April 2018 - March 2021
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  • Day8

    Off to the Source

    April 14, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C

    This morning we reluctantly had to return our boat to the marina. This was a long journey which took all of one minute from our mooring to where we picked up the pilot. He skilfully manoeuvred the boat up to the pontoon in less than 5 minutes, this would have taken Andrew considerably longer. Andrew hauled our luggage up to the car before we said goodbye to Penny.

    We thoroughly enjoyed our week on the boat and would love to do it again. Our experience with Black Prince is very positive; the boat was spotless, well designed and the service felt personal. The Llangollen Canal was a good one for beginners, although a summer trip may not be the best time to go. The Grindley Brook Staircase and Pontcysyllte Aqueduct can have queues of up to 4 hours at peak times. We waited no more than 10 minutes at either.

    Having handed back the boat by 09:30 we decided to make use of the final day of our holiday by re-visiting a couple of highlights. We drove the short distance to Trevor and walked along the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, taking a few more photos along the way. We remembered the hustle and bustle of Sunday as we crossed on the boat. That day we were the subject of many other people’s photos!

    We then drove to Llangollen, made our way back to the wharf and walked the 1 3/4 miles further up the canal (un-navigable to all but horse drawn boats) to the Horseshoe Falls where we had lunch. This is the source of the canal, where water from the River Dee is drawn off and starts the 46 mile journey towards the Shropshire Union Canal. This felt like a fitting end to our journey, not including our return to Harrogate, one we will always remember.

    Thank you readers for joining us on our first canal adventure. We hope you have enjoyed floating along with us.
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  • Day7

    Last of the Locks

    April 13, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 8 °C

    Another later start this morning, we were ready to cast off around 10:30 but a sudden rush of traffic meant we were delayed a little from moving off. This was not a problem as we had made sure we had plenty of time to cover the remaining distance on our last full day. Andrew spent quite a while driving at tick-over to build a gap to the boat in front.

    After the junction for the Montgomery Canal we paused for lunch to give us energy for the two remaining locks a little further on. After lunch we dealt with these locks like a well oiled machine. We targeted Chirk Bank for our final mooring but a combination of road noise, pubs and other boats meant we pressed on. So we crossed Chirk Aqueduct back into Wales, Andrew on the boat and Sarah on foot, and then bumped and scraped the 459 yards through Chirk Tunnel (with Sarah back on board). There is a 2mph flow on the Llangollen Canal; when travelling through constrictions such as bridges, aqueducts and tunnels this flow slows the boat considerably and makes steering very difficult.

    Our next choice of mooring was full and the next one was right next door to a large timber factory, very noisy. Thankfully we found a mooring right outside the marina where we need to return our boat tomorrow morning. At least we don’t have to worry about getting the boat back on time.

    Vegetable update: Today we spotted quite a lot of lettuce leaves floating down the canal, accompanied by a couple of leek leaves. Sarah is a little disappointed not to have seen any carrots!
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  • Day6

    Cruising Along

    April 12, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 7 °C

    Another later start this morning as we cast off at 10:20. We also had a much calmer day with no locks to contend with. We did however have three lift bridges; we have a good routine for these now so no dramas there. We have found that we can plod on for quite a while without seeing any oncoming boats only to come across three at tricky spots, this is common at lift bridges it seems.

    This morning Sarah drove the boat for a bit while Andrew went for a little walk along the towpath for just over a mile. This afternoon we reversed roles and Sarah had a little walk. It was nice to stretch our legs a little, even if the towpath was very muddy in places.

    As we needed a few supplies we pulled into the Ellesmere Branch to moor up and pop to Tesco. We also took the opportunity to wander into the town itself. There is not much to the town and it has a sleepy, run-down feel to it but it was nice to have a little look.

    Rather than go to the winding hole at the end of the branch Andrew reversed out of the branch back onto the main canal. Reversing a narrowboat is rather difficult due to the limited steering but Andrew was quite pleased with his attempt. He then picked up Sarah, who had been acting as lookout for other boats, before stopping at the water point to fill up. This was slow going as another boat was doing the same so the water pressure was quite low.

    Today we can add to the list of vegetables spotted floating down the canal. Sarah spotted a butternut squash, Andrew spotted a cabbage leaf and we were really amused when another leek floated by. We are wondering what we will spot tomorrow.

    We stopped for the night a little way on from Ellesmere.
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  • Day5

    Locking Up

    April 11, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 7 °C

    We had a slower start this morning, casting off around 10:30, and took our time in the first stretch as another boat was just in front of us. We knew we would have wait at the locks anyway so there was no point rushing. We met oncoming boats at our first couple of locks which meant they were set in our favour. At the third Andrew left Sarah with the boat at the lock landing (holding the centre line) while he went to set the lock. We then swapped places with Andrew looking after the boat in the locks while Sarah took care of paddles and gates. We repeated this process at the next couple of locks (this gave Andrew a go at the fun bit while saving Sarah’s arms a little!)

    Steering the boat into locks from the bottom is tricky as the overflow from the pound above flows out at the lock entrance. This results in a few bumps on the way in. Thankfully even experienced boaters were finding this a bit difficult. Locks provide a place to meet other boaters, with Sarah having various brief chats with several other crews. We even came across crews and boats we had seen a couple of days previously, heading the other way.

    Upon arrival at Grindley Brook Staircase Andrew stayed with the boat while Sarah went to find the lock keepers. The locks must all be set in a particular way or there would not be enough water to raise the boat. The locks were set and we began the ascent, Sarah working paddles alongside the lock keepers while Andrew drove the boat towards daunting tall lock gates (leaking quite a bit).

    Once we were through we stopped at the water point to fill up, this is a daily requirement. We then moved about 50m further on to stop for lunch before walking back to the staircase to have a look from a different angle. Having returned to our boat we got underway again and pressed on for a few miles, dealing with 3 lift bridges along the way.

