Monday, 29 April 2013

The Montgomery Canal.


This week we are moored at Maesbury Marsh on the Montgomery Canal.The Montgomery was formed when a branch of the Ellesmere Canal,now days referred to as the Llangollen Canal,was built from Frankton Junction in 1796,and called the Llanymynech Branch.This branch was joined to the Montgomeryshire Canal,at Carreghofa,when that opened in 1797 and the last stretch of the canal,to Newtown,was opened in 1821.After a breach in 1936 the canal fell into disuse and it was finally closed in 1944.Between 1996 and 2003 various stretches of the canal have been restored and it is now possible to cruise 7 Miles  from the locks at Frankton Junction to Gronwen Wharf which is about half a mile South of our present mooring.

We left Trevor last Tuesday and made our way slowly to Ellesmere,where we stocked up with provisions in the local shops as well as the Tesco store which is handily situated alongside the canal arm.On the way there,on the Tuesday and Wednesday nights,we moored just above the locks at New Marton where we had a leisurely time doing not a lot other than watching the world go by.We were booked to go down the Frankton Locks on Friday at noon so Ellesmere,being just an hour away,was the best place to get our water tank filled and loo cassettes emptied as well as getting a few bits of shopping.After we had done everything we turned and made our way back to the junction at Frankton where we spent Thursday night moored with other boats waiting to go down onto the Montgomery the next day.

Lisa's Montgomery 002 Lisa's Montgomery 007

One of a number of tableaux that can be found alongside the network,this one on the Llangollen canal.On the right are the Frankton Locks on the Montgomery,as viewed from part way down.

On Friday lunchtime we set off down the staircase locks under the watchful eye of the Lockie,who helped us through,and then we gently cruised to a little place called Queens Head,where there used to be a wharf for loading sand from the nearby sand pit,and a grain mill.This was where we intended to stay for the weekend as Saturday was Lisa’s birthday,being one of those milestones in every girls life when they reach 21 again.We caught the bus into the nearby town of Oswestry in the morning and Lisa,skipping along,happily clutching the £10 note I gave her,set off to find the second hand shops.She emerged triumphantly from one with a nicely framed picture by someone called Constable and £5 in change.Later that evening as we celebrated her birthday in the local pub,surprisingly,it has the same name as the village,we saw the same picture,only slightly smaller,on one of the walls.Apparently it’s a painting of somewhere called Flatford Mill.

Montgomery 004 Montgomery 008

Inside the lock chamber of the Frankton Staircase Locks on the left and on the right is a view through the turnover bridge at Heath Houses,just under a mile from Queens head.Beyond the bridge is a warehouse and,in the distance,is a rail bridge.The railway here ran alongside  Rednal Basin where goods were transhipped from rail to narrowboat.

On Sunday we changed our plans and made our way here to Maesbury Marsh which used to have a wharf and a warehouse,this is now converted to a pub.Here we could fill up with water,empty the loo and get a nice hot shower in the lovely clean facilities provided by C&RT for boaters using the canal.Changing our plans is something we do quite frequently,nothing is set in stone and we just move where and when the mood takes us.We wanted to walk the 5 miles to Llanymynech to see the Heritage Area there.This Heritage Area has one of only three surviving Hoffman Limestone Kilns in the U.K.,and the only one with its chimney still in place.The justification for a canal here was the Limestone quarries and Lime Kilns that were so abundant in this area.

Montgomery 010 Montgomery 013

On the left is Gronwyn Bridge.The other side of this bridge is Gronwyn Wharf,the current limit of navigation on the Montgomery.On the right is some of the progress that has been made on restoring another stretch between Gronwyn and Llanymynech.The towpath is still open beyond the wharf so Lisa and I walked all the way to Llanymynech to see what progress is being made on restoring other stretches of the canal and also to see a little of what remains of the industry that justified the building of this canal in the first place

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A bit more being prepared and Lisa looking down on the bed of the old canal that is no longer in water.

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Inside and outside of the Limekilns at Pant,a point two thirds of the way to our destination of Llanymynech.

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The end of the tramway that brought the Limestone from the Quarries and the Hoffman Limestone Kiln.Some limestone went into the Kiln and some was transhipped onto narrowboats to be taken to other Limekilns.The finished product,Quicklime,could not be moved by boat because it reacted with water.

