Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Better than expected.

It was supposed to be wet all day today, but by half-ten the rain seemed to have lost enthusiasm, dwindling then stopping completely. It’s been warmer than of late, too, now that the wind has dropped.

We decided to move along a bit, now we had a window of opportunity. Not too far though.

Leaving our overnight, now it’s dried up.IMG_3777
Still very gloomy, though.

Fine views from the embankment at Hampton Bank.IMG_3779

We stopped for water at Bettisfield Bridge, temporarily back in Wales as there’s a peculiar diversion of the border here, down to Northwood then back up again.

This spur, known as Maelor, was part of the Principality of Chester for a while, then a part of Shropshire, then became an isolated enclave of Flintshire, before being re-attached to Wales in the boundary changes of 1974.

Do we, don’t we? moment at the end of the long straight across Whixall Moss.IMG_3780
We didn’t…

We pulled in at the eastern end of the straight, just before the Prees Branch Junction.IMG_3781

Mags has had it easy since New Marton Locks, but tomorrow she’ll have to shake a leg, we’re coming into lift-bridge country… The first one is just around the corner.

Locks 0, miles 3

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Heading east from Ellesmere

Today we set off from Ellesmere heading towards the main line and the central canal network. We could have moved off yesterday, the morning was grim, wet and windy, but it brightened up in the afternoon. By then inertia had set in though, so we decided to leave it another day. It was a good decision; although it’s been chilly it was a fine sunny morning today, although the wind was a bit of a nuisance at times.

There’s not much to say about the trip, there were a few boats about, a mix of hirers and private,

Chris and Lesley on NB Rosie II were one of those that passed in the other direction. One of those brief conversations ensued, gradually getting louder as the two boats drifted apart…

Meg and I said our goodbyes to the dog owners who we’ve met regularly on our frequent returns to Ellesmere this winter, and after a quick trip to Tesco for perishables we set off, out of the arm and turned left.

A bright start to the day.

Out of Ellesmere Tunnel…

…and through the woods flanking the meres.IMG_3765

Blake Mere

We pulled in after a pleasant 1¾ hour cruise, on the moorings near Hampton Bank between Bridges 50 and 51.

Lyneal Road Bridge and Greaves Bridge in the distanceIMG_3774

It was at Greaves Bridge where the wind caught me unawares and I was blown into the offside shallows while slowly passing a boat that had pulled in to allow us through the bridge first. No harm done though, even though we drifted into the overhanging trees.

$_35It has prompted me to change back to the Moonraker DTV1000 aerial which is more compact and less liable to getting hooked-up under trees than the directional stick aerial we’ve been using, on a long pole, in the border regions.

The Moonraker is generally fine, but does seem to struggle sometimes when the signal strength is poor.

Not sure what we’re doing tomorrow; the forecast is for cold, wet weather. We’ll have to see. We’re in no rush, we’re meeting friends again near Whitchurch early next week.

Locks 0, miles 4 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Frankton Junction and back.

This stretch of canal is getting very familiar. I know every shallow bit, every awkward bridge approach,  every exposed section between Ellesmere and Frankton Junction.

We moved up to the junction on Thursday, mooring above the locks ready to meet Brian with coal, diesel and a gas cylinder to replace the one that ran out on Thursday evening. Good timing or what!

He and Ann-Marie work hard supplying boaters on the Macclesfield and Peak Forest canals from NB Alton, and Brian delivers way out here once a month by road. A lovely couple, their schedule for deliveries can be found on their website.

Bosley Locks, April 2013
SAM_4992 Brian and Ann Marie_thumb[4]

Brian was running a little behind so it wasn’t until about 4 o’clock that he arrived, but he did have time for a brew before he continued on his deliveries.

The weather outlook was grim, we’d had some rain through the day but it had cleared by 5 o’clock so we decided to make a start on the trip back to Ellesmere.
We pulled up near Bridge 63, nicely sheltered from the blustery wind by high banks and hedges.

With rain predicted all day today we made an early start while it was dry this morning, although, as it turned out, we could have left at any time and stayed dry.

Blue sky to the east, but to the west the clouds are heavy with rain.IMG_3744

No rain yet as we turn into the arm

We were back in Ellesmere, tied up in the arm, by half-ten.

