Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Visiting Trevor…

Yesterday we left the moorings near The Poachers, heading back towards Wales. Although cold it was at least bright and dry.

Crossing back into Wales over Chirk Aqueduct.DSCF2252

At least we could see ahead this time!

Just north of Chirk Tunnel, in the cutting, I spotted this buzzard…DSCF2257

He didn’t wait for us to pass beneath, though.

The sun came out as we approached Whitehouse Tunnel, shining into the bore from almost directly behind and making the tunnel light redundant for the first few yards.


We stopped overnight on the moorings above the Dee valley, and had a lazy morning before getting off at 2 o’clock. There was no point in moving any earlier; the repairs to the towpath railings on Pontcysyllte Aqueduct are still underway, so we couldn’t cross until after the workforce knocked off at three.

This chap was mooching about looking for breakfast.DSCF2268

We filled with water while waiting, keeping a wary eye on the steadily strengthening wind. It can be pretty exposed crossing over…

The workboat comes around the corner off the aqueduct, our cue to get going.DSCF2270


Unlike Scotland, Wales has only had a dusting of snow on the tops.DSCF2275
It was a bit blowy crossing over the valley, but with 80 mph gusts forecast it’s going to get a lot worse later.

Gate Road Bridge crossing the Dee just a little upstreamDSCF2276

I pulled in just at the upstream end of the aqueduct and trotted ahead to see if there was space at the end of the Trevor Arm. There was, so we threaded the needle between the fleet of Anglo-Welsh hire boats laid up for the winter.

We moored up beyond Scotch Hall Bridge after turning around where the arm splits.DSCF2278
Behind us the arm ends at a blocked-off bridge, where the Plas Kynaston Canal continued on to service the industries on the ridge. Collieries, a pottery, a foundry (built to cast the ironwork for the aqueduct) and a quarry all took advantage of water transport.

This was intended to be the main line of the route between the Severn at Shrewsbury and the Mersey at Netherpool. The project went through several iterations to become the canal we have today, nothing like the  original plan. There’s a lot more information about how the canal scheme developed on an earlier post here.

It’s likely we’ll stay here for the weekend now. Meg is going to visit the vet in Chirk on Friday, and the Tesco up in Cefn Mawr is only ten or fifteen minutes away for weekend groceries. And it’s pleasant, plenty of grass for ball playing…

I see that Paul Balmer of Waterways Routes has just released a new addition to the indispensable set of DVD-based maps of the waterways. The Middle Levels Navigations will be useful for those heading for the Great Ouse and Cambridge via Northampton and the River Nene. Pity Christmas has just passed… but birthdays are coming up, surely?

Locks 0, miles 5  

Monday, January 15, 2018

A small project and an ethical decision.

Last Thursday and Friday we made the trip back into England to moor at the Poacher’s (again!). Thursday was fine and bright, Friday less so but at least it stayed dry.

Looking back to the aqueduct.
Like the Roundhouse at Gailey and High Bridge on the Shroppie there’s a compulsion to take a picture as soon as the opportunity presents itself…

Newbridge Railway Viaduct further upstream.
The A5 road bridge makes up the set of three high-level crossings at this end of The Dee.

Sunlight streaming through Scotch Bridge as we turn to head southDSCF2236

We split the journey by mooring just shy of Whitehouse Tunnel, then set off again on Friday mooring at 09:00.

Very misty as we set off…

Chirk Cutting was atmospheric


The tunnel at the end of the cutting was clear of the mist, but there wasn’t a lot to see as we crossed Chirk Aqueduct.DSCF2245

We pulled in on the moorings at Monks Bridge at 10:00, and Richard and Ruth arrived by van to drop us some solid fuel off about half-past. I’d just got that squared away and sat down with a coffee when the Tesco delivery arrived, 15 minutes early! He was early last time we had a drop here, too.

By half-twelve we were on the way again, not far though, just 20 minutes to moor outside The Poachers.

Our friends Val and John have been acting as Post-Persons for us this week, receiving several packages for me to do with the latest project. They turned up with them on Saturday, so I made a start yesterday.

We’ve been toying with the idea of installing a freezer for a while. Not a large one, but frankly almost anything would be better than the freezer compartment at the top of the fridge. The most common for boats seems to be the Shoreline CF35R…

product_231… a 35 litre capacity unit mounted on rails for installing under a bed or dinette. A good bit of kit, but I was unprepared to give up the amount of storage space it would have taken up.

