Hanging Around But We Got To Llangollen – Eventually!

   We moved from our mooring in Audlem at the top of the locks to the offside mooring at the bottom of the locks, opposite to the towpath. There were no passing walkers, being offside, which meant we could leave Sal outside with a clear conscience. (One of my bugbears is boaters who let their dogs roam free on the towpath, they poop everywhere, cause havoc with passing dogs so there is a constant cacophony of barking and carrying on, the dogs usually completely ignore their owner’s continued bellowing of their names – they are just a general nuisance!  I’ve also lost count of the number of times I have walked past boaters and their dogs sitting on a very narrow towpath – you have to try to persuade your own dog that they should ignore the snarling, teeth-baring seething balls of rage and walk calmly past! Not easy! I fail to see why they can’t keep their dogs on the boat if they don’t like other dogs – everyone should be able to walk down the towpath unimpeded by snarling dogs!!! OK, off my soapbox now!) We had the whole stretch to ourselves so we put Sally on her 20m long lead, although she didn’t wander further than a few metres away and made herself a nest in amongst the long grass, as she does. It was shady spot but we had enough of the early morning sun to top up our batteries and it was very hot, so it was a good call to moor under the trees! I broke out the doggy paddling pool I’d bought for Sal in Market Drayton (which she viewed with a great deal of suspicion!) but I made good use of it myself and had a lovely paddle!

After 3 lovely days in Audlem – a very pretty town with some lovely walks – we moved on. The Audlem Mill was, unfortunately, still closed but it looked a very interesting shop and I would like to return to visit it sometime! So, on Monday, 1st June, we moved to a rather lovely mooring with an equally lovely name – The Coole Pilate Leisure Area. The Shropshire Union Canal Society has furnished the area with picnic benches and BBQ stands and it is a lovely spot to stop. This was the day that, during our journey there, Sal fell in! Neither of us were looking at her, but we heard a splosh, looked round and she’d gone! She is always tethered to the boat on a longish line (if she were on a short line there would be a danger that she would get caught in the prop, God forbid!) so by the time we had stopped the engine, she had surfaced and was swimming strongly towards the boat, keeping up with the drifting speed admirably. Tony got hold of her harness and hauled her back on board, she gave a couple of snorts and hurumphs, and after two good shakes, was, happily, OK! She has shown no ill effects and is still content to sit on the back as we cruise, bless her! The weather was very hot on our first day at Coole Pilate, but on the second day, Tuesday, the run of hot, fine weather eventually broke and it was raining practically all day. We had planned to move early on Wednesday, with Tony walking with Sal for her first outing, but the rain was falling again so we waited a little while for it to clear. We travelled the short distance of 3.5 miles and two locks and arrived in Nantwich by coffee time. The moorings in Nantwich are on the edge of the town on an embankment overlooking the houses. It is about a mile’s walk to get into the town and the supermarkets, so we both went in on separate trips so as to make maximum use of the trolley – even so, it was a bit of a slog to carry a week’s worth of shopping for a mile back to the boat!

We left our moorings in Nantwich on Sunday, 7th June, straight after Tony and Sal got back from their morning walk. They had had something of an issue in that Sal had caught a baby rabbit and wasn’t going to give it up easily (apart from the fact that Tony didn’t want to handle the poor, fluffy little bunny in an attempt to extricate it from her mouth!). In Tony’s words, they had a “full and frank discussion” about the merits of her eating said rabbit. He found that if he just stood still, she just stood still too, holding baby rabbit in mouth, making no attempt to eat it, so it was a waiting game to see who got bored first. It turned out to be Sal and as soon as she dropped it, he pulled her away. Rabbit saga over, we made the short journey to the junction with the Llangollen Canal, where we stopped for lunch. We noticed that “The Wine Boat” was moored a couple of boats ahead of us so wandered up to have a look at what they were selling. We discovered that they made the wine on the boat and their range included not only wine, but flavoured vodkas, brandies and liqueurs, too, mostly made with ingredients found whilst hedgerow foraging. We bought a bottle of honeysuckle wine, a bottle of elderflower wine (anything with elderflowers and I’m sold) and a bottle of hedgerow liqueur. Although I don’t think that I would buy any more, they were certainly interesting brews and it was great to try something a bit different! Nice to support a fellow boater in their trade, too.

