Wednesday, 28 September 2011


This weather!

Have we all become time travellers and gone back to June or July?  That was when we should have had this amazingly beautiful, sunny weather!  I recognise just how privileged we are to be able to be out and about on our boat enjoying it.

Dog Owners

If it’s not me and it’s not you ……………… and it’s not them and it’s not us ……………… and it’s not him and it’s not her ……… then, who on earth is it who STILL, in this day and age, walks the tow paths with beloved pooches and does NOT clear up the smelly mess they inevitably leave behind them?

SURELY it’s not dog-owning boaters because, as boaters, we all know how absolutely disgusting it is when we inadvertently tread dog mess into our boats especially when that mess doesn’t even emanate from our own dog!

Well it isn’t me!  If I don’t bag and bin it I scoop and scatter it amongst a thick patch of brambles or nettles – somewhere where it can decompose in peace and not end up on the bottom of a human shoe.

So, what can we all do about this selfish behaviour of offenders – whoever they are?  It’s one thing walking the tow paths with a litter-picker and bagging bits of rubbish but quite another carrying a shovel and clearing away mess left by anonymous dogs.  Actually, the mountainous heaps I see all too often must be left by relatives of Hagrid’s “Fluffy” who are wandering about surreptitiously!  Ahh!  That must be it!  Of course!  It’s obvious now!   STRAYS!

Public Footpaths

We are back in Staffordshire and, as we have experienced before, we have encountered problems walking some of the lesser-used public rights of way.  Too often we have come across un-signed footpaths, a lack of way-markers, stiles over-grown with unfriendly vegetation and in  very poor states of repair and, not just unfriendly towards dogs – downright hostile!  One can’t help but feel that one is not wanted!

However, on it’s website, Staffordshire County Council has excellent information and guidance about using public rights of way.  Any problems can be reported.  SO BE IT!walking 003 (600x800)

Somehow or other we did manage to get over this – on the other side was a stream with a bit of a plank!

walking 005 (800x600)

                                                        Barbed wire just waiting to be grabbed or tear clothing.   This stile was wobbly too.                     

Sunday, 25 September 2011

As my dear old Dad would have said ……..

Anne and John, our really good friends from Staines, arranged to come and spend this weekend with us. They would have to be really good friends wouldn’t they to be prepared to undertake a three hour drive on a Friday evening?!! Now where, I wonder, would a good place be for them to meet us?  How about the lovely Audlem – at the bottom of the flight of locks?  Sensible eh?  As my dear old dad would have said, “Why have a dog and bark yourself?”!!  Winking smile

Anne & John 004 (800x600)

On Saturday, after a look around Audlem and a visit to the craft mill, (comfy chair supplied for husband to snooze in whilst wife peruses goods!) we set off up the flight and finally moored up for the night at the bottom of the Adderley locks.

On Sunday we went from Adderley to Market Drayton.  By the time we reAnne & John 008 (800x600)ached the top of the Adderley locks it was raining and, sheltering under a tree by the lock, was a very large PIG!!  She belongs to the farm and apparently often wanders off but returns in her own good time.  Next week’s sausages on the tow path?!!  Perish the thought!  There were also two escapee sheep!

Thank you for a lovely weekend you two – see you again at Christmas time!

Before we reached Audlem we spent a night at Hack Green and the sunset was fab-u-lous:-

What a lovely part of the country this is!Anne & John 001 (800x600)

Monday, 19 September 2011

Major Diversion

From Sheffield to Crawley via Chester?  Now that’s a major diversion but one, I’m pleased to say, that was taken by our friends Rosa and Richard.  Rosa is my best mate from college days – now a very long time ago!

HavinBeeston 2 006 (600x800)g taken their daughter, Jessamine, to begin her degree at Sheffield University, they came to find us.

We had got back to Beeston Castle and the Shady Oak pub.  Every year since we have been cruising around they have come to find us one way or another and it is always really good to see them. 

On Sunday the weather turned out to be better than anticipated so we all climbed up to the ruins of Beeston Castle now in the hands of English Heritage.  The views from inside the grounds are certainly panoramic – the brochure boasts that you can see eight different counties from up there.  My big bonus was that we had a good sighting of a pair of ravens. 

Beeston 2 003 (800x600)

Today, John and I stayed put!  We did a new walk for us – one which took us around Beeston Crag and up and around the Peckforton Hills.  We had a distant view of Peckforton Castle which is a bit of a charlatan really because it was built by the Victorians to look like a medieval castle.  Today it is a hotel and restaurant and you can have afternoon tea either for £14.00 or, for gourmets, £21.00!!  (per person)  I expect a three course meal for the latter!!

