Friday, February 17, 2017

A chance to top-up the cupboards.

We took two days to get to Ellesmere, stopping overnight at Frankton Junction above the locks.

A fine day as we head towards Lower Frankton
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It wasn’t to last though. By mid afternoon it had turned to showers. We only had less than a mile to go to the junction, where we met Brian off coal boat Alton.

Frankton Junction
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About once a month he deliveries on the Llangollen, but by road rather than boat. We could have used the local coalman like we did on the way up, but we needed a gas bottle as well as solid fuel, and while we were at it I ordered some diesel as well. He’s been delivering on here since ACCCo. ceased trading last April, hoping to keep their customers for a buyer for the working pair Mountbatten and Jellicoe. No sign of one those at the moment, though. It was good to see him, it’s been a while.

So this morning, now weighing in at 300-odd kilos than we did when we arrived, we set off on the 3½ miles to Ellesmere.

The top of Frankton Locks this morning.
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It should have taken a little over an hour, but we had a hold up…

The veg-trimming contractors have been busy along here, not just grass and hedge cutting, but also lopping back some of the overgrown trees on the offside. If I’d known I may not have got 10 bags of smokeless off Brian, but then again, it may look like an early Spring, but it is still only February…

Couldn’t get near the side for these…
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…but got close enough for some of this.
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There’s lots to be had, if you’re prepared to use a plank to get ashore, but we weren’t greedy, and anyhow there wasn’t a lot of room on the roof!
There was some more on the towpath side just before Bridge 66, so I collared that and pulled in on the moorings here to get my booty cut up.

That done we set off again, arriving at the services at Ellesmere Wharf at around 2 o’clock.

The overcast start cleared to leave us with a beautiful sunny afternoon, the flowers on the gorse bushes near Val Hill almost glowing in the bright light.IMG_3529

I hope the contractors carry on up towards Ellesmere, there’s a lot of overhanging stuff on the offside that needs removing…IMG_3532

We filled the water tank and disposed of rubbish and recycling at the wharf, then just pushed across the navigation to moor up. We were planning to moor down on the arm, but a boater leaving told me there wasn’t a lot of room left. So we chose to stay here.

First trip to Tesco has been done. There be another couple yet.

Locks 0, miles 4½.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Back over the border.

We’ve been steadily heading generally eastward, taking Friday and Saturday to get to the Poacher’s Pocket, just over the border into England.

First time for ages, Mags on the tiller through Fron Lift Bridge!IMG_3470 


Old wonky horns again near Whitehouse Tunnel
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Moored for the night opposite Chirk Marina.
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Back into England over Chirk Aqueduct on Saturday
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Daffodils! It must be nearly Spring!
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On Sunday we had guests. John and Val had walked across Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, but never crossed it by boat. We intended to correct that omission…
It was a cold damp day, so warm clothing was in order…

Having a brew before we set off – and John nearly smiled!IMG_3485

Whitehouse Tunnel
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John expertly guides Seyella under Fron Lift Bridge.
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We crossed over the aqueduct, turned around at the entrance to the Trevor Branch, then came back again.


Val, John and Harry the dachshund on the way back over.IMG_3492

I had to struggle through crowds on the short bit of towpath that’s currently open to get the last picture!
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The only other moving boat we saw all day, and it had to be at the congested bit at Fron Limekilns!IMG_3493

We stopped for Sunday lunch on one of the mooring lengths above the Dee, then pressed on to return to the pub moorings. Odd drizzly showers blew over, but the heaviest sleety rain occurred while we were eating, so that wasn’t too bad. All in all a good day, one which we all enjoyed. And the longest day’s cruising we’ve done in a while!

It’s a pity we couldn’t have done the trip on Monday, it was a far better day. But while work is going on on the towpath, the aqueduct is only open all day on a Sunday.

Yesterday we were off again, in warm sunshine.

Blue skies and sun at St Martin’s Moor Bridge
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But the temperature dipped sharply in the shade…
 
Unlike when we came the other way, you could see across the moor…IMG_3503

…and we didn’t have to defrost the water taps above New Marton Locks with a kettle of hot water!IMG_3504


Mags took the tiller again to drop down the two New Marton LocksIMG_3507

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It’s great to see her back again!

We pulled in for the night below the locks. I had a new radio to install, after the old one went into melt down. But it didn’t work properly, so I‘m now in conversation with the ebay supplier… I’m sure we’ll resolve the problem amicably.