After lunch, we set off again to turn onto the Llangollen Canal and to go through the infamous Hurleston Locks – the first one having been newly rebuilt. The walls of the lock had been bulging in over recent  years and had got to the point where several boats had actually got stuck, requiring the CRT’s assistance to get out of the lock again. It had been closed for several months but had recently been opened again – had we not been in lockdown and had continued our journey to the Llangollen several weeks earlier, we may well have been hanging about waiting for the works to finish. The turn itself was a little tricky in that there is a bridge immediately before the turn, so you have to get the stern of the boat through the bridge before you can start making the turn and you need to steer directly into the first lock and its narrow opening. Fortunately, there is a nice, wide turning circle, so I managed to get into the lock entrance without too much bother!

  We chatted to an off duty volunteer lockie and apparently, there are fun and games there frequently, especially in windy conditions and with inexperienced and hire boat helmsmen attempting to make the turn! I can imagine! They have an unofficial point scoring system amongst themselves. I wonder what I would’ve scored? We continued on through the remaining three locks of the Hurleston flight and stopped to top up with water at the top. All of the locks had a bywash (where the excess water from the pound above drains into the pound below) very near to the lock entrance which made steering a bit more challenging than normal plus the third lock had a somewhat bulging wall on the lock entrance, again making steering a bit tricky. It seems that this bulge is now catching boats out – if they couldn’t get through the first lock previously, they obviously didn’t encounter the third lock, but now that Lock 1 has been rebuilt, Lock 3 has taken over being troublesome for some boats to get through! We continued on for a short distance and moored overnight overlooking farmlands.

On Monday, 8th June, we carried on our journey and cruised for 4.5 miles and went through 5 locks, mooring near the village of Wrenbury for the night. Having arrived just in time for Sal’s afternoon outing, we walked into the village; we were going to take the footpath shortcut through the fields but there was a number of large cows – I have a distinct distrust of cows – and when a big, black bull meandered through the gap in the hedge between the two fields, my mind was made up and we went the longer way round! It was here that we spotted an owl at dusk out hunting for his supper – a rare and wonderful sight!

On Tuesday, with the weather having been forecast to be clear, we set off early and only went a short distance so as to run the washing machine, stopping to hang the washing out as soon as possible. We moored on a quiet stretch with little footfall and a wide verge, so Sal was able to stay outside – she hid herself in the bushes and made a nest. She loved this stretch of towpath on her afternoon walk – lots of snuffling and pouncing in the undergrowth in the hope of catching a small furry beast – which she did indeed succeed to do on her walk with Tony the next morning! After the rabbit episode, he gave in and let her eat the mouse/shrew/vole – not that there was much he could do to stop her!

On Wednesday, we set off with the intention of stopping at the bottom of Grindley Brook Locks for lunch, but the CRT map was incorrect in its showing of the moorings, so we went too far, past the moorings, and had to go up the flight, including a staircase of three locks, before we could stop.  The bywash on the bottom three locks was particularly fierce, so I was feeling a little stressed by the time we got to the staircase locks. There was a bit of a queue for the staircase, so I had a chance to make some sandwiches, at least, even if we didn’t get a chance to eat them! We were “helped” through the staircase by another boater who was coming down – he opened the paddle in the middle lock far too quickly, which made the water rush into the lock, causing the boat to first shoot backwards, then shoot forwards, bumping into the gates at both ends – not good! I was having difficulty in controlling the boat and Sal started to panic – I had to shout to Tony to come and take her off the boat! It’s good of people wanting to help, but I’d really rather just do the locks ourselves, at our own pace. We moored at the top of the locks, ate our lunch then took Sal for a walk down the towpath to check out the moorings nearer Whitchurch and the shops. On returning to the boat, I started to feel unwell – I had been feeling a bit off colour all day, but now started to feel really rough. I had been bitten in four places the day before, (through my clothes!!) by a horsefly, I think, and I had suffered some sort of allergic reaction to the bites and started to feel quite poorly. I went to bed with a hot water bottle, feeling shivery and miserable.

