Saturday, 20 February 2016

Overwater to Llangollen and back

Wednesday 23rd December

Today we start our longest cruise yet on board Ella.  We intend to be on Ella for Christmas and New Year and return home in January.


We set off from the marina in light winds and turned left onto the Shropshire Union. The weather was glorious and we enjoyed the two hour cruise to Nantwich. We saw two almost fully grown cygnets on the way.

Once we had moored up we walked down into the town, an opportunity to give Toby a good walk and we were able to buy the food we wanted for Christmas.

Thursday 24th December - Christmas Eve

Cruised from Nantwich to Wrenbury on the Llangollen Canal.  The weather couldn't have been more different from yesterday - squally rain showers and strong blasts of winds - it made controlling the boat much more difficult.

Hurleston Locks

Turning right onto the Llangollen was more difficult than I had realised and it took more than one attempt to aim the bow into the first lock.  However once we had made our way up the four locks the view from the top was certainly worth it.

We then continued on our way towards Wrenbury through a mixture of sunshine and showers and finally moored up this side of the electrically operated lift bridge.  By this time the towpath had become a very muddy quagmire and walking Toby became a very squelchy affair!!

Friday 25th December - Christmas Day

We had planned to move the boat a little further up the canal today, but the weather was most unpleasant and we decided to stay put.  A walk through fields for Toby and a visit to the local pub for us, followed by Christmas dinner and a cosy fire added up to a very pleasant Christmas Day!

Saturday 26th December - Boxing Day

Today we are cruising from Wrenbury to Whitchurch.  Once we are through the lift bridge, we are cruising along waterways we have never been on before.  Very exciting!!  It was a grey day with squally winds so cruising was hard work especially getting in and out of the locks and through the lift bridges.

Lift Bridge

The LLangollen has a number of these lift bridges, manually operated with a windlass.  Some are left open, but many carry small roads and public footpaths so need to be kept closed.

We came into Grindley Brook and through the bridge and the first few locks before the staircase lock.  There is a staircase of three locks at Grindley Brook, similar set up to the ones in Chester, but not as large or dark!!

Lock Keeper's Hut

During the cruising season - March to October - these locks are generally worked by a Canal and River Trust member of staff, but during Christmas this was not the case and we had to work our own way carefully up the locks.  


Whilst we are cruising Toby enjoys sitting on the stern watching the world go by, but occasionally this becomes too tiring and he just has to have a rest!!

The Llangollen is a fascinating canal.  It is fed by the River Dee and the water flows all the way from Llangollen to the flight of locks at Hurleston where the water is diverted into the reservoir.  This water is then used to service the homes and businesses of north Shropshire.  So going up the canal to Llangollen may well take you longer than coming down as you are cruising against the water current.  A very helpful gentleman explained that the flow of the water is equal to 2 miles an hour, and if you are cruising at 3 miles an hour your forward movement is only 1 mile an hour.  On your return journey, it is said that it may well take less time.  

Sunday 27th December

Whitchurch to Ellesmere.  A beautiful morning, sun was shining and the water was like a mill pond!  Beautiful cruising.

Bridge holes

Many of the bridges have holes or windows in them.  Not sure of the origin or what they were used for.  They all seem empty now.

Moored up for the night in the Ellesmere arm, a short section of the canal which is mainly used for overnight or longer moorings.

Monday 28th December

Woke to quite a breezy morning, but decided to set off as we were aiming to get to Pontcysyllte tonight.  Today we pass over the Chirk Aqueduct and go through the Chirk Tunnel.  The Chirk Aqueduct carries the canal in a narrow cast iron trough over the River Ceiriog which flows 70ft below, and also marks the border between England and Wales

Chirk Aqueduct

Running alongside the aqueduct is a fine viaduct carrying the railway.  As you get to the end of the aqueduct you enter Chirk Tunnel.  It is 459yds long and can only take one boat at a time.  There is a towpath running through and we were overtaken by people walking faster than we were cruising!

I was concerned because all the books I had read about the canal into Llangollen had said that it was narrow and very shallow in places.  I wasn't sure we would be able to get along the canal.  Fortunately there are many friendly boaters on the canals and my worries were quickly put to rest, my thanks go especially to nb Beefur who proved to be a wealth of advice and information.

Tuesday 29th December

The next morning we set off bright and early and made our way onto the amazing Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.  This aqueduct runs 126ft above the River Dee and is 1007ft long, again it is only wide enough for one boat so you have to wait if there is already a boat coming towards you.  

Llangollen Aqueduct

The scary part of this crossing is that the offside is completely unprotected apart from a ledge of about 6 inches, not good if you have a poor head for heights!

At the end of the Aqueduct there is a sharp left turn towards Llangollen.  

Cruising into Llangollen

Here the canal winds its way along the side of the hill towards Llangollen passing through some exquisite scenery.  

Llangollen Canal

There are some places where the canal narrows to one boat width and it is necessary to send crew ahead to make sure the canal is clear. 

We moored up at the end of the navigable part of the canal in the Basin and we stayed here until the New Year.

River Dee at Llangollen

We spent our time exploring the town of Llangollen and marvelling at the sight and noise of the River Dee as it crashed under the town bridge.

We walked along the Llangollen towards the head of the canal and the famous Horseshoe Falls.  Once you get beyond Llangollen the canal cannot be navigated by powered craft but during the season you can see horse drawn boats using the canal.

Head of the Llangollen Canal

The water for the canal is diverted from the River Dee and the little building in the picture is where it is all controlled from.

Horseshoe Falls

The Horseshoe Falls are a man made structure which diverts some of the water into the Llangollen Canal.  The design is attributed to Thomas Telford, a civil engineer working during the reign of King George III, 1808. 

This whole area up to the Chirk Aquaduct has been awarded World Heritage status due to the immense complexities associated with building such stunning structures. 

Friday 1st January 2016

We stayed in Llangollen until New Years Day and then slowly made our way back towards the Montgomery Canal.  We had planned to spend a couple of nights cruising this canal before making our return journey to the Marina.  

As we were making our way through the final locks before the junction we took a phone call from Canal and River Trust (CaRT) to let us know that there was a problem and asking what our plans were.  In order to cruise the Montgomery you have to have staff from CaRT to operate the staircase lock and you book your passage between certain hours of the day.

When we arrived at the canal the lock keeper informed us that there had been a significant leakage of pig slurry from a neighbouring farmer, caused by the high water levels and a team was being sent out to deal with it using chemicals etc.  We were advised we could carry on but to avoid coming into contact with the canal water and that it was very smelly!!!

We decided to give the visit a miss and headed back to Ellesmere.  We then spent a few more days slowly cruising back to Overwater Marina finally berthing Ella on 11th January 2016.

We shall return in the next few weeks and cruise the Montgomery when all the pollution has been dealt with.

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