Sunday, 1 October 2017

Winding Down

 Morning All

My heart sank this morning as the month turned over to October and I realised that the boating year is almost over. The mixed weather reflects my mixed feelings about going home - I'm looking forward to being closer to my Mum and being able to nip off in the car when the mood takes me but I'll miss Carl, who'll disappear into his music room until February! I'll miss the wandering lifestyle and the ever changing view from the side hatch in the galley but I'm looking forward to revisiting the wool mountain under my bed and starting a new winter project. I'll have a freezer full of ice cubes for my new gin craving and I left at least one bottle of Baileys on standby in case I get the 'Missing the Boat Blues' during November. I'll probably be signing up for 'Dry January' after all that boozing!
Morning coffee in Audlem

Warm enough to sit outside

After the gorgeous weather last Sunday, when Claire and I needed sunscreen for our trip around the M25, we awoke on Monday morning to the sound of rain pounding on the roof. We'd planned to walk into Nantwich for a few supplies before we trekked off along the next stretch of the Shroppie towards Audlem. In the end, I opted for a short walk with Tricky while Carl went off with the rucksack and I settled for a cosy morning on the laptop, catching up with the Jottings. It wasn't until lunchtime, when I tried to get out of my chair that I found my back had gone on strike! I think it had seized up after sitting for so long on Sunday, as we raced around London and then back to Nantwich.   It took several days and a few doses of Ibuprofen before it cleared up and I was worried about tackling the 15 locks of the Audlem flight, but we took a long tea break in the middle and it was fine. Luckily my 'Beetle Back' only lasted a few days and I'm back to normal, splashing along the muddy towpath in my new blue boots – it's so nice to have dry feet after my morning walks, now I wonder if they make them in Tricky sizes!

It was Thursday before we started up the Audlem flight. The early morning mist cleared and we were treated to a long sunny afternoon, just the most perfect day for it. There was hardly any wind and the first flurry of boats cleared quickly, including the 'John McEnroe' of solo boaters who moaned at me for 'stealing' his lock. The fact that he was moored on the water point with his hose connected seemed to have completely escaped his notice and when I apologised and said he was welcome to go in front as we weren't in a hurry, that just seemed to enrage him further. He began a 'John McEnroe' style of rant about 'you people' and how he was 'sick of us all'. I couldn't appease him whatever I said, so I walked off and left him to it. The next three boaters I met coming down the flight, had all offended him in some way and had been berated for some minor breach of etiquette. Beware Mr Grumpy Boater - we've all got your boat name and your fame will spread! I soon forgot him as I met the very handsomely bearded Allan, waiting to bring his boat into the lock. I heard all about his '5 minutes of fame' filming a TV advert for the local channel – I must admit I was a little envious as my own TV appearance was so fleeting as to be invisible!. While I was working the lock for him, an elderly man came along walking his greyhound and stopped to help me open and close the gates for Carl coming into the lock. He let down the paddles without a windlass, using his bare hands to control the speed. The old-time boaters used to do it that way so I asked him if he was a boater. Sadly, he's had to give it up as he's not fit enough any longer, but his love of boats hasn't diminished since he was a boy. From the age of 7, he would help the working boats through the locks, then hitch a ride to the first bridge as a reward. He has seen many changes on the waterways but he still walks along here every day, offering a helping hand when he can and sharing his stories with those of us fortunate enough to meet him. Meeting those two 'gentle men' more than made up for the ranting of Mr McEnroe.
More mushrooms
This week we have travelled from Nantwich to Market Drayton, sharing the waterways with other hardy boaters. We don't mind the muddy tow-paths and the chilly mornings as we get to enjoy the quietness that has descended on the canals now that the holiday season is over. The stove has been lit every morning and the 'big kettle' has appeared from its summer hiding place in the depths of the cupboard under the sink. The long summer evenings are a distant memory, the deckchairs are stowed away and the cabin is strewn with our winter jumpers which are sure to be needed any time soon.
 Spot the Red Admiral on Damson Tree
It was a sunny afternoon when I started writing this but the clouds have rolled in and the windows are speckled with the first rain drops. It's a typical autumn day really - a quiet running down of the year, leaves falling, sun slipping further down the horizon and the unmistakeable changing of the seasons makes me think longingly of the long hot day of summer that we had. (I do love a bit of irony don't you - it's almost as satisfying as sarcasm!) I haven't seen a swallow this week and I wonder if they've flown off early this year. I'm always sad to see them go and there is no sign of the 'Indian Summer' that I hoped for but I live in hope of a few more sunny days before we tie up for good at the end of October.
Sunset by lock 3 Audlem
This week we will be dawdling down to Norbury, ready to go into their dry dock for blacking. Carl has a list of jobs that he wants to get done while the boat is out of the water and I'll probably be walking the tow-paths looking for someone to talk to, just to pass the time. I don't like being in dock - the boat doesn't rock me to sleep and the view from the hatch isn't very inspiring. We will have an electric hook up which is always a treat as it means I can boil the electric kettle and use the electric toaster without needing to turn on the engine - I know that doesn't sound like much of a luxury but it really is a novelty after 7 months out on the boat. I've forgotten what it's like to have a shower without first removing the little step and the bucket that live in there because I can't find anywhere else handy for them. I'm looking forward to having a shower that lasts longer than 30 seconds and drying my hair properly instead of air drying it as I walk Tricky down the towpath. I'm longing to throw my smalls into the tumble dryer after months of using the "Peggy thing' - you know what I mean, one of those little plastic hangers that caravanners use on their holidays.

