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Friday, 20 July 2018

Shropshire families.

We sat and waited for a good while, and did a few jobs, whilst we waited for the initial rush for the locks to dissipate. We also filled up with water and got rid of the rubbish too.

I love this old lock keepers cottage just because it has a nice veranda around the front. I would like a stoop right round the house so you could sit out in any weather  and stay dry. Mind you I understand that when it was lived in by the keepers it was very cold and drafty and hard to heat. It was sold off and is now a private house.

There werre a couple of boats threading their way through the staircase when we got to the top of them so still had a little bit of a wait. Helen was just watching to ensure that they were using proper, and safe techniques for working up a staircase system!

There were two voluntary lock keepers on duty keeping the boats flowing. The keepers are lucky having their own little 'den' to retreat into.

When we started down we were joined by a group who were hiring a boat a week later down on the Trent and Mersey and were just coming to see what to do at the locks. Helen was very patient with them and insisted that they should practice their windlass winding and beam pushing methodology so that she could watch and their technique and help them refine it for when they were on their own. They obligingly worked us down the a couple of locks. I hope they have a great holiday afloat.

By the time we got to the bottom we were on our own as we passed the old warehouse/bookshop. You can just see the tunnel in the shade. Actually it is just the bridge that carries the old Chester to Whitchurch railway.

Hinton Hall peeps out through the surrounding trees and could be easily missed from the canal. It was built in 1859 for Robert Peel Ethelston. It was built in the neo Jacobean style. During WWII it became a school for exiled Czech children and the nearby Hinton Manor was selected for the seat of government of the deposed Czech Goverment. The school became so overcrowded that another building was used not too far away in Wales. The buildings and contents were sold up in 2017 and it looks like it has been converted into apartments now.

As we approached Quoisley Lock the hire boat was moored up on the lock landing and declared they were just having lunch! It would have been much better to have moored on the last bollards as there would then be room to land a boat, but they made me feel a bit hungry as they were tucking into hot dogs and fried onions!

Before the football tonight we decided to take a walk up the cut to Wrenbury village. I don't suppose many folk get beyond the Dusty Miller or the Cotton Arms. The Dusty Miller was empty and the Cotton SArms rammed. Guess which one had a big screen? We found that St. Margret's Church was open so we went in for a look around.

In 1608 oak pews were added to the church. Up until then people would stand. The pews were tall to prevent drafts in the unheated church. In the Late 1600's new doors were added and most were painted with the arms of the families that owned them. This one is for the Starkey's of Wrenbury Hall.

In the early 1900's the doors were changed for lower ones and are the ones currently in place. They still have the coats of arms painted on them. This one is for the Kilmorey Family, whose faily name was Needham until 1625 when the 1st Viscount Kilmorey was created by Charles I for helping 'colonise' Ulster.

This is the Cotton family of Combermere Abbey. The Abbey came into the possession of the Cotton Family at the dissolution of the monasteries. Sir George Cotton was an Esquire of the Body to Henry VIII! A later Cotton became the First Baron and late Viscount Combermere after he excelled in battle, fighting in India with the Duke of Wellington, the Peninsula Wars .

This pew belonged to the Dysart Family. The family seem to have married into the Cotton Family but they seem to have originated in Scotland.

The church also has two hatchments. When the master of the big house there was a tradition that an armorial board was hung on the gates of the property for a year, and then placed in the local Church. There is one for the 1st and another for the 2nd Viscount of Combermere. This one is for the death of Stapleton Cotton, the 1st Viscount who died in 1865 aged 92. He must have had a charmed life as he was a soldier who fought in the Battle of Talavera and Salamanca where he became good friends with the Duke of Wellington. He was given the thanks of both Houses of Parliament for his efforts. He late became the Governor of Barbados and the CinC of the Leeward Islands and the West Indies before returning to fighting in India where he took the fort at Bhurtpore that was thought to be impregnable. He won a pension of over £2000 a year for this. The Combermere Obelisk that can be seen from the canal was also raised for him later.

It was not the day for the England team when we got back to the boat, but the 'lads have done well'.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Birds, Beasts and Bracken.

We were off again at a decent hour of the morning. It was strangely overcast in the morning. It seems ages since we hadn't woken up to sun in our eyes. But it was still warm.

Bridge No.2 is another lift bridge and is actually called Stark's Bridge. It is not only Grade II* Listed due to it being a rare example of it being on the skew, but it is also a registered Ancient Monument!

The Toll House at the junction is actually three stories with the lower level below the canal.

This small dutch barn was infilled at one end and this sign indicated that it was a pigeon loft. I have never seen any exercising or sitting around the area.

