A kind of record of a narrow boat and what has to be done to keep her afloat and usable.
We might even be able to tell you where we get to as well.
Hoping you enjoy the intimate detail of boating on the UK canals.
The name describes my demeanour and voice!
I love narrowboating and that is why this blog is mainly about the boat and our interaction with it. I have been keeping a log for Sonflower ever since we bought her and moved onto her as our main residence.
Some incidents in our boating life have been hilarious, some scary and some down right dangerous. I cannot tell what will come in the future but you can now share them!
The crew are an 'ordinary' couple. The Best Mate and I.
Being very interested in food and its preparation on board I am keen to share this Canal Cook's Blog that shares recipes that are interesting. I have a veg drawer full of beetroot! Some returned with us from the boat and more came in our organic veg box from Riverford today. The Best Mate says we have more in the freezer from a previous harvest! So I did a google search for a recipe and came up with this one. Now I have found it I think I will be a regular visitor.
We did not go into Llangollen with the boat. I was worried about the draught of SONFLOWER which is 24 inches on a good day. Against the current her stern would be pulled down a bit more and the canal is very shallow in places. Where it narrows passing would be very difficult without grounding. The recommendations are variable but some say 20 inches is the practical maximum draught.
So I walked in. Here are photos of the sort of views we missed.
And one of the pretty flowers beside the towpath. Anyone recognise them?
I walked with a couple from Thame who had left their three under five children with their grandparents to escape for a walking holiday. They were walking from Nantwich to Llangollen and then cycling back! They had been booked into B & Bs on the way.
I also took a stroll across the aqueduct and back again. Here is a view of the River Dee that runs beneath it:
The stay in the basin in Trevor was delightful. Never a dull moment with the day punctuated by craft that entered to find nowhere to go except to turn round; a boat called "Destiny" came under the bridge, made a banging sound from the engine bay and came to a driveless stop. It was then towed out by an Anglowelsh Day Boat only to return two hours later towed by two Anglowelsh day boats and then pushed onto a mooring to await replacement of a drive plate after the Bank Holiday weekend. I helped hire boaters who wanted to be helped as the winding hole is an interesting shape. One week-ending crew were all dressed up as pirates which added to the colour and fun. Their helmsman said that he would not refuse my offer of help next time! He did all right actually considering the 'help' he got from his crew who jumped on and off and pushed the boat here and there. The crew also had a go at fishing and left me the rest of their maggots for me when they left.
We also had to leave the mooring for water and, as the Bank Holiday Friday and Saturday were 'turn round' days, water was unavailable at the boat yard. We had to cross the aqueduct, turn at Froncysyllte and water there to return over the aqueduct again. We chose to do this first thing on Saturday morning so as not to lose our mooring place! Here is a picture that shows how nice it was!
A relaxing time to end the holiday and give us an opportunity to clean the brass and get our washing together to prepare for departure! We watched hawfinches eating rowan berries from the trees next to the boat and I caught an eel in the basin on the free maggots. I took it, still writhing on the hook, to the crew of NB Destiny who have four cats and six kittens on board. They were delighted to recieve it, wrapped it in newspaper and beheaded it. The kittens set about it raw! I cut off the head, line and the hook, now a slimy ball! I do not like eels! I threw the rest of the maggots into the basin in disgust.
Our friends came just before lunch so we all repaired to The Telford Inn for a meal with them while rain poured down outside before we unloaded their stuff and filled the car with ours. We drove away at 3pm leaving SONFLOWER with the usual mixed feelings but knowing she is in the hands of a capable crew to bring her safely home to Banbury.
First of all apologies to any who are trying to track our progress by this blog! On the boat, my laptop has decided that it will not work for more than about time enough to log in to 'water explorer' and record the boat position. For the last four or five days it has not even wanted to do that! In short my battery is knackered and my inverter has decided to trip whenever the power lead is connected!! I am grateful for the 240v of the Telford Inn, Trevor in return for the purchase of a pint of Telford Ale from Tetley's Brewery.
Never mind the technicalities. We have had a wonderfully slow cruise. From Wrenbury we went to Frankton Junction via Ellesmere and spent half a day deciding whether to go down the Monty or not. "Not" won and we proceeded onward to Chirk. We moored on 48 hr morings just north of the tunnel but the cutting here was so deep that we did not see the sun so backed up toward the tunnel. Here the cutting was deeper but it was less of a walk to the road to see the sun! It was better to for access to the town chopping 2000 yards form the walk. But it did have the drawback that "proper" boaters thought the bollards here were for boats waiting to use the tunnel and not for mooring on and verbally abused us for our cheek. The local signage however totally vindicated us as these were the 'town moorings'. Hire boaters just moored on pins and we re-moored two of them during our tenure!
