Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Stunning Shades Of Blue. 11th December

New Marton to Chirk Aqueduct

P1190420smToday we woke to canal fret. A mist rolled along the canal as the heat of the sun caught the surface of the water. Today was going to be a stunning day.

P1190411smTilly was given ten minutes of shore leave, of which she used about four before deciding that the sofa in front of the stove was far more appealing than being outside.

P1190475smP1190462smP1190470smWe swept the roof down and tried to clear the small icicles from the pram and cratch covers so as to be able to roll them up where needed. All the ropes were frozen and once dug out I performed the Shropshire Rope Trick with a centre line. Our rope fenders were also solid. NB Petula came past and was to be the only other boat moving today, at least he’d be in front of us if there was any ice breaking to do. So far we’ve not encountered any ice, due to the flow on the Llangollen, many other canals across the network have turned solid in the last few days, even the arm at Ellesmere was having a go last night.

P1190510smThe world today was just stunning, my perfect kind of day. Snow on the ground, the sun out and bright crisp blue skies, just gorgeous. The world so many shades of blue. My camera worked overtime stopping just short of 300 photos.

P1190520smP1190537smP1190557smEvery twist and turn gave us more stunning views, trees leaden down with tonnes of snow. Twinkling dust as we passed through avenues of trees. Fields stretching out covered with a layer of white icing the long shadows stretching right across them.

P1190574smJust before Bridge 17W more trees were being trimmed and the chaps said that they’d just felled a dead Elm tree around the next corner. The chap from NB Petula was filling bags and loading them onto his bike, but there was still plenty there for the taking including smaller logs. A short distance on we pulled in at a visitor mooring, took our time to tie up and found ourselves several bags to fill with logs. Maybe Mick will have to have a Christmas present early.

P1190605smP1190612smOur aim today was to reach Chirk Bank where we’d be able to cross the valley into Chirk to collect some Christmas shopping. But the moorings here were dark under trees, the last place we wanted to be with the sun out. One thing for it, we’d cross the English Welsh Border today in the sun and see if we could moor up before the tunnel.

P1190628smYou approach Chirk aqueduct from the side and turn to cross it. The sun was low in the sky behind the viaduct which cast a  big shadow right across the trough. Plenty of people were walking across the 70ft high structure, a thing you will never get me to do. If we’d moored at Chirk Bank the most direct route to the shops would be across the aqueduct, but I would rather go by road down into the valley and then up again. Why miss out on such a wonderful walk? I have a fear of heights that stems from my first ever canal holiday when I was 16 on the Llangollen Canal.

P1190641smP1190662smP1190666smP1190680smMy boyfriend had fallen into the canal between Llangollen and Trevor on our return journey. I had washed out his fleece and wanted to put it on the roof to dry at the front of the boat. For reasons I cannot remember I couldn’t pass through the boat to the bow so decided to step off and walk along the towpath. This coincided with our crossing of Chirk Aqueduct. I didn’t want to risk trapping my foot against the trough walking along the gunnel so decided to step off onto the towpath. Half a risk assessment done, shame I didn’t do the other half!

P1190658smChirk aqueduct has a towpath with a railing to one side and quite a wide edging without railings on the other (about 2ft 6). My memory is such that other people were on the none railing side (but this is most likely to have not been the case). So I stepped off the stern to trot up to the bow to get back on again. However I caught a foot on the edge of the trough and fell. Not flat on my face as there was nothing for my face to hit! From about waist upwards my body was hanging over the side of the aqueduct, above the trees below. I managed to stand back up ran to the bow laid out James’ fleece and went inside where Margaret rightly shouted at me.

P1190670smSo aqueducts are not my favourite things. Mick loves them.

But being official photographer I stayed put in the centre of Oleanna’s semi trad taking photos and feeling slightly queasy.

P1190683smWe pulled in and moored up just before the tunnel. In the summer we wouldn’t stop here as we’d be very much in the way for the number of boats waiting to cross the aqueduct and go through the tunnel, but today we pulled up close to NB Petula, leaving enough space for boats to come and go through the tunnel, none did.

