Thursday, 6 July 2017

End of a great trip

After a more leisurely start we cruised the two hour, lock free section to Ellesmere marina. An excellent mooring was ready for us, and after a forty minute bus journey to Oswestry I returned in the kids' car to collect Elaine. Now we just have to figure out how to get our car from Crick!

Tonight we went to the last of this year's Oswestry School recital series, some how for over a quarter of a century this event in a small market town has been attracting world class musicians, tonight it was the European Union Chamber Orchestra.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Llovely Llong day on the Llangollen

It's a tough old life jumping out of bed and putting on shorts and a T-shirt, I miss wearing a tie. I really would miss playing with numbers all day, but I've not stopped that, we are now about 5 miles from our destination, after travelling 143 miles and navigating 107 locks and 3 tunnels, it will have taken us 9.5 days, just what we expected. It's been a great trip, but too fast and very tiring. If you are wondering why two people living a carefree life would undertake a trip in such a short time it's because we have a summer littered with events that we must attend, and this is the only time that we had 10 consecutive days clear until September. So now we can enjoy the summer with Melissa close by and take several short trips out.

The Llangollen is magnificent, rural with very few roads and no train lines, there may be better, but we've not found one yet. Every boater should come, so far it's not been shallow (as is its reputation), there are a few blind bends, the locks are very narrow, there are aggressive side-washes that make it tricky to enter locks, but nothing to stop anyone coming here.

We  set off early as always and did a few locks before getting to the very picturesque Wrenbury, an excellent spot to stop with a pub and shop and ample moorings. On through miles of open countryside until the locks at Grindley Brook, including a staircase of 3 locks which were well organised by the lock keepers. We stopped at Whitchurch, the Nicholson guide reckons it's a short walk to the town, it's at least a mile, you won't be carrying 18 cans of Stella and other essential heavy items back to your boat. You probably wouldn't want to be walking back in the dark either, it's a decent path but through scrubby land and unlit. I don't think we would go out of our way to stop there again.

We set off again after a couple of hours, and cruised for about three hours, which is longer than we planned because we discovered that there is no mooring allowed at the long section between bridges 46/47, where there is a nature reserve, after that it get s a bit bendy with no safe moorings. We did 19 miles and 13 locks today in 9 hours plus the stop at Whitchurch  and have a nice rural mooring west of bridge 50. Easy day tomorrow.

Cow only mooring spot

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Four Canals and a Funeral

We jumped out of bed and cruised 10m to the water point, and then we were off just after 7, we continued along the Trent and Mersey, still quite nice, a bit industrial in places. We then got to Middelewich, where a very sharp left turn impeded by other boats took us onto the Shropshire Union Canal Midllewich Branch. This is a spectacular canal, we've been once in the other direction, but we'd forgotten just how marvelous it is, with its wide open countryside views and massive selection of superb mooring spots.

After the Middlewich branch were briefly on the Shropshire Union Main line before we took a very sharp right turn onto the Llangollen Canal, which will take us all the way to Ellesmere where we will leave Melissa for a couple of months while we do other things at home, while fitting in a few short trips and some maintenance, she'll only be a 15 minute drive from our house.

The turn into the Llangollen is difficult, best to make sure that you give yourself plenty of run-up because you can't really make small adjustments at the last minute, also you must take up all side fenders because the locks are very narrow. It is said that that Llangollen is the most beautiful of all canals, so far it seems to live up to the claim. After 10 hours, 21 miles and 15 locks we are moored at bridge 12 near Ravensmoor.

At the beginning of our journey today the water levels were very low, this was because some boater decided that last night he would pass through four locks leaving the gates open, so that water just kept on flowing downhill, causing serious problems for other boaters yet saving just a few minutes for the culprit. How terrible it must be to live life embarking on ventures that you deliberately perform badly, to make yourself the main victim of your own laziness.

After an appalling performance on pub visits, just one in eight days, we deliberately stopped at Bridge 12 so we could walk to the Farmer's Arms, about a mile, when Millie and I got there we were told it was closed, due to a funeral. What kind of person makes his dying wish to deny alcohol to the desperate and nuts to dumb animals?

A Rare Ladder Climb for Elaine

Monday, 3 July 2017

Down, down, deeper and down

After a quiet night breasted up against a pirate boat, the very accommodating pirates even moved their canon from the bow so we could skip over to dry land, we left early to travel the mile or so to the tunnel, we were with five other boats waiting way before it opened. We had quite a wait because three boats coming the other way were sent off first, this is according to a logic only understood by not-for-profit organisations.

The 1.7 mile tunnel seemed a bit lower than last time, either due to perception, as we were traveling the opposite way, or because the water levels were higher. Anyway, we zipped through it in just over half an hour and then set about a massive descent, reversing our climb of the past few days. Things were good today, 26 locks without any waiting about, we got through it in nine hours. Only small adventures were had, a stuck lock gate opened by the coal boat, and Melissa was stuck in a lock but after refilling it she floated off as normal.

