Friday, 30 March 2012

A great week

The Llangollen is getting quite busy in the run up to Easter. There are loads of hire boats going up and down, mostly well driven, however we were rammed by a day boat earlier today.

Last weekend was spent socialising with a group of lovely boaters who had come out of Chirk Marina for an extended weekend jaunt and we made a valiant effort to drink the Poachers Pocket dry. This was followed by a leisurely couple of days cruising back down New Marton locks to fill up with water and a half mile walk down Frankton locks to the refuse skip to dump the rubbish.

We arrived back at the Poachers Pocket this morning, closely followed by Charles and Dolores on "Felonious Mongoose" who we last met when they moored in Macclesfield Marina for a short while a couple of years ago.  They invited us on board for a coffee and we had a good chat, catching up and sharing experiences.

Chico's still having his training sessions with Karen of Beastly Thoughts and it finally looks like we're making progress. Walks are much less stressful although I think it'll be a long time (if ever) till he 's cured and can happily socialise with other dogs. While we were out walking this morning, we met a man with 4 dogs who took great pains to tell me that he was a dog trainer and I was doing it all wrong!  According to him I shouldn't use praise and treats but should yank him hard by the collar every time he barks at another dog and use other aversion/punishment methods. I think I'll stick with Karen's methods thank you!

The weather this week has been absolutely glorious and I've started planting up the troughs on the roof. So far I've filled 2 with violas and have tomatoes, courgettes and strawberries hardening off ready for planting on in a couple of weeks. The local mallards are very tame as they're regularly fed by people eating in the pub garden.  This one sat on the roof for ages watching me doing the planting. I just hope it doesn't fancy tender young plants along with its pub diet of crisps and chips.

One of our expensive SMD (LED) lamps has failed after only 12 months (should last around 30,000 hours) and when Roger took it down to check he found out it was the capacitor that's failed. You may recall that we had problems with failing capacitors in the TV back in January so he ordered the right size replacement and again has effected a repair.  The only draw-back is that the minimum order of these particular capacitors is 100 at a time but at under £3 including delivery and VAT it's not such a hardship.

If anyone needs any SMD's repairing we've got plenty of capacitors going spare, just get in touch.

As it's been such a leisurely week I've been doing quite a lot of crochet, working on my blanket and also making this Happy Flower wall hanging. It's another of Lucy's creations and the instructions are available here.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Poachers Pocket

The other day, when we were moored at Froncysyllte, we watched 2 guys on the opposite bank catching rabbits.  They'd covered a couple of rabbit holes in the hedgerow with netting and then sent a polecat down to flush out the rabbits.  It seems that rabbit meat is quite popular round here as we've seen plenty for sale, both in the local butchers and in the NISA supermarket in Llangollen. It's a very healthy meat being extremely low fat. It's also very tender and is one of our favourites, so when the butchers in Chirk had some nice meaty ones the other day I couldn't resist. It also seems quite appropriate as we're now moored at the Poachers Pocket pub.

This is a recipe I used to make years ago, I hope you like it, we certainly did!

Rabbit with mustard and prunes  - serves 4
1 rabbit cut into 6 joints
1 tblsp plain flour
1 finely chopped onion
12 ready to eat prunes
1 tablespoon creme fraiche
1 dessert spoon Dijon mustard
salt & pepper

Put the flour into a plastic bag, add the joints one at a time and shake to coat in the flour.

Gently brown in olive oil, don't overcrowd the pan or they will just stew rather than brown.

Add the onions and prunes and pour over just enough water to cover.
Season with salt and pepper and simmer on a low heat for 45 mins. till tender.
Remove the rabbit with a slotted spoon and keep warm.
Add the mustard and creme fraiche to the sauce and then simmer until reduced a bit. You can also mash the prunes into the sauce if you like.

Serve with mashed potatoes and green veg.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Boats everywhere

There's been a noticeable increase in the numbers of boats about today.  In fact, for the first time this year we had to queue to go across the aqueducts and through the tunnels and ended up as one of a convoy of 5 boats. We're now back at Chirk Bank, although after being bothered by a lout last week, we've moored on the other side of the bridge with 2 other boats. 

As I was walking through the "narrows" there were quite a few of these small blue flowers just starting to grow in the grass verge.  I've looked both on-line and in my Observers wild flower book but can't identify it.  Can anyone help?  They were about 6inches tall.

the "narrows"- only wide enough for one boat

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Castles and Dragons

We arrived back in Llangollen yesterday and went down into the town to do some shopping. Since our last visit a couple of weeks ago a new Nisa supermarket has opened, up by the garage, and it’s a lot cheaper than the Spar in the centre of town.  The river level has dropped considerably and you can now see the rock beds below the water when  previously it had been a raging torrent.

I never expected to see a dragon walking down the street - but this is Wales.