Thursday, 11th June, was our 37th wedding anniversary and, although I wasn’t feeling brilliant, I was certainly feeling better than the night before. After Tony made a second trip with our jerry can to a local garage selling red diesel (56.9p per litre!) so that we could top up the tank, we moved the boat round to near the Whitchurch Town Arm, on a good offside mooring. Sal and I had a lovely walk round the fields and nature reserve adjacent to the mooring and Tony went off to Aldi to get supplies for a lovely anniversary dinner – steak with all the trimmings – fillet for me and sirloin for him. Of course, we would normally have gone out for dinner, but not this year! Fortunately,Tony does enjoy cooking so we had a very enjoyable meal and a nice bottle of wine (each!).

Friday was shopping day so I went off to the new Aldi, opened only a couple of weeks previously. Unfortunately, although you can see it on the opposite bank of the canal – if I could throw a ball straight, I’d be able to hit it from this side, it’s that close – there is no access to it other than going along the towpath side to the next bridge and walking back along the roads on the other side – about a 10 -15 minute walk. I might email Aldi Head Office and suggest they put some moorings outside – they’d do a roaring trade, particularly in the summer under normal circumstances!

On Saturday, 13th, we cruised a distance of 6.5 miles and operated 7 lift bridges. As Tony has taken to doing all the single locks, because, with his long legs, he can jump across the gates to open them, rather than having to walk round, as I would, I said it was only fair that I operated the lift bridges. They do take some winding, though – I counted one and it was 53 full turns of the windlass to open it! We turned into the Prees Branch, which is just less than a mile long and has Whixhall Marina at the end. We winded in the marina and then found a mooring – there is only one recognised Visitor Mooring area in the whole arm but we moored up just alongside the bank.

We managed to order a roast dinner from Whixhall Marina, which we duly picked up and enjoyed on Sunday, 14th. We had intended to move after we’d enjoyed our roast and did get ready and set off, but just as we were going though the two lift bridges in order to get back out onto the main canal, the clouds started gathering and the thunder started to roll in the distance. Sal is always a good early warning system for thunderstorms – she tries to hide under a hedge if we’re outside, or under the breakfast bar if we’re inside – so we knew it was time to pull over to the side and take cover! The heavens did indeed open, although it was relatively short lived. We decided to stay where we were, though, and Sal and I just went for a late walk. We walked along the towpath and visited Wales and turned and walked a little way round Whixhall Moss, which was lovely other than following a track, only to come across a fallen tree and having to retrace our steps. The grass underfoot was also quite wet and there were loads of horse flies so other than wet feet, horse flies and a fallen tree, it was really quite pleasant!

We set off on Monday, 15th and cruised for five miles, mooring near the first of the Meres we were to come across – Colemere. It was a lovely day but as we moored, the number of midges and other bitey creatures was incredible! I couldn’t stay outside but Tony braved it out but even he gave up eventually and came inside and for the first time ever was bitten quite badly. Sal was nesting under the trees in the cool but could be heard constantly snapping at flies! Sal and I had a wonderful walk around Colemere – over half of it is in the woods around the circumference so was lovely and shady but the thunder started to roll in the distance again and we made it back to the boat just in time. This storm was a bit more severe than the previous one and Sal was not a happy bunny! Bearing in mind that she was an outside dog in Romania, I wonder how she used to react to  thunderstorms over there? Seeing how frightened she is now, it breaks my heart to think how frightened she must have been there; not being able to take refuge due to being chained up and with no one to comfort her. Horrible!

