Thursday, 30 November 2017

Six Years Six Months Later. 29th November

English Wales Border to Ellesmere Arm

P1180492smWhat a chilly start, but a beautiful sun rise as Mick got up to put the kettle on. The sun soon melted away the frost, only leaving the ground in Oleanna’s shadow white and crisp.

P1180518smWrapped up warm we pootled onwards. At the side of the canal there was plenty of free fire wood piled up, on the off side for most of our cruise . None of it was suitably sized for us sadly, long lengths of about 2 to 3 ft and most of it quite wide. Some of the logs would need some serious lifting onto your boat, so we sailed by leaving it all for others. We do have my Dad’s old electric chainsaw but it is in storage in Scarborough, not much good there.P1180520sm

At last we spotted a familiar boat NB Zelda. We’d shared locks through Wigan with them back in September and then our paths crossed again on the Trent and Mersey. We’d been wondering if they’d got through the stoppage on the Shroppie at Hack Green as we’d expected to see them further down the Llangollen. We waved our frozen hands as we passed and they waved from the warmth of their cabin.


230282_10150177403261148_3524055_nP1180565smThis next section of canal we both remembered well from our cruise here six years ago. Large meres spread off first to the left and then the right as the canal weaves it’s way through tall tall trees. On NB Winding Down we moored up and I think had lunch on the banks of Blakes Mere. The trees were heavy with green then, today most were bare and spindly, quite a few looked dead. We’ll come back to explore properly and have a lake side mooring for a couple of days. But today we carried on with the sun twinkling through the trees.

P1180580smEllesmere Tunnel is only 87 yards long but harder going than most due to the flow of water coming towards you. Our chimney luckily fitted without scrapping the arch of the roof. Once through we only had a short distance to go before arriving at the Ellesmere Arm, which we turned down, winded at the end and found a mooring behind NB Intrepidus (the boat with the woofer that couldn’t wash itself). Both Mr and Mrs Intrepidus asked after Tilly, who came and sat against the curtains showing off to anyone who passed.

P1180602smAfter warming up over lunch and getting tonights tea into the pot and onto the stove to cook slowly, we went to have a look round Ellesmere. First port of call the Post Office to check if they do Post Restante, they do, he even printed off their address for me. He said that it should be addressed with Post Restante before my name, suspect this is so that it is easily recognisable, we didn’t know that, but do now. Almost next door was a pet shop, so a spare collar for Tilly was bought. I may swap it over for her current one, the original bell was a bit too weedy so I replaced it with a bell from a Lindt Reindeer, now it is far too jingly! But Tilly doesn’t seem to mind being called Pancer Dancer or Rudolf.

P1180615smA walk around town and it felt quite deserted, many of the shops closed. When we enquired if it was half day closing we were told that it wasn’t, just the cold keeping people at home. We were surprised at the limited shops but glad to find Vermeulens who make good pork pies. It was however a bit late in the day to buy one, so we’ll come back one morning. After a couple of hours we were frozen again so headed back to Oleanna where the aromas of chicken and spinach curry met us at the door. We only had a couple more hours of smelling it before we could sample it. A recipe we’ll be enjoying again based on the one in my Hemsley and Hemsley cookbook, a few adjustments for things we didn’t have. We also didn’t bother with the cauliflower rice, just brown basmati, yumm.


DSCF7114sm0 locks, 4.4 miles, 87 yards tunnel, 3 years worth of wood, 0 for us, 1 coal order placed, 1 right, 1 wind, 0 ITV 3, 0 old Coronation Street for Mick, 4 winter mooring spaces, 5 hours cooking, 1 yummy chicken curry, 6 clean bones.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Circling Buzzards. 28th November

