Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Returned, Paid and Climbed. 16th January

Grindley Brook

The last two days I’ve not stepped off the boat, the weather hasn’t been that inviting with strong winds and rain showers. Tilly however has enjoyed this as it’s meant that she can come and go at will and the staff have been on hand to open and close doors and hatches when required!

P1210633smWith Mick heading back to Shrewsbury to return the car yesterday morning I decided it was time to get my accounts up to date (well, for last year!) and do my tax return. Having very little income helps make this job a lot easier than it used to be. Long gone are the days of employing an accountant to do the job, one was only taken on so that we could get a mortgage as I needed an accountants reference, so tax returns don’t scare me. Much of the day was spent downloading bank statements and reconciling them, might as well do it properly. In the old days I’d have kept on top of my receipts but it would still take me a whole day to put those left into the computer, today a whole years worth took five minutes. By the end of the day everything was ready to fill out the form on line. This would have been done sooner if I hadn’t been on door duty all day!

After dropping the hire car off Mick was given a lift into Shrewsbury so that he could visit Maplins. Reception on our TV has been a bit hit and miss of late and he’d been wondering if it was the aerial amplifier. We still have the one from Lillian, but we didn’t have the right connectors for it. With new cables bought he caught the train back to Whitchurch and then walked back along the towpath. At least someone is getting some exercise round here. As I sorted numbers Mick tried sorting signal, but nothing seemed to be working for him. Maybe we are just in one of those places.

Today I spent a few hours on the Government Gateway inputting my small figures and getting nowhere near my personal allowance. No tax due for this year, just a matter of paying Class 2 National Insurance voluntarily to ensure getting benefits and pension in years to come. All up to date and paid. I may get the current year up to date if we have more bad weather, I quite enjoy doing accounts!

Micks task today has been to finish sorting out our emails. The poor chap has felt a bit like he’s been back at work, but doing the bits he didn’t enjoy. My domain that we used to get my email from is no longer available, so Mick has moved it elsewhere, which caused allsorts of problems. We could send emails from the laptop but not from any other devices. Then any email he sent looked as if it had come from me, not ideal. Once I had finished my accounts the boat had to be quiet again for Mick to concentrate this time. But by the end of the afternoon all seems to be sorted.

I’m glad they’ve both finished, maybe they’ll move the outside again. It was quite good here yesterday, but today I’ve started to use it all up! The wind has been blowing my bottom which gives me a Mohican and bushy tail, I don’t like that. Running around made more use of the outside, but I had to climb to the very top of the trees and dig holes to find new places to explore. I kept coming inside to give them the opportunity to move the outside, but that didn’t work, maybe tomorrow.

P1210670sm0 locks, 0 miles, 3 times last year, 2017 tax return completed and returned, 0 tax, Class 2 NI paid, 1 TV being temperamental, 1 cat being loony lala, 21 door openings, 35 hatch openings, 20+ feet of tree top climbing, 4 hours of cat indecision, 2 fingers crossed that emails work, 1 button down hat completed.

Monday, 15 January 2018

The Long Way Round Nantwich. 14th January

Grindley Brook

A bit of a lie in with Saturdays paper and then we had to make full use of the hire car.

First it was a shopping trip into Whitchurch to stock up the fridge for the next week. Walking to the handy layby where we’d left the car (near the bridge over the locks) we managed to pass by a C&RT chap who was drumming up support for the trust by enrolling friends. We don’t have a problem with the Trust doing this, but with not a lot of income we feel that we give C&RT enough money as it is in our licence fee. Having come across this chap before and others, we know that once they start talking to you they do their darnedest not to stop until you give in. Luckily he was busy chatting away to a lady and on our return he realised that we were carrying heavy bags and were on a mission to get back to the boat. We stocked up on essentials but only got two boxes of wine! No 25% off deal and as it’s now January we are trying to have two days a week without alcohol again.

P1210601smThe boat in front of us had moved off to wind and head towards Ellesmere so as I stowed the shopping Mick pulled us forward to the end of the Visitor Mooring so that when we want water our hose will reach the tap without us having to move.