On Tuesday, we travelled only a short distance, passing Blakemere but not stopping as there is no walking path around it, although it is a very pretty vista from the canal. We stopped just before reaching Ellesmere, having identified a footpath running from the canal to the main and biggest Mere, simply named The Mere.  We all enjoyed a walk to The Mere, taking a circular route back to nearer Ellesmere itself and walking back to the boat along the towpath. Once again, the thunder started to roll and this time Sal and I sat on the bed and listened to an audio book – she seems to like Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter!

On Wednesday, 17th, we moved an even shorter distance into the Ellesmere Arm. I popped off to Tesco, only a couple of hundred metres away and got some bits and bobs and we all had  another walk round The Mere in the afternoon, venturing a little further round this time. As was the norm of late, another thunderstorm rolled in, but was fairly mild and short – Sal only taking refuge under the breakfast bar this time!

Unfortunately, the weather took a turn for the worse on Thursday and it rained practically all day, so we just did our weekly shop in Tesco and had a wet walk in the afternoon. We had planned to go down through Frankton Locks onto the Montgomery Canal (only a short section of about 7 miles is navigable at the moment), but with the weather being not so good, we decided to wait a couple of days.

On Friday, the weather was again a bit changeable, but we moved round onto the water point and then a little further up the canal – we’d been told that the internet reception was much better round the corner and it was quiz night! It was quite windy as well as rainy so it was a good job that we only went for about a mile. We phoned and booked our passage through Frankton Locks but learnt that, at the moment, they are only open on Monday – Friday, so we booked for Monday.

We cruised from our mooring on Saturday morning, 20th June, and made our way to the top of Frankton Locks, Tony walking with Sal, looking for intermediate mooring on the way but the towpath on that stretch was very narrow and eroded, so we decided to carry on. The moorings at the top of the locks were perfectly OK and wide enough to sit out on with Sal. Of course, we were all sad as it would have been Dave and Mel’s Wedding Day. They made the best of it, though, and had a small BBQ in their garden, us joining in by video call for a few minutes. Obviously it was still a huge disappointment for us all, and them in particular. Here’s to next April!!

On Monday morning, after spending a chilled Sunday, we waited for the CRT guys to turn up to let us through the locks. A nice young couple appeared and saw us through the top staircase and the next two locks. We stopped soon after for coffee on the first mooring spot and got the washing machine going. We stopped at Queen’s Head to get the washing out but it wasn’t a particularly good mooring for overnight – right next to a busy road – so we moved on to Maesbury Marsh and moored up for overnight, me walking with Sally and working the three locks on the way. 

On Tuesday, we cruised to the end of the navigation, winding in the winding hole but reversing up a little way to take photos near to bridge 82 – this was a Silver Propeller Challenge location and the description of the exact location was a bit ambiguous and we didn’t want to miss out for the sake of about 50 metres! Unfortunately, the man in the cottage took exception to us going past his house and came out to shout at us. He said he didn’t want boats going past his house at the moment and I pointed out that he had rushed out of his house and was now standing within 2 metres of me and that, if he’d stayed inside he would have been perfectly safe! He ranted about boaters on his property but that didn’t apply to us – we didn’t touch his boundary let alone get off and stand on it! We also picked up an old sweatshirt on the prop there – I had reversed up without problem after winding but on going forwards again, had lost steering to the point of having to use the bow thruster to get into the side! The suspicious side of my nature did wonder if he had chucked old rags in to sabotage boaters?? Anyway, we took our photos and, after clearing the prop, made our way back to the moorings. We had a very interesting walk along the canal, going from the navigable section, to the restored-but-not-yet used section, to the currently-being-restored section, where there was a lovely new part, with a brand new winding hole, which will be the end of the navigation, planned for completion in Dec 2020. This will give another 2km of navigable waterway from Frankton Locks. Ultimately, they are hoping to connect it all, but that’s going to take a lot of work as beyond this new section there was a not-yet-restored-but-you-could-see-it-was-a-canal section, to the was-there-a-canal-in-there-somewhere? section, to no-evidence-of-a-canal-other-than-a-wide-ditch section!

