Last Day in Maesbury

Our third day in Maesbury – a quiet day with Viv doing some more of her cross-stitch and a final meal in the Navvie- for it is their fish and chip supper day.

It takes time & patience but the narroworboat scene is coming on
A table & room to ourselves
Fish, chips, peas and homemade tartare sauce

Trad Boat

I often get annoyed by boaters who say, oh I have a trad boat. To which I say, oh is made entirely of wood and pulled by a horse, you must be proud. Most of our boats are facsimiles, confections with a nod to a bygone age . . . this age:

What’s this rope going over our boat? And is that a horse?
Yep, it’s a horse drawn boat
And back they come
The horse is Cracker and the dog is Raymond
A marvellous site. I marvelled too at how they used giant wooden hooks to lift the tow rope over the boat – avoiding aerials and the weather station.

A Day in Maesbury

We stay a whole day in Maesbury – walking down to the end at Gronwen wharf and then beyond to see what restoration work they have been doing.

Here’s Canal Central – a cafe and shop plus a campsite
Also home to the horse drawn boat – here being visited by the mobile farrier
And the wee boat for the horse – it can pulled either way and has fittings for the rudder at either end.
Looking back to the Navigation and the service station . . . this used to be a major wharf, the closest the canal gets to Oswestry
And in colour
A very nice and new service station – toilets and showers
And part funded by the EU
And on down the canal towards the end – there’s a lift bridge to operate first
And then there’s Gronwen wharf – to the right is the winding hole and beyond the final bridge – No 82
Makes it quite clear. However we did hear of a boater who reversed his boat all the way down this section!
Plenty of water down here, so it won’t be long before we see boats here.
This is the last bit – damned up, with 4 cygnets trying hopelessly to reunite with mother.
Bridge 84 and beyond is the newly restored channel. Not sure what the big pipes are for?
And beyond this . . . back to the wild unrestored canal
I clambered over some scaffolding to snap the next stage – restoring a big winding hole at Crickheath wharf – it’s no good just letting more boats down if they can’t turn round and go back!
A marvellous afternoon tea back at Canal Central – proper loose leaf tea, in a pot plus a pot of hot water. And cake!

Onwards & Downwards

I was going to title this bit as “Bottoming Out”, which may be more appropriate as we did indeed get to the bottom of the restored, navigable canal. And we also bottomed quite a bit as well, since the canal is a tad shallow but only in places. Wednesday was a rainy, cold day and what with the weather and driving through treacle at times – not a great day. We paused at the Queen’s Head with a view to staying the night but the pub was very dog unfriendly and the mooring was by a busy road with the A5 also not far away . . . so on we went, all the way to Maesbury.

And over the aqueduct and along the big straight stretch – not shallow here.

After the pinch point it does get shallower, like driving through treacle but then who’s in a hurry

Still spitting with rain as we pause to let two Whittington red hire boats pass, glad we didn’t meet them here at Heath Houses – was a wharf for shipping bone products! Bit of a squeeze.
A brief stop at Queen’s Head but the pub was very dog unfriendly – so we told them where to go and moved on. Not a good spot as there was a noisy road plus the main A5 was close too . . . so onwards to the 3 Aston locks
There was some controversy over this section as it passes through what is now a SSSI – with lots of small lakes full, one assumes, of rare flora and fauna. Viv steers . . expertly.

Final spot – opposite the old bone mill and . . . the pub!
We are off for a walk but pub later – the Navigation Inn
Great little village pub – run by Brent & Mark, really friendly, and dog friendly too! Even a dining room for you to take the dog.
Here’s Brent serving the beers – good local ones plus a 6.2% cider!
A great parlour to take a drink before eating
And for non dog owners a rather plush ante room bar with pews to take the G&Ts before heading into the rather nice, carpeted restaurant.

We did enjoy our visit here – see http://www.thenavigation.co.uk/index.aspx

The owners were very chatty and served up excellent food – Viv had a baked camembert starter with cranberry sauce and a roasted bulb of garlic. I had their own homemade potted shrimps followed by crispy belly of pork on black pudding mash with sauerkraut. Viv had a full roast beef dinner with homemade horseradish. We also met up with Jenny & Trevor from “Life of Riley”, we’ve leapfrogging each other as we cruise along.

Down the Monty

Tuesday morning and more boats turned up. At 11 ish, Chris the duty lock keeper arrived – he actually lives on his boat, moored down at the arm below the locks. Our name was on top of the list and so, down we went… 3 or 4 boats were coming up too. We just went through the staircase locks and then the next two locks . . turn left into the small basin and stop. That’ll do. Nice spot. Water point and well kept toilets too.

Chris unlocks the padlocks and prepares the lock for us.
Into the top of the massive staircase
Moored just in the old arm – I think this was a branch that went to Shrewsbury, or was intended to . . the lock keepers boat in front of ours
A very pleasant spot – lots of space – no passing boats (or anything), two water points and that small building houses a very well kept toilet block.
Some wild flowers.

We have a very poor internet signal here – so won’t persevere with any more pix or blog – you’ll have to wait until tomorrow evening when we’re back up t’top!

