Thursday, 30 April 2015

Loose fillings and leaky locks.

This blog seems to be turning into a tale of woe again. Just after leaving Wrenbury and for no apparent reason a rather large filling decided to abandon its ordained position in what remains of a tooth. So at the bottom of Hurleston Locks, instead of turning left for Chester it was a quick right to Nantwich. Fortunately we had been directed to Riverside Dental Surgery, it's at the top end of Welsh Row, next to the Weaver Bridge. Within fifteen minutes I was in the chair and ten minutes later was walking out with a splendid new filling. It is a private dentist but it worked out only eleven pounds more expensive than the N.H.S. That is if you can find an N.H.S. dentist.

This is the top end of Swanley No.2 lock. The sign that had decorated the gate beam claiming that the cill would be repaired "Next Week" has gone but nothing done so far and their is obviously a large void behind the lock wall. Not a good sign.

On the other hand the long awaited repairs to Bridge 5 are progressing splendidly.
Monday afternoon brought a gentle knock on the cabin side and there was John from Jubilee with an invite over for the evening and as we never refuse an invitation we duly presented ourselves. Red wine was consumed and the world was put to rights. I also managed to leave my hat behind when we left. Fortunately a quick sprint up the bank next morning and it was returned to my custody. Thank you John and Jan for a truly enjoyable evening.
Of course, as the whole civlised world knows, this weekend is the finals of the World Snooker Championship so it may be a few days before normal service is resumed.

Watch this space.........

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Spanish bluebells and a pair of admirals.

Making our way back down the Welsh Canal.

Bluebells at Whitchurch, unfortunately these are Spanish ones, an invasive foreign plant that has escaped from gardens. The problem is that these are able to cross pollinate with our native bluebells and produce viable seed. thus diluting the unique characteristics of the native plant. A recent study found that one in six of the broadleaved woodlands surveyed had the hybrid or Spanish bluebells. Click here for more info.

  Our last view of Grindley Brook locks for a while. This bottom lock is always awkward but yesterday was particularly difficult as the by-washes were belting through.
We stopped at the Willymoor Lock Tavern last night and again sampled its abundant hospitality. Good food and beer. What more can one ask.
We pushed on this morning and were extremely pleased to see Mountbatten and Jellicoe at Wrenbury.

They now have a regular run up the Llangollen, contact them on 0775 6170860 if you are up their way. We topped up the diesel and grabbed another bag of Ex-cel just in case.
As we left the rain started, we pushed on as far as the bottom of Baddiley Locks by which time it was coming in horizontal and running down our necks. A joke is a joke but this was o.t.t. so we pulled in. Not happy as we can't get a fix for the telly, there's a hedge in the way, and we are missing the snooker.

Watch this space.......

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Up off the Monty.

Monday morning and we glumly wait for the lockie at Frankton. Once he unlocked the paddle gear we were off up the flight, leaving the Montgomery Canal behind. We have had two wonderful weeks down here but, as the rules say, no more than fourteen days.

Plenty of gongoozlers admiring our skill at working through the flight. There was one chap off of a hire boat who kindly pointed out to Jill all the mistakes she was making. She must have been in a good mood because the last time I saw him he could still walk.
We spent the night out in the country and on Tuesday headed into Ellesmere. Moored up just behind old friend Owen on Guilt Free Indulgence and had a good old chinwag.
Having completed our first Tescos run it was time to put the satellite dish up. World Snooker Championship from the Crucible in Sheffield, essential viewing. Having climbed onto the roof and found the satellite I set about the descent. As we had just polished the cabin I thought it a good idea to keep my feet well clear so instead of dropping down onto the gunwale I pushed off aiming to land on the towpath. I had forgotten that we were moored on a slight bend and the fore end was about a foot out from the side. Well all I can say is that the water is still cold and the piling has some nasty hard edges. One feels such a prat.