Next we thought of going for a bit of a drive, maybe to an interesting house or pretty gardens somewhere we’d not normally get to from the canal. However with Oleanna’s next service due soon Mick wanted to get a filter as we’d picked up oil on our way back from Scarborough. So we took a cross country route over to Nantwich to visit the chandlers at the marina. They of course are closed on Sundays!

So we passed under the aqueduct and turned left. Mick thought this would be the way to get to Barbridge and the chandlers at Medway boats. It was if we’d turned left almost straight away again or done a u turn! Instead we followed signs round Nantwich to reach the A51 which took us 6.5 miles anti-clockwise around the town, when a mile behind us was where we should have been. Now you could blame the navigator, but she blames our road atlas which has a lot of writing over roads and where junctions might be, so for local roads it is almost useless.

P1210615smHowever we found our way in the end and crossed over the two hump backed bridges to the chandlery. At first it seemed like it was self service, no sign of anyone. The filter we needed was getting on for £4 cheaper than the last one we’d bought, so Mick picked up three. After having a good look round I eventually spied a lady sat in the warmth of a back office very much engaged in what she was doing.

P1210607smBy now it was too late to find somewhere to visit, but I was in need of a pit stop. We happened to know of some facilities nearby, so pulled off the A51 to use them.

P1210619smIt just so happened that across from the loos there is a rather good chilled medication dispensary. With the car having told us that there was a risk of ice we thought that we should partake, it would have been rude to use the loos and not spend any money. Hard to make up our minds what flavour but in the end Mick chose Cappuccino and I had Choc Choc Brownie, not quite as grown up as the Amaretto I’d had last time, but far tastier!

P1210623smAs we sat eating our medication a little girl attempted to fit most of her head into her ice cream cone at the table next to us. No matter what Dad said she wasn’t going to eat the cone, but was determined to get the last bit of ice cream out of it. A constant stream of people came in, they all stood concentrating trying to decide which flavour, their eyes lighting up at the choice and grins of anticipation crossed their faces. After we’d seen what a cookie sandwich looked like and one chap with a three scoop cone we decided it was time to leave.

Back before sunset Tilly got the chance to head off outside for the first time in a few days. Half an hour she said. Taking refuge from a passing woofer back at the boat was a mistake as the doors closed in front of me. Half an hour is no where near enough time! Tom stood outside for ages longer, so not fare!!!! Mick had got chatting to a couple from Melbourne who are wanting to cruise the canals. They had plenty of good questions, just hope Mick didn’t put them off by talking toilets too much.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 boxes wine, 8 turkey sausages, 12 eggs, 1 bag litter, 3 near misses, 1 nudge up, 6.5 mile detour, 3 for the price of 2 filters, 1 tub grease, 2 chilled medications, 4C just the right temperature, 30 minutes! 21 inches of hat knitted.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Sudden Interest and Adios Mr Hughes. 13th January

Old Man’s Bridge to Gridley Brook Visitor Moorings

P1210509smOn Thursday we made our way back towards Grindley Brook, where we thought it would be a good place to be picked up for a hire car. As we were about to untie a boat rounded the bend in front of us, this was to be the one and only boat moving today other than us. One of the chaps on board asked if we were about to push off and could they possibly borrow a windlass. He had just sold his boat and butty, but had left his windlass on the butty which was now about a mile behind and to be able to wind the boat they needed to be able to operate the lift bridge a short distance behind us. Mick routed through the lockers and found a spare that we had found sometime ago left at a lock. The chap said he’d find us to return it, but if this didn’t happen we wouldn’t miss this windlass.

P1210516smSo we pushed off to cover the two and a half miles to Grindley Brook, a greyer day than on Wednesday. We soon passed the newly sold butty awaiting it’s tow into a new life with new owners. Ahead were the two Hassell’s lift bridges. One of these will be closing for maintenance in ten days, I hope they don’t make it hard to work as at the moment it is possibly the easiest on the hole of the Llangollen canal to wind up and down. Then as we passed the Whitchurch arm we could see NB Mountbatten’s butty moored up, this looks like it will be the coal boats base for a while as locks and bridges close over the next two months.

