Thursday, 30 December 2010

New Year in Wheaton Aston? probably....

At last the temperature has risen & ice is thawing, albeit very slowly. We have clear water around us thanks to the chap ice breaking  by going up to the services on his dingy every day but a couple of hundred yards in each direction it is still fairly solid. :-(
 A couple of boats have gone past us to get diesel but then have struggled to get back again. Hopefully though by the weekend, if the milder weather continues we may be able to move on. 

Not a lot else to report really, we are trying not to let cabin fever set in by keeping busy. Mark did the engine service yesterday but there's no logs left to chop, we are on the last lot, need to move to get some wood collecting done!

Some pictures from our Christmas day walk.

                                              Checking the water point, it was still frozen...

It's gone from from startlingly white & beautiful to grey, damp & murky but that's the price of a thaw I suppose.....

Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas in Wheaton Aston

We have been here in Wheaton Aston a week now, a long time to be in one place for us! But whilst not able to cruise we are reasonably comfortable with most things we need near to hand.
The water container I bought in Nantwich has been put to good use & Mark has kept the water tank topped up meaning I was able to do some washing yesterday. 
 On Tuesday we ventured into Stafford by bus as we needed container for diesel  plus other bits & bobs. It was bitterly cold  &  Mark's patience is in short supply on shopping trips ;)  so we weren't any longer than necessary.
 We walked through the shopping centre into a small indoor market & found a 20 Lt diesel container for £12.99, bargain!  A warm up & lunch stop in Costa Coffee followed by a dash round Sainsbury's  then back on the bus home. 
Turners Garage is just across the bridge & their diesel is a reasonable 66.9p per Lt so with our new  shiny container we are making regular trips to top up the tank. 

I got some nuts for the birds & hung them in the tree opposite the kitchen window,  

                          Sid likes to sit & watch them, just as well I think that  he's not going outside !

A not very clear picture of the local "ice breaker", he has been past a few times, up to the service point & back - it's so cold though that it soon freezes up again.

  No thaw yet, forecast for tonight is -18c, according to The Guardian, Russia is "hit by big freeze" with temps of -15c. So that makes it colder here then,  brrrr......

        A very merry Christmas to all of you out there, 
stay warm & safe.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Wheaton Aston, again...

A busy day on Tuesday, as promised Carol took me to a launderette somewhere on the outskirts of Wolverhampton so the washing was all done  :) &  Carvers delivered 10 bags of excel,  spot on service, ordered on Monday & delivered next day. The price wasn't too bad either, £93.00 with free delivery.

According to the weather forecast  a brief respite in the freeze was due Wednesday & Thursday so wasting no time Wednesday morning we made our way towards the winding hole, not too bad, just some thin broken stuff but the winding hole itself needed some energetic ice breaking with the pole! 
We had already decided that Gailey was a no go as beyond the winding hole was solid 2/3" thick so once winded we made our way to Autherley Junction, the plan was to fill up with water ect then move up to the winding hole after bridge 5, turn round & head south towards Greensforge.

This plan unravelled as we chatted with another boater at the water point as they told us that the ice was bad on the Staffs & Worcs south of Autherley but the Shroppie was clear at least up to Wheaton Aston. Okay, Wheaton Aston it is then.

We managed to find an empty spot on the visitor moorings, just a few yards past the services. It looks like we timed it just right as we are now frozen in, again.... but at least this time we are handy for all we need including diesel as Turners is just across the way.

Our current mooring, Poppy is 2nd boat on the left.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

The kindness of strangers

We had hoped to be able to move on today after a bit of a thaw as we were nearly out of water & out of coal but although there is clear water around us, 100yds further on the canal towards Coven is still  iced up. Back towards Autherley Junction is mostly clear but we are facing the wrong way & it's along way to reverse! 

We decided to busy ourselves collecting some wood this morning & then make a decision at lunch time, hoping maybe that some brave soul may have done some ice breaking in the meantime or a rapid thaw have taken place.
 Last night a boat had pulled in behind us & this morning we got chatting,  turns out he was the boat that had  passed us yesterday ice breaking & we had chuntered a bit at the time as it sounded  as if sheets of ice were slamming into our hull!  He had gone up to the junction to use the services & was going to do a bit more ice breaking to get back to his mooring just through bridge 70 but before he went on his way he was kind enough to offer us a bag of fuel & 20 litres of water! We gratefully accepted & off he went crashing through the ice.

