Friday, 29 June 2018

Llangollen by the Sea!

Well, that's what it feels like!

The basin is somewhat sheltered from the hustle and bustle of the town. There is a background hum of modern life, but the birdsong and clip clop of the horse drawn trip boat, plus the chuff and whistle of the departing steam train, tends to mask this. The sounds of a bygone age.

If you have never been before, Llangollen basin is a brilliant spot to stop. Limited to 48 hours mooring at £6 per day, this includes electrikery.  So plugged in and washer on!
But, you can't hang your smalls beyond the confines of the boat, lest you offend the locals. Good job we have a cratch cover and pram hood then. In the current heatwave, the washing soon dried.

We love Llangollen.  Over the weekend, it appeals to the younger demographic. But as the weekdays start, before the school hols, the silvertops take over. And yes, I include myself in this.

We arrived on a Sunday, families, ice cream and frolicking in the river margins. You really could be by the seaside. Because of this, we rather shied from the centre and went instead to the leafy almost rural retreat of the "Ladies of Llangollen". This is Plas Newydd, a special place and in a beautiful setting.

And of course, we just had to take a trip on the steam train along the Dee valley to Corwen. A little hazardous at times though, as the embers from the locomotive kept setting fire to the parched  trackside grasses.

Then the almost obligatory walk up the feeder, to the water source of the canal at Horseshoe falls. You do have to admire the ingenuity of our forefathers. On the way back, we stopped off for a little liquid refreshment at the revamped Chain Bridge Hotel. With the feeder stream one side, the river and steam railway on the other, this sits in an idyllic spot, the bridge itself, now refurbished and useable once more, linking all parts.

The town itself is also home to some fine foods. Whether you fancy a Welsh Oggie (We did!), or a decent pub meal, it can be found here. We opted to visit the Corn Mill, sitting pretty on the riverside and were not disappointed in the quality of the meal or service. But, if you like a scone and a bit of jam and cream, the Wharf is the place to go. Very reasonably priced and deliscious to boot!

Our waist measurements have suffered though!

You are only allowed 48 hours on the town moorings, but you can stay until 1700 on the final day. So we did! Then we set off out of town and towards the narrows. There were two hire boats ahead of us though. One a seasoned campaigner, but the lead boat bounced from bank to bank and was uber slow. To allow them and us a little less stress, Ali held me back, allowing a hire boat to come upstream. This gave us some distance and made the trip down to Trevor a lot more relaxed. By the time we reached the Ponty aqueduct, we were on our lonesome, apart from several kayakers coming across upstream. We were kind, held back allowing the last knackered pair to rest after crossing, before we made our leisurely passage across.

Strange, but with no other boats in sight, you would think this would make for an easy, leisurely cruise, going downstream across the aqueduct! Wrong... For some reason we both felt uneasy. The boat crabbed across and occasionally banged against the channel walls. By the time we had crossed and moored up beyond the lift bridge, we needed food and a bevvy or two.

So we walked back across the aqueduct, and re aqainted ourselves with the Telford PH. Funnily enough, the walk back was stress free!

Total distance 5 miles, 2 moveable bridges and 1 aqueduct

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Second leg commences.

After attending the brilliant wedding of Andy & Lorraine, we set off on Sunday on the second leg of our summer cruise.

Image may contain: Lorraine Owens and Andy Owens, people smiling, people standing and wedding
Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, on stage, standing and indoor

The wedding was brilliant. Everything went to plan. The venue was great and despite the dire forecast, the sun shone. The work and planning that went into making it a perfect day for the newlyweds, was well worth it. Thank you for the invite and enjoy your life together. It cannot fail to be a bundle of laughs.

So, back on topic. Sunday saw us packing, cleaning and loading up the boat. It was a somewhat hot, humid and sticky day, but by late afternoon,we had done. So what better way to shake off the cobwebs than an evening cruise. Don't  get us wrong, we love our new marina base, especially when we bid it farewell, but spending any time on the boat in there, is just too reminiscent of a floating caravan park!

By 6pm, the umbilical was severed, and we were off!

The weather was fantastic. The sun shone, the birds sang with ner a breath of wind as we exited the marina confines. To top it off, Ali allowed me a cold beer!

It's lovely to cruise during a tranquil summer evening. The boats were few, the wildlife aplenty,  bursting with new life. Pity about the pollen count, but you can't have it all.

By 8pm having descended Hillmorton locks, we decided to call it a day on the outskirts of Rugby, near the Golf course.

Monday dawned chilly and cloudy. After a quick shop fest in Rugby, we meandered our way along very familiar territory, having come this way on the first leg. The may blossom and horse chestnut blossom has now gone, replaced by flag Iris, Dog roses and Elderflower. England at its very best.

By Hawkesbury junction, we called it a day. Turning onto the Coventry canal, we moored in tranquillity some way out from the junction. Boat wise, it remains rather quiet. Well it would be if people slowed down and enjoyed the journey! The hectic pace of modern life has permeated the canals, with some folk disregarding established etiquette,  and charging past moored boats. And no, this be not hirers...

