Perfect Harmony

Perfect Harmony
Moored at Huntingdon

Monday, 15 October 2012

15th Oct.'12

We've been back a week and John has already covered the bumps and bruises from the cruise! There were quite a few - oops. I feel responsible for quite a few of them from the Llangollen locks, but there again I can't be blamed for all of them.

Paddy has had a bath and is ready for his stay at the kennels while we are off in Crete for a week. I am all packed and ready and John is aware that he's going! He's printed off details of all the buses we'll need to get from the airport to the resort - I just hope that the bus signs are not in Greek since I have a distinct feeling that they don't use our alphabet! This may well be the last holiday we have from the timeshare, as I think it's time to let it go - if anyone's interested let me know!

John has just had a lovely pack from Mikron (the canal theatre group) as he won a goody bag in their raffle. We are currently listening to the CD, and very nice it is too. There were other bits and pieces as well so altogether a rather nice prize. The tea-towel had a picture of Caroline on it, she's our Chloe's best friend and has performed with them this year! It's a bit strange seeing her there - I'm not sure I'll be able to use it.

We've seen our little Nellie! who is not so little now - we saw a boat coming home called Nelly Rose - I took pictures but not sure where they are - on the phone and for some reason they haven't downloaded.

Here's our little tiger at 6 months!

Blogs are strange things I've discovered - I thought I had a pretty good idea of who was reading it but it turns out that Kev and Angie and Ian and Sarah from our pontoon have been reading it this time. There ought to be some sort of register -I'm fascinated to see who reads it and how often they dip in. I'm just having fun writing it but love to know that someone is mildly interested!

We had a social in the Marina on Saturday and we managed to meet some new people, they are occasional visitors but I hope we see more of them. So Graham and Mandy and Chris and Griff come and see us if you're around and read this.

Next time will have some more exotic photos I hope and will be in about a fortnight. See you then,

Friday, 5 October 2012

5th Oct. '12

We're at Alrewas, and going to have another Indian meal tonight - the one the other night was excellent but I swore that we would stop and have another one here since this is where we were after my 'fall' last trip. The Dansak was to die for....

The journey today has been uneventful and full of shared memories of the places we've been past before. I went below to make a drink after getting through the first lock of the day just after Little Haywood and when I brought it back up, John greeted me by saying that 15seconds after I went down, he saw a kingfisher. I looked and looked but didn't see one. Then again he spotted one that I missed and although I searched the reeds it had flown into I didn't see it. Finally though I did spot one, fleeting it's true but still very special.

Fradley was as quiet as I'd ever seen it - I was filled with admiration for a young chap who was steering a long, old working boat in the junction at Fradley. He absolutely had it perfect and turned it without getting near knocking anything although space was tight. The older man on board at the bow told me he'd been doing it since he was 7 and was pretty good by now. Also very kind on the eyes ladies - no photo as it would have been a bit obvious, just believe me!

We did exactly 6 hours today, the same as yesterday and tomorrow we'll be home.

looking down from Middle Lock to Junction Lock - the boats you can see are all moored there permanently - the telling bit is that there are no boats in the middle of the pound - you can just see the old boat (with fit helmsman) coming out of the lock in the distance.

This is the view looking out through Pendlebury Rocking (I seem to be having some luck with pictures so will add a few backdated ones - not necessarily in order)

Not what you expect to see in a lock! this is Watling Street crossing the Staffs and Worcs canal and I'm obviously about to go down under the bridge - I just couldn't resist this!

This is also next to the lock by Watling Street - there's a small gift shop on the ground floor - didn't realise it was there until I was in the lock so I didn't go in to see what they sold.

You can just see the blue motorway sign - this is the M6 that runs parallel to the canal for a mile or so. I can't believe we've never seen a boat while we've been travelling along the road! Just goes to show how little we see of what's around us when we're driving - even in the motor home where you get to see a lot more because of being that much higher.

At the side of the lock there is a passage-way, where the horses would have been led to rejoin the canal on the other side of the lock. Have you noted how blue the skies are in these photos - it was 3rd and a lovely day although this was when I was doing my Margaret Rutherford impersonation and running a temperature so not really enjoying it as much as I could have.

Here's the M6 crossing the canal - I have a feeling that we might have noticed this on the southbound journey but never spotted it going north.

As a contrast to the previous picture, just after that motorway bridge we went under this one - so elegant I thought.

Another bridge that came as a bit of a surprise - it's rather like the snake bridges on the Macclesfield but not quite the same design.

This is the same bridge from the other side of the bridge - the surface would have been stepped like this so that the horses wouldn't slip while going up the slope.

We're up to yesterday (4th) now - this sign was over the door of the former lock-keepers cottage by the lock - note the precision - not just miles but furlongs as well!

This was the opposite side of the lock and John was investigating an old mile-stone - we saw none of these anywhere else along the canal.

Some canals have their bridges named, some have them numbered - the Staffs and Worcs has both! very impressive and they are ALL like this!

