Clive & Melanie Morris - Narrowboat Folkies
|Posted by clivenmel on 3 September, 2011 at 10:50|
Well we have had a very busy August what with one thing and another, travelled quite a distance, met up with lots of old friends and family and seen some amazing sights! So I am afraid this could turn into War and Peace!
We left Market Drayton on Saturday August 6th and continued our journey up the Shroppie, and soon arrived at the Adderley flight of five locks. A new farm shop, which I had seen advertised in Drayton, has opened adjacent to Lock 1 selling bread, cakes, eggs etc and various meat products. I went over the lock gate to have a look at the produce and the farmer himself came to see what I wanted. The meat was in another building over near the farmhouse so I walked across the farmyard with him. On the way we passed a pile of plant pots and old white sinks. I asked him what he was doing with them and said he wanted to get rid of them. I said I would be delighted to take one of the sinks off his hands. So after I had stocked up on burgers, pork steaks and sausages we walked back to the boat and he asked me which sink I would like – I pointed to a nice Belfast sink, which I thought would be perfect. I went back to the boat and stowed the food away then we put the boat in the lock. The farmer appeared with a mini version of a JCB with the Belfast sink in the bucket, he lifted it over the hedge and deposited it on the bank, then he and Clive carried it over to the boat, which had now sunk down in the lock to a height where they could just step onto it and put the sink on the roof.
Now you may be asking yourself why on Earth I would want a Belfast sink on the boat and the answer is that I miss gardening and thought it would make a great veggie plot! Unfortunately it’s a bit late this year to plant much so I decided I would use it for the various herb plants which I have either bought or grown from seed and maybe plant some seeds to provide us with salad leaves for the next few weeks. All I needed now was some compost!
We reached the bottom of the Adderley flight and decided to call it a day and tackle the Audlem flight tomorrow. We didn’t want to rush down to Audlem as we intended to stay there a couple of days in order to go to the folk night at the Shroppie Fly on Monday.
Over the last three years, since moving onto the boat, I have been communicating by text only with an old school friend, ChristineThorpe. She and I were at junior school together, however she passed her 11 Plus (I didn’t!) and went off to Greenhead High School along with my good friend Lindsey Britton, who is now in New Zealand. She and Lindsey have been best friends all these years whereas I have had virtually no contact with Christine since. Well, she and her partner Andy have a narrowboat too and they spend as much time as possible on board. I have received many texts from Christine telling me where they are and asking where we are and up until now we have always been at opposite ends of the country! However about a week ago she texted me to say that they were travelling towards Audlem and would be staying for a few days as their boat would be having a service at the new marina there. I was absolutely delighted that as we too were heading up to Audlem we were finally going to meet.
So, on Sunday morning we set off down the flight and just before we reached Audlem itself Clive decided to pull in and walk down to see if there were any moorings near the pub. As he was walking past the Shroppie Fly a guy who was sitting at one of the outside tables said “Hey that’s Clive, I recognise him from the blog” it was Christine’s partner Andy! Clive had a quick chat with them and then after finding a mooring right opposite the pub he came back up the towpath to fetch the boat. We went down the last lock, moored up, had a quick wash and brush up then crossed over the lock gates to the pub and I finally got to speak to Christine in person! It was amazing to see her again after all these years, she’s hardly changed at all.
Andy, Christine and Clive
We spent a lovely afternoon with them then unfortunately Andy had to return to Manchester as he was working in the morning. Christine said she would see us again tomorrow and would come to the folk night, excellent!
We spent a pretty lazy day on Monday, had a walk up to the town to do a bit of shopping at the Co-op and then relaxed in the afternoon, Christine called in for a coffee and the guided tour of Lady Arwen then went back to her boat, Ceiriog. After dinner we put on our glad rags, grabbed the instruments and headed over the lock gates to the Shroppie Fly. Christine turned up a short time later and before long people started arriving carrying various instrument cases. We recognised several of the musicians from our previous visits to theShroppie Fly folk night. There was a fiddler, a couple of guys playing whistles and recorders, a hurdy gurdy man, a lady playing an electric keyboard and a couple of accordion players. One gentleman whom we have seen there before plays a fascinating instrument called a Psalter, which sounds lovely. There were also several singers and guitar players.
A Psalter (which needs dusting!)
