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70 now and our five wonderful years aboard our narrowboat Skyy seem along time ago. Jacquie, allowed me to build my replica three wheeler kit car, which was a great success. Now it's time to start on a bigger project and that is to make a good Triumph Stag even better, here goes.

Friday, 28 May 2010



Marilyn and Brian would be jumping ship today and as there was a half hourly bus service from the centre of Chester to Nantwich, it made sense to get them as close as possible.

Forty minutes from casting off from our overnight mooring and we were in Tower Wharf, there is a water point and a pumpout facility here and we felt sufficiently secure to leave SKYY unattended. We all trooped of carrying M & B’s bags, Duggie as well, along the towpath, under the city walls, eventually emerging in the City Centre by the bus stops and a few minutes later a number 84 whizzed them off towards Nantwich and their onward journey back south.

When we got back to SKYY we backed her up and into the top lock of the defunct Dee arm. At the far end of this lock is an old brick sanitation building, but the recently installed, card operated pumpout is in a black steel cabinet alongside. This was now an essential requirement as none of the boatyards shown in the guide now exist. That job completed we came back around to the other side of the old dry dock and filled up with water.

We made way for another boat and after they had topped up with water we accompanied them up the staircase locks and moored opposite the old people’s home. I feel uneasy mooring in city centres, but this seemed quiet enough. A two mile walk around, the almost intact City Walls is a must, at one point we looked down onto the saucer shaped race course which was originally the old Roman harbour before the course of the Dee was changed dramatically by silting. I am glad to report that our night was undisturbed.



Not such a bright start, but we were on a lock free run to Ellesmere Port to visit the National Boat Museum. The water is the weediest that we have so far encountered, probably because not so many boats come this far and although I did have a trail of weed behind us a quick burst of reverse shook it off. The approach is rural but soon the towers and chimneys of a petro chemical plant come into view, but as we tied up by the museum the sun came through the clouds.

This is where the inland canal system meets the sea, or at least the Mersey Estuary, via the Manchester Ship Canal and it was fascinating to see the little lighthouse marking the entrance to the locks leading up to the Port of Ellesmere from the big ship canal.

The museum has been in the news lately, in fact there was a one hour TV programme about it and its problems on BBC4 on Thursday evening the 27th. We enjoyed our visit and there did seem to be plenty of visitors hopefully bring in sufficient revenue that the serious commitment to restoring heritage of old boats can continue.

There was one surprising moment when I opened the door to the outside privy to one of the Porters Houses, as my mumbled apology brought no response, I pushed the door a little further to pay my compliments. My only complaint was that I couldn’t buy from the museum shop a brass ‘Ellesmere Port’ plaque, still I am sure that the excellent little canal side shop at Braunston will be able to, also the cones to our Cornetto ice-creams had gone soggy, should have had my usual Magnum!

We headed back out of Ellesmere Port and moored at exactly the same spot as the previous night. The warm weather has deserted us so no more al-fresco dining for a while, but we all slept soundly.



Another fabulously hot day, the first of the locks arrived within minutes of casting off, Tilstone Lock and shortly afterwards the two Beeston Locks. Beeston Iron Lock is unusual in that it is made of, that’s right, iron. The sides and bottom are all constructed from giant cast iron plates, the reason for this is that, the whole of the surrounding ground is sand and this construction solved the problem of ‘running sand’, that’s what the book says, however the iron tank has twisted and although it is a double lock the recommendation is that only one boat should go through at a time to avoid getting hung up.

The views of the bulky remains of Beeston Castle, high on its rock are very impressive and the open countryside was beautiful in the bright sunshine.

The decision was taken to push on to the far side of Roman City of Chester, as we were not keen to moor in the City centre. Although the approach to the city was the usual mix of residential giving way to industrial, the bit through the centre was something else as we passed the high sandstone walls and turrets of the medieval City Walls, passing under The Bridge of Sighs in a deep sandstone cutting. Finally down the Northgate Staircase Locks, with rails line and road bridges passing over the top and lots of gongoozlers looking on.

As soon as we left the last lock we turned into Tower Wharf and along one side of the wharf were the pub gardens of the Telford Warehouse, bulging with folk sunning themselves refreshed with cold drinks, further along that side, a new canal side development is under construction. On the other bank were the large covered dry dock and then the first of the locks that lead down to the River Dee, sadly now not navigable as the exit onto the Dee is silted up.

We continued for just over a mile, selecting a quiet stretch of canal to moor, with a golf course on the far side and open land on the other. The BBQ was lit and we dined on the stern of SKYY, but not before poor old Duggie misjudged the distance from the stern to the bank and went splosh. There was a cool breeze this evening and after a long days cruising we soon returned to the warmth of the cabin and not long afterwards we were in our beds.



We were sorry to realise that we had missed Carol & George and Molly the Patterdale terrier, of N.B. Rock & Roll. Hopefully we might catch up with you as we head further North. And also thanks to Jonson for his encouraging comment.

Marilyn and Brian left Surrey at about 6am and were onboard by 10 o’clock. Transferring luggage from car to SKYY was simple as we were tied up right along side the road at Marsh Lane Bridge, it also seemed a safe place to leave their car for a few nights.

