Monday, 29 August 2011

Spontaneity is their Middle Name

On Sunday we got back to Ellesmere and said ‘goodbye’ to Rodney who set off on the long drive back to Staines.  We rang to organise a passage down the Frankton Locks onto the Montgomery Canal for Monday morning and moored Sunday night at the top of the locks.

The Montgomery (affectionately known as ‘The Monty’) is currently only navigable from the English end for seven miles to Maesbury Marsh.  Originally it went for 35 miles from Welsh Frankton in England to Newtown in Wales.  The canal crosses into Wales at a place called Llanymynech which is about three miles further on from the current terminus.  Part of the canal has been restored from the Welsh end – it all just needs to be joined together!  Twenty five years ago I was looking forward to the time when I could cruise from Frankton to Welshpool – I’m still looking forward to it!  It’s always all about money – if only I could have a large win on the lottery ………………!!!!

The canal is very rural and, as there are special plants, the banks are more river-like and less protected against wash.  Moorings are very restricted and so the number of boats allowed onto it at any one time is carefully managed.  When it is eventually fully restored (and I can only hope it is within my life time) I’m sure it will be every bit as popular as the Llangollen. more claytons 025 (800x600)

We weremore claytons 023 (800x600) just filling up with water at the bottom of the Frankton flight when the phone rang and it was Mick & Lynn.  They were travelling back from a visit to Lynn’s mum who lives on the Wirral and, just like that, decided to come and find us!  Easy-Peasy – ‘meet us at the Queen’s Head on the A5 just outside of Oswestry’, we suggested!  We arrived within minutes of each other.  Being Bank Holiday Monday the pub was heaving.  Lunch was excellent!

God Bless good friends!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

“A Masterpiece of Civil Engineering”

The Pontcysylite Aqueduct as described on one of the information boards at Trevor Basin.

It is apparently the highest navigable aqueduct ever built and is so special that in 2009 it was placed on the World Heritage List.  Crossing the beautiful River Dee it’s 126 feet high, 1,007 feet long and supported on 19 arches.  It was officially opened to traffic in November 1805 and cost £47,018 to build.  Boats go across single file in an iron trough and railings are only on the towpath side.  It’s certainly a very long way down!The Big One 006 (800x600)

Judging by the number of visitors walking past our boat from the car park, it certainly attracts crowds of people.  A coach load of Japanese tourists has arrived two days running so we have appeared in lots of photographs!  Male passers-by are fascinated by our engine and the ladies like the flowers and painted ware.  The trip boat is doing very good business.  One little girl thought we were the trip boat – bless her!The Big One 015 (800x600)

The weather forecast has led us to believe that there is some really bad rain on the way but, as yet, the sun has, for most of the time, continued to shine.  Typically, just as we got onto the aqueduct it started to rain and the wind began to blow but …….. it didn’t last long.

The Big One 022 (800x600)

                  The Big One 030 (600x800)

We have decided not to carry on to Llangollen but to stay here at Trevor for another day.  The pub is FAR too accessible for John and Rodney but, for a bit of peace and quiet, it gets them out of my way!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Fun & Games?

Well, that all depends upon who it is having difficulty!  If it’s us it’s definitely not funny – if it’s someone else it’s entertaining!  At New Marton Top Lock it was us in trouble!  We just couldn’t get fully into the lock!  Boats stacked up behind us and boats stacRodney 1 003 (800x600)ked up in front of us and everyone had a different opinion as to what to do to solve the problem!  John kept amazingly calm!  Eventually, with three of us standing on the roof to give the front end extra weight, one guy flushing water down from the top paddles (the same guy who, earlier on in the proceedings, told me off for doing exactly that!) and at least eight hunky chaps pulling on ropes we got into the lock and on our way.  This has definitely not filled either of us with confidence for the section from Trevor to Llangollen!

As we were approaching The Poacher’s Pocket who should be coming the other way but Dick and Chris on n/b ‘Dunmorvan’.  They moored at Penton Hook Marina for a long time and we got to know them throuRodney 1 013 (800x600)gh Ben.  Having now retired they are footloose and fancy free and are really enjoying exploring the canal system.  There is an extra member of the family – a lovely little Jack Russell called Lucy who just loves beer!  They moored up and we all went to the pub for liquid sustenance.  We spent the next morning chatting over cups of coffee.  They let us have a go on their electric bikes ……….. absolutely brilliant and Chris also has a TRULY comfortable saddle called a ‘Fat Bum’!  I want one!  The saddle that is, I’ve already got the other!!