On Wednesday, we started our return journey as we’d booked our return through Frankton Locks on Thursday. We had only gone a short distance and had a bit of an incident. There were overhanging trees and we could see boats ahead but for a few seconds, couldn’t discern whether they were moored or moving towards us. As soon as we realised they were moving, I had to make a decision about what to do. Although narrowboating is a slow method of transport, you still have to make very quick decisions! There were three boats coming towards us, going past moored boats on their right; we were in a narrow section with overhanging trees on their side. If I had stayed where I was, it would have forced them to have to go through the trees to pass us (which I wouldn’t want to do – scratches your paintwork something horrible!), so I decided to carry on to where it was clear on their side and stop. Unfortunately, as I got to the clear section and put the boat into reverse to stop, the bow swung out, as it often does. The other boats were still approaching and, although I tried to deploy the bow thruster to bring the nose round (there was no time to put it into forward gear and steer the nose in), it didn’t turn quickly enough and we had a bang! It is a horrible feeling knowing that you are going to crash and you can do absolutely nothing about it! Tony and I subsequently had a “discussion” about what the best way of avoiding the crash would have been, resulting in me refusing  to steer for the rest of the day! We stopped again at Queen’s Head as it was getting very hot – we moored up and waited a few hours to let the heat of the day pass. We carried on and cruised the last section, having a bit of trouble at one bridge due to shallow water. We stopped for the night at Perry aqueduct, both very grumpy but thankful that the day was over! 

All things considered, we did enjoy our trip on the Monty – it was very picturesque, with rolling hills in the distance and with wonderful wildlife – brightly coloured damsel and dragonflies were plentiful and the canal was teeming with fish: the floating yellow water lilies were a picture.  I thought it was very reminiscent of some parts of the Kennet and Avon canal, actually. The downside was that it was very narrow at times with overhanging trees and shallow water making navigation difficult in places and with fairly limited opportunities to moor. 

We set off early on Thursday 25th so as to be at the locks by 10.00 am. The same nice young couple were working the locks and we were the only boat booked to go through the locks that day, either way, so we had their undivided attention. They are normally part of the water management team and it was interesting to talk to them! It was already scorching hot by the time we got through the top lock so we cruised a short distance and moored under a tree, sitting outside and enjoying the breeze. We moved round to the Ellesmere Arm later, arriving at about 6 p.m., having topped up the water on the way in, when the temperatures were a little less tropical, although it was still perishin’ hot!

We had a quiet following week – we were just hanging about waiting for news on when we could enter Wales. We stayed in the Ellesmere Arm for our permitted mooring time (3 nights) then went round the corner and moored overnight, waiting for the marina to open for a pump out, then went back in the arm again. We were hanging about for a few deliveries, the seller of one having  messed us around a bit, but eventually everything arrived! Whilst we were moored in the Ellesmere Arm, Sal was due her three-monthly flea treatment, so I gave it to her whilst she was sitting in her favourite spot on the back deck. She took it, had one chew and promptly dropped it in the canal! Lesson learnt! Anyway, I got our little fishing net out and had a ferret around in the murky depths, although, thankfully, the canal isn’t very deep there, and on the third attempt, fished out the flea treatment. Rinsed it off, dried it off and duly dispensed to dog (inside the boat!). At nearly £20, it was well worth the effort. We also decided that as were in a town and had the benefit of having a vet’s practice nearby, we would book Sal in for a check over as she had been a bit quiet and not quite herself for a couple of weeks. Happily, nothing much was found to be wrong (collecting a wee sample was fun, though!!) but she appeared to be a bit uncomfortable with Flop Bot (a James Herriot reference) although she had given no outward sign of being uncomfy. The vet obliged with a quick squeeze but the resulting aroma in the boat overnight –  “Eau de anal glands” –  had to be sorted by lighting a Yankee Candle, successfully, thankfully! She was her old, bouncy self again soon after, though.

