Tag Archives: Llangollen

Day 96 – Silence Is Golden

The boat in the picture below moored behind us last night, it was only when we went to bed we heard the grinding of the pin on the armco railing. Off Toby went in his PJs with a torch, putting an old rag around the pin, after that is was silence and we all got a good nights sleep.

A long day today, as we wanted to get to Nantwich, so mum could get the train home tomorrow, and we could sit out the forcasted rain. It was a day of slow progress with lots of locks and lift bridges. We were following a very slow boat, even with us doing the lock for them so they could get ahead, we still caught them up at the next lock.

A pumpout at Swanley Marina, Toby is holding the pumpout thingy, and mum is holding the water hose to get a good seal – not the nicest of jobs, but it doesn’t seem to put anyone off from wanting to stay!

Hurleston Locks felt so different today, compared to when we came up and had to queue for almost two hours. We were straight in with three vlockies (it pays to move on a week day!), we gave our thanks with Barra Brith cake. It was very windy, one boater coming up the flight really didn’t have a clue. He missed the first lock entrance and had to have a second go. On crossing in the pound with Toby, it was Toby who had to go the wrong side to get in to the lock, the other guy was sticking to the towpath side no matter what.

A right hand turn and we said our goodbyes to the Llangollen canal. Nantwich was surprisingly busy, we were lucky to get a mooring – although somewhat unlucky as a boat pulled out from the services just in front of us, and took the better spot.

Dinner consisted of pizza chicken and a dessert of blackberry and apple crumble with lashings of custard. Five left over portions which will keep Toby going for breakfast for the rest of the week!

Day 95 – Make Do And Mend

We started the day well prepared for the rain that was forecast.

It was already raining when we set off, though just a light drizzle at first.

The rain soon came down cats and dogs though, so Sarah and I took turns steering. Whilst I was hiding from the rain, I got a couple of small jobs done – fixing the speaker box corner that had come apart, and a Macgyver-style fix for Sarah’s glasses with a very tiny bit of cotton thread, with stopper knots on either end until we can get to an optician.

We went through a couple of lift-bridges, and then as it was coming up to lunch time and the rain by this point was torrential, we moored up for lunch and waited until 2pm for the rain to ease off.

Renourished and with the skies slowly brightening, we tackled the last lift-bridge and got up to Grindley Brook staircase. Sarah requested I point out that the canal turns sharply to the left just before the bridge, in case anyone thinks she’s lost the plot and is steering the wrong way!

We were the 5th boat in line at the staircase, but Sarah must have made a good impression with the lock keeper Amy when we came up, as she let all 5 of us down in a row. Naturally we gave thanks in the usual way – Amy went for the last chocolate brownie, and the vlockie had some Bara Brith which we’d got from the butchers in Chirk.

We moored up after the last of the Grindley Brook locks. There were still some blackberries there so Sarah and Rosemary went picking whilst I made some bread and mopped out the rain from the bilges.

Rosemary is treating us to dinner tonight at the Horse and Jockey; it looks like we’ll be spoilt for choice judging by the menu.

Day 94 – A New Tiller Girl

We woke to blue skies and warm air, so it wasn’t too much effort (even for Toby) to get up and cast off.  Mum and Toby opened the gates and paddles, and I steered us in to the locks – I was happy to as 1) nobody was around and 2) it gets Toby off my case for a few days.

With the canal to ourselves, and a nice long straight stretch, it was the perfect opportunity for mum to practice her helming skills, with expert tuition provided by Toby.

We saw a metal detector in action, sadly we weren’t around long enough to spot any finds, maybe there’s the odd windlass or two buried in the field!

We had a time slot of 12-2pm for the Frankton Lock flight, we were boat number four in the queue of six boats. We made good timing with three lock keepers, paying our dues with brownies which were much appreciated, so much so, we got four stars on the board!

Lunch on board, we enjoyed some fresh bread, cheese and pate.  We then had to get used to the all the boats on the move again, it was so peaceful on The Montgomery canal, and our own private waterway.  Next stop was The Ellesmere Arm, and a visit to the local Tesco, we made us of the extra pair of hands with mum being with us and stocked up on supplies.

We carried on to Blake Mere and moored up, what a cracking view out of the side hatch. 

Day 93 – Sleepy Montgomery

Another morning with sunshine and blue skies, though a little cooler today than it has been. The sky looked lovely reflected in the water at the Chirk aqueduct.

Sarah was on the helm for the locks this morning, and a cracking job of it she did too. They were Rosemary’s first locks of the trip, but after a few reminders I think she’s nearly got the hang of it.

We turned right at Frankton to turn onto the Montgomery Canal. This is new territory for us. We’d booked passage for the Frankton locks online yesterday, and the lock keepers are there from 12pm-2pm. If you’re name is not on the list, you’re not coming in.