 3 boats are moored just up from us & we have spoken to Jeff (Nb Nauti Nauti) a few times in passing & this morning  his wife Carol popped over to say hello & see if we were okay & if we needed anything as they have a car. She mentioned that Carvers will deliver coal so we will ring them tomorrow.
After lunch we decided to walk up to the Co-op in Coven to get a paper & check how bad the ice was between us & the winding hole hoping that the boat going through might have cleared a channel but it didn't look good, still a lot of ice so we have decided to stay put. I bought a 25litre water container a few weeks ago & we have a trolley so the plan is to walk up to the junction & fill the container daily which should see us through. 

Having decided on our plan of action we settled in to watch the snooker when Carol returned to say Jeff was taking one of the other boats ( that was facing the right way!) up  to the junction to get some water & had 2 aqua rolls that he would fill for us & drop off when they came back, which he very kindly did - & Carol has also offered to take me to the launderette on Tuesday - gosh, so thanks to others thoughtfulness & a bit of organising we reckon we should be fine staying here a little longer.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Still in Coven Heath

I'm back on board after a lovely 5 day trip to Scarborough & we are still frozen in! So fingers are crossed that the small rise in temperature forecasted for the next few days thaws the ice  then we can at least get up to Gailey. We have severely rationed our water but are down to 1/4 of a tank which won't last long....

Whilst Mark had a log chopping session this morning I let Sid out for a while, it was his first taste of snow & he was enjoying being out in the fresh air....

.....then I turned my back for a second & he was on the ice. 
 I know it's probably a good 4" thick but still not a good idea, luckily he loves his grub so with a quick shake of the food box he was off the ice & back indoors, which is were he will be staying! 

 Meanwhile Soona had a quick peek & then headed back to the fireside, sensible cat!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Winters icy grip

So we are going nowhere, haven't had much snow yet, just a couple of inches but temp has been well below freezing for days now resulting in us being well & truly iced in. 
                                     This was taken a couple of days ago, looking north...

                                           and this is the view from the stern this afternoon

We are okay for food as both Morrison's & Co-op are within walking distance, we've plenty of wood & a couple of bags of coal left & if we do need more coal I will do as Geoff & Mags on nb Seyella have done.They are moored just a few miles up from us at Penkridge  & managed to get a delivery of coal from local merchant. 

Water rationing is in order & it's showers on alternate days only ( & a quick one at that!) I have adopted Sue on nb No Problem's idea of saving the water from the hot water bottles for washing up etc. 

I'm hoping to get up to Scarborough tomorrow for a few days, it's very much dependant on what the weather does overnight but it is reminiscent of last year when our family Christmas in Scarborough was scuppered by heavy snow.

A rare photo of the cats in close proximity, Sid cannot usually resist chasing Soona & generally disrupting her peace & quiet,  but he is settling down a bit now he's growing up.
 Soona though is still very wary & generally rebuffs his attempts to be friends, she has a point though as he can't help himself, he usually goes too far & spoils it!

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Coven Heath

We moved on Thursday to a nice rural spot beyond Chillington Bridge. 

                                 Mark set to sawing & chopping the wood we've collected

 As the weather has turned decidedly wintry, this morning it was time to move on whilst canal was still clear of ice to top up the water etc.
We'd had a hard frost & a dusting of snow overnight but the canal still ice free as we left at 9am.
  The water tap at Autherley was frozen but a bowlful of hot water soon sorted it & the tank was filled plus a 5 gallon container I had bought at Norbury in readiness for this weather.

Lock cottage at Autherley 

 Autherley Stop Lock

On the Staffs & Worcester looking back to Autherley Junction & the start of the Shropshire Union

We moored up just after the junction & walked to Morrison's to top up the cupboards, it was bitterly cold & Morrison's was very busy so it was a relief to get back on board. 
Mark got us underway whilst I stowed the shopping & made coffee & sandwiches, we had hoped to get as far as Gailey but the plan was scuppered as we passed under Coven Heath Bridge to be met by a mini ice floe & a chap on the bridge telling us that it got worse further along. He wasn't wrong, the ice ahead looked fairly solid so we called it a day. Not long after we had stopped a boat passed us & ploughed on through the ice, maybe they had to be somewhere. It was only the 2nd boat we've seen on the move today.

