Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The view from the Aqueduct is decidedly better than from the doghouse

Monday 16th May to Sunday 22nd May 2011

29 Miles, 10 Locks, 2 Tunnel, 2 Lift Bridges – for this week
Totals: 453 Miles, 414 Locks, 13 Tunnels, 10 Lift Bridge, 9 Swing Bridges

We continued our journey from very early Monday morning – we needed to moor up early next to Chirk railway station in order to catch the train to Wrexhem to pick up the laptop.
Diane can find a chocolate factory anywhere

Once we have a plan of what we need to achieve, we generally achieve it – with time to spare. I must say there is an inner feeling of being pleased with ones lot in life when we are waiting for the train knowing that we do not have to catch it to get to work – time is our own.

Into Wrexham once again; a bit of a chance to have a look around – it is quite a pretty place; visited through the markets – both outdoor and the indoor ones (3 in total).

Picked the laptop up (no charge), but forked out for the new printer/scanner and a new TV (the old one has decided not to let the DVD player do its thing). Not a heavy load to get back to Chirk. Enough time to cruise on up to the Froncysyllte Aqueduct (not the famous one).

Tuesday was do-it day – we were determined to complete the journey up to Llangollen – the current against you; narrow canal; shallow canal – there were any number of times that we thought we were actually going backwards – no headway being made at all.

Back home again

Eventually we got to the marina and (self congratulatory time) I managed to reverse the boat into the mooring perfectly – 2 minutes to tie up.

Concentration plus - reversing into the space behind at the right of the picture

Llangollen is such a pretty town but quickly you gain the knowledge that it is very much a tourist town also – the souvenirs; tourist train rides; canal rides; lovely walks – but very glad that we had made the journey to the end.

Horseshoe Falls - worth the walk to see the beauty of the area
We met a lovely couple on nb Longships – Helen and Michael, as well as their daughter Felicity – and sat outside on each day with them chatting as you do when you meet new people. On the second day a fellow wandering past asked me if I was off Gypsy Rover and commented that I couldn’t be getting much of a TV picture – I agreed, none at all – rotate the antenna by 90 degrees to fix it – the polarity from the transmitter on the hill (I could see the thing) was 90 degrees off. Fixed it – thanks Chris (off nb Go Fadalach).
48 hours was our lot there and we set off on Thursday – early as usual – feeling good that the "tide" would be going our way – through the narrows easily and onto Trevor for diesel (87p and self-declare) – we had only used 70 litres in 3 weeks – very happy with that.

Reversing back from the short arm to wind and face the Pontcysyllte we were caught by the wind coming straight over it and couldn’t get around for love nor money – eventually Diane jumped off the front and we were able to pull her around.

Waited a few minutes for the trough to clear and we were then off on the return journey over the famous structure – Diane at the tiller – standing on the port side is much less exposed to the drop on the other side – but she did well overcoming the feeling of being so close to the edge.

Just to prove that she has all of the skills - that is a 120' drop on the left

As with the travelling over it two days earlier the views are magnificent and it really is a marvellous piece of engineering skill and implementation (over 200 years old).

We had decided earlier in the trip that on the return leg we would head down the Montgomery for a look – I was apprehensive as I was not sure of the phone signal for work.

Down on Friday morning, so if there was a problem we could just spend the weekend there – shouldn’t have worried – almost perfect signal everywhere.

Went as far as Queen’s Head – pub was nice and large portions on Friday.

Then down to Maesbury Marsh as Sunday lunch had been highly recommended by Chris the lockkeeper at Frankton – it was nice, but we thought that we have had better value for money – didn’t stop us from enjoying the quality.

Making their home on a new section of watered canal
a good hiss returned to them was enough to allow us to walk past
We had arrived down here on Saturday and went for a walk to see how the canal restorations were proceeding – very well indeed – a lot of hard work has been put in.

the next section nearing completion -
so much work done - so much more still to do

a new bridge hole almost ready for rewatering

There is a wonderful little cafĂ© about 200 metres down from Bridge 79 on the towpath side where the hot chocolate is the best we have tasted and the scones are to die for – need to be quick as that is how they go – Canal Centre.

A very engaging Welsh fisherman

There really are decent sized fish in there

Watched the end of the Spanish Grand Prix – Webber 4th – disappointing after promising so much with pole); then watched Final Score (BBC1) for the final round in the Premier League – 14 changes of position on the table for the bottom teams trying to avoid relegation – all in 90 minutes – it was exciting stuff.

Match-of-the-Day to see all of the goals and of course to see United presented with the silverware (again) – sad that Chelsea had to sack Ancelotti – that really is the pits.

