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The 1999 "Earnest" Maiden Voyage Cruise


9. Chester to Llangollen, via Shropshire Union Canal and Llangollen Canal.

Saturday 31st July we left Chester at 8.10am, another hot morning. We had a good run to Hurleston Junction, the start of the Llangollen Canal, arriving at 4.00pm. Barbridge Junction had been passed at 3.30pm, this is the junction with the Middlewich Branch. Another boat was approaching Bridge 97, just beyond the junction. Just in case he was going up the Llangollen Canal Neil ploughed on and shot right into the wide junction basin. The other boat was indeed coming up the Llangollen Canal, but we both had to moor up as a fiberglass cruiser was in the throws of getting stuck. Neil went to investigate only to find the muttering lock keeper. "I told him he would not get in with his rear corner fenders attached, but he would not listen!" shouted the lock keeper so that the cruiser captain would overhear. There followed a wailing and gnashing of outboard. Eventually the man made his retreat spurred on by the lock keeper agreeing to Neil's idea of flushing him out! We then shot in with the squeaking of our side stick fenders, Hurleston Bottom lock is the thinnest we have been in so far, even beating the newly restored locks at the end of the Chesterfield Canal! Linda let the water in gently as we felt pretty secure, but up came "earnest" with the fenders protesting at the start, then the walls splayed out a bit and we were OK. Neil them flipped the stick fenders up. The lock keeper said this and the next one were the tightest on the Llangollen Canal and after these we could put our fenders down again. We reached the top of the four Hurleston Locks only to find a boat moored on the water point, apparently for the night. We were obviously now firm friends with the lock keeper. As we were mooring just passed the moored boat and preparing to get our long hose up came the lock keeper. We should think he had a bad day because he started to have a go at the owners of the moored boat who were sunbathing in their deck chairs outside. We said it was OK as we had a long hose, but he still made them move on! It was a hot humid evening, so every one had showers as the water was filling, another of our water saving tricks. Neil was the last to go so in the interim he cleaned "Earnest's" hull, to do the water side that meant a swim, the second in the cut this year! After the showers and water filling, taking it's customary hour from a slow tap, we carried on again, as it was just beginning to cool down. An evening cruise at this time of the year is Linda's favorite time of the day, especially as we passed lots of hire boats stopped for the night. We eventually stopped at 7.30pm, just below Baddiley No3 Lock, against some pilling and actually afloat. The meal was ready so we sat straight down to watch another 5 hire boats go by! The Llangollen Canal had a lot of exposure in our early cruising years and we had only done it once in "Beatty", in 1993. This had been done on virtually the peak summer week and was very fraught as Neil was determined to plan it so we could moor at Llangollen Wharf. We knew it would be even more difficult with "Earnest", another 8ft can mean a lot less mooring places! Neil worked out that Monday midday must be the best time to arrive as this should be the lull in hire boat arrivals. 

This called for an early (for family weeks!) start at 7.00am on Sunday 1st August, another lovely day. We made surprising progress passing many late rising hire boats until Grindley Brook at 11.00am. We soon got into the old hire boat days technique of going quite fast into the locks to get steerage passed the large amount of water going round the by weirs to feed the reservoir at Hurleston. Here there was a bit of a jam, especially waiting for the staircase locks, just like old times! We eventually exited the top lock at 12.15pm. The junction with the Ellesmere Town Arm was passed at 5.05am, and Welsh Frankton Junction passed at 6.15pm. We are glad to report that this is finally a junction again, unlike the many sad pictures we have taken over the years and we would be doing this on the way back. We eventually stopped at 6.45pm on Maestermyn Marine Wharf. We had started to moor on the grotty towpath opposite, but a guy on the wharf said that if we were going to the pub, we could moor on the hire boat wharf as they were both part of the same company. "The Navigation Inn" was an excellent little pub serving a good range of well kept beers and also did good standard pub food, even the Mother-in-Law was impressed.