Having left them we headed over the  lovely Chirk Aqueduct – slowly.  Croesco.  Into Wales.  Rodney 1 016 (800x600)Whenever the channel narrows the boat slows right down because she is drawing so much water beneath her.  Another queue of hire boats behind!  We moored up just at the entrance to the tunnel thinking it would be a peaceful place to stay, somewhere we could run the generator without upsetting anyone else and get easily to the shops and the lovely river Ceiriog to walk the dogs.  How wrong can you be!

Hire Boat Central!  We’ve counted at least nine different hire boat companies working this canal and from Chirk onwards it’s full throttle all the way to LlangRodney 1 029 (600x800)ollen.  We watched as three hire boats entered the tunnel with hooters hooting willie-nillie and then, a few minutes later, three hire boats reversing out again!  Why?  Because SIX boats were coming the other way!  How could you not notice six bright headlamps?  Whilst these three reversed out of the tunnel at least another three arrived.  Utter chaos!  Better entertainment than the cinema but, of course, it wasn’t us in trouble!  Frantic action coRodney 1 022 (800x600)ntinued quite late into the evening and began again early the next morning.

Today we hope to go over ‘The Big One’ and moor in Trevor Basin but that might be far too optimistic.  One private boater we met – a liveaboard from Sunbury – assured us that, albeit slowly, we would be able to get up to the end but ……………… I’m not convinced and now, neither is John!  Shame he was going the opposite way because he could have given us a tow should we have needed it.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Change Round Day

So, what’s been going on?

Last Saturday our lovely friend, Gill, and her youngest son, William, were ‘delivered’ to us at Nantwich and have been with us cruising from there to Ellesmere on the Llangollen Canal.  We have been so lucky with the weather!  The sun has shone at some point every day and we have had very little rain.  I’ve had crew!Gill & Will 021 (800x600)

Gill & Will 014 (800x600)


It’s been really nice for me having my best mate to stay – there have been lots of opportunities for ‘girlie talk’ and, together, we had a really good mooch around the shops in both Whitchurch and Ellesmere.



Gill & Will 035 (600x800)

Poor old Will!  He’s been very patient – he just busied himself with crosswords, Terry Pratchet novels and pink biscuits!

There are lots of boats about on the system.  I think the hire boats out-number the private boats but only just.  As we reached Hurleston Junction who should we find moored up waiting to ‘catch’ us as we passed but our dear friends, Sandra and Ken on n/b ‘Kessandra’.  We were so pleased to see them.  They have been out on the cut since the beginning of April and are now making their way back to base.

At Wrenbury, as we were making our way to ‘The Cotton Arms’ (nice pub), we saw our ‘neighbours’ Mike, Jan and little dog Chico on n/b ‘Wah Wah Chug’.  They too have had a really nice time out cruising and are now making their way back to Crick Marina.  If you like old church buildings, the church at Wrenbury is well worth a visit.

We’ve only been on the Llangollen Canal once before but it didn’t take long to remind us how peaceful and beautiful the surrounding countryside is.  No wonder it’s so popular!

Yesterday Gill and Will left to go home and Rodney arrived – hence ‘Change Round Day’.  Some time ago I promised him a trip over The Pontcysylite Aqueduct.  The plan is to cruise to the basin in Llangollen and back to Ellesmere.  The last time we went to Llangollen we got well and truly stuck on the narrow section approaching the town so, of course, I’m convinced this is going to happen again!  We struggled to get into the Ellesmere Tunnel so …………….. omen?  Also, next weekend there is a canal festival being held at Ellesmere so I suspect it will be chaotic there!  Let’s hope the weather remains kind to us as, in the words of my Welsh cousin, ‘there’s no place like Wales in the sunshine’! 

Gill & Will 2 031 (640x480)


                                     ‘Small Copper’ butterfly seen during a walk on Whixall  Moss.           

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Take it All Back

That obscure meeting point with Lynne and Paul turned out to be Coole Pilate Leisure Area where The Shropshire UnLynn and Paul 013 (800x600)ion Canal Cruising Club has provided lots of picnic tables and barbecue stands.  I suspect that this is where members of the club meet for an annual gathering - what a lovely mooring site! Lynn and Paul 002 (800x600)Needless to say it’s very popular with boaters.

We’ve spent a lovely couple of days with Lynne and Paul. We took the ‘pack’ of dogs for walks and, despite there being no provision for the larger dog at stiles, Crystal was not deterred.

It so frustrates me when we come across situations like this.  Why can’t there be a simple dog flap?  It’s easy for us to lift over little dogs like Maisie and Lynn and Paul 001 (800x600)Maggie but for poor old Crystal (all 7 stone of her!) it’s really difficult.  Paul didn’t find it too easy either!

