Saturday, July 27, 2013

Racing the rainstorms

Saturday 27th July

We arrived at Stafford boat club at 8:15 on Friday evening and decided that the air in Stafford was so much cooler than home until  .  .  .  .  we opened up Jannock. The inside of the boat was like a sauna, every surface was warm to the touch and even clothes, hanging in the wardrobes, were warmer than the air temperature.

We spent the rest of the evening on the clubhouse terrace enjoying the company of friendly club members and the cool evening air.

This morning we set off up the Staffs and PiratesWorcester canal to Tixall Wide. A ParaMotorparaglider with a backpack mounted engine flew low overhead and waved to us as he passed. We also passed two day boats heading south, the first was full of juvenile pirates who were obviously enjoying a special birthday trip on the canal. I have always wanted to moor for the night in the widest part of Tixall wide but today we stopped under a shady tree so that I could carry out a 200hr oil and filter change on the engine. The shade  only covered the front half of the boat so I rigged the sunshade over the engine bay to keep me comfortable during my labours. What a pretty maintenance dock. Tixall ViewOil change completed we sat in the shade for a while before setting of towards Great Heywood junction where we turn right onto the Trent and Mersey. At the first lock, Heywood, we went straight in as it was set ready in our favour. Then at Colwich lock another boat was coming out as we arrived so we went straight into that one as well. In the thirteen years we have owned Jannock that is the first time we have not had to queue at either of these two locks. As we passed Shugborough it was obvious that a big event of some sort was happening in the grounds, it turns out that it was the Shugborough Game and Country show.

We continued on through Rugely and Armitage and then it started to rain (which was forecast) and so we stopped and moored up for the night just before bridge 56 (Tuppenhurst) at 6:30pm

A lazy evening reading books and listening to the rain hoping that they’ve had some at home because the garden desperately needs it.


Monday, July 22, 2013

July Holiday – Day #9 – Time to go home.

Sunday 21st July

We loosed off after the early morning rush had quietened. A much cooler and greyer morning. I wore long sleeves and trousers for the first time all holiday. Time to go home then. We thought we might moor up at Acton Trussel (or is it Stackton Tressel ladies?) but there were no obvious places to park the car amongst those manicured lawns, abundant veg patches and hanging baskets. One phone call later and Stafford boat club made us welcome as temporary AWCC moorers. nb Badger

Then the summer mizzle started and we resorted to the British holiday horror that is macs and sandles, no socks, to pass through the last lock of our trip. As we approached a hotel pair had just locked up through and so it was set in our favour. The boats looked very smart with all the guests sat at the front of both boats – could that be us in our dotage?

As Graham fetched the car I indulged in a lovely chinwag with Ann from nb Margarita, a fellow Cutweb member) and swapped notes. She was very complementary about son Matt and his pals who joined them in the SBC clubhouse for the Friday evening the last time Jannock visited here.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

July Holiday–Day #8

Saturday 20th July

Whilst we were sitting in the bows last evening a 70’ narrowboat slowly chugged past and started to turn in the winding hole. At the stern, in sole charge, was a lad of about 14. With a great degree of skill and no little amount of technique he made the turn with only a couple of feet to spare. As they passed us again we told his grand/parents, who were sat in the bows of their boat, that they should be proud. They are. We then made the same complimentary remarks to the lad as he passed. “Oh No” says he “I’ve been doing that since I was little!” We pointed out that he should be even more proud in that case as he has a great skill. He looked quite bemused, said he supposed so, thanked us for our kind words and chugged off.

Now, if he had sort of skill for, say, keepy uppies or computer games I’m sure he would not have been so reticent. I wonder if it will appear as a personal achievement on any of his school records. Kids, be proud even if no-one much cares about what it is that you do well. A short while later the Norbury Wharf Party boat appeared and winded in the same place. That manoeuvre involve a lot more engine revving and propeller thrashing  than the lads turn did.

Heron on the towpath

Our first sighting of a Kingfisher in 2013 occurred near the aquaduct above Wheaton Aston. We stopped for diesel at Wheaton Aston. When one refuels at motorway services there are a myriad of shoppertunities – check out Rod Giberts views on the subject. What I have never seen for sale at other refuelling stops are a set of drain rods or a chimney sweeps brush. So, should you find that your life lacks either, get along to Wheaton Aston. It’s on the way to Audlum transport rally next weekend. We passed the working boat ‘Scopio’ en-route to Audlum – with the heat we’ve had recently we decided it should be re-named ‘Scorchio’

Down to Autherly Junction with very little to report apart from meeting numerous working boats heading North, not too dissimilar to our C&Ctrip back down the Ashby the week before the rally up there a couple of years ago. Brenda turned Jannock north onto the Staffs and Worcs with a little help from the centre rope used as a pivot point.

