Monday, 27 May 2013



This week our blog comes to you from the lovely walled City of Chester,a city that we have visited before,both recently and on our hire boating days,and there is always something new here to discover.On Wednesday we left last weeks middle of nowhere and continued our journey Northwards,on the Shroppie,towards the Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port.Our supplies needed replenishing and we knew there would be a Tesco in Chester,so we decided to stop over for a couple of nights and have some retail therapy.We had been told that there was a new Tesco store here and when we found it there were a number of other retail outlets close by,a shoppers heaven in fact,and it’s only ten minutes walk from Tower Wharf where we were moored.

Chester 001 Chester 003

A view looking back along the Shroppie after we had left our Moorings on Wednesday.In the distance you can see Beeston Castle.On the right is Boughton Water Tower,built in 1853 alongside the canal,to supply clean drinking water to Chester.The Pump House is the building on the right.

Ellesmere Port 001 Chester 010

The gates of the middle lock of the Northgate Staircase Locks in Chester,there’s no by-wash so excess water flows over the gates.The staircase was built as a five lock staircase in 1775 and changed in 1797 to the three locks we see today.They raise the canal 33 feet from the level on the right hand we have Telfords Warehouse at Tower Wharf,built in 1790 by Thomas Telford,it sits over the canal for loading/unloading boats.It was restored in 2000 after being destroyed by fire and is now a pub.

On our first evening in Chester we took a stroll along the Dee branch,this leaves the main line at Tower Wharf,goes through three locks and connects to the River Dee.We won’t be cruising this branch,mainly because the cost is a tad prohibitive and the Dee is tidal,so there are only certain times you can get on and off the river.Walking farther afield took us to the banks of the Dee itself and more discoveries that we had missed previously,all supported by information boards detailing the history of this once major inland port.

Chester 012 Chester 013

The bottom lock of the Dee Branch and then the River Dee lock gates with the Balance Beams and Anchor plates removed,this stops the gates from being used and explains the cost of getting onto the Dee.

Chester 022 Chester 023

The Water Tower in Chester.Originally called the New Tower it was built in 1325 on the river for defence but the river silted up and by the end of the 16th Century the tower was landlocked.On the right is a pic’ of Tower Wharf from Chester Walls,you can see Chyandour at her mooring and Telford’s Warehouse on the right.

On Friday we left Chester to cruise the last eight miles or so to Ellesmere Port and the Waterways Museum,where we intended to stay for a night or two.We had cruised this stretch of canal back in November 2008 and at that time the canal looked a bit neglected and Ellesmere Port itself seemed somewhat run down.This time was different,the canal was better,obviously there had been some TLC,and the town now has a huge modern shopping centre and market hall and was much improved.It was well worth the visit,and we tried to recall what had changed,both at the museum and in the town,there is every chance that we will be back again in the future.

Ellesmere Port 013 Ellesmere Port 019

NB Ilkeston,a restored horse drawn narrowboat built in 1912 for Fellows,Morton and Clayton,one of the largest of the canal carriers.Here she is at Ellesmere Port where she was restored.On the right is a bit of a contrast,a Concrete boat built in 1944,apparently,concrete ships and boats have been built,and used,all over the world for more than 100 years.This one,FCB 18,has had quite a checkered history.

Ellesmere Port 012 Ellesmere Port 011

The inside of the back cabin on NB Ilkeston.This would be all a family had to live in during her working life,a space about 6ft by 10ft.

Ellesmere Port 021 Chester 001

A couple of shots of the Waterways Museum as we were leaving,someday we would like to go back.

Sunday morning was a beautiful morning to be cruising as we made our way back here to Chester,this time so that some of our family would be able to find us and we could spend the bank holiday Monday together. 

Well,that’s all again for this week,we will be moving on again tomorrow,hopefully to somewhere nice and quiet for a few days.Since our last blog we have done 12 Locks and 26 Miles,giving a grand total of 277 Locks and 416 Miles since October.Take care everyone.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Back on the Shroppie.


After 37 days on the Llangollen/Montgomery we’re now back on the Shroppie and heading North towards the end of the canal,at Ellesmere Port.We are in the middle of nowhere again,this time about two miles South West of Tarporley in Cheshire and eleven canal miles from Chester itself.We are three quarters of a mile from Beeston Castle and moored across the canal from The Shady Oak pub where we hope to sample their wares after I’ve finished the blog.So much to do so little time,how do we cope?