We had a few pleasant walks around the area – The Mere and surrounding area is lovely! The weather hadn’t been particularly good – a complete contrast to the few really hot days of the previous week – and we all got drenched one day when we took the drone over to the cricket pitch to have a practice. Having bought it just before lockdown, I hadn’t had much chance to fly it, but happy to say that I felt confident enough to take it out of Beginners Mode this time, at last! 

One of the nice things about staying in one area for a while is that you get to know and chat to other boaters, rather than just a passing “hello”. We have had pleasure in spending a bit more time with Steve and Anne, Ade and Val, Josie and David, and Rob. As we have all been hanging around, we’ve been “ping-ponging” with each other – we move on, they catch us up – they move on, we catch them up.  Also, whilst we were in the Ellesmere Arm, Mark and Debbie from Well Deck Diaries caught up with us, and Mark was kind enough to help Tony make sense of the horn and tunnel light wiring, both of which had been out of action for a good few months, Rob also giving Tony a connector to assist. Despite the weather, we had a great evening sitting outside with them both and Rob, having a few drinks. Hot chocolate might’ve been more the order of the day, but we soldiered on and made the best of it. 

We finally left the Ellesmere Arm on Saturday 4th July, making our way towards Llangollen, still unsure as to when we’d legitimately be allowed to cruise into Wales. We moored at the top of Frankton Locks again. On Sal’s walk, I followed a footpath through a farmer’s yard and field, and just as we neared the canal again, I had to open a gate into the field but then immediately cross a style out of it again and onto the towpath. Some styles are roomy enough for Sal to squeeze underneath, but this one wasn’t so I had to lift her over. The only thing was, the field had cows in it and, although we were only just in the corner of their field, they all came over to have a nosey! I’m rather dubious of cows, so Sal was hoisted up rather speedily and literally bunged over the fence, with me in hot pursuit, especially when I turned to see a large bovine standing within two feet of me – no social distancing awareness at all from that creature!

On Monday 6th July, we left Frankton Locks early so as to not interfere with any boats going down through the locks and Tony was walking Sal whilst I steered the boat. We came across a beautiful, young black Labrador who was loose and by himself on the towpath. He joined Sal for her walk (which Sal, somewhat surprisingly, was happy with) and went with us for quite a way. I moored up as soon as I could and we called the number on the dog’s tag. A rather well-spoken gentleman had been looking for Duke, and was very pleased that we’d stopped and rung him. Having reunited the gorgeous Duke with his Dad, we went on our way,  travelling a short distance and mooring up as it had started to rain. We needed to post a couple of cards for Tony’s brothers – it was their 50th birthday on Sunday 12th. I identified a post box (using the Royal Mail App, handy for boaters) just a little way up the canal, so we all set off to post the cards. We found the post box easily, but it was about the size of a doll’s house box – the aperture was too small to get the cards in! We walked back to the boat and continued on to the next post box – no moorings, so third time lucky, we moored near the next box, passing an absolutely beautiful mooring spot on the way! It was quite late by this time so Tony walked with Sal early the next morning to the post box – success! That’s one of the “things” about living on a boat – posting two cards takes a whole day!

