Sunday, 15 October 2017

Overwinter Cruise 2017

Sunday 8th October - Overwater Marina to Hurleston Junction

At last, we have made it!!  Only a week later than originally intended, and we are on our way!  The blacking has been done and the ballast has been added, 0.3 tonne apparently to bring her to an even keel.  We have been assured that handling, especially reversing, will feel significantly easier!!

Ella is the middle of the three boats taken on Sunday morning before we set off.  As you can see we were blessed with beautiful blue skies and sparkling sunshine.

Dave manoevred Ella out of the marina and we turned left onto the Shropshire Union canal.  We then continued on our way towards Nantwich where we have moored several times before, but sadly not this time.

We passed over the small aqueduct over the Chester Road into Nantwich and cruised past several moored boats including nb Celtic Mae, another Bourne boat.  She went in the water after us, we are no. 33 and she is no. 36.  It was lovely to see the owners again.  

We stopped to fill up with diesel at Nantwich Canal Centre and then carried on to Hurleston Junction.  We turned the boat and moored up at the Visitor Mooring before the junction where we shall spend our first night.

We went for a walk up Hurleston Locks and were amazed to see a boat in Lock 4 seemingly nose diving into the lock.  

This lock is notorious for boats getting stuck and you are politely requested to lift your fenders before entering the lock.  Unfortunately one fender had been left down and wedged the boat against the lock wall, with the water level changing the boat was stuck at the stern and the bow was dropping with the water.  Quick thinking on the part of the crew prevented a disaster occuring, but it took some time to actually free the boat from the lock.

Tomorrow, when we go up the locks ourselves we shall take great care and take it very slowly!

Monday 9th October - Hurleston Junction to Wrenbury

Well, I am pleased to report that we ascended the locks with no mishaps and and have had a lovely days cruising.

Bridge 4 on the Llangollen Canal advertises a walk across the meadows to a farm where the famous Snugbury ice cream is made and sold.  We didn't do  it today, maybe on our way back.  We don't have a freezer on Ella, so we could only get little tubs!

The first of the lift bridges as we come towards Wrenbury and our mooring for the night.  This one is worked with a windlass and the next one, which we will do tomorrow, is electrically operated.

We walked into the village and visited the local church, loved the autumn decorations hanging on the church gates, left over from the Harvest Festival celebrations.

We also visited the local shop and post office, well stocked and we were able to get fresh bread and cakes - yum!!

We are happy to report that Toby has taken to being the boat dog again with no problems, hopping on and off the boat and settling well into the boat routines.

Tuesday 10th October - Wrenbury to Grindley Brook

Woke to a bright sunny morning and made our way through Wrenbury Lift Bridge, I didn't have to work it as there was already a lady with her key starting to operate the bridge.  She let us go through first and I hopped on the boat! 

This is a beautiful stretch of the canal, very quiet open countryside with just a few woolly sheep to pass the time of day with!

Willeymoor Lock and Tavern is an idyllic spot beside the canal.  The tavern is situated at the end of a private drive and the carpark is on the other side of the canal.  It was originally the lock keeper's cottage.

Soon after here we decided to moor up for the night just before Bridge 27 leaving the Grindley Brook locks to do tomorrow.  We walked up the locks and stopped for tea and cake at the Lockside Cafe, very good indeed, and ascertained that the volunteers would be on hand tomorrow to aid us up the staircase locks.

Tonight we ate at The Horse and Jockey, where we sampled their October Tapas menu, again very good indeed!

Wednesday 11th October - Grindley Brook to Whitchurch Arm

Well, what a night - it was windy as forecast, but we had moored beneath an oak tree and all night long we were treated to the falling of acorns onto the roof with every gust of wind.  Lesson learnt - avoid oak trees in the autumn!!!

Dave worked the first three locks and then I took over and worked the staircase locks with the help of the volunteers, Chris and Bob.  They were brilliant as always and have given us some tips for working the locks on our way back when there will not be any volunteers.

We pulled over at the water point and filled up with water and emptied out the rubbish, before continuing along towards the Whitchurch Arm.  We found a space at the visitor moorings before the lift bridge and decided to stop there for the night.

It was then that I noticed that Toby had a swollen nail bed on his back right paw.  Looked very red and sore, but fortunately his vet is in Whitchurch so we made an appointment for the afternoon and following Google Maps found our way to the vet.  Toby has a scratch on the toe, he has antibiotics and pain relief and a follow up appointment on Friday if we think he needs it. He is wearing a sock to stop him from fussing with it, bless him!