Lisa's Montgomery 031 Lisa's Montgomery 034

The Chimney of the Hoffman Kiln viewed from the bed of the tramway that took Limestone to the top of the kiln and the Tally House where the tubs were weighed to calculate the earnings of the Quarrymen who were on Piece Work.This was a system where they were paid a sum of money for each ton of stone they produced and nothing else.A corrupt or unfriendly Tallyman could make a big difference to their pay.

Well,that’s all again for this week.We are going to move up to near Frankton Locks tomorrow where we are going to watch the world go by again until Thursday when we are booked back up the flight.Since our last blog we have done 10 Locks and 26 Miles,giving us a grand total of 226 Locks and 317 Miles since we set off in October.Take care everyone.

Monday, 22 April 2013



This week we are moored,on the Llangollen Canal,formerly the Ellesmere Canal,in the basin at Trevor,pronounced just as you would the boy’s name.It’s a short arm that was opened in 1806 and continues straight ahead as you get over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.It was initially intended that this arm should continue right through to Chester but there was insufficient funds so,instead,canal traffic had to travel the 44 miles to the junction at Hurleston and turn onto the Shropshire Union Canal which was,at that time,the Chester Canal.This enabled goods produced here to be sent to Chester or Birmingham and beyond.There used to be a short canal beyond the basin,it was called the Plas Kynaston Canal which served the local coal mines,chemical works,foundry’s,lime kilns and brick works.There is nothing left of this particular canal other than the bridgehole at the very end of the arm.Permission had been given for a canal to be built here in 1820 but what was built and when is a bit uncertain.There does exist a map of the proposed Plas Kynaston Canal and there are pictures of it as well as a report of it being used as a water supply to the now demolished chemical works that was beyond the bridgehole.

Pontcysyllte 001 Pontcysyllte 002

The view of the Northern end of the aqueduct on the left and the end of the arm at Trevor on the right.This is the bridgehole that used to lead to the Plas Kynaston Canal and is the only remains I could find.The rest has been built over.

We left Ellesmere last Thursday after having a very enjoyable Wednesday night with Angela,Mark,Peter and Sandra,the crew of the Merry Pippin,who had moored close to us,on the Ellesmere Arm earlier in the day.The next day,Friday,after an overnight stop at Chirk we cruised towards the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and after crossing the “Stream in the Sky”, we turned left and made our way steadily to Llangollen,where we intended to stay for a couple of days to enjoy the Llangollen Railway’s Steam Festival.The weather for the Festival on the Saturday was excellent and as a result we had a fantastic time.The Llangollen Railway is a great heritage railway and well worth the visit.

Chirk 006 Chirk 012

On the left,taken East of the Prees Branch.There is currently some debate about overstaying on visitor moorings,could this be a solution? On the right is us going over the Chirk Aqueduct with the railway viaduct on the left.The aqueduct was designed by Telford in 1801 and the viaduct by Henry Robertson in 1846.

Llangollen 002 Llangollen 010

The view from Chyandour as we travelled on “ The stream in the sky “ and looking down onto the River Dee,some 126 feet below.Believe me.its not as scary on the boat as it is walking across.

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There had been loads of trees blown down before we set off.At one stage the canal had to be closed but CRT contractors had worked hard and made a way through before clearing the rest.

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Just a couple of the places on the Llangollen where it gets a bit narrow.

Llangollen Railway 031 Lisa's Llangollen Railway 034

I’m not going to bore you with loads of pic’s of Llangollen Steam Festival,so here’s just a couple.The Railmotor on the left and Foxcote Manor on the right.

On Sunday we were away from Llangollen by mid afternoon,after spending the morning spring cleaning our home and washing some of the dust off the paintwork.Some of the fallen trees that had obstructed the canal on our way towards Llangollen had been removed so it was much easier cruising than when we went in on Friday,plus we were “ going with the flow “.The Llangollen canal is a feeder for the reservoir at Hurleston and as a result there is a distinct flow on it.Westbound,this flow can slow a narrowboat quite a lot when negotiating narrow stretches like aqueducts,tunnels and bridgeholes.After mooring up we enjoyed a swift couple in The Telford Inn,which is alongside the basin here,and then had a quick look around the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct & Canal World Heritage Site.

