Sunday, 24 June 2018

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.

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