Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Willeymoor Lock Tavern - The Verdict

On Graham's recommendation we tried the Willeymoor Lock Tavern again on Friday evening. We popped in for a quick one while the dinner cooked in the oven and 3 pints later I managed to drag Roger out of the pub just in time before the dinner was ruined. We were the only customers in the bar but there were a couple of tables taken in the dining room and, judging by the empty plates that came past us on their way to the dishwasher, the food must be pretty good. The beer was certainly on form. Roger had the Heart of Stone from Lymestone Brewery and I had half a pint of Merlin's Dark Magic (I don't drink much these days). Despite the fact that we were the only ones in the bar we had a really good evening chatting to the 86 year old landlady, her daughter-in-law who does the cooking and the daughter-in-law's auntie who was the bar maid. They filled us in on lots of waterways gossip and the landlady entertained us with stories of the pub's history as she's been there for over 30 years. It's a shame they had so few customers but it is quite an isolated pub which relies on passing boats and the caravan park for the majority of it's clientele. It's now marked in our guide book to be a return mooring spot.

We spent the weekend in Wrenbury on the extremely muddy visitor moorings. Chico hates the mud and it was a real pain having to keep dragging him out for a wee etc. He had absolutely no intention of setting foot outdoors to go for a walk!  We had Sunday lunch in the Dusty Miller pub by the lift bridge. That too was fairly empty but had been recommended to us which is why we went in there rather than in our usual haunt of the Cotton Arms.  How I wish we hadn't bothered. We both had the roast beef dinner which sounded great on the menu "goose fat roasted potatoes, proper gravy and amazing yorkies" Nooo..... roast potatoes that were like rocks and had never seen any goose fat - even Aunt Bessie can make them better!  Gravy that was wishy washy and tasteless. In fact everything was tasteless, even the 5 assorted vegetables all tasted the same and portions were tiny for the £12 each. The 5 veg sounds good but would have fit on one tablespoon. We declined a dessert and left as soon as possible returning to the boat to fill up on cheese and biscuits.

Monday saw us leaving the Llangollen in glorious sunshine. The forecast had been for a good morning deteriorating as the day went on, so we made an early start and were underway by 9 am which is unheard of for us.  We passed Jon and Hannah at Burland as they were loading up ready for another coal run up the "gollie".

No sooner had we moored up here in Nantwich than the weather turned and it chucked it down. It's been blowing a hooley since we arrived and we had a very disturbed night last night with the wind, rain and hail. We'll be here for a few days now as it's the Nantwich Jazz and Blues Festival at weekend and I'm rather partial to a bit of the blues. We've even booked to go to a couple of gigs which should be good.

Bye for now, see you again soon.

Friday, 27 March 2015

I'm never too sure who actually reads this blog, so it was really nice to meet two readers the other day. Della and Gary were filling with water on the service point at Ellesmere as we pulled in behind them and Della said she'd been following the blog for a long time. Thanks Della, I hope we bump into you again when you're coming back down the gollie. If you see us please pop round for a brew.

After we left Ellesmere we were followed down the canal by this kingfisher who kept flying off in front and then sitting in a tree until we caught up, before setting off again.  It did this for about half a mile when it was joined by another kingfisher, presumably its mate, and they started flying in and out of a hole in the canal bank. We cut the engine and coasted past to watch what they were doing. They were actually digging out the hole to make a nest and we watched one fly in and then kick out soil before it flew out again. I've never seen two kingfishers in such close proximity before, truly a beautiful sight.

At bridge 50 we picked up something around the propeller. Normally we just put the boat hard into reverse and the weed cutter on our prop shaft cuts whatever it is off, but this time it didn't work so Roger had to go down the weed hatch.

It was a very thick polypropylene sheet. You can see that the weed cutter had done a good job of shredding it but there was just too much. It's now bagged up ready for disposal at the next rubbish point.

There are plenty of lift bridges on the Llangollen canal which are quite difficult for single-handers to operate as they need to tie off their boat before they can lift/lower the bridge.  Usually there are bollards to tie off to but I much prefer this method - a mooring ring has been fitted onto existing bolts. Not only is it a much cheaper job but there's nothing to fall over.

Yesterday was extremely windy and the Viking Afloat hire boat we were following was having real difficulty at the first lift bridge. He'd tied to a bollard while his wife went to operate the bridge but she somehow fell in and had to be helped out of the canal by motorists who were waiting to go over the bridge. She wasn't hurt just a bit shocked by the cold.  At the next bridge I got off and ran forwards to open it for them.  Another Viking Afloat boat had moored up for lunch but his stern mooring pin had been pulled out by a speeding boat and he hadn't noticed which meant that his boat was diagonal across the canal and blocking our passage. After a couple of blasts of the horn he came out, started the engine and pulled over to the bank but in his hurry he forgot about the trailing mooring rope which promptly wrapped itself around the propeller. Despite their mishaps both sets of hire crews said how much they were enjoying their holidays.

