Wednesday 30 August 2023

The Llangollen Canal

 Monday 28 August Audlem to Hurleston (10 miles, 10 locks)

We walked around Audlem seeking breakfast and sausages from the good butchers here, but all was closed - Bank holiday!! We did manage to get pains chocolat from the Coop, and breakfasted on board before using the services and completing the last four Audlem locks.  

The view down onto the wildfowl at the lake after the bottom lock is still lovely, despite new houses now on the skyline.

 The journey to Nantwich was a bit slow, with lots of moored boats on farm moorings and a queue at the two Hack Green locks. John had to moor Annie and help Liana open one of the second lock gates.


Past all the moored boats on Nantwich embankment, across the smart road aqueduct, we passed marina and boat club, reaching Hurleston junction just as a hire boat was emerging. Decision made, we set off up the four locks, crossing over with two boats who weren’t too sure what to do, so John sorted it with a smile. A volunteer helped at the top lock. 

We cruised about a kilometre to a scenic mooring in the country. 

John watched the first of the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films from the set he had bought at the village fete in Audlem.

Tuesday 29 August 2023 Hurleston to Wrenbury (5 miles, 5 locks)

Last night we lost all electricity! John disconnected the batteries and reconnected them, which seemed to sort it. He decided it was an overload of the inverter due to the dish washer being run without the engine running (the alternator can supply around 45A at 24 volts, ie over 1kW). However, the solar controller was showing an error. This morning, he disconnected it from panels and battery, then reconnected battery first, as per manual setup procedure, then reconnected the panels. Bingo!

Liana walked with Honeypie to the Swanley locks in light drizzle. She came on board for the trip to the three Swanley locks, which were all set for us, luckily. Swanley Marina is newish, large and impressive.

Liana sorted the Wrenbury Church lift bridge before we moored just before the electric lift bridge and Marina, beside which The Dusty Miller pub was inviting. We both admired the paint job on a boat moored at the marina. We had a late lunch. They’d run out of mint lamb pie and vegetables (!), so Liana had fish & chips, John gammon, egg and chips, then shared biscoff cheesecake and Elton mess! Yum!

Liana lit the fire on the boat to dry out our clothes and warm us up this cool evening.

Wednesday 30 August Wrenbury to Grindley Brook and on to Fenn’s Bank (9 miles, 11 locks)

Today dawned sunny, but with dark clouds lurking! Liana operated the electric lift bridge between the pub and marina, then walked Honeypie part of the way to Marbury lock, until the overgrown towpath became too nettley! 

As we reached it, the heavens opened! Despite umbrellas, we got wet! The male boater ahead left Liana to close the top gate as he left, so she hung back at the next lock. We passed “glampers” on the way.

At Willey Moor lock we got plenty of help from young crew members of the hire boat crossing over with us. There are loads of these on this canal, full of families with smiling faces, or Australians. The pub was about to open at noon, but we continued towards Grindley Brook 😢.

Reaching the first three single Grindley locks, John bought three dvds with the first nine Star Trek episodes on them 👍.

We crossed over with a hire boat on the middle one, then had to wait for three boats to come down the triple staircase. No worries, we had tasty coffee and carrot cake at the lockside cafe while we watched the action!

We decided to carry on, as it was sunny. At the lift bridge by the Whitchurch arm, John dropped Liana off, but shallowness, wind  and 48 hour moorings right up to nearly the bridge made manoeuvring difficult. John had to put the bow against the opposite bank and turn about it to get the stern close enough for Liana and Honeypie to get off. Then he used the centre rope tied to a ring and reverse gear to spring the bow back to the towpath side. Then he hopped off, retrieved the rope and passed through the bridge! Liana said the boater on the 48 hour mooring said “text book!”, but should the 48 hour moorings make life difficult, especially for  the many novice boaters here?

A mile or so in the country, we moored on rings at the Fenn’s Bank visitor moorings (thank you, Shropshire Union Society).

Everyone was thirsty, as we all enjoyed late afternoon in the sun!

Thursday 31 August Fenn’s Bank to Ellesmere (10.5 miles, 0 locks, 2 lift bridges)

Another of those days with clouds, occasional showers that has characterised August. Moving along the Welsh border through this lovely green countryside is still enjoyable. With no locks, on one contour, we met about forty or more boats, mainly hire boats on the many bends and bridge holes.

At Prees Junction (Whixall Marina), fuel boat Mountbatten shot out from the arm in front of us, and Mr Chamberlain was surprised to see Annie five yards behind him! He let us past, and we preceded him across the mosses.

John had to concentrate and anticipate, plus manoeuvre carefully at times, especially with a Lyneal Trust community boat, surprisingly, and with a working boat pair. Most of the hireboats did fine!

That bit sticking out in the photo below didn’t help as we squeezed past the working pair!
Just before Ellesmere we passed the scenic moorings at Blakemere, then passed through the 85m Ellesmere Tunnel.

Friday 1 September Ellesmere to The Poachers moorings near Chirk (9 miles, 2 locks)

Up at 8am, we walked Honeypie around Ellesmere, found the Cherry Tree didn’t allow dogs inside, so tried the Moolah cafe and shop opposite The Market pub near the canal arm. The staff were welcoming and the coffee and cake were good.


We had a slow fill up of water at the CRT services after backing out of the arm, but had a good chat with boaters - no worries!

Three windy rural miles to Frankton Junction were very scenic in the sun, and quiet: We only passed a couple of boats, a change from yesterday!

The sun shone brightly, we saw horses, cattle on the fields, and the farmers had been busy baling both hay and straw, those huge round and rectangular bales, no longer man-sized.

 At New Marton bottom lock we passed a group of young canoeists carrying their canoes past the lock. Coming up to Lion Quay we passed Mountbatten again as she refuelled some liveaboards. The rotten pontoons at Lion Quays have been replaced, and two Narrowboats were moored there.

We moored just before The Poacher pub and popped in for a drink in the sun!

As we chilled in the sun and chatted on the phone to daughter Jo, Mountbatten passed by.

Monday 21 August 2023

The Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal

 Monday 21 August Tixall Wide to Penkridge (9 miles, 6 locks)

John started this beautiful day by photographing the mist, chatting to a friendly wildlife photographer and watching kingfishers flitting to and fro. Apparently there are two nesting pairs here with flying chicks plus new broods probably. Their call is like a referee’s whistle, I was told. A heron, mallards, moorhen, geese and swans are also about this cool, blue sky morning, sat in the cratch, sipping tea and eating porridge.

After three boats had passed, we set off for Tixall Lock. We chatted to boaters and CRT contractors, who were converting the towpath into a footpath to Milford. 

It took an hour! Avoiding the workboats and dumb mud barges, we carried on slowly for four miles. 


We passed over the Sow Aqueduct and through a lovely stone changeover/turnover bridge.  

At Stafford Riverway a narrowboat, NB Explorer, pulled out just in front of us and proceeded slowly. Maybe they had grounded? We waited at the deep Deptmore lock for them and a boat coming down. At Park Gate lock their crew helped us up while their mum got a short throw windlass for this lock from Midland Chandlers shop, lockside. Liana borrowed mine. Their eleven year old son was very keen to help. They let us past, and we were lucky to go straight into Longford lock as a boat left! We were up before Explorer arrived!

Once up Penkridge lock, we used the services for water, loo and rubbish, then moored beyond the next bridge in a quiet, wide spot, within sight of Filance lock. It had been a slowish day, but we had met nice, helpful people to enjoy the journey with. Who’s rushing?