Perfect Harmony

Perfect Harmony
Moored at Huntingdon

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.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

19th Sept '12

I'm writing this on 20th due to circumstances beyond my control last night - more of that later.

Yesterday we had a walk into Nantwich in the morning to see what there was to see. It's a pretty little town with some nice shops and would probably be even nicer in the dry!

The rain had been torrential during the night and started again just after we had got off the canal and onto the road into town. It stopped just after we got back on the boat but kept up with intermittent showers until lunchtime.

We decided to make a run for it when the weather appeared to have dried out a bit and try to get to Wrenbury, where we hope to see Sue and Terry. This meant that AT LAST we got onto the Llangollen! Yeah.

The junction was wide and the boat in front went straight into the empty lock that awaits you at the junction, but we are so used to that now that we have come to expect it. The wind was blowing directly from the north and we were turning west. Those of you who haven't tried to move a boat 62foot long in a howling wind have NO idea how tricky this is. I was confident about it right up until the moment I had to slam her in reverse to stop me hitting the entrance at a rate of knots. I got the bow in but then she went on a rather worrying tilt as the rest of her followed - not my finest hour, but ably supported by my nearest and dearest who had his hands over his eyes and gritted his teeth and shook his head. Bless.

After a similar debacle getting into the second lock I got him to come and do the other 2  - I think that's the first time I've chickened out at locks - certainly since the first guillotine locks on the Ouse.

We stopped briefly to have a pump out at Swanley Bridge Marina since they very sensibly had it on an outside mooring, along with the fuel. Mind you they charged £16 and didn't put any chemical in so it was by far and away the dearest one we have had.

The weather stayed dry on the whole - I think because we were wearing our boat coats just in case! There were a further 5 locks to do and because of the strong flow of water on this canal, there is a lot of water at both the top and the bottom, trying to push the boat to the side. A real fight at some of them and we've been told it gets worse further up. Great.

A boat was in front of us all the way and very little coming the other way so it took us quite a while to travel the distance and it was gone 6.30 when we moored. John suggested a pub meal and who was I to disagree!

We went to one of the two pubs here at Wrenbury and had an excellent meal and got chatting to the 2 couples who were at the table next to us. It turned out that Ian and Claire and Roy and Joan were celebrating their joint 37th wedding anniversaries. They met on honeymoon and have been constant friends ever since! We ended up going back to their boat for drinks and not returning back to ours until after midnight! Unheard of for us (or them apparently) We shall hope to meet them again, 2 lovely couples. Now you know why I didn't do the blog last night.

We have just heard that Sue and Terry can't meet up today as they have an emergency to return to Devon so we are about to set sail into more of the great unknown

I will have to add the photos to the next one as they are taking forever and we need to be moving!

20th Sept '12

Can't understand where the post went from earlier that I put on for yesterday - hopefully I'll find it somewhere! Anyway here are the photos that should have gone with it but I wasn't able to upload them earlier.

The rather impressive aqueduct in Nantwich from the road into town, at a slight angle since I also had Paddy on the lead and he was pulling my arm!

Same aqueduct from the canal!

John was mystified as to why these cars were floating above the hedge. We later discovered it was a scrapyard and they were on top of other cars!

The wide and as it turned out, tricky entrance to the Llangollen - no-one said there was a lock immediately at the entrance - followed by 3 more!

On our return back down the canal we shall turn north to Chester.

Looking up the first flight of locks.

The view from the top of the flight over the Cheshire plain, towards the Peak District (and home!)

At this point it reminded us quite a bit of the Trent and Mersey. Except there are WAY more moorings along here - shows what a popular route it is I suppose.

Swanley Bridge Marina where we stopped for a very expensive pump-out (but it was easy to get to!)

A typical bridge - somewhat pumpkin shaped - they seem to be a lot less battered than most, especially since this stretch has more than it's fair share of holiday boats!

Clouds over Wrenbury where we are heading towards - it started just as we moored - phew!

The electrically operated lift bridge just outside the pub where we ate last night that we came through this morning - it's quite a busy little road and there was quite a queue by the time two boats had come through.

The Dusty Miller where I had duck and John had sea-bass - both wonderful! Also good range of reasonably priced malts - mmmmm

The area around the locks and the towpaths are not well maintained - this is the mud that John had to stand in to open a bottom gate - usually they are stone with grips for extra purchase - here you just slip around and hope for the best.

We are now moored at the bottom of a set of locks comprising 3 in a flight and then a staircase of 3. We haven't done a staircase before but have been up for a walk so know what's ahead of us. For those who don't know the difference a flight has any number of separate locks - all operated independently and with a pound in between for boats to cross, and a staircase has you going straight from one lock into the next with no break and you can't pass - this one has the capacity for 3 boats to go up one after the other and then 3 boats to come down - apparently in the height of the season up to 100 boats go through this a day and the delays can be up to 3 hours! Shouldn't be so bad for us in the morning - will tell all tomorrow.

Now to hunt for the missing blog.......

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

18th Sept. '12

First HUGE congratulations to Francesca for passing her driving test - go girl!

We set off in good time this morning and the sun was shining although it was somewhat cool. Despite my polite conversation with the bull last night it wasn't there this morning which upset me a bit. He really did look so funny peering over the edge of the bridge.