We had a great evening both listening to the others and playing and singing ourselves, Christine seemed to enjoy it too. It’s a bit of a free for all, there is no organisation to the evening at all, you just have to wait for a gap then dive in with a tune or a song before somebody else starts! The nice thing is that everybody joins in if they know a song or tune, I sang John Denver’s “Country Roads” and it was lovely singing with the backing of all the various instruments and people joining in with the choruses too.
In full swing!
All good things come to an end and we finally said goodnight to everyone and headed back to the boat, having arranged to see Christine in the morning to have the guided tour of Ceiriog before heading off once more.
Tuesday 9th August - after breakfast we set off down the towpath to where Ceiriog was moored. We actually met Christine on the way down, she thought we had got lost! It’s always nice to go aboard other people’s boats and see how they are fitted out, they are all so different. It’s amazing how just using different materials, designs and layouts can make vessels of more or less the same dimensions look totally different! Ceiriog is a lovely boat but it was custom made for a single man who occasionally had a single visitor so it has two single bunks and no fixed double, Christine and Andy are currently making do with a double airbed in the saloon until they can decide how best to redesign the boat to accommodate a double bunk.
It was time to move on again – Christine came back up to the boat with us and then helped me with the last three locks on the way back down. We also wanted to visit George. George is a very enterprising gentleman. He has opened a farm shop adjacent to the bottom lock of the Audlem Flight selling fresh veg, eggs, fruit and meat. Not only that though, he has made use of the strip of land along the side of the lock where he grows fresh veggies, its wonderful! Christine got to know of him whilst Ceiriog was moored in the marina last winter. I stocked up on yet more fresh produce whilst Lady Arwen was going down in the lock! Christine stayed on board with us until we cruised past the new marina where we dropped her off, she was going to have lunch in the marina cafe. Before parting she said that as her car was parked at the Shroppie Fly she would be delighted to take us shopping if there was anything we needed. There was – some wood to make a couple of batons to support the sink on the roof and some potting compost! So we made arrangements that she would drive over to Nantwich the following day and take us to B & Q, brilliant!
We resumed our journey and by the end of the day were moored up in Nantwich. Now Christine isn’t the only school friend we met up with this week, you may remember from previous blogs that one of my oldest friends Heather Welch (was Martin) lives in Nantwich with her husband Les and two daughters, Emily and Lucy. We have met up with them several times now when passing through the area and I had let her know we would be in Nantwich soon. I contacted her when we arrived and it was arranged that she and Les would come and collect us and a Chinese take-way and take us back to their house for the evening. We had a lovely time, it was great to see them again and catch up on all the news. We also got to meet the new addition to their family, Teddy, an extremely cute, fluffy Shitzu!
Christine duly arrived the next afternoon and we headed off in search of a B&Q only to discover that there isn’t one in Nantwich, we had to drive to Crewe! We found the timber section and inspected all the different kinds of wood that were available and finally settled on a piece of treated 2” x 2” – perfect! We asked a couple of young men from the timber department if there was a wood cutting service available, there certainly is they said but unfortunately we can’t cut treated wood! The reason for this was – guess what – Health and Safety Rules! Treated wood evidently gives off fumes when cut with a power saw so they can’t do it. Clive asked if they could cut it with a hand saw – the answer was no, it’s against H & S rules to use a hand saw, too dangerous! Oh boy, what is the world coming to!! We managed to get the whole piece of wood into Christine’s car through the back door and through the seats with one end in the footwell and the other just shy of the roof in the back! We also bought a bag of compost, which we put in the boot. When we got back we extricated the piece of wood ok but the compost bag had split and spilled compost all over Christine’s boot! She was very gracious about it and said not to worry. We were very grateful to her indeed for coming and taking us shopping, especially considering she didn’t manage to get the only thing she actually wanted, which was car headlight bulbs for the interior lights on her boat! This will not be the last we see of Christine as she and Andy are planning to overwinter Ceiriog in or near Huddersfield and as we are doing the same we will most likely bump into them again.
As soon as we got back to the boat I stripped the bed and put all the laundry into bags and headed down the towpath to the marina where there is the best launderette on the canal system in my opinion! I managed to get all the laundry washed, dried and back on the boat in two hours – brilliant! When I got back to the boat Clive had taken his life in his hands and despite the danger had managed to saw up the wood we had bought at B & Q and the sink was now sitting proudly on the roof on its new batons.