After a week off work to enjoy the sights it was back to work in the morning.

We did see one funny bit of information that came over twitter (on Monday), that I have to include here.

Our lovely son, Mitchell, adores his sister, Sam, so much and wanted to avoid her feeling bad, that he very kindly waited 4 days before he told her that the bread that she had made a sandwich with, was the same bread that our dog, Banjo, was seen nibbling on – he has found a way to jump up onto the kitchen counter.

My guess is that the doghouse is pretty full at the moment.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Creoso i Cymru

Land of our my Fathers my Mother-in-Law

Monday 9th May to Sunday 15th May 2011

29 Miles, 12 Locks, 1 Tunnel, 7 Lift Bridges – for this week
Totals: 424 Miles, 404 Locks, 11 Tunnels, 8 Lift Bridge, 9 Swing Bridges

The week didn’t start in the best way with Diane waking up on Monday morning with some terrible back pain – nothing new to her but debilitating – but as she has done usually she took her wonder drug pain killer and felt remarkably better – she needed to be as we had planned to get as far as Grindley Brook but moor below the locks.

Everything was fine until we hit Povey’s Lock and we were hit with a downpour which all but soaked us; we carried on to where we had planned but alas no signal for the phone – only course of action was to get through the 6 locks at Grindley Brook. A bit of a wait for the staircase but we were in and as soon as we were, we were hit with another storm – this time including hail; the temperature plummeted and the wind came up.

All in all we were glad to moor at the top, dry off and settle down – and a good signal – Diane and her back had come through a trying day.

Tuesday was a gentle cruising day and by lunch we decided that we had had enough and moored up at Whixall Moss – the weather came down immediately afterwards but we were content with our morning.

Diane’s scone making is definitely of a high standard and we delighted in the very nice afternoon tea, snug inside with our feet up.

Later in the afternoon we availed ourselves of the lovely area with a walk around – along the trails that had been set out to show the raised bogs of the region – apparently the third largest of such in England – it was an extremely enjoyable walk.

A woman on a mission - to pumpout or not (what are you talking about, of course we need it)
Next it was off to Ellesmere, but we were desperate for a pumpout – serious leg crossing was involved; reached the marina and emptied the tank and then around into the town arm and a very good mooring near the Tesco.

It also happened to be someone’s birthday and she has decided that the birthday count will commence a backward trajectory, so now we are counting down in years and she has just celebrated her 7th birthday (that would of course be the case if we counted in dog years).

A very lovely dinner at The Black Lion in Ellesmere, recommended to us by our new neighbour Owen aboard Guilt Free Indulgence.

It was apparent that this was a week of ups and owns – Thursday saw a serious glitch with her laptop again and we decided that we should go into Wrexham to the TechGuys and see about getting it back to operating condition again.

We found the bus timetables which involved a trip bigger than Burke and Wills crossing Australia from south to north – 2 buses, confusion with tickets and about 2 hours to travel probably 15 miles in total original distance to Wrexham.

We then needed an interpreter to help us get anywhere – all of the signs had some crazy language where someone had forgotten to buy a vowel, but with help from some kindly people we found the Techguys, who could help us; lunch next door at Frankie and Benny’s and back to the shop only to reach the conclusion that it probably needed to be completely wiped and start fully again – so we left the laptop there.

Now a trip back to the boat, this time the navigator suggested going by train and picking up a bus at Gobowen – sure said I – arriving at the station to get the tickets – there was that same language problem again and this time it was increased because the announcements were in “dalek” or “klingon” – certainly wasn’t recognisable. At least the lady doing the tickets spoke English and understood my predicament – I say mine as the apparent language was the mother tongue of “she who must be obeyed” even if she can now only count to ten in it.

I was pleased however to see that Wrexham had anticipated our arrival and were flying flags everywhere that included a picture of my mother-in-law on a lovely white and green background.

We had gone past the local University – I am sure that it was straight out of the Harry Potter novels – at least the name looked familiar.

Translate roughly to Griffindor University - Harry Potter et al
Back to the boat and a chance of a bit of a rest.

We continued to explore Ellesmere then away we had to after using the services at the junction – we cruised a bit and then moored up around lunchtime and set the antenna to allow us time to ready ourselves for the big match – Stoke let us down by failing to score and letting Citeh win the match, but we reconciled ourselves with the knowledge the Rooney’s 73rd minute penalty allowed United to reach 19 league titles.

The very beautiful "The Mere" (got to admire them - they have a way with naming things)
Sunday, was our day to move again through a couple of locks, helping two hire boats and explain to the crews how the locks work and what they need to do – I cannot understand how hire companies can afford to not do this themselves – they leave a boat worth thousands of pounds in the hands of inexperienced crew and wonder why there are problems.

