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Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Beers, Boats and Boozers, 2018. No.27

After a few days in Llangollen, which included a train ride and several walks, we headed off once again. The weather was still fantastic and it meant that there were a lot of vacant moorings for us as everybody was looking to moor under trees for some shade.

We headed past the wharf where the horse boat had already left with it's first coach load of passengers for a trip to the Horseshoe Falls. As it is so narrow, and no winding holes on the stretch the boat has two sharp ends and the horse just changes end. The motor boat does trip up and over the Aqueduct.

After only a mile Llandyn Cottage and bridge are passed in the trees. The main road is just down the hill but you feel very remote.

It didn't seem so busy at Trevor and we had no wait at the turn on to the aqueduct. As we lurked before the bridge I was able to watch several boats attempt the very difficult turn into the bridge hole. Not easy to do in one go, especially if there are loads of boats lingering about in the way. No problems for us today though.

Today was a two tunnel and two aqueduct day as we now crossed the Chirk Aqueduct with the railway to keep it company.

We were soon at Frankton Junction and our booking to head down the Montgomery Canal. The volunteer was busy with another boat, and told us he didn't know anything about us, but still let us down.

We dropped down the staircase and two other locks and moored up in the remaining stub of the Weston Branch after taking water. It was so peaceful there after the hustle and bustle of the Llangollen. We sat and soaked up the sun until late in the evening. The services in the building on the left we perfect too. After taking water we pushed over to the other side.

In 1936 a breach occurred just by this Perry Aqueduct which was a major reason that the canal was closed a few years later. We haver a lot to thank those volunteers and activists that managed to get it re-opened.

At the north end of the Montgomery there are long straights as the topography is nice and flat. This is the opposite of how the canal appears on the map of the unopened length. There are not too many places to stop and the offside trees over hand somewhat but I'm sure this will change as more boats use the canal.

At Heath House there is suddenly lots to say Rednal Basin is passed, then a rail bridge then this lovely old warehouse and another bridge that turns out to be a turn over one as the towpath swaps sides. After all that excitment the canal goes into dead straight again!

We moored up at Queens Head, near the canoe club. The mile posts are lovely and I hope that we are still able to cruise when the next 31 miles are re-opened as they will be so interesting.

The next day we caught the bus into Oswestry, as we had never been there before. It is a nice little market town, and the remains of a castle. It wasn't market day but we had a good poke about. There are lots of pubs to choose from but we selected the Bailey Head. The pub is opposite the GuildHall and the Market Place or Bailey Head, as the castle is just behind the 1893 built Guild Hall has been the centre of the town for centuries. The pub has been called the Castle Tavern and the Eagle and lately belong to Marston's. However in 2016 a couple from London took it over. They had run a members club in London that had won CAMRA awards and were looking for a place to make the heart of the community. They seem to have done just that. They have won many CAMRA and other awards, including most dog friendly pub. They have 6 or 8 hand pulls on the bar with plenty of craft ales too. So many they are listed on a TV screen with plenty of ciders too. The food looked good also. It is only a 20 min bus ride from Queen's Head moorings.

Image result for hobsons brewery
I had a pint from Hobsons Brewery. The business is run by the Davis family. They had been in the pub trade in one way or another, but not brewing when they thought in 1993 that they would try it. They found premises in Cleobury Mortimer in Shropshire and set off on their journey. They have now been running for 25th years which makes them veterans of today's brewers. They also make a draught cider under the name Oldfields.

Image result for Hobson's twisted spire
I had a pint of their Twisted Spire. The blonde beer is named after the spire of St Mary's the Virgin church in Cleobury Mortimer. It is only 3.6% but is full of taste to make up for any lack of alcohol. It has three different malts and Maris Otter malted barley. It has a great balance between the hops and the bitterness. It had a great head and was lovely and 'thick' on the tongue, with a great sweet after taste. I loved it. £3-25 which seems to be just under the norm in this part of the world.

Monday, 21 January 2019

Beers, Boats and Boozers, 2018. No. 26

Where were we before we were so rudely interrupted by the awful business of how much our boating costs!! Oh yes, we were up the beautiful Llangollen Canal.