This is Tixall Wide - there are 2 possible explanations for this - one is that the landowner only agreed for the canal to go across his land if they dug it out to look like a lake and the other is that the builders made use of a pre-existing lake when digging the canal. Take your pick!

You can see Lady Arwen just mooring up on the right there - we haven't seen them today. It transpires that they shared locks with Norwyn and Sheila so we've been looking out for them to pass on best wishes. The canal community is surprisingly small considering how many of us there are!

Here's Great Haywood Junction - the boat on the left has pulled in for a pump-out and I think they are very brave - lots of hire boats come through here! This is the northern end of the Staffs and Worcs where it joins the Trent and Mersey - back on home ground for us.

Back to the Llangollen - here we are crossing the River Dee on the Aqueduct.

This is the slow boat in front of us entering the junction at Trevor - it's a very tight fit and for quite a stretch beyond it's very narrow - heaven knows what you do if something else is coming the other way as there's nowhere for pedestrians to go to look-out!

Llangollen hosts the National Eisteddfod and this is the entrance to it.

This seems to be the extent of my adding photos tonight, but I feel it was a success, especially compared to recent attempts. Hope you've enjoyed them!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

4th Oct '12

Hoping to say this with photos:

This is known as Pendlebury Rocking - it's one of the first things you come to on the Staff and Worcs after Autherley Junction. Not only is it narrow but it's also quite shallow, so going is a bit tricky. Note that John is wearing gloves - it was cold and because I was feeling rough I'd wrapped myself up well. For someone who hates layers I was wearing a long sleeved cotton T-shirt, a chunky fleece, a padded body warmer, my boat coat and then a hat and a scarf wound around my neck - I looked like a poor imitation of Margaret Rutherford! At least I was warm (ish).

I have been trying for the last 15 minutes to up-load another picture - no joy. So much for every picture paints a thousand words - I can write them quicker than I can get them!

Anyway - we have now reached Great Haywood Junction and are moored once again in sight of Shugbrough Hall. Not a bad place to be. The Trent doesn't seem too bad and we can find nothing on-line so are presuming that the river section is open.

We enjoyed our brief trip along the Staff and Worcs and will definitely come back and do it again and this time continue right down it. Lots of people seem to rave about the Llangollen and the Shroppie but we have both decided that we prefer the S&W.

We have apparently missed seeing a kingfisher twice today. We have been following a boat called Lady Arwen right along the canal today and at the last lock they said that they had just seen one flying across the bollards and into the trees. We looked but never saw it. Then a boat came through after us and we told them and they had just seen one below the lock. Again we looked but didn't see. That means that we have travelled all down the Shroppie without seeing one and they are regulars there and now we have missed at least one here. Bother!

We came through Tixall Wide today which again we had heard about but not seen. Probably not quite as impressive as we had expected but nice none the less.

The sun has shone continuously today and once again we have been able to moor the boat in the dry. It was meant to have been very cold last night but we didn't notice. The weather is supposed to be changing tomorrow but opinions differ depending on who you speak to. If it's really awful we'll stay here I expect otherwise we shall head further down the Trent and Mersey. Theoretically we could be home in 2 days but that's pushing it for us - also means early starts so it's not exactly likely is it?

My cold has lifted during the day and I'm now feeling pretty much back to normal - John's never came to anything - no Man Flu thankfully. The Beechams and the whiskey seem to have done the trick - now we need an off-licence!

It has clouded over considerably since starting this so we shall have to see what tomorrow brings. Sorry about the pictures once again.......

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

3rd Oct.'12

Writing this on the iPad as I don't feel up to getting the computer sorted. Have had a temperature today, so can't wear contact lens, hence quite tired.
We have had a great day, all things considered. We left early (for us) and have travelled 18 miles and done 7 locks, all in 7 hours! We are now moored at Penkridge, and John is off to find an Indian takeaway shortly! Just what the doctor ordered!
It has stayed dry and been sunny most of the day, which was a bonus. It's meant to be ok tomorrow but then horrible again, so we want to get some miles behind us.
We are now half way up the Staffs and Worcs canal, and its rather nice. Very winding, obviously one that follows contours, rather than go in a straight line. I took some pictures, but can't load them from here today, will have to catch up when I'm a bit more together.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

2nd Oct.'12

Had a very early night with Beechams Powders and felt a bit better today - John now feels a bit rough so we are both drugged! Luckily the early rain stopped and we started off in sunshine. A cold wind but at least dry.

We have cruised as far as Wheaton Aston where we were going to stop for fuel (it's the cheapest on the system apparently!) and water plus get rid of rubbish and empty the cassette. I had a parcel to post for Rachel's birthday next week so we walked up to the village only to find the PO shut for lunch. One of the problems with the canal is that you lose all sense of time (and day and date) so it hadn't occurred to us to check. We also found the Spar shop for a few necessaries and then the rain started in earnest. We got back soaked so just moved on a bit from the mooring to do all of the above housekeeping chores mentioned. Time had now moved on so I dashed off back up to the village to post the parcel and came back even more soaked than I had been before. I more or less refused to go any further!

