Friday, 17 May 2013

I am still here

But dongle has failed so no internet.  To make matters worse iphone went in canal.
Not likely to be any posts until middle of next week, at earliest.
Good news is I have a dog, probably a Border (or Welsh) collie, 10 months old and he is lovely.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

On the Monty!

I am writing this on 24 May.  My dongle is still not working but good enough connection on my phone to post. I will keep the posts shorter than usual in an attempt to get up to date. Forgot to say in my previous post that a family of four on the steam train spent the entire journey playing cards.  Why did they go?  Or maybe the stunning scenery was not good enough and they expected the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (as in Faulty Towers).
After my two nights at Llangollen, I decided to make an early start on the Sunday and spent a good, if windy, day getting to the junction with the Montgomery canal.  Spotted my first celebrity - Shirley Williams on a hire boat.  I got a wave and hello.
I dithered whether to go down the 7 miles, 8 locks and 1 lift bridge and return, but am so glad I did.  Passage has to be booked in advance and a maximum of 12 boats per day are allowed due to shortage of water.  I moored just before the first of the 4 Frankton locks ready for my passage at midday.

TODAY: 15.5 miles; 2 locks;
TOTAL:  213.5 miles (36 miles broad, 7 miles river); 105 locks (21 broad); 9 lift bridges

Monday 6 May

 Looking down the Monty from the bottom Frankton lock.  Closed in 1944, volunteers have done a great job to restore the first 7 miles and several other sections further down, but it will be a long time and a great deal of money before through navigation is possible.

This is what cruising is about!

I do not have a new hairstyle, despite appearances.

Lovely canal-side property formerly used for boat building.  I have to thank the owners of the hotel boat, shown, for the fantastic Tiramisu they gave me - and also their foolish guest who turned it down!
Found a great farm shop and a wonderful shower facility with lots of space and hot water and very clean.  Timed for 8 minutes - I had to press it 3 times!

TODAY: 7 miles; 8 locks
TOTAL:  220.5 miles (36 miles broad, 7 miles river); 113 locks (21 broad); 9 lift bridges

Monday 7 May

Woke early and could not resist a short dawn cruise

Dawn taken at 0544

Farmer has been busy

Lift bridge.  Limit of navigation is just below.

After a few hours I start back up to moor below the Frankton locks ready for passage on Tuesday.  There is a suspected breach and the level between the locks was about a foot lower than normal.  Went aground twice (once stupidly). Second time I was completely stuck, even with barge pole and full astern - thanks to the passers-by who kindly helped and without whom I may have waited a long time for another boat.

I needed the umberella - and it was not to keep the rain off!
There must be a lot of wildlife in the reeds but I only saw a reed warbler (according to a passing twitcher).  Have also seen a stoat and bats last night.

Moored up awaiting passage - very windy.

More soon, internet permitting. 

My new best friend, as requested by Mike, in case I do not get a chance to post for a while.

TODAY: 7 miles; 4 locks; 2 lift bridges (same one twice turning round)
TOTAL:  227.5 miles (36 miles broad, 7 miles river); 117 locks (21 broad); 11 lift bridges

Saturday, 4 May 2013


After the aqueduct there is a junction with a short arm straight ahead and a very sharp left turn to continue to Llangollen.  The arm is the site of a very busy hire base which, combined with the sharp turn, must give gongoozlers (the boater's term for onlookers) much to enjoy at busy times.
The canal narrows and becomes more shallow up to Llangollen.  Recommended draught, according to Nicholson's is 21 inches and I draw 22!  The whole of this canal is shallow but now I struggle to travel at more than 2.5 miles per hour - there is not enough water to satisfy the propeller's needs.  The Llangollen, especially this section, is very twisting so a lot of work for my right arm.  Some old problems with my elbow and shoulder are threatening to come back but I have an idea which may help, to be tried later.


Fat chance
Lovely bank of cowslips, a member of the primrose family, apparently becoming rare in Scotland.

The scenery is changing from very flat to the start of the Welsh hills, with the river Dee below.

There are two very narrow sections, 300m and 500m in length with a passing place in the first but none in the second.  With crew you would send someone ahead to make sure no-one is coming.  On my own I have the choice between mooring and walking ahead or, take a chance and risk a stand off with one of you having to reverse.  It has been pretty quiet and my luck holds out!