Beeston 2 002 (800x600)

                                                               The leaves on the trees are Beeston 2 010 (800x600)beginning to change colour – Autumn is definitely here.


Peckforton   Castle

Entrance                                        In amongst the hills.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

On the Tourist Trail

The final run down to the Ellesmere Basin can’t be said to be pretty because it goes through an area of both past and present industry – Stanlow Oil Refinery makes its presence known, there’s a timber yard, distribution centres, scrap metal yard, piles of old vehicles, lots and lots of electricity pylons and two motorways ……and that’s just for starters!  Interesting though.
For a small fee we organised to go through the three locks, which act as a sort of spread-out-type of staircase, and moor in the lower basin which is definitely in need of some attention but is preferable to mooring at the top.  Boaters beware – you need to make sure that the bottom lock is completely empty and the middle one only half full to ensure that you don’t end up with a flood!  The paddles of the middle lock are REALLY stiff!
Liverpool A 027 (800x600)

The  Waterways Museum is SO well worth a visit.  It’s full of things to see, read and hear and is really well presented.  All the old photographs are amazing.  I find aspects of social history particularly fascinating.  In the foreground of the museum site is The Manchester Ship Canal and in the background, The Mersey.

Today:- we have been to Liverpool.  Check out:-   We thought it was about time we took a ferry across the Mersey!  We took a 30 minute train ride to Woodside Ferry Terminal and, as we approached the ticket office, saw a sign telling us that there were to be no ferLiverpool A 036 (800x600)ries to Liverpool  today! What!  Why?  Because a Cruise Liner – the Queen Mary – was due to dock in Liverpool.  The ferries ruLiverpool J 027 (800x600)n regular River Explorer cruises which last for an hour but don’t dock everywhere so we did that and it was covered in the price of our day travel ticket.  LOTS of people were lining the banks both sides of the river waiting for the Queen Mary to arrive.  After our cruise, during which we had really good views of Liverpool’s waterfront, we joined the crowds and watched the ship come in being heralded by a fountain of water from an awaiting tug.  She is enormous!  The sun was shining and the Mersey so calm – what a result!
  Liverpool J 039 (800x600)       Liverpool J 056 (800x600)
We then got back on the train, went to Liverpool via the tunnel and saw her again berthed by the Royal Liver Building.  That whole area is par of a Heritage Site, lovely and was full of tourists all doing much the same as us.  We saw where narrow boats can now moor in Salthouse Dock close to Albert Dock.  Unfortunately we weren’t able to walk around the Albert Dock area together as dogs were not allowed in.  We walked all around the Cavern area and the main shopping area and were glad for the sit down on the return train journey!Liverpool J 048 (800x600)
What we saw of Liverpool we liked.  It was heaving with visitors and people were all so friendly and ready to helpLiverpool J 059 (800x600) with directions and general information.  The main areas were very clean and well kept.  I think it would be a good place for a city break as there are so many different things on offer to do.  Maybe one day we’ll get there in ‘Ellen’.
Liverpool A 067 (600x800)Liverpool A 073 (800x600)                             Liverpool A 040 (800x600)

All in all, what a nice way to mark the passing of another birthday – my **th!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Through Chester

Yesterday we set off from Christleton to get through Chester.  Between “The Cheshire Cat” at Christleton and Chester city centre there are 5 heavy, double locks.  No other boats were going our way so we just had to get on with it on our own!  Downstream paddles – 45 turns up (each!) and 45 turns down (each!).  Counting?  It helps to pass the time!We stopped off at Tesco’s to replenish stocks and then set off again to go down the formidable Northgate Staircase locks.  There are three of them and they have been hewn out of solid rock.  They are SO deep – lowering the canal by 33 feet and the connecting gates are enormous!  Just as we were ready to go into the middle lock another boat arrived at the top.  Typical!  However, there were 4 chaps on board and they helped me with the gates – just as well because I needed it!

We didn’t moor in the basin at the bottom (we plan to do that on the way back up) but carried on to bridge 130.  I had forgotten how nice the 1st part of this section of the canal is.  From bridge 130 it’s about 2 miles to a retail outlet called ‘Cheshire Oaks’.  Friend, Lynn, says it’s a very good outlet.  About half a mile away is Chester Zoo which is meant to be one of the top conservation zoos in the country.  Apparently, from here, if the wind is in the right direction, you can hear the monkeys!!

Today we are going to get to the basin at Ellesmere Port and go into the museum.  Can’t compete with the excitement going on over the other side of the world!  Where Meg is now looks absolutely beautiful and it’s obviously much warmer than it was in Buenis Aires!

