Go to Allan's Page Spring 2008 Canals Home Page Part 2, to Gloucester Go to Deb's Page
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Via Llangollen to Gloucester

Part 1 - Milton Keynes to Llangollen

Our daughter Vicki's wedding had been a great success, but now we were anxious to get travelling again. In the meantime I had added an extra domestic battery so that we now have 4*110 Ah available, and bought a new Philips LCD TV to replace our aged CRT-based Sony whose high surge-current requirements were threatening to destroy our inverter.

We decided to visit Llangollen again, as we could get there before the crowded school holiday period, but had no clear idea of where we would go after that. As we passed the magnificent Wolverton Mural I realised that it is now almost 25 years old, but that I didn't have any pictures of it so here are a few. It had mainly been painted as a project by the local schoolchildren, and they had subsequently done a good job of keeping it free of graffiti (because they knew who the local artists were).

 

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Unlike last year there were no major floods on the rivers, but overnight rain had caused the Tove to rise and flow into the canal below Stoke Bruerne locks so that we had quite a strong current against us, especially through the bridge holes. There was a slight moment of panic in Blisworth tunnel, when we met a boat whose spotlight had failed and which I didn't see until the last moment, then we were at Weedon meeting some friends who told us there was a boat broken down before Buckby and needing a tow. Meeting that boat the next morning we took them up through the first three locks where they would moor to await the delivery of a spare part for their gearbox; this needed a rapid rearrangement below the second lock when we realised that their rooftop box would not fit through the bridge with the boats breasted up the way they were!

Soon we were through Braunston and up to Fradley. For once there was no queue at the locks, so we passed straight through and decided to stop at Armitage outside the Plum Pudding. The ground here has subsided amazingly, so that the canal which once lapped its doorstep is now level with the upstairs windows, The landlord once told us that while the coal mines were still being worked, the pub was sinking visibly every day: one morning the milkman delivered the bottles through a crack which had developed in the wall overnight, and for a while if a ball fell off the (propped up) pool table, it would often roll right across the floor and out of the door. The picture that I took from the road shows the height of the canal now.

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The river Tove flowing into the canal and creating a strong current
The same view under normal conditions (the river flows under the canal in a culvert)
Looking back as we leave Braunston
Moored at the Plum Pudding in Armitage

We moored overnight at Tixall Wide, opposite the magnificent old Gatehouse; from the scale of this and the wonderful stables, the house which burned down over 100 years ago must have been simply magnificent! As far as I know, however, no pictures of it have survived anywhere so we'll never know what it looked like. Another picture which didn't survive Tixall was the one on our nice new TV, which suffered a software crash when we turned it on and has had to go back for repair!

As we ascended Deptmore Lock, the scent from the roses was just wonderful and I couldn't resist taking pictures of them - any more than Debbie could resist smelling them! We had a lovely chat with the lady who lives there too.

 

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The gatehouse by Tixall Wide
A beautiful morning on the Staffs & Worcs Canal
Superb roses at Deptmore lock cottage
Superb roses at Deptmore lock cottage

On the Shroppie our first port of call was of course to fill with diesel at Turners of Wheaton Aston. It was awful to realise that we were delighted at paying only double the price that we had paid 3 years ago, which in itself was nearly three times the price that we had paid when the boat was new, yet next year we will be paying so much more that we will look back fondly at today's prices.

 

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Gnosall tunnel is cut from the bare rock, which has some wonderful colours
Outside the famous Shroppie Fly pub at Audlem
Beautiful countryside near Audlem
Hack Green locks. The gate painter must have had his stencil back-to-front!

When we'd been on holiday on Norway we'd seen a number of houses where grass had been grown on the roof as their version of thatching. Near Whixall Moss we saw a house where the weeds had grown so high that it seemed to be attempting the same feat.

 

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A Norwegian house with grassed roof
Its British equivalent ?

It wasn't long before the Welsh mountains came into view, then we were at Ellesmere in beautifully hot weather to meet our friend Chris from the Canal World Forum on his boat Jean Margaret again (we last met him on each of our early 2008 trips). The cows had found the best way of keeping cool, but we had to settle for cooling off in the pub (where we accidentally found ourselves involved with the pub quiz) and a good time was had by all.

 

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Distant mountains
The beautiful Blakes Mere near Ellesmere
The cows have found a good way of keeping cool on a hot day

Now it was time to tackle the aqueducts. First Chirk, with its solid stone construction overshadowed by the railway viaduct alongside it, then the famous Pontcysyllte in its iron trough. I've been across the aqueduct a dozen times or more, but I am always impressed by it.

 

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Chirk aqueduct (on the return trip)
Looking through the railway arches at Chirk
Pontcysyllte: we wait for an oncoming boat
Pontcysyllte: a clear way ahead
Pontcysyllte: on to the aqueduct
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The railway is far from Pontcysyllte - and has its own magnificent viaduct
While crossing the aqueduct, just enjoy the wonderful views
 
The road bridge crosses the river much lower in the valley
Looking back from Trevor
Looking back from beyond Trevor

You can always leave the boat to cross the aqueduct by itself if you want to. Of course, those of a nervous disposition should not look down ...

 

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After making the usual cock-up of the left turn under the bridge at Trevor (this time I allowed too much for the flow of the current) we headed up the magnificent final section to Llangollen. At one point the boat coming the other way suddenly stopped, blocking the way; it turned out that "Dog-y-Felin" isn't a small Welsh village, it was their reason to have to stop the boat!

The current has an interesting effect on the handling of the boat in the narrow concrete-lined sections. The water is so determined to get to the outside of the bends that it pushes the boat away to the inside of the bend, the opposite effect to that found on rivers.

 

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The scenery above Trevor is magnificent
It gets quite tricky steering in the narrow sections
A wonderful mooring in the marina
The marina is the perfect setting
This is the only way you can travel any further by boat

The marina was almost empty when we arrived which meant we could choose the best mooring, the one in the top corner with a solid bank instead of a short pontoon, and we sat on the bows with a glass of wine and watched people struggling to get on to the other berths in the freshening wind. In our couple of wonderful days in Llangollen we had time to ride on the steam railway, to have fish-and-chips at the wonderful cafe in Bridge Street, and to browse the amazing hardware shop which is just round the corner on the A5.

 

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So now we had reached our "furthest north-west" point of the trip, and it was time to head for Gloucester  ...

 

 

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Go to Allan's Page Spring 2008 Canals Home Page Part 2, to Gloucester Go to Deb's Page

 

 

All pictures on this site are Allan Jones unless otherwise stated

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