurleston (6 miles, 9 locks, 1 lift bridge)

It's a lovely stretch of countryside between Wrenbury and Hurleston, particularly in the sunshine. We didn't rush, taking care on blind bends and bridgeholes on corners, which was a good job as we met a number of boats at these places! The offside is overgrown in places, making the canal narrow. We chatted to boaters at many of the three Baddiley and two Swanley locks, then moored up for diesel at Swanley Marina. We got only 50 litres, as it was 86p at 0%. The friendly shop staff have souvenirs and limited boater stuff, including fenders, windlasses and mooring pins, as you might expect. You can pump out, too. We got water above the Hurleston locks, but the services were otherwise out of order. Strangely, there were no lock keepers at Hurleston locks, a first. The boat ahead of us left bottom gates open, shouting that they were crossing over with someone: Not for three locks, I think!! Annie had to wait, plus the boats behind. Oh yes, in the third lock, John opened the offside bottom gate twice (Liana was helping at the bottom lock) but it closed each time he returned to Annie :/ , so he couldn't leave the lock until the good folk behind arrived! The good news was that the Baked on Board pizza boat was moored at the bottom, so we moored round the corner for the night and had really nice oven-baked pizzas from the friendly fellows who run it. Yum! We had to eat and sit in the shade, it was so hot!


Sunday 1 July 2018: to Nantwich and getting the car (2 miles, 0 locks)

Another glorious day saw us travel the two miles into Nantwich in the morning sun. There was a constant procession of boats passing us, heading to Hurleston – over twenty in that short distance! Mooring opposite the Nantwich Marina Wharf, we decided to leave Annie and catch the train to Rugeley Trent Valley station via Crewe, using our “Two travel Together” railcard. You walk about 1.5 miles through town to the station, which was good for us. Station Adopter volunteers were planting and watering in flowers as we waited, doing a good job. As the ticket machine was broken, we paid £22 on the train, which seemed fine, especially as trainline said it would be £16.50 each! At Rugeley, we walked the mile to the car, which was fine, thankfully. We filled up with diesel,127p now :( ,and checked the tyres, which was a good job, as they were low. Driving the car the 44 miles back to Nantwich was a pleasant change!
There is a layby to leave cars close by the Nantwich Aqueduct. We had another tasty pizza each from the “Baked on Board” pizza boat moored next to us. They have a half ton pizza oven under the cratch, a sight to behold: It looks like a giant egg! If you see them, try one! (Baked on Board wood fired pizza 07919 374233 bakedonboard@yahoo.com)
We watched +1 tv to catch Lewis Hamilton's engine going pop at the Austrian GP. Later, We were astonished to watch Russia knock out Spain in the World Cup – it went to penalties, as did the Croatia Denmark match later. Croatia will play Russia in the Quarter Finals!



Friday, 29 June 2018

25-27 June: Montgomery Canal Interlude

Monday 25 June 2018: Ellesmere to the Montgomery Canal(6.5 miles, 5 locks)
What gorgeous days we are having! As we were moored just inside Ellesmere arm, John backed carefully out, avoiding passing boats and others using the services opposite. The three miles to Frankton passed slowly but pleasantly. We kept meeting oncoming narrowboats at sharp corners and bridgeholes, so John had to keep on his toes! Liana sat at the front to keep watch.