Thursday 12th October - Whitchurch to Prees Branch

We woke to another bright and sunny morning and set off through the lift bridge towards the Prees Branch.

Just past the Whitchurch Arm we came across two working boats, one carrying coal and diesel ready to be delivered to boats along the canal.

This stretch of the canal doesn't have any locks on it but does have lots of lift bridges all worked with a windlass.  I shall certainly feel it in my arms and shoulders tomorrow!! 

Just past Tilstock Park Lift Bridge we passed nb Holbers, she belongs to the sister of a friend of ours who lives in Longslow, near Market Drayton.

 At the Prees Branch we turned left and headed up through the first lift bridge, which is Grade II listed and has been restored.

The Prees Branch is navigable for about 0.5 mile where there is Whixall marina.  The branch was originally meant to go to Prees but due to funding issues it ended at Waterloo Bridge. 

I am standing on the bed of the dried up canal in front of Waterloo Bridge.

It was used to carry clay from clay pits and the clay was used to line the canals.  Whixall Marina is constructed in the old clay pit.

The unnavigable section of the canal is now a nature reserve with some rare and unusual species of plant communities.

This is the limit of the water, a dam has been constructed to hold back the water.

Bridge 3 on the Branch has an unusual corrugated lining, reminding us of the round roofed cottages on the Stratford Canal.

We have moored up for the night on the Prees Branch, it is very peaceful and quiet with only a few boats moving up and down the canal.  A lovely day of cruising and exploring somewhere new!

Friday 13th October - Prees Branch to Ellesmere

Now I believe I am not suspicious but after today I begin to wonder whether there are some forces working against us!!

We set off from the Prees Branch and were a little surprised at the strength of the wind, we turned left back onto the Llangollen and headed for Ellesmere.

Our first problem occured when coming through a bridge we were hit by a blast of wind which pushed the boat onto the towpath side and stuck into the mud.  Dave had to use the pole to push the boat far enough out into the canal to be able to get enough momentum going against the wind!

However our route past the Meres was delightful and I was delighted to see a whole flock of pheasants, hens and cocks, feeding along the towpath.  Must have been at least 20 birds, I have never seen so many together before.

The trees, just beginning to don their autumn coats, are looking spectacular  we know that on our way back these leaves may well have completely fallen off. 

We then met a boat coming the other way who also got grounded and stuck on the side as it stopped to allow us to come through the bridge, Dave kindly helped them out and we continued on our way.

Then I lost control of the boat as we approached Ellesmere Tunnel and whilst reversing to rectify the situation hit an obstruction below the water.  I limped through the tunnel, pulled over and Dave went down the weed hatch only to discover that one of the blades of the propeller had been bent over!

We moored up just before Blackwater Meadow Marina, walked up to the office and spoke to Leigh who said they could have the boat in dry dock tomorrow to assess the damage, so we spent the evening just outside Ellesmere, not a bad place to be stranded, all facilities to hand and a very pleasant market town as well!   

Saturday 14th October - Blackwater Meadow Marina

At 8.30am Dave called round to the office and we were instructed to bring the boat in and moor up beside the poly tunnel.  We then waited until we were called to move round to the dry dock.

Here we are the other side of the poly tunnel and being guided ever so gently into the dry dock by Leigh and his team.

Once we were in the gate was closed behind us and the water was pumped out.  Essentially the dry dock is a large boat and we were a boat inside a boat, very strange indeed.  We were on wooden pillars but as the dock was floating we would occasionally sway, a most odd sensation!

We were able to see the damage quite clearly, the bottom blade was bent upwards and we were advised that they would try to straighten it out and if that didn't work a replacement propeller would need to be ordered.

Fortunately following some skilled work with a hammer the propeller blade was virtually back to normal.  The propeller shaft was also checked and that had not suffered any damage, so we were good to go!

The dry dock was refilled and we reversed out, put on some diesel and left the Marina, mooring up again just past the Ellesmere Arm.  

A very big thank you goes out to Leigh and his team for their prompt service and care and attention, we are very grateful and would be happy to recommend them to fellow boaters!

As this was an accident we understand that we should be able to make a claim on our insurance to cover the cost and we will be making a report to Canal and River Trust as this is not the first time boats have been damaged in this area.

Well, this is the end of our first week afloat, I think it has to go down as the most incident filled week yet, but we are still afloat and we are looking forward to continuing our adventure! 

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