We are now moored with the front of the boat JUST over the section where you shouldn't moor to allow room for the water etc. but there are 3 separate water points and there's a long stretch and in any case I felt so awful I just didn't care. If John hadn't agreed to moor here I think I'd have just laid down and wept.

The good part is that Autherley Junction is only about 7 miles down the canal and then we'll be on the Staffs and Worcs which is only 30 miles or so long so in a few days we will be at Haywood Junction and back on the Trent and Mersey. Home is now in sight (sort of) and once again, much as I love being out on the cut - I do look forward to getting back to the marina.

No photos today and unfortunately not enough signal to upload any from previous days! Sorry.

Monday, 1 October 2012

1st Oct.'12

Wow - October - we are off on holiday in 18 days time to Crete! Some sun to look forward to!

Once again no internet yesterday so I'm making up for it today.

On Sunday morning we were rudely awoken by a trad. boat making a lot of noise on both the locks either side of us - John got up for a pee and I asked what the time was "6.30, and it's a b....y Sunday" was the reply. I felt strangely awake and so after a short while I got up to make a cuppa. Checked the clock and it was 8.45 - his watch was 1.5 hours slow!

We'd been to the Shroppie Fly (shortened version is the correct one) the previous evening only to find that a band was going to play - we hung on but they didn't get started until about 9.30 (I was more than ready to be back in bed by that time) and they were very good - a Bob Dylan tribute - all older than us and obviously having done this for at least the last 50 years. Unfortunately they went a bit overboard on the sound level - I have a lot of Bob Dylan stuff and he is not noted for his ear- splitting quality. When the mouth organ came into play it became too painful to cope with so we came home. Shame really - we'd have both liked to have stayed for the music but value our ear-drums (and John's almost deaf as it is!!!!).

John had stayed up the previous night and also this one to watch the golf so he was becoming increasingly tired and we had the rest of the flight in front of us. I'd seen a volunteer going up the locks just as we were about to get ready and was hopeful of some help. Naturally the locks were against us most of the way and we didn't see a boat coming towards us until 3 from the top (we had 12 to do) and we found the volunteer at the same time. Great. Still the weather was a lot better than forecast and so it could have been worse. We did the 12 locks covering almost 2 miles in 2 hours! What a team.

We then did the next flight of 5 and stopped for lunch. After some discussion we decided to call it a day as John was tired and we were on a good mooring and there was a flight just the other side of Market Drayton which was about a mile away. Tomorrow we felt was another day.

Today we left a bit late as neither of us had a good night - the golf is now over and Europe beat America so all is well in John's world! Showers had been forecast and sure enough they came and went a couple of times while we were going through the locks.

There was very nearly an interesting incident on the locks today. There was a boat going up before us and then one came along behind us. The woman doing the locks came up just as we were about to leave the first one and she seemed a bit uncertain but John had a quick chat and we went on up. When we got to the third lock I looked back and the top gate for the lock below had opened and so John ran back down and shut it as she arrived to open the paddles to empty the lock. He was back up and shutting our lower gates when I saw that the gate had opened again on the lock below and she was gaily opening the lower paddles. For those of you who haven't got a clue what I'm talking about basically she was doing a very dangerous thing that could empty the pound above and cause flooding in the lower pound. John once again set out to run down as she couldn't hear our shouts or the boat horn. Luckily the gate - which had completely opened, shut itself while he was on the way and so he just came back up - she was totally oblivious to all this going on. Locks can be very dangerous things in the wrong hands......

We had the narrows which last time we came through reminded me of a Tolkien landscape as it was very dark and gloomy  - today the sun was shining in the cut and it was completely different. We only met one boat (straight after a bridge on a narrow section) and emerged happy.

Coming towards another bridge a bit later we saw a boat coming through so John pulled over and as the boat went past we became stuck on some rocks. John manoeuvred us backwards but we kept finding the rock ledge and suddenly the tiller swung right over and we were well and truly stuck. We tried gunning the engine and I jumped up and down on the off side and John used the pole. Eventually doing all 3 at the same time meant that John was able to pull the tiller free and thankfully we were able to get going again. It was definitely the worst grounding we had encountered. We noticed the boat following us keeping well away from the towpath side as they came through.

We had hoped to get to Norbury Junction today but I started feeling a bit poorly - my throat hurts and I feel full of cold. We were also following a boat whose occupants were presumably using a guide dog and going rather slowly along a perfectly good straight (for a long time). Then it started to rain heavily so we gave up and are once again near the Anchor just north of Norbury. Tomorrow we will call in to fill up with water and empty the cassette and get as far down as we can. I'm taking Beechams and will have an early night I think, and wrap up well in the morning. Incidentally as soon as we moored and got the pram cover up the sun came out and now it is still lovely over an hour and a half later.

A rare sight - a volunteer on the locks - unfortunately not there for us....