What this says to me is that the farmer doesn’t really want us there at all and is definitely not going to encourage walkers across his fields!  They just do enough to abide with the rules and then apparently get some sort of payment.

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Lynn and Paul 006 (800x600)

During the day, John & I cycled back to Audlem along the country lanes and then, in the evening, we had a barbecue together.

How lucky are we?

The sunset was fabulous.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

M and M

next 002 (800x600)

As dusk approached on Wednesday, boats were moored bow to stern at the bottom of the Adderley locks just as they were at the top of the Audlem flight.  The Madness and Mayhem then that occurred the following morning on the Audlem flight came as no surprise!  To start with there were three boats going down to every one going up so – three boats in each pound and water levels dropping.  It wasn’t until lock 10 that we were able to go out of one lock and straight into the next.  Despite the drizzling rain and the queue’s of boats, however, as far as I’m aware, everyone maintained good 026 (800x600)

Audlem is another lovely village on the canal.  It has three pubs and a good selection of individual shops.  It never fails to amaze me how little places have such big, ornate churches!

Tonight we are moored by the popular canalside pub called “The Shroppie Fly”  (For non-boaters – Fly boats were those which worked through the night to deliver their cargoes as quickly as 024 (600x800))

Just behind us is The Audlem Mill Canal shop.  This old converted mill sells everything crafty and beautiful and lots more.  For anyone who enjoys doing cross stitch, this next 032 (800x600)is the shop for you!  I have never seen such an enormous selection of sewing kits. 

Tomorrow?  We have an appointment at some obscure bridge – supposedly not too far away – to plague the occupants of n/b “Piston Broke”. 

Monday, 8 August 2011

Aren’t you Glad it’s Summer?

It’s mid August and today we lit the fire!  We felt really cold!

Couple of rants – dedicated to my friend, Mrs Clayton, who says I’m good at it!

Rant 1

August and the School Holidays – this must be the month for the emergence of Bossy, I-know-it-all-and-even-if-you-don’t-want-to-hear-it-I’m-going-to-tell-you women!  What’s the betting they’re teachers?

Justification for this observation:-

  • Yesterday I was told that I absolutely needed to be in the photo I was taking as otherwise I wouldn’t remember where it was so …………… hand the camera over now.
  • Same female – I made a comment about a campsite and was told in no uncertain terms that my observations were totally wrong and ……. this is what it’s really all about.
  • Today – I was told that I most certainly would not like Market Drayton and would not want to stay there long as all the decent shops have closed down and the market only sells tut and Morrisons, although it’s an OK shop, it’s a tiresome trek up from the canal.
  • Then – same lady told the boaters going up the lock in front how they couldn’t possibly reach their destination that day as it was far too far to travel in one day.  (It was still only 10am and more fool them for telling her in the first place!)

I actually said very little – even if I had wanted to say more it would have been a losing battle to get a word in edgeways!  I’m so glad we’re going North!

Rant 2

The Holiday boaters who want to do 109 miles and 94 locks in 5 days.  This is why my slumbers are disturbed at 6.30am and 9.30pm.

Here endeth the rants.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Blast from the Past

Earlier today – walking back to the boat from a visit to the chandlers at Norbury Junction a beautiful, tanned, slim young lady ran up and flung her arms around me with cries of “Mrs Allebone!”  and then, “you haven’t changed a bit”!!  (They know just what to say these youngsters!)

Well clearly she had because I didn’t recognise her!  Then I saw her mum who was looking equally well and lovely and this lady I could recognise.  Penelope Prothero – former neighbour and school governor.  And the young beauty?  Sarah – last seen by me when she was aged 11.  Good grief – how these young girls blossom with just a few years of maturity!  ‘They’ (all 10 of them) are on a hire boat collected yesterday from Autherley Junction and are doing the ‘Cheshire Ring’ in a week so 10 hours a day cruising then!  Sarah had spotted our boat as they went by sNorbury 013 (800x600)o she and her mum got off in an attempt to find me.  Brilliant!

We now need to be in Market Drayton by tomorrow so we decided to move up just a bit.  We are moored close to a pub called ‘The Anchor’.  One of our guide books says that the pub is ‘one of a vanishing breed’ so I think John at least will have to investigate a bit later on!Norbury 002 (800x600)

Just a few latest scenes:-  

The Anchor Inn 

           A boat moored by Bridge 37 for the lovely view!

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Interesting double bridge complete with small telegraph pole.

