Lurking along on the Llangollen
There’s been a fair bit of lurking in recent days: there were hours huddled inside the boat below Hurleston Locks on Saturday, drying off and warming up after a very wet cruise along the Middlewich Arm.
Then on Sunday morning there was more lurking while waiting for the Cheshire Three to arrive with a promised mail drop. Along they came – by which time there was a boat queue. Seven boats one side of the bridge, four the other, all waiting to enter Hurleston’s Bottom Lock. By mid-morning a high-vis jacketed Canal &River Trust marshal had appeared, to try to keep order where otherwise there might be disorder…
A sharp wind from the south west made the right turn into the Llangollen Canal tricky. There were two Anglo-Welsh hire boats ahead, the crew of one grateful for any help and advice, the crew of the other determined to display all they had never learnt – ropes being pulled in opposite directions, a helmsman who had turned off the engine, an inability to understand locking procedure…
When eventually Tentatrice arrived in the bottom lock progress began. Cheshire Mum and the Cheshire One are eager and competent windlass wielders, while Techno Son-in-Law can haul a hull and steer a boat with great aplomb. Tentatrice First Mate gave help and guidance up ahead and slowly the two boats rose through the four Hurleston locks.
“We’re here for the boating,” explained the Cheshire Mum. “We’ll eat lunch on the move.” 9 locks and about 5 miles later a pause was called, Happy Birthday was sung and the Cheshire Three set off back along the towpath towards their car.
Cleddau’s previous visit to these parts had been exactly seven years ago this month and a faint memory stirred of a thriving village shop in Wrenbury. There it still is, open for twelve or more hours each day.
Wrenbury signals the beginning of lift bridge land.
The first is a windlass wielding wind up job, the second is an electrical push button job while the third is left in raised position. The canal passes through quiet countryside, interrupted by handsome stone bridges and occasional locks. At the tail of each lock a fierce bypass churns excess flowing water downwards. Navigating past into the empty lock chamber requires concentration and a steady tiller hand. Debate between the lock side crews sometimes ensues: was that boat entry worthy of a 9.5 score or even a 9.75…?
The towpath is neatly mown, the edging clearly defined: this is a well loved and tenderly cared for canal. There are places, however, where reed growth is creeping across the channel, but nothing in comparison to The African Queen stretches on the Aylesbury Arm or the Kennet and Avon Canal…
6 miles and 4 locks after Wrenbury Destination Grindley Brook was reached. From here one crew member would be jumping ship for a couple of days. Just a flight of 6 locks (the top 3 being Staircase Locks) lay between the bottom lock and the services and moorings at the top. However efficient a boat crew may be there is no guarantee of a swift ascent or descent of these locks. The lower three are self-operated but the staircase three are overseen by lock keepers. Ensuring the water in each chamber is at the appropriate level is crucial. Boat traffic must alternate between three boats up and three boats down. There was quite a delay as three boats descended, squeezing past the waiting boats to reach their next lock. In and up rose Tentatrice. As she reached the top of the three, Cleddau was able to start at the bottom.
polishing, even a spot of painting – and some local wanderings. There are two small craft and book outlets lower down the locks, payments collected in honesty boxes. This is Shropshire (just), where here at least, birdsong is more prevalent than road noise and where time to chat and to exchange tales takes the rush out of daily life.
After some lurking in these parts the boat journey will continue on Thursday, heading roughly south west until at Frankton Junction the canal swings north west and closer to the Welsh border.
Posted from Grindley Brook: miles and locks so far covered from Higher Poynton: 60 miles, 67 locks.
Monkton Moments* to date: 1
(Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections)