Sunday, 29 April 2012


On the way into town on Friday morning we met our friend Bargee Bill who lives in the cottage beside Chemistry Lock. His gardens are starting to look lovely and this beautiful clematis is covering the fence beside the lock.

It really must be spring, although you wouldn't think of it looking at the weather, as my tomato plants are coming on a treat and one has started flowering.  All I need now is some sunshine so I can move them out onto the roof permanently, at the moment they're spending most of the time in the cratch.

BW are working at Hoole Lane Lock and have fenced off the side of the lock while they re-lay the pavings around the mooring bollards.

We're staying in the centre of Chester for a few days while I stock up the cupboards, fridge and freezer and indulge in a bit of general retail therapy.  I've even bitten the bullet and had my hair cut.  I absolutely HATE hairdressers as I've had a couple of disastrous experiences in the past but it really was time to get something done with my mop.  I've had 5 inches cut off (it's still fairly long) and had it 'styled' and I have to say the hairdresser was really good and made it a stress-free visit. She was a bit older than the usual stylists and actually listened when I told her what I wanted, instead of just doing what they want. She spent time giving me lots of advice on how to look after the style and how I can adapt it to still put it up when we're travelling and even tried plying me with wine while she was working!

Chester is very busy.  The moorings are full and there are plenty of hire boats coming and going up and down the staircase locks. The weather is really dire, very wet & windy, but still the hire boats come past. They mostly look miserable but we had a couple of Anglo Welsh boats past this morning, obviously travelling together. They were full of men and at 10.30 they were already on the beer, standing soaking wet on the back decks cans in hand.

I've finally finished the blanket I told you about back here in January.

There are 144 squares and each flower has a bead in the centre.

It's been a lot of work but I'm very pleased with it.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Internet Wilderness

On Tuesday we had a lovely cruise, sharing the locks with a Canaltime hire boat, and moored early afternoon between the 2 locks at Beeston.

We were soon joined by 5 boats from Boothstown Marina who were on their spring cruise. It was warm and sunny and I spent a couple of hours sat on the towpath, alternating between reading a book on my Kindle and watching Roger wash the boat. Later on we were visited by this duck and her brood of ducklings, the first we've seen this year.

The only problem with Beeston is it's an internet wilderness and Orange mobiles don't work either so I had to keep going for a walk until I got a signal to check for any messages from our daughter.  Her baby is due next week and I wasn't too happy about being out of touch.

Yesterday was a pretty dismal day.  It rained constantly so we stayed put.  In the morning we walked over to Beeston Market to meet our friend Dave, who owns one of our boats and moors in Aqueduct Marina, and check out the horse and tack auction.  It was all rather sad really.  The horses all looked miserable and I was surprised just how few were sold.  Most of the ones we watched being auctioned didn't realise their reserve price and a couple of small ponies sold for peanuts.  A pedigree puppy costs more than people were paying for the horses and ponies.  I was rather tempted by this donkey. He was so cute!

There were lots of saddles in all sizes being auctioned but the tack sale should have been called a tat sale.  

Outside, there were a few small carts for sale and also this gypsy caravan.

There was also a fruit and veg market stall and a couple of large mobile meat vans. I stocked up on veg but hardly anyone was buying anything. 

By this time we were soaked so we headed back to the boat and lit the fire.  We'd bought a pack of "Heatabix" from the Anglo Welsh shop at Wrenbury and it's been ideal for small fires in the mornings and evenings.  

It's cheap, 12 blocks for £4.30, quick to light, fairly smokeless and has little ash. The only drawback I've found is that it sends large sooty specks out of the chimney which make a real mess on the roof. I keep trying these alternative fuels but nothing beats good old fashioned logs, especially the free ones you can pick up along the canal.

All the boats from Boothstown had gone by the time we got up (we're not early risers) so once the rain had died down to a drizzle we carried on towards Chester. At times the drizzle intensified and it was like being in  a waterfall but we persevered and are now moored just outside Chester, above Tarvin Lock.

Chico isn't an early riser either.  He gets up when I do, goes out for a wee and then goes straight back to bed, covering his eyes with his paws until he gets dragged out again when it's time to move.  

I think I'll come back as a dog next time, especially if I can be as pampered and spoilt as he is.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Back to the Shroppie

First I have to say "if something's not broken, why fix it?" Blogger has been 'updated' so if things look different for a while please bare with me while I re-learn how to do it.

We carried on down the Llangollen today, stopping by Bridge 1 just before Hurleston Locks to go to Snugbury's Ice Cream Farm. There was a gap in my freezer just the right size for a litre container of Cherry Blizzard (white choc ice-cream with cherries and choccy biscuit bits) so we took some of that for the boat and had a couple of cones while we went to check out the rest of the farm. They have about 30 different flavours to choose from, I had Raspberry Pavlova and Roger had Sloe Gin .....heaven!

I'd wanted to see their straw sculpture of the Polar bear but it had gone. You can see a pic here of what it looked like.

Instead we watched the piglets playing and rooting around looking for food.

Aren't they cute? They're about the size of a small dog. I didn't get a photo of mum but she was huge.

This was my favourite.  I could quite easily have taken it home.

On the way back to the boat we called in at Blackberry Farm which backs onto the canal.

Their free-range eggs are gorgeous.

hens doing what hens do best

sunbathing hens

After filling up with water we carried on down the locks and are now moored just below the junction, ready to carry on tomorrow. We're heading for the cattle market at Beeston which is on every Wednesday.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Saturday Lunch

After my Mum left yesterday afternoon Roger went back to the Anglo Welsh hire base to see if they'd had a delivery of diesel yet.  The guy he spoke to didn't know what Roger was talking about.  It turns out they'd had diesel all along, but the girl who had been on reception was on her own and didn't want to/couldn't sell us any.  We reversed the boat back and took 100 litres.  At the moment it's 85p domestic rate and they do any split.  We're aiming to fill up at Wheaton Aston when we pass in a couple of weeks as it's still the cheapest in the region.

We're moored right beside the caravan park at the Cotton Arms.  It's a good place to moor, not only because of the pub but also because you can use the caravan site's rubbish disposal and Elsan facilities (if you have a cassette toilet) and the moorings here are always busy.

This lunchtime we've been to the pub.  It's quite well known amongst boaters for its Lunch Club on Wednesday and Saturday and we've been before.  They do 2 courses for a fiver with a choice of 3 starters and 4 mains which change every week.  They also serve this menu on Wednesday evenings and their other main menu also looks good.  If you're in the area it's definitely worth a visit, but be sure to book if you want a meal in the evening, especially at weekend, as they're regularly full with boaters and caravanners alike. These are the menus for the next 4 weeks. Double click on the photo to enlarge it.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

April showers

Yesterday's weather was typical April showers and we got wet a couple of times.  We carried on down Grindley Brook locks to moor on the visitor moorings and paid a visit to the Horse and Jockey pub which had been recommended on a couple of other blogs.  The beer was good and the menu interesting but we ate on the boat as we've planned on eating at the Cotton Arms in Wrenbury on Saturday.

Today we've had heavy rain, hail and thunder.... oh and brilliant sunshine as well.
At Quoisley Lock there was a stall selling hen's and guinea fowl eggs. I've never seen guinea fowl eggs for sale before. They're smaller than hens eggs but larger than quails eggs.

Beside Marbury Lock there were hens eggs and an assortment of jams and marmalades for sale.

When we got to the Anglo Welsh hire base at Wrenbury Mill we called in to pick up some diesel. Our gauge is showing absolutely empty (although we know we still have enough for a couple more days) but  unfortunately for us they didn't have any.  They're waiting for a delivery, so until that arrives we're going no further.

My Mum's coming to visit tomorrow. She's disabled but we've managed to moor right beside the path to the caravan park which will mean she's got easy access to the boat.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Pump-out and toads

Today we really needed a pump-out, the gauge was almost off the scale, so we headed on down to the end of the Prees Branch to Whixall Marina. Just as we got the hose connected and the pump working the heavens opened, not rain but hail stones the size of marrowfat peas.  Boy did they sting!  In all the years we've been getting pump-outs this had to be the worst.  The pump was pretty useless and, although it ran for the usual length of time, it only emptied a third of the tank. The guy in the office wasn't interested.  According to him it copes very well with hire boats so it must be OK, but hire boats are usually pumped out every week and don't have a big tank. To do it properly we'd have had to buy another 2 tokens but at £12 a go that would have meant £36.  All I can say is "we won't be back".

When I went to cast off and lift the fenders I noticed that one of the go-kart tyre fenders was rather heavy. At first I thought it had filled with water but closer inspection showed it was being used as a love-nest

by this courting couple.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Prees Branch

It’s been a beautiful day again today. Bright and sunny,  perfect cruising weather. Roger had to watch the Chinese Grand Prix first so we set off after lunch, stopping for water and rubbish disposal at Bettisfield on the way.  The canal is nice and quiet again after the Easter holidays and we’ve only seen a handful of moving boats all day.

We turned down the Prees Branch at the junction and moored between the 2 lift bridges.  There were a few boats moored near the junction but we’re alone again down here.

When I did the dusting this afternoon I noticed a small burn mark on one of the shelves that hadn’t been there yesterday.

Once the sun shone we found out what had caused it.  The sun rays were being magnified through a paperweight.

This paperweight has been in the same spot for over 3 years so it must have been a fluke that it’s happened, but we’re not taking any chances and it’s now been moved to a different place in the boat, away from direct sunlight.

Around the Meres

This really is a beautiful place to moor!  Because it's only a mile outside Ellesmere town hardly any boats bother stopping to moor and, apart from a couple of hire boats who've stopped for a couple of hours late afternoon to use the picnic tables to have their tea alfresco, we've had it all to ourselves.

We've had quite a few (very welcome)  heavy rain showers but in between these the sun's shone and we've been out and about exploring.  1.5 miles further along the canal is Colemere.

It's a lot bigger than Blakemere and we walked all round it on Friday.  It has it's own sailing club which brought back memories of my early teenage years, spent dinghy racing at Leigh Flash beside the Bridgewater Canal.

Yesterday we walked back into Ellesmere and round the mere.

I loved this wood carving/sculpture we found on the woodland walk.  As it was raining at the time the woods were deserted and it was just a lovely place to be.

There were quite a few dog walkers about and, for the most part, Chico coped really well.  He's learning very quickly that if he doesn't feel happy in the vicinity of another dog, he can turn round and we go another way. If there's no other way to go we pick him up and turn him away from the oncoming dog.  This worked really well with 5 dogs and we had a stress-free walk. That is until a woman appeared round a corner with an uncontrolled dog off the lead.  It came bounding over and even though she could see we'd picked Chico up and he was clearly very distressed, she was totally unable to call her dog back and get it under control.  Although she muttered an embarrassed apology, that one incident just about undid all the progress we'd made with the other dogs earlier. We'll have another long walk again today and see if we can get his confidence back.  We could really do with meeting another (patient) boater with a very placid dog who we could practice with. Maybe I'll put a sign in the window next time we're moored in a busy spot.

Thursday, 12 April 2012


Aren't blogs wonderful? There are a few boaters in the area who have blogs and everyone has a different slant. It's nice when people publish useful information and I read on Bendigedig's blog that Elsie had taken her dog to Blakemere Veterinary Centre in Ellesmere. As Chico was due for his annual vaccinations we gave them a try.  It's a very friendly, efficient practice and the vet was wonderful with Chico. He knew he was frightened of other dogs so went to great pains to keep us away from others while we were waiting,  making the visit as stress-free as possible for Chico.  If you need a vet while you're in the area I can recommend them.

We’ve spent a couple of days at Ellesmere, moored opposite the service block and watching the antics of the novice hire boaters.  There’s been collisions, speeding boats, boats going the wrong way at the junction and panicking and reversing out and boats steered by young children who had no idea what they were doing and no control.  In short it’s been entertaining mayhem, but our 72 hours were up so, after filling with water, dumping the rubbish and shopping in Tesco we’ve moved about a mile to moor in one of our favourite spots.