      Certainly this part of ‘The Shroppie’ is a mixture of tree lined cuttings and more open embankments.Norbury 012 (600x800)

Norbury 009 (800x600)

Now that’s what you call a chimney!      Norbury 014 (800x600)



Desirable residence complete with mooring for 2 boats.

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Not the best situation for a pump out machine!  I do hope they enjoyed their coffee and cake!

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Brewood to Norbury

What a lovely, friendly little place Brewood (according to our guide it’s pronounced Brood) is.  There are lots of little individual shops mostly centred around the old market place.  It’s all here:- traditional butcher/greengrocer, baker, florist, chemist, sweetshop (!), antique shop, deli, post office, couple of little supermarkets, hairdressers for both men and women (the barber still has the old pole displayed), gift shop and more…….

Couple of pubs, couple of hotels, posh school for girls (boys are allowed from 3-7, then they get sent on their way!), church ……….

Brewood is described as a village but there is so much there!  When does a village become a small town?  ‘Village’ to me equates an active post office, general store and maybe a couple of other shops. 

In the Antique shop we were told that “The Lion” where Mick & Lynn stayed has only just been renovated and rMick & Lynn 010 (600x800)e-opened for business.

The locals are all very pleased because it was apparently in a sorry state and becoming an eye-sore in the centre Mick & Lynn 009 (600x800)of the market square.

Opposite “The Lion” is an extravagant looking building called “Speedwell Castle” apparently named after a racehorse worth backing!  It’s now divided into flats. 

More and more I find that I am being ‘picked up’ on my accent.  I’ve never before dwelt on the fact that I actually have an accent – a London accent – and, around these parts, London seems to be an interesting topic of conversation.  The assistant in the ‘Spar’ still seems to be under the impression that London is paved with gold!  I offered to swap places!

Walking the towpath I met an elderly fisherman and, before I knew it, I was hearing all about ‘The Mrs’ and her trip to London to see the ‘horrid’ exhibition of the wedding dress AND how she has bought a souvenir tablet of soap but won’t tell him how much she paid for it and definitely won’t ever use it AND about Windsor AND about the hotel near Heathrow ………………. all because I said, ‘Good morning’ in my Greater London accent!

We saw Simon & Jane at Wheaton Aston lock.  They are the lovely young couple from Crick who have bought our old camper van.  It both dismays and bewilders me that now the % of younger people we meet is steadily increasing!

Gnosall (pronounced No-Zull) Heath – we should have stopped there by the two nice-looking pubs and good mooring spot.

I, however, had read about the ‘superb views of the Shropshire hills’ near bridge 37.  The view was superb but we could get no closer to the bank than 6 ftoday 002 (800x600)eet away.  Being deep drafted does cause us problems!today 001 (800x600)

Even where we are now – tucked on the end at Norbury Junction – we are 3 feet out from the bank.  We will probably stay here for the weekend as there’s plenty to keep us occupied – a pub, cafe, chandlers and gift shop and good dog-walking opportunities.

We also have chores to do!  I might even get the duster out!  Might not use it but at least it will look willing!

Lots of boats are on the move.  Each time one passes us we rock from side to side and backwards and forwards.  John nearly fell over in the shower!  Oh, let me brace myself as here comes another one!  I did suggest to him that he put on ‘springs’ (a more secure mooring technique!) but he told me to ‘get out there and do it then’ so …………..where did I put the Stugeron?

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Organised Chaos

Boating is a strange old existence!  You can cruise around the waterways for years on end and never, or rarely, see again boaters you have previously met.  Just by chance, somewhere and at some point every year so far, we have seen Ian and Alison on n/b “Nobby”  Here they are this year then on The Shroppie, like us, at Brewood.  Sad, sad news from them though – Bandit, their Springer spaniel and ‘love-at-first-sight’ where Maggie was concerned, developed arthritis of the spine and had to be put to sleep.  He was only the same age as Maggie.  Such a shame.  Katy, their other dog, is absolutely gorgeous and I’m glad to report – fit and fine.

The Arrival of The Claytons

DAY 1  Tuesday 2nd August – mid afternoon.  Phone call:-

“We’re in Brewood.  Where are you?”

Not there!  We’re a couple of miles away.”

John had previously cycled to a place where they could park the car and then walk across the fields to where the boat was moored but they needed to receive directions.

“OK”, says John.  “Go over the roundabout and pass “The Admiral Rodney” on your left.  Go over two crossroads ………..oh, you’re breaking up.  Can you hear me?  No?  Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr  I’ve lost you!”

5 minutes later:-   “Where are you now?” 