Today we found that Gailey is mis-named. Between us, Brenda and I managed to upset about four people without really trying. As we approached Gailey lock a Viking Afloat boat crew were being instructed on boat handling by moving the craft in and out of the wharf adjacent to the lock. Brenda held Jannock back to give them room while I walked up to prepare the lock. I spotted a working boat approaching the empty lock so I started opening the bottom gates for them. Having opened the first I was just about to step across to get the other when it was rammed open by the boat. The female steerer took offence when I pointed out that she could not see if any-one was stood by the balance beam and so her action was very dangerous. As they ascended, the Viking Afloat boat with tutor, emerged once again and lined up ready to enter the lock. Tutor was not happy when I pointed out that Jannock had been waiting and was to be next through.Butty Barnes

Once we were through Gailey lock, he turned it against a boat approaching from below even though we had told him that they were there. At Brick Kiln lock the top gate was wide open and the lock full as we approached. A lass appeared from below and was about to lift the paddles to empty it when she noticed that the top gate was wide open. As she walked towards that end I called to let her know that we were about to enter. She said that they were there first but I explained that the lock was ready and in our favour so she should not turn it. She strode off back to her boat swearing about having to wait another 30 minutes. Excuse me, we are not that slow locking down!Chips

Onward through four more locks to Penkridge where we moored for the night just below Filance lock. During our walk around the pretty village of Penkridge I noticed that a Chip shop in the centre sold not just chips but also "’battered chips!’ Against all of Brenda’s protestations I had to try some but they had run out of the special coating that they use.  The proprietor explained that it is a very light batter that is similar to tempura.


Friday, July 19, 2013

July Holiday–Day #7

Friday 19th July

It didn’t cool down at all last night so another early start to get through the Tyrley lock flight in relative coolth. The first thing I did was to drag Jannock through the bridge hole on the centre rope to get a water fill. Brian Holmes (who used to do a column on Narrowboatworld) was there painting the water posts. We last met him a few years back as he followed us up the Aylesbury Arm and I back-set all the locks for him as he’s a single hander.  As a member of S.U.C.S. he has done a wonderful job painting all the fixtures and fittings on the Shroppie as he travels along on his cerise steel cruiser Thursday’s Child.Tyrley Locks

He assured us that Pheonix (of the bow wave debacle yesterday) is a hire boat that operates out of Norbury. That’s a relief although it is not sign-written as such and so no one is able to give the extra consideration and help due to new crews. Also the lack of sign-writing meant that we were unable to ring and report the degree of ineptitude and near vandalism that was being displayed by their hirer. Hmmmmm!

Pretty Lock Cottages

We had ascended Tyrley locks by 9:30 and went into the wonderfully cool cutting beyond. A couple of recent rockfalls and landslips were evident but only once did we ground on the results in the cut. The effects of the by-washes when you try and ascend all of the locks in the Audlum, Adderley and Tyrley flights has convinced us that it best to traverse the Shroppie from South to North and return via the T&M. The air has been scented with lime blossom (always bringing Brenda fond memories of her mum) and honeysuckle.Knighton

12:30 found us mooring up under a nice shady tree conveniently close the the Anchor at High Offley – rude not to really ;^) 14:10 saw us leaving the pub, returning to Jannock to sit out the rest of the heat under said shady tree, after having a pleasant drink in the garden. There was us, a couple who had been boating since 1976 and the local fender maker who’d been a working boatman. Very interesting conversation. the ex-boatman was telling us how a group of them got a bus from Croxley Mill to see the film ‘the Bargee’ when it first came out in the 60s. It appears that they enjoyed the story and the acting but barracking the screen was the order of the evening due to the inaccuracies the film contained.

The Anchor opens most lunchtimes and after 7pm in the evening. The landlady has been there 35 years, alone as her husband died some 30 years ago and she is 80 next year. Definitely worth a visit as it is a very unique place to drink. NorburyWharf

By 4pm we had set off again, down through Norbury Junction and Gnosall Heath to moor for the night near bridge 25 at High Onn.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

July holiday–Day #6

Thursday 18th July

Last night we heard the most wonderful tale from a volunteer lockie at Audlum: the subject under discussion was new paintwork. He had come across a woman laying down towels on the lock walls. I had visions of beach towels on deck chairs. She wasn’t reserving her place though, the towels were to protect her boats new paintwork from damage – bless!