After visiting Chirk Castle, a not to be missed experience, we moved to the country and sunshine near Chirk Marina. From here however, we needed to return to Chirk Pool so that the Best mate could visit the doctor's surgery for an unmentionable reason as she needed an antibiotic. Being in Wales, this was free at the point of use (no prescription charges) even though she doesn't have to pay even in England (for another unmentionable reason). The Welsh doctor was pleased to be able to prescribe a better class of antibiotic as an English doctor would be paying! Such is modern Britain- a united kingdom in name only!
Today we crossed the Pontcysyllte (Pont-coo-sool-tea) aqueduct. Suffering from some mild vertigo I was glad to have done this at the tiller for the whole crossing. It is indeed an experience every boater should have. I had the unreasonable fear that SONFLOWER would be the first narrowboat to fall off in over 200 years! We were only four inches from a 120 foot drop! The views and the feeling is extraordinary.
Today also we visited Llangollen. This is our eventual aim this year. You will need to wait for the next instalment to find out whether we get there by boat. Just crossing the pool at the end of the aqueduct into our present mooring on the Trevor Arm was an exciting experience. Described by one owner boater as fighting against Anglo-welsh bumper-boats! We have not tried to get through the really narrow section yet. (We were smacked while moored last night by an Alvechurch craft in the hands of a distraught wife whose husband had deserted her to go and take a picture of the aqueduct). We did however complete our holiday as tourists sampling the wonders of the steam railway to Corwen and the horse drawn narrowboat to Horseshoe Falls. The part of the 'canal' not open to navigation of the powered variety is as clear as a bell, narrow and rocky with shoals of fish clearly visible alongside the boat. A beautiful peaceful experience. The rail round trip also gave breath-taking views of the River Dee with its white water and wading fly fishermen.
Weleft our mooring on Nantwich Aqueduct Embankment just after our friends on nb Elisha passed. They told us they were heading out of town and would let us know where they were mooring overnight so that we could join them.
We had things to do. We had already been into town for supplies and had a fish and chp lunch. But we needed water and a pump-out as we were about 90% full. Water was no problem once the hire boat had left teh mooring and the boat opposite that seemed to be waiting confirmed that it was waiting for the launderette not the water point. From her we went under the brodge tomake the 300degre turn into Nantwich Basin. I had done this turn in Sonflower in 2005 so knew it was possible. But I did not put the breeze into the computation and we very gently drifted sideways under its influence to completely bridge the canal!
What an embarrassment but no pictures were taken!
With a crew member on each end and the assistance of a couple of passers by on the towpath we managed to push Sonflower back the way she had come and complete the turn into the boatyard. Another 180 dergree turn was required at the other end of the basin to moor with the pump out in the right position for the necessary health and safety requirements to be satisfied.
We then received a call to tell us that Elisha was at Hurleston Turn over Bridge ready to enter the Llangollen Canal in the morning. We followed them out of Nantwich and moored there.
On the morning the crew were not fast emerging from their bunks. At about 1100h we entered the first of the Hurlestone flight of locks to proceed up the Llangollen Canal, fenders raised according to instructions. We had no problems and stopped for brunch after the four locks. Then on to Bridge 6 where we stopped to visit the very good Burland general store. This is operated by a boater. Their pies looked delicious and proved so as I bought four for lunch. One chicken and Mushroom, 2 steak and mushroom and one meat and potato. The verdict was thumbs up all round.
Then slowly on to Wrenbury Mill. Here we had a choice of hostelry for evening meal. I chose the Dusty Miller gastro pub. Not possibly the best choice and I do not think I will be returning. They do have free WiFi (on which I am posting now) but I think I could have cooked myself a better dinner. They also do not know that their Coke gasses do not hold a pint, for which we were charged! I demonstrated this with a pint beer glass full of water which overflowed my son's coke glass as the barman did not seem to understand when I challenged the bill! Their canned music met withthe approval of our teenagers but lacked a track by Coldplay.
The only other thing to report are bleeping sounds from the invertor. I think I may have a loose 12v earth connection!
I am worried. We have to be in Llangollen in 13 days. Canal Planner says we could get there in 6. So what do we do with all those extra days?
We were woken at 6am by the trob throb throb of an old engine in a new boat! Hadar, our near neighbours in Banbury had come off their mooring here in idyllic countryside and sunshine to go who knows where? Now, I do not object to early morning cruising but today we also had the wakening beeps of the invertor telling us it had been left on all night. Our crew slept on but the Best Mate realised that as the engine needed running to charge the battery and the sun is shining and the wind is breezy it is a wonderful opportunity to do the washing.
So we put up the rotary dryer on the back deck. That means that we cannot use the tiller. We are going nowhere until the washing is dry!