We moved on immediately, the weather was hot, so the legs were put out to air in shorts for the first time this year. We took on water and disposed of rubbish just after the aqueduct and then gently cruised on, finally mooring just after the Bunbury Staircase locks. We did indulge in the Bunbury Shuffle as there was two of us going down and one coming up and when we met in the middle we all managed to wiggle past each other, saving time and water.

The folding table and chairs was set up on the wide towpath where we wined and dined, in this lovely wooded section of the canal and we sat out until well after 11pm playing cards by candlelight. Oh! it must be said that all the photos used to illustrate the next few day were taken by Marilyn.

Friday, 21 May 2010



The reason for retracing our steps Southwards down the Shroppie was that on the way up with chums Steve and Caroline we didn’t stop at the Secret Nuclear Bunker at Hack Green. First thing Wednesday morning we headed the three miles down to just before Hack Green locks, turned SKYY round in the handy winding hole, tied her up and abandoned her and Duggie for the fascinating, but chilling experience of what life would have been like for those within and without the bunker in the aftermath of a nuclear attack. This bunker would have been the seat of regional government in the event of war being declared and there must have been many of them dotted around the UK. The scariest moment was in small shelter where the sounds and vibrations of a nuclear strike can be felt. http://www.hackgreen.co.uk/

Back into the warmth of a lovely early summer day and we decided to stay put. I used the time to re-black the starboard side which was looking well battered. The one problem with the Shroppie is that a sloping stone underwater profile, prevents you from mooring tight up to the bank, which causes the boat to bang about when other boats pass, but I put this to good use as the nine inch gap between bank and boat allowed me to roller right down to waters edge, just got to do the other side now.

On Thursday we moved SKYY back to Marsh Lane Bridge, which put us within a comfortable walk of Nantwich Town. Another wonderful surprise; lots of ancient black and white Tudor buildings, other curious constructions, a huge church and very smart shops. The towns prosperity was based on salt mining, apparently any town name ending in ‘wich’ has been involved in the production of salt, a most valuable commodity in the old days, so much so that to hold up the price, the local salt houses were only allowed to boil the brine for twelve days in any one year.

Jacquie made a hairdressing appointment for early Friday morning, allowing her plenty of time to ‘do’ the shops, whilst Cindrella was left behind to get SKYY shipshape, pending the arrival of Marilyn and Brian on Saturday, seasoned sailors, having stayed with us several times now.



We did a final shop in Whitchurch. the walk to and from the centre seems to take no time at all now and I was able to point out to Jacquie some of the towns best features that I had seen whilst she was in London.

We got away just after lunch, having overstayed two nights, but a small contribution to the Whitchurch Waterways Trust via Ken, the Warden for the Whitchurch Arm and everybody was happy. We moored close to the village of Marbury, with beautiful views and good satellite TV reception.

On Tuesday morning I walked Duggie into Marbury village and was blown away by stunning location of the church and Little Mere immediately below the graveyard. I said to a young mum with her toddler, that this would be a beautiful place to spend eternity, she responded that Heaven would be even better, but as she then told me that she was the vicars wife I didn’t take our conversation any further down that route.

Our onward journey was delayed at Wrenbury as all the hydraulic pipes to the electrically operated lift bridge were being replaced. The engineers said that this was routine maintenance and they would be finished in twenty minutes. They were almost as good as their word and within thirty minutes we were under the bridge and backed into the ABC boatyard for diesel. The weather was perfect and we arrived at the Hurleston locks late afternoon and bade farewell to the helpful lock-keeper and lovely Llangollen Canal.

A few minutes later we moored just before the Nantwich Basin and I set the TV to tune in the Satellite dish when I realised I had full reception of every TV channel. How amazing is that, not being a gambling man, but I did wondered what the odds are in managing to moor at exactly the same point of the compass as the night before, I suppose it’s 360 to 1.



Jacquie needed to travel down to London and we worked out that the best and only feasible way was by train from Whitchurch via Crewe. After stocking up at Ellesmere’s convenient, basin side, Tesco we set off on the twelve miles and with no locks and only a couple of lift bridges and the flow behind us it was easy going. Coming the other way it had been very wet, but today the sun was shining bright and Cole Mere was looking at its best.

We turned into the short Whitchurch Arm and moored right at the very end and walked through the town to the railway Station so Jacquie could buy her train ticket for Friday, only it was an unmanned station. Fortunately on the way back we spotted a taxi in the town centre and made arrangement for Jacquie to be picked up from the bridge at the end of the arm to save lugging her bag for what turned out to be about a mile and a half walk to the station.went perfectly to plan, the return ticket to London was bought on the single carriage train to Crewe and the taxi collected Jacquie and returned her on Sunday evening to within fifty yards of SKYY.

I discovered Whitchurch to an interesting and mainly unspoilt town. On walking back from the station I discovered the premises of J. B. Joyce who have been making big clocks for church towers at this site since 1690. The splendid, red sandstone Church at the top of the High Street had massive windows,

I made good use of the time that Jacquie was away, I changed the engine oil and filter, caught up with the blog etc. etc. I wished that like many other bloggers, I could blog on a daily basis, but by the end of the day my brain wants to sleep, so I tend to catch up with several days in a batch and hope that I haven’t forgotten too many salient details.