Pyramidal orchids?
The infamous Perry aqueduct – collapsed in 1936 and the then owners, the railway company didn’t want to fix it and this lead to the demise of the canal. Reviving this in the 90’s has opened up the canal to boats again.
And Toby gets his swim.

Off to meet Monty

One of those “shall we stay or shall we go” moments! Rain is forecast later and then again on Tuesday morning, our down the Monty day. So, let’s get under way and moor the wee ship at the top of the Monty ready for the off tomorrow and we can also scope out the locks and services whilst walking Toby.

I think we have chosen the time well – hardly any of the mad rush now.
Still a very quiet & rural canal
Val Hill in the distance – each bridge hole is quite a challenge – firstly to line up the boat correctly, then fight against the flow and today the wind also!
Definitely rural!
Fishy?
It was only 54 minutes but here we are from bridge 60 to 69 – a left turn and it’s the Monty
As the signpost confirms
All empty and peaceful here. They allow you to moor up on this lock landing – well, it is only open for 2 hrs a day.
Final spot. Toby’s happy.
After the collapse of an aqueduct, the canal really fell into decay but a lot of effort was (and still is) put into restoring it and one day it will reach the end….Newtown?
The first obstacle is a huge double staircase lock
All the surrounding edges are beautifully maintained.
This must become an iconic photo, not for the bloke but the sign – 3 mph – subtitled, Life in the Slow Lane. It’s meant to be a shallow canal, so I doubt 3 mph could be exceeded.
A lot of rain but then the sun came out again and gave us a magnificent sunset.
Sunset filters, patience and the right place to stand . . . looking down the Llangollen to bridge 1W
Still Waters and the bewitched tree
And there we stay for the night. Enjoying Viv’s new horseradish sauce with sliced beef and mash and marrowfat peas! Luxury. What a delightful spot.

More Staying Put

Tis a hard life, all this staying put. But when you’re a few days early for the next bit (going down the Monty), why move on? We are now moored at Stank’s Visitor Moorings – according to Canalplan. Just a few 100 yds from the Ellesmere junction. You can tell it’s half-term – 100’s of boats sailing up and down. I walked the dog yesterday and watched/helped a newbie “it’s our first hour, can you tell?”. They did OK. They wanted to stop for lunch and unwisely, just pulled over and then got stuck. They did have the Pearson’s guide and I said, try and stop on the official moorings – you’ll get rings and usually, it’s deep enough too! Happy Days.

Lots of these around – hopefully the babies are big enough now to avoid being taken by predators
A nice boat – “Rupert” plus an old Landy!
Here comes Lloyd & Dee on Tiller Girl – we first met these guys (from New Zealand) at Wrenbury and then again at Whixall. They have been to the end and back and passed on some useful info. They moored next to us and came aboard for some wine & chat. Very nice people.
Just across the canal – Ellesmere public school
Things to do on a Bank Holiday morning – make horseradish sauce! This was from some of the fresh horseradish we were given by Mr Davies – which we froze. Must be beef for lunch then.
The all important solar power – rain is forecast later but if we can put back in the power we used overnight, then we can stay put. 174 Watts here but it fluctuates – sometimes over 400W and 28 amps!
the new battery monitor – here showing how many ampere hours we are down. The batteries hold 660 Ah and I try to limit how much we use – hopefully never down to less than 80% (so -132Ah), here we’re down to less than 10%, so that’s OK. It was down to -67Ah this morning but the solar is doing its job – running the boat’s electrics and recharging the batteries. The shallower you discharge the batteries, the greater the number of cycles you get out of them – they last longer!
Tuesday’s trip – we have a week down the Monty, so we’ll do quite a bit of that “staying put”. Hopefully quieter than the main line.

Ellesmere & Meze

We left Whixall early and chugged on to Ellesmere – passing a hire base and many of the meres on the way. Some parts were wide and deep, others narrow and shallow. At each bridge hole, we almost came to a standstill as the flow against us slowed us down – it’ll be more fun going back! I sounded the horn at every bridge as there was a flow of boats.

Telford wanted to save time and money by making his canal pretty straight, when he could.
And those tight squeezes through the bridge holes
Always a bit of trepidation . . .
One of the many lakes or meres
And finally Ellesmere tunnel and despite the warning to “check no other is coming before entering”, this charity boat didn’t and had to back off!! Adagio is coming through!
There’s a short arm down towards the town – it seemed pretty busy and later on, every berth was occupied.
Final spot – down to the end, tricky place to spin the boat but then back up and moor. Tesco is down the end on the left. Very busy here – lots of footfall and lots of dogs too.
After two, yes two, trips to Tesco, we were re-victualled and took ourselves off to the town
Oh look – a micro pub!
A micro entrance maybe but down below was an Aladdin’s Cave of unique furntiure, eclectic? The owner, who sounded a bit like Eddie from Eddie’s Bar in Hustle, spent his spare cash on buying pieces each week for his bar – fantastic! Beer wasn’t too bad either and look – Toby friendly too. The picture is of the building circa 1900.
Cosy! Mr D would love this place.
Toby did get his walk and even a swim in the Mere.
Cool
We noticed this place – a Greek restaurant, Meze . . with this sign
Wow, a dog friendly restaurant? We booked to go back later.
Steve tries the Ouzo cocktail! Kerpow! Note the group behind – a Swedish group from a hire boat – I mentioned this place to them and lo, they came.
Very friendly and chatty , they made a great fuss of Toby. It wasn’t a bad restaurant – gave it 3 stars on TripAdvisor!
The next morning – a view of the terminus with Adagio, in the middle. Time to move to a quieter spot round the corner.