Another rare sight - a boat coming out of the lock in front of us....

The Shropshire Lass - seen in Market Drayton - we both did our helmsman's courses in this almost exactly 2 years ago.

Some Mandarin Ducks also seen in Market Drayton - pretty little things.

Sunshine make the cutting look very different!

This was John down the weed hatch with some of the debris he got out of it!

Thought I was on a roll then and was going to go back and put some more pictures on but it doesn't seem to be happening.....

Saturday, 29 September 2012

29th Sept. '12

Yet again today we left in the dry, with sunshine threatening. It was however quite chilly with a distinct autumnal feel to the air. I have been having nightmares about leaving the Llangollen for the last 2 nights and it's good to know that we will be getting it over with today. My problem is getting out of the final lock and then turning onto the Shropshire since there's nowhere for John to get on until I've done the deed. I know I'm a wuss, but there you go - I am. I kept thinking that as long as a boat is coming into the lock from the junction all will be well since John can come down the ladder and leave the gates for the next boat.

We got through the locks in record time but no boat emerged at the bottom. I think that John was worried about what I might do to the boat because he suggested climbing down when the lock was empty and me going up to close the doors. This is what we did and all was well - we were back on the Shroppie in well under an hour from leaving our moorings. I know I must get braver but I just keep thinking that it's our home and nearly all our possessions are on it and if I do something really awful I wouldn't be able to live with myself - not sure John would either!!!!!!

Once on the Shroppie we stopped quickly at Nantwich for some basics and then travelled on to get to Audlem, as John was determined to get a drink in the Shropshire Fly - a canalside pub that is quite well known.

You remember the lock incident where a chap got hurt? one thing I forgot to say was that while we were all waiting there at the first lock a boat came through the queue, with a woman saying loudly, in one of THOSE voices, "We're not jumping the queue, we're just going to moor at the top of the lock and have lunch." They didn't wither away and die, despite everyone's best efforts who were waiting in the pouring rain, but did in fact moor on the off side of the lock and calmly have lunch watching everyone else go by. WELL, we were happily cruising along today and coming up to a bridge, there was a boat moored far too close to it, causing a mild obstruction and guess what? it was the same boat! Citrine, in case you ever come across it.

We have now come through the first 3 of the Audlem Locks and are moored outside the Shropshire Fly. I've been into the craft shop here and bought some more brass plaques for the back doors, charting our progress and later we are going for a drink! We had fish and chips again for lunch today at Nantwich. Can still get my jeans on but it's getting harder!

I heard today that the Trent and Mersey has had a bad breach near the top around Preston Brook somewhere. Apparently it's pretty bad and will be shut for months as the canal simply collapsed. Help! Luckily it's not where we're going but it IS where we were earlier in the year. Also apparently there was so much water here on Monday and Tuesday that the weirs on the locks couldn't cope and the tow-paths were flooded so they had to open paddles down the flight to allow excess water to run down through the system. We were obviously lucky to be in Llangollen, although it didn't seem like it at the time.

I have no idea if I'm going to be able to up-load pictures today - to be honest I can't believe I have internet here as it's very overhung with trees where we are and I've not had signal in much more open spaces than this but here goes.....

One of two bridges we have gone under today that have had sides missing - we didn't see it from the other direction of course - just as well!

The Shropshire Fly - I took this from the lock and we are moored in front of the building you can see in the background - which is the craft centre.

No - it's not easy but at least I got today's on - one day I will just post pictures that I haven't been able to over the last week!

The forecast is awful for tomorrow but I'm hoping we will at least get up the other 12 locks of this flight - if not there are 3 pubs in very easy reach! Oh dear.....

Friday, 28 September 2012

28th Sept.'12

What a difference a day makes! We had a couple of showers earlier but now it is lovely and sunny and we have moored in the dry!

I forgot to mention yesterday that we saw a boat that was registered 2 before us! they were 520031. This is probably of no interest to anyone but us but we got quite excited about it.

I walked Paddy up through the locks this morning to post some postcards - I send one regularly to my mum, in the hope that it helps her work out where we are (we will never get her to understand WHY but where we can do something about). I also sent ones of the aqueduct to the eldest grandchildren, hoping to get them interested in what their Granny and Grumpy are doing.

We have come down 9 locks today,dropping just over 57' and as predicted we have seen increasing signs of floods. At one lock there was an elderly gentleman just walking along and he told John that his cottage was flooded and he had no idea what to do, heartbreaking. I suspect he probably didn't have insurance - what on earth can anyone do in these circumstances?

We have gone a step further with Paddy's freedom today and allowed him to run off the boat at some of the locks were there were no other people around. He was really good and came back to the boat each time I told him to. He loves running along the towpath and is becoming much braver about having a run without us there to call him. It's lovely to see him enjoying himself so much.

We had hoped to leave the Llangollen today and get back onto the Shroppie, but at the last lock we picked up something on the propeller and the steering became too heavy so we have stopped short of a mile from the final 4 locks that take us down to the junction and John has been down the weedhatch and cleared it of a wooden hanger and rope for a fender - no fender thankfully!

