Thursday, 30 September 2010

September Cruise - Day 14

A complete change from yesterday: we woke up to a lovely sunny morning, although it was quite cold.  We set off straight up the Adderley Locks, crossing with three boats on the way.  Two hot air balloons were making the most of the weather.

At Market Drayton, we filled with water then moved through the bridge to the moorings, and walked into town for a few bits of shopping.  Then we checked emails, as there was no signal at Adderley, and Norbury never has one either.

We set off again after lunch, and found ourselves as the middle boat of three going up the Tyrley Locks.  The boat ahead lifted a paddle each time they left a lock, and I did the same for the boat behind.

It always seems a long slow journey back to Norbury, partly because of the miles of moored boats on the way.  It's moderately interesting to look at them the first couple of times, but after that the novelty wears off.

We moored on the visitor moorings just short of the basin, leaving ourselves a couple of hundred yards to do tomorrow.  We then had a go at washing the outside of the boat, but whether we made it better or worse was a matter of some debate.  It began raining shortly afterwards anyway, so it won't have made much difference.

15 miles, 10 locks  (152 miles, 112 locks)

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

September Cruise - Day 13

I had to pick up a few things from Bill at the Nantwich Canal Centre first thing, so we reversed back to the water point to fill up while I was doing that.  At the same time, I asked if there was en engineer who could have a look at the still-leaking water pump.  It was becoming a real pain having the water turned off all the time, except when we really needed it.  Ian the engineer confirmed what we'd suspected, that we needed a new pump, so Adrian backed through the bridge and brought Debdale into the basin, where the work was carried out.

It all meant that we didn't get away until 10am, but at least it had stopped raining.  Below Hack Green Locks are two BW flats, full on new lock gates.  Both locks are getting new gates in November.

We started up the Audlem Locks, planning to stop after the first four for lunch.  At the third one, it began to rain again, and within minutes was really quite heavy.  The fourth lock was done in a downpour, and we were soaked by the time we moored up.  Soon afterwards, it cleared and the sun even put in an appearance.

After lunch, we made good progress up the locks, until a hire boat turned a lock in our faces.  The crew claimed not to have seen us, which must mean they either didn't look, or they're blind.  We moored for the night at the bottom of the Adderley locks, and there was a beautiful sunset followed by a dark starry night.

9 miles, 17 locks  (137 miles, 102 locks)

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

September Cruise - Day 12

It was a cool, misty start to the day.  Marbury Lock was the first of the day, and we appeared to be on our own.  As we approached the Wrenbury Lift Bridge, a boat pulled off the moorings and followed us through; they then operated the next bridge, so we were back in front.  But by the time we reached the top of the Baddiley Locks, there were two boats in front of us.  It was a while before we started meeting boats coming the other way.  It was a similar story at the Swanley Locks, but at least it gave us a chance to talk to plenty of other crews, particularly the two ladies on the boat in front.  By the time we reached Hurleston, we were in front because they'd stopped for fuel.

We were quickly down the locks, with just one boat coming up, and turned right towards Nantwich.  When we reached the town we moored in a space on the embankment, and went over to the Nantwich Canal Centre.  Adrian put some washing in, and we had an excellent lunch at the cafe.  While we were there, Bill Saner, the MD of the Canal Centre came over (my review of one of his boats will be in the next edition of Canal Boat) to talk about another story -- so we ended up having a look at the work that had been done on a boat badly damaged by a falling tree.

The rest of the afternoon was spent taking a walk into Nantwich, which turns out to be a very nice town with lots of interesting buildings.

Back at the boat, we sat in the cratch reading the paper and watching the boats go by.  It's clear that you have to be at Nantwich early to get a space!

10 miles, 10 locks (128 miles, 85 locks)

Monday, 27 September 2010

September Cruise - Day 11

Rain overnight, and it's been a very dull day all day, with the odd shower of light rain. At least it made the journey through the meres quite atmospheric.  Adrian went to Tesco for a paper, and we set off at 8.30.  It was nearly an hour before we passed a boat coming the other way, but after that there were dozens of them -- most of them hire boats.

I'm afraid I find this lock-free section fairly uninteresting, particularly the two long straights across the Whixall Moss reserve.  We made very steady progress, so decided to pop up the Whitchurch Arm for a lunch stop.  The arm isn't very long, and we winded and moored near the junction end.

Leaving the arm, there's no right turn towards Grindley Brook, so I took the boat along to the winding hole, while Adrian stood by to lift the bridge.  We arrived at the top of the Grindley Brook locks at 2pm, and had to wait for three boats to come up.  Once we were going down, progress was quick, and there was another boat following us down.  At the bottom of the staircase, there were three boats waiting, and there were boats at each of the three individual locks.

While I waited at the bottom lock, Adrian went to the nearby petrol station to get some coal, and my sister and family arrived for another visit.  They had a ride down the lock and through the railway bridge (which is almost long enough to be a tunnel), which little Rachel was very excited by.  We moored up at the visitor moorings, and had a couple of hours family time, during which Rachel fed the ducks, waved at boats, and said "door" for the first time.

Once the family had gone, we decided to do another hour, and went down three more locks, mooring for the night on the Shropshire Union Canal Society moorings just above Marbury locks.  We're all on our own -- a first for this holiday.

16 miles, 9 locks.  (118 miles, 75 locks)

Sunday, 26 September 2010

September Cruise - Day 10

The Navigation Inn was excellent.  Very friendly atmosphere, a lovely bar with a roaring fire, and fantastic food.  We'd have no hesitation in recommending it.

We woke this morning to another fantastic day.  There was frost on the roof of the boat, a clear blue sky (with the moon still visible), and mist rising off the water.  We wanted to be at the foot of the Frankton Locks in good time, so because of the speed limits we set off just after 8am.  It was very cold, yet very sunny, and the canal looked spectacular.  It's so quiet, it feels like a secret waterway.  We were soon at the Aston Locks, which were in our favour, largely because we were the last boat down them.  We met the only moving boat we saw on the canal today at one of the widest parts.  Above Graham Palmer Lock, the level was very low.  We made a quick stop at the services on the Weston branch for water and to dump rubbish, then went to the waiting area for the Frankton Locks.  The only other boat due to go up was already there.  I went to find the relief lock keeper to let him know we'd arrived.  The other boat set off up the locks at 11.30, and we followed.  There's a stall selling eggs and veg at one of the individual locks, so we bought a red cabbage.  Between the two locks is a beautiful cottage on the off side.

At the staircase locks, we talked to a couple who were on their first hire boat holiday and had stopped to see locks in action before tackling them themselves.  They only picked up their boat yesterday, but already seemed to have caught the bug.

We thoroughly enjoyed our excursion down the Monty.  It's beautiful, secluded, and has plenty of interest.  It will be even better when there's further to go -- although I hope it retains something of its secret status.  The Shropshire Union Canal Society is currently running a fundraising campaign for the restoration.  A barrow of boulders costs £5 -- surely something all boaters could afford to donate.

At the top of the locks, we stopped on the visitor moorings for lunch, and were entertained by a Black Prince boat trying to wind in the junction, and getting wedged across the corner several times.  We then continued to Ellesmere, planning to stock up at Tesco for the rest of the week.  We moored just outside the arm, on the junction.

After shopping, we decided to stay put, and sat in the cratch, reading and watching the comings and goings.  It was sunny and warm; perfect.

9 miles, 8 locks.  (102 miles, 66 locks)

Saturday, 25 September 2010

September Cruise - Day 9

There was absolutely no need for us to make an early start today.  Even so, we set off at 8.30, on a fantastically sunny morning.  We were soon approaching the two New Marton locks; the first was in our favour, and a boat was just coming up the second.

Shortly after 10am, we were moored on the lock waiting area at Frankton.  I chatted to the relief lock keeper, David, who's been doing the job only since April.  He's worked for BW for years at the Ponty aqueduct, but until he was asked to cover for the full-time lockie at Frankton, had never ever seen a lock!

Three boats were due to go down onto the Montgomery Canal, but the other two hadn't arrived by the time we set off.  Four boats were coming up, and they were all waiting.  The lock opening hours are 12 noon to 2pm, but we got underway at 11.30, and were at the bottom of the four locks (two are a staircase) by midday.  We made a brief stop to dump the rubbish at the service point at the Weston branch, then continued down the shallow Graham Palmer Lock, before making a lunch stop at the Perry Aqueduct.

The Monty is beautiful, particularly on a lovely sunny day.  There are speed limits of 3mph above Aston Locks and 2mph below them.  We saw loads of butterflies and dragon flies, thousands of water boatmen, and big fish jumping out the water.  The water is shallow, and at times the channel is narrow; at one point, a winding hole looked like a much better prospect than the channel itself.  I was glad I had a map, so I knew I had to go under the bridge.

At the Aston Locks, the towpath was busy with people and families walking and cycling.  Two boys out with their grandmother helped at the top lock, and two girls with their father and grandfather assisted at the second.  Three of the four of them said they'd never before seen a lock being used.  There aren't many boats on this canal.  There are boats on permanent moorings at the bottom end of the canal, but we've seen very few visitors; in fact, assuming the two other expected boats followed us down Frankton Locks, we've calculated that there can be only nine visiting boats here tonight.  It's a complete contrast to the Llangollen, where there are boats everywhere (and, I suspect, has the highest proportion of hire boats anywhere on the system).

We continued to the end of the current navigation, winded, and returned to the service point at Maesbury Marsh to fill up with water.  There's good pressure at the tap, so it didn't take long.  Then, at about 4.30, we went through Bridge 79 and moored for the night. We went for a walk round the village and visited the Canal Central shop and cafe.  We plan to eat tonight at The Navigation Inn, beside Bridge 79.  The former canal company building, Sycamore House, is just beyond.  It's been a fantastic day's boating.

11 miles, 10 locks.  (93 miles, 58 locks)

Friday, 24 September 2010

September Cruise - Day 8

Trevor basin proved to be a very quiet mooring, once I'd been out at 10pm to ask the Black Prince boat behind to turn off its engine.

Heavy rain overnight, and it was still raining in the morning although it cleared up later.  Brian and Mike left after breakfast, picking up their car from Anglo Welsh.  We set off at 8.30, straight over the aqueduct.  At Whitehouse Tunnel, we arrived at one end at about the same time a boat arrived at the other.  They turned off their tunnel light to indicate that we should come through.  It turned out to be a very unusual boat -- wheel steered from a position at the front.

By 10am, we were moored up at the north portal of Chirk tunnel.  The towpath there is very soft and muddy, so we were pleased to find a couple of rings to moor to.  We walked into Chirk, past the very sweet smelling Cadbury factory, to stock up for the next few days.

Next we make the one mile walk across the fields to Chirk Castle, where we walked round the fantastic gardens with fantastic views, had lunch in the cafe, and looked round the castle.

Setting off again, we had to wait for one boat to come through Chirk tunnel, then we headed through.  At the other end, the Shroppie fly boat Saturn was just coming off the aqueduct, being towed by another boat.

We moored up at New Marton -- another early finish.  Mid Wales Narrowboats, which seems to be the same as Maestermyn Cruisers and Welsh Lady Narrowboats, had clearly released a load of boats this afternoon, as a whole procession came past.  The water pump is still leaking, but turning the water and the pump off makes it stop, so we'll just turn them on when we need them, and let Norbury Wharf sort it out on Friday.

7 miles, 0 locks.  (82 miles, 48 locks)

Hillmorton Update

You may remember my post about Hillmorton, in which I mentioned that Badsey's Cafe Bistro declined to serve us, as last orders were at 2pm, and we were a few seconds late.

The owner has now posted a comment in reply.  I'll leave you to make up your own mind about it.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

September Cruise - Day 7

Today was supposed to be a non-traveling day, being tourists in Llangollen.  But the discovery of a damp patch on the carpet, which we traced to a leaking water pump, meant a change of plan.  Norbury Wharf arranged for Anglo Welsh at Trevor to have a look, but they had to do it today as tomorrow is changeover day for the hire boats.  However, we managed to fit in a couple of touristy things first.

We walked up to Horseshoe Falls on the River Dee, where the water is diverted into the canal.  As it's world Heritage Week for the aqueduct area, the Meter House was open.  This is where the water is controlled, and was fascinating.  Under the floor is a huge pipe which narrows and then widens again, in order to draw water from the river.  16 million gallons a day is taken for the canal.

Brian and Mike decided to go into Llangollen and walk down to Trevor, while we set off on the boat.  Once there, we had a pump out and got some diesel, and an engineer had a look at the water pump.  He replaced a seal and tightened things up;  we'll keep monitoring it to see whether it's worked.

We moored through the bridge in the basin, and went for a walk down below the aqueduct to view it from river level.  We had to wait ages for a boat to go across!

The weather swung wildly between heavy rain and warm sunshine.  In the evening, we went to the Telford Inn for steak pie.

4 miles, 0 locks.  (75 miles, 48 locks)

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

September Cruise - Day 6

The most Septemberish morning of the trip so far:  misty, with the sun breaking through.  We set off at 8am through beautiful countryside.  We started meeting boats coming the other way almost immediately, but by the time we got to the New Marton Locks, they were coming thick and fast.  There were three waiting at the top of the second lock, and three more were just approaching.  Fortunately, we didn't meet any in the narrow sections at Chirk Bank, immediately before the aqueduct.  When we reached the aqueduct it was clear so we went straight across.

It was a different story in the short pound between the aqueduct and the tunnel, both of which are one-way working.  There was one boat moored and two ahead of us waiting for the tunnel.  A boat emerged coming the other way, but another couple of boats had already started coming through behind it.  By the time they emerged, a boat was coming across the aqueduct, so they had nowhere to go.  There was a bit of chaos for a few moments much to the amusement of the gongoozlers.

Once through the tunnel, we had our first encounter with a hire boat from Maestermyn.  It appeared the boat was going to leave its moorings right in front of us, but the crew thought better of it, and decided to drift out from the bank instead.  The woman at the helm was standing on the rear deck tugging furiously on a rope -- which was attached to the roof.  She seemed surprised the boat wasn't responding.

We stopped for lunch at the moorings just before the lift bridge at Froncycllte.   While we were eating on the front deck, the Maestermyn boat came past, weaving all over the canal and crashing into a narrow.  Unfortunately several boats were coming the other way, all of whom were confused by its antics. 

Then it was time for the main event, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  It took ages to get across, as the Maestermyn boat was in the lead, and seemed to have trouble steering, even though the trough is wide enough for only one boat.  But we enjoyed the crossing in the sunshine, talking to loads of people on the towpath, all of whom were enjoying the view.

We were dismayed to see the Maestermyn boat trying to make the turn to Llangollen.  But after a fair section on tickover while it veered back and forth across the canal, the crew let us pass.  The views of the mountains, one of which has the ruins of Dinas Bran Castle on top, were great.

The narrow sections were hard work against the flow, but at least nothing was coming the other way.  We stopped at the BW portacabin to pay for our moorings (the first time we've ever paid to stop anywhere), and went into the basin.  It was quite busy with boats, but Adrian did an excellent spin and reversed onto a pontoon.  Rain had begun to fall, but we took a walk into town (where the shops were just closing, it being 5pm).  We had a drink at the Bridge End Hotel before returning to the boat.  It's now raining hard, but at least tomorrow's forecast isn't as bad as it was earlier.

15 miles, 2 locks  (71 miles, 48 locks)

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

September Cruise - Day 5

A lovely sunny morning, which turned into a warm day.  We set off at 8.30, and soon had three lift bridges to work near Whitchurch, which was just as well as we had a lock-free day in prospect.  There was another lift bridge just before Prees Junction, where we turned right onto the embankment across the mosses nature reserve.  We stopped at a lovely mooring at Blake Mere, and had lunch at a picnic table overlooking the lake.  It was then just a short journey to Ellesmere, where we turned up the town arm, winded in the basin at the end, and slotted into a vacant space.  Ellesmere was busy with boats, and the junction is very attractive, overlooked by the former canal company headquarters.