I'll skip next week if that's OK with you, unless something exciting happens. Like the year, I'm winding down and running out of things to say. Have a lovely week everyone.

Love and hugs
The Floating Chandlers

PS Happy Grandparents Day or #Older Peoples Day for the more modern amongst you. Another scam dreamt up by Hallmark Cards or am I being totally cynical?


PPS Can someone send me some new ideas for supper. I seem to have lost my mojo when it comes to thinking of something appetising for two hungry boaters. What's your favourite standby meal?
Gothic Beauty - Audlem Cemetary

Lock 12 Audlem - a beast of a run-off
Shropshire Skies


Shropshire Skies part 2
 
Is it tea time?

Monday, 25 September 2017

Running The Ring and Potted Chicken




Nantwich Cottage
Hello again
Sunday was the most beautiful autumnal day and instead of enjoying it from the peace and tranquillity of the canal, I was bombing around the M25 with my top down! I know, I know - it's an old joke, but I couldn't resist, especially as in the very near future, I'll be getting my bottom blacked again - I bet you can't wait for that edition of 'The Jottings'!

Shiny Bruce

Enough of this smuttiness, I'll start by explaining that Claire, my daughter, has a very handsome VW Beetle convertible that she calls Bruce. At last, she's abandoned her passion for four legs (horses) and fallen in love with something I can understand - cars. I wasn't immediately enthusiastic when she asked me if I wanted to 'Run to Ring' with her. I had visions of me in Lycra shorts, puffing along a hard shoulder with an entourage of snails passing me occasionally - not at all my cup of tea. Once I got the hang of the 'mission'(to join a convoy of assorted VW's driving around the M25 for charity) I was all for it and very happy to navigate us from Shrewsbury to our starting point, South Mimms Services, where we would join a bevy of VW beauties of all ages to drive the 122 miles around the M25. There were a few hiccups on the way down, mainly because we'd chosen to stay overnight in a B&B which looked very close to the Services, but turned out to be miles off the beaten track. We arrived much later than we'd planned, well after dark, mostly because Bruce doesn't like potholes and had to be nursed carefully over the bumpy country lanes. We'll skip over the next eight hours - neither of us slept very well as the room was so hot and then I woke Claire up at 5.30am by getting up to make a cup of tea - I was as parched as a desert! (probably due to the very large G&T I had the night before). We arrived at South Mimms Services on Sunday morning with only minutes to spare before the convoy was due to start. We had left the B&B in good time but the Sat Nav sent us to the village of South Mimms and then down another bumpy farm track into the wilderness before we accidentally met a VW camper and followed him into the services. I have only one word to describe the scene - WOW! The sun was shining, everyone was waving and beeping their hooters and taking photos of their beloved VW's. Bruce gleamed with polish, and looked very debonair with his roof down. We tagged along behind a vintage red Karmann Ghia and sat in a long queue waiting to join the M25. We hadn't thought much about the actual journey, except to book our passage over Dartford Bridge and we had a real panic when we lost sight of the convoy at the first set of traffic lights. The lights changed and the car in front went off without us - that's when we realised we didn't know which way the convoy was travelling around the M25 - was it going clockwise or anti-clockwise! Luckily, we made the right choice and were soon whizzing along to catch up with the others. I won't take you all around the M25 with us - those of you who drive it regularly know already that the standard of driving is appalling and Bruce was not impressed with being overtaken on both sides!! It was a relief to finish the run and head north again, back to the peace and tranquillity of the canals and my 4mph life. Thanks for the experience Claire, I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
Mrs Hen sleeping in the Cotton Arms 