Staying Put

To be honest, most boaters simply charge through here – got to get to the pontcysyllte aqueduct and the end of the Llangollen!! But of all the places – Whixall is one of the most isolated and yet interesting. So we stopped another day. We got to stroll through the reserve – saw many dragonflies, a hobby and heard/saw some curlew. I also cycled around the area – down the Press branch to see the marina and on down the disused arm. All amazingly quiet, flat and rural. I am amazed that Telford drove his new canal straight through this bog – quite a feat of engineering. They had to employ a moss gang to continually shore up the canal, as the constant draining of the peat meant a drying out and collapse of the canal bank. Once they had put the steel pilings in they were redundant.

Day 48 – Grindley Brook to Whixall

We left Wrenbury early in the morning, Viv working the massive electric lift bridge & holding up the traffic. On through Marbury and four isolated locks: Marbury, Quoisley, Willey Moor and Povey’s before halting on the visitor moorings, before the locks at Grindley Brook. A good, quiet mooring with excellent 4G signal (>50MBps!). We’ll stop here for a few days and watch all the hire (and private) boats scamper by. The next bit is rather hectic – 3 locks very close together, all with that awful strong bywash and then the 3-rise staircase locks – all 6 lifting the boater nearly 39 feet up.

A very leaky lock at Marbury – look at all the spouts coming out of the brickwork – must note this on the way back – close all windows!
Steve drives Adagio in – slightly damper
The Llangollen is a very rural canal
When going up, you normally slow down and edge the boat (6’10” wide) into the lock (7′ wide!), however, there’s millions of gallons of water flowing down the whole length of the canal to the reservoir at the bottom and the bywash is a raging torrent – pushing the boat sideways . . .
And at the top of the lock – there’s a very strong pull from the top of the bywash – so no lingering!
Final resting spot – good all round. Also spotted two lapwings here.
Lots of blossom
We walked up to the staircase locks and bought some ice cream – for us and also for Toby
He did seem to enjoy it – Marshfield’s are on to a winner here, making special ice cream for dogs – £2 a tub too.
Here’s the locks and the very smart cafe. There’s no side ponds with these (unlike Foxton & Watford), so going up, you have to leave the bottom lock empty but the middle and top full.
Bit of a long post this one as it does cover 3 days . . . we left Grindley Brook in the light rain, at 0800 and in a bit of a grump – sorry no pix – . . . but we did get thru all 6 locks without delay and off to Whitchurch. A good water point (4 in fact) at the top of the locks plus a modern service station (elsan, toilets, showers, rubbish recycling and a pump out)
If you come up to the “Golli”, you’ll see loads of these – most are hydraulically operated, you just use a windlass to wind them up & down
Bit more tricky as you want to line the boat up properly but you also don’t want to hit the bridge and rip bits of your boat off!
More wildlife – Mrs Cow
And a longhorn – Mr Cow!
Ah! Someone’s dream home? An awfully nice “hice” and “grinds” with their own mooring. What do think Gail? Would it suit all of us??
with their own lift bridge too – No 42!
Viv’s arty photo
Final resting place (a) – turns out there was no signal here whatsoever – Platt Lane (bridges 43-44) – so we moved on, shame Tobes seemed happy here – note piggy brought out too.
We are now on the edge of Whixall moss – a vast nature reserve made up of old peat bogs – quite a find here.
Final resting place (b) – um, not very good either – shallow !
We had a good walk into the reserve – didn’t see any of the white-faced dragonflies but did see lots of Belted Galloways! With babies!
Final resting place (c) – visitor moorings by bridge 46, close to the Prees branch junction, very good all round – 4G, deep and on rings.
We may divert down here on the way back – looks nice a quiet plus there’s a grade 2 listed lift bridge here and a big marina at the end
They seemed to have organised the reserve well – with lots of these boards and info.
Just around the corner the canal crosses the border – no real sign, so Viv uses her GPS on the phone to make sure. In fact the canal does meander in and out of Wales a few times.
Here’s some of that bog!
Ah, yes, these guys – a couple of Kiwis, swapping their motor home in New Zealand for this narrowboat and thoroughly enjoying themselves – we keep meeting up with them, they have hired bikes and zoom around, visiting towns and places the canal doesn’t pass through
Didn’t quite manage to spot this fellah but this is the white faced dragonfly. Maybe later. We’ve got the oil burner going on the boat – diffusing bog myrtle (or Sweet Gale) – cos there’s bound to be mozzies around here!

And to end – the map – near Whixall marina – we’ve come a long way – not far to go now.