Today it's been much better weather-wise and we're now moored below Willeymoor Lock and pub. The last time we went in the pub the beer was dreadful but on Graham's recommendation (n.b. Armadillo) we're going to give it a second chance. I'll let you know the verdict tomorrow.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

New coal boat on the Llangollen Canal

Spring is definitely in the air here. We've had some fantastic sunny days recently and there are primroses and daffodils everywhere although I never seem to have the camera handy when we pass a yellow patch. There are also lambs in all the fields and they seem to be fascinated by  the boat and run down to the canal when we go past. I'm still waiting to see my first ducklings of the year but I don't think it'll be long as there are hardly any female mallards about at the moment, presumably they're all sitting on nests in the reeds.

I dropped Roger off at Chirk Marina last Thursday and carried on to moor at Chirk Bank. Chirk Tunnel is only wide enough for one boat and as I was about 20 yards from the end a boat started coming in. A long blast on the horn made him stop in his tracks but he had no excuse for not having looked before he came steaming in as he wasn't alone. His wife was suitably embarrassed but he gave me such a dirty look as if it was my fault he had to reverse! We've seen him a few times since and he's still giving me the evil eye, silly man.

A new fuel boat has just started operating on the LLangollen Canal and as you can see from our diesel gauge we were desperate for it to reach us.

I was expecting Mongomery to get to us on Friday but they didn't arrive until Saturday evening. The Llangollen canal is so shallow they had been dredging it as they went and had got stuck in several bridge holes. Even so, Hannah and Jon arrived just as it was going dark and gave us cheerful service with a smile. Their diesel is really cheap for this canal too. 72p/l as opposed to £1.05/l at Chirk Marina.

They moored up behind us for the night and went to the pub for a well deserved pint. I really hope they make a go of it. Coal boats are a dying breed but are so essential for us live-aboard boaters, especially in winter. If you need supplies you can contact them by
phone - 07756170860
email - andertoncanalcarrying@outlook.com
facebook - ACCo-Llangollen fuel boat
Twitter - @welshcoalboat

Roger finally finished the job at Chirk Marina and we carried on cruising in glorious sunshine to Ellesmere

where we've had hail showers with hail the size of large peas!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Hi, welcome back!  Well I did it.................I steered across Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on my own while Roger took photos. That's quite an achievement for me as I really don't like heights, but if hire boaters can do it then so can I.

This photo courtesy of wikipedia gives you some idea of the height

Approaching the aqueduct heading towards Trevor I almost bottled out.

There's not much room on either side of the boat and the iron trough which forms the aqueduct is only a couple of inches thick.

and it's a  L O N G  way down

 That's the River Dee just over 100 feet below us

I couldn't bring myself to look down the other side of the boat but looking out across the footpath and railings wasn't too bad.

It was almost like flying

On previous crossings I've hidden inside the boat but I'm really glad I made the effort to do it

can you tell I was quite chuffed?

Friday, 13 March 2015

Catching up

I can't believe it's been almost a month since my last blog!

Roger picked up a job wiring out a boat for a couple in Chirk Marina so I've just been killing time while he's been at work and I wouldn't want to bore you with the day to day trivia of my life.

One thing I would like to share with you is my new toy. It's a Shark S2901 Multi-function Steam Mop and it's amazing, just perfect for the boat.

Because tow paths are always muddy and also because we have a dog we have laminate floors and ceramic tiles throughout the boat. These are easy to keep reasonably clean just by sweeping or vacuuming but I hate mopping them as they take ages to dry.  This steam mop leaves them sparkling clean and almost dry in seconds. It comes apart to be used as a hand cleaner and is fantastic for doing the shower. I thought our tiles were clean but you should have seen the gunk the steamer cleared out of the grout!

It did a fantastic job cleaning the oven, another of my less favourite jobs, and then all packs away neatly into a small holdall for storage under the bed.

The only drawback with it is that you need to use de-ionised water rather than tap water but as we were moored outside Tesco at Ellesmere at the time this wasn't really an issue and I only used half of a 2.5 litre container to steam clean the whole boat.  Roger always has de-ionised water in stock for topping up batteries and we've found the cheapest place to get it is Tesco at 85p. We've seen the same thing in chandlers for almost a fiver!!!  

He's now got a few days off so we're going to Llangollen to visit friends who are moored there for the winter and also catch up with our cruising partners from last summer, Bob & Nicola, to plan this years big adventure.

Yesterday I moved the boat from the Poacher's Pocket at Chirk to collect him from Chirk Marina. This meant cruising single handed across Chirk Aqueduct and through Chirk Tunnel.  You may remember from previous posts that I don't like either heights or tunnels, so I was really chuffed with myself that I managed both on my own.

The forecast for today is better this afternoon, and as it's persisting down at the moment we'll set off later to cross the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. At least it's not windy today. The last time we crossed it we almost lost the flower troughs off the roof.  Do you think I might be brave enough to steer across myself?  I'll let you know tomorrow.