We left Chirk and were soon joined a a paassenger who stayed with us for about 15 mins before getting off at her stop!

The canal was getting more and more crowded as lots of canoeists were getting mixed up with narrow boats and cruisers that were becoming bunched up due to the lift bridge at Fron and the one way traffic across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. We finally made our way across at creeping speed.

Despite the weather there seemed to be plenty of water in the River Dee below us.

Once over the aqueduct the canal narrows even more. Mainly as this was never designed to be a canal, but just a feeder from the River Dee. The canal route should have continued north to Chester and the Mersey, but money ran out. 

The weather was so warm that the sheep were finding places for a bit of shade.

As a feeder it did not require to be wide enough for two boats to pass, and when it was widened later there are several places where this was not cheaply possible due to rock outcrops, as here. The result is a couple of places where you have to step off and ensure there is nobody coming before you set off. This can take a little negotiating and reasonable behaviour as there may be queues of boats in both directions and with out a little give and take it can get fractious.

NO, I wasn't towing the cruiser!

As you approach Llangollen there are a long line of moorings on the tow path. This further narrows the canal and makes life interesting trying to pass other moving boats without collisions. After the station there are no moorings as there is a regular horse drawn trip boat that takes passengers to the Horseshoe Falls, where the water for the canal is taken from the River Dee. Well worth the stroll down, or the ride.

A little further and there is a little basin with plenty of pontoon mooring and electricity. Even when there are no spaces on the tow path before the station you can find space here. We much prefer the basin as there is sun, rather than under trees. It is a little further to walk but after all the effort of locking up here you wouldn't have thought it would worry folk.

We didn't venture out to many pubs during our stay but we did stop here at the Bridge End Hotel. The bridge crosses the Dee right in front of the hotel. The original bridge was built in 1345 by Bishop Trevor and was later widened in the 16th Century and again in the 20th Century. The Hotel was probably built at the same time that the railway arrived in Llangollen, in 1860's. I served as the railway hotel and still must do a good trade from those visiting the reinstated railway. It is minutes from the moorings on the canal too, down a steep set of steps by the horse boat cafe. It has a public bar with TV screens and then at the other end of the building is the dining room/lounge area.

Image result for big hand brewery chester
They had a couple of hand pulls on the bar and one was from the Big Hand Brewing Company. This was a company set up in 2012 by and Uncle and nephew in Wrexham. Neither had experience of brewing at that time and both gave up 'normal' careers in construction and engineering and teaching to start up the business. They started in March 2013 with a 10 bbl plant and have already won several Regional SIBA awards.

Image result for super tidy ipa
I had a pint of their Super Tidy IPA, 4%. It poured a nice bright gold with a very white thick head. The brewery guff describe it as having soft, sweet lemon and hop aromas, and there are but hardly traceable. On the warm day of walking all over it was a very welcome pint of a British IPA. This would make a great session ale as it is a decent pint, but nothing outstanding.

Friday, 18 January 2019

2018, Total Costs

The theme of today's blog pictures is  sign posts, maybe pointing the way for this years cruising?

As signs go that honour great acts of history this one doesn't really declare with bright flashing lights the start of the fantastic canal, and can be easily missed by those cruising past.

We had spent the winter at Fettlers Wharf and our first trip of the year was to Liverpool. We were now at Burscough Junction about to head down the Rufford, heading  for the Ribble Link and our first new ground of the year and first new adventure too.

Safely across the Ribble we spent the first couple of days in Preston and then headed north and down the Glasson Dock Branch. We arrived on a dull blustery day and this sign was just by our mooring. We wouldn't have been able to come later in the year as the branch was closed for water conservation.

Once we got to the head of navigation of the Lancaster, or the present head at least, we went for a walk, up into Cumbria so we could say we had been that far. This was Priest Hutton and I liked the redundant 'phone box and cul de sac sign.

Back across and on the main system, via the Mersey, Manchester Ship Canal and  Shropshire Union we arrived at Hurleston Junction to head up the Llangollen once again

On the way back down we headed down the Montgomery Canal from Frankton Junction. I do hope we are still boating when they finally complete the restoration of this canal, as it will be one not to be missed.