We left the Marbury area on Thursday,after deciding not to bother moving on Wednesday because of the rain and didn’t it rain? Along with everyone else we must have had about twenty hours of the stuff,enough for at least a month.Anyway,after a short cruise of about three miles and one lock we landed at Wrenbury where we intended to stay for another couple of days or whatever,again this would depend on the weather.It wasn’t too bad,it didn’t rain so we managed to enjoy a pint or two in the Cotton Arms and the Dusty Miller and also get the train to visit Shrewsbury for the day on Friday.

Barbridge 002 Barbridge 006

One of the Lift Bridges at Wrenbery,built by Thomas Telford and dating from 1790,though it has been upgraded because this one carries road traffic.The River Severn in Shrewsbury,as you can see it’s in flood,again,this time as a result of the heavy rain on Tuesday/Wednesday.

Barbridge 010 Barbridge 015

Not 100% sure what this duck is,we think it could be a female Merganser but we could be wrong.Lisa informs me that it’s a duck and not a bird,so I defer to her superior knowledge.It was all on it’s own on the floodwaters of the Severn.On the right is the reservoir at Hurleston,which supplies the good people of Chester with drinking water and is fed by the Llangollen Canal

On Saturday we only said au revoir to Wrenbury,not goodbye,because it’s our intention to return there for the Gardner Engine Festival at the beginning of June.From there we cruised the six miles to the end of the Llangollen at Hurleston Junction,where it joins the Shroppie,turned North and carried on for a mile or so before mooring up at Barbridge.The fact that the Olde Barbridge Inn was on the opposite side of the canal to our mooring had no influence whatsoever on our decision as too where to stop.Sunday was a great day weather wise,it’s good to watch the battery levels rising as a result of the input from the solar panels.Even with only modest amounts of sunshine we’ve managed five days this month without running our engine to generate electricity.

Barbridge 013 Barbridge 016

There we are waiting to enter the top lock of the Hurleston Flight and the view down the flight to the junction with the Shroppie.You can see the nimble footed Lockie as he sets the next lock for us.

This morning we topped up our water tank,emptied the loo cassettes and made our way here where we are going to stop for another couple of nights or so.From here there is a nice walk of six or seven miles that takes us along the towpath, around to the South of where we are and over to Beeston Castle.So tomorrow should be a good day out with light refreshment in the Shady Oak when we get back.

Beeston 001 Beeston 003

The old stables at Bunbury Staircase Locks.These would have been for the horses that pulled the narrowboats before engines made the horses redundant.There’s Lisa,emptying the bottom lock of the staircase,that is so when we empty the top lock to bring Chyandour down there is somewhere for the water to go.We come down staircase locks using the same water in each lock,empty one,fill ‘tother.

Beeston 004 Beeston 005

Looking back into the bottom lock of the Bunbury staircase and one of the distinctive Lengthsman’s huts on this stretch of the Shroppie.This one at Tilstone Lock.Lengthsmen were responsible for their “length” of canal which could also mean being a Lock Keeper as well as repairing and maintaining the canal along their particular “length”.

Beeston 008 Beeston 011

Beeston Iron Lock,so called because it’s an iron trough and not the usual stone,concrete or brick structure.Subsidence was a major problem here because of the sandy soil and this lock was a solution.If you look closely at the wall of the lock in front of Lisa,you can see where the lock has bulged making it impossible for two narrowboats to share this lock unlike other wide locks on this stretch of the canal .

Well,that’s all again for this week,since last week we have done 16 Locks and 16 Miles.Giving us a grand total of 265 Locks and 390 Miles since we set off in October last year.Take care everyone.

Monday, 13 May 2013

The Middle of Nowhere.


Well,it’s not strictly the middle of nowhere,in fact we are about a mile,as the crow flies,from the little village of Marbury in Cheshire.We’re on another Shropshire Union Canal Society mooring and,having had lunch,we decided that we had cruised far enough for today,so staying here for a couple of days seems like a good idea.Lunch today was Duck egg sandwiches,the eggs we got from the stall with the honesty box at the last lock,Quoisley Lock.

It’s exactly one year ago today that I retired from work in preparation for an adventure,an adventure that we had set in motion with the building of Chyandour our narrowboat,but would really begin in October when she would be handed over to us,completed.Am I sorry? No,definitely not,what we are doing now is better than we ever expected,we are having a great time,seeing new places and meeting lots of nice people,and then moving on to see other places and meet other people.We couldn’t ask for more,life’s good.

