Wednesday 20 April 2016

Bunbury Open day and a surprise blogger meet

Anglo Welsh Hire boats at Bunbury had an open day on Sunday and, as our friend Steve is the Fleet manager, I offered my services to help out.  Steve is keen to get the hire fleet busy over the season and this will make things easier at the locks as the more boats hired out the less will be on the wharf blocking the way.

I must congratulate Steve and his team who went all out with tea, coffee and scrummy cakes.  Three of the fleet boats were set up for people to walk through and see up close what a hire boat is all about and the team were on hand to answer questions.  The atmosphere was great and had that canalside festival feel with benches outside to sit on and tables inside for those that wanted to be more informed.

Plenty of interest in the day boat trips
 The weather was perfect and the wharf was very busy with people coming along to find out about hiring.  I was given the task of helmsman on the day boat giving trips from the wharf to Tilstone lock and back.  The boat takes 10 people and together with Dave Harrison as crew and guide we were kept busy all day with plenty of people wanting to have a ride.  At one point the queue was over 20 people long.  We think we must have given over 100 people a trip in the boat by end of the day.

Yours truly at the helm winding in front of the Gongoozlers

A large crowd waits for their turn in the day boat
 At the end of the day Steve and his team had a lot of interest and I understand several bookings for this and next year.

Yesterday I returned with the drone and got the chance to get some photos for Steve and video that I'll be putting up on YouTube soon.

The Staircase at Bunbury

Bunbury Locks and Wharf
It was after filming that I walked along the cut above the locks when I spied a very familiar looking boat.  Free Spirit with Ian and Irene Jamieson of blog Jamieson's afloat  (click) were there.  I stopped and chatted with them for a good while and wish Irene good news on her visit to the hospital tomorrow to see the consultant.  Whilst speaking with them I took the opportunity to quiz Ian about is home made solar panel boxes and came away with a much better hinging idea I could use on our box.  It was lovely to meet you both and we hope to catch up some time again.

Irene and Ian Of the blog Jamieson's Afloat
Another surprise came for us as our blog has been awarded a Narrowboaters top blogger status by Boats and Outboards which we feel quite honoured by.  Like Ian and Irene, plus several others, we were contacted by Oliver to ask if he could include our blog on their site.  I agreed thinking it would just be a short reference but Oliver has given each blogger a good write up about their blogs.  If you click on the badge it will take you to the site where AmyJo's blog is featured.

This evening was sooooo lovely we simply could not resists a quick cruise to the Shady Oak in the warm evening sun for a drink and dinner.  It was so nice to cruise in the warm sun.  It was so warm it meant we could sit out in our favourite part of AmyJo, the cratch.  

Whilst having dinner Mr & Mrs Duck came to join us.  Mrs Duck was very tame and came to sit on the gunnel right beside me whilst we ate in the cratch.  Chris did not want to feed them bread but found they rather like crumbled sugar free weetabix instead.  What lovely dinner guests.

Come dine with us or us it dinner's arrived

One has to have a drink with one's dinner of course
Its only an hour's cruise from the marina and sunset was 8:30pm so at 7:30pm we set off and returned to the marina feeling at one with the world just as the sun was setting.  A simply perfect way to end the day

Oooh I nearly forgot!!  Congratulations to Jon and Hannah on Coal boat Mountbatten as they have a new crew member.  They are celebrating the berth of Beatrix 'Trixie' Harriet Wardman born 10th April 2016 at 23:37 weighing a tiny 2lb 2oz and born 3 months early!  To Quote Hannah "Trixie is fighting and taking tiny steps everyday but her amazing doctors and nurses at Liverpool Women's Hospital are taking the best care of her & say she is doing well..."

We wish Trixie well and do so hope she goes on to full health.  Can't wait to meet her.

Monday 11 April 2016

Easter and the Llangollen Day - Last Few Days

We left Wrenbury after a night of rainfall to a cold dull morning.  Mercifully there was little or no wind so we crept out quietly and headed for the manual lift bridge.  Another boat was ahead of us so Chris kindly offered to operate the bridge for them.