Reaching Frankton Junction, John turned and moored briefly before being asked to enter the top lock of the staircase pair. Unusually, Liana and the volunteer lock keepers couldn't open the bottom gates, so Annie remained in the top chamber for ten minutes, until the keepers realised they needed to let down water. The lock keepers had not prepared the locks before use with boats: They had not filled the two pounds above the two single locks below the staircase pair. They had not ensured the bottom lock of the staircase pair was filled to the correct low level, ready for the water from the top lock to fill it when Annie descended. The mile long pound between these locks and the Graham Palmer lock was also about 20cm low. Unfortunately, things went from bad to worse: Once Annie entered the bottom chamber, descended and emerged into thepound below, which was nearly 45cm low, the lock keepers had allowed boats to ascend the two single locks, emptying the pounds above further. Annie became stuck across the pound as one boat came up and took a lock full of water. A second boat descended the staircase pair, remaining in the bottom chamber, whose water raised the level in the pound slightly. However, to fill the lower of the two pounds, the senior volunteer lock keeper ordered the boaters to open both bottom paddles fully for the lock below the staircase pair, with the boat in the lock, the top gates open and Annie stuck across the pound. Water rushed from the pound, emptying it rapidly! John shouted loudly (three times!) for them to close the bottom paddles, which they did, eventually, after he made a prolonged blast on the horn. Apart from the danger in emptying a pound between two locks, with a boat in each lock and one stuck across the pound, opening both bottom paddles could (and should) have caused that open top lock gate to slam shut, with its balance arm perhaps hitting bystanders or boaters. Opening one paddle half way in top and bottom gates, with all gates closed, would be a safer way of letting water through a lock to the pound below. Liana said she could see the bottom of Annie, the pound was that low. John shouted for the lock keeper to let down more water to fill the pound below the staircase locks, but he refused, saying to Liana that he could not let down more boats: Liana tried to explain that he needed to let down water, not boats, but he had become upset and would not listen, and just walked away. After a number of minutes, water began to fill the pound, thankfully, Annie floated, the boat could pass and let Annie into the single lock, and life could continue! The lady assistant volunteer lock keeper said to Liana “the first boat of the day is always like this!”. I have the greatest regard for our CRT volunteers, and this is the first and only time we have had a serious problem: I believe that in training volunteers to operate Frankton locks, it seems that CRT trainers have not explained the need to prepare all the locks and pounds for use, before boats enter any lock. Enough said.

After the stress, we moored at the services, emptied holding tanks, watered and had lunch. There are rubbish bins in the car park. The three miles to Queen's Head, over Perry Aqueduct and past old arm and bridges at Heath Houses, is fairly overgrown and rural. We enjoyed a drink in the cool of the pub bar, before sitting in the shade of trees at the nearby visitor moorings, reading in the evening sun, accompanied by glasses of red wine! :)



Tuesday 26 June 2018:Mongomery Canal: Queen's Head to Maesbury Marsh (3 locks, 3 miles)
The road noise is noticeable at the moorings close by the Queen's Head pub, but not horrendous. We used the council rubbish bins in the car park opposite the pub. John checked oil and we set off in glorious sunshine to Aston top lock, half a mile away. The three locks are about 500 yards apart. Only the middle one has a footbridge for the lockwheeler, sadly. Land & Water diggers were busy making the ponds parallel to the canal, creating nature reserves alongside, fed from the canal. We saw plenty of joggers and dog walkers. The canal itself is rather overgrown hereabouts, so John amused himself snapping off low bits of vegetation. Reaching Maesbury Marsh, there are several mooring spots: opposite the bone mil before bridge 79 and the Services just after;utside Canal Central, after bridge 80; and a hundred yards further on. You can't moor near the lift bridge, which Liana found faulty and difficult to raise: She had to keep stopping and starting, which took longer. John passed through, winded Annie 250 yards away at Gronwen Wharf and returned to moor outside Canal Central, which was closed, to our disappointment. We had a nice salad lunch on board Annie, then wrote / typed our diary and blog in the shade. Later, as the day cooled, we walked up the canal to Crickheath Wharf, the next target for renovation.
walking past Gronwen Wharf and winding hole towards Crickheath


Bridge 82 is in water after Gronwen Wharf, but you can't wind
lift bridge 82A withloads of  big fish

Bridge 83 is in water but blocked
water ends at Bridge 84, but you can see the work progressing just beyond

looking back at bridge 84, showing the new lining work

Wednesday 27 June: leaving the Montgomery Canal,  Maesbury to Frankton and Ellesmere (11 miles, 8 locks)
Liana was up first for a change. We set off in the cool of the morning, and soon reached Aston locks, which were set against us. Past Queen's Head and Heath Houses, the canal is overgrown and shady to Graham Palmer lock. Above this the pound was very low, -350mm (14 inches old money) on the measure near the services, so we had to approach the locks slowly, keeping in the middle, but still grounded. However, a fellow boater came down and explained that the lock keeper was letting down extra lock fulls to fill the intermediate lock pounds and keep them full. Each time water was released from the bottom lock, we could edge closer and moor. While we had to wait, communication was good, and we knew that the lock keeper was doing all the right things, which was wonderful after our difficult experience coming down on Monday. Well done, this lock keeper!
Our trip to Ellesmere was uneventful but pretty. Coffee at the Cherry Tree tea shop, Tescos and World Cup completed the day. Oops, forgot to say that Germany were knocked out of the World Cup by South Korea!