DSCF7117sm0 locks, 3.26 miles, 2 countries, 1 aqueduct, 4 bags of logs, 283 photos, 1 gloriously stunning day.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Leaning to Port. 10th December

New Marton

Have we been abducted? Taken to a white planet far from our canal world. Where ever this outside is, it’s bloomin cold!

P1190395smTilly is not happy. We have found the one weather she really doesn’t like.

P1190328smOvernight Oleanna had been covered on the starboard side with a layer of snow. The roof wasn’t as deep as on Friday, the snow was of a finer grade, far less fluffy. Yet for much of today it kept coming.

P1190275smP1190285smWhat was the one thing we both thought about yesterday, but didn’t mention, but should have? Yesterday, when the bow was clear we should have changed over to a new bottle of gas, this doesn’t take much to do, but does involve standing on the bow, which was now covered again in snow. The bottle lasted long enough to boil the kettle for a cuppa in bed and luckily ran out when we were up and dressed. Valiantly Mick put layers on, swept the bow and carefully balanced to change from one bottle to another. Glad we’ve got a third bottle in there, but that will take a bit more effort to connect. Anti slip on the bow and locker lids will be a priority when the weather gets warmer.

P1190302smP1190306smWe had a short trudge up the towpath through what might be eight to ten inches of snow. The two boats ahead of us are obviously settled here. One sees the extra layer of snow very much as extra insulation, it is so covered it is hard to see. Wood was being chopped for fires and a dog was having a great time in the snow. It so wanted sticks throwing for it that it tried to bring us full blown branches at first until it found a suitable stick. This was a game that could have gone on forever as the stick was always returned close enough to pick up. But when we said we’d had enough the dogs ears dropped and it turned away to walk back to it’s boat.

P1190362smIn the last few days we seem to have developed a list to port. This is puzzling us and as we move around all the galley drawers open, which is very annoying. We’ve been through just about everything it could be. Too much coal on that side, the compost bucket being quite full, fridge being full, snow on the roof, are we sat on the bottom? Mick even pulled the fridge out to see if we had water in the bilges, but all down there was dry. We don’t understand it.

P1190388smMuch of the day we’ve stayed indoors. I started on the cushion tops for our stools. When in Hanley I bought squares of one inch foam which today I have finally cut into circles for the tops. The duvet covers I’d bought months ago have been ripped into lengths and I’ve started to crochet a top. My hope is that the top will hold the foam in place. I nearly got one large enough to cover the foam. Tomorrow I’ll try fitting it on the stool and work a draw string into it with the hope that this will hold everything in place, but be removable for washing.

P1190366smThe forecast for the next few days is very cold. –12C or even –15C at night. We are hoping that the flow on the canal will mean that it won’t freeze. Back in 2010 it froze at Trevor. If we can move safely tomorrow we’ll move up to Chirk so as not to be in the middle of nowhere.

0 locks, 0 miles, 4 more inches of snow, 1 empty gas bottle, 3 attempts at going ashore, 4 freezing cold paws, 3 days between showers just in case, 1 puzzled mole, 3 circles, 1 single cover in strips, 3 days of stew on the stove top.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Cruising Through Narnia. 9th December

Ellesmere Junction to Above New Marton Locks

Decision time. Two locks to do before Christmas, a possible 4 to 8 more inches of snow forecast tomorrow, minus temperatures overnight for a few days, do we stay put or move up the locks? Here we were near water and shops. Ahead there is water, two locks and four hours cruise to get us near to Chirk. We decided to move up onto the summit pound whilst the sun was shining and before more snow arrives.

P1190080smP1190082smSadly a parcel I was expecting hadn’t arrived at the Post Office, so a means of getting back next week will need to be found. A top up shop at Tescos was desirable before heading off into the almost unknown. On our way back to Oleanna we met Mr Homeless. He knew who we were and greeted us with a two toothed smile. He is obviously very cold even with six sleeping bags. We gave him enough money to get himself the biggest cooked breakfast that the cafe in town could cook. Wonder if he’ll still be here in the New Year?