So, on to this morning and we’re back to the cold, overcast weather we’re more used to. No locks so Mags could stay in the warm, but not so far to go anyway.

Splendid roving/turnover/snake/changeline bridge near Maestermyn.IMG_3512
This elegant design allowed the boat-horse to cross the canal, where the towpath changes sides,  without having to unhitch the tow. Different regions have different names for them.

We stopped just past Bridge 4W, the moorings here are nice and open, and the towpath is grass and tolerably dry. Always good at this time of year! I think we’ll be here a couple of nights, before moving on to Frankton to meet Brian and Ann Marie for fuel, then on to Ellesmere for the weekend. The cupboards and fridge are looking horribly empty.

Hi Diane, Ray. Your question about Llangollen mooring basin - Yes, while we were there, there were several of the service bollards that were live. Three opposite the entrance, and another three at the upstream end. Not sure whether they are supposed to be, however. You'll know what I mean when you get there. The water was still on, too, a tap at the end of each pontoon. And as an added bonus, during the winter you don't have to pay the mooring fee, and the 48 hour moorings become 14 days! Result!
Thanks for the kind comment about the pics. We aim to please.

Since the last post – Locks 2, miles 24

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Back across the Dee.

We set off back towards Trevor this morning, in a cold, brisk easterly wind.

Our view for the last couple of days. A pity the weather hasn’t been pleasant enough to enjoy it…IMG_3442

It wasn’t far till we came to the sharp right turn under Wenffrwd Bridge which marks the start of the easterly section of one-way channel.
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On the way in to Llangollen it was along here that I was coaxing the engine to keep going, when it was suffering fuel starvation caused by a dodgy pump.

Bridge 39W used to carry the Vale of Llangollen Railway, opened in 1862, and later to become a branch of the Great Western Railway.
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The line ran from Ruabon to Barmouth on the coast, carrying coal from the Ruabon collieries, general goods and passengers. There was a connection to a canal basin just past the aqueduct, and another to the Monsanto chemical works at Cefn Mawr.  At Cefn Mawr the main line from Chester to Shrewsbury was joined, just north of Newbridge Viaduct, and a link up to Rhos and Wrexham led north from Acrefair Junction. The line was closed in the 1960s, but the 10 miles from Llangollen to Corwen is still operated as a heritage railway.

It was an uneventful trip back to Trevor, a couple of boats had passed us before we left, also heading downstream, but they’d tied up at Bridge 41W, near the Sun Trevor Inn.

This group of youngsters looked perished.
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They’ve a chance to warm up on the way back to their transport. They’re heading against the flow…

A tantalising glimpse of THAT aqueduct through the trees.IMG_3456

We turned right at the Trevor Branch Junction, lining up with the entrance to Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, then letting the wind push us across to the offside. Meg hopped off for a wee, I walked to the fence protecting the steep drop-off into the valley.

The crew working on the towpath hand-rail were still busy, their boat blocking the channel.IMG_3459
The repairs to the two-hundred year old railings are scheduled to take three weeks, during which time the towpath is closed off. The navigable channel is open between 15:00 and 09:00, and all day Sunday.
We’d arrived at around ten-to three, so had a few minutes to wait before they cleared up after the day’s work and moved the work boat.

Ongoing repairs to one of the spindles.
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There are several individuals like this, and an extended section near the middle.

We crossed over and I decided to pull in on the offside, just before the water point. That wind was pretty cold…

We’ll toddle on a bit tomorrow, but will be back here on Sunday with guests…

Locks 0, miles 3½

Monday, February 06, 2017

Ending our Llangollen vacation.

We’d been in Llangollen’s mooring basin for 10 days, so thought it was time to leave. It’s been a pleasant stay here, the new rules whereby 48 hour moorings became 14 day moorings through the winter means you’ve time to spare. The weather’s not been particularly good, a bit mixed with the odd sunny day mixed in with with misty damp ones. But we are in February – and Wales!

Some photos -

Looking upstream from Dee Bridge, Llangollen Station on the right, the Corn Mill on the left and the Methodist Church just left of centre…Panorama_0
…on a sunny day!

The Eisteddfod Centre across the canal from the mooring basin. 20170204_114059

Billy-no-mates late afternoon yesterday.
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There are moorings for 33 boats here, last night there were just two…

The town is well worth the trip over here, a bit touristy but not too bad. Two butchers and at least three bakers are still independent of the three small supermarkets. And it’s the only place for a decent shop this side of Ellesmere! That drag back up the hill, laden with groceries, is a bit of a pain, though.