We also headed down the truncated Prees Branch, all half a mile or so of it. It is a haven of peace and quiet after the hurly burly of the Llangollen hire boats.

After completing the full length of the Shropshire Union Canal we arrived at Autherley Junction, where the Shroppie is connected with the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal. It is always a busy junction as it is on the Four Conties Ring. Last year with the Middlewich Branch, maybe not quite so busy as usual. 

Having headed down the Staffs. and Worcester just a little further than Kinver we reversed our route and headed back to Stourton Junction and up the Stourbridge Canal heading to the Industrial heartlands, via Stourbridge and my favourite brewery Bathams.

The arm of the sign post lost in the ivy is quite poetic really as it would reveal that Park Head Locks, leading to the Dudley Canal Tunnel was off to the right. It is a lovely quiet mooring if you pass up the three locks. Park Head Junction at Blowers Green is the meeting of the Dudley No.1 and No.2 canals.

Having passed through the Netherton Tunnel we were on the BCN New Main Line. Here at Albion Junction the Gower Brach takes you up the Brades Locks and on to the Old Main Line.

We had friends visit in Birmingham and we took them on a tour of the loops. They are well worth having a run through as there is lots to see. There will be lots of work going on on the Icknield Port Loop as they are starting building the new 'community' there.

                                        2014       2015        2016        2017        2018
FIXED COSTS          1159-57   1504-09   1668-33   1328-17   1712-57
MOORINGS              1297-88   1524-55   1268-48   2148-82   1771-50
FUEL                          1156-66     824-94     721-92     506-51     530-56
REPAIRS                   1558-64      321-63  1441-62   1698-50     231-72
EQUIPMENT             678-39      164-22    556-24     503-56        72-70
CONSUMABLES       255-22      454-58    342-24     517-80      139-59
TOTALS                    6106-36    4794-01  5998-83   6703-36    4458-64

That is a quite scary total of £28,061-20 over 5 years
Making the average per year £5612-24!

It is interesting to see that the mooring costs make up between 21% and 40% with an average of 29%, which is roughly the same percentage as the fixed costs. Could this be an argument for moving on to the boat full time?

I suppose to be totally correct we should include depreciation of 'Holderness', but boat prices seem to be holding up very well at the moment. 

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

2018, Consumable costs.

Today's photographs are of a few of the 328 locks that we traversed in 2018.

We passed down the Rufford Arm of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal to cross over the Ribble Link for our first visit to the Lancaster canal. This is the lock from the Rufford Arm down into the River Douglas to take us to the River Ribble. You can see that the locks have double doors, the outer pointing out to prevent the river pushing the gates open on a spring tide, and the inner gates to secure the level in the canal.

The Ribble Ling, once having left the Ribble follows the Savick Brook that has been deepened and locked until the top staircase lock. The bend is very tight so longer boats reverse up the new locks. The sculpture is called the 'Canal Builders' and was added in 2014 and replaced the 'Gauging the Ribble' statue that had been unofficially christened 'The Ribble Piddler'!

This is the unusual lock gear on the Glasson Branch. There are similar ones on the Leeds Liverpool, but these have the windlass attached. This Branch was closed later in the year due to a lack of water during the lovely, but dry summer we had.

Not strictly a look as this is just a rotating gate that protects the Savick Brook from flooding by the rising Ribble tide. The tide is rising as we pass and we are hardly moving as the water flows against us as we pass through. We were earlier enough to pass through the Douglas Lock on the level and back on to the Rufford Arm. Those behind us had the gates shut on them and they had to pen up in the normal way.

This is Brunswick Lock, the most northern on the surviving Liverpool Dock system. It has quadrant gates and is normally used by yachts and cruisers. We had come back into Liverpool to make the crossing over to Eastham, and this was out first glimpse of the Mersey from 'Holderness'.

The crossing of the Mersey went well and after a bit of a wait for shipping we were called into Eastham Lock, the largest we have been in, and probably never go through a larger one either.  It is 800' x 80' and we had it all to ourselves.