We pushed over to top up the water, two out of the four taps were working, and then pushed off heading westwards.

P1190118smA stunningly beautiful day. Yesterdays snow was gradually melting from the trees but there was more than enough snow everywhere!

P1190202smSheep and cattle were having to nuzzle away the snow to get at the grass below. The sheep gathering snow in their fleece as they went.

P1190144smA group had found a good hill on which to sledge, even if a tree did occasionally get in the way.

P1190183smP1190195smAfter three or so miles we came to Frankton Junction where the Montgomery heads off down locks. All year round you have to book to go down these locks and we’d been hoping to spend a bit of time down there before Christmas, but not now. Hopefully we’ll have enough time on our way back as it is lovely down there.

P1190217smP1190231smOn we pootled through Narnia. So so beautiful but bloomin chilly! We had a warming cuppa and a sandwich each as we cruised. The going was especially slow at bridge holes. Last week the coal boat got stuck at one of them, having to off load a few tonnes of coal to reduce their draught to get through.

P1190247smIt was after 3pm when we reached New Marton bottom lock. The advantage of doing the locks today was that the snow was either still fresh or was melting, but most importantly it hadn’t frozen yet. No kicking gates open today, I walked round carefully. I crossed over one bottom gate, but the top lock doesn’t have a full handrail so I walked all the way round using the top gate. Maybe I was being overly cautious but with my reduced grip and the pain of a fractured ankle still fresh in my mind I’d rather take my time and be safe.

P1190250smP1190257smThis brought back memories of when we moved NB Winding Down south from Sandbach. We woke one morning to about six inches of snow, had to sweep a lift bridge to be able to open it and then worked our way down the Lapworth flight. At least today was only two locks, the last two for this year.

It was now starting to get dark so we pootled on to the first 48hour mooring where we tied up. They say they moved the outside, but it just looks the same, all white! Snow was cleared off the roof before more arrives overnight. Maybe we should have done this before setting off today reducing our weight and making us not so top heavy. We then retired indoors to thaw out our fingers and toes and bake a restorative mackerel bake, our new favourite comfort food.

P1190089smDSCF7114sm2 locks, 7.28 miles, 0 post restante, 2 boxes wine, 6 sleeping bags warmer than the service block, 1 big fat bastard breakfast to be ordered, 2 taps out of 4, 1 winter wonderful wonderland, 3 sledgers, 1 boat moving, 1 fairy lit may pole, 1 case of feline Seasonal Affective Disorder, 1 clear roof, 39.75 frozen digits, 1 cosy boat, 12 miles to Christmas.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

It Changed Itself! 8th December

Ellesmere Junction

P1180871smIt was a bit wet this morning to start off with and they showed no interest in moving the outside, so that meant I would get to go out ALL day. Brilliant! Then something happened …….. the outside started changing itself all by itself!!

Green things started to fade, grey things started to fade, something was leaching all the colour out of everything outside.

P1180887smP1180904smP1180937smShe and I went out to have a look. My paws didn’t like the whiteness, cold whiteness, they disappeared. Shouting at the whiteness didn’t scare it off, it just made me slip and slide. She smiled at it all, so did Oleanna, neither of them worried that the outside was being consumed by whiteness. Inside was safer, I’d still have my paws!P1180899sm

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P1180925smAt one point they moved the outside just a bit, it didn’t stop it from changing itself, in fact it made it worse! Big chunks of white were now covering everything, the colours had gone, now the shapes started to go too. I kept having to go and have a look close to, but it just wasn’t right, the outside was disappearing and I didn’t like it one bit.  So I spent much of the day asleep by the stove. Hope my friends are alright, hope the outside comes back tomorrow.

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0 locks, 0 miles, 60ft bow hauled, 2 tyre fenders removed, 1 boat closer to the side, 6 more channels including ITV, 1 BBC area to another, 0 TV for our neighbours behind, 1 perplexed cat, 3 maybe 4 inches, 1 town walk, 0 post restante, 2 bacon butties, 1 pair socks finished, 1 cosy boat.