Castell Dinas Bran sits 750 feet above the town and today we decided to go and have a closer look.

that's it, right at the top

It’s a steep climb up a zig-zag path, once you get through the sheep field, and at a couple of points I really felt my age!

The castle was originally built in 1260 but was only occupied for around 20 years before being burned and abandoned.  It’s amazing really just how much of it remains over 700 years later.

But it is so worth the effort as the views from the top are amazing.  It could only have been improved if the sky had been a bit clearer and the sun had been shining.

the sun shone on the Cefn Viaduct (railway)
the canal and River Dee
Raven and Goblet wood carving
with footpath markers

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Dog training in the sunshine

The heavy rain continued overnight but today has been warm and sunny again.  While Roger watched the Grand Prix, I took Chico out wearing his new muzzle and we practiced some of the exercises suggested by Karen, the dog trainer.  He’s a fast learner and soon got used to wearing the muzzle.  It’s strange the reactions we got from walkers and dog walkers.  Families with children assumed he was wearing the muzzle because he bites (which he doesn’t) and gave us a wide berth, but dog walkers took no notice at all.  It isn’t easy trying to walk and train a dog who is scared of other dogs, especially when so many people walk their dogs off the lead and don’t/won’t call their dogs away when they rush up towards him wanting to socialise.  I had to ask 2 people to please call their dogs away but the response was the same “but my dog’s friendly and just wants to play”.  Yes, well my dog isn’t friendly and doesn’t want to play! Yet……. So please, all you dog owners out there, spare a thought for those of us with problem dogs and if you see a dog on the lead and wearing a muzzle call your dog back and give us a chance, we’re working on the problem.

Later on we went for a walk down through Tan Y Cut Woods. The woodland banks are carpeted with wild garlic at the moment and I picked some to use in tonight’s dinner.

click on the photo to read the blurb

wild garlic

graffiti hidden in the middle of the wood

We did a circular walk through the underpass under the canal and up the hill to Froncysyllte village.  It’s not far from the canal and there’s a post office, fish & chip shop and Indian take-away.  We re-joined the canal at the lift bridge and walked back to the boat in the spring sunshine. The only thing that could have made it better would have been if we’d found an ice-cream van on the way.


On Friday we drove over to Welshpool to have a look at the other section of the Montgomery Canal that’s still in water.  The lock looks to be in good condition although it’s padlocked up.  Right next door is the Powysland Museum. It’s quite a small museum but as we had the dog with us we couldn’t go inside.  Not far away there are visitor moorings but they don’t look like they’ve been used for a long time.

There are several really huge trees around the canal area.  This one dwarfed the houses beside it.

When we were in Oswestry last week I saw a poster in the pub advertising a dog trainer who's based not far from Chirk.  We got in touch with her to see if she could help with Chico’s anti-social behaviour and so today we went to meet her for an assessment.  Basically, he’s scared of all other dogs and as a result becomes very aggressive whenever he meets one.  She was very good and thinks she can help us help him become more controlled, so we’ve come away with lots of homework to practice until our next visit next weekend.

We decided not to stay at Chirk Bank for another night as last night we had 2 visits from one of the local scroats.  At 7.30 I was preparing the dinner and he came and kicked the kitchen window where I was standing (the blinds were down so I don't think he could actually see me, just the light), then at 11.00 he came back and kicked the saloon window. It’s a good job we’ve got laminated glass. I just can’t understand what kind of thrill he got out of it but we decided to move just in case he fancied a repeat visit tonight. We wanted to moor on the SUCS moorings just through Whitehouse Tunnel but we couldn’t get the satellite dish to lock on and as it’s the first Formula 1 tomorrow we carried on for another mile or so to the next moorings.  The first moorings have been planted up with several plum and meddlar trees.  What a good idea! I wonder how many years they’ll take to bear fruit.

Tonight we're moored at Froncysyllte. It's very peaceful and our only neighbours are these very wet cattle in the field opposite.


& calf

It's been ages since we've had any rain but just as we moored up for the night the heavens opened and it looks set for the night. It might be chucking it down outside but it's nice and cosy inside with the fire glowing.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

The ducks are getting frisky!

Spring is definitely here. The dawn chorus gets louder (and earlier) every morning and the ducks are pairing up and getting frisky.  When I went out of the boat earlier there was an egg nestling in the grass just in front of the boat.  It must have been laid this morning while we were out but it's now in my egg box ready for the Saturday fry-up!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Back to Chirk

It was time to leave the Montgomery Canal today so when the Lock Keeper opened up at 12.00 we came back up onto the Llangollen Canal. Traffic is definitely starting to pick up and we met 3 hire boats coming down New Marton locks.  All 3 had happy, smiling holiday makers and it was nice to have someone to chat to again after the solitude of the Monty.