As soon as the laundry was stowed away and the bed remade I got on with the dinner. We had to eat early because we were going out again! Heather and Les came and picked us up and we headed off to Crewe, for the second time in one day! We were off to the cinema to see the second part of Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows in 3D! It was an awesome movie but its a bit sad knowing it is the very end of a brilliant saga. We were a bit cross though that the movie makers can’t all seem to agree on the 3D process. We have two sets of 3D glasses now from two different movies but we couldn’t use either of them to see the Harry Potter movie, they didn’t work! We had to collect another set as we went in but these we gladly returned on the way out as they were horrible! Heather and Les dropped us off back at the boat and we said goodbye but promised we would be in touch again before leaving the district.
On the morning of Thursday August 11th we left Nantwich and headed off once more to prepare for our next visitors! Clive’s sister Carol and her husband Ivan were coming to stay with us for the weekend and we had arranged to meet them at The Shady Oak pub, which is not far from Beeston Castle. We managed to moor up just a short walk along the towpath from the pub. Carol and Ivan arrived the following evening, it was great to see them again. On the Saturday morning we took them for a cruise up the canal to the Tattenhall Marina as we needed a pump-out, then we turned around and cruised back to the Shady Oak. After lunch we went for a walk up to the castle, which was about a mile away. It wasn’t a particularly nice day but at least it wasn’t raining!
We walked up the towpath then through a gate onto a footpath which took us under the railway line, through a field full of cows and finally onto the road up to the castle. I was very glad I had taken my hiking poles, which I had acquired in New Zealand, they were very useful on the climb up to the castle! The views from the castle are absolutely awesome, you can actually see five counties from up there. We could see all the way to Ellesmere Port to the North and Jodderel Bank RadioTelescope to the South East.
Jodrel Bank in the distance
We went for a coffee at a little café run by an elderly couple just opposite the castle gates. Well we had quite a giggle I can tell you. There were quite a few people sitting outside the café (it had brightened up a bit by now) waiting for their orders. When we placed ours there were two cups of tea sitting on the counter, they were still there after several minutes! The female half of the partnership was a wee bit yonderley and couldn’t seem to retain a memory for very long and kept getting the orders wrong, she reminded Carol of Mrs Overall from the TV sitcom! We finally got our drinks and then overheard the people on the next table muttering about not having got their cups of tea yet – these must have been the two cups still sitting on the counter in the café!
After our refreshment we headed back across the fields to where Lady Arwen was moored back at The Shady Oak. We had managed to spot her from the top of the castle mound, you can just make out the pramhood canopy behind the hedge!
Spot Lady Arwen!
We went over to The Shady Oak for dinner that evening and very nice it was too. The next day, before Carol and Ivan left to return to Huddersfield, we had a lovely Sunday dinner on board. I cooked the gorgeous pork steaks which I had bought from the farmer at the top of the Adderley flight along with fresh veg that Carol and Ivan had brought with them, it was yummy! We then said our goodbyes but it won’t be long before we see them again as we will be in Huddersfield for a family gathering on September 10th.
Monday 15th August – we left The Shady Oak behind and had a very pleasant cruise. We stopped off in the village of Egg Bridge to get a few provisions from the local shop then a short while later moored up at The Cheshire Cat pub at Christleton.
Tuesday 16th August – For the last few years Clive has been researching his family tree. He had done so well with his mother’s side of the family that he decided to make his tree public on Ancestry.com. A short while after it was published he got an email via Ancestry from a gentleman called David Fuller who thought he and Clive might be related. They are - it turns out that Clive’s maternal grandfather William Fuller and David’s paternal grandfather Arthur Fuller were brothers! Not only that but William and Arthur married two sisters, Fanny and Mary Elizabeth (Polly) Meakin respectively. So Clive and David are actually related twice! David lives near Chester so as we were in the district we arranged to meet him and his wife Nan at The Cheshire Cat this afternoon – Clive was really looking forward to it!
We walked down the towpath to the pub and I said to Clive that we ought to have arranged for each of them to wear a red carnation or something so that they would recognise each other! It wasn’t necessary, as we went through the gap in the hedge into the pub car park a couple were just getting out of their car and the man saw us and said “Clive?” It was them. We had a lovely afternoon, David had brought some photos to show us, which were very interesting indeed. I was actually surprised to find that Clive and David don’t look more alike, considering they share the same gene pool but they don’t do they?