Sunday, 24 June 2018

21-24 June: Llangollen and its Railway, and homeward bound to Ellesmere


21 June 2018: Chuffer Trains at Llangollen!

After catching up on this blog, we bought a Rover train ticket (£16 for over 60s), so we could go up and down the 10 mile train line twice, if we wished. We caught the 1040 train. The line goes past sidings to Berwyn station, high above the River Dee and the refurbished Chain Bridge across it; then through the 689 yard tunnel to Glyndyfrdwy and Carrog stations, with lovely views of the upper Dee valley; and finally to the temporay halt before Corwen, where the town station will be ready in 2019. We watched the engine move to the other end of the train at Carrog, which has a tea room and bookstall, then returned to Llangollen for lunch. Catching the second 1300 train, we repeated our trip: John bought a book and we descended at Berwyn, crossed the Chain Bridge and walked home along the feeder canal.
Liana and Annie in Llangollen Moorings basin

we have always found space in Llangollen Moorings

Llangollen Station with James Martin filming on right

Steam train at Llangollen

For £6 a night, the basin at Llangollen is a haven of sunny peace: We have always found plenty of empty pontoons to moor on, and there is electricity if you need it (solar smugness creeping in here – we haven't had to run the engine for electricity, so far, since installing the panels). I spoke too soon! We had to run the engine to charge the batteries: electric kettle, microwave, fridge and not moving for a day or so proved too much for the solar panels alone!



22 June 2018: Llangollen to Chirk Bank

Boats were comig into the basin to wind and depart from 0745, and it was lovely and sunny, so we breakfasted and set out, ourselves, hoping to find little traffic coming the other way, this early. Liana walked through the various narrows before Sun Trevor, following a hireboat. We passed oncoming boats nearing Trevor, where the basin was full of boats. We turned and passed over the aqueduct, followed by a dayboat. Thankfully, it was sunny and the wind was not too strong, this time! Reaching Froncysyllte, Liana operated the bridge for both boats, and we carried on, trying to see the elusive railway viaduct through the trees. Following two boats, we found NB Dreadnought adrift, so paused and put their pins in again for them (first time this trip). At Whitehouses Tunnel, we had to wait for hotel boats Duke & Duchess to come through – John could see them silhouetted, legging the butty to keep it in position. Past Chirk Marina, we moored in the cutting below Chirk Station, before the tunnel, and walked 1 ¾ miles to Chirk Castle along the asphalt road, past parkland filled with sheep and cattle enjoying the shade of mature trees. Eventually, we found the castle, which has wonderful views, and as National Trust members found the interior well worth a visit: Loads of pictures, information, period furniture,etc. We liked laundry room and gardens, where scented roses were lovely. We walked back to the boat, finding our way across sheep fields on a public footpath. The folks on NB Dreadnought thanked us for tying up their boat earlier. Once through Chirk Tunnel, we had to wait for a hesitant boat to come across the aqueduct, before both boats could continue. Once on Chirk Bank, we moored above the Bridge Inn and John watched the World Cup, while Liana caught up with news of the family using her mobile.



23 June 2018: Chirk Bank to Frankton and Ellesmere

John awoke early, before 0600, so avoided making noise, had a fruit bun with cheese and walked past the Bridge Inn, finding an amusing sign.
Seeing a public footpath, he walked through the sheep field, beside the river Ceiriog, under the aqueduct and viaduct, seeing two young foxes scampering across the grass in the morning sun. Retracing his steps, he went back to bed! Up late, we set off past the Poacher's Inn and Lion Quays, where we have never seen boats moored, passing several hireboats. Reaching New Martin, we were third in the queue for the locks, so took our time and chatted to the other boaters in the sun. Two fenders for £16 at the top lock, if you need some. Quite a few boats were moored for lunch as we passed the Jack Mytton pub and Narrow Boat Inn, where there are permanent moorings, too. We paused for lunch at Frankton. The view between bridges 66 and 65 is lovely, with sheep and short grass adding to the spectacle.
At Ellesmere, we used the services before mooring in the arm. Liana shopped. Germany scored in the last seconds of extra time to avoid being knocked out of the World Cup. The Swedes were devastated.