P1210528smOnce the lift bridge had been wound up and back down again we covered the short distance to the water point where we filled one tank and emptied the yellow water before reversing back to the Visitor Mooring and tying up. Our windlass was returned as we walked down to the bins and then the petrol station shop for some plastic bread. It’s amazing what people put in the recycling bins.

P1210521smBack on board it was time to try to sort Enterprise out. A few days ago we’d been invited to head to Scarborough for a sherbet (or several) to remember our friend Mick Hughes along with our Scarborough friends. So we’d booked a car from Enterprise as this worked out to be cheaper than the train for the two of us. To cut quite a long story short, the company that advertises that they will pick you up and drop you off didn’t seem too cover Grindley Brook, even thought their website suggested they did. Mick had been passed from one office to another but as we’d prepaid (making it cheaper) they couldn’t just transfer the booking! Rebooking the price changed first in our favour but as he clicked confirming the booking it jumped up in price. After checking that he would be able to get a pick up, he was then told by the next chap that we were too far away. Mick did his best not to have a Geraghty strop with the chap. It was getting to the point where I was willing to have  noisy dramatic weeping fit in the background about not being able to go to our dear dear friends funeral, but luckily my acting skills (not the best) were not required and in the end they agreed on a pickup!

statsFriday morning came and so did the pick up from Shrewsbury. Mick went off to get the car whilst I pottered waiting for his return. Every now and then I have a look at Lillian’s blog to see what we were up to a year or two ago. Since selling NB Lillyanne I have been surprised that everyday apart from two the blog has had a few viewings. However all of a sudden the views had shot up, 74 and it was only the morning! Blimey that was quite high for when it was our live blog. On the wordpress statistic page you can see where people have been referred from and there was a high proportion coming from Canal World Forum. So I clicked the link and found that there was a thread about lithium batteries and Brian from NB Harnser had posted a link to Lillian’s blog and then here.

As there seemed to be so much interest in our batteries (those who read this blog regularly know we don’t have them yet!) I thought I’d give you a very quick round up especially as we have had an update.

When Oleanna was being built we decided to fork out for Lithium Ion batteries. 2 x 24volt 50amp hour batteries in parallel. In case these didn’t give us enough capacity the battery tray was made to hold two with an extension should we decide we wanted to up our capacity to 3 batteries. Batteries were ordered but only one arrived, the other was on it’s way. The boat systems were tested with this one battery, but this was kept to a minimum hoping to keep the number of cycles down so that the battery bank when complete would all have a similar number of cycles. Sadly the second battery didn’t turn up, so we waited and waited and waited. After waiting getting on for six months one finally was manufactured for us, we really wanted our boat to be on the water with us on board by now and this was the only thing holding everything up. Others would most probably have given up by now and gone for more standard batteries, but this would mean changes in the engine bay which had been built with these batteries in mind. We decided to be patient.

In April the battery company lent us 2 x 12volt 100 amp hour gel batteries wired in series. These fitted our battery trays and meant we could move on board whilst we waited for the second battery to arrive. We soon decided that a third battery would be worth getting hold of, if it was possible! The ordering of this coincided with the second one arriving in Sheffield. So the waiting started again for a third battery. This arrived quickly in comparison and the other batteries were put on charge so that they would all be on a par when installed. However…. the original battery wouldn’t charge so was returned to be reset by the distributors. Before Christmas we heard that they hadn’t been able to reset the battery, so had ordered a new one which would be shipped from the States, hopefully to arrive early in January.

On Friday we had an update from Finesse (our boat builders) that they now had a date towards the end of the month when our new battery should arrive in England, it will then take a few days for it to be delivered to them. A rendez vous will then be arranged for them to come out to install the three batteries and alter the programming on our inverter/charger for the Lithium Ion batteries. Once this has happened we and Finesse will be celebrating the final completion of Oleanna. However we have been this close before, so none of us are holding our breath!

P1210543smP1210546smBack to our trip to Scarborough. We had a very grey trip over the Pennines and arrived as planned at our friends Dawn and Lee’s house. Here we caught up on the last month since we last saw them and had a very nice meal to fill our stomachs before what was likely to be a bit of a boozy evening.