Back to boating and a quick recap of our progress last week. We left Ellesmere and travelled back along the Llangollen, mooring in some of our favourite spots - the ones we missed on the way up. Grindley Brook was busy as usual and we got chatting to the people on the boat behind us as we waited for our turn to go into the staircase lock. John and Anne on 'Steadfast' were going back to their mooring in Nantwich and, as is often the case, we met them several times along the way. He's a chatty character with a broad Liverpudlian accent and is very knowledgeable about the Llangollen canal and the surrounding area. I learnt that the wonderful oak trees along here were planted by the canal company to provide oak for the future upkeep and maintenance of the locks - their forward planning has provided this canal with the mile after mile of mature oaks. This year they are loaded with acorns; they carpet the tow-paths under each tree and I've seen ducks feasting on them. I don't think I've seen that before and wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. John also told us about the Cotton Arms at Wrenbury, where they serve a midweek menu at a great price of £7 for 2 courses. He was so enthusiastic about it that we decided to give it a try, the only alternative aboard being something tinned from the emergency cupboard or some dodgy fish that's been in the freezer since Newark! The place was packed with pensioners - always a good sign. The food was tasty and home cooked, not huge portions but good value for the price. On our way out, we were surprised to find a chicken having a nap in a planter in the porch. The locals told us she sleeps there every night and didn't seem to care a bit that chicken was on the menu.
Llangollen in the morning sun

We've had a lovely trip along the Llangollen but it's a relief to be back on the Shroppie where there is much less traffic. We've lingered in Nantwich over the weekend, making time for a trip into the beautiful town and joined the locals, sitting outside the cafes, sipping their lattes and enjoying the warm sun. I was happy to find the lovely Mary still selling wool in the indoor market and stopped to gather a couple of balls of Aran to add to the ever growing wool mountain. Shhh! Don't tell Carl

It'll be a very leisurely cruise this week – we're killing time now till we go into Norbury for blacking and a general tidy up ready for winter. Have a good week and I'll be back next week as usual.

Lots of Love as always

The Floating Chandlers

PS If you're ever passing by Nantwich Marina don't miss 'The Little Shop on the Canal' run by the lovely Julie Spruce. Her shop is full of lovely crafty things and more wool!
Julie in the Little Shop



PPS I've got some beautiful new waterproof boots that actually keep my feet dry. They look like converse trainers but they're made of rubber. I've posted a picture on the blog along with a photo of that crazy chicken!

New Wellies
View over Blakemere

Misty Morning

Cobwebs

Last Lift Bridge
Love this sky
Thatched cottage by the canal

Morning Sun

Morning Mr Robin



Sunday, 17 September 2017

Feet and Inches

The Beautiful Montgomery

Morning All

We're almost in the same place as we were this time last week. Those of you who had sufficient leisure time to peruse our weekly rantings will realise that we are, of course, back at Ellesmere. We left this bastion of civilisation last Monday, and cruised for a little while until we spied a mooring of such splendour, such unexpected delight, that we were compelled to stop and tie up immediately. Bugger the state of charge of the batteries, for once they would have to do.