Sunday, 16 May 2010



The decision as to where Frank and Jacky would leave us and get a taxi back to Llangollen, was dependant upon the weather, and as the previous days, it was bright but chilly, they decided to stay with us to Ellesmere. Although we arrived at the Frankton Locks by 12.15 we were fourth in the queue and it took nearly two hours to get back onto the Llangollen canal, We stopped for lunch, but couldn’t get SKYY close into the bank and the gangplank had to be deployed, hence the title to this blog, I’m afraid I couldn’t resist it, I know I’m sad!!! A few minutes after leaving this spot we passed a proper mooring place, with rings and everything, still I wouldn’t have been able to get that picture of Frank on the plank if we had stopped there.

An hour later we reached Ellesmere and a taxi met us at the end of the arm and within twenty minutes, Frank and Jacky were in their car heading back to Surrey and we returned to SKYY for a late afternoon nap.



I phoned the BW phone number, given on local sign boards, before 10 o’clock as required and booked our passage through the Frankton Locks and onto the Montgomery Canal. Passage is only allowed between midday at 2 o’clock, but we were there in good time. There is nothing particularly stunning about the seven navigable miles, except the peaceful tranquillity and only a few hire boats come this way. We stopped for the night at Queen Head and had a drink at the Queens Head Pub, bit of a chicken an egg situation, but I guess the pub was there first and the mill and village grew up around the pub and canal.

The next day we moved up to the end of the currently navigable part of the canal and winded at Gronwyn Wharf, before stopping for lunch at the Navigation Inn, well that was the plan, but it was closed. After lunch on board we climbed back up the three locks that we had come down in the morning, giving Frank and Jacquie plenty of time to improve their locking technique, in fact Frank became quite competent at steering SKYY through the bridge holes. We returned to the Queens Head for a magnificent dinner, which sadly left no room for deserts, not even for one and four spoons.



Jacky and Frank arrived mid day to glorious sunshine. Fortunately we had found them a secure place to leave their car and as we had been in the basin for two nights and would not be allowed to stay longer, we wasted no time before getting under way, to make the most of the weather.

The going was much easier with the flow behind us and we were soon at Trevor and waiting for several boats to come over before we crossed the aqueduct. Frank and Jacky were mightily impressed and we were so luck with the weather, as we got to the other side the clouds started to close in. Back through the two tunnels and over the Chirk Aqueduct when we were stopped by a jam of boats by Bridge 19. Somebody had fallen in from a hire boat, apparently the worse for drink, still better here than from either of the aqueducts.

We knew that the Bridge Inn was just down the road from Bridge 19, now there’s a surprise and against local advise, somebody with a grudge maybe, we went for a drink and stopped for dinner, a typically case of don’t judge a book by it’s cover. A good meal and some fun company from the regulars completed our day.

Saturday, 15 May 2010



Jacquie shopped and I cleaned the boat in readiness for inspection, when Jacky and Frank arrived tomorrow. In the afternoon, when the sky brightened we walked the mile and a half to the Horseshow Falls. This is were the water from the Dee, is fed into the start of the canal before the River drops off the Horseshoe and starts its rock passage down to Llangollen. a steam railway trundles alongside, but mostly out of sight and a horse drawn trip boat plies up and down. Half way along there is a car and motorcycle museum, but I resisted the urge to visit.



Almost immediately after leaving our mooring we were upon the Chirk Aqueduct, mirrored exactly by the ten arches of the railway viaduct, deliberately built higher to signify the superiority of rail over canal. Immediately at the end of the aqueduct the canal plunges into the 459 yd long Chirk Tunnel and a mile or so later into the shorter Whitehouse Tunnel.

There is a two mile an hour flow along this canal, delivering twelve million gallons of water a day to the Hurleston Reservoir, situated at the junction of the Llangollen Canal with the Shropshire Union from the River Dee in Wales. This flow of water is keenly felt in the tunnels and I had to continually apply more throttle as we crabbed our way along. Back into the daylight and miraculously the sun burst through the clouds as we started across the Pontcysylite Aqueduct. Probably the most amazing canal experience there is. We floated 120 ft above the valley and River Dee in this cast iron trough, with nothing on one side to stop you stepping out into thin air, should that feeling take hold, fortunately I don’t know of anybody having gone that way, that’s probably why Elf and Savty haven’t got involved, thank God. The last time we did this crossing I was wearing a red wig, black leather cap and supping from a can of beer, must have started to grow up at last.

A tricky tight turn, neatly accomplished and we were on the final bit, from Trevor to Llangollen. The canal becomes very narrow and shallow. At places, Jacquie walked ahead to ensure no other boat was coming the other way and soon we were tucked up in the beautifully situated basin at the end of the navigable part of the canal, complete with our own water and electricity supply, all for six pounds a night. A wander around the town and along the River Dee rounded off this great day.