4:30pm – cabin temperature after 3 hours moored in the shade was 34 degrees – Scorchio plus!

We set off at tweet o’clock to complete the rest of the Audlum flight in the relative coolth.Audlum Flight


Then up the Adderley five as well before an early siesta, with bacon sarnies, above Adderley wharf bridge.

We relaxed in the shade of the trees and read until we heard the water moving along the cut and saw our boat start to move for no apparent reason. Then we noticed that the boat that had moored on the top lock landing for over an hour, to the detriment of other lock flight users,  had moved off and started to plough a furrow up the centre of the cut. Talk about a bow wave, even his bow wave had a bow wave! As nb Pheonix passed where we were moored he opened up the throttle. to our disbelief he had actually slowed down to pass the moored boat. It is the first time that we have ever been able to hear the wash making more noise than the engine. Jannock was left bobbing about for at least twenty minutes after he had passed. Because of their ages we assumed that the boat was borrowed. Please dear owner, if you get your boat back unscathed, please don’t lend it again to the the guy with two kids who looks like Lee Nelson without a stiff talking to first.

Then on to Market Drayton where Graham went off to do a car shuffle and I did the second wash of the day – great drying weather.

After he returned we wandered into town in search of an evening meal – Graham said he’s take me out!  The Crown, is a Marston’s pub – renowned for being a food chain – stopped serving food at 5pm. There was sport on the TV and ‘garage or techno’ style music playing on the sound system. Not surprisingly it was empty.

We moved on to the Chinese restaurant and had an excellent meal but Sandbrook Vaultsdecided we had to try the Sandbrook Vaults which advertised the fact that they sold Joule’s Ales which are now brewed in Market Drayton but were last brewed in Stone in 1978. Graham tried the Blonde (brewed using Saarz hops) and the IPA. They were both very good.

The barman informed us that there was a Wetherspoons in town – Graham was disappointed because he had a wallet full of CAMRA 50p discount vouchers and I insisted we visited Asda on the way back to the boat instead ( a short walk down Stafford Road from bridge 63. We also found a home brew supplies shop in the town centre – good job they were closed.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

July Holiday–Day #5 Bye bye Llangollen canal

Wednesday 17th July

We started today with our good deed, taking a cuppa to the lass in the camping canoe who had moored for the night at the end of our moorings. We offered her use of our facilities but she declined. Then she returned our mug and asked if we’d mind filling up her thermos with hot water as it would save her having to get her stove out etc. We got a bargain! While we waited for the kettle to boil we had an interesting chat. She is an explorer The most beautiful skip nature, a traveller, she spends half her life that way. She goes about the world on foot, by bicycle and is now travelling the UK canals. She started from Leighton Buzzard, in May, in an inflatable canoe. It proved too stressful as she was well aware that anything floating or overhanging were potential boat-busters. A long term friend in Luton mentioned that he had a Kayak and his dad had a canoe. She could chose which she borrowed. Familiar with England ( she has a German/Nordic accent) she has become entranced by the canal system. She says it is like another country hidden within, different places and different people> She was going to Nantwich today to meet up with friends before heading across the Middlewich arm – destination the Peak Forest canal. She asked about travelling on the River Trent by canoe, we suggested she did some more research and even contacted CaRT before going to play with the gravel barges.

We proceeded through the five locks left before reaching the Hurleston flight where we went straight into the top lock with me steering and Brenda working the gates.  Has our voyage been too long? Have we been in too much sun? Once onto the Shroppie we headed for the nearest big tree for a siesta and a Seaplane flew over head!Nantwich Horse

Once on the move again we passed Arun, belonging to a fellow Cutweb member, moored on the side. No sign of life but all looked well. We got to Hack Green locks at 5:30. The sun was starting to go down but the temperature was still rising. Now 35.5 degrees in the lounge area. Despite nubile young women in itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny- we’re on a narrowboat- hot bikinis it occurred to Brenda that Bobby Goldsboro could never have sung his oh so evocative song “summer, the first time” on the English canals – Scorchio!Bridge work at Hack Green

By 6:30 the weather began to cool, so we decided to ascend two locks into Audlem, leaving the other eleven for tomorrow. Brenda mucked up the entry into the second lock. Having allowed for the outlet of an energetic by-wash she didn’t notice the out-pouring from where the by-wash had partially collapsed beyond with more water rushing out – CRUNCH – Ouch.