Today we went into the Heritage Centre and walked around some more,particularly around the Aqueduct and also below it.I’ve always wanted to see it,close up,from a different perspective and today I got the chance.It’s a fantastic construction,built in 1805 by Thomas Telford and William Jessop and even though it is over 200 years old it still performs the task it was designed for.It is over 1000 feet long and sits on top of 19 stone pillars,126 feet above the River Dee.Some of the ironwork for it’s construction actually came from a nearby iron foundry that also supplied the gates for the Caledonian Canal.Sadly there are very few remains of the huge amount of industry that used to be here and what was the justification for a canal that would connect to the rest of the network and,therefore,a much wider market.

Pontcysyllte 030 Lisa's Pontcysyllte 008

A different view of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and me posing.I was trying to look cool but believe me it wasn’t easy.

Well that’s all for this week.We are going to move on tomorrow and meander our way to Lower Frankton and the Montgomery Canal.since our last blog we have done 2 Locks and 36 miles,giving us a grand total of 216 Locks and 291 Miles since we set off in October.Take care everyone.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Ellesmere & it’s warmer.

Since our last blog we have excelled ourselves,we’ve done as many locks and miles as we would expect to do in a month,and now we are moored in Ellesmere for a few days.We fuelled and watered on Friday before leaving Nantwich to make our way to Whitchurch,were we planned to spend the weekend,and then made our way here,a nice town that we have stopped at a couple of times in the past,where there are boat services and a Tesco’s.

During our stay in Nantwich we got the Railcards out and went over to Crew for the day where we had a mooch around the town for a few hours.Crew is only ten minutes away from Nantwich,and it cost us all of two pounds each for return tickets.The rest of our time in Nantwich we spent looking around the town and walking the towpath.Near to where we were moored is Nantwich Canal Services and I bought a couple of spare fan belts and filters for Chyandour so we are ready now for her next service and we have spare belts,just in case.

Whitchurch 002 Whitchurch 004 

The ornate weathervane above the town hall in Crewe,Stephenson’s Rocket,I believe.On the right is Chyandour entering the bottom lock of the Grindley Brook Staircase locks.Between Nantwich and Whitchurch on the Llangollen canal,these three locks raise the canal over 19 feet and if the chamber above gets full it can cascade over the top of the gates.For this I held right back.

Whitchurch 007 Whitchurch 008

Lisa and the “Lockie” opening the gates for me to go into the next chamber.The top gates of one chamber are the bottom gates of the next going uphill on Staircase Locks like these.On the right is a view back down to the previous chamber.

Whitchurch 011 Whitchurch 017

Chyandour at the top of Grindley Brook and on the right is the entrance to the Whitchurch Arm.You have to pass through the Lift Bridge to the left,go down the bottom right,to the next “ Winding Hole ”,turn or wind,and then come back to go through the arm entrance.

We spent the weekend in Whitchurch as planned and moored on the arm which is only about three hundred metres long.While we were there we did a bit of nosing around to see if we could find where the rest of the Whitchurch Arm of the canal used to go.The original arm was fully opened in 1811 and closed in 1944,it used to go into the south side of the town through what is now Jubilee Park and into a basin where there now stands a hotel.We looked for the possible route but apart from just before the park there was nothing left.Everything had been pretty much landscaped and had newish housing built on it.Walk into town from the arm following the signs and I think the only bit near the town that is left is where the footpath joins the road,next to some derelict land.This is Sherrymill Hill and I believe this is where the arm used to go under the road and is where the gasworks and a mill once stood.Also,if you stand in the car park of the Working Men’s Club on Castle Hill and look south,there’s the Old Mill Restaurant and Hotel and that is where the basin for the Whitchurch Arm used to be.

Whitchurch 014 Whitchurch 013

On the left is Saturn,a restored Shropshire Union Canal Fly Boat,moored on the arm.She is over a hundred years old and is the only remaining horse drawn Flyboat in the world and was built to travel non stop,day and night,carrying perishable goods.The horses were changed at frequent intervals to enable the fly boats to travel non stop.On the left is the end of the Whitchurch Arm as it is today,it used to go under the bridge and straight on but there’s a road there now and houses.

Whitchurch 020 Whitchurch 022

Where I think the arm used to go,and over the fence was where there was a gas works.Opposite the gas works was Sherrymans Wharf on the canal arm.There’s no trace of it now.To the right is a pic’ of the view from the Working Men’s Club car park.Ignore the telegraph pole.This was where the town wharf and the basin for the arm used to be.