We're now snug & warm by the fire, we  have enough supplies to see us through the next week or so but if there is a bit of a thaw we shall probably move on as I'm planning (weather permitting!) to head up to Scarborough for the weekend on Thursday & the nearer I am to Penkridge the easier my journey will be. 
Tomorrow we are going to get some exercise by walking  along a bit of the Monarch's Way to Pendeford Mill Nature Reserve, if we're not snowed in.....

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Wheaton Aston

So I went to the Doctors this morning & initially it went well despite the rather dour receptionist as they had a cancellation at 9.30am & I was seen fairly promptly. The diagnosis however didn't go down well, arthritis... according to GP only to be expected after an injury, live with it & here's a big box of painkillers. 
 I'm not convinced & feel I was fobbed off but will wait & see how it goes.

After that I needed some fresh air so we went for a walk around the village & on a bit of the Staffordshire Way, it was very pleasant despite being a bit muddy in parts.

Still plenty of colour on the trees

Tomorrow  it's on to pastures new...

Monday, 22 November 2010

Gnosall to Wheaton Aston

Just a short, but gosh it was cold, 2 hour cruise on Saturday to our current mooring in Wheaton Aston followed by a lazy weekend, mostly settled by the fire with just a couple of forays to the local shops for papers & treats.

The Tesco delivery went according to plan, it was booked for 11am-1pm & arrived at 11.30am, straight through the hatch into the kitchen & all put away in minutes. We probably won't do it every week as I don't usually mind doing our own shop if there is somewhere handy but it's quite rural here with just the village shops which are fine for bits & bobs but work out a bit pricey when a big shop is needed.          

Back in April I managed to hurt my wrist by tripping up over a mooring ring & at  A & E at Doncaster Hospital, a scaphoid fracture was suspected but after 2 xrays 10 days apart they decided that there was no fracture, just a sprain. 
Within a few weeks it seemed fine & I thought that was that, just keep an eye out for pesky mooring rings in future, but over the last few weeks the wrist has become painful again, resulting in restricted movement & broken sleep so tomorrow I shall present myself at the local GP's surgery to see if anything can be done. Depending on the outcome of that visit we will decide on our next move....

Wheaton Aston moorings, we are just before the bridge ( spot the new hood!)

Sid's favourite cruising position

Friday, 19 November 2010

Hack Green to Gnosall

Last Tuesday dawned cold & frosty & we were off at 8am to tackle the Audlem locks. It was a very pleasant day, the sun shone & we worked the locks like a well oiled machine ;-) stopping an hour for lunch & a half hour or so to pick up some windfall wood,  we eventually moored up in Market Drayton at 3.30pm.

Free range hens at Adderley Locks, their eggs are for sale, money in an honesty box. 
Very nice they were too...

 Whilst in Market Drayton Keith from Wilson's came to fit our back cover, we had thought we'd get a phone call to cancel as the weather on the day was wild, wet & windy but he managed to do it & we are very pleased with it.

Tyrley Locks

A frosty morning

Woodeaves Cutting

Monday morning & time to move on, another longish  (for us) cruising day, setting off at 8.30am & mooring up on the visitor moorings opposite the wharf in Norbury at 3.30pm. The mooring was handy for the services, which must be the smartest we have yet used & spotlessly clean.
 We only intended to stay overnight which was just as well as we were 'on the shelf' which Poppy banged against every time we moved about the boat, luckily there wasn't  much passing traffic so it wasn't too bad.

We moved across onto the wharf on Tuesday morning  to fill up with diesel ( 61.9p domestic) & stock up on coal so with everything filled or emptied accordingly we set off on another cold, frosty morning the short cruise to our current mooring in Gnosall. 

 There is a couple of convenience stores here but we need to do a good stock up of the food cupboards so I have done a Tesco online shop to be delivered on Monday in Wheaton Aston. Hopefully it will go according to plan, I know some of my fellow bloggers do it on a regular basis & it'll be nice to save all that carrying.