IMAG0276 (2)smThe original plan had been to gather as many of the old production team of the Stephen Joseph Theatre from around the millennium to raise a glass in memory of Mick Hughes, a pub had been thought of. A production team would not be complete without the writer or director, so Alan Ayckbourn and Heather were contacted to see if they would like to join us. They very kindly offered the use of their conservatory for the evening where we all had enjoyed many a party in the past.

P1210553smIn all 21 of us raised a glass or several to Mick . Alan made a very touching speech which of course included anecdotes of how he had first met Mick in 1972. It was a very suitable evening to say Adios to Mick amongst friends from far and near, only a few still work at the theatre now. If Mick had known about our gathering I suspect he’d have been a little bit miffed at not being able to make it himself!

P1210558smP1210581smThis morning we had a slow start, thanked our Scarborough B&B hosts Dawn and Lee (Yes Duncan we will stay with you next time!) and then called in at Fleur and Ruths. Here we had an hour catching up with Mick’s sister (my Mick) Kath who had come up from London for last night before we all needed to be on our way. A quick drive to see the sea and a pause at Halfords for some oil for Oleannas engine before crossing back over the country to Wales.

Tilly had looked after Oleanna well and the only casualties were items of underwear we’d left drying on the airer, most of these now on the floor. I really don’t know what they were expecting having left the climbing frame out for me. I had to amuse myself somehow! It took a while for the stove and central heating to raise the temperature of the cabin, but once the chill was gone we were cosy once more. Some sad gits chickeny things were enjoyed that we’d picked up on route from M&S along with another glass of wine.

P1210598smDSCF7114sm0 locks, 2.57 miles, 3 lift bridges, 132 turns up, 89 turns down, 1 loaned windlass, 1 full water tank, 1 empty wee tank, 1 gas bottle now empty, 2 inflated life jackets, 2 Enterprise offices, 3 different prices, 1 pick up finally agreed to, 351 miles by car, 74 then 94 viewings, 0 view from the A64, 1 magic food bowl, 1 party for 1,  21 present, 5 missing including Mick H, 3 soups, 5 litres Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil, 1 bottle of dipper for veg kebabs, 10 litres 15W40, 1 sister, 3 final Christmas presents, 1 salad to be grown, 2 films, 1 illuminating hat, 1 more mention of Duncan, make that two!

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Hunter Gatherers. 10th January

Whixall Moss Junction to Old Man’s Bridge 38

We were glad that we didn’t venture up the Prees Branch as when we woke on Monday morning we could see what we thought was ice at the junction and my it was cold outside. So we let Tilly out to explore whilst we enjoyed a cooked breakfast and I finally got round to writing some emails, there’s still the tax return to do but the tax man can wait a few more days!

P1210325smP1210330smMick got the axe out and did gathering things and split more logs whilst Tilly hunted up and down the towpath for friends. When she decided that she needed a bit of a bath and came inside Mick and I set off for an explore of our own.

P1210360smThere is a walkway that leads to a viewing area overlooking the Mosses. I suspect the view is very different later in the year. Warning signs about Adders in the grass made me glad it was January and they would all be hibernating rather than Tilly finding a new type of friend to play with. The birds we saw when we came this way a month ago are likely to have been Hobbys and if the paintings of them are representative of their size then they are far smaller than I first thought. Apparently they catch Emperor Dragonflies which thrive here over the peat fields. Most of what we could see was all frozen and covered in frost hard to believe much life lies dormant here.

Further along the towpath is the England Wales border. So Mick did the honours and stood in both countries.

P1210372smOne foot in England, un troed yug Nghymru!

We could have walked further but decided to walk back and have a look up the Prees Branch.

P1210334smP1210381smThe only boat we saw moving all day was a C&RT work boat that had turned up the branch. It did a good job of breaking the ice, we could hear it for ages as it fought it’s way through what looked like inch thick ice. Without a map with us we gave up our walk along the branch after reaching Bridge 3. There wasn’t much further to go as it turns out as the basin was only around the next bend. The workboat had also stopped here leaving the ice ahead untouched.