Second cousins - David and Clive
We finally said goodbye to David and Nan but we are going to see them again very soon. I mentioned earlier that we were going to Huddersfield for a family gathering, well Clive’s cousin Deborah has arranged for a reunion of the Fuller and Meakin families (Deborah’s mum Ruby was Clive’s mum’s sister). So far there are about 30 people coming, it should be quite an afternoon. When Clive told David about it and asked if he would like to come he was delighted, in fact he is going to bring his 87 year old mum as well so it should be interesting for Clive’s mum to meet her as she does actually have memories of David’s father when he was a young man. We are really looking forward to seeing everybody again and meeting some of the younger generation for the first time. David has very kindly offered to collect us from the boat and give us a lift to Huddersfield on the day.
In the morning we headed off once more and it wasn’t long before we arrived in Chester. We moored up very close to the city centre, right opposite the Bingo hall! We could actually hear the caller calling the numbers out! We did however spend a very peaceful night there, apart from the sound of the busy road that crossed the canal just behind us. The next day after breakfast we went shopping at a Tesco store which was a very short walk from the boat then after stowing away all the shopping we headed into Chester itself to do a bit of sightseeing. Chester is a lovely old city steeped in history and still has a lot of evidence of the Romans who lived there centuries ago. The centre itself is lovely, full of old Tudor style buildings and it also boasts a very high calibre of buskers, a bit like Cambridge does. There were two elderly gentlemen performing some awesome jazz, an accomplished flautist playing to a backing track and also a guy on a keyboard accompanied by the most fantastic violinist playing beautiful tunes like Memories and My Heart Will Go On!
We did a bit of shopping, Clive needed new trousers. I needed to talk to somebody about mobile phones as I'm due for an upgrade but also considering changing to a different provider so we went into the Carphone Warehouse and a young man called Martin was extremely helpful and gave me lots of advice about different providers and smart phones – my heads buzzing now, I still don’t know what to do!
After that we walked through the Roman Gardens and looked at the remains of a villa showing the original underfloor heating design or hypocaust system.
Original underfloor heating system!
We walked right down to the river and stopped at a café for a snack. There weren’t any free tables so when I spotted a gentleman in biker’s leathers sitting on his own I asked if we could join him, he said yes. Clive had noticed a beautiful old bike parked near the café and had gone to look at it, when he came and sat down he got chatting to the biker and it turned out it was his bike that Clive had been admiring, a fully restored 1970’s Triumph Bonneville!
He informed us that he now lives in Valencia, Spain and had just ridden from there to Chester over the last few days to visit his daughter. He said it had been an awesome ride and the bike had behaved absolutely beautifully. Clive was entranced!
After our snack we set off in search of the Roman amphitheatre, it didn’t take us long to find it, not that there is very much left! However it was great to see it, I didn’t even know there was one in Chester! Clive insisted on taking my photo on the tethering stone!
Here I am wondering if the Romans left any gladiators or lions behind!
All in all we had a very pleasant stay in Chester and I suspect we will come back here again one of these days. On Friday morning it was time to leave so we turned the boat around and headed back up the canal and moored again at The Cheshire Cat. Then the next day we cruised up to Barbridge Junction, which isn’t far from Nantwich. I phoned Heather on the way and asked if she and Les could join us on the boat for a meal that evening, they said yes. We had a lovely evening, it was really nice to be able to reciprocate the hospitality that Heather and Les have shown us on several occasions, not least New Years Eve 2010! There was only one thing to marr the evening, during the meal Clive had noticed something but kept quiet about it. I actually sort of noticed it myself but in the dim light couldn’t be certain of what I had seen and then I forgot about it. However when Heather and Les had gone Clive told me – the garnet was missing from his engagement ring! The ring was empty on his little finger – we were both gutted. We searched the boat from end to end but there was no sign of the stone. The other problem is that he can’t get the ring off!!
Every time we have cruised up or down the Shroppie we have passed the end of the Llangollen Canal but up to press, for one reason or another, we have never turned up this much renowned stretch of canal so we decided to take the opportunity of doing it as we were so close. Therefore on Saturday morning, August 20th we headed down to the junction, turned right and came to a dead stop - there was a queue for the locks! There were four boats waiting to go up the Hurleston flight of four single locks and only one boat coming down so it took quite a while but finally we made it.
