Several of our life ambitions have been achieved over the last few weeks.
We visited Cornwall and celebrated our friends’ birthdays with their family and friends, met new/old friends, and travelled along the Llangollen Canal and Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.
And we finally have a date for the first operation on Bob’s eye to control the pressure on our journey to sorting it all out – Saturday 18th April. So we have been trying to work out all the logistics and will have to leave Celtic Maid for a couple of weeks so that we can stay in close proximity to Moorfield’s Eye Hospital in London for monitoring progress.
We are currently moored at Trevor right next to the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, catching up on some maintenance and communications before travelling back to Chirk tomorrow to welcome our friends Chris and Sue on board to share the experience of the aqueduct and Llangollen with them before our prolonged absence from our beloved Celtic Maid.
On our return from Cornwall (also taking in Devon and Somerset) we made ready, with NB Sylph, to make the journey from Nantwich onto the Llangollen Canal to Wrenbury, where we met up with Chris and Jim’s daughter Cassie, her husband Shaun, and sons Jacob and Dylan. They travelled from their home in Devon to spend a week on Sylph over Easter and seemed happy that we were also tagging along!!!!
It was a brilliant help to have the extra hands on deck – or off deck really to do the locks and act as runners to check the canal ahead on the very narrow parts close to Llangollen. And of course they are all great company!!!
The trip to Wrenbury was reasonably uneventful although we struggled a bit to line up for the entrance to the first lock on the Llangollen and navigating through the locks with strong flows at both the head and tail of the locks due to the bypass weirs created its own challenges. A good opportunity to further develop the boat handling skills and there are probably only a few more Bron scratches noticeable!!!
There are also a number of bridges along the Llangollen – some are left lifted, some require a windlass to lift and others require you to stop the road traffic and use the electric system. Fortunately Shaun was very happy to run ahead and do these for us. And at times navigating through these and the many stone bridges along the canal required very close attention and significant skill to avoid damage!! Not to mention any oncoming traffic given that there is only room for one boat at a time and some are situated on very blind and sharp corners!
After a great meal at the Dusty Miller on Good Friday we set off towards Whitchurch to conquer the last 7 single locks and 3 staircase locks at Grindley Brook before the 20 mile lock free section of this beautiful canal. Chris, as usual found us a beautiful rural mooring just past Whitchurch which featured some lovely trees that changed with the sunlight and morning mist – photos are in the Gallery!!!!
On our way to moorings in Ellesmere on Sunday we cruised through lush farming land on gently undulating hills and the beautiful lakes or “meres” before Ellesmere. These are large bodies of water apparently formed in natural dips in the landscape and fed by rainfall. They are surrounded by many trees and are home to much wildlife. We stopped for lunch and a bit of relaxation beside Blake Mere which is right beside the canal. Absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. We hope the photos do it some justice!
Ellesmere arm has space for about 20 boats with a winding hole at the end enabling ease of turning to return to the canal. We took advantage of the canalside Tesco’s to stock up on Monday morning, but also met some very interesting people from Maine USA and on board NB Pilbara who love Australia!!! And Bron accomplished her first U turn unassisted!!!!! No incidents and impressed Bob!!!!
We passed the entrance to Montgomery Canal but hope to venture down some time before leaving this region.
Occasionally we plan to stop for an ale/cider at one of the many canalside pubs, but just recently we seem to be finding them closed. We hope this is only for refurbishment but the number of pubs closing across Britain seems to be very high. There are fortunately still many left!!!!!
Bron found us another lovely rural mooring just past the New Marton locks and we decided to share a BBQ dinner. We did warn the other boaties that we could get quite raucous but we were all tucked up and quiet long before 10pm!!!
On Tuesday Bron achieved another 2 firsts – steered the boat over the Chirk Aqueduct (not as high as the Pontcysyllte but still scary) and through the Chirk tunnel (459 yards of narrow darkness). Feeling very proud she was still happy to hand back the tiller to Bob as he conquered the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct while she took photos. The is just as majestic and scary as the promotional photos show it but such a great experience. So pleased we had the sustenance of an ice-cream before tackling it and what a gorgeous day we had too. In fact the whole of Easter was great weather and we have even rediscovered shorts!!! It seems as though many other people had got the idea that at least Spring was upon us because there were many gongoozlers walking the aqueduct too.
The Sun Trevor pub just out of Trevor called us for a late afternoon drink and we moored near it it preparation for our run to Llangollen on Wednesday morning through very narrow sections requiring our runners to go to work!!!! This last section of navigable Llangollen Canal is only 2 miles long but it took us at least 2 hours to get through. There is only room for one boat through several sections so there is a need to wait for the all clear before progressing and then it is steady as she goes!!
We arrived safely in Llangollen admiring the beautiful views out over the valley of the River Dee along the way. We were now firmly in the Welsh hills and the canal is perched half way up with cuttings through the rock on one side and a deep plunge to the valley floor and river on the other. Very picturesque.
We found moorings in the Llangollen basin for 2 days giving us close access to the town itself, which is a very busy but pretty town which obviously attracts a great many tourists.
We spent our final night with Chris and Jim’s family having another BBQ , playing our music a bit too loud and enjoying the antics of the children. The classic comment by Dylan which we will always remember for this trip is him mimicking Bob saying “Hallelujah” as he greeted someone. So Hallelujah it is!!!!!
They sadly left on Thursday and we had another day to take advantage of the access to electricity to break out the vacuum cleaner and give the inside of Celtic Maid a good clean – the outside will have to wait. One last trip into the town to pick up supplies and we were off back to Trevor where we have stayed since Friday night undertaking maintenance and waiting out the windy wet weather that arrived today.
Tomorrow it is back to Chirk and a new adventure begins.