Sunday, September 30, 2007


This is where the Llangollen canal heads into Wales. The Ellesmere and Llangollen canals were operated by Shropshire Union Railways & Canal Company. General carriers to Chester, Liverpool, Manchester, North & South Staffordshire and North Wales. Its building now left derelict.

It was here that we found a vet to check on Tara's health. Our cat had been sick most mornings for a while and a possible cause may be an overactive thyroid gland. A blood test would confirm this.
Meanwhile our friends have moved to Chirk on the boarder of Wales. We set off next day to cover the 12 miles and up two locks. The canal is quite shallow near the edges and we often ran aground when passing boats. Passed two marinas full of boats before travelling along a narrow concrete channel on the approach to Chirk.

At one point we looked across the valley over the tops of houses. Then suddenly turned right to cross the valley which was spectacular with the railway viaduct alongside the canal aqueduct both made entirely of stone.

Then through Chirk tunnel, crossing into Wales and eventually stopped opposite yet another marina having caught up with No Problem.

It seems that the canal is suffering badly from its 'popularity'. There have been major breaches in 2004 and 2006 and it was sad to see several damaged bridges where they have been hit by boats. At one visitor mooring a concrete edge has fallen in.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Our first time here was back in May 2003 when we pent three weeks getting to Llangollen and back which included exploring the Montgomery as well. At the Hurleston locks there were more boats coming down than up so the canal, hopefully, is becoming less crowded now.

The lock keeper told us that 2000 boats have visited this canal so far this year! He is there to help and advise but nobody from the waiting boats came to help. The canal is now a feeder taking water from the river Dee at Llangollen to keep the Hurleston reservoir full. That is over 40 miles of canal and the significant flow is evident at each lock as the water passes through the by weir.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Salt towns

From Market Drayton we dropped down through a group of locks at Adderley and two at the flight down to Audlem where we stopped. Mo and Vanessa on Balmaha came by and stopped for a drink and chat. Last seen back at Braunston they were returning from Bugsworth. Next day we continued on down to Hack Green. It was here that we caught up with No Problem and arranged a Supermarket delivery using the internet.
The stretch of canal between Audlem and Nantwich being mainly through open countryside with undulating hills. The canal staying level on concrete lined embankments flying across the lower levels. The water was quite shallow forcing us to travel in the centre, passing boats made difficult by running aground and being exposed to the wind. No Problem and Moore 2 Life once again travelling together and arriving at Nantwich. The first available space being just past the aqueduct after passing a mile of moored boats. Telford, the Engineer, was forced to build the canal round Dorfold Park, preferring to follow the high ground and join up with the existing Chester Canal. This was not to be and the resulting long curved embankment and iron aqueduct proved difficult and expensive to build.

We all walked the half mile into Nantwich. 'A fine old town, prosperous since Roman times because of its salt springs, which made it the countries main salt mining centre until the 19th century. The town was devastated by fire in 1583 but rebuilt in fine Tudor style'. There are many of these buildings with their chunky black wood structure to be seen, distorted by subsidence but still standing. We enjoyed sitting out in sunshine to drink, eat and admire the view. Northwich, Nantwich and Middlewich are all salt towns in this Cheshire Cat county and have canals passing by them.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Through the cuttings

Filled up with diesel at Norbury Wharf and continued our journey along the Shroppy. Through Grub Street Cutting, past 'the Anchor' and along the Shebdon Embankment. This is how the canal is. Cuttings and embankments with no locks for mile upon mile.

Past Knighton where Cadbury's once produced chocolate and transported it to Bournville by canal. Then through Woodseaves Cutting before stopping at Tyrley Wharf. Woodseaves is very narrow and passing is difficult with so much vegetation leaning out to scratch the paint if it could.

Ahead are 5 locks which bring the canal down to Market Drayton. Down through another sand stone cutting covered with trees which somehow cling to the steep sides, their old roots now exposed. Makes you think about all the hard manual labour required to dig it all out.

Went down with a boat coming up at each lock making it an easy trip for us. Sue n Vic on No Problem followed behind and Ann went back to help. We eventually stopped after filling with water opposite the new 'Challenger' share boat centre.

Market Drayton
Just past Betton Bridge the visitor moorings are opposite a range of new houses with brightly coloured front doors. The owners with their boats by the door! On our own again, Sue n Vic move on to Nantwich as John and Sue came to visit. Ann baked a cake and we chatted over a cup of tea. We have known them since owning a boat back at Newbury many years ago. They have recently got back from a trip on their boat down to London.
We have been able to reserve a mooring back at Culcutt Marina, where we plan to leave the boat for Christmas. Enterprise at Daventry will be able to collect and deliver us with a car.
Very much now enjoying the September sunshine and quieter times on the canal. August definitely the holiday month. Now moved on down more locks at Adderly in open countryside with those black and white cows in green fields. Once out away from the towns there are also fields of corn soaking up the sunshine.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Future government support?

The government now realises that the inland waterways need looking after as an environmental heritage. A Commons Committee of M P's had to call in the National Audit Office to understand the true state of British Waterways finances. The canals are already suffering from lack of investment and maintenance due to DEFRA's lack of interest.
It is clear now that there are many other groups, apart from boaters, that benefit from the waterways. The majority of users are in fact local people walking or jogging along the tow path, fishermen and cyclists a fact not recognised in BW funding. BW cannot achieve 'self sufficiency' by charging boaters, running pubs and marinas. The cost to boaters for moorings and licences would become prohibitive.
It has been suggested that other departments should provide support. The department of Culture should consider free entry to the few Museums that BW struggle to keep open. There may be some benefit in getting the Transport department involved to encourage 'greener' freight movement on the waterways. I wonder which department would help with the cutting back of all the large bushes and trees that are reducing the navigation. Then there is the lack of depth. Originally the canals were 4 feet deep, now only 2 or 3 feet in many places. Mean while the waterways are being used more now by holiday makers and explorers enjoying the countryside than ever before and may it continue.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Keeping warm safely

Burning wood, coal , gas or diesel keeps the boat dry warm and cosy in the cool winter months. But a fire can be unhealthy or downright dangerous. All these carbon fuels produce carbon monoxide if there is not enough air or oxygen getting to the fire. Even cooking can be hazardous.
Sadly there have been several deaths already this year caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. Caused variously by unventilated boats with windows shut or fire doors actually open. In one case a burning pan was left on the cooker. One victim was found to have alcohol above the legal limit and was incapable of escaping. It is not the fire or flames that kill, it is the un seen gas carbon monoxide that is the killer. The boats were not fitted with smoke detectors and fire investigators are urging all boaters to fit one. We do have one that can even warn us when the toast is over done!

While at Norton Junction we asked the boat yard to check over our diesel fire now approaching our 4th winter. Mick came and took the unit apart expertly and gave it a thorough de coke. Checked the oil filter and flow control system finding them clean and in good order. When the fire was lit we were reassurance that it was ok.