We left Ellesmere this morning. I'm glad you asked, yes, the bruises are getting better but the dent in my pride is still showing.
Just beyond the marina we passed Saturn again, this time with Buckden as her motor, presumambly on her way back from the Easter gathering at the Port..

The first brood of ducklings we have seen this year.
We have stopped for the night on the new S.U.C.S. forty-eight hour moorings by bridge 37, Duddleston Bridge, it is a perfect evening, warm and with the whole world suffused with birdsong. And Sean Murphy is leading Robin Hull nine frames to two.
Grindley Brook tomorrow.

Watch this space..........

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Spring cleaning.

I've never known a winter like it for coughs and colds. Jill and I both coughing like good 'uns and don't mention the catarrh, yeucch!!
But we press on. Friday was a move back up to the Weston Arm.

At Heath House there is the old warehouse. Back in the day the fly boats left from here with a passenger service to Manchester. It was also a major collection point for local agricultural produce to be sent fly to the big towns.

A little further on is the entrance to Rednal Basin, once a locally important canal/railway interchange but now totally overgrown as a nature reserve. I don't think the old bridge will ever swing again.

Yesterday morning dawned bright and fair over the junction and we set out on our spring chamfer up of Armadillo. It's handy here, there is a water point and you can just float the boat to and fro to get at both sides.

Washed and a good coat of Auto-Glym applied.

And no.1 lady bends to the task, look at that reflection.

Hmm! Looks like it's time to get out the matt black and give the hull sides a quick touch up.

Watch this space..........

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Spring flowers and the first swallow of 2015.

Well spring is well and truly here. This morning we took a walk from Queens Head up to the little shop at West Felton and on the way:

The little black blob on the wire is this years first swallow. Actually it is a house martin but I'm prepared to overlook that. Later, as we sat in the conservatory of the Queens Head, we saw several flying over the meadows beside the canal, but this was the first.
Over the last couple of weeks I've been seeking out the spring flowers, so the following is not a report on one day but a compilation.

One of the earliest is Coltsfoot, the flowers first blossom in February and appear before the leaves.

Butterbur is another plant whose flowers arrive before the leaves but when the leaves do appear they make a show of it, spreading up to thirty-six inches wide. In medieval times, so it is claimed, they were used to wrap fresh butter, hence the name.

Violets, these were growing on the site of some old allotment gardens so are obviously a cultivated variety.

It wouldn't be spring without primroses and their close cousins

the cowslip. I remember, as a child, seeing entire meadows on the chalk of the South Downs yellow from the cowslips. All gone now, long ago ploughed and planted with a mono-culture grass. No more hay meadows speckled with a plethora of wild flowers, alive with the hum of bees, just vast black polythene wraps of silage.

Bugloss, a large plant with dainty little flowers of the purest blue.

Stars have fallen to earth.

Lesser celandine and

wood anemones, a.k.a. windflowers. Perhaps my personal favourite spring flower.

And this sad little fellow? The first cuckoo flower of the year. Growing in the un-restored bit of the canal. Perhaps we will hear the bird it is named after soon?

Watch this space......

Monday, 13 April 2015

Still about the grandsprogs.

Wednesday morning found us on our way, soon had them hard at work at Graham Palmer lock. This is not one of the original locks but had to be inserted during restoration as the peat, through which the canal passes, had shrunk during the time the canal was shut, lowering the whole area by a foot or so.

I seem to remember that a year or three back an appeal was launched to raise money to replace the vandalised memorial stone. Wonder what happened to it.

These plants are a feature of this stretch of waterway, we call them "Captain Caveman" grass because of their resemblance to that splendid character from the late seventies. He was voiced by Mel Blanc so that makes him ok by me. Check him out.

We moored just below the first of the Aston Locks, a favourite spot of ours. It's only a short walk back to Queens Head where there is an excellent pub and a convenient bus stop. Route number 70, buses go to Shrewsbury one way and Oswestry the other.
So the next day it was out bus passes and off to Shrewsbury where we spent a couple of happy hours exploring some of the minor streets.