We are now enjoying being dry and airing the boat out a bit - it's surprising how damp the cratch had become and everything felt a bit musty. Another hour of this warm air circulating and it will be back to normal.

Amazing what some people keep in their back gardens! This looks as if it's come from a fairground ride!

We totally failed to get a drink here in either direction which was a shame as on the way they had Beartown Brewery's Bear Arse which as may have been mentioned before is one we both rather like. However it was late afternoon at the time and they weren't open so we sailed on upwards, promising ourselves a drink here on the way back. Timing just isn't our thing obviously as it was 10.30am when we went down past it this morning - I had been prepared enough to get our tankards out so that we could get a drink and be on our way but once again they weren't open.... plus the Bear Arse was sold out.
The last 3 pictures I've tried to upload have all failed for some reason - I don't know why but obviously I'm not intended to put any more on this today. Better luck tomorrow when we will be somewhere south of Nantwich hopefully, back on the Shroppie.


Thursday, 27 September 2012

27th Sept. '12

Once again no internet last night so here I am with a lot to catch up with.

The incident with the 2 boats turned out very interestingly. The marina rang me back in the morning and asked for more details and confirmed that they would be in touch with them and reiterate the way to behave on the canal and apologised to us. Then it got better. Later that day (I'm getting ahead of myself here but can't help it!) we followed another boat around a bridge and who should be there but our two favourite boats. The very best of it was that they both went aground and although one boat had got itself off by the time we were a way down the canal, the other one looked well and truly stuck - the last we saw they were pushing frantically with the pole trying to get back into the stream. Normally we'd have stopped and offered assistance but what the  heck - we just laughed for the rest of the day and went out and had a meal to celebrate. Yeah!!!!

We left Fron....... about normal time and although it seemed quite wet under the trees where we were, we thought it looked better ahead, and the boat in front of us said that the forecast wasn't too bad. Oh why do we listen?

We headed back towards the Marton Locks and it wasn't too bad to be honest. Not too many boats around and it's always interesting going back since you see it all from a different direction and it's amazing how many things you don't see in one direction that you do from the other. We also enjoy playing "was this where we saw?????" etc. Possibly sad but true and adds to the Harmony of the boats name.

As we are nearing the lock a boat goes by and the woman on the back calls out "about a dozen boats going down - quite a queue!". Great - but weighing up the pros and cons of waiting and having lunch and then possibly joining an equally long queue later or going through and having either a late lunch or something as we go, we decided to go for it.

We tied up and there must have been 6 or 7 boats ahead but there's always a sort of camaraderie about these things and it usually brings out the best in people. As we're slowly moving along as one boat follows another down the lock, the chap in front of us manages to do a nasty fall off the boat and luckily onto the land. Well lucky that it wasn't the water but unlucky that his hand scraped across the gravel and he banged both a knee and his elbow on the concrete edge. I yelled to John to hold the rope and rushed down in the boat to get Arnica tablets and gel and someone else came up and grabbed his rope. We encouraged him to go down into the boat and have a good cup of sweet tea and leave the boat to the small committee that had formed. The poor guy was really shaken and it turned out it was his birthday as well. Anyway I left him with the gel and force fed him tablets as we were going down the locks. Someone from another boat offered to take the boat on for him as there was only him and his wife and they were both a bit shaken. They ended up mooring next to us that evening and by this morning he was feeling a lot better and had been totally converted to Arnica! Result.

At the same locks, there was a constant stream of boats in both directions most of the time and everyone tends to join in to make it go quickly. It got to the point when the boat in front of us had gone down and there wasn't one coming up at that point and I realised that John was on his own - I turned to the couple at the boat behind us and asked if one of them could go and help as it would be quicker. To my absolute amazement (and I'm still in shock over this) the woman started going down the queue behind her asking for someone to help with the lock. She called out to me that she couldn't cope with the boat and the dog as he was such a handful - the husband just clung onto the rope. I didn't dare say anything else - steam was coming out of my ears. They were in a hire boat and had only come a short distance and these 2 locks were the only ones they had to do. They'd already come up them - what did they do? wait for someone else to do it for them I presume. They weren't that old either, 40's or 50's. I just found it amazing that they were completely OK with other people (most of them a good bit older than them) doing all the hard work for them.

The rain had started as we arrived at the locks and in the 2 hours or more it took to get through them both, we were so wet that we just thought that we'd keep going. We couldn't get any wetter so why stop? Paddy nearly jumped ship at this point. He was soaking wet, even with his life-jacket on and looked at us as it to say "This wasn't what I signed up for you know?" Someone at the lock said why not put him in the boat - huh - if only. He cries and barks and makes such a fuss that it's just not worth it, so he has to put up with it I'm afraid.