We’d had a stowaway, a reptile of some description had joined us for a ride on the gunnel.
I think it’s a common newt, just emerged from his winter hibernation. He didn’t stay long, dropping back into the water and swimming off towards the bank.
I say he, of course it could have been a she. Sexing newts is not something I’m familiar with…


For lunch I decided to try that Nana’s Magic Soup that Tesco have been advertising recently.
It looked all right, but I’m afraid it’s rather bland and insipid. A tablespoon of chilli powder gave it a bit more pizzazz! I don’t think I’ll bother making it again.

At the entrance to the arm there’s a silted up and reed-choked spur, and I’ve wondered what it was for. A little research took me back the the National Library of Scotland’s map archives, and I found this one from 1902…Ellesmere Arm map
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland –

The spur is labelled “Boat House”, and further digging unearthed that John, and later Richard Tilston who had wharfs further up the arm for timber and building materials, also had a boatbuilding business here, and this was the site.

Looking up the arm from the entrance bridge, the site of the boatbuilder on the right…IMG_3752

…and from across the arm

The canal here was completed at the turn of the 19th century, Beech House opposite the junction, built for the Ellesmere Canal offices was finished in 1805 and the maintenance workshops next door a year later.IMG_3753

Although I can’t find anything to confirm this, it’s likely that the arm was also opened at around this time, bringing trade and prosperity to the town.
On the east side of the arm were several wharfs, that of the Tilston’s I’ve already mentioned, a coal wharf and also a timber wharf belonging to the Duke of Bridgewater, Francis Egerton. The same guy who is arguably hailed as the father of the English canal system, having opened the Bridgewater Canal between Worsley and Manchester in 1761. Although not involved in the construction of the Ellesmere Canal, he later became a shareholder and chair of the management committee.
His influence in the town came from the extensive landholdings in the area that came with the title, hence the name of the foundry at the top of the arm, on the west side.

The Bridgewater Foundry was established in the early 1850’s by William Clay.
From Graces Guide to British Industrial History - “General Engineers and Ironfounders and manufacturers of First Class Prize Portable Steam Engines and Thrashing Machines.”
The Foundry closed soon after WWI and the site was taken over by the Great Western and Metropolitan Dairies.

The dairy in 1986.
From the BBCs Domesday Reloaded website -

The same view today, the site at the head of the arm now occupied by Tesco.IMG_3755
The crane, now preserved, still sits in it’s original position.

Further back down the arm on the west side was the gas works, built in 1832, and using canal transport to supply coal for conversion to town gas. All that area is now cleared, and is up for sale as part of an extensive development.

Behind the old warehouse on the opposite side of the arm is a derelict area that used to be occupied by several buildings, among them a cottage and stables for boat horses. All have been demolished now.

In the season it’s often difficult to find space to moor on the arm, imagine what it must have been like in the middle of the 19th century!

We’ll be here for the weekend, then, depending on the weather, we’ll start heading back to the main network early next week. So this should be our last visit to Ellesmere this trip – maybe!

Locks 0, miles 6

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A good day to get stuff done.

We moved out of Ellesmere yesterday, filling up with water at the wharf then moving only ¾ of a mile towards Frankton Junction. While the weather is fine I wanted to give the well deck a bit of attention, and I didn’t want to empty it on the towpath on the Ellesmere Arm.

More lambs about now…

I glanced out of the window at nine last night and had to try to get this shot…IMG_3726
Over exposed and just a little shaky, but I didn’t have time to set up properly if I wanted to catch the effect. Just down and to the right of the moon is Jupiter.

So, this morning I emptied the front well deck.It’s amazing how much clutter you accumulate over the course of a year, since I last did it.
The items were sorted into three stacks – keep, discard and PUT IT BACK WHERE IT BELONGS! The size of the discard pile was quite satisfying, actually.

Anyway, with everything out I could set to and scrape out several rust bubbles on the deck with an old wood chisel, then I scrubbed the area with hot water. With the weather being sunny and breezy it had dried out by the time I’d had a coffee, so I broke out the Trustan and treated the exposed rusty areas. They were then given a coat of Hammerite. IMG_3728

I left the paint to dry while I got on with another job I’ve been meaning to do for ages, but needed space in the well deck to complete.
The vent/overflow pipe from the water tank runs out through the hull, very close to the waterline. My concern has always been that when we’re laden with coal and wood (a common situation in the winter) the vent could be actually below the waterline and drawing water off the tank could cause a vacuum effect in the tank which could pull canal water into the tank through the vent pipe. Not an ideal situation, I‘m sure you’ll agree.