When we came out of New Marton Top Lock the surface of the canal was covered with a thick layer of oil/diesel which has continued all the way to Chirk. BW are obviously aware of it as there's an oil boom across the bi-wash to stop it going down-stream. Heaven knows where it's coming from, but by the amount in the water it must be a major spillage.

This is the third time we've moored at Chirk Bank but it's the first time we've managed to align the satellite dish. It seems that just by mooring 1 ring closer to the bridge allows you to get sat signal through a gap between the trees.  We couldn't even get digital TV signal here last time. I'm really glad it's sorted as I want to watch the Master Chef final. I know we could always watch it on the BBC iplayer or Catch-up TV but it's not quite the same. 

Monday, 12 March 2012

Final few days on the Monty

We moved back to Queens Head on Friday so that we could catch the bus into Oswestry on Saturday and also go to the pub for another delicious Sunday roast.  We'd originally intended having Sunday lunch in the Navigation at Maesbury Marsh, but after our visit on Thursday evening we decided against it.  The beer wasn't brilliant and the menu was decidedly expensive. It may be OK for a special occasion but it was more than I'm prepared to pay for a normal meal.

The bus stop is right outside the pub. The no. 70 goes to Shrewsbury in one direction and to Oswestry in the other. It runs every 30 minutes (14 and 44 mins past the hour to Oswestry) and costs £1.20 single.  We took the granny trolley so I could do some food shopping in Sainsbury's and as the return bus stop is right outside the supermarket so it was an easy trip.

We're now moored back on the Weston Arm, having filled up with water and run 3 loads of washing. The Montgomery is a lovely canal and although we're booked to go back up the locks tomorrow, we'll definitely make a return visit soon.  It seems to be getting busier now as 3 boats passed us en-route this morning and there are another 2 moored here at Weston.

This pair of Greylag Geese were strutting their stuff beside the canal and came to warn us to keep away.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Wonderful B.W.

We needed a pump out yesterday but when we tried to use the self-service machine at Maesbury Services it wasn't working properly.  The machine started up normally but there was absolutely no suction whatsoever. Although it was 5.15 Roger phoned the Northwich B.W. office expecting to just leave an answerphone message. Instead he was put straight through to the local lengthsman who promised to come out to us first thing this morning.  By 9.30 he'd come to meet us, having first been to check the machine and make sure it was working.  We reversed back to the services and he stayed around to make sure we got the job done problem free. Apparently, this machine is used so infrequently that the internal seals dry out and he told us there's talk of removing the machine due to lack of use.

We've had wonderful service from the local B.W. guys while we've been on the Monty. I'd urge anyone who has a problem with anything to phone their local office. It seems they just can't do enough to help but obviously if problems aren't reported then they can't sort them out.

Incidentally, we always carry an item "just in case" we get really stuck and can't get a pump-out.  It's this. Called a "shit-box" and was originally developed for music festivals. I hope we never actually have to use it but it's always there in emergencies and as it's flat-packed it just hides under the bed.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Restoration works

It's been another lovely spring day and the flowers in the roof boxes are blooming. The wallflowers have lasted all winter and the spring bulbs are starting to come through.

On Monday I said that when we'd been to Canal Central it was closed and looked like it had been for a while. Well it is still open, we called yesterday. It's advertised as being a community shop and tea rooms and is actually listed on the internet as being a post office branch. I went in but was obviously interrupting some form of commity meeting which was being held as everyone turned round and glared at me!  The only provisons I could see on sale were a few packets of biscuits and the only things in the fridge were a couple of packets of bacon and 1 bottle of milk 1 day before its sell-by date.  I asked the guy behind the "tea-room" counter if they had any fresher milk and if they still operated as a post office but he couldn't be bothered answering me and instead shouted loudly for his wife!  Not very nice, maybe he'd have been more welcoming if I'd wanted something from his cafe. She didn't have any fresher milk and as it was £1.95 I declined to buy it. She also told me that they ceased being a Post Office branch almost 2 years ago.

Canal Central

Today we carried on to the end of navigation which is only about a mile further along the canal.

end of navigation

anyone know what a "chanely" is?
We still needed milk and a friend of ours had told us about the Co-op at Pant so we walked along the towpath. The canal carries on in water for about a mile and you can see how it's been restored so far, with new stone walls and waterproof membrane along the waters edge.

This is the end of the section in water.

new road bridge lining

first section not in water, under restoration

another, totally separate,  section being restored

site of old winding hole?

The local free range poultry like the cleared canal bed, must be full of worms.

Bantam cockerel

Guinea fowl
Almost 3 miles later we found the Co-op at Pant. It's up on the main road and is very well stocked and has a proper Post Office counter, although this closes at 3pm.  When we got back to the boat we decided to move back to Maesbury for the night as we needed a pump-out at the service block.  I'll tell you about that tomorrow. Right now we're off to try the beer in the Navigation.