Moored at Wrenbury
 It appears the boat owner's wife with friend had the boat for the weekend and whilst the friends wanted to be liveaboards the lady with them was happy to cruise on holidays only.

Following another boat through the lift bridge
 Chris noted that some locks had stop plank storage and whilst some were a simple boxes, some were quite ornate like this one.  We're not sure why this one is so elaborate compared to the other box storage but we think it does look rather more pleasing none the less.

Ornate Stop Plank Storage
 At Burland we came across coal boat Mountbatten.  You may recall in my previous post I mentioned John and Hannah had acquired a butty to give them extended living accommodation when the baby is born.  We had not realise it was the same style as Mountbatten.  I wonder if this was Mountbatten's original butty?

Mountbatten's new Butty being prepared for the new crew member
 Compared to the last few days we had a pleasant trip down to Hurleston Locks and again found them clear of boats, in fact we descended to the bottom lock before another boat appeared at the top or bottom lock.
Descending Hurleston Locks
 As I started to exit the bottom lock a hire boat came through the bridge and tried to turn for the locks, unfortunately he was going a little too fast and became wedged across the cut blocking the way to Barbridge.  His face dropped when he asked which way I was headed and I pointed at his boat.

Unable to proceed all I could do was offer advice whilst trying to keep AmyJo still in the water.  Eventually he reversed under the bridge so I could get out of the way.  Chris held AmyJo to the side whilst, at the hirer's request, I talked him round the turn.  After that we made for Barbridge.

Now its common knowledge that the purpose of the Llangollen canal is as a feeder for the reservoir here at Hurleston which provides drinking water for Crewe.  What I'd like to know though is what the purpose of this tunnel looking opening is for.  Anyone have any ideas?  It appears to pass under the reservoir but I cannot see why.

Tunnel under Reservoir

Familiar view looking back up Hurleston Locks

Sunday morning was a much more pleasant with plenty of sunshine and quite pleasantly warm at times.  The clouds were building but there was still plenty of sun.  Chris tried to photograph sun rays coming from behind this cloud but they do not show up as well on the photo.

Sun rays behind a cloud
 Its odd but things always seem much better when the sun is out, even the spring flowers were enjoying it today.

Spring flowers by a bridge
 A Calverley we think we may have discovered the origins of the Easter island heads for on a boat moored just along from the services we could see miniature versions standing on its roof.  If one went missing would that mean the owner had lost his head?

Easter Island Heads?
 At Bunbury the volockys had the locks ready for us to go straight in and we were joined for the descent with another boat whose name I have embarrassingly forgotten, sorry chaps if you were on that boat.

Getting Ready to descent Bunbury Locks
 As the gates opened with us in the bottom lock we were confronted with working boat Saturn and her motor approaching.  Those that know Bunbury will know passing along side the Anglo Welsh fleet is not easy at the best of times.  We managed to get our lock partners out and on their way but we could not get past so we pulled into the wharf leaving just enough room for the working boats to pass and enter the lock.

Saturn and her motor arrive just as we leave the bottom lock
 We found they were heading to Ellesmere for the boat festival there.  Signs other boats were heading down came as we passed Empress moored up near Chas Harden boats.

Empress moored near Tilstone Lock
 We got to the Shady Ooak in the afternoon and decided to have a liquid lunch.
Our favourite mooring at the Shady Oak
 Whilst in the pub this cheeky chap came a calling to be fed.  Poor fellow did not realise no one was home so kept knocking at the open side doors,  It was clear he could not understand why his knocks were not answered but he kept trying fora further 20 minutes without success.

Um wonder if they are home and will feed me

Knock Knock feed me please

Oi, why won't you answer me?
With the forecast on Sunday giving strong winds as the day progressed we left early and were back in the marina by 10am.  This proved a good decision as just after tying up thw wind steadily increased all morning until mid afternoon it was blowing hard.