Meg at the Iguzu Falls

Megan at the Iguazu Falls on the boarders of Argentina, Brazil and ParaMeg into Brazilguay.


                                                     Crossing the boarder.

not exactly a back-packer!

Not exactly a back-packer!       Florrie Island


                                                    Next ‘stop’ – Florianopolis….

Meg on the beach                                                                          On the beach near her apartment.

view from meg's apartment   View from her apartment.   Florianopolis


Now here is somewhere I would like to see!   …………………. maybe one day!!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Dreadful Wind but, for once, the Skipper had it Under Control!

We left Beeston this morning having removed vulnerable things from the roof and secured the cratch cover which wanted to behave like a windsock. 

The stretch Chester 004 (800x600)from Beeston to Waverton is very rural and there are some magnificent views of the Peckforton Hills.  Very few other boats were on the move!  In the vicinity of Golden Hook Farm we passed the longest line of moored boats we have yet to encounter – there were about 150 and 75 wind generators,  indicating that this area is frequently windy.  Today, they were whizzing!!

We didn’t go far – only 9 lock miles - which, in the windy conditions, was quite far enough!In the afternoon we cycled into Chester to have a good look around the city.  We have found that going on our bikes to get a feel of a place is really good because we can cover so much more ground than if we were walking.                                                                                                                                                                          

The City of Chester   If you’ve never been there you’re missing a gem …………….. and we’re not city fans.  Chester 006 (600x800)

Going inChester 007 (600x800) along the tow path soon reveals evidence of past industry – some lovely old architecture.  We passed a Victorian water tower, a tall chimney previously used to produce lead shot and various old warehouses now restored and used as pubs and clubs.  The ornate brickwork is beautiful.

The city itself …………. lovely!  There are so many black and white timbered buildings dating back to medieval times.  There are exclusive shops by the bucket load as well as all the major chain stores in, I think, two under-cover centres.  There are boat trips on the Dee, bus tours around the city and a circular walk to do around the old city walls.  There are Roman remains to see at the amphitheatre (where there were animal fights, gladiator fights and public executions!) and the cathedral to visit.


Chester 010 (800x600)               Chester 019 (800x600)              Chester 022 (800x600)

A tourist hot-spot!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Back on The Shroppie

We have left the Llangollen Canal and I can so understand why it is such a popular canal.  It travels through beautiful, rural scenery, lovely little towns and villages and has those special aqueducts which attract visitors in their thousands.  No wonder hirers of at least 15 different companies head that way!
We are now intending to go to Ellesmere Port - the end of the Shropshire Union.  The canal is wide and the double Beeston1 019 (800x600)locks very heavy.  We are back into the realm of noisy roads and railways – but not all the time!  For the weekend we are mooring up in view of the ruins of Beeston Castle.  The views from the top of the castle are fabulous.

Last time we were here we were told that peregrines nest in the crags – well, this time we saw them!

Beeston2 010 (640x480)
We also saw a special, new steam engine called “Tornado”.  It has been built to offer a main line passenger service and has a Tour Programme covering different parts of the country.  It just so happened that on 10th September it was running from London to Lichfield, then to Chester and back.  Apparently it has cost over 2 million pounds to make.  It is involved with fund raising for Help the Heroes.
Beeston2 002 (800x600)                   
The weather forecast for the weekend was dreadful – wind and rain and rain and wind – but today has not been as bad as expected so ………Beeston1 013 (800x600)…… what’s going on?

Maggie has hurt her leg (hopefully not too badly) and Maisie has been tantalising cows.
Can’t get me …..!!.”      

And Megan ……………. is now on her way to Brazil!!  She has decided to leave Buenos Aires and go back-packing instead!  My emotions can’t keep up and my hair should no longer be blonde – it should be white!!  She is travelling with two other girls to some special falls in a place called Puerto Iguazu (still in Argentina but only just) and then she continues on her own to a place in Brazil called Florianopolis.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

It must be me!

I have always been led to believe by other, more experienced boaters that, on the cut, there is a very definite protocol  (rules of behaviour for certain occasions), and etiquette (a conventional code of conduct) to which every boater should abide.

LOCKS                                                                                                                                                                                                       It has always been my understanding that, at locks, crews help each other!  I’ve always done this – I’m up there ‘doing my bit’ especially when I can see that there’s only a single person operating the lock.  Somehow or other I don’t seem to be re-paid equally!  The following example is, sadly, not uncommon:-

Coming up the Frankton Locks to re-join the Llangollen we were number 9 boat in the queue.  Whilst awaiting our turn I must have helped at least 4 boats up and 1 down.  Did anyone from boat number 10 come to help me?  Did they ‘ek as like!  There were at least three adults on board but they just sat on the back deck and watched.  So, I went through the procedure really slowly!!  They were very nice people – John had been chatting to them – so ………….?           Smile with tongue out                                                                    Protocol? Etiquette?  It must be me!