We stayed on that mooring for two nights as the weather was so grotty – boating in the rain is not much fun. We looked out at all the hire boaters going past in their rain gear, hope they were having a good holiday! We moved on on Wednesday 8th to make our way to Chirk, our last stop before Wales, mooring eventually at Chirk Bank. The weather was still not brilliant (we even lit the fire on Thursday evening!) so we stayed on the moorings for two days, but we had a pleasant walk up into the village to buy a few supplies, walking over the Chirk Aqueduct to get there. Tony, on his walks with Sal, walked through the Chirk Tunnel once, and up and over it the second time. Whilst moored at Chirk Bank, the young CRT couple that had locked us through the Frankton Locks came by and we asked them whether they knew if we were legitimately allowed to travel into Wales yet. They said they hadn’t been told but said it would be OK and they weren’t going to stop us. The travel restrictions had been lifted on the 6th July, so visitors could travel into Wales, and holiday accommodation was open from the 11th. There had still been no official notification from CRT, so we just figured that, if people could travel and go in for holidays, we should be OK. So, on Friday the 10th July, with the weather being a little brighter than of late, we cruised for 3 miles, stopping in the Welsh village of Froncysyllte. We passed through Chirk Tunnel and Whitehouse Tunnel on the way, both being a little troublesome in that the flow of water caused the boat to “crab”. It was a constant battle against the flow to try to keep the boat straight and not graze the stern along the wall for the whole way! In addition to the crabbing, in Whitehouse Tunnel we also came across a large tree trunk, about a foot in diameter and about 12 feet long, which got wedged under the boat, the prop just catching it. We had to stop, in the dark, with the flow against us and push it out from under us with our boat hook. All good fun! We decided to stop in Froncysyllte as the weather forecast for the Saturday was even better, with little wind, and I wanted to get some drone footage of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct as we crossed it.

 So, on Saturday morning, we woke up at 6.00 am, setting off at 6.30 am. We cruised about half a mile and tied the boat up just before the Aqueduct. The weather was perfect, a few clouds but virtually no wind, so we’d done well to wait for that extra day. Tony walked over with me, me hanging onto his arm for dear life, just looking down at my feet on the pathway. (It’s very high!) He then crossed back whilst I got the drone ready. I had not slept very well the night before as I was worried about losing the drone – I’m still not very confident about flying it – and I could just see me losing it down in the valley below! He called to say that he was on the way, so I put the drone up in the air, got really quite adventurous with flying it up and over on both sides of the aqueduct, getting some fantastic shots. It was only as he got to the end that I realised that I’d forgotten to press the record button!!!! The air was blue and I felt like crying!! As it was still before 8 am, we decided that Tony was going to turn the boat, go back over, turn the boat again and return. This time, I made sure that I pressed the button, and was pleased that I got some good footage! 

Once our (three) trips across the aqueduct were complete, we turned in Trevor Basin (a nasty turn) and carried on our journey to Llangollen. Some sections are very narrow and you have to send a look out ahead to make sure nothing is coming towards you – we got through this bit without problem. We did meet a couple of day boats further up but they were no problem and then we reached the moorings and another narrow section by Llangollen Wharf. Tony was walking ahead again and I found this section a bit tricky – the horse drawn boats were tied up just beyond a narrow bridge and canoeists were launching themselves into the water all over the place! I picked Tony up just before the Basin and I steered in, turned, and reversed onto the pontoon moorings – we’d arrived in Llangollen! Yay!

We had a lovely stay there – we walked along the Riverside walk to get to Aldi to get a few bits, we walked up to Horseshoe Falls and Tony walked up the very steep and high hill up to the old castle.

The weather was very reasonable. We had a very pleasant evening meeting up with all the other boaters we had been hanging about with and had a lovely get together – Steve and Anne, Ade and Val and Ade’s daughter, Emma, Rob and Mark and Debbie. Mark put the drone up and took a fantastic photo of us all – the Llangollen “Fluffing About Gang”. We dispersed to have our dinner but we continued with Mark, Debbie and Rob after dinner. 