  Yesterday was chores day, with me doing the washing & Mark sawing the wood we'd collected so today it's take it easy with a game of scrabble & catch up with the blog between goes. Just the job on a cold & foggy day.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Ellesmere to Hack Green

 The canals have gone quiet, Eric is back at school, the hire boaters have gone home. 

There is just a few hardy souls like us mooching about, this is our first winter as continuous cruisers & as usual we have no real plan except that we've decided not to opt for a winter mooring  (for this year anyway)  Hopefully a decision we won't come to regret!

We had thought that, once back on the Shroppie we would head back up to Chester & then maybe down & across to Middlewich. That was until we checked the stoppages & spotted that Bunbury is on the list, not wanting to be stuck between there & Chester we decided to 'head south' instead, that required us to get through Hack Green locks as the gates are also on the list for renewal so we came through on Sunday ahead of the work starting yesterday & are currently moored up  just south of the locks. 

The weather was wet & windy but work still got under way with us snug by the fire watching some very soggy BW staff trudge up & down the towpath.

 I'm going to save myself a bit of typing & post a few pics from the last couple of weeks, with apologies to those on slow connections....

 Eric checking out some fungi on a walk round Colemere

 Bracket fungus, evidently....

Jelly Ear Fungus

A frosty morning  at St Martins Moor - taken by Eric

another of Eric's frosty photos

 Sid trying out a spot of camouflage

  Cafe at Grindley Brook shut down for the winter, no coffee & toasted teacake till spring :(

 Descending Hurleston Locks on a beautiful autumn day

 After putting up a bit of a fight the offending mount has been removed & the new shiny one (£62!!) awaits  installation. A much happier engine now & Mark's leg muscles are recovering.....

 New lock gates ready to be installed at Hack Green.

Just having a coffee while I finish this then we're off down (up?) to Audlem, 3 miles & 3 locks.
The forecast for tomorrow looks good for a longish cruising day so it will be another 17 locks before  hopefully finding a good mooring spot in Market Drayton where on Thursday Wilson's are due to fit the back cover, just in time methinks as the weather is turning wintry.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Llangollen to Ellesmere

This afternoon we arrived back in Ellesmere after a very pleasant trip up to Llangollen.

We stayed in the basin for a couple of days, most of Wednesday was taken up with visits from Wilson's & an engine service. We usually do our own basic servicing ie oil & filter changes but decided to have a professional job done with winter on the horizon.  The engine has developed an annoying  vibration on low revs & we hadn't found an obvious cause (but being the novices we are that's not surprising!)   The RCR engineer spotted a small fuel leak which had been dripping onto one of  the rubber dampers under the engine mounts causing it to perish, resulting in the vibration. So he has sorted the leak & we are checking out getting the mount  fixed. 

After 2 nights putting up with the road noise at the 48hr moorings at the Sun Inn we had been looking forward to some peace & quite in the basin in Llangollen & it is great, it's got shore power & water to all pontoons & the setting is beautiful BUT it also has some very noisy nocturnal ducks, who seem to get their kicks splashing  & squawking in the early hours resulting in disturbed sleep & being shattered on Thursday, too shattered to contemplate the climb up to Castell Dinas Bran.

Llangollen Basin looking like a Black Prince depot, Poppy is tucked away in the back corner.

On Friday we headed back out of Llangollen & back to the Sun Inn moorings, I needed to get to Chester on Saturday to meet Eric, who has joined us for half term, & it's got a handy bus stop just across the road. So 2 more noisy days but at least the traffic quietens down during the night meaning we managed enough sleep to be able to manage the climb up to the Castell & it was well worth the effort....

Up at the top, finally...

 Looking towards the Pontcysyllte aqueduct in the distance, the canal is the 'white' stripe in the centre foreground
heading back down towards Llangollen & afternoon tea.

Sunday dawned bright & very cold after a sharp frost, we got off at 8am & after a couple of stops, one for coal from Chirk Marina, another near Chirk tunnel for lunch & a nip to the Spar for the paper, we moored up just past the bridge at St Martins Moor.