DSCF2249 (2)

A bit of research and plenty of exercise with a tape measure decided us to go with a Dometic CF16. Only 16 litres, this one, but it will fit in the lower ⅔ of the 300mm wide cabinet alongside the fridge. It’s actually designed for strapping into the boot of a vehicle for transporting frozen or chilled supplies. Mounted on drawer runners it slides out to open the lid, then back in behind the door. I had to cut out the rear and sides of the cabinet to make sure there was plenty of air-flow for the heat exchanger, but none of that is visible. 
The hardest task was running a power supply and earth return, threading the new cables through the cabin-side trunking. The fridge supply is right next door of course, but the supply cable to that would be too small for both units. The volt drop over the 11 metre run would be too much. The only drawback is that the controls and digital temperature read-out are on the back of the unit as it’s fitted. But once it’s set up and running they shouldn’t need to be touched. It’s easy enough to lift out anyway.

The other decision we’ve made follows the recent revelations about the amount of plastic in tea-bags, of all things. It turns out that very nearly all manufacturers use a fine polypropylene mesh to reinforce the paper bag. That teabag you thought was completely biodegradeable turns out to be about 20% plastic!
So we’re following Jaq’s lead and have moved to using loose tea, supplied without any plastic on the outside of the box either!
And the tea tastes better. I’d urge you to do the same.

Locks 0, miles 4½.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A misty start but a fine day.

This morning was eerily quiet, a thick mist blanketing the distant sounds from the road down in the valley. It was clearer and very still above us on the valley side, though.

Upside-down sheep reflected in the still waterDSCF2222

The mist started to lift about mid-morning as the sun cleared the hills.DSCF2221

We were moving on today, but were in no rush. Work on the parapet railings on the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct has closed the towpath for the duration, but also the channel between 09:00 and 15:00. So there was no point in getting off till after lunch. By this time the air had cleared and it was a beautiful but chilly day as we pulled pins and got going.DSCF2223


We had an uneventful trip back to Trevor Junction. Going through the narrows between Wenffrwd Bridge and Sun Trevor I wasn’t concerned about meeting another boat, we’ve only seen two in the last three days.

Around Bridge 34W there’s a view down the valley to Cefn Mawr on it’s ridge, and if you look carefully you can catch a glimpse of the aqueduct through the trees. Just to the right of centre. Got it? Good.DSCF2225

We swung out onto the junction and moored just before the aqueduct at a quarter to three. The barriers were still there preventing boats from crossing and a work-boat was tied up halfway across, but by the time I’d returned from dropping off the rubbish and recycling the way was clear.

We pulled in just across the way, near the water taps. With the sun dropping behind Pen-y-Graig above Froncysyllte the temperature was dropping just as quickly.
We’ll fill with water in the morning before moving on to stop near Chirk Marina. On Friday we’ll head for The Poacher’s, but we’ve a Tesco delivery and Richard from Chamberlain Carrying coming to meet us on Chirk Bank on the way.
Hiya Jaq. I wish I'd have thought of wishing everyone a Happy New Year in Welsh!

Locks 0, miles 3½

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Quiet times…

Well, we’ve not done much of anything for the first week of 2018. I’ve made a couple of trips down into Llangollen, but it’s too steep for Mags to manage. Meg continues to make steady progress, I’ve now halved her steroid dose to 10mg/day as per the vet’s instructions, and she still seems to be OK. Fingers crossed.

We were a bit blown about by Storm Dylan and then Storm Eleanor, who had me up at half-one in the morning to lash the cover on the top-box down before it disappeared over the horizon, but apart from that it’s been fine in the mooring basin. DSCF2208

One job I got done was replacing the door glass in the stove. It was a bit of a struggle getting it fitted with a new seal, but I got there in the end.DSCF2209
Now we can see the fire as well as feel it! The old glass wasn’t cracked but it was badly crazed, so it was only a matter of time… It was handy doing it here anyway. Being plugged in to power meant I could use a fan heater to take the chill off the cabin when I let the stove out overnight.