Chris is now darn Sarf visiting her mum so I'm tidying up and packing everything away as we will be in the marina for a while now.  Back to work tomorrow, Tuesday.  Hay ho all good things come to an end...   but not for too long.

Wednesday 6 April 2016

Easter and the Llangollen Day - 12 &13 Calm before the storm

Yesterday and today have been poles apart.  Yesterday warm and balmy then today blustery and wet.

The Calm

Always a lovely view at Blake Mere
 We left Blake Mere in beautifully clear Blue skies and little wind.  It was still a tad chilly so full warm kit was required.  We've never known the cut so quiet with very few boats on the move.  We only had one other hire boat going our way and he was content to glide along on tick over oblivious of us behind him.  Eventually he let us pass 2 miles later. 
Once again very quiet with few boats on the move.
 At Prees junction we swung into the Whixall arm.   

Prees junction and the main line off to the left with Whixall arm of the the right
 We cruised the length to the marina alone and passed through the two wooden lift bridges.  Chris found the first one hard going so I did the second one though this one was easier going.  

One of two wooden lift bridges one encounters down the arm.
 on arrival found the office closed.  We docked on one of the floating pontoons but it was way too short for us so we backed off and moored just outside the marina. 

The late afternoon was quite pleasant so we took a walk alone the  un navigable stretch of the arm now a nature reserve a mile long.  There were two pairs of swans on this stretch with both females sitting on nests.  One of the males swam alongside us displaying but keeping a respectful distance.  We quietly passed the nests and were left alone.  

A swan sitting on a clutch of eggs did not mind us at all.
 After a while the cut dried out and its hard to tell how much further it carried on.  The footpath here was overgrown with brambles so we turned back.  

The last visible evidence of the canl.

The limit of the watered section of the arm.

AmyJo moored outside the marina off to the right of frame

Considering the remoteness of the arm Whixall marina is quite large
In the evening a Chas Harden boat pulled in behind.  Her crew worried because another hire boat had slammed into them and since then the boat had been taking on water.  The skipper wanted to be near marina services should anything go badly wrong.  We offered any assistance we could should he need it but as it happened he had an uneventful night with the leak easing right off.  

As the sun set we were treated to a super sunset.  The quietness was deafening as night fell and we enjoyed a good nights sleep.

Total distance:6.39 miles Elapsed time:3h31m27s Locks:0
Bridges:13 Average speed:1.81 mph (1.81 lock/mph) 

The Storm
Today has been really busy so no pictures I'm afraid.

After a peaceful night we got up to another sunny morning but with a little breeze filling in.  The Chas Harden boat had left and we got under way at 9am.

By the time we reached Prees junction the rain rattled down and it had blown up a hoooley.  Boats we having a tough time going including us. Fortunately the wind blew across our bows helping us with the turn onto the main line.   We got into a convoy of four boats with us in 3rd place.  The boat behind closed the lift bridge and fell way behind.  The rest of us battled on.

By 11am the wind was starting wreak havoc.  Later we came across one hire boat well and truly aground.  We stopped to assist but despite all the grunt of AmyJo's engine and theirs the boat would not come unstuck.  Eventually after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing they got free and we let them go ahead.

Further along we joined the queue again at the next lift bridge just as a boat was going under.  The next boat really struggled to hold point as the lead boat took so long to pass the bridge.  We got Chris ashore and she held AmyJo's bow into the bank with the bow rope so we did not do the same.

The poor hire boat ahead of us just started to go for the bridge when the lead boat crew shut it feet from their bows despite all our shouts to leave it open.  The stupid woman winding the bridge ignored us, lowered the bridge, and then just walked off without even acknowledging any of us were there, how rude!  By now the hire boat in front was blown across the cut and had run aground.  Despite their best efforts they kept being blow back onto the bank.

Chris ran after the woman but she was on her boat and off so Chris opened the bridge for us all.  I manage to get a line on the bow of the hire boat and together we got them free and through the bridge much to the relief of the crew.

