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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.

Saturday, 14 July 2018


After our walk around the locale we had a quiet night that included a couple of pints at the Navigation. They were very busy with only two staff, and I think that included the chef!

We had decided to retrace our steps to Queens Head and catch the bus in the opposite direction to Oswestry, to Shrewsbury, or is it 'Shrowsbury'? I think even those that live their can't make up their minds! There are one or two places on the canal that the reeds are doing their best to reclaim. I suppose, as on the Droitwich Canal, being a SSSI the paperwork to reduce a reed habitat must be a lot worse than the ire of passing boaters. The bus took about 35 minutes and on a day rover ticket was £6-20 each.

We made our way to the museum/Art gallery and Tourist Information. They wanted £4-50 to go in the museum. We are from the land of free culture so declined, but went for a cup of coffee in the place. We didn't see anybody enter the museum in the 30 mins we were there. In Hull 400 or 500 are passing through the doors on a normal week day. Outside was the Old Market Hall. It was built in 1596 following the demolition of one built on the site in 1260's. The upper floor house the Guild of Drapers and below was the corn market for farmers. In the 1800's it fell into disrepair and many were for knocking it down and building another, but they refurbished it. The Drapers moved out and their space was used as a warehouse, a dance hall, drill hall, auctions, lectures etc. In the 1870's two courtrooms and offices were created, and hangings took place right outside! In WWII the undercroft was bricked in and made into an air raid shelter. By 1995 it became unused and fell into disrepair, but as by then it was Grade 1 listed it has been saved.

There had been a St. Chad's in Shrewsbury since 7th Century. St. Chad was the first Christian Bishop of Mercia. The Church had developed over the years but by 1788 Thomas Telford himself had warned the vicar that it was in danger of falling down, and it did in 1788. All that is left is the S wall of the Chancel, the S transept E wall and the Lady Chapel. The former were both from the 12th Century and the later from late 15th Century.

We walked down to the river Severn and as we passed under Kingsland Bridge, that was built in 1883 as a toll bridge and it still costs 20p for a car to cross, we could see that there were dragon boat racing from the Shrewsbury School Boat house to the Pengwern Boathouse. The School Rowing Club was founded in 1866 and the boathouse was built around this time. It was shared with the Pengwern Rowing Club for a short time until they went their own way in 1876 when they built their own club house a little further down the bank.

On the heights above the river at Kingsland stands the 'new' Shrewsbury School. The school was started by Royal Charter of Edward VI in 1552. It moved here from the centre of the city in 1882. The main part of the building had been built in 1765 as a Foundling Hospital and then a workhouse. The School is one of the original seven Public Schools as defined in the 1868 Act of Parliament.

Shresbury is built in the middle of a huge loop of the River Severn and today, to the south west is a vast park called the Quarry, running down to the river. There are also parts of it set out as formal gardens in the Dingle. In the Dingle, among the beds, is the bust of Percy Thrower, whose name is well known to those of my generation from gardening programmes on TV and Radio. Between 1946 and 1974 he was the Parks Superintendent in Shrewsbury and remodeled the park after the war and replanted the avenues of trees by the river.

The new St. Chads Church is built looking down across the Quarry park to the river. After the old St. Chad's fell down a new site was found here and designs were commissioned from a Scottish architect. By some 'misunderstanding the one with the circular nave was built. It is unique and the pews are arranged in a maze pattern to fit in. The church is normally open but there was a wedding on. However the thirteen bells were ringing out making a lovely atmosphere outside. Charles Darwin was baptised in the church in 1809.

The park gates near St. Chads were presented to the Council in 1881 by the Shrewsbury Horticultural Society. The park is the site of the annual Shrewsbury Flower Show.

We were loosely following a trail of places associated with the town's most famous son, Charles Darwin. In the background is Morris Hall, but the object of interest is in the foreground and is the greenish rock called the Bellstone. When Darwin was at school his master had told him that 'the world would come to an end before anyone would be able to explain how it had come to be here' as the nearest point where this type of rock can be found was north of Cumbria! This piqued Darwin's interest in geology. He had already taken to collecting bugs and beetles in Quarry Park and the river. Ofcourse we know now that it was likely to have been left here following the retreat of the ice.

On the Mardol, a road whose name means 'The Devil's Boundary', stand the Kings Head. It is a late15th Century Inn that has three floors and is timber framed and is jettied, ie each floor sticks out beyond the one below. There is also the remains of a 15th Cntury mural that depicts the last supper.

Friday, 13 July 2018

Maesbury Walk.

Once we had winded at the head of navigation and returned to the moorings at Maesbury Marsh we decided to go for a walk round the local sites.

St. John The Babtist Church is situated right on the border between Maesbury Marsh and Maesbury and is  on of a diminishing number of tin tabernacles remaining. Corrugated iron was first used  for roofing about 1829, after the method of making it was found, plus a little later the galvanising was carried out to make it last. The first portable buildings were for sale in 1832, mainly for export at that time. This particular church was bought from Harrod's for £120 around 1906. It arrived on the back of a lorry as a flat pack and two men erected it. There was no Anglican Church close by at the time, however it wasn't until 1996 that it became a parish in its own right.

It is a lovely building that is open for viewing. The interior is almost the same as when it was built, other than the 14 pews that were made by the carpenters at the local Gobowen College in the 1950's and 60's. A few years ago there was a great need for a repair of the building, not the iron but the window frames, doors etc etc. They have managed to have this done so the building will last another 100 years.

From this angle Sycamore House does look very similar to the Beech House that is opposite the Ellesmere Junction. That was used by Thomas Telford when working on the and became the Canal head quarters. Strange that they are both named after trees. It was originally called the Wharfingers House and was built about 1830. It Gade II Listed now.

The Navigation Inn is an unusual building. As was seen in yesterday's blog the end of the building nearest the canal was definitely a warehouse. From the road it looks line the entrance near the pub sign may well have been the entrance to the pub and the porch entrance looks like it could have been a shop.

It was a hot day for a walk and the sheep were keen to find some shade in the hedge bottoms. 'Mad Dogs and Englishmen' and all that.

We had seen a name on the map, not too far from the canal so we decided to go and see what it was. The path was over fields and then into the shade of a small wood.

We were looking for St. Winifred's Well. We thought that it would be just a bubbling up out of the ground. St. Winifred was a 7th Century Welsh Princess who had sworn to a life of chastity. The story goes that after refusing a suitor she was running to seek refuge in the church when the angry suitor chopped her head off! Her Uncle was St Beuno and he was said to have brought her back to life. She was well loved in the area that it is no surprise that a well was named after her. The building has been dated as from about 1485 by tree ring dating. The spring was more than likely a place of pilgrimage before that and the taking of the water was likely thought to be a curative and a restorative.

There are three pools, the oldest being the smallest. You can see a niche above the spring that probably held a statue to the saint.

The second oldest pool has been used as a plunge pool with steps built for access. Large modifications were undertaken in 17th Century and maybe this happened then. It was used as a court house until 1824 when it was converted to a residence and the wattle and daub walls infilled with bricks.

It is such a cute building about 100 mtrs down a path from the road. The pigsty that was built when it became a residence is now the bathroom and is just out of shot to the left. In 1928 it was bought by the West Felton Vicar from the farmer and it has been passed down in his family until 1987 when it was sold to the Landmark Trust who preserve old and interesting buildings, and many of which are rented out for holiday lets. This one can be had for around £230 for three nights, but what an unusual place and beautifully furnished.