It’s been six years since we’ve been on the Llangollen canal and it’s just as beautiful as we remember. This is not the jewel in the UK waterways crown without good reason. As well as the scenery starting off in rolling pasture land and becoming ever more dramatic as you get further into Wales, there is all the classic canal architecture to marvel at; lift bridges, pretty lock cottages, a staircase, a good smattering of tunnels and, of course the two spectacular aqueducts at Chirk and Pontcysyllte. Even though this is going to be a three week flying visit we’ve been looking forward to it lots. The big difference is that it was October and the end of the holiday season when we hired Shadowfax, this time we’re right in the middle of it and we‘ve heard stories of boats queuing for hours at locks and water points. Undaunted, we set of from Hurleston and soon decided that, ok, there are more boats about, but even when it’s busy, it’s not that busy. We moored for one night at Wrenbury, outside the pub, and then headed for Whitchurch, passing through the six Grindly Brook locks, made up of a flight of three and a staircase. That took a lot longer than it should have, and not because of holiday traffic, but due to some bloke coming the other way, single handing his own boat AND towing an unmanned seventy foot broken-down hire boat. Stupid. If it hadn’t been for the lock keeper and all the holiday boaters doing all the pushing and pulling for him he’d still be there. And just to spice things up a bit he fell in half way down. The Locky is on duty all day at Grindley Brook to make sure everyone gets through the staircase without getting stuck or flooding the café. In mid-season he’s got enough on his plate already; by the time this numpty got to the bottom he was about ready to wrap a windlass round his head. But hey, the sun was shining and it gave us all something to laugh about! This is the bottom of Grindley Brook.
After two nights at Sparks Bridge we carried on past the red-brick cottage that stands at the junction with the Prees Branch.
The next day we pootled through the tunnel, swung into the Ellesmere arm, winded at the end and moored up. Dave managed to not make a hash of the whole turning business, much to the obvious disappointment of the people sitting on the benches at the end of the arm. We think they ought to get score cards, or at least heckle. “BW’s Got Talent” kind of thing.
There’s a very handy Tesco right on the bank so we stocked up ready for our next exiting episode. Mandy & Chas, our good friends from Peterborough who we met when Ann-Marie started dancing with Pig Dyke Molly, are coming to stay aboard for a few days and we’re off to the great Pontcysyllte aqueduct and other unpronounceable places.
This is dusk on the Ellesmere arm.