The sun was shining, the birds etc. etc. etc. so while Linda "did a few jobs around the boat" I decided to cut some wood we'd had lying on the roof for a week or so. Out came the saw, a really good one I bought recently, and out came the axe, a rather small one that I bought some years ago. Then followed a good half hour of cutting and chopping. Some walkers stopped to ask what I was doing. I wondered whether I should come clean and tell them I was researching a detailed history of Persian tomcats in Kiribati, but politeness won, so I explained what I was doing and why. I then went on to admit that we had a multi-fuel stove on board, while at the same time drawing their attention to the chimney on the roof, which can be a bit of a give away. Satisfied, they went on their way. I resumed my labours until finally the job was done, the kindling/logs were stowed away and I sat down to check how many fingers and thumbs I had left.
 Morning Mr Blue Sky

We really love this time of year. The scenery is so full of colour, the scents in the air are so evocative of childhood memories and it is such a luxury to light the stove first thing in the morning and soak up its heat. At least we would if Tricky wouldn't hog it! She'll sit with her nose an inch away from the glass, gazing in rapture at the flames, panting because she is too hot, but not smart enough to move away.

There seem to be more flies about this September; I'm forever stalking up and down the boat with the fly swatter, trying to swat the little blighters. You'd think the numbers of spiders we keep finding would play the game, but they aimlessly spin webs in secret, then continually warn the flies not to come near.

So much for Monday and flies. Linda had booked our passage down the Frankton locks and onto the Montgomery canal for Tuesday. The Canal and River Trust were very helpful, even sending us an email confirming our passage. Amongst the details included in the email was our boat length, given as fifty six feet and twelve inches. Sigh.
photo courtesy NB Spirit

The locks here are only operated between 12.00 and 2.00 p.m. each day so we made sure to arrive in plenty of time. Eventually our turn came and I was happy to take the boat down the first, staircase lock and then the next two. I chugged off round the bend to the old Weston branch. Linda had walked ahead to check the mooring situation and called out that one side was full but that the other side was empty. After weighing up the various manoeuvres available to me and checking whether there was much of an audience, I decided to head to the bridge, do a half turn, then reverse slowly back up the arm. After following this plan vaguely, with a quiet determination to look as though I knew what I was doing, I had turned the boat a bit, reversed back a bit and eventually brought the boat to rest in exactly the right spot.(note from Linda – of course, no-one was watching!)
Cruising along the Montgomery Canal

After quite a few hours it was suddenly Wednesday morning. The severe gales and heavy rain that had been forecast for Tuesday night had been and gone, so off we set along the Montgomery canal in search off fresh fields and pastures new. In three hours cruising we only met two boats. After the Llangollen canal, where we seemed to meet boats at almost every bridge or large, encroaching tree, this was wonderful. I mentioned colourful scenery at the start of this week's ravings. The Montgomery canal must rank as one of our highlights this year for spectacular views and stunning countryside. We saw several of those birds that I once promised I wouldn't mention much. You know, kingfishers. I caught a quick glimpse of a small, squirrel like animal. It was a reddy brown colour. I don't suppose for one moment that it could have been a red squirrel- maybe a pine martin? We'll never know. Early Wednesday afternoon we arrived at the village of Maesbury Marsh, where we tied up for the rest of the day.
Poor old Graham Palmer is looking a bit battered

What can I say about Oswestry? Well, it's pronounced as it's spelt (I think), it contains lots of very attractive old buildings and seems a very nice small town. What really sold Oswestry to me though was the charity shop offering for sale two books that I've been looking for for ages. What a result! Sadly, we couldn't get to Oswestry by boat. Happily (and the realisation caused much rejoicing), one can catch a bus at Maesbury Marsh and travel to Oswestry. A return journey is also possible.
Graham Palmer lock on the Montgomery