Whixall Moss Roving Bridge to England Wales Border again.
P1180411smWith no rush to get anywhere and the sun out Tilly was allowed a morning of shore leave. When she came back would determine what we did for the rest of the day. This is a little bit risky as around about a year ago at Poynton, on the Macc, she went out first thing and didn’t return home until it was very dark, there had been no sign of her all day. But Mick has re-done the calculations for how much cruising we need to do a day and it has reduced from 40 to 30mins. So it wouldn’t be that hard to catch up a day or two if we needed to.
P1180408smP1180422smMid morning Mick spotted a couple of what looked like large birds of prey. They sat high on sawn off trees, surveying all around them. What were they? Exactly how big were they? Were they partial to black and white cats? We think they were Buzzards. No sign of Tilly. Were they resting letting a big feast settle?
P1180436smAfter an hour or so, we were wanting to make a move, but we were still without our second mate. Mad cat lady was needed and now that the boat ahead of us had pulled away I was happy to walk up and down the towpath shouting and meowing. The Buzzards had moved, one was sat high in a tree squawking in reply to my shouts. After some time I heard Tilly’s bell which was followed with ‘I’m here’ Meows. It took Tilly quite a while to make her way back across a stream and the sheep field. Towels were quickly deployed, why did I get white ones!
P1180443smWe pushed off and decided that we’d head straight on instead of heading down the Prees Branch, we’d come back and explore down there later, along with having a walk on the mosses. The square house at the junction stood proud showing off it’s Christmas Wreath to all boats that pass. Just round the bend a chap was hanging out his washing, if the sun didn’t dry it it would freeze, just hope he doesn’t snap it taking it off his whirligig tonight.
P1180454smP1180469smA long straight lay ahead of us and in the distance we could see a boat coming towards us. We were in England, they were in Wales, soon we’d swap countries. The border isn’t obvious, no customs or flag, but we think a walkway onto the mosses possibly marks it. The canal sits slightly raised and the land spreads out either side almost like an African plain, no elephants out there, today.
P1180474smP1180478smAt Bettisfield we pulled in for water by the bridge. This water point isn’t marked in our Nicholsons, but was in Pearsons. We are now into the time of year when you never pass a water point without topping up. Oleanna is looking decidedly muddy, which can’t be helped with the towpaths as they are. A good wash is what she needs, but only the stern counter got a good scrub today. This of course became muddy as soon as we both stepped back on board, oh well, at least I know it was clean for five minutes.
We pootled along a bit further now looking for somewhere to pull in. The embankment twists it’s way out of Bettisfield and has great views across the fields. A couple of other boats had already grabbed the best spot and one chap was busy with his chain saw, so we pulled in further along. The last half mile or so had been slow going, the bottom was getting close to the top of the canal. Here the bottom was too close and we couldn’t get close enough into the side, so we carried on round the next bend, back into England before pulling in more successfully.
Oleanna’s prop hadn’t sounded too happy, but nothing was found round it, it just must be shallow here.
P1180486smAfter an hour or so more of shore leave Tilly arrived home and jumped onto the roof as she does to announce her arrival. The engine board rocks slightly as she jumps up from it. Other than that it was all quiet, to quiet. Where was her bell? Where was her collar? Where was her visa allowing her shore leave?  The circling Buzzards had caught up with me, tried to pick me up, only to get a beak full of collar! Luckily we have a spare collar, which was easy to find, but her spare cat tag was nowhere. An old one will have to do for the time being. But I don’t live on Lillian anymore! A woofer does!
0 locks, 2.65 miles, 1 straight on, 2 big birds, 1 cat too much of a beak full, 2 border crossings, 0 elephants, 1 full water tank, 1 attempt at stove top potatoes failed, 1 new red collar, 1 reindeer bell, 5th pair socks started, 2 new tags on order.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Skirting Round Wales. 27th November

Bridge 37 to Whixall Moss Roving Bridge 46

A chilly and windy start to the day, so with padded trousers and extra layers we pootled along. Hoping for a couple of phone calls I kept my phone out the back with us on charge to the socket on our Nicholsons shelf. The signal was very intermittent but I still had chance to make arrangements with my friend Jaye from Scarborough. The other calls we hoped for didn’t come.

P1180357smWhere we had moored last night was only 500m from the Welsh border, today we were to get as close as we could without crossing it. A line of trees showing where a stream runs is the border for a while. It swings around getting closer, 60m, and then drifts away again. At Tilstock Park Lift Bridge 42 the border joins the towpath. I’m fairly sure that as I walked up to the bridge I managed to stay in England, but any further on and I’d have crossed the border.

P1180366smP1180367smFor the next kilometre we ran right along the border, the towpath now Wales but the water in the canal still English.