Day 3 ( leg 2) saw us heading vaguely up't North. Well towards Tamworth actually. We chugged through Nuneaton, pleasant place, out through the wooded post industrial landscape towards Atherstone. But it was chilly. Even had my Benny hat on!

Lunch was taken on the hoof, before we hit the locks. A slight delay at the top allowed us to make use of the services and chat to fellow boaters. The volockys were helpful and we eased down the locks, stopping halfway for a quick shop. Only negative, they obviously don't use Basil infused olive oil hereabouts!

We completed the flight in, would you believe, sunshine! The moored up below the locks and relaxed..

Next day we charged towards Tamworth! Well prodded slowly really. We had arranged to visit Geoff, late of N.B Willow Too and now the proud owner of N.B Greenlaw. A slight hiccup saw him temporarily in Glascote basin, whilst the engine received some remedial work. Great to see you again Geoff, hope all goes to plan. And thank you for helping us down the locks.

Then, trouble...

Whilst visiting Geoff, we met up with Sue & Quentin, cycling the tow path and looking lean, mean and naughty! We had arranged to meet in Hopwas, where Twizzel was safely moored. This was going to hurt!

We have a certain history. For reasons unknown, whilst all of us are largely teetotal(!), when we meet up, we get inebriated. And thus it was!

Moored up in Hopwas , pub, pissed . In a very civilised way of course!

What a lovely evening we had catching up. Great to see you both again. Not so long next time.

Surprisingly , the next morning we were in fine fettle . We chatted to Sue and Quent for a while, then continued onwards. The mornings still  have a chilly, but the afternoons have been glorious.

Anyway. Onwards and vaguely North. By the time we reached Fradley junction, we fully expected an increase in boat traffic. Twas not to be! We made the turn onto the Trent & Mersey and straight to the lock. No queue, no boats! So we were quickly up the three locks without any delay.

In reality, the only problems we had in the whole trip from Fradley , up to Hurleston junction, was obtaining fuel, but even that was but a slight inconvenience.  The plan was to fill her up at the fuel boat with a farm mooring just out of Rugeley.  We stopped, secured against her, all watched by the owner. Ali went to ask for fuel...
"Got none, expecting a delivery, but it won't come today now"
So off we trotted! We do carry an emergency supply, so as we were a tad low, having last filled at Sileby,  we topped up with this. It was 72 ppl at the fuel boat. It was therefore a pleasant surprise to find Anglo Welsh at Great Heywood charging 75 ppl.
So they got our business.

The Staffs and Worcester was again quiet and we bimbled along it with no dramas then turned at Autherley junction onto the Shroppie . With the closure of the Middlewich arm, we expected this to be busy, but again no. We waited at not one lock and made the journey down the Audlem flight with one boat a few locks ahead of us, but not a one coming up! The honey spots were busy with moored boats, but these must have come from local marinas, because we saw none travelling to speak of.

In Nantwich we stopped for a shop and tried to top up the fuel before hitting the Llangollen. No joy. Sold out at Nantwich Canal Centre. What sort of businesses are these?

Hurleston junction was busy, if you can call four boats waiting to ascend busy. But we were soon up and onto the Llangollen. All went well until we reached Swanley lock 2. We arrived to find two boats waiting. There was a problem. Someone had lifted the wooden cill buffer out of place, tipped it end on, greatly reducing any depth and a hazard. Enquiring if anyone had contacted CRT,  the answer was no! Although attempts had been made to shift the obstruction by the first boater in the queue,  I wonder why? The object itself is basically a robust oak gate...

Anyway, we phoned CRT and within an hour or so, a local lad came down and assessed it. Now this was a Sunday afternoon and fathers day to boot. Later on, he returned with two colleagues and a chain saw. By cutting and lifting maneagble chunks out, they were able to reopen the passage of boats.

The weather was warming up. We stopped at Ellesmere for more supplies then stopped on Chirk bank. We had a fantastic walk to the castle, which was well worth the hike. Stunning location. Then over the Ponty, spectacular as ever.

There are a few hire boats out, but nothing like the numbers we were expecting. At Grindley brook for example, we had a free passage up the entire flight with no waiting. That's a first for us.

A stop at the Sun Trevor visitor mooring allowed us the time to ascend to Castell Dinas Bran, with spectacular views, then down into Llangollen and a walk back to the boat. Then the dreaded narrows! Ali walked ahead and we had no problems barring one impatient chap. Ali advised him shall we say. Entering Llangollen itself, there was one boat on the visitor moorings near the services! The basin was a little busier, but still with plenty of room. We tucked ourselves in a corner against the bank, as the pontoons here are short, and during what has become the hottest week thus far, enjoyed a little shade.

That's where we have been!

Total distance 170 miles 84 locks, 12 movable bridges, 5 tunnels and 2 major Aqueducts.