We had a very enjoyable and busy couple of months cruising with treasured family members, through some absolutely awesome countryside in England and Wales, and using some pretty amazing engineering along the way.
Judy and Ted arrive
While Bob remained on Celtic Maid, I headed to London to finally and successfully complete the Life in the UK mandatory test to progress my Indefinite Leave to Remain status application to the Home Office, and then meet up with Judy and Ted (Bob’s sister and her husband who visit us from Canada every year) at the very busy Euston Station in London. Successfully reunited we headed back to Celtic Maid, Bob meeting us at the Nantwich train station. Sadly rain also greeted Judy and Ted but they were not daunted.
We were off the next morning, conquering the Hurleston locks as we entered the Llangollen canal and loving the rural scenery. We had promised this trip to Judy and Ted for the last few years and things always conspired to get in our way. But not this time. Our first stop was Wrenbury and a mandatory visit to the Dusty Miller pub – we had to show them some appropriate English hospitality! And then we got past Whitchurch and a hillside field with some gorgeous trees to a rural mooring.
On the following day, we got a good start to finally meet up with our summer traveling companions, Jim and Chris on NB Sylph at Blake Mere near Ellesmere. When we arrived they had set up a bbq and dinner spot right on the edge of the lake. It was a magnificent setting to reunite with our friends and for us all to have a relaxed catch-up session over dinner and a few drinks. And of course, we were all sporting the “uniform” – red and black check shirts for the women and T-shirts for the men provided by Judy and Ted.
We took advantage of our close proximity to Ellesmere to walk to its lake and through the town, soaking up the warm sunshine and stunning surroundings. However, we were on a mission to get to Chirk Bank where several of Bob’s relatives were amassing for the weekend to catch up after many long years, and his cousin from Philip Island near Melbourne, Australia was arriving to spend 5 weeks with us.
Denise arrives and the Colebeck gathering
We had previously arranged with Chris and Jim that whilst we had Judy and Ted, and Denise onboard Celtic Maid, we would sleep aboard NB Sylph. So we moored up near the Poachers Pocket and gradually met up with the cousins as they arrived. Julie and Phil arrived first and we enjoyed a drink with them, followed by Cheryl and Michael. As we were outside the pub saying farewell to them, Anne and Bob arrived, so it was back for another celebratory drink.
The following day Julie and Phil took Bob off to the Manchester Airport to collect Denise while the rest of us caught up again in between a bit of shopping and sightseeing. Finally, they arrived back from the airport so we could really start celebrating. We all met for lunch at the pub on Sunday, after the arrival of Angela made us a round dozen, and the talking (and drinking) continued all afternoon with a photoshoot to mark the occasion. A pretty good time was had by all we think. We want to thank you all for coming and making this a weekend to remember.
Llangollen Canal and back with Sylph
By Monday we farewelled all the visitors and set off toward the town of Llangollen itself, but not before crossing into Wales over the Chirk Aqueduct, through the Chirk tunnel, and over the famous Pontcyssylte Aqueduct. The cameras were going crazy capturing the amazing rural vistas and feats of engineering along the way. This was particularly what they came for – other than to see us of course.
Once we were into Llangollen and moored up, it was time for some sightseeing. The River Dee flows through Llangollen and also under the Pontcyssylte Aqueduct and is particularly spectacular through the town itself. We also went on the Llangollen Railway on a steam train through the Dee Valley to Carrog where we took the opportunity of walking to the village and taking refreshments at the Grouse Inn. The weather was gorgeous, the scenery stunning and the company fantastic. So kind of a perfect day.
Too soon we were on the return route, stopping off again at Ellesmere and Blakes Mere while NB Sylph had some running repairs. But by the time we got back as far as Whitchurch, it was apparent that an even bigger engine problem would delay them and we sadly said adieu as we made our way back to Nantwich. But not before stopping at Wrenbury for dinner at the Cotton Arms (great food and great service), and mooring temporarily before the Hurleston Locks and walking to Snugbury’s for the best ice cream ever!!!
Farewell Judy and Ted, Hello Chester
Back in Nantwich, we said farewell to Judy and Ted – very sad to see them go but also very chuffed that we had got them here for a record whole 18 days. I wonder how long we can entice them to stay next time!!!!