By the time we reached the Whitchurch arm the queues of boats was getting ridiculous so we decided Thunderbird AmyJo needed a break,  We we pulled into the arm picking a mooring just inside.   To be frank, Chris and I were getting a bit tired both physically and mentally after sorting out hire boats though now I do feel a bit mean for saying so.  Its not their fault we were in their position once but that woman at the bridge really got my back up with her blatant disregard for anyone else.

After a walk into town and an excellent lunch in the Old Town Hall Vaults pub we returned to AmyJo for a well earned snooze.  With the weather still very squrly we've decided to stay put for the rest of the day.  We still have a bit of time so we have no need to be out in the weather just yet.  

Total distance:6.40 miles Elapsed time:3h21m40s Locks:0
Bridges:20 Average speed:1.90 mph (1.90 lock/mph)

Monday 4 April 2016

Easter and the Llangollen Day - 9 through 11

We have missed a few days blogging partly due to the fact we have had poor mobile signal up to now and partly because our journeys have been short or days wet and miserable.

When we left Froncysyllte the sun was out but the clouds gathered slowly as the morning passed and it turned a lot colder.  Fleeting rain showers came and went but we were happy hiding under the pram hood.

The front window raise on the pram hood helps with visibility when its raining
 We passed through Whitehouses tunnel without seeing another boat on the move.  We still had the cut to ourselves by the time we reached Chirk tunnel though by now the rain was becoming more persistant.

Clear massage through Chirk Tunnel but the rain was getting heavier by the  minute
 On emerging from the tunnel we could see a boat had just started to cross the aqueduct so we stopped to allow it to cross over.  We could not use the moorings provided for the purpose as once again our friend in the Sweet boat had stopped in the way.  It would seem he has not moved far since we last came this way and he certainly was not getting much trade this time either.

Waiting for a boat on the aqueduct to pass over.
 By now Chris had retreated inside as there was no point her getting wet too, besides she had taken up point in the bow as look out to let me know when the way was clear.

Chris's view from inside.

By the time we reached the Poacher's Pocket the rain had almost stopped.

Pram hood in lowered mode for this bridge

Lovely canal side residence for sale.
 St Martins moor was deserted bar one boat,  no one around all the way until New Marton Locks where we met up with other boats.  One boat ahead was just entering the lock and another was waiting above.  This meant we made good time through both locks.

As it was getting on for 2:30pm we decided to call it a day and found the Jack Mytton moorings free so pulled in.  The pub is now open so we booked a meal to try it out.

AmyJo tucked in between the boats and the pub grounds on the left of the picket fence
 The weather was settling down and the sun started to make an appearance.   With time on our hands Chris had an idea.

"Lets go for a walk" she said.
"The Narrow boat is not far" she said.
"Then you can have a pint" she said.

So of we set. Well after a mile and a half of the muddiest tow path in Wales we got to the Narrow Boat with wet feet, spitting feathers, to find...... it shut!  Remind me not to agree to Chris's ideas in future :-)  

The closed Narrow boat.  Usually open from 12:30 to 3Pm then 6pm in the evening.  We got there at 4pm
 Still every dark cloud has a silver lining and when we got back I got to enjoy a super pint of Cambrian Ale in the Jack Mytton.

Under new owners the Jack Mytton certainly did not disappoint
 In the evening we went in for a meal and I have to say the pub is nicely decorated and the food excellent.  The menu is a bit limited but the Sirlion steak is the best I've had in a good while so that made it OK.  Prices are on a par with most pubs but it's well worth a visit if you are passing.  

Next morning we left about 10:30am and cruised in dry but still chilly weather.  We passed Frankton junction and saw several boats waiting to go onto the Montgommery.  We decided to give it a miss this time so we could spend more time at places on the way back.

Waiting to lock down at Francton Junction
 At Broom Farm Moorings we came across this novel use for the washing machine.  Not sure if its the military's version of a mobile Laundrette or a civilian trying to start a different type of Laundry service for boaters.  You give them your washing and carry on cruising.  When its clean they drive it to you at your new location.   Can't see it working some how.