This is why we were standing at a bus stop in the rain at 09.50 a.m. on Thursday morning. Linda had done her research and, after much head scratching, gleaned that a bus ought to appear at 10.00. There was some confusion, however, as the bus timetable was in a bush around the corner from the actual bus stop. Luckily for us, a very friendly gentleman was waiting for the bus in the designated place (it was the bus stop, not the bush). Probably the bus-service planners work for The Dept. of Aggravation, or The National Office of Idiocy, or even The Think-Tank for Removing all Traces of Common Sense.
The Navigation at Maesbury Marsh


Friday morning we turned the boat and made our way back to Frankton locks, after booking passage for our 56 foot 12 inch boat. We moored again near bridge 60, and moved on Saturday back to Ellesmere, where Claire and Reece joined us for the evening. And here we sit today, enjoying some late afternoon sun.

That's it for this week, I hope the sun is shining for you too

Love as always
The Floating Chandlers

PS The engine will be due for a service soon, which will include changing the gearbox oil (gulp!). This is a really awkward job, which I don't look forward to. Still, as long as Linda keeps me stocked up with tea (she always does, she's a star!) and I can listen to Sounds of the Sixties on catch-up with Tony Blackburn (I do miss Brian Matthew) and Phil "The Collector" Swern I should be ok.


PPS Linda here – I met a fellow blogger this week, Irene and Ian on Free Spirit were coming up Frankton Locks and our two boats crossed in the middle pound. Irene recognised Tricky, who was sitting in her usual perch on the hatch, looking aloof as always. Fame at last Tricky! Have a look at nbfreespirit.blogspot.com for some great photos.
Winding Hole On the Montgomery

Trees on the turn

Aston No 1 Lock

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Wet and Whiffy Wales

Whitchurch Lift Bridge

Bore da Pawb (that's Welsh for Good Morning Everyone)

Today we're poised on the English border, ready to cross into Wales for the final leg of our Autumn cruise. The weather's become very Welsh since we turned down the Llangollen Canal and our waterproofs aren't keeping the rain out. Tricky shelters under the hatch and is quite cosy as the floor is warm from the heat of the engine, while Carl and I shiver under the umbrella and watch the black clouds roll across the sky. Luckily for us, the rain is intermittent, and we've had some dry, sunny spells in between the showers. The nights are turning chillier too so we were pleased to meet the fuel boat in Wrenbury. Three bags of their best 'Footwarmer' coal are tucked up on the roof and I've been doing my bit by collecting wood along the way to add to the stash in the bows - the weather can do what it wants now - we're ready for winter.
Spooky tree


Audlem was very busy on Monday morning with hire boats rushing up and down the flight. We delayed our departure until the first flurry had died down then set off with the warmth of the September sun glinting off the lakes as we crossed the Weaver Valley aqueduct. The hire boats along here are numerous and we're used to meeting people from all over the world, who've come to England to spend a fortune hiring a narrow boat thinking it will be 'fun'. It's not really much fun when you're committed to spend 8 hours on the tiller in the pouring rain and I do feel sorry for them as they flog past with their flimsy plastic macs flapping in the gale force wind with blue knees and rain running off the end of their nose. My favourites are the Americans and the Canadians - they're all so damned cheerful, whatever the weather! They love to chat at the locks but woe betide anyone who mixes up their nationalities. We did spot a flag that we didn't recognise this week, it was blue with a yellow stripe and 2 white stars. 'I don't recognise your flag - where are you from?' I called out to them as they cruised by. The reply wasn't at all what I expected - they were English but flew the Curacean flag as they'd had a holiday there once and liked the country a lot - they said it was a good talking point and, of course, they were right about that!
Weaver Valley - Audlem