Although deep I enjoy the Northgate triple staircase locks at Chester as their setting is fantastic. Cut through sandstone at the foot of the city's Roman Walls they are lovely. It is not always easy to get the levels right in the locks, especially when half the paddles aren't working.

We had a lovely visit to the Montgomery Canal and here we are just heading back to the hurly burly of the Llangollen Canal at Frankton Junction staircase locks, after the peace and quiet of the Montgomery.

A set of locks that could be thought of as a staircase, but isn't, is Bratch Locks on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal. Another place in a lovely setting and with plenty of visitors to watch to see if you do it properly.

Stourton Junction marks the point where the four locks take the Stourbridge Canal up from the Staffs and Worcester Canal and head for the industrial Midlands. Again a nice peaceful setting.

I expect that most boaters like the Farmers Bridge Locks as they are well maintained and easily worked with them all with in easy walking distance, and plenty of things going on to stop one getting bored. No.1 daughter gave us a had when she stayed with us for a week's holiday!?

She was still aboard to assist as we descended the 21 Hatton Locks. We shared with a hire boat with some teenagers that were still full of energy at the bottom too.

Craftmaster carnauba wax 500ml                 17-95
Bathroom sealant                                            6-70
2 x cup hooks                                                     40
electric drill chuck key                                   1-54
Zeebrite stove blacking                                  6-90
2 x 5 lt 15/40w oil @ £15-50                       31-00
2 trowel @ 75p toilet brush @40p                 1-90
K99 stern gland grease                                   3-20
Craftmaster 2 x canauba wax 2 x wash        70-00
TOTAL                                                      139-59

Having spent a lot of money on having the boat repainted I felt I should try to ensure that it stayed looking good. Whilst not by nature a boat, or car washer/polisher I had taken advice from the painters regarding washing it. This involved a splash every now and then and giving it a good waxing at the end of the year, when the paint had fully hardened. I had used different polishes previously and wasn't very happy with them. I thought I would give Craftmaster Carnauba wax a go. There was a mix up in my order on line and it took a bit of chasing up. When it arrived they had sent a bottle of their Wash and Go in (with carnauba wax) as an apology. I tried both and was very impressed with the finish and the ease of application. As you can see I purchased more and it should be easily enough to last another year or more. I hadn't realisd before that the thing that gives the shine to M and M's etc is sometimes carnauba wax, also known as E903! It is from the coating of a palm leaf that is extruded by the plant to conserve water from the leaves. The leaves are harvested and when dried the way cracks off the leaves and is collected and refined. The palm is only grown in NE Brazil. As well as confection, and as plish it is used in paper making, cosmetics, plastic explosives, surfboard wax and plastic injection moulding (to prevent sticking to the moulds). Who knew!!

We have an Airhead composting loo and they need digging out occasionally and to facilitate this I wanted a trowel and brush. I wont go into the details, but these purchases made life easier as my previous ones had become worn out. The second trowel was for the little bit of gardening that is done on the boat. T

The chuck key was as I had left it at home and needed to use the drill. Yes, I know, how old fashioned needing a chuck key. I have had the drill nearly thirty years. A Black and Decker special! The plastic round the wire is now cracking. Father Christmas was generous and I now have a nice rechargeable Bosch hand drill. I never thought I would aspire to a Bosch drill.

The rest of the purchases are fairly standard. I had purchased enough filters the previous year for an oil change etc, and always have some oil aboard so didn't need the full set this year.

Monday, 14 January 2019

2018, Equipment costs.

The photography theme for the blog is churches. We always like to have a look round churches we come across, if they are open, and most are. They are beautiful buildings, despite ones religious persuasion, or none. I love seeking out the memorials as there some fantastic stories on some of them. Just about all have a sense of peace calmness which is hard to find in this day and age.

At Parbold there are two churches in view from the canal. There nearer is Our Lady of All Saints Church that is Catholic. This area remained Catholic despite the reformation. Following that upheaval the surviving Benedictine monks fled to France and continued their English lifestyle there. That is until the French Revolution when they were forced to flee again, and this time headed back to England. They stopped in Parbold for a while before settling in Ampleforth. This church was built in 1878 by the Ainscough family, of the millers and short boat fame (Ainscough Mill in Burscough). Up the hill is Christ Church, and Anglican church that was built in 1875 through the kindness of a Miss Ellen Ann Robinson Morris how gave the money in memory of her mother.