The Llangollen is probably the most popular canal on the whole of the system, it is certainly very, very busy! There is a constant stream of holiday hire boats heading in both directions and bear in mind some of the people on board have just taken on a 65’ boat without a clue or any previous experience on a boat – quite scary! It makes for some exciting encounters at narrow bridges I can tell you, its not easy doing an emergency stop in one of these things! However so far we have escaped unscathed if a little ruffled round the edges. As we have been cruising along we have come to understand why it is so popular. The countryside through which it weaves its way is absolutely stunning. There are some stretches of the waterway where we have to slow right down to pass moored residential boats, this can be a bit tedious, especially when there are boats moored for almost a mile but you just can’t go quickly because the wash the boat creates really buffets the moored boats and can at the worst rip out mooring pins and set boats adrift so one just has to be courteous so as not to upset fellow boaters. Some of them can be a bit grumpy, others are very pleasant and give you a wave and some are just downright cute!
One of the obstacles we had to negotiate on our travels along the Llangollen was the Grindley Brook staircase lock flight. Now we have done staircase locks before such as the Watford flight and of course the Foxton flight but this one was different! The ones we have done before had a special system of red and white paddles, the red to be opened first, always! They also had holding ponds adjacent to the flight to transfer the water for the locks. Grindley Brook is different, there are three locks all joined together but no holding ponds and only normal paddles on each gate. The procedure for going up this flight is to first ensure that the top and middle locks are full and the bottom lock empty. You enter the bottom lock and open the paddles, the lock then fills from the middle lock until the water levels are equalised and you can move up into the next lock, open the paddles and the middle lock fills from top lock and you move up again then finally fill the top lock and your done! As the canal is so busy for most of the summer there is a lock keeper on hand to ensure it all runs smoothly. He allows three boats to go up the flight, one after the other, then lets three come down and so on all day. A fellow boater asked him how long he does it for, his reply was “May to October then I go into rehab to prepare for the next season”!
Rather dishy lockkeeper!
We had to queue for about an hour as there were five boats in front of us and three coming down as well. It gave me chance to nip into the little shop adjacent to the flight and pick up a few bits and bobs, including a second hand paperback for a pound for Clive and two bottlesof Dandelion and Burdock for me – yummy!
Finally we were at the top and on our way again. We cruised on for a while longer then found a lovely mooring in a beautifully rural spot which was very peaceful and quiet except when a tractor went across the bridge just in front of the boat! I went to secure the bow rope whilst Clive dealt with the stern when I heard a whoop of delight from him, I rushed back to see what he was so excited about. Unbelievably, in fact miraculously he had found the garnet from his ring – it was just sitting right on the stern of the boat! We couldn’t believe it, how on Earth it had managed to remain where it was without falling into the water we will never know, it was near to the stern cleat so Clive presumes it must have fallen out of the ring as he was securing the rope a few days earlier. We are both absolutely delighted and relieved that it has been found. Mind you we still have to get the ring off his finger somehow because it will need to go to a jewellers to have the stone refitted as a couple of the claws have gone!
The garnet from Clive's ring on the back of the boat, only inches from the edge!
Once we were moored in this delightful spot I decided it was the perfect opportunity to plant up The Sink! First problem – how to get onto the roof! Clive came up with the solution and got our gangplank/ladder off the roof and placed it at the side of the boat so I could just climb up, brilliant. He passed the bag of compost up to me and brought all the plants down from the stern and then helped me to fill the sink with the compost.
At one sideI planted all the herbs that I have had growing in a variety of pots and at the other side I sowed some land cress and salad leaf seeds. I stretched some cling film over this side of the sink to protect the seeds until they have germinated. I really enjoyed my afternoon gardening!
Herb and salad garden
Tuesday August 23rd – When we were on our travels in New Zealand we went up to the Bay of Islands to a lovely town called Russell. We met an English couple sitting on the beach there who spend six months in NZ every year touring in their campervan and the other six months cruising the British waterways in their traditional narrowboat, Duke. Imagine my surprise today as we were cruising along the Llangollen when a boat passed us going the other way, it was Duke! I called out to the couple on the stern as we were passing and reminded them of where we last met, they remembered!
Duke disappearing down the cut!
How incredible is that - complete strangers meeting twice in the same year on opposite sides of the planet! Just the simple fact that we were in the same two places at the very same time – what must the odds be?
After all that excitement we settled down to enjoy cruising through some beautiful scenery as we passed by the Mere’s, of which there are several. The one in the photograph is Blake Mere. The canal and mere are separated by little more than the towpath!