I have played the guitar, Piglet has played the keyboard, Tigger has hit the skins and teh brass has been cleaned. The steelwork is too hiot to paint, thank goodness.
AS far away as Tyrely locks we heard of the fame of the Farm Shop at the top of Adderley Locks. There was a notice on the lock sign of the Top Lock. It advertised home made pies and produce. I decided to buy some lamb for dinner and could almost smell it gently marinating in spice and oil before being roasted in the oven and filing the boat with morrocan aromas.
But Adderley locks are a long way from Tyrely and by the time we got near we had an overnight stop in Market Drayton! Friends in Market Drayton also confirmed the quality of the produce and asked us to return a plate that had supported a cake they had brought from there.
When we got there the next morning we found that they had no lamb! Lamb has such a demand that they sell out almost as soon as the meat hits the shop! We bought some pork steak, sausages (which we saw being made by hand, bacon(dry cured), free range eggs and fresh baked bread.
We moored nearby to visit the shop and PO in Adderley. A short walk over the Hawksmoor bridge brought us to a cross road just past the home of the Hawksmoor herd of Holstein cows. A little farther and I asked a resident for directions to the store. It closed two years ago!
On the way back we met the lamb on its way to market! 54 sheep came down the lane toward us screeching to an abrupt halt when they saw us. They must have known what we wanted for dinner. The shepherd egged them on to pass us and we continued on our seperate ways. The road showed the signs of their nervousness!
The character of the cruise has changed from the meandering of the Trent and Mersey and the Staffordshire and Worcester canals to the Straight and Narrow of the Birmingham and Liverpool (Shropshire Union) Main Line. The character is so contrasting. The cuttings give directness and speed and the embankments may give a better view over the surrounding countryside but we are not in a hurry this time!
We loved the little town of Penkridge with its marvelous Co-op supermatket and its charity shop. Unfortunately that was closed but it did support Katherine House, our local hospice in Banbury. I heard, however that the rioting on nearby Wolverhampton so upset the locals here that they closed the garage and supermarket early in case there was a repeat in sleepy little Penkridge.
The change came at Autherley Junction. Still a 'narrow canal' but this was built for speed. One of the straights on today's criuise was over a mile long and I didn't share it with any other craft, coming or going! A wonderful example of where to find peace in today's world: at the tiller of a narrowboat at 3 mph.
We are travelling slowly which gives time to observe the herons smd kingfishers along the way. A bit of additional birding was thwarted however because the Belvine Reservoir ios managed locally and limited to members and permot holders only. Permits have to be applied for in advance amd cannot be done over the internet. Pre-arrangements like this are difficult when on a boating holiday! My request fro permission by text was refused. Hopefully we will get another chance later in the cruise.
The final leg from Gnosall to Market Drayton takes us through hewn rock cuttings 25 feet deep and across embankments about 40 feet high. The passing is difficukt in the cutting when the oncoming boat slows to almost a stop for no apparent reason and the views are breathtaking from the embankment.
The last flight of locks down into Market Drayton (Tyley Locks) proved interesting only as a ahead amgaged to get itself onto the weir at the entrance to the first lock. The prop stopped as it was drawn in. We helped them rope back onto the lock mooring to inspect the damage through the weed hatch. Fortunately there was no damage and we had the lock set for us!
Into Market Drayton we encountered the 'leave a ring between boats' phenomenon. However as we progressed further on we found a beautiful almost empty mooring on the other side of town. We are no further from the centre but much more pleasantly siuated! We may stay here for the full 48 hoirs. We have time.
We left teh safe haven of the Taft in Staffordshire and made our way to Colwen Lock where we were to discharge our precious cargo of Juie and two of her grandchildren.Eeyore doscovered that his moble phone was stil in the car so our Friend Peter took the children home and then returned to Great Haywood lock witthe phone. What a star! We worked up the lock and stopped for lunch on the mooringw by the Junction. After lunch we went to Great Haywood marina for a necessary pump out of the toilet tank and then returned to the water point to fill up. Fully emptied at one end and replenished atteh other we then turnied onto the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal and found an overnight mooring.
The next morning we were up bright as buttins and left at 0600 to cruise in sunshine against a blackening sky which highlighted a wonderful rainbow. The mixed weather continued til breakfast time when we stopped. Bacon and eggs are the only choice after an earlyish start and we enjoyed them. Then we made our way on ward until we came to Penkridge.
Here we shopped at the Co-op and decided to stop for the night.
No a meal of Tandoori chicken, lamb burgers, salads and coleslaw with fresh bakery bloomer awaits us.
I will not decry a good thing. If it gets children interested in boating it will be great. However, we may be at the start of Muddy Waters popping up all over the system like Thomas the Tank engine does at every small steam railway in the country on any Bank Holiday. I hope not.