“Bridge 11.  We’ve made it!  I can see the canal and a man on a boat with a white hat.”

“Well I can’t because we’re near bridge 7!  Oh no, you’re breaking up again.  You n..d to go l..t, par. the .ar and then .alk along the ..idle .ath to mee. us.  What?  Sorry?  Can’t hear you.”  Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

3 minutes later:-  “Right.  OK.  Can you see the pylons?  We should have met up by now!”

EVENTUALLY meet up we did with a mile to walk to the boat.  Mick’s bad knee and heavy bags to carry had not been considered AND they still had to book into the hotel!  A plan was hatched as follows:-                       

  • All to carry on walking to the boat, Mick hobbling and John carrying the bags.
  • COLD BEERS  John and Mick to cycle to retrieve the car and then go to book a reservation at the hotel in Brewood.
  • John and Mick to cycle 3 miles back to the boat resisting the temptation to call into “The Bridge Inn”.  COLD BEERS
  • Lots of food, lots of drink. lots of sunshine and lots of chat.
  • Mick and Lynn to cycle back to the hotel at the end of the evening leaving us with all four dogs.  NIGHTCAP

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The Claytons came for the evening and ……………… were coming back the next day too!




All went to plan …………… well, sort of!  Lynn had not ridden a bike for 40 years!!Mick & Lynn 006 (800x600)

“Oh,” agree the other three, “It’s easy.  You never forget Mick & Lynn 003 (800x600)how to ride a bike!”

And, for 2 miles she did really well.  The things you do in the name of Friendship!

Then, being confronted with increasing darkness, no lights, a narrowing tow path and a very muddy patch ……………. whoops!  A nasty encounter with bramble bushes!



BUT …… They’re bred tough in Liverpool!  She was only worried about the bike and rode it all the way back to the boat the following morning but with firm instructions that the boat be moved to the very convenient moorings at Bridge 14 by Brewood.

(By the way, I have confirmation that gel saddles are not all they’re cracked up to be!)

Four dogs on a small boat bed?      John Brewood 006 (800x600)Mick & Lynn 011 (800x600)


   Time for one human at least to give up and evacuate! 




DAY 2  We all piled in the car and went for a day out to Stourport.  We had a pub lunch, a wander around and a ‘nose’ at the new property developments taking place by the basin.  All very nice.

DAY 3  The poached eggs for breakfast at the hotel apparently arrived much more speedily AND it was only a 5 minute civilised walk from the hotel to the boat.  The rain began to fall and our ‘fair-weather’ friends (anything but!) departed.

A really good time was had by all. 

Monday, 1 August 2011

We’ve reached The Shroppie

We have just moored up on the outskirts of Brewood (between bridges 7 & 8) on the Shroppie and we got the last available space.  We’ve only been on the Shroppie once before and we remember mooring being difficult due to there being a hard shelf alonglatest 002 (800x600) much of the bank.
We stayed at Penkridge over the weekend.  We mooched around the large outdoor market on Saturday and, in the evening, had that promised take-away.  Ray joined us late in the evening having driven from Staines to Bridlington transporting the ‘in her 80’s’ Ethel and spent the night with us on his way back.  So …….. we now ‘sort-of’ know what he’s been up to here in England for the last month!  He flies back to Cypress tomorrow.  It was good to see him.               
                    The popular Cross Keys pub at Penkridge

Apparently, this pub used to be very isolated but today there’s a massive housing estate behind it.

Something I really find hard to accept.                                                                      
Also whilst at Penkridge we took Maisie to the vet for her annual booster jab.  Since we’ve been travelling around we have had to use a variety of vets for this purpose.  We’ve visited vets in:- Burton-on-Trent, Banbury, Staines, Ramsey, Hillmorton and now, Penkridge.  How can it be that for exactly the same thing prices have ranged from £26.00 to £46.00?!  Surely there ought to be a standard fee for standard treatments?  It hardly encourages ‘responsible pet ownership’!  No prizes for guessing where the most expensive vet was but you might be surprised to know where the least expensive was.
latest 006 (800x600)John has obviously got fed up with flowers!  He’s changed to painting geometric shapes.
Posh’ Fender brackets or what!!
Anyway, tomorrow our very good friends, Mick & Lynn (Mick was our Best Man bless ‘im so they are also ‘old’ friends!) are coming to find us and the plan is that we spend the next couple of days together.  Time to dust off the BBQ and …………… await the rain!!  (It always seems to rain when we have a BBQ together!)  Lynn and I just hand the ‘boys’ a big umbrella ……..SIMPLES!