It  was another cold night ( a good job we'd stocked up with coal) with yesterday dawning sunny & frosty. We decided to stay put for the day to enjoy the peace & quiet, Mark & Eric did some wood chopping in the morning & in the afternoon Eric & I decided to get some exercise.
We walked across the fields up towards the village  keeping an eye out for a shop as Mark had requested 'treats',  heading towards a garage we'd spotted, we rounded a corner & came across Stan's Superstore   So we returned to  Poppy with treats aplenty...

This morning we were off by 8am & even though it  was pouring down there were plenty of boats already on the move, once through Marton locks Eric & I left Mark to it & headed indoors, no point in us all getting soaked. We arrived in Ellesmere at 11am & found a place on  the 72 hour moorings opposite the services which were very busy, we realised later that we had got one of the last vacant spots. Nb Bendigedig,  who we passed at Frankton junction this morning but didn't get chance to say hello as I was down below sheltering from the rain, has an accurate description of Ellesmere at half term! 
We are now fully stocked after a trip to Tesco & the plan is to get on the service point early tomorrow then head out to find  countryside mooring.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Ellesmere to Llangollen

This could be another long post as it's over a week since the last one. When we started cruising back in May I did intend to post more frequently, thinking that I would sit down at the end of the day & relay the days events including the bits & bobs that punctuate the day, like the incident a couple of weeks ago when the woman who, despite her partner/crew member  waving us through one of the lift bridges at Wrenbury decided she should still get through before us, scraped along our side & then sarcastically commented  "he should have asked the captain 1st" !!  

So updating seems to have settled into a weekly event although I probably would have posted at the weekend but we had no phone or Internet signal, fortunately we still had TV that would have been a step too far!!

Anyway, back to last week, we left Ellesmere at 8am on a cold & damp Thursday morning, 

having 1st used the service point.

We spent one night at Chirk Bank & on Friday it was another early start ready for the aqueduct & tunnels & by 9am (!!) we were moored up just after bridge 27 on the 48hr spot.

Chirk Tunnel

We decided to take a walk over the Pontcysyllte aqueduct to Trevor to stretch our legs, maybe find somewhere for a spot of lunch & if we could get a paper that would be a bonus.
 Hmm, well of course the countryside is fabulous & the aqueduct breathtaking, but we found Trevor a grim, depressing  place & didn't manage to find anywhere for lunch ( I made do with a bag of chips from a chippie) or a paper. 

So on Saturday I walked the 3 miles back along the towpath to Chirk,  which a great little town & managed to get the Guardian for the local Spar. Two towns only a few miles apart yet so very different.

Sunday & another walk to Chirk for a few essentials from the Spar then a lazy afternoon.

Which brings us to yesterday, up & off by 7.15 am, a quick stop at the water point & then it was onto the aqueduct,  Mark hates heights & wasn't sure he'd be okay ( said he may be laid flat on the floor inside!) but he was fine - so long as he didn't look left... 
View of the River Dee from the aqueduct

Lots of hire boats in Trevor basin before the sharp left turn to Llangollen.

Once round this corner the scenery gets seriously beautiful & the hills you saw in the distance a few days ago are on all sides.  As it got narrower & windier I walked ahead to spot oncomers,

the lovely Plas Isaf Bridge

But we were lucky, it was quiet (a benefit of an early start!) & we were settled on the 48 hr moorings opposite the Sun Trevor pub by 9.30 am. Once we'd got sorted we walked into Llangollen, inspected the moorings, very nice, had a potter round the town & had lunch. 

 view  down the valley towards Llangollen from the towpath

rock 'wall', no wonder the canal is only narrow here, this cutting would have been done by navvies with no power tools.

Looking up towards Castell Dinas Bran, we were going to have a walk up there this afternoon but we have had showers all morning, some quite heavy so hence me doing the blog instead.

Tomorrow we will have an early start & move up to the basin in Llangollen for a couple of days. Wilson's are due in the morning to fit the frame & template for the back cover & RCR are coming to do an engine service in the afternoon so we better make sure we nip to the shops & get the biscuits in ;-)
Hopefully the weather will be kind on Thursday & then we'll get our walk up to the Castell.