Friday 8 June 2012

Llangollen Canal. Hurleston to Ellesmere.

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.
The Whitchurch arm was full, as were all the moorings outside, so we carried on for a bit to a lovely little spot called Sparks Bridge.
We’d bought this year’s batch of bedding plants so while we had a nice wide towpath Ann-Marie spread out all the troughs, trugs, buckets and planters and potted up the roof. We were quite glad we couldn’t get moored on the arm as this was a much nicer spot with plenty of room for gardening and painting; our two main occupations at the moment. We’ve now got strawberries and lettuce on the front and mostly petunias everywhere else. Our new addition this year is a hanging basket on the tiller.
Here’s a thing; ducks nest in trees. Honest. We know ‘cos we watched half a dozen ducklings launch themselves out of their nest which was ten feet up in an oak tree. As each little fluffy bundle bounced onto the grass, the mummy duck would run around the bottom of the tree squawking, until it followed her to join its brothers and sisters bobbing around in the canal. Then another one would drop and she’d have to do it all over again. Of course her job wasn’t made any easier by the dirty great boat that was in the way. She got them all sorted out in the end but it made for an eventful morning.
Dave climbed up to make sure the nest was empty.
It really was that high up!
After two nights at Sparks Bridge we carried on past the red-brick cottage that stands at the junction with the Prees Branch.
That brought back memories; we moored Shadowfax at the end of there for a night. After that there is a straight cut across Whixall Moss with heavy duty piling on both sides to stop the canal sinking into the peat bog.
It’s slightly eerie in a Hansel & Gretel way, but peacefully serene. We stopped Blake Mere, an idillic sheltered lakeside spot just before the Ellesmere tunnel. We both agree that it’s the nicest mooring we’ve found so far.
We stayed for two nights and promised ourselves a longer visit on the way back. Philippa & Rob, two of Dave’s many cousins live just up the road in Wrexham. Philippa came for tea on her bike, but because we hadn’t sussed out the car parking situation, ended up walking about a mile from Ellesmere in her leathers on a blazing hot afternoon. It was lovely to see her, lots of caching up and comparing notes from Oz where most of the other Wood cousins live.

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.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

What a lovely tale of ducks and other stories.

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