The vent on the top of the tank…

…piped to the hull outlet.

In the top picture I’ve removed the original pipe and connected a new one to the tank. This now leads up behind the front cabin bulkhead, accessed through a handy air vent.
A spider filter will prevent any foreign bodies from invading.
Of course, being now 18 inches above the top of the tank it’ll no longer act as an overflow, but that’s not a problem, if we overfill the water just runs across the deck and out of the scuttles anyway.
As I’d need to be an extremely thin contortionist to get to the hull fitting to disconnect the original pipe, and I’m not, I left it in situ, plugged and tucked up out of the way.

By mid-afternoon the paint on the deck had dried in the warm sun, so I got a coat of raddle red on as well.IMG_3733
Another coat will see that job finished. A lot quicker than  anticipated, thanks to the fine day. Same again tomorrow as well.

There’s been lots of boats up and down the cut today, mostly hirers I reckon, but with several private boats too. I think we’ve an early start to the season.

We’re meeting Brian, NB Alton, at Frankton on Friday, delivery diesel to us again. So we might move tomorrow afternoon if the second coat of paint has dried sufficiently for me to start reinstalling the side lockers. Otherwise it’ll be Friday morning. Then back to Ellesmere for the weekend again. The last time this winter.

Locks 0, miles ¾

Friday, March 10, 2017

Another weekend at Ellesmere

We’ve been here a few times this year, haven’t we! The local dog walkers and walkees have got to know Meg and I now.
It’s funny though. We get to know the dog’s names, but never the owners’.

Usually we spent the winter taking a slow trip to Llangollen, then an equally slow trip back to the Shroppie main line at Hurleston. But this year we’ve done a lot of backtracking. Not that I’m complaining, there’re worse places to be!20170310_093433

Today it was payback for yesterday’s fine weather. Dull and drizzly first thing then light showers later. Still quite mild, though.

A little brightness as we left Frankton Junction, but it wasn’t to last.IMG_3702

There’s still plenty of wood left on the very shallow offside between Bridges 67 and 66.


The canal winds around Val Hill, one of several sandstone ridges rising above the undulating Shropshire plain. IMG_3710

Most of Shropshire and goodly parts of the adjoining counties of Cheshire and Staffordshire were under one vast expanse of water following the last Ice Age. The water slowly drained away down what were to become the estuaries of the Dee, Mersey and Severn, leaving rich alluvial farmland, peat bogs and mosses over Whixall way, and the meres around Ellesmere. Higher ground like Val Hill and the Llanymynech Hills would have been islands.

There are popular moorings near Coachman’s Bridge, probably due to their proximity to the road. Boats often overflow towards the bridge, like this fibreglass cruiser right next to it.
That's just asking for trouble!

Aah, sweet!


It started to rain as we pulled in on the service wharf at the Ellesmere maintenance yard, but it only lasted long enough for us to fill with water.

Ellesmere Yard, with a boat in the dry dock IMG_3719

Water tank filled and rubbish and recycling disposed of we turned into the arm to moor, finding plenty of space. We’ll be here for the weekend now.

Locks 0, miles 3½

Thursday, March 09, 2017

A fabulous day–out with the shorts!

We moved on a bit yesterday afternoon. Pleasant as it is, there’s very patchy phone coverage near Bridge 4W and Mags had some calls to make. So we cruised for just a half-hour and moored in the entrance to the Montgomery Canal, above Frankton Locks.
Before we left though I had to dismantle the Eberspacher and replace the fuel dosing pump after all. It started up OK first thing, but then died after about 15 minutes. The replacement pump seems to have solved the problem.

A cloudy evening dropped a bit of rain after we’d tied up, but this morning dawned clear and bright.

Twenty minutes past eight, the sun is shining and the birds are singingIMG_3694

Looking down Frankton Locks


Nine miles to the south-west the Llanymynech Hills sit on the horizon.
The Montgomery Canal passes just to the west of the rising ground, before crossing the border into Wales and heading onward to Newtown where it’s fed from the headwaters of the mighty River Severn.
Both the Severn and the Wye rise on the flanks of Plynlimon in the Cambrian Hills not far from Newtown, the Severn flowing east and the Wye, south. Although only around 13½ miles from the Welsh coast at Aberystwyth, they both take a convoluted route to get to the sea, the Wye taking 134 miles to reach the Severn Estuary,  and the Severn 220, making it the longest river in the British Isles.

