Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Chester Revisited


Our August cruise, which was mainly spent stationary, and sampling the delights of Chester, drew to an unforeseen early close. 


The end to our journey was not how we anticipated it to be when we untied after five nights in Chester. But on a whim, a whim largely driven by laziness, we abandoned our plans to return to our mooring at Swanley Bridge, and instead put in to Tattenhall Marina, where having found an agreeable mooring, we shall stay for the winter. 

Whilst we were in Chester, the summer subtly ended: There was a slight bitterness in the air, we found ourselves leaving restaurants in the dark, and for the first time in months, there was a fire in the stove. The reassuring constancy of the last few months had gone, and it was replaced with a reminder of what was to come. 

With this in mind, and a forecast of wetter conditions, the relatively small number of locks facing us over the coming few days seemed more daunting than it should have, and so it was that many were left unassailed. No more to Bunbury or Beeston for us, nor would we rise through Tilstone or Hurlestone. 

Perhaps five lazy days in Chester contributed to our decision. Either way, over time, a plan evolved to divert to where we are now: in Tattenhall. 

The stove is in, and as we sit here drinking good wine, we can reflect on the summer, but as that vision of summer fades, the routine of survival begins again. 



Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Going with the Flow

The plan to get to Liverpool has been abandoned, at least for this year. We set aside just over two weeks to slip up to the top of the Shropshire Union, out onto the Manchester Ship Canal to Eastham locks, and then across the Mersey (with a Pilot). We were very excited by the prospect of cruising across such a historic estuary into Liverpool Marina via Brunswick Lock. We had planned to stay in Liverpool Marina for a night or two, and then Salthouse Dock was booked for a week. We were then to head to our new marina at Scarisbrick via the Leeds and Liverpool Canal link.

The plan fell apart due to a breach north of Liverpool. Now the breach was (and still is according to CRT) to be fixed by 24th of August, which would have been fine. However, CRT recently cancelled all passages in and out Liverpool to the end of August! This is too late for us, and although the left and right hands of CRT are a bit out of sync, it feels like the sensible idea is to leave it all for now.

So we have mooched down to Chester where we are tied up nicely in our favourite spot (apart from the rather noisy 'cohesion piling' going on across the canal), and where we plan to stay for four nights.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Murphy, Sod, Finagle and Jones

The boat is now back on its mooring at Swanley Bridge. We pushed on yesterday so that we only had a couple of locks to do this morning before swinging into the marina.

Yesterday, we had a steady run from Grindley Brook, impeded a bit as we followed a couple of single handers through most of the locks.

By late afternoon, we were tied up (next to fellow bloggers Amy Jo) for our last night on this trip. It was a very peaceful mooring with no roads or railways within earshot. Mr. Jones confirmed his approval, standing on his hind legs sniffing the air, cocking his head at unknown noises from wildlife, and off course he could also sense, lurking behind the hedges, the occasional monster.

This morning the canal was quiet, so after a leisurely breakfast Captain started to untie. And this is when it happened. In fact no matter what time of day you untie - it always happens: a boat came around the corner, travelling in the direction we would have been travelling in (had Captain untied just one minute earlier.)

"No worries" he muttered, "One boat won't make much difference." He tied up the boat again and the boat passed, but again, before Captain could untie, two more boats (the two single handers) came around the corner. Captain continued muttering, and muttered even more when a fourth boat went past.

This phenomenon is now to be know (for no good reason) as Jones' Law, which states "If it is quiet on the canal, and you think it is a good time to set off, then immediately you reach for any rope a small flotilla of narrowboats will pass in front of you."

Anyway we are all tied up nicely now, and no new maintenance jobs have cropped up. Next month's trip is to Liverpool. Although our route there is going to be interesting.





Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Black and White Bears

Last night was spent in Whitchurch. Well, near Whitchurch, as the canal is a good 25 minutes walk away up a hill. It needs to be worth such a slog.
 
There is a navigable arm beckoning in the direction of Whitchurch, but this ends after a short distance. This was restored in the 1990s, but the ambitious plans to extend it further along its old course towards the town, have never found the funds. It's a forlorn promise of what might have been.
 
The advance party (First Mate) was sent into town on a reconnaissance mission. The texts arriving back at the boat indicated that she was not impressed. She reported that two dog friendly pubs were
not doing food, places were closed and that there was only so much time she could linger in the musky odours of the charity shops. Then there were the three over heard conversations: one involving a stretch in prison; another at the chemists interrogating someone's prescription for Prosac and then the consolation of a grieving widower. All of these contributed to her feeling the presence of the  black dog of depression.
 
But I wonder whether Whitchurch ever held the charm to captivate First Mate? Perhaps if it still had a nice haberdashery, milliners or hosier, this would have kept her from the Devil's water a little longer. I headed up towards The White Bear where I found her with a drink and a free internet connection.
 
After a swift pint, we walked back finding a quite unexpected excellent dinner for all of us at The Black Bear.
 
Today we cleared the nonsense of the Grindley Brook locks, and The Horse and Jockey is where we go tonight.
 
 
 

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Taxidermy and Crapology

We have now left Llangollen and are slowly heading home.

The Corn Mill
 
 
First Mate was not impressed by the range of shops in Llangollen. There is no chemist, but a taxidermist; virtually no clothes shops, but endless antique, vintage and fudge shops. We were saved on the grocery front by Aldi, and on the eating out front by a Bruning and Price pub: The Corn Mill, which was top.
 
Last night we negotiated the narrow twisty canal exit from Llangollen and stopped (again) at The Sun Trevor for a brilliant meal. It is an interesting family run pub (pub dogs and babies everywhere), but the staff are friendly and whoever is in the kitchen cares about what they are doing.
 