Close by I just managed to get this quick shot of a bird carrying off a kill. The catch looked like a mole, but could have been a rat I suppose, and I'm afraid there are few birds of prey that I can distinguish as you never really get to see them close up and they all look like 'hawks; from a distance!

At Platt Lane the gardner has put a lot of effort into producing the 'Bridge 43' mini hedge that is quite striking but must take a little time to keep trim and tidy.

Alot of farmers provide access to the canal for stock on many canals. I have often wondered what arrangements they have with C&RT regarding water extraction and bank maintenance.

The bracken is at full height at the moment and provides good hedging at the moment. It always takes me back to my school days as we used to roam about with our bikes in the country and in fields park and rough land. Bracken was always a great place to hide. I can smell it now, and I also recall the many cuts to my hands as I tried to pull the stems.

This dead tree in the middle of a a field stood out starkly against the sky line. It was good to see that it had been left standing and not grubbed out to  make the planting and harvesting of the field easier.

We stopped for the day before Grindley Brook and once again had a nice easy afternoon. By the time we had out tea there wan't a mooring left.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Peace on Prees.

Helen went back into town to Vermyuden's? delicatessen to get some cold meats, the beef is beautiful, and a pork pie, whilst I stayed back and used the fact that we had a good internet signal to book train tickets and other jobs that needed doing.

It was lovely and warm byt the time we actually got under way so the dappled shade of the tree lined cut were very pleasant.

Ellesmere Tunnel was even cooler, and we were straight in as nobody was coming the other way. It was also dry, as most places are after about 6 weeks of no rain.

After the tunnel you get into a section of canal that wriggle round the Meres in the area, first Blake Mere, and Cole Mere. There are some lovely spots to moor and overlook the picturesque Blake Mere. We promise ourselves that we will stop, but never have yet. I just wonder what the insect life will be like at this time of the year as the horse flies are quite voracious at the moment. 

There were plenty of boats moving so it was quite nice to arrive at the Prees Branch and head off the main line for a bit and lose the boats passing either way. The Prees Branch was supposed to be built to the place of that name, about 5 miles away, but it never got that far. It ran out of money at Quina Brook where there was some lime kilns to provide traffic. It was opened about 1800.

On the short section that is still opened, just under a mile, there are two lift bridges and both date from the building of the canal. The first is Allman's Bridge and and was one of the last lift bridges to be altered to Hydraulic in 2010.

The end of navigation is now at Whixal Marina. It was the last part of commercial use as the clay pit that was still in use by the canal company to provide puddle clay for the maintenance of the canals. It looks like a big new building has recently been erected at the marina and it turns out that a local well know business family had bought the marina last year and have had the new building erected to house a cafe.

The also got planning for glamping opportunities in shephards huts that can be moved around, and stored away in winter. The 'facilities' would be in the cafe block. It didn't look like the cafe or the huts were in use as yet.

We winded at the marina and moored up at a bit of wide towpath, with a wide bit of canal, where there were no buildings. After sitting and reading a bit, to allow the engine to cool down, I did an oil change. It was a lovely quiet spot and again Macy enjoyed being in the grass.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Back into the Hurley Burly.

The locks at Frankton Junction open at 1200 so I took advantage of being close to the water taps by washing both sides of the boat, and topping the tank up afterwards too. Whilst I was doing this four boats went up towards the lock so there was less need to get ready at 1200 as they would have to pass up too.

We arrived at the bottom lock as the last boat was leaving the staircase at the top. Helen worked the locks today and we made good time on the way up. You can just see the plaque afixed to the stonework that tells of the conversion of the 'Cressy' that became L.T.C. Rolt's converted work boat for leisure. It was carried out at Beech's Boat Yard that was on the off side just below the lock.

I noticed this boundary post in the grounds of the house by the canal between the locks.

Not a bad spot for a house, next to the canal, but one that at present is not mega busy and where the locks are only open for 2 hours a day!

A boat came down the staircase and we went straight in. The voluntary lock keeper was very helpful and we were soon back up on the Llangollen Canal.

Here is another house with a good view. High enough above the canal not to be disturbed by the passing boats too much, but with a great view down the reach.

In the distance before Ellesmere we could see Ellesmere College. It was founded in 1879 by a Canon Woodward on 114 acres of land given by Lord Brownlow. It was originally called St. Oswald's School and was aligned with the Church of England. It actually opened in 1884 with 70 boys and 4 masters and was to provide a good education for a low costs for families of indifferent means. It is boarding and day school and the fees can be about £20,000 a year. Past pupils include Martin Aitchison who illustrated many of the Ladybird books that have once again become popular, Billy Beaumont England and British Lions Rugby Union Captain and now administrator in World Rugby, as well as the 7th Duke of Westminster.

