Thursday, 19 June 2014

A Different Kind of Day

We are at Froncysllte.  The Trevor basin has been hijacked by Anglo Welsh!  We can’t go the final 4 miles into Llangollen because we are too deep drafted and, from past experience, we KNOW we would get stuck and shouted at!  In actual fact we’ve struggled to get from Chirk to here.  The bridge holes have been difficult to get through, we crept over the Chirk Aqueduct and thought we we going to come to a grinding halt in the Chirk Tunnel.  It was the closest I’ve come to legging!  John spoke to another boater who was very stressed as he said he started to go backwards in the tunnel!  He left his wife in charge of the tiller and pulled his boat through whilst being verbally abused by boaters behind!  Shame on them!  They should have got off and helped the poor man!  As a result he has refused to go any further.

So, we thought we would go into Llangollen by bus and have a day out on the steam train.  Yesterday we found the bus stop, studied the timetable and decided to make the supreme effort to get up the hill by 9am for the 9.04am bus.  We waited.  We waited patiently.  Time went by and still we waited.  After about 40 minutes a very lovely young local lady told us that they have cancelled that bus.  In fact, instead of buses going every hour as is on the timetable, they now only go every two hours – BUT no-one has changed the timetable displays!

Well, we got into Llangollen OK with plenty of time to organise our train tickets.  John couldn’t use his bus pass here in Wales but we were both given concessions.  OMG – it’s official.  I’m an OAP!  It was printed on my ticket!!  I’m going to campaign for the terminology ‘Senior Citizen’ to be used instead – it sounds so much more respectful!!!

The whole experience of going on the train was brilliant.  The atmosphere on the train and in and around the stations is wonderful.  The first carriage we were in just reminded me of Harry Potters first journey to Hogwarts.  AND ………………. the scenery of the Dee Valley!  Well, it’s just magnificent – the river, the hills ……………… fabulous.  There were lots of passengers – schoolchildren on a day out, members of Nantwich U3A on a day out and lots of others like us.

Llangollen Steam Train 021      Llangollen Steam Train 038 (640x480)      Llangollen Steam Train 050 (640x480)

Llangollen Steam Train 003      Llangollen Steam Train 031      Llangollen Steam Train 052

We got off at Carrog station and, at the recommendation of an obviously seasoned train traveller, we walked to The Grouse Inn for lunch.  What a location!

Llangollen Steam Train 019 (640x480)        Llangollen Steam Train 020 (640x480)

The Dee is a lovely river -

Llangollen Steam Train 042 (640x480)            Llangollen Steam Train 053 (640x480)

Lola was not the only dog on board – quite a few had paid their all day fare.  No other dog enjoyed the waters of The Dee as much as she did though.

Llangollen Steam Train 015 (640x480)

According to the bus timetable and the driver who had brought us, the last number 64 bus back was 5.05pm.  We waited.  We waited patiently.  Time went by and still we waited!  Then we panicked and got on the bus to Wrexham which took a different route via Trevor.  I guess we’ll never know if the last 64 of the day had been cancelled like the first!

Despite the bus service, a good day out.

Friday, 13 June 2014

The Montgomery Canal 2014

If it ever does becomes possible, a trip by narrow boat from Frankton Junction on the Llangollen to Newtown in mid Wales – a distance of 35miles – will definitely be scenically stunning.  When we hired our first canal boat 30 years ago I had my heart set on one day being able to do just that.  At the time I thought it a realistic ‘wish-list’ entry but 30 years later it’s still only possible to cruise 7 miles from Frankton Junction.

Monty 2014 003 (640x480)            Monty 2014 004 (640x480)

Walking from Maesbury to Gronwen Wharf, this is a taste of the scenery.

When we were last here, 3 years ago, restoration had reached Gronwen Wharf and things were well underway with the section from Redwith to Pryces Bridge.  That has now very recently been filled with water but if you chose to go to the end you would have to reverse back as there is no winding hole.

Monty 2014 002 (640x480)        Monty 2014 009 (480x640)        Monty 2014 010 (640x480)

The section of canal that has just been filled with water.  I think it took about 4 years to complete.

The next section to be restored goes as far as Crickheath where a winding hole is to be reinstated.  A development grant of £160,000 has been awarded for this and an application for a much larger amount of funding has been submitted.  That will leave another 2 miles before reaching the Welsh Border at Llanymynech and, according to the lock keeper, when that happens the Welsh Government has promised funding.  I think that’s what she said! 

Monty 2014 012 (480x640) (2)           Monty 2014 011 (480x640)         Monty 2014 014 (640x480)

The next section to be restored – Pyres Bridge to Crickheath.  It looks daunting!

Below -Lots of volunteer support is in evidence from a variety of waterway groups – motivation remains high.

Monty 2014 008 (640x480)          Monty 2014 013 (480x640)

Talking to ‘those-in-the-know’, the major obstacles to progress are:-

  • Funding.  No surprise there then – isn’t it always?
  • Conservation issues.  A lot of the canal has been designated SSSI status due to rare aquatic plants, insects and amphibians.  A great crested newt was caught in a bottle trap in the next section to be restored and, according to a local, that newt, for one reason and another, has cost the project £20,000!
  • Construction issues.  Some locks still need to be rebuilt (many have already been done) and there are several road crossings blocking navigation.  I think I read somewhere that the Vyrnwy Aqueduct is in good structural order.

There’s also the need to maintain the section that is navigable!  Talking to other boaters the consensus is that it’s too shallow in places (we’ve had a few ‘sticky’ moments!), very overgrown in places (we’ve had a couple of serious arguments with over-enthusiastic willows!) and there is a serious lack of places to moor.  Several boaters we talked to said they wouldn’t bother coming back and that’s a shame because it’s true when they say ‘use it or lose it’.  This time we’ve seen many more hire boats down here – they don’t tend to stay more than a night but at least they are utilising the navigable section and sampling the culinary delights of The Navigation Inn at Maesbury!  There is an 11 mile landlocked section between Ardleen and Berriew but apparently this is now badly affected by lack of boats, inadequate dredging and weed growth – ‘use it or lose it’!

So, for now the best way to explore the full length of the canal is to don walking boots and ruck sacks.  They say that, for walking enthusiasts, this is a perfect 3 day trip – a challenge then for my friends Rosa and Richard who are said enthusiasts.  Something to think about you two!!

Other ways to enjoy it is by canoe or going for a ride on the horse-drawn boat ‘Countess’.

Monty horsedrawn            monty canoeing

Me?  Like many others I’m sad that progress has been so slow but remain optimistic that I might just be awarded a very special 80th birthday present!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Ben and Megan will just have to hire a boat!  Ben can be Skipper for his old mum and dad and Meg can be chief lock wheeler.  They can recruit any other crew members they feel necessary!  xxoo