New neighbours - everywhere surrounded by cows

But we made it to Chirk and assessed the best way to travel to Wrexham for tomorrow including a walk over the aqueduct before settling into the Poacher’s Pocket for a very enjoyable Sunday lunch.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

We are the CHAMPIONS (almost)

Monday 2nd May to Sunday 8th May 2011

16 Miles, 9 Locks, 1 Lift Bridge – for this week
Totals: 395 Miles, 392 Locks, 10 Tunnels, 1 Lift Bridge, 9 Swing Bridges

We had imagined a quiet week this past week, even though we had some plans, but in essence revolved around spending a bit of time in Nantwich, a day in Manchester and the start of the Llangollen canal.

Well that was the plan, and it started off very well with the cruise from Calvely to Nantwich; found a lovely mooring on the embankment within a very short walk of the services and around a bit from the boat yard.
on the approach to Nantwich lookout for the wooden horse - made from old lock gates

Popped over to the chandlery to pick up a few bits and pieces as they become needed along the way, and also to see if there was a TV repair shop in town.

We had had some problems getting the TV working – not just properly – but at all. It seems that when I was doing a wee bit of tidying up behind it to sort out the cords and clean up a bit, I must have forgotten exactly how these cords all connected back together between all of the bits of kit that we had – oh, as well as this we also had found out that someone fancied our satellite dish and nicked off with it – this was before we had arrived back.

So with the address of the TV shop (Nantwich TV Centre – Welsh Row) we walked off into town – about a kilometre in all but it was not all that hard – found the shop, spoke with the guy and arranged a time for him to come out. We continued on into town found an Aldi and completed the first half of the list that she had – couldn’t complete the second part as we would not have been able to get it all back – even with the trolley.

Whilst I was busy working a couple stopped on the towpath outside the boat – the towpath is a pebbelcrete path – no signs of any dirt/mud with grass on either side – a real pleasure to see. Anyway, the gentleman spoke through the window after he had recognised the boat and asked if we were the Aussies with the blog.

Dashing outside, we met Heather and Roger – a couple of Aussies from just a few miles from us in Melbourne – well a good 50-60kms at Warrandyte. They have a part share in a boat over here – Celtic Kiwi – and are here for the same time each year.

A pleasure to make your acquaintance and look forward to seeing you both again.

We repeated the shopping trip the following day – this time to Morrisons.

I have to say that Nantwich is a very pretty town – a lovely town square and church.
as pretty a town square as you are ever likely to see

the church in the square, dating from the 13th C - the lampost is early 20th

Our TV guy arrived at the appointed time – he had severe doubts about my change of career to a TV service person – I think that I managed to get the power plugs into the correct sockets but not much else.

Anyway within a few minutes he had everything working just a treat and explained to us how to set it up properly – we now have the opinion that with all of the digital/freeview channels and given that we don’t want to watch a great deal of TV that we can just make do with this and not have to worry about satellite.

He could have struggled a bit – but he just made it look too damn easy – the male ego took another battering.

Not long after he had left we then set off for a day trip to Manchester – this being 4th May. Off to the bus stop for the No 84 into Crewe, friendly bus driver dropped us off as close to the train station as he could – short kilometre walk to the station; then only a few minutes wait for the train into Manchester Piccadilly – out into Manchetser to do some shopping and off to Old Trafford and with over 74500 others we were there to see United win it 4-1 over Schalke 04 (6-1 on aggregate) and into the Champions League final.

We reversed the travelling and got back to the boat at about 1am – a very long day.

Thumper on the lookout for that extra ticket - he eventually gets in via Diane's handbag

....and the teams come out - this was the closest it was all night

Friday came and we were off from the moorings and heading towards Wales – firstly through the Hurlstone Locks (fenders up please) – the Lockie told us it was a very quiet morning – we were the fourth boat through for the whole morning – we cruised up and moored overnight at Ravensmoor – a walk through the fields only to find the pub was not open (12 to 3pm and 6:30 to 11pm) – 5pm would not do it !

On Saturday we cruised a bit further along to moor at Wenbury – complete with two pubs – both open all day; a small co-op/post office – stocked well enough.

We visited both pubs to decide on the which one we would patronise for Sunday lunch – The Cotton Arms won out as did we with a very full lunch – well cooked and overflowing on the plates; fire crackling in the background made for a very pleasant lunchtime – Diane made use of the wifi to chat to her sister Vivienne back in Sydney.

Rain came and went over the weekend in varying degrees of volume and the temperatures which had been quite warm a week ago have dissipated to low teens.

