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!

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