LIFT BRIDGES                                                                                                                                                                                 There’s quite a few of these on the Llangollen and, until today, I had operated every one not only for ourselves but for others too.  Today, at the first lift bridge, I operated it for a single-hander who obviously had no intention of helping out and muttered a barely audible ‘thank you’.  Next Lift Bridge – it was being wound up as we approached!  ‘Result’, I thought.  Surely the young lady on the bank would leave it up for us?  Oh yes, she left it up all right!  As the back of her boat passed through, she lobbed her windlass onto the back deck and then vaulted (quite dangerously I thought) back on board.  Unbelievable!  Without any expletives, the Skipper did give the crew of the hire boat (it just had to be didn’t it?) both barrels!  The people sitting in the cratch got the first barrel and the driver and the lift bridge operator got the second!  This left me, however, to grapple with the dense, over-hanging shrubbery and try to get off at the same spot from which she had got on.  Being over-aged, over-weight, with bad hips, dodgy knees and lacking the athletic prowess of Dame Kelly Holmes, I was none too pleased!  I thought that if you had raised a bridge to let your own boat through and another boat was either close behind or there was one approaching from the other direction you let them go through too before lowering the bridge?       Surprised smile                                                                 Protocol?  Etiquette?  It must be me!

PASSING MOORED BOATS                                                                                                                                                                 All boaters know that they should slow down when passing moored boats but …………… do they?  I think you know the answer!  Blood pressures rise.                   Steaming mad                                                                                                                                                               Protocol?  Etiquette?  It must be me!

This attitude of  “I’m all right, Jack” ( there are other examples)  has no place on the canal system.  You never know when you need someone’s help!

If I didn’t know better, I’d think I’d got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning!!

Saturday, 3 September 2011


Now I could be referring to that highly technical and essential bit of equipment used by the Skipper on a regular basis to check the level of diesel in our tank. (The Skipper uses a length of aluminium tube, the bottom section of which is marked in inch gradients; each inch represents 37 litres of diesel).  However, on this occasion, I’m actually referring to the Skipper himself who has, it seems, not been dipping his stick regularly enough!

This resulted in a dramatic ‘chug’ down the Prees Branch to Whixall Marina.  The situation was critical!  So critical that I had to hurry ahead to raise the two lift bridges in readiness so that no fuel was wasted in waiting around.  Once again on board, it was crucial that I stood at the front of the boat on the left-hand side to encourage the remaining dribbles of diesel to gather together in order to grace the fuel pipe.

YES!  We were running on vapour BUT ………….. we didn’t run out!

The Skipper said that he knew we were running low of fuel and we could have got some from Ellesmere Marina as we passed but £1.40 a litre and an enforced 60/40 split?  Lessons!  Lessons!

Talking of lessons ………….. Megan has achieved her aim and been awarded a Distinction in her TESOL qualification.  Her hard work has paid off.

SO ………… we are now moored on the pretty, peaceful Prees Branch and will stay here for the rest of the weekend.  We have a lovely mooring spot between the two lift bridges, the fire is alight, we have TV reception, phone reception, a reasonable internet connection, a good walk to do tomorrow and …………………. 6.27 inches on the dipstick!

Dipstick?  I rest my case.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Out and About

On reaching the end of the navigation at Maesbury Marsh we came across our friends Richard & Chris on Du Morvan!  We didn’t think we would see them again this year as they have organised a Winter mooring on the Whitchurch Arm and are very soon to go to their house in France.monty 2 006 (800x600)

Yesterday we got out the bikes and set off to see what progress has been made on The Monty since we were here three years ago.  The limit of navigation is exactly the same!  Volunteers are now actively encouraged by BW and there were lots working to restore the next stretch of canal but it is a slow old process. We cycled some of the towpath and, seeing the bed of the canal so overgrown and blocked by several very low road bridges, makes you realise what a mammoth task still remains in order to connect with the navigable section in Wales.

monty 2 015 (800x600)

This is a section leading up to the Vyrnwy Aqueduct.

The canal passes through some stunning scenery.

    monty 2 016 (800x600)    monty 2 011 (800x600)

Today we went to Oswestry and took the easy option.  We went on the bus!

The weather today has been beautiful – good old September!