Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Whixall Moss

Today's Canals - Llangollen, Prees Branch

It was markedly colder this morning with just a little mist lingering over the surface of the canal. Mike walked down the arm to Tesco for a newspaper. The short journey took longer than it could as a result of stopping to chat to other boaters!

Alongside the canal close to Ellesmere are various sculptures and we saw signs offering guide books that explain what each one is meant to indicate. It would make interesting reading for these two in the field opposite our overnight mooring!

The junction was quiet and very calm - Beech House (we learnt from the information sculpture) was designed by Telford as the headquarters of the canal company.

The morning's cruise - familiar territory passing the various meres - was largely uneventful apart from getting stuck on mud a couple of times. It was close to lunch time when we arrived at Whixall Junction where the Prees Branch goes off to the south.

There are thee bridges on the navigable section - the first is a lift bridge which was restored a few years ago. Our guidebook (perhaps a little out of date) warns that as a result it is hard to operate. In fact we found it to be one of the easiest on the whole Welsh canal system!

Last year we saw that the second bridge had been dismantled and the pieces were lying alongside the crossing. Today work is progressing well on re-building it so perhaps next time will have another bridge to lift. The third bridge is a more conventional stone arch structure.

At the end of the present navigation is a mid sized marina that looks very pleasant - definitely very rural! We turned in the entrance and moored immediately for our lunch. The season has definitely changed as we were treated to the first of Christine's famous warming soups.

Lunch over we decided to explore the next part of the branch which is no longer navigable but, according to our maps, is still 'in water'.

There was a good towpath alongside. At the point where the second bridge would have been, the water ends and the remainder is dry, although its route can still be seen.

Rather than return the way we came we plotted a route along a country lane, a footpath and a track that would bring us back to the canal close to the marina. Sadly, the landowner of the footpath section has removed much indication of where it leaves the road at either end. Where we expected to come out now has a house garden between the path and the road! No-one around so we hopped over a couple fences!

Back at the boat we set off back up the branch and then turned left at the junction. We continued for about a miles before mooring once more at a newly improved (earlier this spring) visitor mooring so that we could take a walk to explore the fens.

Another circular route (actually mostly fours sides of a quadrilateral!) took us across the former peat cutting area.

At one point there was a striking brilliant green patch that stood out amongst everything else that had already taken on its autumn, almost winter, hue.

We continued following the waymarked path (apart from a short unwise detour - we had to back track!) we came out onto the towpath just before Whixall Junction - with about a mile to walk back to the boat.

The first walk was about 2.3 miles and the second was three miles.

9.5 Miles - 0 locks

Tuesday, 17 October 2017


Today's Canal - Llangollen

The overnight storm had just about blown itself out by morning but at times it was a rocky night. When we awoke it was rather grey but the day gradually improved and the late afternoon was splendid, bright and sunny and still warm.

Mike walked up to the local convenience store for a newspaper and then Christine wandered around the basin area that she had not explored yesterday. Whilst she was doing this, Andrew started to turn the boat around - just enough room.

However, we picked up something around the prop in the process and lost almost all power. By this time we were in the narrow gap between the moored hire fleet with another boat that had just set off behind and waiting for us to get out of the way. We had to pull the boat into a gap by rope. Eventually we cleared the prop and, amongst all the leaves we found this nasty piece of rope.

Next came the  Pontcysyllte Aqueduct but we had quite a wait for a boat to cross from the other end. They seemed to have most of their crew on the towpath holding the boat away from the rubbing strip!

This time Christine steered us across so that Andrew could take more photos, especially of the sheer drop over the offside edge to the fields and river below. Mike skulked inside the cabin mostly!

Across to the other side and we quickly  reached the lift bridge.

Just before reaching Chirk we had a view of the two chemical works which are hidden from the canal when at the closest point. One part - probably the main part of this picture - is Kronospan who manufacture wood panels whilst next door is a site which is currently owned by the multinational Mondelez who convert cocoa beans into chocolate crumb here for sale under the Cadbury brand label. The bars are made in Birmingham.

The approach to the tunnel is very attractive at the moment even if the mass of leaves in the water do clog up the prop very quickly.

Again we had a wait for the tunnel and followed a rather slow boat in front of us but we id manage to head straight across the aqueduct. Just as well as two boats opted to moor in the short stretch between the tunnel and the aqueduct.

A very similar style of aqueduct at Marple is having a railing added to the offside on Health and Safety grounds. Surprisingly, here it seems sufficient just to have these not large warning signs.

At Monks Bridge in Chirk Bank (close to where we met Andrew yesterday) a house has this display!

On a bit and another bungalow has this old chap at the end of the garden.

We then had a steady run through St Martin which gave us  Chance to have our lunch in relays. We managed to finish in time to work through the two New Marton locks.