This morning, after topping up the tank and getting rid of the rubbish and recycling at the bins here in the basin, we reversed out of our berth and set off back “downhill”.

Passing Llangollen Wharf.
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The two boats on the left are the Thomas Telford and the James Brindley. These are the horse drawn trip boats that take tourists up towards Horseshoe Falls where the canal draws it’s water from the Dee. They’re double-ended as there’s nowhere to turn around up there.
  
When we came in, over a week ago, there was quite a bit of timber alongside the towpath on the embankment the other side of the linear moorings. Most of it has now been snaffled, but I still managed to get a fair bit to supplement the solid fuel.

We got through the narrows without meeting anyone, not that we expected to. While we’ve been in the basin one other boat has been and gone, and two others, that were there when we arrived, have left.

We pulled in just after Llandyn Lift Bridge, where there’s a gap in the trees for the satellite dish to aim through.
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I managed to get the logs sliced before it rained, but got wet chopping it up.

We’ll be here for a couple of days, we’ve got company coming for crossing Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, but that’s not until Sunday.

With Val and John acting as post-people for us, we’ve had deliveries there, so I’ve got a new lift pump on the engine, and a service kit for the Webasto heater which currently resides in bubble-warp in a rear locker. With considerable helpful advice from Ed of Four Counties Marine Services I’ve got the old Eberspacher running well. It’ll stay on now till it conks out again. Meanwhile I’m going to set up a test rig for the Webasto after I‘ve serviced it. It’s just too difficult swapping them over hanging upside down through the counter hatch more than necessary, so I want to make sure it’s running properly before I do… Maybe I’m getting paranoid.
Locks 0, miles 1¼

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Problems DO come in threes!

Well I hope so.  I can’t do with any more!
First was the leaky calorifier, then the conked out Webasto water heater (a problem I think I’ve resolved now), then came Thursday…

We had a great afternoon on Wednesday. John picked us up at our mooring near the Sun Trevor Inn and took us back to home, dropping off the old calorifier at the scrappy on route (£25 back, nowt to sniff at) where we had lunch with John and Val, a sort of belated Christmas dinner. Good food, great company. Thanks, guys.

Despite the fairly rubbish forecast for Thursday we decided to head into Llangollen, aiming to moor in the basin. But we only got half a mile, and that was a struggle. As soon as we set off we had the first of the narrow sections to deal with, just after Bridge 41W. IMG_3413

These two restricted sections are always slow to get through going west, with the flow down the canal exaggerated by the narrow channel. But today seemed to be worse, we were hardly making any headway. I thought maybe we got a fouled prop, so “chucked back” reversing the shaft a couple of times. It was then I realised that the engine would not rev much above tickover… Oh ‘eck.

We were committed to the first narrows, although I suppose that I could have just drifted back to the moorings we’d left, so crawled, painfully slowly, to and through Bridge 42W and the point where the channel widened again.
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I found that if I spent a few seconds at tick-over I got another few seconds of revs, so we lurched along like this for a hundred yards till there was a place to tie up.

The symptoms were classic fuel starvation, we should have half a tank still but we had left the boat unattended for most of the previous day…
No, we still had plenty of the red stuff. So I disconnected the fuel line and blew through it, creating bubbles in the tank. No blockage there, then. I’ve two filters in the line, the first a combined filter and water trap, the second the standard Isuzu spin-on can filter. I changed them both, although neither was showing any problems. 
Next stop was the electric delivery pump which draws fuel from the tank and sends it to the injector pump.  There was no flow coming from the outlet pipe with the ignition on, although I could feel it pulsing. This is one of the few things I don’t carry a spare for.  We are basic-level members of RCR, the waterways equivalent of the AA or RAC, so a phone call to them had an engineer on his way. He arrived about 90 minutes later, and his diagnosis was the same; the lift-pump was at fault although he did get the engine going by priming it through the filter housing with fresh diesel. The fuel was syphoned from the tank, and guess who had to suck on the pipe? I was belching diesel fumes for 2 days… Another pump is on order and I’ll fit it myself.
The problem could have been something in the tank closing off the pick-up pipe temporarily, which was dislodged when I blew through the feed pipe, but it’s never happened before, and anyway the pump should have enough “suck”to pull fuel through the pipe and the filters when it was cleared. It always has in the past. Anyway, I’ll fit the new pump on it’s arrival although everything is fine at the moment. Otherwise I’d probably have the same trouble the next time I change filters.
That’s number 3. Hopefully the last for a while.