We got to Ellesmere last night and had hoped to moor in the arm as it was so empty on Sunday. No such luck - it was packed full - even a hire boat moored at the end in the winding hole. So we ended up just before the bridge with too many trees around us to get internet or TV. It didn't matter though since we had already decided to go out to celebrate the pillocks being grounded! We went to the Black Lion and I would recommend it - I had belly pork and caramelised apples - it was heaven! To top off the evening we popped into Tesco and got some groceries so we could leave in the morning without having to go shopping.

We woke again to dry sky's and we had no idea of the forecast and decided to get to Whitworth for the night. As we went through past the meres, it started raining very light, soft rain that didn't look real, more like a backdrop for a film. Just as wet but strange because the sun was out as well and it all looked rather lovely.

We ended up in a convoy for much of the journey - three boats that all took it in turns to stop and raise the lift bridges that are pretty regular along this stretch. It certainly helped to not have to stop and do all of them, although at one time when it was our turn, John jumped off the boat leaving me holding the rope AND Paddy and had left the engine in reverse gear. Not something I want to do too often - running alongside the boat trying to pull it into the side whilst flinging a bemused Paddy on board before jumping on and taking it out of gear. John's reaction was that he hadn't done it on purpose. As I told him, if I thought he'd done it on purpose I wouldn't have picked him up again after the bridge and he could have walked the rest of the way!

The day was becoming increasingly warm and we got to Whitworth and it was only 2.00 so we thought we'd might as well go on and get to Grindley Brook Locks where we filled with water and emptied the cassette and then started the trip down. It was so warm that even the lock-keeper took off his jacket and all was wonderful with the world.

By the time we'd gone down the top 3 staircase ones the rain had started and by the time we emerged from the bottom lock 6 we were soaking. We came out and have moored up at the bottom, more or less exactly where we were last Thursday! And we have TV and internet again.

Another landmark was passed today. We didn't tether Paddy on the boat except when we were stopping, so he was able to sit happily on the stern of the boat looking intently on what was on the right bank! He looked very pleased with himself - funny little thing.

A wet and miserable Paddy yesterday. We had quite a job mopping everything up and getting dry last night.

An uncharacteristic section of the Llangollen - more like the Bridgewater at this point. but note the sunshine on the water!

A dry, happy, untethered Paddy on the stern today - what a difference a day makes!

John insisted that this looked more like the New Forest than anything else! This is a nature reserve called the Mosses - it's more or less in Wales - the canal is in England - it's one of those border bits. We saw the last of Wales today and crossed into England for good for this trip (probably for any trip to be honest).

Bearing in mind that we have only come down 2 locks at this point so are only about 13' lower than Llangollen Basin - there are a lot of floods around. Heaven knows what it will be like when we get back to the lower ground. Valerie sent a message on Facebook today saying that the Alrewas river stretch is flooded and impassible so we shall have to see what next week brings as we get nearer to home - still a while to worry about that yet.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

25th Sept '12

A somewhat dodgy internet connection so here's hoping it will last long enough for me to do this!

We awoke this morning to the sound of silence - no rain - neither had there been any overnight so we decided to make a run for it despite the awful forecast. Naturally it was only waiting for us to take the pram cover down and start moving for the rain to start but we'd made our choice by then so off we went.

I took Paddy on ahead as we knew the narrow bits and with my trusty walkie-talkie I pounded on for about a mile and a half, stopping boats from coming where we were already on the way and letting John know when he could come through. I quite liked it actually - the power! Slightly miffed by the boat that was in front of us, who obviously had no scout out and was just going on through. I ended up ahead of them and stopped a line of boats that they benefitted from. As they came past where I was ready to board at the end of the narrows - I called out that I'd stopped the boats coming so they were free to go ahead and they just looked through me. I muttered "Don't mention it." hopefully just loud enough for them to hear.

We got to the junction at Trevor and chaos was reigning. The boat in front of us went to the far side, there was a boat waiting on the inside and about 4 boats coming over the aqueduct. Interesting seems to be becoming my favourite word! Somehow, as always happens, things worked out, as the last boat came off the first of us went over and all was sorted. It rained solidly all the way across and so I never did get around to jumping off and taking a photo of the boat going over. Shame but I'm not doing it again.

By now we had decided that we had done what we wanted to do and get back through the narrow bits, back onto the canal proper and so we moored up at Froncysyllte, under wet trees so no telly tonight and intermittent internet!

Earlier we had a nasty incident when 2 hire boats from Trevor, Anglo Welsh ones, came past far too fast and both hit us badly along the side. John and I both gave them an earful. They appeared to find it somewhat amusing so I rang Anglo Welsh and made a complaint about them. I don't suppose it would make a difference but I felt better. John would have killed them if he'd got hold of them at the time. Interesting to think that we shall meet them in a few days time as they return. Hopefully they will have learnt some control and some manners by then.

Earlier we walked up to the main street and found a Post Office / shop. It reminded us of the one at Weston. There was a fridge with a few bottles of milk. Some shelves that had Baked Beans, dog food and one small packet of Weetabix and no postcards! Brilliant. I hope the locals buy lots of stamps etc there or it won't be here for much longer.