July Holiday–Day #4

Tuesday 16th July

After a peaceful night the sun was up and at ‘em early. We, on the other hand arose and breakfasted ready for a 9:30 start and a leisurely cruise

Whitchurch liftbridge

through the four lift bridges to Grindley Brook. We filled with water and then moved up to the locks. It was very busy in both directions, with the lockie letting three boats go in each direction in turn, so waiting was the order of the day; except for one westbound crew who should have known better. They re-opened the bottom gates of the lower lock and tried to enter

Grindley Brook Cafe

(4th in a row) against the lock-keepers instructions. Flea was inserted in ear and they had to reverse back onto the waiting area where they sat uncomfortably. We were second down in our batch and there was still huffing and puffing when Jannock came out of the bottom of the staircase. Brenda chose to  sit and wait in the bridge-hole below the locks until the next lock, out of sight around a corner, was ready. With one more boat coming down behind and three already waiting in the pound to ascend it seemed the best option (plus it was in the shade ;^) Oh how she huffed!

It had got very hot by the time we had cleared the last three single locks and so it was ‘shady tree time’. A suitable candidate was identified and lunch and siesta time were taken.

Then on to Wrensbury closely followed by a woman in a canoe. We’d first seen her at Ellesmere, filling up her bottles with drinking water. To paddle all that way with no portage at locks, a true Amazon. We moored near Starkey’s bridge, next the the boater that Brenda had been discussing the merits of Nepalese curries with at Grindley Brook. Our curry du jour was made in the slow cooker. We also didn’t want any extra heat in the cabin and so the Peshwari nans, Mr Tescos finest, were heated up by wrapping them in tin foil and putting them on top of the engine for the last half hour.

After dinner Graham checked the water levels in the batteries and did boat polishing until it got dark. At least Jannock doesn’t look like a hay stack any more having been strimmed three times in as many weeks on the Llangollen.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

July Holiday–Day #3

Monday 14th July

We started the day by boiling a kettle of water for our ‘quiz buddies’ whose gas had let them down. We then waved them farewell having taken their rubbish aboard to dump along with ours in the skip at the sani-station on t’other side of canal. Into the arm at Ellesmere and Graham did a car shuffle while I went into Tesco to re-provision.

Having seen other boaters go past with laden trollies, I did the polite thing and asked at customer services – knowing that there was a magnetic strip gizmo at Tescos perimeter to stop trollies leaving. A very sour faced lass informed me that I could not take a trolley to my boat. She said that she could look after my shopping while I did several delivery trips. In 30 degrees I thought not! I told her there was no way that I would be able to carry a case of wine (implication only dear reader) but she just shrugged and muttered “Oh well”

Back to Jannock and I engineered my own trolley from our folding sack truck and a laundry bin. Back to Tesco where I asked Ms Sour Face if she would keep an eye on it as I couldn’t manage ‘techno-shopper’ and a Tesco trolley around the store. She looked about her and then said that there wasn’t really room  . . . . . but you would have looked after a larger trolley full of purchases hun!

So – if you want a big shop at Ellesmere Tesco then take :-

a. A big enough trolley of your own

b. Some strapping crew.

c. As I suggested to Ms Sour Face, arrange a home delivery on line and a Tesco employee will deliver it to your boat. (OK, I know that costs extra)

When Graham had returned and we were preparing to leave – another shopper came past pushing a laden trolley. You can make up your own moral to this tale.

Ellesmere is a lovely little town and well worth a visit, other supermarkets are available for the smaller shop. The butcher and bakery come highly recommended, as does the Red Lion a little way out from the centre of town towards the Mere. Their food was very good – a huge mixed grill was considered to be enough for the next 2 days by our quiz buddies. A tenner I believe.

We winded at the top of the arm – just, Blake Merethanks to the boats moored at the turning point, and then made our way to Blake Mere. We have often thought that it would be a lovely place to stop-over but it has always been full in the past. Today it was just for us for the most part. We set our tables and chairs in the shade and had lunch followed by a stroll around the Mere. Lovely steam launchThe sky started to cloud over so we set off at about 2:30 and continued on to Tilstock Park where we moored for the night on S.U.C.S. 48hr moorings at 5:30. Near Bettisfield we spotted this lovely little steam launch moored outside a chalet – lovely!

The fridge appears to really appreciate the new ‘high capacity’ wiring Graham installed on Saturday as the amount of power it uses overnight has halved.


Monday, July 15, 2013

July holiday–Day #2

Sunday 14th July

A thought – the Montgomery canal is environmentally sensitive. It is headlined as a linear nature reserve. We were surprised to find Japanese Knotweed and Himalayan Balsam doing very well thank-you along one stretch. The Owl boxes were good to see though.