It's a pretty section from Kidsgrove, the northern end of the tunnel, to our current mooring spot in Wheelock, there are very few places to moor once you are past the first few locks, and this makes Wheelock a popular mooring location. It is a suburb of Sandbach, a mile away, where everything is available, but I don't think we'll be going far.

Tunnel entrance

Very poor tunnel picture

Nappy sack, used as dog poo bag, used as mooring pin alert, we are classy people

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Slow, Slow, Slow Slow, Slow

We left at 6 this morning and spent the next 11 hours travelling 13 miles and through 15 locks, each lock had three or four boats in front of us, the locks here are very slow to fill and empty. It has been the slowest day's boating since our records began!

We spent most of the day passing through Stoke, by coincidence I recently read two books set in Stoke, Joanna Trollope's Balancing Act , which I thought was very poor, and, in contrast, the superb Old Wives' Tales by Arnold Bennett published in 1908, a magnificent insight into the human condition set at the time when the polycentric Stoke-on-Trent was being formed from six towns.

Anyway, Stoke's a decent enough place, lots of people enjoying the sunshine today, a smattering of bench dwellers with oversized bottles of very strong cider, very clean, solid path for miles. There are mooring spots, but people don't feel safe, it's a pity because it's a busy place for boaters and the local economy doesn't really benefit from it.

Tonight we are moored at Westport Lakes, which is full to the brim, but another boater kindly suggested that we "breast-up" alongside them, just as well because there is a very large obstacle in front of us in the shape of Harecastle Tunnel which is a one-way tunnel 1.7 miles long, that's tomorrow's job.

The good news is that we are back on plan, so we should make it home by Thursday.

First lock of the day, it was all going so well...

Very deep Etruria Lock
Prop foul

Breasted Up, to a pirate ship.

Site of Great Pottery Throw Down TV series

Saturday, 1 July 2017

A Stone's Throw From Stone

We got off at 6:40 leaving the Coventry Canal and turning left onto the spectacular Trent and Mersey Canal, a firm favourite of ours. The first few miles were a bit industrial, passing a very large toilet factory, and because I failed to read the navigational notes before setting off we had to do an emergency stop at bridge 61 so Elaine could scamper along the towpath in her slippers to see if we were clear to proceed through the one-way section.

We were soon going through Rugely, just as nice and neat as last time with plenty of moorings then onto Great Haywood, a great place to spend the night, but we only had time to fill with water while Elaine ran over to the farm shop, she had put her shoes on by this stage. The rest of the journey has been spectacular, with wide open countryside following the path of the River Trent. Weston-upon-Trent looks a good future stopping place and there are very plentiful rural moorings to be had on every section. It really can't get much better than this.

We covered 20 miles and 8 eight locks in 9.5 hours, we're over half way, but we need another long day tomorrow to get back on track, because we have a lot of obstacles before us. Canals are just one big obstacle course, but with loads of other people wanting to clear the obstacles from the opposite direction. Try doing the Tour-de France with half the bikes starting each day from each end, and chuck in a few five year olds on bikes with stabilisers and you'll get the idea.

We were not offered any drugs today, not so many boats about as yesterday, we're too tired to walk to the pub, so not much to report. We are now in a great spot just outside Stone, near to Stoke-on -Trent.

Great Haywood Water Point
Typical Trent and Mersey Bridge / Lock

Home for the night

Friday, 30 June 2017

Everything's Going South

A slow day today, but at least we stayed dry. We set off at the normal time, through Polesworth which looked much cleaner than last time, and then came the pristine village of Hopwas with plentiful moorings that we will stay at on the return journey. On through Tamworth which gives a very good account of itself from the canal, all the gardens are neat and tidy, lovely tow path, plenty of bins which people seem to use, no trees festooned with bags of dog shit, the folk of Tamworth seem to like their canal.

Fazeley came next, not so good, and after that the Coventry Canal gets narrow and shallow in places, today we were really slowed down by dozens of boats heading in the opposite direction (south), it's quite difficult to pass on this section. We ended up doing 16 miles, and I lied to Elaine yesterday, there were two locks. A bloke on a boat we passed told me he was growing cannabis aboard and asked if I needed any, I told him we had adequate supplies for now. It's nice to see new industries springing up on the canal to replace the folk selling watering cans and kettles painted with roses and castles, or tiller pins in various animal forms, or ropes and fenders. Maybe I could revert back to my previous life and broker a merger deal between the old and new enterprises, "Dope and Rope" catchy.

We are moored at Fradley tonight, pretty quiet here considering it is a major canal junction, we walked to Alrewas for supplies and had a quick pint in the Swan at Fradley, Millie was very happy.

We are still behind, and we won't make it back home in time if we don't have a good day tomorrow.
Pub at last

Let's be philosophical about it.