With the weather being a bit rainy, we weren’t sure whether to stay in the Basin for Monday night, too, (13th) but decided to leave on Monday afternoon after all, as the weather wasn’t too bad. Mark and Debbie and Rob decided to make a move, too, so I walked ahead with Sally and rung back when I was past the first narrow section to let them know that it was clear. We had to let four boats through before they could get going, though! The hire boats were out in force again. Once it was clear, they made a small convoy, with a fourth boat tagging along at the back. Tony and I grabbed the first available mooring, only just a mile out of the Basin and Mark and Debbie and Rob went on for another mile and moored up, too. Mark and Debbie got going earlier than we did the next morning and sent a message to tell us to let them know when we were approaching the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and that Mark would record the crossing for us with his drone – lovely! We duly arrived, Mark filmed, we cruised over and moored up on the other side. Tony, Sally and I walked down into the valley with our drone and I took some video whilst Tony and Sally were up on top. We then decided to move on as it was a bit busy on the approach to the aqueduct and we wanted to get out of the way. We cruised on for another couple of hours and moored at the top of the New Marton Locks, overlooking farmland – a gorgeous spot.  (The one we’d spotted when we were on the quest to post the birthday cards the previous week).

On Tuesday, 14th, we had intended to get going early but there was such a convoy of boats going in our direction that there was a queue of 9 boats at the locks. No point sitting in a queue, might as well wait and have another cup of coffee! We set off after lunch, in the end, and cruised for a about three hours, getting back to Ellesmere in time to walk to the Chippie. The difference was noticeable in the number of boats from when we were there a couple of weeks ago –  so glad we managed to get to Llangollen and out again before it got too silly!!

On Thursday 16th, before we left Ellesmere Arm for the last time, we stocked up in Tesco (good job Tony was waiting outside – I forgot to take my purse in and had to dash out to borrow his card – doh!!!!)  then set off and moored at Blakemere for lunch –  it is really lovely there. It’s not very good for Walkies, though, so we set off again, cruised for another mile and moored at Colemere for another walk round the with Sal. Strangely, it was just as insect ridden on the canal as it had been before, must be something in the air there! After Sal’s walk, we moved off again and cruised for another hour or so and moored for the night at Whixhall Moss. 

On Friday, 17th, our mission continued and we cruised for nearly 7 miles, working 6 locks and 5 swing bridges along the way, including Grindley Brook staircase locks – a busy day! (There were lock keepers on the staircase locks, though – their help was gratefully received!) We moored just round the corner from the last lock overlooking fields – very pleasant! Tony had a quick trip to the garage selling the cheap Red diesel and topped up the jerry can.

On Saturday, the weather was dreadful but it was forecast to dry up later in the afternoon. We got ready and set off in a dry spell but it didn’t last and we got very wet! We worked 4 locks; at one I was hanging back to allow another boat coming out of the lock to get through the bywash before I approached and a very impatient hire boater was waving at me frantically to come through. Thought holidays were about relaxing and taking it easy? Someone hadn’t told him that! It continued to rain and we eventually gave up and stopped just after Marbury Lock in a very quiet spot – lovely!

Sunday’s weather was much better! We had a long day, covering 8.5 miles, working 9 locks and 2 lift bridges on the way. We did stop for a couple of hours to get the washing out, but got going again when it was time for Sal’s walk so that we could work the locks as we walked. We eventually got to the top of Hurleston Locks and decided to carry on and finish the job, but they were very busy, even at 5 p.m! We had to pass three boats coming up, which, with the bywashes at each lock, made steering a bit tricky. One boat came out of their lock and just sat there, forcing me to steer out of my lock, turn a hard left to avoid hitting them head on and then a hard right to get past them. If they didn’t want to have to move over, fair enough, they should’ve just stayed in the lock until I came out and moved over, but they nearly blocked my exit from my lock making my manoeuvre far more difficult than it might’ve been! Another boat got wedged in the newly refurbished lock No1 – they hadn’t taken a fender up! Doh!! We left the bottom lock, and thereby the Llangollen Canal, exactly 6 weeks to the day of going onto it,  turned right and found a beautiful mooring on the offside, on CRT land beside the Hurleston Reservoir. It is a glorious spot and we decided to have a rest day today and enjoy the mooring. One thing, though -the boats are flying past us, most making no effort to slow down! It is a wide section, thankfully, and we’re tied securely,  but it’s odd that they are all going so fast here!?

I have just had a lovely walk around the Hurleston Reservoir; it’s high up and looks over the surrounding countryside and the locks – very scenic!