We shopped and did a circular walk taking in the town centre, The Mere, and the canal.  On the way back to the boat, I stopped to talk to Jan and Dai, the bloggers from Jandai.  We set off again, stopping for water at the BW yard, before continuing until just beyond Frankton Junction where we moored for the night, and went for a walk around the junction.

17 miles, 0 locks.  (56 miles, 46 locks)

Monday, 20 September 2010

September Cruise - Day 4

We woke to leaden skies and some drizzle, but it soon brightened up.  The Baddiley Locks were just around the corner from our mooring, and they were all in our favour thanks to an enthusiastic hire boat coming down.  The next notable features were two lift bridges.  The first was lifted by windlass, but the second was the electrically operated one at Wrenbury, which has flashing lights and stops traffic.

The next section of canal is long and fairly straight, through rolling countryside.  The Shropshire Union Canal Society has put in excellent moorings in several places, all of which look like great places to stop.  Four isolated locks followed, and we met boats at each one, some of which were returning from the canal weekend at Whitchurch.

Then it was on to Grindley Brook, where there are three individual locks followed by a staircase of three.  We were lucky in following a boat up, and being allowed straight into the staircase with no waiting at all.

At the top, we filled with water, then moved down to the moorings and tied up for lunch.  Afterwards, we had a visit from my sister and her husband, and their daughter Rachel, who's 18 months old.  She enjoyed feeding the ducks and waving (very seriously) at passing boats.  She got quite excited as she spotted boats approaching, and fortunately every boater waved back!

8 miles, 13 locks  (39 miles, 46 locks)

Sunday, 19 September 2010

September Cruise - Day 3

It rained on and off overnight, and was still raining when we set off down the rest of the Audlem locks at 9am.  There were a few boats coming up, which helped.  There were more boats at the Hack Green locks.  When we got to Nantwich, we squeezed onto the end of the water point, in front of another boat.  While the tank was filling, Adrian went to the Nantwich Canal Centre shop to buy a new kettle.  We then moved through the bridge and immediately moored up for lunch.  The whole time we were in Nantwich, there were non-stop boats in both directions.

After lunch, we made the short journey to Hurleston Junction, to join the melee trying to get onto the Llangollen.  We waited short of the bridge, while Brian and I went to find out what was going on.  There were three boats in front of us, so we helped them all up the bottom lock.  One of the boats was an old 70 footer with a vintage engine and a completely incompetent crew who didn't seem to have any idea what to do.  It took them ages to get into each lock, and another age to get out again.  It was quite windy across the pounds, which are very short, and their slowness caused all sorts of problems for the people coming down.  At the top lock, the lock keeper gave them a right talking to, for allowing their children on the roof of the boat, among other things.

In all, it took more than an hour and a half from arriving at the junction, to leaving the top lock.  Still, in spite of the frustrations of the boat in front, it was all good humoured, and even the weather had visibly cleared up, with even some blue sky appearing.

Once out of the top lock, we quickly caught up with the slow boat, which seemed incapable of going any faster than 1mph.  Our tickover was too fast for them.  Eventually, they let us and the following hire boat past.

We continued up the two Swanley Locks, then moored for the night in a lovely spot between bridges 12 and 13, on some Shropshire Union Canal Society moorings.  We had a lovely roast chicken for dinner.

13 miles, 12 locks  (31 miles, 33 locks)

Saturday, 18 September 2010

September Cruise - Day Two

We set off at 8.30 on a lovely sunny morning.  The Shroppie was looking at its best, with the contrasts of the Shebdon Embankment, and the Woodseaves Cutting.  There were very few boats coming the other way, although we met a hotel boat in a fairly narrow part of Woodseaves.  It was only at Tyrley Locks that we started meeting boats coming up.