24 June 2018: Ellesmere on a sunny Sunday
The weather is set fair, this coming week, we hear. Lots of dog walkers and breakfasting boaters in the sunshine. Church bells sound tuneful, ringing call changes. We find a café open with wifi, so John finally gets the blog updated, without pictures. All in good time!





15 - 20 June: up the Llangollen Canal to Llangollen

Friday June 15: along the Llangollen canal to below Grindley Brook locks (11 miles, 7 locks)
The ledge meant we were moored away from the side. We managed. It was a lovely morning for cruising. Past Swanley marina and the two locks, then Baddiley 3 Locks to Wrenbury Mill, where the lift bridge is electrified, by the Dusty Miller pub.
we passed Whitsunday Pie, named after the Chesterfield Canal Lock

Wrenbury electric lift bridge

Marbury and Quoisley Locks passed, then we reached Willey Moor Lock, where the pub is reached by a pedestrian bridge over the canal, and folk sipped their beers in the sun. Once through Povey's Lock, we moored up before the tunnel below Grindley Brook locks, and (you guessed it) watched the World Cup.
approaching Willey Moor lock

Saturday June 16: up Grindley Locks to the Whitchurch Chemistry Arm (2 miles, 6 locks)
It was a very wet night. Once the rain stopped, we set off, but a boat behind had sent crew ahead, so we deferred to them. John let their boat pass, waiting by the new piling before the tunnel, while Liana visited the local shop for bread. Boats coming down the single locks made the job easier. When Liana reached the triple staircase locks, the boat ahead had not told the lock keeper that we were following, so he had set the locks for a boat to descend …. ah, well!
tunnel below Grindley Brook locks




triple staircase locks

emerging from the top lock at Grindley Brook
We waited and chatted to folk around the lock, which was fun. It was chaos at the top, with two boats waiting, one moored, one getting water, plus a hireboat across the canal, presumably overwhelmed with the number of boats!
Once through the lift bridge by the Chemistry Arm at Whitchurch, Liana operated the bridge and walked down the arm, while the very sharp left turn meant that John had to wind Annie 200 yards up the canal, then entered the arm, winded again, and moored.
The walk into town is different, now: we used to go down the valley through woodland, but now there is more housing near the top and near the bottom. They have decided not to build an inclined plane down to a canal basin lower down nearer the town, but to build a simple basin close to the present terminus of the Chemistry Arm. Cheaper, and more houses, we guess. We shopped in Whitchurch, then caught the 205 bus from Tescos and asked for “Chemistry”, which means you go through the town and get off very close to the moorings :) We had a nice chat on the bus to locals :)


17 June 2018: Whitchurch Chemistry Arm to Preece Branch (0 locks, 7 lift bridges)
Because there were so many boats, Liana only operated half the seven lift bridges we passed under. Thank you! The countryside is quite isolated, here, pretty with sheep, cattle, wheat and barley in the fields. Some of the houses along here are beautiful. We decided to stop close by Whixall Marina, have a walk and watch the football later.
Mooring at the very end, opposite the marina, we made a beeline for the “linear nature reserve” which is the next mile of the non-navigable Preece Branch. The shady towpath walk alongside a partly grown up canal is scented with woodland honeysuckle, yellow and white. We thought there must be some weed clearance, as there is a slow flow which avoids stagnancy. Pearson's Guide mentions three miles, with wharves at hamlets of Waterloo and Edstanston. Reaching Waterloo, the towpath was no longer clear of high nettles, so we walked towards Edstanston along a pretty, narrow lane, reaching the Buzzy Bee Nursery, welcoming and open for plants, a short canal walk, a pretty garden with fancy chickens and both sweet and savoury cream teas. Yes, we did! John's cheesy savoury spongey “scone” was delicious with home made apple chutney. Liana's jam and cream scone was good, too. The canal walk included a barely seen, overgrown Waterloo basin.
Reading, tea and World Cup concluded the day: Switzerland drew with Brazil!