Lastly we “listened” to the United v Chelsea game on Sunday afternoon – again United came out winners – the perfect end to a very busy / very quiet week; had to watch Match of the Day on BBC2 to catch up on the match itself – the Champions have triumphed again – just 3 matches to go – Blackburn, Blackpool and Barcelona.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Boat Fitness and Hindsight

Monday 25th April to Sunday 1st May 2011

6 Miles, 6 Locks – for this week

Totals: 379 Miles, 383 Locks, 10 Tunnels, 9 Swing Bridges

The painting exercise is finished for a bit longer – both sides have had a coat of primer and two coats of colour from the blacking up to the gunnels and I must say it looks infinitely better than before.

But is does raise the question of Boat Fitness and how just a few months of living the easier life ashore can have such a detrimental effect on the body and make one so lacking in any fitness.

We are slowly re-acclimatising to the more physical parts of life aboard, not with any disinclination to wish to do so – it is just we would love to be able to do so without all of the soreness and pain that goes with it – the back and the knees are making the transition a little bit more grudgingly than the remainder of the body.

We also changed the back button for a larger one that ensured that there was clearance behind the rudder – this added to our aches and pains as we took a considerably longer time to remove and refit the buttons – Boat Fitness into question again.

Diane’s laptop decided that it didn’t want to play ball anymore and packed it in on Monday, so that meant a trip into Chester on Tuesday to see what was the problem and hopefully be able to have it repaired and back before we decided to depart the marina on Saturday.

We are very pleased to say that the good staff at PC World (in Curry’s in Chester) we not only able to identify the problem quickly but we had the troublesome miss back in our possession that very afternoon – so a very appreciative couple we were on the bus back to the boat.

We did put the time waiting for the laptop to good use – exploring Chester further and Diane found and purchased another narrowboat – not nearly in the same price bracket as the first one, but of endearing value to us – this will be shipped back to Australia.
a narrowboat teapot that we found in Chester
We have found Tattenhall Marina to be very good – the facilities are excellent and kept to a very high standard; the staff are very obliging and friendly in the process; we can recommend the Chester Marine workshop to anyone needing help – Mark and Lorraine have helped us immensely.

The only thing that we have had a problem with and it is more unique to us than most is that without a vehicle it is very limiting on what you can do – there is adequate transport into Chester via the bus and even into Tattenhall (by bus) but if you want to just walk to the pub (nearest is in Tattenhall) then you do take your life into your own hands walking on the road with the hedge-rows close to the road.

We tried our hand at using the public footpaths (rights-of-way) with mixed success – on the first occasion we successfully negotiated our way back to the towpath and thence back to the boat; but our second occasion was less than stunning.

Thinking that we could remove the road problem from the equation, Diane suggested (of course, I am blaming the management) that we try the footpath (marked by the walking man in the small square on the signpost) – through the fields we walked/trudged in the directions as given by the arrows, until we ran out of arrows – too far to walk back – we moved onward – how hard could it be to find the path – the pair of sheep didn’t bat an eyelid at our presence, but the herd of cows (and some bulls) seemed to resent our presence to the point that we very hurriedly backtracked to safer ground away from the rapidly approaching livestock.

Onward we went and found a wayout – very secretively and slowly we moved through some gates and over a fence which were part of the dairy and certainly not a public thoroughfare – and beyond this our reward was a road – never so happy to see a narrow road as this.

The navigator has resigned her commission and any thoughts on her part about veering away from the road are quickly dismissed and then ignored.

Introducing Thumper - a mascot from our daughter Samantha

As one is prone to do with a computer, we update the things with the programs that are recommended to us by the “nice” people at Windows – this was the case with mine and duly updated to IE9 – what a hopeless thing to do –  opened Internet Explorer and had to remove the update – a situation made comical by “her indoors” explaining to me that she had read on someone else’s blog that we should not up date to IE9 – horses bolting and gates that should be closed came quickly to mind - hindsight - such a wonderful afterthought.

After all of this we finally set our course on Saturday and farewelled our berth and moved out onto the cut – wind in our hair, sun in our eyes and looking forward to a bit of cruising and doing some locks – 6 miles and 6 locks in total.

Julie at the Davenport Arms with a cheeky Thumper
We had promised ourselves a lunch out for Sunday which we duly kept at The Tallemache Arms in Alphraham - excellent 3-course meal - I think that we only needed 2 courses, but each was very enjoyable.
After this we walked down to the Davenport Arms at Calvely for the football and a cleansing ale or three (unfortunately Man United lost) .
Did I mention about Boat Fitness?