We gave the lockies some brownies to keep then going, and then said farewell to them (until tomorrow anyway).

We stopped for lunch just after the locks, on the Weston branch. At the bottom of the building at the end, there’s a lovely little herb flowerbed. I picked some sage to go with our pork and apple for dinner tonight – perfect timing for it!

Sarah continued helming through the locks at Aston, giving me a rare chance to do some more locks.

At the end of the restored and navigable section we had to go under a lift bridge, turn left for a couple of hundred metres, wind the boat in the winding hole and then back under the bridge. Sarah bravely went ahead alone on Oliver to turn around, whilst Rosemary and I waited at the bridge. Typically a car turned up so we had to drop it back down, and then wind it up again for Sarah to come back through a few minutes later.

We moored soon after, and then explored the canal on foot up to the current navigable end. The work they are doing to restore the next section is really impressive to see, and interesting to see how it’s all constructed and put together.

The Himalayan Balsam is very pretty in bloom, and rapidly taking over some sections as it is so invasive.

Tomorrow we get to do it all again in the opposite direction.

Day 92 – Away With The Faeries

This morning Rosemary and Sarah went to investigate Faery Fest, which was just beside the canal at Llangollen. Most of it is inside the impressive Llangollen Pavilion, which can seat 5000 people.

There were lots of people in fancy dress and some amazing things to look at and admire. The little tree houses (right hand side below) took about 6 weeks each to make. The steampunk R2-D2 was radio controlled, but sadly not steam powered. I definitely want one, but he’s not for sale, just a labour of love by a fan.

We cast off after lunch, when the worst of the rain was forecast to have passed. In the end though, the weather wasn’t too bad all day long, though the clouds threatened rain.

Sarah expertly steered us through the narrows, whilst I went ahead with the walkie-talkie. I found a couple of boats already heading through towards us, so Sarah held back with two other boats until they were through and it was our turn.

There was a lot of juggling of boats about before we got onto the aqueduct, as the trip boat was coming the other way and needs a lot of room to make the left turn off the aqueduct; Sarah did an amazing job reversing and fitting us between two other boats until the trip boat had passed.

Even after the aqueduct it was still pretty busy, with 5 boats all trying to fit around this bend in one direction or the other!

The views make it all worth while, what lovely scenery for a cuppa.

The trees are a little overgrown in places, so some ducking was required!

We made it to Chirk just in time for me to watch the opening Manchester United football game of the season. 4-0 vs Chelsea, so I’m a happy man tonight!

Day 91 – Windy Wales

We set off about 8:30 this morning; the forecast was for 40mph winds later in the day so we wanted to be moored up in Llangollen well before then. We had waterproofs on ready for the showers, but by and large the weather was sunny and dry, if a little blowy. The scenery around here is as pretty as a postcard.

Passing through the narrows, there’s only room for one boat so it’s advised that someone walks ahead to make sure the way is clear. I got a bit distracted taking photos, but luckily Sarah did stop another boat from starting onto a 500m section until we’d popped out the other side. Rosemary did a cracking job helping Sarah on the couple of lift bridges we pass through.

We reached the basin in good time, and were pleasantly surprised to find a bit less than half full, so plenty of room. By happy coincidence, we moored up in the exact same spot as four years ago!

Llangollen was very busy with tourists. Between Thomas the Tank Engine, horse-drawn boat trips, and a festival (more on that tomorrow), there’s lots for people to come and see and do.

The River Dee runs through the valley, and is ultimately the source of water for the canal. It was great to see some people enjoying it to the full doing some white-water rafting. They were cracking along pretty fast!

We took the more gentle option of a walk up to the horseshoe falls where the water is pumped from the river and into the canal – all controlled by computers these days.

Back to Oliver for lunch, and then we walked into town. I got a newspaper and headed back, whilst Rosemary and Sarah did a bit more browsing around the shops. There are lots of temptations – cakes, ice cream, fudge, chocolate, sweeties, pastries, you name it they have it!

We had a lovely meal out in the evening courtesy of Barry, at The Corn Mill pub with lovely views of the river. After dinner we then walked back up the hill to Oliver ready for showers and bed.

Day 90 – Two Become Three

We got well and truly mullered last night with the torrential rain, thunder and lightning. I was convinced the rain was pouring in the engine bay and Toby went out in his PJs and a torch to check – I was far from popular on his return! We walked to the shops and topped up supplies, Toby cleaned the outside and I prepped dinner and made chocolate brownies….I know who got the better deal.

We saw the boats going through the tunnel, including a rowing boat who look a bit too close to the stern of the narrowboat for my liking.

Mum arrived from Oxford, it was lovely to see her.