After spending a couple of days on the SUCS moorings just before Hampton Bank,where the weather was simply beautiful,we moved up to some more SUCS moorings just past the junction with the Prees Branch.All the SUCS moorings are good in that you can be sure the water is deep enough,there are mooring rings to tie up too and the towpath is usually in good condition.OK,they can be a bit remote but that’s what we signed up for and there’s plenty of peace and quiet.The weather turned then and,as you are all well aware,it has been a tad wet and windy.I don’t want to dwell on the weather ‘cos it’s been pretty much the same for everyone,so, ‘nuff said.

Prees Branch 003 Prees Branch 005

A view South on the unnavigable section of the Prees Branch and there’s Mum sitting on her eggs.Don’t know what she would want with the Bubble Wrap,perhaps she bursts the bubbles when she’s bored.

Prees Branch 010 Prees Branch 022

Part of the navigable stretch of the Prees Branch and there’s me relaxing on Allman’s Lift Bridge number 1.No comments about the hair this week Eric please,they haven’t started sheering the sheep around here yet,when they do I’ll give some more thought to having a trim.

We spent our time at the end of the Prees Branch by walking around the nearby Wixhall Moss,or to give it it’s correct title,the Fenn’s,Whixhall & Bettisfield Mosses and also down the towpath to the Prees Branch Canal Nature Reserve.The latter being the stretch of the Prees Branch still in water but unnavigable.Both these places are worth the visit,not only as nature reserves but also for their history.The Prees Branch was another of those ambitious projects that was never fully completed.After about three and a half miles,it ended at Quina Brook in 1806,somewhat short of it’s intended destination of Prees.An interesting fact about Whixall Moss is that,in 1804,the water level of the bog had to be lowered by five to six feet to enable the canal to be built across it.There has been peat cutting at the Mosses for Centuries but in 1990 commercial cutting of peat was brought to an end and the area turned into a nature reserve.

Lisa's Prees Branch 007 Lisa's Prees Branch 011

Some of the peat that had been cut from the Whixall Moss peat bogs and how the land is being returned to it’s natural state now that commercial peat cutting has stopped.

On Friday we moved from the Prees Branch and progressed Northwards for about 5 miles to Whitchurch where we could stock up again with food and get a few other bits and bobs.When we got back to Chyandour we decided to stay overnight,for no other reason than we could ,and move on on Saturday.Now,I have a Twitter account and occasionally I post the odd Tweet or two and as a result of my Tweets we have been in contact with other Tweeters on narrowboats.On Saturday morning we had the pleasure of putting a face to a Tweet,if you like,for the first time.It was nice to meet you both,Julie and Jeff,the crew of another,Cat’s Whiskers.They were heading in the opposite direction from us,towards the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Llangollen,we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

From Whitchurch we moved on to another well known place on the Llangollen Canal,Grindley Brook,with it’s Staircase Locks.Three lock chambers where the top gate of one chamber is the bottom gate of the next and vice versa.We stayed there,doing not much of anything, until today,when we filled up with water and fuel,emptied the cassettes and made our way here.Just to say that our stay at Grindley Brook wasn’t entirely wasted,we managed a few pints of a varied selection of real ales that were available in the nearby Horse and Jockey,a pub that is well worth the short walk from the canal.

Grindley Brook 006 Grindley Brook 007

A drop of rain at Grindley Brook.We managed to take shelter under the old railway bridge just before the heavens opened.I wonder,has anyone mentioned to Mother Nature that it’s May now,not March or April? Oh,one more thing,Rodger and Pat,what was that you said last week about summer? Chimney’s still up.

Grindley Brook (2) 001 Grindley Brook (2) 003

There’s Lisa talking to the Lockie at the top of the Grindley Brook Staircase Locks.Now,are these lock gates leaking a tad?

OK,that’s all again for this week,we’re planning to move on again soon,but not sure where we will get to by next Monday,probably not far.Since last weeks blog we have done 9 Locks and 12 Miles,giving us a grand total of 249 Locks and 374 Miles.Take care everyone.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Hampton Bank.


Sorry about being a bit late with this weeks blog but after an excellent weekend with Heather and Steve,Lisa’s Sister and Brother in Law, we’ve been a bit otherwise engaged.Also,we got up to 26 degrees yesterday and that can only be enjoyed outside with a little light refreshment,there was no way I was going to sit in front of the Lappy and write a blog.We parted company with Heather and Steve early yesterday afternoon and we made our way slowly here to the SUCS Mooring at Hampton Bank on the Llangollen Canal.We are heading East again now,back towards Hurleston and the Shroppie,but,as I can’t decide which way to go when we get there,we’re not in any particular hurry.