We eventually arrived at Ellesmere and managed to just squeeze into a spot at the Wharf very conveniently adjacent to Tesco! So without more ado we grabbed the shopping bags and went to stock up the cupboards. The following morning we headed off again and finally moored up at a pub called The Narrowboat Inn which is on the A495 to Oswestry. There was a good reason for being here, we had decided to take a trip into Oswestry to visit the Patrick James Eggle guitar factory where Clive’s beautiful guitar was made.
The next afternoon we got a taxi to the factory. When we arrived we were welcomed by Rab. Clive had brought his guitar with him in order to have it checked over and serviced if necessary so Rab gave it a once over and said that it was in remarkable condition considering it is now three and a half years old and more to the point lives on a narrowboat! He had expected a bit of movement but there was none, he gave it a clean bill of health.
Rab giving Clive's guitar a check up
Rab then called the luthier himself, Mr Patrick James Eggle, who came down to reception to meet us and then he took us on a guided tour of the factory, which was fascinating! We told Patrick that we actually have a mutual friend. Patrick used to live in Harpenden and his old next door neighbours were our very goodfriends Jim and Jean Hysom and their sons Malcolm, Colin and Iain. He was delighted to hear how they were all getting on and asked us to pass on his very best wishes to them all.
Patrick James Eggle and Clive with his guitar
We had a really great time at the Eggle factory, it was absolutely fascinating seeing how guitars are made and getting to meet Patrick as well put the icing on the cake.
The next morning we resumed our journey and what an exciting journey it was going to be! The Llangollen Canal is not popular just because the scenery is beautiful, its popularity is mainly because of an incredible feat of engineering by Thomas Telford, the Pontcysyllte (pron. Pon-cus-hulta sort of!) Aqueduct. This awesome aqueduct, which has recently been given World Heritage Status, brings people from far and near to see and to cross it, either on foot or by boat. However, it is not the only amazing aqueduct on the Llangollen, there is another one which you come to first, The Chirk aqueduct, which is also flanked by an equally magnificent railway viaduct. We arrived at the Chirk and I jumped off the boat to get some photos as she was making her way across.
Crossing the Chirk Aqueduct
Immediately after the aqueduct is the 459 yard long Chirk Tunnel, we had to wait before going through as it is only wide enough for a single craft and there was one coming the other way, in fact we thought there were two coming as we could see two headlights but one of them turned out to be a man on a bicycle coming along the tunnel towpath! We got through the tunnel and as we were cruising along I spotted the “big one” through the gap in the trees!
The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in the distance
Now I have to confess I was getting quite nervous at the thought of crossing the PA, I have seen pictures and heard people talking and I know that there is a towpath along one side of this amazing structure but on the other there is nothing, absolutely NOTHING! Well, there is the edge of the iron trough that carries the water, the edge being approximately six inches wide – six inches between me and the void! We finally arrived and all my fears were realised!
The six inch wide edge!
Did I say nervous, I was absolutely terrified! I had to take photographs when all I really wanted to do was rush inside and put my head under a cushion so I couldn’t see! Instead I got off the boat and took some photos from the safety of the towpath!
Crossing the Big One!
Then I plucked up the courage to jump back on again and take some more photos from theboat but I had to ask Clive to hold on to me, just for reassurance. I must say it felt as if we were flying, I would have liked to have fastened the canvas dodger shut to give me a vestige of safety but when all said and done it would have spoiled the view!
I asked Clive if it bothered him at all, he said that he had a slight leaden feeling in his stomach but having done mountain climbing in his youth he has been at much greater heights than the mere 127 feet of the aqueduct and without a boat beneath his feet! Still it made me feel better just knowing he had felt that slight twinge!
Our brave pilot!
Finally we arrived safely at the other side – phew! Then we had to find a mooring where we could stay for 48 hours or more. At first it didn’t look very promising as there were an awful lot of boats around, however there is a little arm the peters away to nothing and we managed to find a spot just big enough to squeeze Lady Arwen into but Clive had to swing the boat around first and reverse in!
Once we were settled in one of our neighbours came to pay us a visit, didn’t bother with the door just jumped in through the window and demanded afternoon tea! Clive being the softy he is couldn’t resist!
I had to produce a saucer of milk as well! This cute kitty was actually one of several plus a dog that lived on the boat moored behind us. They also had a tiny tabby kitten needing a home but we managed to restrain ourselves – I actually thought Clive was going to give in after his response to the black cat but he said that was because it felt thin and he just had to give it something to eat, bless!