Arrival at Llangollen basin.  It was pretty windy and I was chuffed by my almost perfect reverse onto the pontoon.  The rudder has no effect when reversing.  There are two choices for keeping the boat moving in the correct direction - the occasional short burst forward with the tiller hard over, to swing the boat (while taking account of the wind) or the boat pole.  So far I have not needed to use the latter.  The fees are a very reasonable £6 per night, including electric hook up and a water point, although the pontoons are pretty poor.
I could see the arena, where the Eisteddfod is held in July each year, from where I was moored but did not get round to forgot to go and have a look at it.

The Canal Boat Centre, where you can take a 45 minute horse drawn cruise or a 2 hour trip across the aqueduct and back.

The next day I decide to take the steam train up the valley.  At £12 I swithered but the trip was well worth the money.

Obviously not a smoke free zone!
The line, located within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty  remains close to the waters of the river for most of its length. Restoration was started in 1975 by a group of enthusiasts who saw the potential for a scenic heritage line through the Dee Valley. 7½ miles of track have been re-laid to Carrog, where the line presently terminates but a further stretch is due to open later this year.
It closed to passenger traffic in 1965 and to goods in 1968.
More info here
Off we go

The end of the line - swapping to the other end of the train

This might be a nice hotel to stay in.

The Dee is crossed by a bridge built in 1873, replacing the previous stone bridge, dating from 1345.
Llangollen is a nice town, if a bit touristy - but, that does mean very few empty commercial premises.

Views up and down the Dee from the bridge:

Very popular for canoeing and water sports, this lot of Asian tourists got more than they bargained for - fast aground.  In trying to get them off, the instructor slipped off the rock and just managed to grab the side rope to avoid being washed downstream.  A real struggle to get off.

Guess what I found in Llangollen - a saltire.

My friend, Frank, was going to bring one down when he comes with his wife, June, for a week on the boat.  I did not expect to get one in Wales!!!
They even put on quite a good fireworks display for me!

Forgot to say, earlier, that I affixed the English rose (for Lisa), which I collected when I went home, to balance my thistle. Looks good

TODAY: 11 miles; no locks;
TOTAL:  198 miles (36 miles broad, 7 miles river); 103 locks (21 broad); 9 lift bridges

Friday, 3 May 2013

Aqueducts and tunnels

I wake up to some new neighbours. 

The daffodils are late this year, like most things.  Cornwall is the largest producer of daffs in Britain and they have had to let a lot rot this year.

Chirk aqueduct and adjoining railway viaduct

Chirk tunnel, 459 yards long.

 Through the tunnel safely - I cannot say I am keen on tunnels, although it was dry, unlike some.

The famous one - Pontcysyllte

 File:Under Pontcysyllte.jpg

Pronounced pont-k-sillity, it is 1007 (307m) long, 11ft (3.4m) wide and 5.25ft (1.60m) deep and 126ft (38m) high. Each span is 53ft (16m) wide.  Built by Thomas Telford (Scottish, of course) and William Jessop, it was opened on 26 November 1805, having taken around ten years to design and build at a total cost of £47,000. Adjusted for inflation this is equal to £2,930,000 as of 2013, but it would be much, much more than that to build today, mainly because of the very low wages paid then for manual workers. It is the longest and highest aqueduct in Britain, Grade 1 listed and a world heritage site.

Here I go!

The railway viaduct

It is not very wide and I had forgotten to remove my fenders - 3 gone!

Who is in charge of the boat?

Unfortunately, it was quite windy and when I stepped off to take a photo my Nicholson's Guide ended up down there.  £15 to replace but the worst was losing my notes of where I had moored and the TV and phone/internet signal at each place.


Don't step off!

Great views

Shadow of following boat

The end is nigh!

For any observant readers, I combined photos going and coming back - unlike Scotland, the weather does not change that quickly!
For more information see Wikipedia

Part two of the day to follow shortly.