We got to the top of the Audlem locks and again there was a boat coming out, but strangely, this pattern continued through most of the 15. A few times I had to wait for a boat to come up from the lock below to get through the next lock but it was pretty smooth. I even managed to get myself off a bit of a mud-bank. I'd come out of a lock and was waiting for the one below to be free and the run-off sent me to the far side of the gates, and I got stuck. I tried blasting the horn but John couldn't hear it and then I realised that he couldn't do anything anyway since there was no way you could get there in any case. So against all odds, I stayed calm, reversed and moved myself (well the boat you understand - I mean I could move at all times personally) gradually off the bank and then got moving in the right direction. When I eventually got into the lock and said to John that I'd grounded his comment was "Yes the bloke coming up got stuck further down." Nothing resembling empathy or even praise.... do I expect too much?

We got to lock 11 and there were moorings there but I suggested that since it was still too early for lunch we'd might as well finish the 15. It had rained quite heavily but briefly twice during the earlier ones but the subsequent sun had dried us both out - we weren't even in wet gear, just fleeces. So on we went and lunched just after the bottom lock. This was the first time that we didn't have either a piling or rings to moor - we have been very impressed with the Shroppie as there are more rings along the mooring sites here than we have ever seen anywhere else, but for some reason there was nothing here and we had to find the stakes and mallet. A bit of a shock to the system.

Heartened by our success we decided to get to Nantwich for the night and we got through the two locks at Hack Green despite having to wait a LONG time for a boat to get to the bottom one and then actually get into it. It was a private boat with 6 people aboard and they were useless, here's us with just the two of us and we just get on with it. Talk about a drama!

As we near Nantwich the sky is getting darker and darker ahead of us and we can see rain in the distance off to the east. It's a race against time now and we lost. As we pulled into a mooring it started to hail - I've never seen Paddy so keen to get down into the boat - he nearly jumped it himself! We waited inside for it to stop before putting the pram cover up and dry everything out a bit.

We've had a walk down into Nantwich (again it started raining on us just as soon as we were away from the boat) but only to find a postbox and then we got back as quickly as possible and John has lit a fire and it's lovely and cosy in here. There's something very comforting about being in a boat and hearing it rain outside when you don't have to go out!

We've heard from Terry and Sue who are in N Wales on holiday and so we are hoping to see them on Thursday as long as we can get somewhere that's vaguely on their way home. Fingers crossed (again). The weather seems to be turning against us but nothing new there.

Erik Bloodaxe moored up in front of us again last night but we have passed him now - it's fascinating how you see the same boats again - there is a lovely Welsh couple on a boat called Gwynefh (I may have got the spelling wrong) but we have been passing each other the whole of the Shropshire so far and they are from Llangollen so we are likely to see them again.

There is an impressive aqueduct just up the canal from here that I'll get a photo of tomorrow.

Johns new way of getting across the bottom lock gates - I hate him doing it and children don't copy him - he's a very silly man.

The river Weaver - the same one as later on has the Anderton Boat Lift. The canal goes across it at this point.

The entrance to the new Overwater Marina just outside Audlem - it looks very nice but it's an extremely windy site - mooring could be fun!

The sky starting to look ominously black ahead of us as we near Nantwich. It got worse!!!!

17th Sept '12

I’ve got no internet connection tonight so am having to do this in word and will hopefully attach it to the blog tomorrow.

Moored in front of us I noticed the boat was called Eric Bloodaxe and the one in front of that was St. Teresa - I bet you can't think of many sentances that those two names would be in close juxtaposition!

We started late today, not because we had a lie in (well we did but nothing more than usual) but because we had to go and get some groceries and it was a surprisingly long distance with a trolley load of shopping. Then we had to move along a few hundred yards to fill with water and empty the cassette, and then got chatting to a fellow boater.... those of you with boats will know the problem!

Anyway it was about midday by the time we left Market Drayton and headed for the locks. There were 5 at Adderley and then we wanted to get down the first 11 at Audlem.

Arriving at Adderley top lock, we were delighted to see a boat coming out – our luck was in! Then low and behold a boat emerges from the second lock – wonder of wonders – today’s the day we thought. Then reality clicked in and somehow the other 3 locks were empty. How do they do that? We hadn’t seen a boat in front of us and there had been some long straight stretches. I feel sure that there is a phantom boat that emerges in front of us at locks specifically to upset me. No this is not paranoia, just stating a fact.

There were some really nice moorings at the bottom and we had already decided to stop here for lunch, plus the wind had become really strong and I’d been fighting the boat to keep it on course in the last locks, so I was ready for a rest. No sooner had we moored and I’d taken Paddy for a quick comfort break but the rain started. We looked at one another and decided then and there to put up the pram cover and call it a day. We haven’t exactly come far – only a few miles in fact but enough was enough – the next locks start in about a mile and neither of us fancied doing it in the rain.

We have been justified in our decision since it has been squally on and off all afternoon. There was one dry patch when we took Paddy out for a decent walk. A white bull was standing on one of the bridges we walked under and I started singing (guess the tune? No prizes) Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera and I suppose it’s a bit much to expect him to be there tomorrow – although I did ask him very nicely.

I finished knitting Rachels’ birthday present and am now going to get started on my jacket – whoopee! I can’t put a picture of it on here, just in case this it the one time that she actually DOES look at the blog, but I’ll add it to facebook! Weather sounds better tomorrow so fingers crossed.
The wharf at Market Drayton  - probably one of the prettiest bits of the town - sorry to anyone who loves the place but it didn't grab me I'm afraid!
A dinky little butty we spotted - it apparently is used like a garden shed or a loft - full of bits and bobs from what we could tell as we went past.
At the top of Adderley Locks - a completely trust the customer range of goodies to buy including home made cakes, free range eggs, home reared bacon and sausages and home grown veg. There was a farm up a track but no-one in sight - just a box for the money and a list of prices. Great isn't it?