Well we have now finished our 4th week of continuous cruising and what a time the both of us are having. Our early retirement seems to be the best thing we have ever done, no longer are we stressing about Ofsted, exams, staffing levels, kids and so on. The decision to move onto the boat for a few years seems to be right one for both of us. That said, there are still moments in the day when we both get tired of each other’s company and where we snap at one another. When this happens I usually retreat to a book or Sandra decides it’s time to take the dog for a walk, fortunately these ‘episodes’ last minutes and neither of us ever mull over arguments, we just get on with it. We both miss our daughter Emily a great deal, but we are on the phone daily and Sandra texts her a great deal. We are also arranging some long weekends off the boat in the near future and are hoping to be nearby for the Foxton Locks festival later on in the year.
Since the last blog we ‘chilled’ out over the battery issues. In fact, the issue was never the batteries, these just carried on doing a great job, it was the Masterolt electronic reader system that was out of synchronisation with them, so when we had fully charged batteries this was showing 53% instead of 100%. We decided to land-line charge them once more and reset the whole system, so after staying at Barbridge, the following day we decided we would moor up at Swanley Bridge Marina for a day or two, which was on the way to Wales. This was after a day or so at the beautiful market town on Nantwich.
We managed to find moorings just past the aqueduct which crosses one of the main roads going into the town. We then spent the day having a good look around the town, which included going on a ‘guided’ tour of the old church which was amazing. We also visited the indoor market which was very traditional with small traders selling a range of items. Sandra managed to buy a really good pair of walking boots as she was finding her trainers were slippy in wet conditions at a really good price.
The following day after turning the boat around we headed back up the Shropshire union canal turning to the left at Hurleston junction just after Hurleston Roving Brindge (No 97). We actually missed the turning and had to reverse and then turn towards the flight, this ended up being a very wise decision as the wind was ferocious and the boat just coming out of the bottom lock was blown downwards and ended up trapped against the entrance of the bridge we had just come from, we were unable to help and had to drive past them reasonable fast to fight the wind and get into the lock chamber which we did very well indeed.
After the flight of four locks we were soon at Swanley Bridge Marina where we booked two nights stay. The weather was terrible, raining and hail stones at times, so we used this opportunity to sort the battery problem (Mastervolt) have a pump out of the loo (which we had to do ourselves!) and to wash clothes and have a bit of a rest. The weather started to pick up as we headed for Wrenbury although the tow paths were horrendously muddy. We decided to moor up just after lunchtime and go for a walk and a pint!
On Friday morning when we started out towards Grindley Brook, the skies were clear, but it was very cold and soon the rain began again. After numerous locks and swing bridges we managed to find a mooring spot just before the small staircase of locks. We took advantage of the break in rain and headed to the local pub where we had a lovely lunchtime meal with an extra portion of shared homemade chunky chips which was a real treat to us both! Today we were also being joined on the boat for a few days by Colin and Heather, two of our good friends who also own their own narrow boat called ‘Miss Lemon’. However, this short holiday they would be living on ‘Captain Hastings’, which they have done in the past.
Colin and Heather arrived at Grindley Brook around 7.30pm and we all decided to drive by car into Whitchurch 2 miles away for a beer and an Indian Take-away. When we returned poor Heather slipped over and fell full length into the biggest muddy patch. She was covered in mud from head to toe. Although we found it really amusing, it does make you realise just how dangerous it can be along the canal.
The following day (Saturday) Sandra and I took the car and went to Leeds to a concert we had pre-arranged, we also stayed over in a beautiful hotel which was a nice change. We had arranged to meet Colin and Heather on the Sunday afternoon at 3.30pm at Ellesmere (not to be confused with Ellesmere Port) where we would stay over for the night before heading off early to Llangollen. On the Sunday when we returned in the evening we tried a few local pubs and ended up at The Sun which served real ales. As usual with us four, we decided afterwards to try the Indian Restaurant which ended up a very mediocre experience!
On the Monday after leaving Ellesmere we started our trip to Chirk and Pontcysyllte passing the Montgomery on the way. This part of the canal system is particularly beautiful and this is evident in the number of boats using it, many of which are hire boats. In fact one of these the previous night had come along side us at full throttle and rubbed and bumped the boat causing a great deal of paint loss on the side of the boat. When challenged about his speed the boaters of this hire boat just completely ignored us, in fact they didn’t even apologise!
After a long day of boating and just a short distance from Trevor, the weather took a turn for the worse and the four of us decided we didn’t want to go over the Pontcysyllte aqueduct in poor weather – it was raining profusely. We decided to moor 10 minutes away and had the night on the boat playing games, laughing a lot and having a drink or two. A great time had by all of us!
Tuesday early in the morning in windy, but sunny weather we went over the aqueduct. This was absolutely stunning and quite scary as there is a sheer drop one side; in fact Sandra managed a few seconds, looked over and promptly went indoors making the excuse she would make everyone a drink! Colin drove Captain Hastings over and I turned the boat around at Trevor and took it over on the return journey. A fabulous experience for all of us, something none of us will ever forget. Well worth the four weeks boating to get there!!!
We decided to head back to Ellesmere where the car was parked for Colin and Heather to rehome on the Wednesday after staying the last night on the boat – we could also have a few more real ale beers! We had plenty of time and the weather was fine so we started our return journey.
We waited at Chirk tunnel which is just under 500mtrs long for a boat to exit and looked through the tunnel to see if anything was coming. Nothing was, so we switched on our light and was about a third of the way through when unbelievably another boat entered the other side. As there is not enough room to pass in the tunnel this was a big problem, we hooted the horn, but they continued to move forward. Colin jumped off the boat onto the tow path as we had now passed half way and ran up toward the boat. Fortunately they agreed to reverse their boat. On exiting we received the most terrible verbal assault, where they informed us that as we were not hire boaters and therefore not in a rush – we should have reversed, even though by this time we were three quarters of the way through the tunnel. Absolutely disgusting behaviour by this group of four hire boaters.
As we moved on in some shock, we soon started to forget and I managed to give Heather some lessons on driving the boat and her confidence was growing, until a another hire boater, which had pulled out in front of me after being moored without looking (so rude) which made me have to go into reverse to stop Captain Hastings from bumping his boat – decided at the lock to get his boat lodged on cill of the lock as the water was draining out. This can lead to a boat sinking and had it not been for Colin helping them this would have been a catastrophe. After he left the lock Colin informed us that he didn’t even say thank you!
Needless to say when we moored up in the evening we had a few beers!!