Heading for Chirk

After the immediate lift bridge, 13 miles free from locks (and lift bridges) to look forward to.  Not that I mind locks, I actually enjoy them but could do without the lift bridges.  Locks are a great opportunity to chat and the exercise is good for me and especially my legs - problems with veins means I have to wear support stockings and exercise is highly recommended.  Being on my own (single hander is the term used) I get through a lot of locks without leaving the boat as almost always, Lock-keepers or any boaters coming the other way will work the lock for me.
Set off the short distance to the lift bridge and another boat is coming.  I hang back in the hope it is not another single hander and they will work the bridge. The other boat comes in so I walk up - he is also on his own so he opens the bridge and I offer to close it - etiquette dictates that the person opening the bridge closes it.

Entering some very different countryside - the land of the "meres", after which Ellesmere takes its name. 

Wonderful section of the canal - Cole Mere.

 Blake Mere - the most beautiful and where I stop and sit out for lunch - glorious.
I had half intended to moor up at Ellesmere for supplies but it is such a lovely day and I want to get to Llangollen by Friday so I chug on.

TODAY: 15.5 miles; 2 locks; 1 lift bridges
TOTAL:  187 miles (36 miles broad, 7 miles river); 103 locks (21 broad); 9 lift bridges; 145 hours (engine)

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Good progress

Before moving on to today's events, I forgot the update on the people from Finland. 

After mooring last night, I had a walk up to the key operated lift bridge. This is an electrically operated bridge so all the work is done for you.  There are traffic signals to stop the traffic and a level crossing type barrier for safety. It is not a busy road but has a fair amount of traffic and this was early evening, so people heading home from work.
The Fins were about to go through. 
Barrier closed and the bridge lifted with no problems. The helmsman casts off and immediately sets off at right angles towards the hire boats in the marina opposite the bank.  Manages to find reverse and avoids a collision.  I take his centre rope to assist.  Another attempt.  Too fast!  He puts the tiller over the wrong way.  I shout full astern, but of course he does not speak English - BANG!  He hits the opening on the right hand side.  I hope all fragile items and crockery had been secured.  With the aid of sign language, indicating in which direction to put the tiller and a fair amount of pulling on the rope by my he manages to get through.  
While this is going on the two crew members are standing by the control panel watching, offering no assistance.  The dozen or so cars waiting, by this time, were no doubt not amused by the antics!  I hope I do not meet them in an awkward spot when they have turned and are coming back down.

On to today.  Awoke to glorious blue sky and no wind.  Need a good days cruising over the next couple of days if I am to achieve my aim of getting to Llangollen by Friday - advice from other boaters is that it is quietest at the weekends as the hire boats do not get there until mid week (most start Saturday or Sunday).
I moved up to the bridge but working it on my own, while not difficult, would mean holding up the traffic for quite a while:-
turn on the signal lights;
close the barrier;
back across the bridge and raise it;
move through and moor the boat;
get off and lower the bridge;
open the barrier;
back across the bridge and turn off the stop signals.
I decide to wait for 10 minutes in the hope another boat arrives.  Fortunately someone from the boatyard sees I am on my own and comes to open the bridge for me.

I took the opportunity to partake of some liquid nourishment while working WilleyMoor lock.  Very welcome.

The canal is used to feed Hurleston reservoir at the junction with the main branch of the Shroppie so there is quite a flow of water down it and the by-wash (used to channel the flow round the lock) can be pretty fierce, making entering the locks interesting to say the least!

A note on lift bridges.  They are hydraulically operated, using the windless and take quite a bit of effort.  These and swing bridges all seem to have the workings on the non tow-path side, making life difficult if you are on your own.  Fortunately, on the Llangollen, the builders have provided a bollard on the working side, on either side of the bridge, for a single hander to tie up to while operating the bridge.  Two nice young ladies did all the work at two of them for me and another boat did another one so I did not have to do them all.  A boater walking his dog came along while I was going through one and told me how he did them on his own and the info was very useful.  Chatted to him for quite a while.

A very enjoyable 10 hour day (including stops), although I kept going a bit longer than intended in the hope of getting a signal on the phone - no luck.  I was pretty tired by the end and the whisky went down very well.

TODAY: 12 miles; 10 locks; 6 lift bridges
TOTAL:  172 miles (36 miles broad, 7 miles river); 101 locks (21 broad); 8 lift bridges