18 June 2018: Preece Branch to Ellesmere
Happy Birthday, big sis Elizabeth!!
Windy and overcast today, we have been moored on the tow path opposite Whixall Marina, which has been improved a lot in the last few years, since our last visit. You get some good views across the fields to the distant hills, here. As Pearson's Guide states, there are loads of fields of maize here, grown for fuel, maybe? We're passing through peat bogs hereabouts, like Whixall Moss. Bettisford is a pleasant spot to water up, but we decided to wait until the services at Ellesmere.
Colemere has a walk around it, but is hidden by trees until you reach a couple of chalets. Blakemere is a scenic place to moor. Through Ellesmere Tunnel, you see sculptures and the Marina before reaching the junction with the Town Arm. We had a good chat with boaters in the sun at the services, as we needed lots of water, rubbish to remove and John had six loo cassettes to empty. Ellesmere was busy with boats coming and going, but we managed to nip into a space near the arm end, to visit Tesco and the town, plus watch more football!
Whixall Marina, Preece Branch

sign at Preece Branch junction

passing Lyneal Wharf
Germany were beaten by a keen, fast, pressing Mexico team!

19 June 2018: Ellesmere to Chirk
We walked into town to try the Tuesday Market in Ellesmere market hall, but it was only a few stalls. John got a hand rivetter to replace a cratch stud. The helpful computer shop on the corner near the canal arm kindly printed off a condolence letter for our good friend Dorothy, newly widowed, sadly, as she does not use email.
John reversed out of the arm, as we were near the end. The cattle and sheep were perhaps more sensible than us, as many were sheltering from the very light drizzle under trees – a bit wimpish, actually! We passed lots of private and hire boats, many at bridge holes and on corners. The countryside was largely green fields, with maturing oil seed rape, wheat and barley. Bridge 61 cleaned the boat bottom off, it was so shallow. A narrowboat pulled out in front of us, as we appeared round a corner (no blame!) , so we followed them to Frankton, where they turned off. After Frankton, we pulled to the right before Bridge 3W, to allow a boat through, and got stuck on a sand bank. John managed to use the engine to get us off, before a pole was needed. Whittington Wharf has red hire boats now, and charges for emptying cassettes, we noticed. We met boats at the New Marton Locks. The nice lady at the top lock house (who sells fenders and bits & pieces) helped us. We paused for lunch and the Colombia-Japan World Cup match near the two water points close by the top lock. We moored on Chirk Bank, above the Bridge Inn. John phoned sister Elizabeth, before her birthday, and was pleased that she and Mike were feeling good, after their health problems. We had a good chat with some experienced hireboaters: Many hirers do so regularly, we find, and are very careful and competent. We bought a good quiz from a local lady raising money from boaters each day on Chirk Bank, for a hospice charity. More than five hireboats arrived late, travelling our way – busy tomorrow!

20 June 2018: Chirk to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Llangollen
Setting off in a queue of boats, we motored along Chirk Bank to the famous Chirk Aqueduct, in the shadow of an even higher railway viaduct. The view of the Ceiriog valley through the viaduct arches is impressive. Chirk Tunnel is 495 yards long, but felt longer today with a strong current flowing against us.
Chirk Aqueduct
Through the long cutting the sun peered through. We didn't smell the nice tang of chocolate in the air, though …
Chirk Marina is large and full of boats. They charged for cassettes, too. £3 for a loo flush? Annie had to grind through Whitehouses Tunnel, against the flow, into the Dee valley. John had to pass boats with care, with the sharp bends, narrows and lots of bridges around here. It was hard to see the railway viaduct and aqueduct through the trees as we approached the Froncysyllte lift bridge, which fellow boaters operated for us: Thank you. Following other boats onto the world famoous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the wind was roaring past us, gale force!
on Pontcysyllte Aqueduct
John tried to video, but had to put his camera down. The planters all moved and some toppled over, so Liana popped forward on the path and turned them end on to the wind, helped by a passerby! Must water them next time, to make sure they are heavier! John turned into the narrow bridge hole towards Llangollen, impressing a photographer. With the strong wind and current in our faces, we were thankful that we passed only a few boats on the way to Llangollen. Liana hopped off at the several narrows to check the way was clear.

view towards Llangollen

narrows meant Liana walked ahead

scenic view at Llangollen

Liana chatting with holidaymakers as we pass Llangollen Wharf

entering Llangollen Moorings
Strangely, the moorings approaching the town were almost full, while the marina had plenty of spaces. It costs £6 per night (must leave by 5pm) in both places. John reversed onto a pontoon, against the wind, and we visited the town before settling in for tea and tv as the weather cooled.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

10-14 June 2018: Up the Shropshire Union Canal to Audlem and Hurleston

Sunday 10 June: Coven to Autherley Junction and the Shroppie (12 miles, 2 locks)
Sunshine again! After superb kippers and toast for breakfast, we set off into the flow of boats heading southwards. We didn't need to dawdle or go fast, as turns, bridge holes and the narrow sections around Pendeford Rockin' (maybe ten feet wide with passing places) slowed folk down.