Monday 2nd July saw Neil make an even earlier start of 6.00am, had to beat those hire boats! Progress had been good until just after the newly piled and dredged cutting after Chirk Tunnel. After this it is still much as Rolt found it in the 1940's! We slowed right down but "Earnest" with it's 26inch draught was still rattling over twigs and stones especially in bridge holes. Irish Bridge 27 was especially bad. After this matters improved as we came out onto the edge of the River Dee valley. From here onwards the canal was in concrete troughs for long sections, to stop it sliding down the valley side, which it has done on numerous occasions. It is from here onwards that you get glimpses of the Pontycysyllte Aqueduct and its approach embankments striding across the valley. The traffic was not too bad and we passed over the famous Aqueduct at 10.00am. From the basin at Trevor the canal takes a sharp turn left under a bridge and into the navigable feeder to Llangollen and the Horseshoe Falls at Llantysilio. We know from experience that due to so many one way narrowed concrete trough sections, you need some one off to direct traffic. Linda, Peter, Wendy and the push bike were soon deposited on the towpath and we had an uneventful journey to Llangollen, arriving at 12.10pm. There were plenty of moorings at Sun Trevor, which is the last moorings before Llangollen so we hoped we would be lucky. We knew that some one was behind us so we would go straight on a mooring if one was available and wind beyond the Wharf on the way out. Surprisingly we had a choice of 3 spots where "Earnest" would fit, so we took one just beyond the start of the 48 hour moorings, where we thought it would be quietest. Neil's idea that midday Monday was the quietest time to arrive was confirmed by our neighbors who were based on the Llangollen. That afternoon many more boats arrived with a few more leaving, only one boat had to turn round and go back. That afternoon Neil, Linda, Alan and Peter walked to the Horseshoe falls and saw the pump house where Neil, Ian Scott and Andy Lee got their first hire boat, a Dawncraft Dandy to in 1972. Peter went in swimming along with the many. Wendy and Linda's mum went on the horse drawn trip boat. Neil was amazed that there was no longer overnight mooring on the Wharf, presumably people had been abusing the privilege. Neil was obviously wondering if on a quiet moment you could get a narrowboat up to the falls! (there is a "No boats beyond here" sign just after the winding point.) It seemed that the trip boat people had been filling the canal with stones, for it was only shallow just after the winding point, up to the next bridge! That windy and stormy night we ate in.

The next day, Tuesday 3rd August was a day off, as in the afternoon Linda's mum was booked homeward in her local mini-cab. It was an overcast start and rained quite a bit just before lunch time. We spent the morning and early afternoon on the Llangollen Steam railway. It's new terminus for the moment is the idyllic little station of Carrog, Neil had never been beyond Glyndyfrdwy. It is hoped to eventually restore the line to Corwen, but a new station will have to be built as part of the A5 by-pass has been built on the old course of the line from here. We had just over 1 hours at Carrog so we went for a walk, on the way back Neil and Alan dropped in for a swift pint in the local pub. Lunch was taken in the excellent station tea rooms. When we got  back we went round the Doctor Who Exhibition, which is linked with a tour round the Dapol model railway factory. That night we went for a reasonable meal in the unfriendly restaurant just on the other side of the bridge.

Just leaving Hurleston Lower Lock at start of Llangollen Canal.

Just leaving Hurleston Lower Lock, Llangollen Canal.

Just leaving Hurleston 3rd lock. 

The electrified Wrenbury Lift Bridge. Alvechurch Hire Base now in Wrenbury Mill. 

Robinson's "Dusty Miller" pub in old warehouse, last visited in 1984 when just opened.

Quoisley Lock still displaying it's old non standard sign.

"Wiley Moor Lock Tavern" pub. We can remember it as a small run down lock cottage.

Grindley brook Lock No 4, waiting in queue for the staircase just under A41 bridge.

Wendy filling Grindley Brook Staircase top lock on the way back.

Entering Grindley Brook Top Lock on the way back.

Lock cottage by Grindley brook Staircase.

Ellesmere Tunnel.

"New" mooring basin at Ellesmere. Well it was not here last time we came by.

Ellesmere B.W. yard.

Chirk Aqueduct and railway viaduct. Chirk Tunnel in distance.

Half way across Pontycysyllte Aqueduct. A scan of one of Alan's photos he e-mailed Neil. Rare to see shot of Neil steering as he is normally taking all the pictures and video!

Coming back across the Aqueduct.

Alan taking action shot ,coming back across the Aqueduct.

Coming back across Pontycysyllte Aqueduct.

Coming back across Pontycysyllte Aqueduct.

Coming back across Pontycysyllte Aqueduct.

The last moorings before Llangollen at Sun Trevor.

Starting back not far from moorings in Llangollen. 

Llangollen Wharf.

The winding point at Llangollen, ready to start back. Neil has reversed a tiny way back down the feeder, much rattling of stones!

"The Bridge End Hotel" in Llangollen where Neil and Linda went out for a meal in1977. The restaurant we went to this year is in the building that is first to the right of the other side of the bridge.

Llangollen, the narrow section between the 48 hour moorings and the wharf.

Llangollen Wharf.

Llangollen Wharf. The crew minus Neil. Linda, Mandy the Whippet, Linda's mum, Peter, Wendy and Alan

Looking up at the winding point.

Ty Craig Bridge 48A, on walk to Horseshoe Falls.

The back of  "The Chain Bridge Hotel". Does not look as up market as when we first passed it in 1972. The Chain Bridge has been condemned!

No picture of "Earnest" against the valve house at Horseshoe Falls!

Horseshoe falls, Llantysilio. 

The tour continues...

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