We were staying put to prepare for our next visitors! Vicki and Ben were coming to stay with us on Friday night and in the morning we planned to take them for a cruise over the aqueduct and back – perhaps I could just go shopping or something!
They arrived in very good time, despite the Bank Holiday rush. They left Cambridge just after 6pm and were with us just after 9pm, not bad going at all. We all tucked into Butter Chicken and stir fried veg and sat up chatting till midnight! Needless to say we didn’t get up early the next morning! We should have done really because by the time we were all up, dressed and breakfasted it was nearly 11.00am! We had promised that we would take them for a cruise but there just wasn’t time to go very far so we decided to take them over the aqueduct and back and just as we were setting off it started raining! Out came the umbrella and waterproofs and at one point, in the middle of the aqueduct, the wind was blowing quite strongly and I was worried that Vicki was going to do a Mary Poppins and go flying off the boat! Fortunately Ben was holding her tight so she stayed put.
We reached the far end of the aqueduct and turned around ready to come back but had to wait as there was another boat coming across. It gave me time to fish out some coats for Vicki and Ben as they had left theirs in the car! Ben managed to squeeze into my Berghaus (he's a big guy!) and Vicki put on my cosy winter coat, which looked huge on her. They might look a bit comical but they did at least keep dry!
Coats! One too tight and one too big!
When we got back to the basin we were very glad to see that our mooring space was still available and Clive very deftly did a three point turn and reversed back into our spot, then we all went to the pub for lunch! All too soon it was time for Vicki and Ben to leave for the drive to Huddersfield. They’re off to visit the rellies! All being well we will be seeing them again in a few weeks time as Clive and I will be nipping down to Cambridge for a couple of days and have booked bed and breakfast at their house!
When we got back after lunch we found that we had a neighbour, a very close neighbour, a boat was moored alongside us! Not a problem as we do have a sticker in the window saying other boats are welcome to moor alongside if moorings are in short supply.
Lady Arwen doubled moored
We had contemplated cruising to Llangollen that afternoon but the weather just couldn’t seem to make its mind up, one minute it was pouring with rain and the next blue sky and hot sunshine, so we decided to wait till the morning!
Sunday August 28th – It was a beautiful morning when we woke up so we upped sticks and headed off for Llangollen. It was a wonderful cruise through some stunning scenery. We spotted this ancient edifice high up on a hilltop, it reminded us of Weathertop from Lord of the Rings!
Now we had been warned by several people about the Llangollen Canal and its narrows. I had taken the precaution of charging up the walkie-talkies ready for these single width stretches and was very glad I had. There are three single working stretches and it means someone walking up ahead several hundred yards to be able to see whether there is anyone coming the other way as boats cannot pass on this section. The people who don’t have a communication aid have to run back and wave frantically at their boats to give them instructions, I simply pressed a button and spoke to Clive to give him the heads up on the situation, much easier. All the same it made for an interesting morning’s cruise!
At one point, whilst waiting for a boat to come through one of the narrows before we could head in, we were looking at the wonderful views, the countryside around here is really beautiful.
Finally we arrived at the moorings in Llangollen and as soon as we were securely moored Clive nipped along to the BW office to pay the mooring fee. Under normal circumstances mooring along the canals is totally free of charge but here in Llangollen they charge £6 per night but for that you also get a free electric hook-up and a water point adjacent to the boat. So whilst Clive went off to pay I dug out our electric hook-up cable and plugged it into the post – nothing happened! At first I thought I had done something wrong but when Clive got back he checked it and it definitely wasn’t working! I walked down to the office and told the BW guy, he was a bit dubious and said it might be our cable or something wrong with the boat electrics. Clive also put up the TV aerial as it was a Grand Prix weekend and he really wanted to watch the race but that wasn’t to be either, there was absolutely no TV signal whatsoever, not even a blip! So a bit disappointed we took down the aerial, unplugged and stowed the electric cable away again and went off to explore Llangollen.
We arrived on the main street and it was absolutely teeming with people! It was really, really busy, there again it was a Bank Holiday weekend!
Llangollen on a Bank Holiday weekend!