P1210392smThe house that stands at the junction has a lot of interesting signs about the place, along with several small lakes with either shepherds huts or old cattle wagons by them. Each lake had a bench by it and a life ring, I wondered if they are holiday lets.

P1210401smIn a garage behind the house were three ford Escorts all in matching paintwork just different colours. Two were wrapped in plastic to keep themselves clean. Who ever lives here certainly likes collecting things.

P1210408smP1210436smOn Tuesday we decided to wait for NB Mountbatten, Richard was making his way to Ellesmere on a run. With staying put for the day in mind Tilly went out as we sat down for breakfast. I busied myself with emptying out the well deck and giving it a really good clean. All the mud and the coal dust had built up so today whilst it was almost empty was a suitable day before it got filled up again. The port cabin side got a good wipe down too and Mick managed to stow the rest of our logs in the engine bay to dry out some more.

P1210412smAt around 1pm we could hear the sound of an engine coming from the direction of Whitchurch, it could only be NB Mountbatten. Richard rounded the bend and slowed as we came into sight, we’d already put our order in via text. Chatting away he moved Mountbatten up and down the side of Oleanna by walking along her gunnel stopping where she was needed to off load coal and then to fill our diesel tank. I think he’s done this a few times before!

He’d been informed by C&RT that he would be able to get through at the stoppage at Bridge 47 as they would only be working on the sluice there. As he disappeared along the long straight we hoped we’d not see him later on reversing back, he got through, but did get stuck on a sand bar near the meres for a while until he fought his way off.

P1210419smMid afternoon Mick decided to put Tillys pooh box outside. We’d not seen her all day, does she not like coal boats? Last time this happened was last year on the Macc when NB Alton delivered to us. So just in case she’d got lost we thought the aid of her scent might help and I was starting to get a bit horse shouting for her. Look I’d been busy! There was so much to do out there. Those Hobbys are a right laugh and kept me busy. When I could smell myself I knew that they were starting to fret, so made my excuses and headed for home. This took a little while as there was quite a bit of water to wade through which was very cold. After a good long cat bath Tilly slept for much of what remained of the day.

P1210434smI finished off my latest knitted waistcoat and started on a hat as we worked our way through four episodes of Series 3 of The Line Of Duty. Only one more of this series to go which we’ll watch tonight before our bonus internet runs out at midnight.

P1210452smWhen we woke this morning fog surrounded us, but by the time we’d had our breakfast the sun was burning it’s way through revealing bright blue skies. A day for cruising, almost spring like.

P1210473smP1210461smToday we could see that the flow on the canal was back, as I lifted the first bridge a mass of debris held back by the bridge drifted by. Two lift bridges today, they are hard but a good cardio vascular workout for a few minutes. Suspect I’ll need to do a few more to work off the overindulgences of Christmas. Now we were skirting our way around Wales, the border moving along the towpath and then following Red Brook for some distance just a stones throw away.

P1210495smBefore we reached the next lift bridges we pulled in at a 48hr mooring. Here gaps in the trees gave us great views across fields on both sides. The sun warmed Oleanna up so much on the starboard side that neither bathroom doors would close fully, the difference in temperature from one side to the other must have been quite big. We sat for much of the afternoon with the side hatch and front doors open, Tilly coming and going frequently. Mick had a hair cut whilst Tilly climbed a hollow tree, both inside and out. What a beautiful day, well until our little thug returned to eat a friend she’d just murdered!

P1210508smDSCF7114sm0 locks, 3.83 miles, 2 lift bridges, 3 days 3 boats moving, 2 countries, 0 dragonflies, 0 adders, 2 hermetically sealed cars, 1 icebreaker, 5 bags coal, 70 litres diesel, 1 bag kindling, 1 clean well deck short lived, 1 AWOL cat for 6 hours, 1 exhausted muddy cat, 1 left, 130 turns up, 84 turns down, 1 single duvet into yarn, 1 finished waistcoat cardie, 1 hat started, 2 swan near miss, 5 litres in Fleurs boot, 1 sky carpet of crows, 1 cauliflower, grade 3 haircut, 1 cat staying close, 1 beautiful day that makes you smile, 7 episodes in 3 days, 27 GB left to use today.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Last Purchases And Into Wales For 1000 Hrs. 6th 7th January