Our breakfast viewA breakfast of eggs and bacon and we were off. An early start as we needed to be at Frankton locks at 12.00 for our booked passage through. We could have stayed another day on the Montgomery and enjoyed the peace and tranquillity. It’s an excellent place for walking and exploring off tow-path, but we had already made the lock bookings and luckily it’s been far too hot for walking.

It was a cool start Where's the towpath?but the sun had burnt it’s way through by 10:00 and the heat built. I was surprised at the amount of vegetation that grew between the towpath and the cut. All small trees that will create severe problems if they are not kept in check. We got to the locks for 12:00 and were 7th in the expected queue of 8 boats so we had to break out the beers in holiday resort mode whilst we waited our turn. No hankies on heads here though. We’d finished the full Monty locks and were back on the mainline at 2:30. Like yesterday we found the nearest shady tree on the towpath and pulled over for lunch and a deserved cool down.

Jannock approaching Ashton top lock.Once the heat started to drop we set off and headed towards Ellesmere. We knew we were too late for the Tesco's Sunday opening hours but planned to moor outside the arm and wait for Monday morning when Graham will do a car shuffle whilst I replenish ships stores.

We moored up next to Pride of Sawley, the boat crewed by Brian, Ann and the two girls, the Shetland family, who we had followed through Frankton locks both times. They had identified a pub quiz occurring at the Red Lion and so we volunteered to join them. The good news is that we did not come last. After a good evening we visited their boat for a night-cap before returning to Jannock.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

July Holiday–Day #1 - All is revealed

Saturday 13th July

Bird of the day – Sacred Ibis

The sight that greeted me outside my window this morning was more male stripper than Calista Flockheart. It would appear that last night’s  ‘young lady and her minders’ were the Groom and Groomsmen – a two boat stag party of whom the advance party of five had arrived early by car. And didn’t we know it from about 01:30 onwards. A night cruising boat with three crew came along the canal and prompted the start of the stag party noise which continued on until about 3 am.

Two more early morning boats passed us by about 7am  and the next movement was from the stags. I looked out my window to be greeted by (Sexism Alert!) a pair of hairy thighs and a pert bum in red pants. It seems I could well be Cleopatra, it’s all gone a bit odd.

The crew of one of the boats had set the other adrift, not realising :-

a. The Llangollen canal has a steady flow.

b. The keys to that boat were currently missing.

Chaps in pants were trying to rescue themselves. Red pants did make an effort to cover up – last seen sporting a comedy captains hat and red pants. So, where’s the Ibis?

Keys found, they set off after offering apologies for this morning’s noise and thanking us the small attempts to help them we’d made. Some rowdy stags are much better behaved and more pIMGP3837olite than others, even at 08:30.

Once we were up and about Graham spotted that the batteries were down to 12% capacity due to the fridge not liking the hot weather and the original wiring to it being too small to pass sufficient current. We started the engine while we IMGP3835breakfasted to put some charge back in before we took a trip in the car to visit Whittington to look at the remains of the castle and the lovely Italianate village church.


On our return we set off in the boat towards Frankton junction and very soon we actually spotted the Sacred Ibis, in afield of sheep. Unfortunately it was too far away to photograph. Shortly after that we pulled over and Graham started running a pair of heavy duty cables through the trunking to provide a higher capacity feed to the fridge. By 12 am the cables were run so we continued on to Frankton Junction for our IMGP3845booked passage down the locks onto the Montgomery canal. We were last in the queue and had a long wait with no shade at all. As the temperature rose through 30 degrees the wait became longer as the lock keeper had to ‘call a man out’ to remove a car tyre from the cill of the bottom lock. The family on the boat in front were from the Shetland Isles and were really suffering from the heat. They had brought lots of wet and cold weather clothes with them for their fortnights hire and were surprised that summer had arrived.

Once through the locks we headed for the first bit of decent shade on the towpath, just past Graham Palmer lock where we had a bit of a siesta to IMGP3847cool down. At 5pm it started to cool down so we continued on through Queens Head and the three Ashton locks and arrived at Maesbury Marsh services at 7pm. We ate tea, filled with water, pumped out the loo tank and both showered in the very nicely kept shower room there. Then we continued on to the end of navigation, turned round and moored upon a 48 hour mooring at 9:30. After a much needed brew it was almost bed time.


July holiday–day #0

Friday 12th July

We arrived at the boat, moored at Hindford at 7pm. We had a table booked for a meal at the Jack Mytton Inn so off we wandered once we had unpacked and settled in. Monday to Friday they do a small selection, two courses from a choice of three, for a tenner.We ate very well and the real ale selection suited us too. We chose to sit outside in the very pretty courtyard on a lovely warm evening.