We spotted a hotel offering food and Sky Sports and I suggested we nip in and ask if they were screening the Grand Prix – they were! Excellent – Clive was delighted. So we got a couple of drinks and then headed upstairs where there was a big screen and the Grand Prix was just about to get underway. We had a snack whilst we were watching too. When the GP was over we set off to explore the town itself. It is a lovely place on the banks of the River Dee. Then we heard a sound from a bygone age, the toot of steam train and then the chuff chuff as it set off. We looked over the bridge and there it was below us. We could smell the coaly smoke too and it whisked us back to memories of our childhood watching the steam trains at Huddersfield Station!
We wandered around the town and into some of the many gift shops, there was a real holiday feel about the place, it was lovely. We also knew that there was a launderette in Llangollen so we went to find it, it was a bit of a trek from the boat but we were in desperate need of one so it just had to be done, it being Sunday though it was closed. So the next morning we were up bright and early, stripped our bed and all the bedding for the spare bed too, sorted all our clothes into lights and darks and were just about to head off to the launderette when I had a horrible thought – its Bank Holiday Monday! It hadn’t occurred to me at all that it might be closed until that moment! So Clive said he would walk up to the launderette and see whether or not it was open. It wasn’t as it turned out so we decided to spend another day in Llangollen and get the laundry done on Tuesday morning instead. We also decided to move the boat down into Llangollen Basin and moor there. The basin is amazing. It is all provided by British Waterways and is just like a marina, there are pontoons all around the edge and each one has an electric post with a water point and a light on top. When we were moored up I suggested we try the hook-up again – it worked! So, it wasn’t our cable nor the boat electrics that were at fault but the post at the other mooring! Clive had to go and pay for another night’s mooring so he informed the BW guy who was on duty that the post needed checking. On his way back he spotted one of the trip boats just setting off along the canal but this one was rather special, it was horse drawn! So he nipped back for the camera and went to get a photo. What with steam trains and horse drawn boats it was like stepping back in time!
Horse drawn boat
We were intending to go back into town again but the weather wasn’t nice at all and it was quite cool too, so we just stayed on board and had a relaxing day. That evening Clive lit the stovefor the first time this year, I was very glad that he had as it was really quite chilly!
The following morning we were up and off to the launderette. We had quite a lot of laundry to carry and split it up into four bags. Unfortunately the basin was a much longer walk into the town than the previous mooring and I was very glad when we finally reached the launderette! However within a couple of hours it was all done and we were back on board and ready to set off again. We had a quick sandwich and a cuppa then headed off once more to tackle the narrows. Fortunately things had calmed down a lot after the weekend and we didn’t have to wait long for our turn and then it was all plain sailing. We finally moored up just before the entrance to the Whitehouse Tunnel – that could wait until morning!
Wednesday August 31st – today was a very special day, three years ago this very day we moved out of our large four bedroomed house in Caldecote onto our 57’ long x 6’ 10” wide narrowboat! That was quite a day I can tell you, talk about stress! However within a very short time of arriving at the boat all the stress had fallen away and we were relaxed and ready to embark on our new life – I remember it well!
We were up in good time and as soon as we had eaten breakfast we headed into the tunnel, it was about 8.45am. We soon arrived at the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and had to wait quite a while for four boats to come over from the other side, very slowly indeed! Finally it was our turn to go and I made the decision to stay inside and wash up! You can just have too much of a good thing and for me three trips over the aqueduct was quite enough! Next it was the Chirk Tunnel followed by the Chirk Aqueduct, I was quite happy to sit up top and enjoy crossing this one as there is a broad path on both sides!!
For the last few weeks I have been commenting on the size of the acorns on the oaks along the canalside, big acorns are supposed to presage a harsh winter to come evidently and some of them were looking quite large! We have also noted this last week that there are more and more signs of Autumn, perhaps it is going to be early this year!
Because we had made such a good start and as the weather was very clement we made up for the time we had spent in Llangollen. By 5.30pm we were in Ellesmere and nipped up the arm to the basin so that I could pop into Tesco for a few bits and pieces. There were no moorings available so we just pulled over to one side of the turning area and Clive held the boat on the rope while I went shopping,then we went back down the arm onto the main drag and found a beautiful, peaceful spot to moor up for the night.
Well I think that is quite enough for this blog. I had intended to post it much earlier but the one thing that the beautiful Llangollen Canal is lacking is a Vodafone signal, there just hasn’t been an opportunity to post it until now so I can only apologise for this very lengthy blog – hope you managed to stay awake till the end!