Mobile Laundrette Perhaps?
 We reached Ellesmere services about 3pm and pulled in for water.  The pressure here is not brilliant so whilst we waited we disposed of the rubbish and emptied cassette in the elsen.  Mean while a queue formed for water.  With so many boats about the inevitable had to happen and two hire boats met on the bend.  The boat going up stream refused to give way and the lady aboard though it hilarious that the other boater coming down stream was struggling as a result.  

Eventually with a full water tank we turned into the arm and was amazed to find it nearly empty.  We picked a spot mid way down in front of a moored boat.  Within the next 2 hours the arm filled up with boats so we got there at the right time.

We ate on board then went into town for a drink.  Last time we were here there was a folk night in the White Hart and to our surprise we had picked the right night as being the first Sunday of the month the folk night was on.  Needless to say we had a great night enjoying to great music.

Winding at the end of the arm was tight due to boats moored right to the end.

There are a lot of old and interesting places in the town like this antique shop, even the shop is antique.  

AmyJo moored in the arm and plenty of empty spaces for other boats to moor.
 One of the promises I made myself is that when retired I would try to walk more so with a day in hand Chris and I decided to walk to the nearby Mere.  There is a footpath from the canal that leads right to the Mere.

The going was a bit slippery in places

 On arrival at the mere useful maps gave the visitor clear directions of the walks around the area

Numerous scupture can be found along the way shown by
the red triangles
 Our route around the Mere took us past several of the sculptures.   Some of them one has to wonder why a large rock with a tiny model castle on top could be classed as a sculpture  but then others, like this one, clearly had a lot of thought and work put into them

Not paint work but the hull cut in such a way to represent ivy.  Must have taken ages to cut this out.
 Its no secret that Britain's bee population is in decline.  At the Mere you can find a large wicker bee atop a log hill.  The sculpture is specifically designed to attract bees and encourage them to nest.  There were none there that we could see but a plague does raise awareness of the bees decline and how this scupture could help to restore the balance.

Wicker bee should make a suitable bee nesting site
 It is not possible to walk all the way round the Mere but you can get most of the way round.  A section of the Mere is privately owned and not open to the public blocks a full circular route.  When you return the boat house cafe does the most delicious scones with a great cup of tea to refresh you.

The Boat hose Cafe seen from the opposite bank of the Mere

Ellesemere Church can clearly be seen along the Mere
 Another path took us back into the town and the canal.

We decided that as it was only 1pm we would wind and go to Blackwater marina for a pump out and diesel.  We winded and was just leaving the arm when coal boat Mountbatten appeared.  We hailed Jon and Hanna and quickly tied up for them to come alongside.  Good timing or what!

Hanna is expecting and is due in July.  They have purchased a butty to give them the room they will need when baby arrives as Hanna wants to say afloat.  We wish them all the best and hope all goes well when its time.
A heavily pregnant Hanna gives me the declaration form to fill in while Jon tops up AmyJo.
 We then moved to the mooring outside the Marina and had to wait an hour for the hire boat on the jetty to clear, then we entered and got our pump out.  

By now the sun was strong and it became t-shirt weather.  It was quite pleasant and we cruised to Ellesmere tunnel with the hood down and in the warmth for the rest of the day.

Almost empty moorings at Ellesmere tunnel

All clear so good to proceed
 Our plan was to stop at Blake Mere if the was any chance of a free mooring space.  When we got there we we stunned by the absence of boats and had the pick of any spot.

Blake Mare.  Where is everyone?
 We fully expected with the Easter Holiday for the cut to be busy here with moored boats but this year its been so quite so far.  Very few private boats about and mostly hire boats, but even then, very few compared to normal.

Just this one boat here so we pulled in.

Moored for the night

The view from the side doors
Tomorrow the plan is to cruise to Prees junction and have a reccy down the Whixall arm.