Autherly Junction, turn right for the Shroppie

we chatted to Lincoln folk at the 21 inch stop lock at Autherly Junction

Wolverhampton Boat Club
Hard red sandstone meant Brindley's navvies dug the minimum width here. The three miles to Autherley Junction passed pleasantly. We had to wait at the junction for a boat to come out of the stop lock. As John made a very tight turn into the bridge hole for the Shroppie stop lock, a boat travelling North didn't slow down much or try to avoid us, so John zoomed around the corner! Thanks, mate! Boat hirers were being trained in locking by the Napton Narrowboats staff, and John chatted to a gentleman from Welton, near our home, who had been taught by our good friend Karen Lamming: Small world.
Once on the Shroppie, things quietened down. We passed Wolverhampton Boat Club, where members were having a work day. Through narrows with stop gates, we approached the section with embankments (once called “rockings”), cuttings (“valleys”) and narrows. Two nice looking narrowboats (ex-Challenger, maybe) set off 100m in front of us, unfortunately. John just took his time, a good thing when they had to stop quickly at bridge holes, twice! Each time, we reached them as they set off again, tortoise and hare-like. The sun blazed down as we passed Chillington Wharf and shady cuttings to the beautiful view on the embankment before Brewood. Stopping at the Brewood visitor moorings, we enjoyed a walk around the village, which has three pubs, plenty of shops, plus a large church with magnificent Giffard family tombs, two fonts and eight large bells to ring. We had a tasty Sunday lunch at the Bridge Inn before setting off the three miles to the busy Wheaton Aston Lock, where we chatted to boaters and canoeists.  The Stretton Aqueduct needs some TLC, grass cutting and painting. We saw Phyllis May, of Narrowdog fame, at Stretton Wharf,
Annie on Stretton Aqueduct

Stretton Aqueduct needed TLC

Phyllis May
A mile north, we moored on the long high embankment to enjoy red wine and the afternoon sun. That Shroppie ledge meant the boat was 80cm from the bank, so mooring pins and plank were needed. What a gorgeous, hot day!
Wheaton Aston Lock

we saw the Red Arrows - can you? :P

On tv, we stayed up and watched an entertaining charity Socceraid match. Neil from Inbetweeners scored the winning penalty after 3-3 at full time! The Canadian GP highlights was the usual boring procession, sadly: Isle of Man TT, and Formulas 3 and E are better spectacles, these days.

Monday June 11: Northwards on the Shroppie to Tyrley Wharf (18 miles, 0 locks)
Good news: Nephew Carson and sons are spending a few days with us on Annie from the end of July :)
Up late, John finished the kipper and blogged, then we set off in the sunshine (again!), through Rye Hill Cutting, Little Onn, Lord Talbot's Wharf to Cowley Tunnel and Gnosall Heath. There were lots of boats going both ways in the bright sunshine – what a gorgeous day!
watering up at Norbury Junction






We got water and used the Elsan and rubbish skips at Norwood Junction, colourful and busy in the sun. John visited the decent chandlery to get a brass vent, needed to cover a hole to be cut when fitting hidden plastic conduit pipe for the solar cables and their battery connections. Moving from the services, we had a light lunch nearby.
The wind got stronger on the high Shelmore and Shebden embankments, while the deep cuttings were shady and rather overgrown on the off side – we had to stop in a wider bit to allow one boat through on the very deep Grub Street Cutting, where that telegraph pole still dominates the double arch high bridge 39. John had a call from solar panel sellers while driving!
the isolated Anchor Inn

Knighton canal warehouse
We had forgotten how many long term moorings there are on this long pound, at Norbury, near the Anchor pub and Shebdon, plus around Little Soudley and Goldstone Wharf. We just relaxed, passed slowly and enjoyed looking at boats and moorings.
Reaching Tyrley at 5pm, as expected, we tied up and chatted on the mobile with daughter Rachel, who was fine, thankfully. John started fitting the solar cable conduit. The new stern gland packing seems superb, with not a drip! John used nappies to dry out the bilge under the prop shaft. Liana cleaned the floor with the steam cleaner. We finished off the Fajitas for tea. Liana chatted to folk by the lock, and John had an interesting chat about eco-farming with a passing walker as he sorted out the back and locked up in the gathering dusk.