Ellesmere 009 Ellesmere 010

The entrance to the Ellesmere Arm with the main line to Llangollen to the left.A view from the over bridge down the arm,not many boats and we’re the one in the distance.On our way to here we stopped of to see a couple of friends,Emma and Nick,who run Bettisfield Boats on the Llangollen canal.We have hired from them and would highly recommend them,there boats are good,the service is exceptional and they have some of the lowest prices we came across.You’ll have to book early though.

Well,that’s all for this week.Since our last blog we have done 19 Locks and 28 Miles,giving us a grand total of 214 Locks and 255 Miles since we set off in October last Year.Take care everyone.

Monday, 8 April 2013


Since last weeks blog we have moved a little farther up the Shroppie to the town of Nantwich,a lovely little town with lots of Tudor style,timber framed,black and white buildings.Apparently,there has been a settlement here since Roman times when salt was processed for the garrisons at Chester and Stoke on Trent.The Shropshire Union canal passes about half a mile west of the town and is raised on an embankment with a cast iron aqueduct where it crosses the Nantwich to Chester road.The Engineer for the aqueduct and canal was Thomas Telford and it was built around 1836.It seems the local landowner refused permission for the canal to cross his land,to the west of here,so a more costly and difficult embankment had to be built.As with other embankments,this one also suffered from costly and time consuming landslips. There are boating facilities here,alongside the canal,including showers and a launderette,together with diesel,gas,coal and a chandlery,so it’s a good place to stop for a few days.

Nantwich 009 Nantwich 013

A couple of pic’s of the buildings in Nantwich.I have always wonder why buildings like these always look as though their builders had never heard of a spirit level.

Nantwich 006 Nantwich 008

There’s Telford’s 1836 aqueduct that carries the Shroppie over the Chester Road.On the right is a pic’ of some of the Almshouses here in Nantwich that caught my eye.The windows are a window cleaners nightmare and the chimneys,well,if your going to have a chimney,then at least have proper ones like these.

We left Audlem last Tuesday and stopped off at the moorings at Coole Pilate for a day or two.About four miles south of here,Coole Pilate is another of the SUCS moorings and this one has picnic and barbeque tables alongside the neatly trimmed towpath.The towpath was trimmed the day after I took these by the way,just before we set off for here.

Coole Pilate 004 Coole Pilate 003

Coole pilate moorings.It did brighten up and one day we had some lovely sunshine,though it was still cold.

Coole Pilate 001 Nantwich 001 

On the left is a view out over the fields as we were leaving Audlem and on the right is Lisa opening the second of the Hack Green Locks as we left Coole Pilate behind.

While we were at Coole Pilate we walked to Hack Green to have a look at the Secret Nuclear Bunker.This was one of the bunkers that would have been used by the government in the event of a nuclear war with the old Soviet Union.As well as the,now redundant bunker,Hack Green had been one of the RAF bases that had been used,during the second world war,as a bombing decoy site.These sites,originally called Special Fire or SF and then later,Starfish sites,were used to lure Luftwaffe bombers away from major cities with fires and lights.The one at Hack Green was used as a decoy for the main railway centre at Crewe.The Nuclear Bunker is well worth a visit and even though I lived through the period that it was operational,it is quite an eye opener.It’s unlikely that things would be handled in the same way today though.

Coole Pilate 006 Coole Pilate 008

Coole Pilate 010 Coole Pilate 011

Some pic’s of the inside of the bunker at Hack Green.The bottom right is a mock up of how a Russian Command Centre would have looked.We were watching them watching us,watching them,etc. etc.

Nantwich 003 Nantwich 004

On the left is a somewhat knocked about wood and metal sculpture of a horse,symbolising the horses that once pulled the narrowboats along the canals.There are a number of other sculptures on the towpath close to here but you need to see them for yourself.On the right is the aqueduct viewed from the canal embankment,give the engineers their due,they didn’t build bland structures like they do today.

Well,that’s all again for this week,we should be up on the Llangollen Canal next week as we make our way steadily towards the Pontcysyllte aqueduct and Wales.Since our last blog we have done 4 Locks and 6 Miles,giving a grand total of 195 Locks and 227 Miles since October.Take care everyone.