We suspected another diner was a person of fame, if not necessarily fortune, after an odd conversation between some chaps and mine host. We saw five of them yet fifteen were booked to eat. The other ten must have come in through the back way as we had sight of the entrance. On leaving the pub we found two hire boats had tied up between Jannock and the pub. Everyone was out, presumably having snuck into the restaurant as there is no where else to go. Earlier, when we had been preparing to leave Jannock to go to the pub two chaps, in shorts and T shirts as befits the weather and place, had walked past the boat. They had cameras with quite long lenses attached. We spoke with them; they explained that one had seen a Sacred Ibis earlier in the day. I replied “ and I’m Cleopatra”. How rude! Sacred Ibis? Anyhow, off they trudged down the towpath to photograph their bird. Now . . . was that bird the “young lady and her minders” that mine host had been overheard talking about to the five young chaps? How exciting! Yes, I must get out more.

We ended the evening sat out on the back deck watching at least four bats skimming above the water for a light supper.


Monday, July 08, 2013

St. Numpty’s day ……

Sunday 7th July

… celebrated by boaters who enjoy a bit of mayhem and scratched paintwork. (Take note Pippa!)

And a wedding day – the bride was going to be suitably late as her wonderfully decorated boat was still moored outside The Poacher whilst her guests were gathered at the Lion Quays waterside hotel Pontcysyllte shadow of Jannock waiting. Joyous – we suspect she was still in the pub having a shot of courage.

As we passed over the Pontcysyllte aquaduct for the second time this weekend Gladys sat in the front well of the boat and enjoyed the views. We then stopped at the car and off-loaded some of the stuff ready to go home before continuing on through Chirk.

Gladys on the Aquaduct, railway behind As we exited Chirk tunnel two day boats, teensy ones, were moored across all of the lay by where you wait until the aquaduct is free, two narrowboats were already clinging onto what was left. We asked them to budge up, which they did after a conference,  so that we could make space for the two boats following us through. There we two boats coming across the aquaduct – narrowboat sardines!

At New Marton bridge we found ourselves 5th in the queue for the top lock so we had lunch. A crew of Hungarian first timers drew up oblivious of the queue for the lock, even though a boat was just coming out and the first boat was pulling out to enter.  They pulled back into the bridge hole without realising that the boat leaving the lock now had no-where to go. After an exercise in bi-lingual tact they eventually got sorted out more-or-less by moving to the offside and holding the boat there out of the way. Hungarians obviously have no Elfin-Safety in their genes. No shoes on, leaping yard wide (sorry metre wide) gaps whilst the boat was still moving, a 10 year old rushing around lockside on a scooter oblivious of ropes and bollards. Then the kids went off to play at the top of the lock by-wash, jumping about in all the slippy weed. My stress level was rising, wondering where an air ambulance could land. The lad walked up the incline of the by-wash and only just pulled his foot back as he was about to step over the edge into the cut whilst the lock was filling with the top paddles open. St. Numpty obviously approved of Jesus’ ability to walk on water.

Once through both locks we moored up under some trees! Needed just to stop us melting whilst tidying up ready to go home.


The kindness of strangers :- When at Grindley Brook last weekendBravery award from Grindley Brook Shop I went into the wonderful shop and cafe’ and chose a couple of postcards of “that aquaduct”. Chatting to the proprietress I explained that they were to mount to give to an ‘older’ friend who would be crossing it with us next weekend, sight unseen as she is a worrier. The lady was quite taken aback that we’d pull  a stunt like that, sneaking such altitude and no parachute on the un-suspecting elderly. She explained that she was so nervous of it that she hadn’t plucked up the courage. I was given a box of lovely fudge and another card with all the info about the aquaduct to give to Gladys if she went through with it. It was a bravery award, and well deserved as she walked and cruised Pontcysyllte, then the two tunnels as well as Chirk aquaduct without turning a hair! The ladies of Grindley Brook shop are as lovely as their stock is vast and their food smells delicious.


Saturday, July 06, 2013

Gladys does Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Saturday 6th June

We travelled up to Jannock on Friday evening accompanied by Gladys, our neighbour, and once loaded we moved further away from the railway before re-pegging in for a quieter night.

Smell of the day – Wild Garlic (Ransoms) and dog roses.