This is the sumptuous interior of St. Wilfred's Catholic Church on Fishergate, in Preston.

The newest Anglican Cathedral in the UK and a huge and commanding edifice on the sky line. The bell tower stands 100.8 metres and is the largest and one of the tallest in the world. It also hbouses the worlds highest and heaviest peel of bells too.

This is Christ Church at Weston Dock at the side of the Manchester Ship Canal and the end of the Weaver Navigation. It was built as a church for the Boatmen that frequented the dock from the MSC, Weaver and the canal system via the Runcorn Docks. Its last service was in the 1990's and is now marooned on land belonging to Eddie Stobart. It is entirely on a little dock island with no houses around it at all.

Chester Cathedral is dedicated to Christ and the Blessed Mary and was originally the church for a Benedictine Abbey dedicated to St. Werburgh and the oldest part was built in 1093. Since 1541 it has been the seat of the Bishop of Chester.

The interior of St. Alkmund's church in Whitchurch is nice and bright. The church is a little unusual in shape and was built in 1713. There is a similar one in Banbury but built out of rag stone I believe. This church yard is the only place I have seen cast iron burial plaques instead of tombstones.

This was a little chapel over a well dedicated to St.Winifred and has been dated by the tree rings in the timber to 1485. It was a place of pilgrimage but is now hireable from the Landmark Trust.

This is St. John the Baptist church at Maesbury, down the Montgomery Canal and is obviously a surviving 'tin tabernacle'. This one was bought off the peg from Harrod's for £120 in 1906, and is still going strong.

This window is in another St. Alkmund's church, this time in Shrewsbury. The Church was founded in 900, but this window by Francis Eginton of Birmingham dates from 1795. He was commissioned to paint a window for £150. He said he could produce nothing of note for that price so they increased it to £200, and I think they got a bargain, despite him going over budget by 10s.

This fantastic Jesse Window is well travelled bu has been installed in neraby St. Mary's since 1792. It is thought to have started life the Franciscan Church Greyfriars in the town, but had to be moved at the Reformation in 1530's. It was then taken to St. Chads, also in the town, but when the tower of that church collapsed in 1788 it was salvaged and erected here in St. Mary's. It has been much restored over the centuries but much of the 14th century glass remains. Two very different stained glass windows.

When in Birmingham we love a walk round the Jewelry Quarter as the buildings are just beautiful. St Mary's, in the middle of the only surviving Georgian Square in the city, named after the church, makes a great centre point and the grave yard surrounding has ensure it has remained as an open space. The church was built in 1779 and the steeple added in 1823.

Another view of  the 'Cathedral of the Canals', All Saints Church at Braunston. Before a church was built there is evidence the the site was used for tumuli burials. The first Norman Church was pulled down in 1290 due to the atmosphere being polluted by several murders! It was rebuilt in the 1300's, but this church was pulled down before it fell down and rebuilt again in 1848. The old wind mill is prominent from this direction too.

Perspex for galley window secondary glazing                20-00
Bits and bobs for fixing above.                                        11-67
Extra hooks for wardrobe                                                  4-38
Battery Navigation lights                                                 18-90
Lancaster Canal Guide                                                       6-50
Used River Mersey chart £5-15 +P&P                             11-25
TOTAL                                                                            72-70

My original idea for fixing the double glazing over the galley window turned out to be a non starter. This is the only window left that is single glazed and as such causes great condensation. The problem is that it is a sliding window, and larger than the others. I have a Plan B though. The Navigational lights were a just in case purchase for the Manchester Ship Canal worthiness certificate. It states that boats should have navigation lights, but elsewhere that small boats are not allowed to navigate at night. I covered myself just in case the surveyor went by the book. The same with the chart. Crazily it says you need a chart but obviously the detail for the ship canal is not worth it. It doesn't even say that it has to corrected up to date. At 2 foot draft basically at any time I could leave the Brunswick Lock I could go anywhere!