We moored up opposite the services before the Ellesmere Branch. quite early. We went to do a little shopping and went back for a couple of pints at The Vault under the old Town Hall. It was a lovely temperature in the old cellars and we were told that it is easy to heat in winter as it is insulated by the ground. It was great to sit and do very little for an hour or two.

Monday, 16 July 2018

For Peace and Quiet

We go back just as the England game was finishing and caught the end on the radio before heading off. We decided to head back for the Weston Branch as it was so peaceful, as against the road noise here at Queens Head.

The main visitor moorings are by the Shropshire Paddlesport Canoe Club, but there is another set of bollards through the two bridges. Mind you it is no quieter. I was perplexed that by a canoe club the height of the bank was raised, as it would make it difficult to get in and out of them. I then noticed that the address of the club house was actually the 'Old Barge House', so it had obviously been a wharf in the past.

Over the road from the boat house is a building that looks suspiciously like a warehouse. It also seems that despite the new corrugated iron on the Canoe Club building it has actually been a Grade II Listed building since 1987.

At Heath Houses, as well as the Packet House building, is the only turn-over bridge on the Montgomery Canal. From here to Newport the tow path does not change sides again. Unlike in most other places where the track is ccobbled for giving the horses grip, this one seems to be grassed. I suppose that may well be a later thing though.

The canal passes over the little River Perry on a small aqueduct. It was between here, and the new winding hole a little to the north, that the breech in the canal occurred in 1936 that brought about the closure of the canal. They didn't want to waste any money on a repairs that had no boats using it! Looking at the pictures of the canal restoration it is amazing that there are no trees or bushes about.

The canal is definitely a place full of wildlife in the form of plants and insects. There is plenty of bird life but I didn't see any other mammals. 

We were very pleased to see that we were the only ones at the moorings at the Weston Branch. It was a lovely evening and Macy took full advantage of their being no people or dog walkers and loved being out and about.

After a good exploration Macy is pleased to sit on the sun warmed concrete to take in the cooling air.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

More Shrewsbury

We continued our wander on a Darwin Theme.

The Quantum Leap was designed to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin in 1809. The Sutton Coldfield Architects Pearce and Lal designed it and it is 12m high and 17.5m long and weighs 113 tonnes as it is made out of concrete. It is said to be dinosaur bones, DNA or a backbone. Locals however call it the 'Slinky'!

The Lion on Wyle Cop is an old coaching Inn, part of which was late 15th Century. Its claim to fame is that this is where Charles Darwin caught the coach to join the Beagle, and the rest is history. When Fitzroy asked if he wanted to accompany the trip Darwin's father refused as he wanted him to settle down. Charles asked his uncle Josiah Wedgewood to intercede on his behalf, and he did so. His place had been offered to another person, but luckily Fitzroy had received his apologies. When he came back from the round the world trip he came here on his first night before returning home early in the morning.

St Alkmund's Church was founded about 900 so is over 1100 years old.

Inside the east window is a marvel It was inserted in 1795 and is one of the few works by Francis Eginton of Birmingham. He was commissioned to paint a window for £150. He told the church wardens that he could provide nothing of note for that sum, but if they increased it to £200 he would be able to supply a great piece. In the end he was over budget at £220 10s. The Church Wardens were so impressed that they gladly paid. It is really beautiful

Not far away is St. Mary's that is no longer used for worship but is under the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. The main stained glass is this depiction of the Jesse Tree. It was supposed to have been installed in the Franciscan Church Greyfrairs in the town. At the dissolution by Henry VIII about 1536/1541 it was moved to the old St. Chad's church. When that buildings tower collapsed it was saved and installed here in 1792. It was much restored in 1858 but much of the original glass from 1327 and 1353 remains.

Been of a nautical bent I do love a maritime memorial and this one to Admiral Benbow, so far from the sea was impressive.

The oak carved ceiling in the nave is stunning and was created in the 15th Century. There are birds, animals and angels depicted.

I loved this aspect of Windsor House. It was built in the late 18th Century as three stories as a house, but is now offices.

The Bronze sculpture was designed by Henry Mountford and is raised on a polish granite plinth with two steps it was cast by Board and Son. It has always been in this position. Darwin lived 1809 to 1882 and the statue was erected in 1897. Public subscription did not cover the full amount of the fees so the Shreswbury Horticultural Society paid the remainder, at least £1000.

The statue of Darwin is outside the old Shrewsbury School. The school was founded in 1552 but these buildings at Castel Gates were constructed in 1630. They include a chapel, dormitories, library and classroom. The school stayed here until moving to Kingsland in 1882.