We’ve not moved today so I decided to get John Sage (the bike, for those who don’t know) off the roof and give him a good seeing-to. The last few months on the roof have not been kind. The stiff chain succumbed to liberal applications of WD40 followed by a goodly dap of grease, but the rear brake cable and the control cable for the crank-set are irretrievable, the brake cable having started to shred and the control cable well seized in it’s outer case. So I’ve got a new set of cables on order, arriving at Val and John’s in the next couple of days.
The front brake is fine, although it will need new pads in the fullness of time, so I went for a couple of miles pedal to check things out. All’s well, although it doesn’t go up hills very well… or maybe that’s me!

We’ll be toddling on down to Ellesmere tomorrow.

I’m sorry but I got behind with the comments you are kind enough to make. So – Thanks KevinToo, Carol and Ade for saying it’s great to see the lady back on the tiller. I think so too, not least because it means less work for me!

KevinToo – Not betting on a successful outcome, it was a dead cert! Not a big job, just messy. There are always several cheap iPads with damaged screens on ebay. Might go into business…
I still might be carrying that fuel around after all, if today is anything to go by! And I don’t think we’ve quite finished with the trip boat thing just yet. Watch this space!

Hi Ade. I had a chat with the local volunteer lockie yesterday, he told me that they’re selling all the hire boats and cutting back on the chandlery and servicing side too. There’ll just be the moorings then, I guess. Not sure if all the boats are sold, though.

Locks 0, miles 1 

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Back down two locks and our first lambs of the season.

It’s been another fine day, good sunny spells but a cool breeze. No rain, that’s good. I got back from my morning run looking forward to a good hot shower, only to find that the water heater had failed to start up. Bugger. So I started up the engine and finished up with a luke-warm shower 20 minutes later.
I checked the diagnostic readout on the control panel and it indicated a dosing pump fault, and when I tried to start it up again there was no characteristic thonk-thonk-thonk as the pump primed the burner.

I do have a spare Eberspacher unit, an older D4W that was a non-runner that came out of Sue and Vic’s No Problem before it was sold. It was replaced by a Webasto, and I was offered the old one for parts. The pumps in both units are the same so I was prepared to swap them out in the hope that it would solve the problem. But before I started dismantling plumbing, fuel lines, exhaust and electrical connections I thought I try it again. And, you’ve guessed it, it ran up sweet as a nut and kept going till it switched off on the timer an hour later.

I subscribe to the policy that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. So it’ll stay in if it returns to it’s normal reliable self.

We were on the move at around half-ten, heading to New Marton Locks.

Looking back towards Wales across St. Martins Moor.IMG_3680

We topped up the water tank above the New Marton Top Lock, then dropped down the two locks separated by about a quarter of a mile.IMG_3681

A little arched bridge crosses the bywash at the top lockIMG_3682

It took a while to empty the top lock, only one bottom paddle was in service and there was almost as much water coming in the top as going out the bottom!IMG_3683 

When we got to the bottom lock that pile of logs was still there, over the bywash. I’d told myself that we don’t need any more, it’s Spring, we’ve plenty of solid fuel to see us through, blardy-blardy-blah. But when push came to shove I just couldn’t resist.

I didn’t take much, just a token really to appease the avaricious monster lurking in the background, and there’s still plenty for next year…


We often stop below the locks, it’s open here and the grass towpath is reasonably dry, but the weather was still good so we carried on, finally mooring just past Maestermyn on the moorings after Bridge 4W.

I’d have missed them, but Mags was keeping me company and spotted our first lambs of the new year through the towpath hedge.IMG_3690
They look a few days old.

Maestermyn Cruisers hire base and the Narrow Boat InnIMG_3691
Harrison Ford and his wife Calista Flockhart hired a boat from here a few years ago.

Fine open mooring near Bridge 4W. The solar panels went up as soon as we arrived.IMG_3693

Rain tomorrow will keep us here, I guess. We’ve plenty of time, the next port of call is Ellesmere for the weekend.

Locks 2, miles 5½