No sooner was on mum on board, we had cast off and underway, trying to stay one day ahead of the rain clouds.

We crossed the Pontcysyllte aqueduct, we were lucky to be the only boat, I got some great pictures thanks to my secret santa selfie stick. I admit the crossing made me feel wobbly, I stayed well in the boat and held on tight.

We took all the advice and moored about an hour short of the Llangollen basin, in the hope that we get near first pickings of the moorings in the basin as the boats will be leaving. It absolutely hammered down as we were mooring, but it soon passed and we’ve had a dry evening.

Day 89 – Love Is…..

…when you step in dog poo and your hubbie offers to clean your shoes, thank you Toby, you’re my hero!

A beautiful warm sunny morning, Toby had the left over crumble for breakfast (and the same yesterday), I do wonder where he puts it!

The canal seemed to get quite twisty today, the scenery kept us entertained with the back gardens and farmland although the smells could be quite ‘fruity’ at times.

Only two locks today in close succession, I’m glad we were going our way with at least five boats queuing to come down. We’re hoping that most boats are going back to base with it being close to the weekend. I know we struggle getting rid of rubbish on the Llangollen, it doesn’t look like this boat has moved recently.

We soon reached Chirk and over the aqueduct, the bridge to the right is the railway bridge and intentionally built higher by the railway builders as a sign of superiority. It was waiting here that I had the incident with the dog poo! We also left England and are now firmly in Welsh territory.

Through the tunnel and the whiff of molten chocolate is almost too much – I’m taking in deep breathes and enjoying it! Chirk is the home to Mondelez, the owners of Cadbury. We’ve moored up ready for mum arriving tomorrow afternoon by train, so an ideal spot.

We walked in to Chirk and topped up supplies at the local Spar, a wonderful butchers and a fruit and veg shop. We’ll go back tomorrow as it was a bit too much to carry in one go (I think it was the Bara Brith that tipped it!).

Day 88 – Squeeky Bum Time

Before we cast off, Toby baked the latest loaf of sourdough bread ready for lunch, he’s mastered the knack of cooking the bread in the gas oven and we’ve only purchased one loaf when Toby had a migraine.

It was a changeable weather day, these photos are taken at the same time, I’m glad we were moving away from the clouds! Speaking of directions, Toby was reversing before a bridge to let two hireboats past coming the other way, the second boat asked if we were going their way…….what all the way in reverse?!

A day for squishy faces too.

We stopped for lunch next to Blake Mere, formed some 10,000 years ago at the end of the Ice Age, Toby managed to get a good photo of a damselfly.

The traffic increased as we approached Ellesmere, the festival starts on Friday, there’s a service point along with shops and pubs. I was steering and came under the bridge needing to turn left, I saw a boat coming the other way who nicely drifted across to the far side of the bank out of my way (I later learned this was due to the gusty winds!), five boats in total on the move and I didn’t hit one of them! Phew….hands up, I did manage to nudge the next two bridges though.

We missed our preferred mooring, so we’ve ended up on a bendy visitor mooring, still lovely and out in the sticks with enough privacy for Toby to pee in the bushes (well done on taking one for the team Toby, the tank comes first!).

Day 87 – Foragers’ Crumble

We set off this morning to clear blue skies and sunshine – with just a little chill in the breeze. It was a lovely summer morning in beautiful countryside, just perfect for the soul.

We timed our departure well – just after we’d left, a single-hander cast off behind us. Even the wait for the staircase at Grindley Brook couldn’t put a dent in our spirits. We were 4th in line, waiting for 3 boats coming through the other way, and told it was 3 boats up, 3 down, but luck was with us as the lock keeper let all 4 of us go up so we didn’t have to wait half as long as we might have done. We hadn’t even bribed the lockies with cookies at that point!

After the staircase it’s lock-free for quite a stretch, though there are a few lift bridges to negotiate. We were planning to carry on for another hour or so, but then the skies darkened and before we knew it, the rain was sheeting down! We decided to moor up for the day when we reached a nice quiet mooring in the country, before we could get any wetter.

I was a little intrigued by what the farmer in the field opposite was up to when I saw him laying this giant hose across the field. We found out later when he started spraying rather smelly stuff all over the field.

Phone reception wasn’t great; our 3-based wifi wasn’t getting a signal at all, and my EE phone was only getting a weak intermittent signal. Meantime, Sarah’s phone on Giff Gaff (using O2 network) was going great guns with a 4-bar signal and 4G – so we propped it up in the roof hatch to do wifi sharing on it. Otherwise it’d be no blog tonight 🙁

Whilst waiting for the locks before the staircase, Sarah spotted some blackberries. We picked a good load of them, and then Sarah turned them in to a crumble for pudding. There was a bit of improvisation, using bread flour instead of plain flour, but the results were great anyway 🙂