P1180387smP1180392smP1180382smWe are starting to make mental notes of road access at bridges, Finesse will be making us a visit at some point so parking and ease of reaching a mooring will be important. Platt Bridge was a possible, but just a short distance further on at Roundthorn Bridge 44 there was a perfect place. Here there are 48 hour moorings and even a layby right next to it. The road not too busy for us to let Tilly out whilst the chaps are with us. The only downside is that the bridge looks like a large slice of Emmental cheese at the moment. C&RT are carrying out repair works to it and have taken over quite a large part of the layby for their works, but there is still room for a van.

By now the wind was quite strong and biting, after an hour and a half we needed a warm up, so we pulled in to have some lunch. Once defrosted we pushed on some more, our hope being to reach the Prees Branch today. We were now surrounded by low flat land Whixall Moss which is part of Britains third largest lowlands raised bog. The 948 hectares are visible from space. There is plenty of wildlife here, but today was not the day to go off to see any as it was so bitter.

P1180399smThe long straight of the canal has one bridge that crosses it, Morris Lift Bridge. Is this a low bridge? Is it a bridge? It has no air only water under it. The roadway actually sits into the water and by eck it takes a lot of winding!

With the wind now quite strong and straight ahead any deviation from straight meant the bow being pushed off line, Mick had difficulty in straightening Oleanna up to come through the bridge. We were soon to arrive at the junction with the Prees Branch, as soon as we turned we would be pushed into the bank so progress wouldn’t be so easy especially with there being more lift bridges. So we decided to call it a day and pulled in at some moorings just short of the junction.

P1180404smThis outside had plenty of sheeps. They all kept running up to one end of the field and disturbing my friend hunting, then they would go back again! One of them had what looked like my harness on, but no-one was holding onto a lead. A while after we arrived so did another boat, this had a woofer with it. Once they’d tied it to the outside the lady gave the woofer a wash with a spray. This is just another thing that proves cats are far superior, woofers can’t wash themselves! Stupid!!

I would just like to say that Tilly’s views are her own and do not necessarily constitute the views of this blog writer. I apologise to any woofer dog owners for any offence caused.

DSCF7114sm0 locks, 4.08 miles, 2 lift bridges, 1km next to the border, 1 chilly day, 1 slice of Swiss cheese, 4 paw spa, 38 sheeps, 1 marker pen, 1 changed plan for Christmas, 8 snowflakes, 0 more wool, 4 pieces of sticky chicken on the stove.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Winding And Lifting. 26th November

Whitchurch Arm to Gridley Brook to 1/4 mile north Bridge 37

A cooked breakfast to start the day before we walked up to Sainsburys for a few bits. Pushing off we winded managing not to disturb the ducks. Today would be full of turning around.

P1180311smP1180313smAt the end of the arm we turned left only to wind at the winding hole so that we could head back to Grindley Brook. Once through the lift bridge we cruised along ready to pull in to pick up some wood. But just as we thought, we’d been beaten to it.

P1180319smTwo boats were moored up along side the mountain of wood which was gradually migrating onto their roofs. We don’t often burn wood, but the odd log late on an evening is nice, so we were only wanting a bit, but we decided to leave them to it as they seemed to be better kitted out than us for log chopping and storage.

P1180320smAt Grindley Brook we filled up with water, disposed of rubbish, I had a shower and we emptied the yellow water tank before winding again at the top of the locks. All we need now is for the coal boat to come past so that we can stock up on diesel and coal. They are due to start their run up to Llangollen tomorrow, so we’ll see them in a day or so.

P1180326smWith all the winding done for the day we then carried on with lift bridges. Back through New Mills where a young lad was transfixed by Oleanna and wanted to know if the bridge was hard work. My answer was ‘Yes and No’. It’s not hard to turn the windlass, but after 49 turns you are glad to stop whilst your boat goes through, only 28 turns to lower it though.

P1180337smBeyond the winding hole we managed to go straight on and pass Whitchurch Marina. Plenty of hire boats in and I made a note of their diesel at 88p domestic. We’ll be using the coal boat when ever we can, but knowing what else is about may be handy.

