Monday, 12 September 2016

Busy, Busy, Busy, plus a break!

Monday 5th September 2016
Wrenbury to Grindley Brook above the locks
6.75 miles, 10 locks, 2 swing bridges

Well they were right about the shop – Sue and I headed off across the fields, through the churchyard and turned on to the street to find a well-equipped Spar shop.

Then it was off and the first of today’s swing bridges – a big feature of this canal.  At least with two travelling together you can leap frog, so the winding is not just left to one person.  Sue did the first one – Wrenbury Church lift bridge 

And I was afforded the honour of stopping the traffic for the electronic bridge at Wrenbury itself.

Fortunately there was not much, so we were able to get both boats through before lowering the bridge and removing the barrier.

The weather was kind to us – dry and fairly warm.  The scenery was for the most part idyllic

When we arrived at the third lock of the day (Willeymoor) there was a group of people sitting in the sun enjoying a pint.  Sadly we did not have time to join them, so pressed on.  I was feeling a little under the weather, so Ken and Sue were stopping to assist at locks where possible so we had someone each side on the bottom double gates.  They had gone through, moored up behind a hire boat and come back to help.  We went through and passed the moored boat – the occupiers were the party from the pub who were making their way back to the boat, saw Ken untying, sped along the towpath, untied and got in front of him!!   I did explain very politely at the next lock that it was not the wisest or most polite thing to do and that some people would really take offence.  It was only their second day on a boat and they did apologise and we did let them go ahead of both of us as I am sure they had a much tighter time table than we have.

At Grindley Brook there are three single locks and then a stair case of three which is controlled by a lock keeper.  They operate three boats up and then three down at busy times and today was busy, so there was a bit of a delay here, but nothing massive and we were stopping at the top, so were not in a hurry.

A good place to enjoy a cup of tea whilst gongoozling

So here we are moored at Grindley Brook for the next three nights.

What is so fascinating about Grindley Brook to necessitate such a long stay?  Well nothing, but we had to go home on Tuesday to return on Wednesday. That was the original plan, but when we tried to organise an Enterprise car (they usually come to collect you from wherever you are) we found that does not apply to the wilds of Shropshire!  We tried the Crewe office and then the one in Shrewsbury. The best they could offer us was for us to get ourselves to Shrewsbury and return it there, so a new plan was hatched.  I would go home on my own by train - a slightly convuluted journey, but it worked.  Taxi from Grindley Brook to Whitchurch, trains from there to Crewe, Smethwick Galton Bridge and then to Droitwich Spa where I got a taxi to the marina to collect our car.  

The reason for the return was primarily to do Grandparent duties.  Our youngest grandson started school this week and was on half day.  His Mum had a meeting she had to go to on the Wednesday and we had agreed a long time ago to cover her absence.  The car was also due it's MOT, so that was pre-arranged as well as various appointments (hair etc) and the collection of new medication to keep us both going!  It was a very busy 36 hours, but I did get everything done and enjoyed a meal out with a friend on the Tuesday and I took Jamie out for lunch on the Wednesday  which was great fun. He is very chatty and kept me very well entertained.  The journey back was slightly easier - same taxis in reverse, but just two trains - Droitwich to Hereford and then direct to Whitchurch.  If anyone ever wants a taxi in Grindley Brook I can recommend Fozzies - they were early to collect me on Tuesday and waiting at the station on Wednesday.

When I returned Chris, Sue and Ken were in the pub at Grindley Brook which is where I met them for a much needed glass of wine!

So what did they do whilst I was away - well apart from the necessary dog walking for Chris, there were domestic duties and other jobs to stop boredom setting in!

Thursday 8th September 2016
Grindley Brook to Ellesmere Arm
13 miles, 0 locks, 5 swing bridge

We woke to rain pattering down on the roof.  When we cast off at 09:00 we were fully kitted in boots, gaiters and waterproofs which I am glad to say were gradually discarded as the day wore on.  The rain had pretty much stopped by 09:30 and the rest of the day was sunny intervals and a lot of wind.  

All today’s lift bridges were wind up jobs.  The worst I did had required 67 turns to raise it!  I had walked ahead, so did the first one only to find there were boats everywhere! 

The two of us to go through east to west

One waiting patiently in the Whitchurch Arm to join the canal (they did not go through the bridge, but followed us towards Llangollen).

And two coming from west to east

Sue did the second 

I did the third by which time we had been joined by the boat from the Whitchurch Arm and a single hander.  There were two waiting to go from west to east and a car waiting to go across the bridge – he was keen to get to work, so I had to lower the bridge and leave the two eastward travelling boats to raise it again – we were beginning to realise just how busy this canal gets.  