After last weeks blog we moved on up the Montgomery Canal,on Tuesday,to the Weston Arm,formerly the Weston Branch,which is now disused.I can’t find much about this branch other than it was intended that it should have gone through to Shrewsbury but actually only got as far as Weston Lullingfields,a distance of,I guess,about seven miles and was closed in 1917,thanks to a breach,after 100 years or so of use.It’s not even possible to walk the old towpath because a huge ditch is blocking access.There’s a water point and rubbish disposal on the short bit of the arm that’s left and we spent our time cleaning and tidying Chyandour ready for our visitors at the weekend.We were booked to go back up the Frankton Locks on Thursday and from there it’s only an hour to Ellesmere,where we could do a bit of shopping and wait for Heather and Steve to arrive on Friday afternoon.We were the fourth boat up the Frankton Flight of locks on Thursday,all of us helped by the friendly Lock Keeper,Amy,who had helped us down the previous Friday.

As soon as Heather and Steve arrived on Friday afternoon we were off,I’d booked us a meal at the Jack Myton Inn at Hindford and never having been there before,we were eager to find out what it was like.We weren’t disappointed,the food was good and the service was excellent,I would most certainly recommend it.

Saturday morning saw us away bright and early,we expected it to get busy on the canal as the day wore on and we were right.There are two locks about a mile or so from Hindford,at New Marton,they can be a bit of a bottleneck and there were three boats waiting when we got there.From the locks,with Steve doing most of the steering,we set off for the Aqueducts at Chirk and,the most famous of all,the Pontcysyllte.Lisa and I have done them but we wanted to give Heather and Steve the thrill of crossing the “Stream in the Sky”.I’m pleased to say they both enjoyed it,which is fortunate ‘cos as soon as we’d crossed over them,we were going into the basin at Trevor,turning round and going back across again.Just having the weekend,and what could be a busy one,meant we had to watch how far we cruised if we wanted to be back in Ellesmere on Monday without rushing.

Lisa's Llangollen 003  Lisa's Llangollen 004

A view through one of the arches of the Chirk viaduct and Steve at the helm of Chyandour as we crossed the aqueduct.Lisa and Heather busy with their cameras.

Lisa's Llangollen 007  Lisa's Llangollen 009

One of the many other boats out on the canal,this one,a day boat from Anglo Welsh at Trevor,with what looked like a Hen Party who were obviously enjoying their day out.The Eastern end of Chirk Tunnel and a cyclist taking a well earned rest.

We moored up on Saturday at The Poachers Pocket,another pub we had never visited and another pub that proved to be excellent.It was packed when I walked in at 7 and there was an hours wait for a table,that suited us ‘cos everyone else was still getting ready,I was thirsty.The staff were true to their word though,and we were seated by 8.Ryan,Daryl,Caroline,Laura G and Little Chris D didn’t stop for one minute,they were rushed off their feet but still remained cheerful and helpful and as a result we had a great evening.The Poachers Pocket is another pub that I would recommend but be prepared for a wait if it’s busy.

On Sunday,with Steve again doing most of the steering,we found out just how slow the locks at New Marton could be when it’s busy.We had to queue at both of them but the bottom lock gave us the longest wait,very slow filling the last foot or so,fortunately we had anticipated it so no harm was done.We cruised on past the top of the Frankton Locks,giving Amy a wave as we did,and then on past Ellesmere, where we found a Winding Hole,turned and moored next to one of the Meres,where we enjoyed a meal cooked by Lisa and a quiet night in.

Lisa's Llangollen 018 Lisa's Llangollen 023

One of the well kept gardens alongside the canal and a view out over Blake Mere where we moored on Saturday night.

Yesterday we dropped Heather and Steve in Ellesmere and after doing a bit of restocking at Tesco’s,said our farewells and they set off back to Ferndown in Dorset.Heather and Steve had been our first visitors to stay overnight and everything worked very well,they even found the spare bed that,in the day,is the dinette,to be comfortable.They left with a promise to come and visit again,so it can’t have been bad.

Hampton Bank 002 Hampton Bank 003

Lisa outside with the chairs and her knitting as I write and looking East on the moorings at Hampton Bank.Only us here now,though it was full last night.

Well,that’s all again for this week.I’m going outside now to enjoy the rest of another glorious day.Lisa has the chairs out on the wide towpath,the sun is beating down and the temperature is just a tad under 26 degrees again.Since our last blog we have done quite a lot,14 Locks and 45 Miles,giving us a grand total of 240 Locks and 362 Miles since we set off in October.Take care everyone.