Found the photos from the camera and this is coming over the aqueduct! It's not a good connection for photos so I'll only put a couple more on and hope that I get another chance soon.

Look who we saw yesterday down in Llangollen! John dashed back up to the boat (quite a climb) and back with the camera. It was being brought up from the SW I suspect and was loaded onto an Antell lorry from Shillingstone (in Dorset) John recognised the driver, John Antell who he used to go to junior school with. How's that for a coincidence? He stopped and had a chat naturally but didn't go back down in the evening for a drink - it was quite a climb!

That's all for now folks - hopefully more when I get better internet - just hoping this will now post!

24th Sept. '12

It's now Monday and I missed last nights because by the time we got here I was cold, wet and miserable and by the time I'd taken Paddy out, dried out, warmed up and got tea it was time for Downton Abbey! Priorities!

Yesterday we left the moorings and headed up to the lock having only heard one early boat, and then a rush and so there were 3 boats waiting at the lock and one going up - none coming down. Two more arrived before we had gone through and only one boat turned up just in time to come down before us. We got to the next one and there was only one boat going up and one waiting but a whole queue waiting to come down. There is no logic to boat movements..... It took over an hour and a quarter to get through the two locks and we decided to keep going and get to Llangollen since the weather report was threatening rain by 5.00pm (they were wrong - it started at 4!).

We got through Chirk across the aqueduct and through the tunnel but as we emerged from the tunnel it became obvious that we'd come up behind the slowest and most cautious hire-boat on the whole system. I had gone below after the tunnel to rustle up some sausage sandwiches to keep the helmsman happy and when I came up with lunch and asked if all was well (there was a worrying look across his face) he said he'd lost the will to live. Thinking it was my fault in being a long time with the sandwiches (better than food-poisioning from underdone sausages I felt) I apologised only to be told it wasn't me but the gentleman in front (not exactly his words). We continued at about 1 mile an hour (this is no exageration) and the air above us was blue, turning black around the edges.

There is an irony in this, being that the previous evening a hire-boat had gone by us so fast and so out of control that it knocked us on our moorings (luckily hooks on pilings and not stakes). We went up to the lock where they were going through and gently explained about slowing down past moored boats and although he was very nice, he maintained he wasn't actually going that fast, but just lost control in the current. mmmmmm - not convinced.

While chatting to Sarah and Chris who WERE moored on stakes above the lock we warned them and sure enough he went past them too fast and they had to tighten their moorings.

Anyway back to the journey. It took a L-O-N-G time to reach Froncysyllte, which is one end of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, and then had to follow this boat across it. Now if you don't know much about narrowboats you will need some explanation here. When you have not much water under you, it is hard to move, and when you don't have much water either side of you, it is hard to move - the boats work best when there is plenty of water around them so that they can move it and use the flow to help them. SO when you have a ...... gentleman ..... in front of you barely moving at the best of times it makes going over a shallow, narrow aqueduct, with a raging wind hitting the side of your boat 127 foot in the air quite difficult.

I hadn't realised what a steep turn it would be into the final stretch of the canal as you turn at Trevor and then it becomes REALLY narrow. Just before either of us actually jump from the boat and murder the chap in front, he pulls in shouting that he needs a rest! A REST!!!!! He needs a lot more than that, but at least it meant that we could revert to nearer 3 miles an hour. The canal has a really strong current flowing down and so against us and getting to the final section and the basin took a lot longer than we had expected. For the narrow sections it suggests that someone goes ahead to check for boats coming the other way. So off I go with a walkie-talkie and that is when the rain started. We were already cold and this was not what was needed.

John maintained that it was like going uphill, trying to get through the narrow sections and we knew that boats with more than 2'3" draft were unlikely to get through - we are 23" so there wasn't a lot of water under us, but enough to move. The current coming down was very strong - it will be interesting to go back down tomorrow! Some of the bridges are at very unusual angles!

By the time we are moored in the basin (which is great - £6 and electric and water included on the pontoon) we were both more like a pair of drowned rats than happy boaters.

However a hot coffee liberally laced with whisky helped and finishing the bottle later helped even more.

The rain continued unabated throughout the night and now at 2.00pm it is still as strong as ever. There are rumours that it will ease up at 4ish but we have paid to stay another night and are revising our plans. Chester another time so that we can enjoy it and link it to the Anderton Boat lift and hopefully getting in touch with Roy and Joan from the other evening while we are near Northwich. All that for the spring I think.

Looking back to below New Marton Locks where we had moored the previous evening. These locks were great - the run -off was far enough down to not hamper getting into the lock and I'm feeling more confident again.

Sarah on NB Bonnie. We met her and Chris along with her son Charlie and dog Alan above the lock and spent best part of an hour nattering - one of the better bits of narrowboating in case the entry today sounds a bit negative!

The aqueduct at Chirk - happy memories of being here in the motorhome on St Davids Day this year.
This was just before coming up behind the slow boat - in fact there he is in front of us but we didn't realise the impact of being behind him at this point.