Once we had caught up with the washing and shopping, the remaining Celtic Maid crew – Bob, Denise and I – headed to the walled city of Chester. We had been once before by car but had wanted to arrive on Celtic Maid for some time. Chestershire is particularly beautiful countryside and we took every opportunity to enjoy cruising along with only 6 locks to conquer.
A few more locks and we had descended into the city where we moored up beside the wall and cathedral. We walked around the entire wall perimeter and wandered through the city enjoying all the sights before moving through the last 3 staircase locks and mooring up. And this is where Denise and I left Bob, to enjoy 3 days in London.
London for Denise and Bron
After finally finding the Chester Railway station, Denise and I settled down to enjoy our visit to London. Despite a couple of delays on both the train and Underground journeys we finally made it to our hotel in Bayswater. A quick look around the local area revealed an excellent Indian restaurant where we got our curry fix for dinner.
An early start the next morning saw us take the Underground to Westminster where we boarded the boat trip to Kew Gardens. Despite an extremely low tide we finally moored at Kew and commenced our tour of Kew Gardens with the added delight of encompassing an exhibition of glass works by Dale Chihuly incorporated into the gardens. It was spectacular and a treat I would repeat anytime. We were continually awed by the stunning beauty and creativity that blended beautifully with the natural surroundings.
That evening Julie arrived at our hotel to join us the following day in exploring more of London. We walked through Hyde Park to visit the legendary Harrods store then by Underground to Leicester Square where we got tickets to the theater for that evening. A short walk to Covent Garden and a wander through Neales Yard, before another quick underground trip to Camden Markets for a few souvenir purchases. This was followed by a slightly longer walk along the Regents Canal and through Regent’s Park before taking the Underground back to our hotel. After a quick freshen up we said farewell to Julie and headed to the Apollo Victoria Theatre near the Victoria Station to see the musical, “Wicked”. And it was!!!
After a late trip back to the hotel via the Underground, and a bit of sleep we awoke for an early morning walk to Portobello Road and a few more purchases – not to mention an amazing breakfast at a stunning French bakery – then we returned to the hotel to check out and head back to Chester.
While waiting at Euston Station we may have had to enjoy a bottle of wine, followed by another plus crisps and chocolates on the long train journey home. So in this condition, the downpour of rain on our arrival and the 20-minute walk back to Celtic Maid did not bother us at all. Bob seemed relieved to see us but slightly perplexed at our drenched but happy condition!!!
The Anderton Lift
The next phase in our journey with Denise was always planned to be to head across the Middlewich Arm to Middlewich then up to Anderton to take the massive boat lift down to the River Weaver for a few days. We started off well returning back towards Nantwich and visiting Beeston Castle along the way. All went well in this plan, even down to finding a berth overnight at Orchard Marina so we could do our laundry, until just before we got to Anderton when we found out the River Weaver was closed due to high waters from the recent deluges. So we waited out the closure and still got to go down, spend one night on the Weaver and explore a bit of Northwich before ascending and making the final trek back to Orchard Marina to prepare for our next adventure.
Goodbye Denise and Hello Greece
Whilst we were still in Australia, Jim and Chris had contacted us inviting us to join them for a 2 week holiday on the Greek island of Thassos in the Aegean Sea. We of couse said yes without hesitation. So we met up with them again and went into Orchard Marina where our boats would stay while we were away, being looked after by my sister and her husband, Yasha and Juergen. As we were excitedly preparing for our holiday, we were also feeling very sad that our time with Denise onboard was coming to an end. She was such an easy guest to have, adjusting to life aboard with no effort and always willing to problem solve and pitch in. I believe that the warranty on several jobs (resealing the kitchen sink, securing the shelf on the couch, refitting the smoke alarm on Sylph) is still holding and the macrame oil bottle holders continue to please. Please come back soon, Denise – and bring Mark with you next time please!!!!
The alarm went off at about 2 am as we arose and prepared for the taxi that would take the 5 of us to Manchester airport, Denise reluctantly returning to Australia and the rest of us excited to be heading to sunny days in Greece.
But more about the Greek Odyssey later!!!!