DSCF2210On that subject – we had a visit from Jim, the CRT moorings officer for the area, who asked us to unplug. Apparently the power isn’t supposed to be on in the basin. I wasn’t bothered, I consider it an unlooked-for bonus, but a couple of the other boaters here were a little put out. A little later Roger and Roger from the Ellesmere yard came and taped the sockets and RCD covers up.
They can’t turn the power off at the transformer because there’s frost heaters on the water supply, it seems. And I was also told that the moorings here are still restricted to 48 hours, even though there’s a general winter limit of 14 days on moorings otherwise restricted. Unless it specifically states all year round.
That’s gonna put a crimp on some folks’ plans. Forty-eight hours limit and no power! I wonder how long the tape will stay on…

Anyway, we’d intended to move out today. We’ve been here a week, and in our defense we did think it was 14 days… I did the last bits of shopping yesterday, down the hill in the town.

The Dee is a little full after the rain…


A beautiful day for a short cruise, but cold.DSCF2211

Past the wharf…

…and through the narrows, hewn from the rock on the side of the valley.DSCF2216

We didn’t go far, stopping just past Llandyn Lift Bridge in a fine sunny spot. DSCF2218

There’s been a lot of folk up and down the towpath this afternoon, taking advantage of the sunshine. They’ve been well wrapped up though, the wind is chilly.

We’ll stay here for a day or two, before moving on a bit back towards Chirk.

Locks 0, miles 1

Monday, January 01, 2018

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2018, may all your troubles be little ones!
We hope you enjoyed last night, whatever you may have been doing. We were quiet, just the two of us and Meg, but we did see the New Year in, watching the fireworks over The Thames and the less spectacular but still notable fireworks over Llangollen.

We’re in the basin at the head of navigation (for powered boats), having arrived on Saturday. It was quite hard work heading up here, the wind combined with the flow down from Horseshoe Falls made some of the shallow sections tricky. There were several boats about too, and we ran aground waiting for a day boat to sort himself out, and then again while retrieving a rubbish bag that had blown off the roof.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We woke on Friday to another couple of inches of snow.DSCF2192

Needing some groceries that were missed off the Tesco delivery the other day I trekked up to the Tesco in Cefn Mawr, the other side of the river.DSCF2198

From Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, looking down the snowy Dee valley.DSCF2194

The settlement of Cefn Mawr is well named, it translates from the Welsh as Big Ridge and it’s quite a steep pull up to the High Street, especially on icy pavements.

Cefn Mawr, and the neighbouring village of Cefn-bychan (Little Ridge) were heavily industrialised, with collieries, quarries and forges busy during the 18th and 19th centuries. The opening of the canal made shipping the mineral wealth of the area a lot easier after 1805, when the aqueduct was completed.

Looking up the Trevor Branch from Scotch Hall BridgeDSCF2196

This should have been the main line heading up and over the hills between Pontcysyllte and the River Mersey at Netherfield, had the original plan been followed. But costs escalated and the route was changed to what we enjoy today.
The end of the branch has two arms; the one to the right, east, is actually a stub of the Plas Kynaston Canal, built in 1820 to service the local industries but mostly buried under the Monsanto chemical works in the early 20th century. The works has now closed, and there’s a proposal to re-open the canal, with a marina at the terminus.

Plas Kynaston Canal in 1898
Plas Kynaston Canal

We had guests aboard for the trip up to Llangollen on Saturday, Val, Yen and Mike arrived at around 10:30 for coffee, then we set off across the aqueduct. 

It was a bit blowy on the exposed crossing but I was hoping that as we turned to the west the hills would shelter us. But if anything the wind was worse at times, funneling down the valley.
We made use of the passing place on the first set of narrows just up from Sun Trevor, as the Thomas Telford, the Aqueduct Cruises boat, was coming the other way.

The second one-way length, taking the canal to the moorings above Llangollen, doesn’t have the luxury of a passing place, so Mike walked ahead to look out for oncoming boats.

Looking down on the town

Moored in the basin, it’s busier than we’ve ever seen it in the winter!DSCF2206

A couple of boats have left since we got here, aiming to get clear of New Marton Locks before they’re closed for maintenance tomorrow. One of those was Oleanna, with Pip and Mick aboard.
We’d had a chat earlier in the morning as they walked past while I was knocking up another satellite dish mount to replace the wind-damaged one.

So that’s it, all the excitement over for another year. We’ll be here for a few days before heading back towards Chirk. I’m going to be struggling to find things to write about for a bit, as we’re now confined to the stretch of canal between here and St Martins due to the stoppages. Seyella is being blacked at Anglo Welsh at Trevor Basin at Easter.

Locks 0, miles 5