AquaductSaturday morning started sunny. What a super day. We obviously must bring Gladys with us more often if she’s this good a weather goddess! We set off through Fron Lift bridge and onto the aqueduct. Gladys was not at all phased and decided she’s like to walk across to Giftsee the views. At the end of the span a chap was chatting her up – he was telling her how brave she was. He’d not had the courage to go over in a boat and had been very nervous on foot. And Gladys thinks she’s the timid one. We presented her with a framed memento of the occasion and a card and chocolates that the lady at the shop alongside Grindley Brook had donated to the cause last week. That was the reason why Brenda returned from the shop completely amazed at the kindness of strangers.

The cruise up to Llangollen was very pleasant. It was almost ‘groundhog FastHouses day’ after last weeks tunnel altercations at the narrows. I’d gone ahead with a radio and given Graham the all clear to start coming through. He was about half way through when a newbie hirer came along. I told him that they would not be able to go through yet – see last weeks blog for the rest. Graham was surprised to find that the locals have trouble with houses going to fast.

We winded in the basin, returned back to the on-line moorings where no ticket is required if you are staying for less than 4 hours and you leave before 5pm. We then had lunch, filled with water and then walked down into the town.  We went into the TouristPlasNewydd Information office to get some info on Plas Newydd as we planned to visit there by car next Saturday. We were informed that it was not too far to walk and also getting a car into Llangollen next weekend would be difficult due to the Eisteddfod starting – indeed not so far but definitely uphill. What a gem. Well worth a visit especially if you appreciate wood carvings and tales of dotty women.

We left Llangollen after an ice-cream and another look at the river Dee and moved out into the countryside to moor for the night. We were following a newbie hirer and had to smile as she tackled a 90 degree bend under a bridge, albeit with some fierce reversing, got round and then did a little victory dance on the stern deck. Way to go girl. After dinner we sat on the towpath watching para-gliders over the hill behind us and counting the sheep in the field opposite.


Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Is it me?

Sunday 30th June

Last night in the pub, the crews of three boats moored on the pub moorings told us they were starting off at 5:30 am to avoid the queues at the locks. When we set off at 9am they were still tied onto the pub moorings – it would appear that one of their dogs had gone AWOL during morning walkies – well after 5:30 it was admitted. A second search party was being despatched to try and find the hound.

Graham went and assisted the boat in front of us through the first lock and at the second lock he told me that I would find just the thing for our new kitchen when I got there. We have purchased some odd souvenirs from the lockside on our travels but a brand new radiator from a garden wall sale has to be amongst the oddest. A bargain never the less.

ChirkAquaductOnto Chirk, in lovely weather and superb countryside. Happy bunnies until we met two American crews who seem a little short on common sense. One crew had moored up in the inter-tunnel/aqueduct waiting area so that they could take a shower and sunbathe. As another, empty, hire-boat was moored there as well this meant that there was no where to hold Jannock whilst waiting for 20 minutes for three southbound boats to pass through the tunnel. Somewhat disgusted by Graham positioning Jannock’s stern against their boat a member of their crew came out to see what was going on. G explained that they were tied up in a very inconvenient, indeed wrong, place only to be told that there was no noticeChirk Tunnel saying so. G explained about not mooring on bollards as they indicated waiting areas but the crew claimed ignorance and returned to whatever they were doing inside. Let’s hope every northbound boat that had to wait for the tunnel annoyed them.

Boats continued to follow each other through the tunnel from the Northern end so I decided to walk through with a radio to tell Graham when it was likely to be clear and try to convince some-one to hold off to let North bound boats have a turn. The first boat along, a hirer, agreed to wait and moored up on the bankside and then took his crew for a walk in the woods. The second boat, hmmmmmmm another American couple, pulled onto the waiting area, pulled back, bobbed about a bit and just as Graham called to say that Jannock had entered the tunnel they went for it. I signalled to them not to enter but they just grinned and moved forward to enter. I shouted to them but they just continued towards the tunnel mouth. Then they got the message and came over to see what MY problem was. I told them that I knew there was another boat coming through, I showed them that I had radio contact. They said it was OK as they couldn’t see another boat coming through. No, because they were unable to see through the full length of the tunnel from where they were, geometry and all that.Then they suggested that I was from a moored boat on this end of the tunnel and was trying to ‘queue jump’ them, they couldn’t understand that I had walked up from the other portal. Eventually they gave in and moored up on the ApreChirkTunnelbollards and looked quite annoyed when I said there would be about a 10 minute wait. I was told “I know, we can see the light in the tunnel now we are on this side of the canal” A second boat then entered the southern portal a few minutes behind Jannock, he, he, he!

We continued on past Chirk marina and through the second tunnel with a slight wait due to a horn signal indicating another boat passing through. Once through we experienced no further issues and found a suitable mooring to stop at.