Coming up the Hurlestone flight, I spied a tree laden with ripe damsons - I'm amazed that the fruit was still there as this is a busy flight with lots of boats up and down. Usually, the trees closest to the canal have been stripped bare and I've hardly found any damsons at all on the way down the Shroppie. These were just ripe for picking, sweet and juicy, even the lower branches were loaded with fruit - too nice to resist, so I filled my pockets. At Grindley Brook, there were cooking apples and marrows in a basket by the bottom lock. I helped myself to the apples but couldn't think of anything to do with a marrow - does anyone actually eat those things?
Pat on Naga Queen going into Hurlestone top lock

We've whizzed along the Llangollen Canal this week through Wrenbury and Grindley Brook to Whitchurch where we parted from our travelling companions, Pat and Malc. They turned the Naga Queen for home on Friday and we're continuing our cruise without them - we'll miss their company and so will Tricky. Whitchurch was humming with shoppers when we walked up to town with them on Friday morning. The early morning showers had cleared away and we idled away the morning poking around in the charity shops and drinking coffee in Benjamins before scooting round Tesco's where we filled the trolley full to bursting with our weekly supplies before joining the other pensioners on the local community bus back to the boat. As Pat and Malc set off back towards Grinley Brook we went under the lift bridge and chugged off towards Ellesmere in the bright afternoon sunshine. We didn't get very far before we found a peaceful spot to moor up – just us, on our own, far from the noisy Whitchurch bypass. Tidy as they say in Wales!
Tricky's already in her winter coat


Tricky rolled in something disgusting this week and even with a couple of Naga Champ joss sticks burning, I could still smell her. I had to give her a bath, but then the boat reeked of wet dog. On top of that, I made a chicken curry for tea and that perfumed my dreams with Eastern Promise and I woke up with a curry headache. I should know better than to believe the advertising hype but I succumbed to the temptation of a squirty can of fruity scented Febreze and ran through the boat, leaving a cloud of vapour that a Boeing jet would have been proud of, then left it to do its magic while we sauntered into town. We came back to an even worse niff - curry flavoured,melon scented, wet dog! Luckily for us, we've had some sunny spells so I've been able to give the boat a good airing, a real breeze is better than 10 cans of Fauxbreeze and the pongy curry/melon/dog smell has been replaced by the merest hint of cow dung. Ah well, you can't win them all - pass the Naga Champ please Carl!
The view from the top of Hurlestone flight

Tomorrow we set off with the hordes of holidaymakers heading for Llangollen. We've moored just before the busy junction in Ellesmere and there's been a constant stream of boats passing by. It's so busy that we may dive off down the Mongomery Canal, in search of the peace and quiet that we love. The Llangollen Canal goes through some of the most beautiful countryside, but with so many boats on such a narrow canal it's hard to enjoy it as you never know what's coming at you around the next bend. Yesterday, we met a day boat just where a large group of trees were hanging over the water, reducing visibility considerably. We couldn't see him but we could hear the roar of his engine and the waters boiled with a huge bow wave coming around the corner so we gave him a toot on the horn to let him know that we were just around the bend. He responded by tooting his horn in response and throwing the throttle into hard reverse. Dad and son were on the stern, female passengers looking at us from the cabin, clutching glasses of fizz and looking worried as their bows drifted across towards us. Dad knocked off the throttle and waggled the tiller till their stern swung out to meet us and we crept passed them on tick over. Then they were off again, engine at full throttle, young lad hanging dangerously over the stern without a life jacket.
Ellesmere in Bloom


The forecast is abominable for the coming week,I don't mind though, I've downloaded four new books onto my reader and I've got a stash of wool to keep me occupied. Anyone need a crocheted dishcloth or a granny square blankie?

That's all from us for this week, take care everyone

Love and Hugs as always
The Floating Chandlers


PS I was standing next to a chap who was operating the paddles on the Grindley staircase when his windlass suddenly flew up in the air and came down on the ground by my feet. Phew! – that was too close for comfort!
PPS Will add more photos when the wifi signal improves (done 11th September)

Pat and Naga Queen coming up Hurlestone flight

Sunny Ellesmere

Caught in the act Tricky