When we arrived at the last bridge someone was already raising it to come towards us, so we nipped through with no effort needed apart from giving them a grateful thank you.

We have never seen so many boats going past us in anyone day.  This really is a seriously busy canal.  It is narrow in places and we went aground on more than one occasion when moving over to pass oncoming craft requiring a lot of power to get us going again!  

There were several bumps under the hull, but thankfully no trips down to the weed hatch were required.

So is it worth coming here?  Most definitely, yes.  It is a delight to travel along.

With wide open views made even better with a blue sky and fluffy white clouds

With views of Cole Mere and Blake Mere.  We walked round the former with our friends Jane and Chris with their black lab, Kiera one bitterly cold February day when the wind was so fierce there were white horses on the Mere!  A little better today, but it could be interesting on the way back when Kiera will be with us and she does love to swim – even in February!!

There is a very short tunnel just before Ellesmere

Then under this bridge with a welcome sign

We turned down the arm where there are 72 hour moorings - we could pretty well take our pick

With a good sized Tesco at the end.  

We winded (turned round), moored up and visited Tesco before Chris headed into town to get his hair cut.  Don’t go too mad he said to the barber – he said he wouldn’t – I would hate to see the end result when he does!  It won’t need cutting for a while!

The view across the cut is a very English scene.

The moorings by early evening were fairly full, but room for another couple if there are any late comers.

Friday 9th September 2016
Ellesmere Arm to Chirk
10 miles, 2 locks

First stop this morning was the service area at Ellesmere to empty and fill as required.  There is evidence a plenty of the past history of this working wharf.  The weather was dry, but windy.

Once we were off Monty and I jumped ship and walked the first couple of miles – more ‘emptying’ to be done!  My plan was to walk to bridge 64.  Sue and Ken had gone ahead of us and I was surprised to find them pulled into the side at bridge 63 with a boat on the opposite side of the canal in the trees and firmly aground.  They offered to pull them off, but the offer was rejected and they just quite curtly asked them to move off and give them a bit more canal to work with!!   They did manage to free themselves, but I gather the helmsman’s wife had warned the Cleddau crew that her husband’s only recourse to everything is full power!!

I was near bridge 64 as they were disappearing through it.

There were some wide open views to wonder at

And this enormous farm building under construction

Then we got our first view of some hills in the distance and they looked – well grey!!  A sign of things to come our way we feared.

We went through Frankton Junction which goes off to the Montgomery Canal which we plan on taking a short walk down on the way back.
 It won't be the full 7 miles though!

You do get a brief glimpse of the Frankton locks on the Montgomery Canal which were restored in 1987

There is a superb house with an immaculate garden at the junction

The hosta display is one to be proud of 

And I do like the urn with a good head of hair!

 The canal does start to twist and turn giving a good view of boats ahead coming towards you

Just two locks today at New Marton – the view from the bottom lock (first of the two for us) was far reaching.  We met a couple there who had moored a few hundred yards before the locks and had come up to assess how it was all done as these were their first locks ever.  A wise move, but I am not sure whether watching boats coming and going eased their fears.  Sue did meet them a few days later to find they had survived, but found it pretty terrifying!

By 2pm the rain has started in earnest, but it did not spoil the enjoyment of the scenery               

Even the horses had their coats on

As we approached Chirk you pass houses on your left with gardens that come down to the canal.  They vary from completely neglected to those that are loved and are of interest.  Tea cups and teapots seem to be a trend, but I just did not have the camera in the right place at the right time – good job we are coming back this way in a few days time.

We moored just past bridge 21 right by a small car park as we have family joining us for the day tomorrow.

Sue and I headed off to find the craft boat mentioned by Ken.  A few purchases were made.

We then walked across Chirk Aqueduct and onto Chirk tunnel. More pictures of the aqueduct will follow tomorrow when we have been over it, but we did spot nb Naiad with a New Zealand crew who we have been leap frogging with for the last few days as they went across late afternoon. .  They come across for five months each year and we discovered that they were moored in Droitwich Spa Marina last winter.  This year they are going for a new paint job and a new name – they will be nb Fanny May after their grandmothers.

We walked on to the mouth of the tunnel and noticed lights coming towards us.  We assumed It was a boat, but as it progressed the noise was wrong.  It was the swish of paddles as this canoe travelled along it

He emerged to this and said he thought he would go back into the tunnel again!

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