Today we zipped across the aqueducts and through the tunnels, aided by a significant flow from the River Dee (interweb says that between 10 and 15 million gallons of water are delivered each day via the canal for the Cheshire water supply.)
 
Tonight we are tied up close to Ellesmere between the closed down Jack Mytton pub, and the "not doing food on a Sunday" Narrowboat Inn.

 
First Mate has whipped up a smoked salmon pasta. Wonderful.



 

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Drones and drones

The Pontcysylite aqueduct is certainly an experience, and our experience was generally not going anywhere very quickly.
 
A boat (a boat two boats ahead of us) thought it appropriate to keep stopping, jumping off, and taking photos, and when not doing that, his speed was something much less than my tickover.
 
Now this certainly prolonged the experience, but somehow it wasn't the way we had imagined it. As it might be seen as racist to criticise those on the slow boat by their nationality, no mention will made of that (or the corks on their hats).
 
I think that many travel experiences: the Simplon Tunnel, where all you see from the train is it going dark; those daft runways in the Caribbean - where the wheels of the planes skid across the foreheads sunbathers, and the passenger just experiences a normal landing, are best experienced as an observer, rather than a participant.
 
The Pontcysylite Aqueduct doesn't quite fit the above as it is spectacular both from the ground and from the top. It is, though impossible to experience both views at the same time.
 
Perhaps this is another reason why I should buy a drone? I will add this reason to the list which already includes "being able to find the dog when he has gone missing."
 
Last night we tied up outside The Sun Trevor. The food was good and service excellent. The England exit from the World Cup was kept from us by grouping all the soon to be disappointed people, and their drones, in a special room.
 
Today a short run into Llangollen.
 
 
 

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Foreign Lands

Yesterday we cruised from England into Wales. Then today we cruised from England into Wales. We missed the the bit in the middle where we went back into England.
 
Last night we were moored right beside a gorgeous lake called something Mere. Beautiful, tranquil in the fading sunlight. We drank wine on its banks and Mr Jones resisted the urge to jump in after a squadron of noisy ducks. In truth, we had no real idea where we were.
 
I think we are properly here in Wales now because walking up the steep hill into Chirk for dinner at The Hand Hotel, there it was! Welcome to Wales written in Welsh. That convinced us along with the fuss "Jones the dog" has enjoyed from locals who presume anyone called Jones is Welsh.
 
Chirk is a pretty and sleepy little place where the canal winds around the sides of the valley connected by an impressive aqueduct, but sadly this aqueduct has little claim to any fame with its big brother (the Pontcysylite) a few miles down the canal. There is a nice little Spar shop that had no salad leaves but the full range of Magnums. Well, what are you going to do?
 
This Mediterranean style weather has its downsides. We are both covered in insect bites of Sicilian proportions. We have long since ditched the shorts but our legs continue to attract horse flies making us look like we've been paint balled.
 
 
 

Monday, 9 July 2018

Baking at The Brook

It seems unwise and unfair to complain about hot or sunny weather, especially when we wished for little else for most of the winter.
 
So let us just say that it is unfortunate that the hottest day of this trip was the day when we planned to tackle eight locks and three lift bridges.
 
Most of the locks were the six at Grindley Brook, and although canal traffic wasn't especially heavy, the slightly scary three chamber staircase inevitably caused some delays.

Novelty Teapot ...spot the spout
 
We tied up early evening in the middle of nowhere, far away from roads, railways, and pubs with teapots (First Mate is still suffering from PTSD - Post Teapot Stress Disorder).
 
Thirsty as we were, I avoided the teapot in the evening and made sure I only poured from wine bottles.



 

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Artex and Novelty Teapots

The Willeymoor Lock Tavern is experiencing a staffing crisis.
 
As I write this, Captain has been forced to go to the bar and buy peanuts. With an hour plus wait for food, it has given us ample time to appraise their unique collection of tea pots. Food may arrive at some point but the Rose wine has gone to our heads via our empty stomachs and the tea pots are beginning to become hallucinogenic.
 
Captain has just declared that he has lost the boat keys.  I must finish this blog entry while the routine full scale panic takes place. Oh here they are! Left on the deck whilst he tied his shoe laces. Luckily no one drove off in the boat.
 
A very hot day and night falls.
 
 
 
 

Friday, 6 July 2018

Llangollen attracts helpful cruisers


We have been moored at Swanley Bridge Marina which is at the end (the English end) of the Llangollen Canal. We are moving from here after the summer, and so it is today that we begin the obligatory cruise to Llangollen
 
We are as prepared as we can be: The boat is heavy in the water with wine, the freezer full of ice cream, and the dog (Mr. Jones) has various strange garments to keep him cool. We also have dog gates (fore and aft) which captain has spent the last few weeks whitling and fettling, to keep Mr.Jones both secure and cool.
 
Our first day of cruising was full of the expected and unexpected. Typical of boating in general. We expected to be hot as we progressed through five locks and a lift bridge, whiich we were. We didn't expect to be helped through every single one of them including the bridge. We have barely lifted a windlass. All these helplful strangers are on holiday in hire boats and many hung back in the lock to close the gates for us when you might have expected them to be on a mad dash to complete the nine counties ring. Quite the opposite. People couldn't have been more laid back.
 
We are moored up in the shade of the trees and about 100 yards from  The Dusty Miller in Wrenbury where we are booked in for dinner. After a nap and a shower, that is.
 
We aim to be in Llangollen in about a week's time.
 
Nice and slow. We are on schedule.