Ellesmere Arm to Whixall Moss Junction

P1210153smP1210168smA lie in Saturday morning, but not for too long. We headed into town with my welllies all parcelled up to return. Sat waiting for me in the Post Restante pile was a Christmas present to myself, some more knitting needles, one’s Father Christmas hadn’t managed to buy me. Then we picked up our Saturday newspaper before heading into Vermeulens. Well this is our last visit to Ellesmere for sometime, so it would have been foolish not to have stopped to see what was on offer. Mick opted for a pork and caramelised onion pie whilst I couldn’t help but get a slice of the very tasty looking bacon and mushroom quiche. Both went down a treat for lunch.

P1210163smThe afternoon we made a shopping list and then went up to Tescos. Over the next three weeks we won’t be anywhere near as close to shops, so we wanted to stock up somewhat. We may get a delivery to somewhere, but we’ll see.

P1210165smA pork stew sat on the stove for a good few hours and stove cooked jacket potatoes accompanied a good portion of it for our tea. Our internet allowance seems to have increased this month, maybe Father Christmas heard our plea when we were first at Llangollen without TV. But somehow we have ended up with around 46GB to use within five days. So we’ve decided to try to watch the remainder of the box set of Line of Duty on iplayer. We managed two episodes last night and hope to do more tonight.

This morning another lie in. We’d considered going to have a look around the Antiques Market at the Town Hall, but once we were up we decided to make a move instead.

P1210174smWe pushed off backwards at around 11.30am. The arm had patches of ice and Oleanna’s cratch cover had a good layer of frost still on one side. Reversing up to the services took a little bit of effort but less than would have been going all the way too the end of the arm to wind. Water tank filling I had a shower and we disposed of all our rubbish and the contents of the yellow water tank.

P1210188smTurning right we waved goodbye to Ellesmere for the last time on this trip. Our waists will be grateful for our departure!

P1210223smThe sun shone through the trees as we passed the meres, what a lovely day, crisp and bright blue sky. We counted down the bridges as we approached the Welsh border, keeping an eye on something else.

P1210249smOleanna was about to reach her 1000th engine hour. Just after we’d crossed back into Wales at 2pm, 999.9 became 1000.0. Luckily we’d passed a moored boat sufficiently for them not to have heard our cheers. The Christmas Cheesy Footballs came out to celebrate.

P1210258smNot far now to the next impending stoppage. Today we’ve seen several boats moving to get to the side of the closure they want to be on, there were quite a few moored near it . Works on the sluice by Bridge 47 may not mean that the navigation closes fully for three weeks, but if it does and we were on the western side we would be on the Llangollen Canal until sometime in March, held up by stoppage after stoppage. Being on the east side we now just need to be through a bridge before Whitchurch by the 22nd and then sit waiting for a lock to reopen on the 26th, after which we’ll be able to return down onto the Shroppie. Our only problem is that there is only one water point on this stretch of canal, so we won’t be venturing too far away from Grindley Brook.

P1210264smAlong the long straight by the Mosses we crossed back over into England and decided to pull up just by the junction of the Prees Branch. Our mooring here is rather fine, high up above the mosses with plenty of sky. The sunset this evening was worth stopping here for. Another cold night ahead of us and we think that the flow on the canal isn’t as strong as it was before the new year, so chances of being iced in are higher. We’ll see.

P1210304smDSCF7114sm0 locks, 6.68 miles, 1 reverse, 1 right, 1 tunnel, 1 full water tank, 0 rubbish, 1 empty wee tank, 5 pairs of needles, 1 pie, 1 quiche (must start making my own again), 2 (yes only 2!) boxes of wine, 0 treat cheese left, 6 visits to Tesco in 2 days, 60% of cheesy footballs eaten, 2 borders, 9 months, 1000 hours, 3.7 a day, 1 anti-raked sheep, 1 cardie top blocked, 3 lengths of rib to go.