We stopped for water at Market Drayton, and Brian and Mike walked into town.  It sounds as though it hasn't improved any, with plenty of closed shops.  The majority of the others are charity shops.  We carried on once the tank was filled, and they caught us up for lunch just beyond Bridge 66.

There was a rain shower while we were stopped, and a few more once we'd set off down the Adderley Locks.  There's a stand at the top lock selling eggs and cakes, and we came away with some cup cakes.  By the time we reached the top of the Audlem flight the rain was more persistent.  There were a few boats coming up to start with, then we were at the back of a procession of boats going down.

We took the last mooring space below Lock 11.  We're some way out thanks to the Shroppie shelf under the water.  We had a walk round Audlem, then went to the Shroppie Fly for a drink before eating on board.  It's been raining most of the evening, so we're hoping it will have passed through by the morning.

14.5 miles, 21 locks.  (18 miles, 21 locks)

Friday, 17 September 2010

September Cruise - Day One

A day dominated by a drive which at times I thought would never end.  It started with a trip to Heathrow to pick up Adrian from his delayed flight.  Our friends Brian and Mike who are joining us for the first week agreed to go to Norbury as arranged to receive our Tesco delivery.  Then Brian drove to Trevor where we'd arranged parking for his car, and we went direct to there to pick him up.  It was 4.45 by the time we eventually got to Norbury Wharf, but we left in record time, just fifteen minutes later.

We moored up just after 6 at Shebdon Wharf, right on the aqueduct.  We retired to the Wharf Inn for a few drinks, before eating on board and having an early night.  On the way back from the pub I took a photo of the aqueduct (although it was getting dark, so not a great photo).

3.5 miles, 0 locks.


By now, we should both be on the road.  Adrian should be driving a hire car from Heathrow to Birmingham Airport, and I should be driving from home to Birmingham to pick him up, from where we'd continue to Norbury Junction.  But a big storm in New York last night means his flight is four hours late, and instead of arriving at 7.40 this morning, it's now expected at 11.31.  So I'm going to go to Heathrow to meet him, and our friends who are spending the first week with us will go to Norbury Wharf to meet the Tesco delivery.  Once we've done the car shuffle, I'd be surprised if we get much beyond the junction bridge today!

Friday, 10 September 2010


This time next week, we'll be in the process of starting our September cruise.  We'll be heading from Norbury Junction up to Llangollen, somewhere we haven't been since our very first narrowboat holiday more than ten years ago.  On that occasion, we started from Trevor, got as far as Wrenbury where we turned, then went up to Llangollen itslef before returning to Trevor.  Llangollen will look very different this time, as the basin has been built since then.

Next Friday won't be a typical start day, though.  Adrian will arrive back from a work trip to New York first thing in the morning, and is planning to get a hire car to drive to Birmingham Airport, where I'll pick him up.  Then, because we've got some friends with us for the first week, we'll do a car shuffle, depositing their car ready to be picked up at the halfway point.

I notice that the finalised winter stoppage programme was published yesterday, after several months of consultation.  British Waterways seem to have gone to much greater lengths this year to ensure that us winter boaters still have somewhere to go.  we've got a fortnight planned in late November, and our idea of doing the Black Country Ring slowly looks to be completely clear of stoppages.

Sunday, 5 September 2010


To Hillmorton Locks today for a boat test.  As you might expect on a Sunday morning, it was very busy.  We were following boats down the top lock, but at the middle locks it was a case of one up one down.  For some reason, I took only one photo, and even that has very little in it.

We moored up below the locks, by which time it was raining, so David could do the interior photos, and I could have a closer look at the boat.  Then it was a walk back up the locks, in the hope of lunch.

Arriving at Badsey's Cafe Bistro at approximately 30 seconds past 2, we were informed in no uncertain terms that food stopped at 2, and we were too late.  Apparently a party of four for lunch isn't worth staying open for.  We instead went to the Royal Oak, just along the canal next to Blue Haven Marina.  And I didn't take any photos there, either.