P1180348smFurther up another two lift bridges, but nobody to hold up. These bridges give access for footpaths or to moorings, so no big roads to hold up. The sun was starting to get low in the sky so we pulled in along a stretch of armco and let Tilly out to explore. I had a swift walk up and down with her to stretch her legs before she went off hunting somewhere. I wonder how far she would actually follow me if there were no dogs about. She quite happily gallops along behind or in front for some distance. But I turn round before I think I’m getting too far away so as not to encourage her to wonder great distances.

P1180353smOur mooring is in one of those blind spots for mobile signal. These are likely to get more frequent the further we go. I received an answer phone message from my brother regarding plans for their Christmas visit in a brief glimpse of signal. My text replying took three hours to find another glimpse. Internet is also getting patchy. So if you don’t hear from us for a few days we will still be here, just not in the internet ether.

DSCF7114sm0 locks, 3.39 miles, 3 winds, 4 lifts, 1 done twice, 197 turns to go up, 116 turns to go down, 1 full water tank, 1 empty wee tank, 1 clean pooh box, 0 bread, 1 rustic sliced white loaf, 2 scavenging boats, 0 for us, 2 hours in the dark, 1 freezer getting low, 1 margee email, 1 almost but not quite phone call, 5 snowflakes.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Half Pebble Dashed. 25th November

Whitchurch Arm

P1180203smThere was certainly the sound of sleet last night hitting the roof of Oleanna, but this morning it had turned to just cold rain and quite a lot of it. Tilly was allowed out to explore whilst we stayed inside by the warmth of the stove, Mick braving the elements for a newspaper. The dry stone wall by our mooring was very soon scaled (this is the cat who managed to climb the high wall in Marple last year) and the vista on the other side was heaven to Tilly. She was gone for hours only to return during a particularly heavy down pour.

The day gradually brightened up, so with some mince, onions and other things gradually cooking on the stove top we ventured back into Whitchurch. Sadly my thought of going to the Heritage Centre was thwarted by it being closed on Saturdays! So we decided to have a wonder around and loiter to see the Christmas lights get turned on.

P1180266smToday we walked along Chemistry into town and through Jubilee Park. We then had a good look around the town finding the Heritage Centre that we’d missed yesterday (when it was open!). Whitchurch is the oldest continuously inhabited town in Shropshire.

P1180268smP1180270smPip 6 1972 cTown was packed, today the Christmas lights would be turned on. There was a small fun fair. The local Rotary club had a wagon with a queue right across the street for people to visit Santa. I usually insist on calling him Father Christmas but when someone dresses up as him with a bad plastic wig and beard they become Santa. Being born on Christmas day Father Christmas used to make two visits to my house, one at the usual time when we were all asleep and an earlier one, to my birthday party. So I can tell a fake when I see one.

P1180297smWe soon found a charity shop that had some towels, so we now have a full complement for when Tilly comes in covered in mud. She refuses to wipe her paws on the mats provided and just jumps over them instead! Then we wondered away from the throngs to see what we could see. Some wonderful buildings and others not so wonderful. This is the first time I’ve seen a half pebble dashed house, I’m hoping it will be the last.

P1180278smP1180289smP1180285smWonderful windows of all shapes styles and sizes.

P1180296smIf you fancy a project there is an old pub that stands at the back of the church, currently it is unsafe so would most probably need pulling down, but what a great site. We stopped off to look in a couple of shops and un-secretly bought invisible things for in a months time.

P1180309smBack onto the High Street we looked at stalls all showing their Christmassy wares. People were now starting to congregate for the lights. Looking around us we decided that we were unlikely to be amazed at the display, it wasn’t going to be anything like Newarks market square, that was special. Even the mulled wine didn’t entice us to stay another half hour. Instead we headed back to the boat leaving everyone else to have a good time and get chilblains.

23905228_1603325893059308_5099655519822155981_n23915630_1603322276393003_6081107607595535372_nMore of my goods went on sale today on my friends Etsy shop. Two have already sold, so maybe we’ll be able to afford a duck for Christmas.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 cold wet sunny wet day, 1 dripping cat, 2 extra towels, 1 secret present, 7 hours cooking for mince, 1 crumble, 1 near ruin, 3 days a week, 11 snowflakes, 1 cardie, 2 pairs socks finished, 1 cosy boat.