It was late afternoon by the time the engineer had left, so we stayed put and finished the trip to Llangollen basin on Friday morning.

Leaving our unplanned overnight mooring on Friday morning.IMG_3416 

There’s one final lift bridge before the terminus, but this one is normally left up.

Llandyn No 2 Lift Bridge
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The second narrow section is longer than the first, and it’s obvious why they didn’t make it full width. It must have been a major feat to cut the channel we have…
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We filled up with water at the services sandwiched between the winter moorers on the embankment overlooking the town. There’s facilities in the basin, but I wasn’t sure if they’d be turned on. In the event we could have waited till we’d moored up.

Following the channel above the town.
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So here we are, in the mooring basin with water on the pontoons and even power available on some of the bollards. It’s been mixed while we’ve been here, some sunny spells, but a lot of mist and a bit of rain.

The basin this morning.
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We’ll be moving off in the next couple of days, not sure when, it depends on the weather.

Locks 0, miles 2

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Over the Big ’Un.

Today we crossed over the Dee valley on the highest and longest (and most difficult to pronounce) aqueduct on the system. The canal is carried 126 feet above the river on it’s way from Llangollen on the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.
 But first we had about 1½ miles to go, negotiating the last lift bridge and filling up with water on the way. After another frosty start the well-established pattern of a bright start turning into a misty day was repeated, but it wasn’t really foggy, just a bit gloomy.

These Longhorn Cattle were grazing in the field near Whitehouse Bridge.IMG_3372
Originating in Craven on the Yorkshire/Lancashire boundary, the horns can rise over the head or fall and frame the face. The one in the picture couldn’t make her mind up, so opted for one of each…

Past Irish Bridge the canal runs along the edge of the valley, contained in a concrete edged channel. Every so often there are narrow sections designed to accommodate stop-planks to be used for maintenance or in the event of a breach. They also act as chicanes for boats, so you need to look out for them…

About a mile downstream of Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is the railway viaduct carrying the Shrewsbury to Chester line. At 147 feet high the Newbridge or Cefn Bychan Viaduct is a little higher than the aqueduct, and was finished in 1848. It can be glimpsed through the trees on the valley side of the canal.
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Permanent moorings at the Froncysyllte limekilns and wharf constrict the channel somewhat, making it interesting for inexperienced crews to pass oncoming boats.
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Fron footbridge and lift bridge
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After dealing with the lift bridge there’s a right bend, the canal now heading directly towards the valley crossing. We filled with water at the end of the permanent moorings along here, then headed off again, to the main event.

The aqueduct comes into view, good, there’s no-one coming the other way.IMG_3383
The channel is only wide enough for one narrowboat.

Launching into space, or at least that’s what it feels like…IMG_3384

It’s possible to make good progress over this one. The towpath is cantilevered out over the channel, allowing the 18 tons of water we displace to run back behind us as we move forward.

Looking west
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That’s the Dee down there.
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At the northern end, looking back.
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Some stats for you…
The iron trough is 136 yards long, 12 feet wide (including the bit under the towpath) and 5¼ feet deep. It sits on 18 hollow masonry pillars, the spans being 53 feet wide. It took 10 years to build, opening in 1805. Users of the towpath are protected by the iron railing seen above, and provision, in the form of holes, was made in the flange on the offside, although never used. Standing on the counter of a crossing narrowboat there’s nothing to prevent you stepping off into 126 feet of fresh air…

Leaving the aqueduct Trevor Basin is straight on, at the end of the arm almost filled with hire boats, now laid-up during the off-season.IMG_3396
The route to Llangollen is under that bridge on the left.

Heading west again after the awkward turn the canal is once again concrete-edged, uninspiring but the scenery gets better and better.
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At the end of the first tree-lined section the channel becomes very shallow for a few hundred yards, and there’s a new sign recommending single file traffic here. But generally it’s got fair depth, if a bit narrow in places.
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Looking out over the Dee valley.
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Castel Dinas Bran. Llangollen is the other side of that hill.IMG_3410

We pulled in at Bridge 41W, opposite the Sun Trevor Hotel. The towpath is that fine, grey gravel which gets everywhere in wet weather, but there’s good satellite TV reception here. Terrestrial reception is almost non-existent along here.

Just read that Les Biggs has passed away today, after a long battle with cancer. The world is a worse place with then passing of this lovely man. Our thoughts are with Jaq.

Locks 0, miles 4