This is Blakemere. It’s a small lake about 20 feet away from the canal.  It’s quiet and really beautiful and we’ll probably stay here for a couple of days.

This is the view from the dinette window. It's so nice to sit here while we have our meals and watch the wild life.

Sunday, 8 April 2012


Happy Easter!

This morning, after saying goodbye to Jill and Allen on "Rough Grazing", we carried on down to Ellesmere.  There'd been lots of boats going past this morning, all heading up towards Llangollen and when we set off they were queuing 7 deep for the lock.  I'm certainly glad we're heading the other way!

It's not much quieter in Ellesmere. There are plenty of boats out on the main line where we've moored and the arm was almost full when we walked into town.

We've been to the Red Lion for lunch. Their Sunday roast is still as good as it was 18 months ago and the pub was absolutely packed.

Having heard on the towpath telegraph about the beer festival at the White Hart, we called in for a drink after lunch and stayed to listen to the folk/jammin session.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Bank Holiday Mayhem

We moved today, down New Marton Locks to moor up with Jill and Allen on "Rough Grazing".

The canal is extremely busy with hire boats, almost all going up the locks towards Llangollen. They've been coming in convoys of 4 - 5 at a time and almost all were speeding. One hire boat was going so fast he was pushing a huge breaking bow wave and was right up behind the boat in front. They couldn't overtake, although I'm certain he would have tried, as this was just before the locks and there were already 4 boats in front of him queueing .

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

It's the Easter school holidays and it's snowing!

Every night I've been covering the bedding plants with an old coal bag, but as frost was forecast last night I bought some bubble-wrap and made them a nice cosy blanket. We didn't get frost, instead they were covered in snow!.

When we got up this morning the view from the boat was more like Christmas than Easter.

The geese aren't happy and are strutting and tutting and trying to avoid the melting snow dripping from the trees.

Monday, 2 April 2012

It's the M25!

It's amazing how many boats have suddenly appeared on this canal!  We must have seen 40 moving boats today, mostly hire boats but some private ones too.

On Saturday we moved back to Froncysyllte. It's a lovely quiet mooring, and there's one particular spot where we can get Satellite through the trees.  Yesterday we crossed over the Pontycyllte Aqueduct again, (yes, I hid inside again) to go to the Anglo Welsh hire base at Trevor as we needed diesel.  It was 89p/litre domestic rate and they do any split. As we were going through the lift bridge before the aqueduct about 10 canoes were being launched into the water. They were paddled by total novices who then followed the trip boat across the aqueduct. This is against the flow of the water and it took them a good 20 minutes to cross as some of them were so weak they could hardly make any headway and others kept stopping to admire the view. Needless to say they caused a bit of a hold-up as boats had to wait for them to get out of the way.  They were quicker going back as the water flow pushed them along.

About 50 yards from where we were moored was an overhanging tree and we kept hearing hire boats scratching their paintwork on it when they got too close. So this morning, as we were leaving, we stopped just past it and got the saw and secateurs out and chopped it right back.  The branches were dead and fairly brittle so it wasn't too hard a job,  but they were covered with large thorns so you can imagine the horrible scratches they must have caused.

half chopped back
You may remember me commenting on the fruit trees that have been planted by the Shropshire Union Canal Society at the moorings by Whitehouse Tunnel. When we passed today I noticed that one of them has been dug up, presumably stolen.

Chico had a very successful training session on Saturday but unfortunately it was his last one with Karen as we have to start heading down and off the Llangollen Canal.  I'd like to come back later in the year so he can have a few more lessons, we'll have to see how things work out. In the meantime Karen recommended this book to help us continue with his training so I've bought a copy on Kindle.

We're now moored back at Chirk Bank, hopefully for the last time, and for the first time for 3 weeks we've had a spot of rain. It didn't last long but was enough for me to need a raincoat.