After a couple of uninterrupted miles we arrived at Frankton Junction where Andrew hopped off to take a look at the first four locks. He caught up with the boat some time later after a lengthy walk along the towpath.

It was now a very pleasant afternoon and scenery to match.

Andrew eventually caught up with us at a bridge where the fuel boat we used a couple of days ago was now moored. In the process of passing through the bridge we became stuck on mud - fortunately the chap from the fuel boat came and offered to help pull us off with a rope, Even so it took us some time to get free. The lady from the fuel boat wanted to take a photo of us - she is building a record of where dredging needs to be done.

We then had a mile to run into Ellesmere. Christine jumped off onto the towpath to walk up to Tesco for a small number of items whilst Mike and Andrew took the boat across to the service block.

Christine reported that there was not much chance of a mooring down the arm but we opted to reverse back a couple of boat lengths as there was room alongside the towpath. We even managed a tv signal despite expecting the buildings to be in the way.

14.8 Miles - 2 Locks

Monday, 16 October 2017

Trevor Basin

Today's Canal - Llangollen

The day began very grey although before long the sun made a brave, if not too successful, attempt to come out. The forecast that concerned us was that the tail end of a hurricane was expected to bring very strong winds - up 40 or 50 mph - by early afternoon. But the temperature, out of the wind, was still very warm and by the end of the afternoon some bright sunshine arrived but by sunset there was some rain.

We were on a schedule to meet up with Andrew at Chirk Bank and he anticipated his arrival between 12:30 and 1 pm so Mike made a slightly earlier start than usual.

We wondered whether this parking meter indicated a new business enterprise gto rent out self service moorings but as there was nowhere to tie up, perhaps it is an eccentric form of decoration.

Before long we passed the junction where the Montgomery Canal goes off. We did not have time to go that way last year and this time is much the same but we did manage it eight years ago!

Only two locks today at New Marton. Although a boat had just passed ahead of us so they were full, the rise is quite modest and so they were easy to operate, even if the second one only had one top paddle working.

There is an extensive and posh looking hotel at Moreton Bridge on the A5 with a set of pontoon moorings. Although a sign says that they can be used by customers, they remain very empty. Perhaps it was a good idea that has just not paid off.

We arrived at Chirk Bank just before 12:30 and found a good set of visitor moorings. We had not been long tied up when Andrew arrived and unloaded his car. By good fortune there is also a useful small car park alongside the bridge.

Before we left Andrew ran Mike across the valley to the local shops in Chirk village. The main aim was to find a newspaper but he also spotted a good local butcher with some tasty looking pork pies. he bought two!

Shortly after we crossed the Chirk Aqueduct. The photo clearly shows the railway line passing alongside but also, if you look carefully, the start of the tunnel immediately at the other end. We arrived just as a boat had entered the other end of the tunnel - it is one way working so we had to wait and then a bit more for a second boat that followed on behind. There is no traffic control here!

Just over a mile on and we are close to the world famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct but first there is yet another lift bridge. The boat ahead of us was clearly learning having just been sent out from the marina a short distance back. So it was suggested that Mike get off early and walk ahead to open the bridge for them as well as ourselves. They were suitably grateful. Alas another two boats charged up behind and, without awaiting an invitation dashed through. Fortunately there was no vehicle traffic wanting to cross as a sign indicates that only three boats can pass through without closing it and allowing the cars across. When you want a car, none arrive!

Close to the lift bridge is a sculpture although there was no explanation. Also, in the background it is possible to see the railway viaduct a little downstream of the canal one.

OK, so now the picture gallery of our crossing. When we started the wind was much stronger but by the time we were in the more exposed part, the water was being whipped up into quite a spray at times.

As we draw 2 ft 6 inches we are probably too deep to make it to Llangollen so Trevor is where we need to turn around. Originally, the canal was planned to continue from here to Chester and thence to Ellesmere Port, where we were last week. Bit money was not forthcoming and it went no further, apart from, at one time, a short arm into the small town which developed a range of industries. The basin is now the base for a large Anglo Welsh hire fleet but there are a few visitor moorings right at the end of the still navigable arm.

With the wind still strengthening we investigated if there was room and, yes, there was just enough space so, not without a little difficulty we turned the boat so that we could head down. No chance of a tv signal but we were a little relieved not to have to head back over the aqueduct even though boats were still coming across.

After mooring in the basin we separately wandered around. At one time this must have been a busy wharf - there is still a working dry dock - and at one time there was a narrow gauge tramway.

We spotted this sign, over a hundred years old, on the doors to one of the basin buildings - it seems that the towpath cycling controversy is not as recent as some would have it!

12.2 Miles - 2 Locks