Tuesday June 12 2018: Down Tyrley Locks to Market Drayton, then down Adderley Locks towards Audlem (6.5 miles, 12 locks)
We made an early start in the sunshine, meeting a CRT man who had been repainting the cill marks white.
Tyrley Top Lock


We worked together, lock wheeling. The fourth pound has a shelf next to the towpath, according to Nicholson's guide and notices on the lock gates, so you can't moor, so we let a second boat come up before we descended. I guess we could have passed, really. It is only a mile after the five closely spaced Tyrley locks to Market Drayton, where we could shop. We walked down from the embankment and along a quiet country lane into town, where we shared a big Mocha at Costa, Liana read the Times and John caught up with emails, etc. The town centre is rather nice, with a variety of shops. We visited Wilko and Asda to stock up. Doctor daughter Jo rang to say she had intubated someone who she biked past after an accident! They were lucky! Setting off, Whisky Boats base was unoccupied. We cruised in the sunshine to Adderley locks, through the less precipitous Betton Cutting.The fourth pound had a big ledge, so you couldn't moor.  We expected the locks to be set for us, as boats had passed us, but they must be leaky, as we had to keep topping them up. Passed a boat in the bottom pound, then carried on to the top two Audlem Locks, which were set for us, too. At the top lock, expensive (we thought) cakes and scones were for sale – they looked nice, though! We moored below with other boats on the quiet embankment. We have done 12/25 locks, so we hope tomorrow is fine.

Wednesday June 13: Down the Audlem Locks to Audlem Mill and Northwards
John woke about 7am, sorted out pots, curtains and a cup of tea, then m oved Annie down to lock 3 of the Audlem fight in the sun. It needed filling, so John went down two locks and opened top gates ready for Annie, as these were nearly full. As he returned, other boats were arriving, so in we went! It was another sunny morning, with plenty of walkers. The locks descend through a shady cutting, with water rushing down large bywashes into each pound below. We soon were passing boats ascending, and with (almost) everyone helping, we were past the Bridge Inn and Shroppie Fly and moored after the bottom lock close by the old stables by the winding hole, where John attended a good canal  painting course some years ago.

Audlem Mill with excellent selection of canal books

passing the Shroppie Fly (water point near lock)
Audlem has developed, with some classy houses and gardens plus more shops. After a pleasant walk round, we had cake and drinks at Number 11 tea shop. The lady replaced Liana's dry cake, but didn't charge for the fresh piece. At Audlem Mill shop, the lady said trade was much reduced as they were seeing ten, not sixty, boats per day because of the Middlewich canal breach. We're surprised, as the Shroppie has seemed quite busy to us. John bought an old book about European Canals, by Hugh McNight, as Liana has been investigating shares in boats in France - ooooooooh!
The solar system is definitely helping the batteries, once the engine has stopped.

Thursday June 14: Nantwich and beyond
After a rainy and windy night, we braved the wind and walked into Nantwich for a coffee at Costa, searching for the wood yard where we could get a wooden batten for the rear cover. The usual impressively distorted Cheshire black and white wood frame houses greeted us in town.
Nantwich



looking back into Nantwich Marina arm
After WHS and the market, we returned to Annie. The wind dropped, so we set off for Hurleston: The wind got up and made entering the bottom lock difficult for John: At least we had remembered to remove all fenders this time, as Hurleston locks are notoriously narrow! Volunteers helped us up all four locks. Apparently, the Middlewich breach has reduced traffic a bit this summer. We moored up soon after and watched the World Cup opening ceremony and first match: Russia won 5-0! Audlem sausages (Shropshire Blue cheese, cranberries and chives – delicious!) were very tasty – we'll buy them again! Springwatch has been good on the tv this year – last one tonight :(