We followed up with lunch in the Armoury,

thoroughly recommended. It's situated on Victoria Quay, just by where the trip boats leave from.
On Friday we moved on down to Maesbury Marsh ready for Mum and Dad's arrival on Saturday.
They kindly ran us through to Oswestry to replenish the store cupboard and we took the opportunity to climb the castle.

There's not a lot left of the masonry but enough to climb.

King/Queen of the castle.
Sunday morning they departed for Plymouth and we stowed the life jackets and the Old Maid cards, not to mention the Snakes and Ladders. Suddenly the boat seemed very quiet.
This morning we winded and set off back up towards Queens Head.

To all intents and purposes this is the end of the navigation, the canal is in water for another few hundred yards but as there is no winding hole at the end it would mean reversing out.
Back on our favoured spot we intend taking a couple of days out. Jill has gone down with a rotten cold and I intend making a fuss of her, she deserves it after the last week.
And thanks to ChrisF: I checked it out on Google and agree, it is a Chinese goose, obviously an escapee from somewhere.

Watch this space...........

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Sunday, Monday and Tuesday with the descendants,.

On Saturday daughter Natalie arrived with Esme, seven, and Elliot, five, in tow. That evening we dined at the Black Lion, excellent food but the service was, to say the least, a little slow.
Sunday saw us taking the compulsory pre-prandial family stroll around The Mere from which Ellesmere takes its name.

A lake of some size with an island on which there is a heronry. Day tickets for fishing are available and I am led to believe that in the summer rowing boats may be hired.

Being British, despite low temperatures and a biting wind, we took the opportunity to enjoy an ice cream.

Now here is a poser. There is a resident population of waterfowl at the Mere and amongst the ubiquitous greylags, mallards etc. we spotted this chap. Not one I'm familiar with and I was unable to find him in that invaluable book of reference, the Readers Digest Field Guide to the Birds of Britain (1981). Anyone have any idea?
Monday dawned misty but with the hint of better to come. Natalie departed Plymouthward and we set off towards Frankton, stopping at the C&RT yard for water.

I was able to show them the dry dock and explain how it works and what it was used for, you can see by the look on their faces how impressed they were by Grandad's erudition.

By the time we arrived at Frankton locks the sky had cleared and shirt sleeves were the order of the day. we had booked our trip down for today so after mooring we wandered down the locks.

Just below the middle lock is the site of John Beech's boatyard where, in 1929, "Cressy", Tom Rolt's famous narrowboat was originally converted for leisure use, being fitted with a steam engine at that time. The dry dock is still visible, it's between the two walls in this less than useful picture. It now is part of a private garden.
Having viewed what awaited us on the morrow we adjourned to Armadillo for a substantial shepherds pie and several games of Old Maid.
This morning dawned bright and fair and, having already booked our passage for today, we waited impatiently for the arrival of the lockie at 1200.

He arrived on the dot and we were soon off down the four locks of the flight.

The top two locks make up a staircase where the bottom gates of one lock are the top gates of the next, it's always a bit worrying, picturing how much water is up there.
At the bottom of the flight we turned off into the truncated stub of the Weston Arm. In the original plans this would have been the main line to Shrewsbury but as the Shrewsbury Canal from Norbury Junction was already serving the town it would have been pointless building another canal and so it just petered out at Weston Lullingford. By 1917 the branch had closed but the short length that remains makes an exceedingly pleasant rural mooring, with water point and rubbish disposal.
This afternoon while Jill and Esme communed with nature at the blocked off section of the arm that remains in water, loads of frogs and frog spawn, Elliot and I indulged in a session of the piscatorial art.

 Never before has a three ounce roach been so proudly displayed.

This evening the sun went down in a blaze of glory. Tomorrow it's on to Queens Head.

Watch this space..........