Whitchurch weekend

Thursday 27th June

We got to Jannock at about 9pm and were pleased that the rain let up long enough to allow us to move aboard with ease. In the week the knee high vegetation on the towpath had been strimmed and was now stuck all over the outside and trodden inside our boat.

One hour of our 3 hr. journey was spent stationary on the M40 motorway. We could not believe the idiots who thought they would jump the queues by driving up the hard shoulder. That was a very necessary access lane for the 3 police cars, 1 ambulance, 1 para-medic, 4 fire engines , 1 crash rescue truck, 1 D.o.T clean-up truck and the obligatory traffic womble who all required access to the crash scene. We just hoped that the idiots got nicked before they got as far as the incident scene. When we finally got past we observed one full car transporter lorry that had overturned across the central barrier and a solitary white car in the opposite carriageway ditch. Ten brand new cars squished! That’ll be an expensive insurance claim. At least with 11 cars and 1 lorry the casualties would been minimal.


Friday 28th June

I awoke early so at 6:30 I went and moved the car to a better parking location and walked back along the towpath to Jannock. It started raining before breakfast and so we did a few jobs until we got fed up and set off The geese guard the Goslingthrough Marbury lock in the rain. Then I attempted to remove most of the evidence of yesterday’s strimming from the hull sides whilst Brenda steered us towards Willey Moor lock where we met the CaRT grass cutting contractors hard at work who apologised for the state of Jannock’s side. Luckily the rain had stopped by now and the weather was improving rapidly.Grindley Brook Staircase

At Grindley Brook staircase we had to wait, 2nd in line, for one boat to come down before we were allowed up. Once out of the top lock we pulled over to fill with water and Brenda went down to the lockside cafe/shop to get some postcards. She returned expressing surprise at the kindness of strangers – but more of that next week.

Water tank full and roof washed we set off again – destination Whitchurch. We failed to make the turn into the arm as we were too long so we winded just before the by-pass bridge and returned to enter the arm from the other direction. We then winded in the arm and reversed right up to the end before mooring up and going for a wander around the town – that’s another new bit of canal to add to Jannock’s ‘completed’ map.

IMGP3752Whitchurch is worth a visit as it has everything a boater is likely to need in the way of regular supplies. On our return journey to the canal through the Nature Walk area we were amazed by the boldness of the wild birdsSheep Shearing ad in a shop here including a couple of baby wrens who were happy to remain perched on branches less than a foot away from where we stood.

We exited the Whitchurch arm and moved on to Whixhall Moss where we moored for the night at one of the abundant Shropshire Union Canal Society 48hr moorings


Saturday 29th June

We set off after a very quiet night into weather much improved. Dry, cloud covered but improving slowly but surely. It was very evident that we were now well into hire-boat country as plenty of crews were returning from or starting out on their holidays. We diverted down the Prees branch in order to tick off another section of ‘new to us’ canal. Jannock was the only artificial noise we could hear – gloriously peaceful. Less than a mile long we were soon at the end, winded and back out onto the mainline.

Rhodidendrons at EllesmereI was disappointed that the rhododendrons had almost finished blooming  as we came through the meres. Beyond Ellesmere we happened upon nb Earnest (Yes – that one) who was mid-car shuffle so had no time to stop and talk. Past Frankton junction we found ourselves behind a very new hirer who took the concept of slowing down to pass moored boats to the point of becoming static as the flow of water in the canal was faster than his engine speed. He was also taking his boat out of gear for bridgeholes – we were sure he was actually moving backwards through the last one. We found ourselves in the middle of a crocodile – a very slow one at that. Just before we were about to call it a day and moor up for the night he stopped to let the dog off so we continued past. He was holding the boat into the side using the back rope which was caught up in the open rear doors because it was tied to a roof mushroom. His centre rope, correctly attached, was just dangling on the towpath.

We stopped at Hindford and had not been moored up long when he appeared again, just as another southbound craft was passing through the bridge there. I warned him of the other boat and he immediately threw his engine into reverse. Another hire boat that had been following him nearly rammed him astern. Mayhem. Once sorted he had to be pulled off of the shallow side by other boater already moored there. Having thrown his rope into the canal and needing that rescued, he was then given hints and tips by his rescuers and we watched as he passed through Hindford bridge with enough speed to maintain forward motion and some control.

As he passed us by I noticed that he actually had both the front and rear ropes attached to roof mushrooms rather than the T studs provided for the purpose. Graham went to fetch the car from Marbury and noticed the very handy pub just the other side of the bridge, only a few steps from the boat. They did real ale too! Result!