The offending boat going around the corner at Froncysyllte. Grrrrrrr

Approaching the Pontycysyllte Aqueduct - you can see a fault at the bottom of the picture and this is where my camera's battery ran out! Typical. I have it charged and will ensure that I have both cameras and my phone ready on the journey back. This is the highlight of the British Waterways and my camera dies on me! I think I shall blame the boat in front!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

22nd Sept. '12

There was no internet connection last night so I'm doing two days in one here.

We have travelled into and out of Wales and are currently back in England in between Ellesmere and Crick. Tomorrow, we enter the final bit of the Llangollen and will be in Wales! After travelling almost entirely in a drizzle yesterday, we have had lovely sunshine today. Very warm in the sunshine but still cool in the shade, but still a vast improvement - I don't think it's here to stay though.

Yesterday we had the Grindley Brook flight to go up - and this is what I mean about the amount of water run-off at the base of the locks - it really is quite disconcerting and once more I failed miserably and had to ask John to help me get into the second lock - I just couldn't bring the boat around. Getting the bow right was possible if not a bit tricky, but then the stern just swings around in the flow and I'm totally unable to get it back on course. I blame my frozen shoulder as I just don't have enough strength to get the tiller around. Heaven only knows what I shall blame in 6 months time when that is all finished....

The boats behind me in the pound...

The boats alongside me. I mentioned that 3 go up and 3 go down and this is what happens at the bottom of the staircase and the top of the flight - the 3 coming down meet the 3 coming up and you can't go up until the last of the 3 has come down. It was bedlam but I got there without hitting anyone - I was the first to go up.

Once in the staircase this it the sight you are greeted with! I managed to upset the lock-keeper by moaning about the run-off at the bottom of the locks and was told in no uncertain terms that it was only because of the flow of water that the canal survived. I knew this (having read the book) but still felt that they could have designed the locks slightly differently so that it was easier to get in them! Opps. Best not mention that again....

We moored up on an embankment near somewhere called Hampton Bank, just back in Shropshire after the previous mile that had been in Wales! There was a rather sad wooden post showing the border but the photo didn't come out. The mooring was great as there were no other boats around and we were able to just let Paddy off the lead and he really enjoyed having a good run up and down the towpath for a change. He really can smile when he's happy.

We set off in good time this morning, despite me not wanting to wake up (I'd lost my swimming kit in my dream and was very worried about it - doesn't sound like me - I HATE swimming) ANYWAY, we set off in good time as I said and the sun was shining and all was beautiful and we had a day without any locks - hurray!

We saw this from afar and it wasn't until we got really close that we realised that it was a carving up on top of a telephone pole! Rather beautifully done we thought and who put it there we wondered?

An unexpectedly straight stretch - note the appalling towpath! Maintenance isn't big around here.

After a straight stretch where we didn't see anyone, there's suddenly a bridge, moored boats and boats coming towards you - this is typical of life along the canal. After getting through this chaos, we once again didn't see a boat for ages. Why we ask ourselves (regularly) does this happen?

Looking out from the gloom of the canal with lots of overhanging trees, to the sunshine on Blake Mere, just before Ellesmere. We'd just come through a tunnel and it was hard to know when the tunnel ended with the gloom. There were moorings along here but they didn't tempt us. Possibly in the height of a very hot summer they'd be nice but not at present.

The entrance to the Ellesmere Arm where John wanted to go since there was a Tesco at the end and we needed supplies, and our weekly paper (for the TV listings). I wasn't at all sure about this as I couldn't see that there would be moorings on a lovely day like today plus it being a Saturday - how wrong can I be?

Turning at the end of Ellesmere Arm - it was a bit tight although supposed to be for a 70' boat.

Moorings all along the arm - proving John right and me wrong (there I have put it in writing) (but only once)

As well as getting our groceries John went off and found a fish and chip shop and we sat in the sun on the back of the boat enjoying our lunch. I think we increased trade for the shop as almost everyone who went past asked where we got them and commented on the lovely smell! Have to admit that they probably ruined my diet this week but it was worth it, mmmmmmm.

Looking over towards the Welsh hills - this is apparently what John expected the canal to be like and now he's happy! It has become far narrower and more open today and also a lot more winding.

Once past the Frankton Junction (which can take you down the Montgomery Canal if you feel so inclined) the bridges on the Llangollen are numbered from 1 again, with a W - not sure if this is to stand for Wales (although we're not there yet) or West. Whatever they are that's how they go from now on, we have come through 11W and are now moored below the New Marton Locks. There are only 2 and they look OK - not as scary as the previous ones on the canal, so fingers crossed all will be well in the morning. We are almost at Chirk and so tomorrow we will get to the end of the canal and go across the Pontywhatsit Aqueduct and then there'll be some pictures! Lets just hope that the signal (which has been erratic to say the least, I've lost Facebook for most of the day) is good enough to do the blog.