    We have seen all sorts of things floating down the canal; reeds, sticks, rubbish, a green pepper... today we saw a leek! One can only assume this has come from the Welsh end, but it did prompt the comment ‘oh look, the canal’s sprung a leek!’

    We found a nice quiet mooring to stop for the night just south of Whitchurch.
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  • Day4

    Locks, Lift Bridges and Winding Holes

    April 10, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 8 °C

    This morning was very wet but we cast off around 09:10 as we wanted to make good progress. We were both well wrapped up and had donned our waterproofs. We quickly got to the first lift bridge for today which Andrew raised while Sarah drove. This was followed soon after by two lift bridges close together. Again Andrew raised these while Sarah drove with Andrew running between the two bridges so Sarah didn’t have to stop. A few wiggles of the canal later we came upon the Whitchurch Arm, a short branch, which lies on a tight corner with, you guessed it, another lift bridge. Andrew again did the hard work, Sarah driving. We waved through an oncoming boat after Sarah had gone through saving them the trouble of raising it again.

    After filling up with water and a tea break we descended Grindley Brook Staircase, three locks - one after the other, with the help of the friendly lock keeper. The staircase is followed by three locks in quick succession. We then moored up, at precisely 13:00, for lunch. By this point it had just about stopped raining and we turned on the heating to dry a few things. We were on our way again by 14:15 with another 4 locks ahead of us. Sarah has been lock-wheeling while Andrew drove the boat, although Andrew did lend a hand with a few paddles and gates whenever he could.

    Around 16:30 we reached Thomason’s winding hole, the limit of our trip down the Llangollen canal. This is where we made the 5-6 point turn to reverse our direction of travel. 20 minutes later we were back in the last lock, now pointing the other way, and we added another skill to our repertoire - ‘locking up’. A short stint further on and we came to our evening mooring which we had chosen earlier on the way past.

    Today has been our most active day, 4 lift bridges, 11 locks (10 down and 1 up) and winding.
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  • Day3

    Learning the Locks

    April 9, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 12 °C

    This morning we quickly encountered our first locks, which we had recce’d on foot last night. We paused briefly as another boat was coming up, but that meant the lock was set in our favour with the gate open. Andrew carefully guided the boat in, only a slight bump to the wall, while Sarah closed the gate behind. Another boat was waiting to come up so Sarah had some keen helpers on the paddles and front gates from the young family on that boat. Everything went smoothly and we were soon out, on our way to the second lock a little further on. This was more or less a carbon copy of the first, except the helpers were seasoned boaters who had us out within 5 minutes!

    A long stretch of canal followed with various corners, bridges, good scenery and sudden oncoming boat encounters which required evasive action. The weather this morning and in the early afternoon was glorious! We pulled up for lunch, soup and rolls (thank you M&P for the delicious soup), before stopping at Ellesmere to fill up the water tank at a Canal and River Trust (CRT) yard. Andrew took the opportunity of being moored up on a different side to clean a mucky window which had been bugging us slightly.

    Ellesmere junction is a tricky corner with a bridge and moored boats beyond. Having not seen any oncoming boats while we filled up with water, upon departure we encountered 3 oncoming boats in the trickiest spot. A bit of manoeuvring later we were on our way. More corners, bridges and scenery followed into the afternoon.

    Around 17:00 it started raining so we donned waterproofs (no fair weather boating for us!). We arrived at a lift bridge just as an oncoming boat did. Andrew had windlass in-hand but the crew on the other boat ran along and did the hard work. They even waved us through first so we were very grateful. A short while later we arrived at one of our planned moorings so decided to stop for the night. A very enjoyable day, if a little soggy at the end.
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  • Day2

    Tunnels and Aqueducts

    April 8, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 7 °C

    We slept reasonably well although we did both wake up in the early morning. Thankfully we were able to sleep a bit more before enjoying a leisurely start. Canal boat routine is a little different from home life; before showers are possible the engine must be run for 20 minutes to heat up the water. The engine must also be run to power the hairdryer!

    We filled up the water tank, which took half an hour, before heading into Llangollen. We saw Thomas the Tank Engine at the station and enjoyed a little wander in the town. The early part of the day saw Sarah walking along the towpath with a walkie talkie while Andrew negotiated the various narrow sections, including winding (turning round) to head back down the canal. We had a brief pause waiting to cross the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct but we were quickly on our way and it was well-timed judging by the number of boats waiting to come the other way.

    Yesterday we followed another boat through a lift bridge with another following us so we didn’t have to do anything. However, today we had to both raise and lower the bridge. Andrew did this using a windlass whilst being filmed by gongoozlers! We then passed back through one tunnel before reaching Chirk Tunnel, the longest on our route (421 metres). This then opens onto Chirk Aqueduct with the railway viaduct alongside, this marks the Welsh border. Sarah enjoyed walking along the towpath on the aqueduct, taking in the scenery.

    We moored up just before New Marton Top Lock, which we will tackle tomorrow morning. We enjoyed a roast dinner this evening (old habits die hard!) We had a little walk to the lock after dinner to talk through locking in preparation for tomorrow.

    The weather today has been perfect- dry, quite a bit of sunshine and not too chilly. All the better for enjoying the beautiful countryside.
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  • Day1

    All aboard!

    April 7, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 7 °C

    We arrived at Chirk Marina at 13:40 and checked in at reception. We were shown to our boat, which is called Penny. Andrew ferried luggage from the car while Sarah made a start at unpacking. When we were ready we had our tuition from one of the Black Prince staff. A pilot then manoeuvred our boat out of the marina, onto the canal before disembarking and waving us off.

    Andrew quickly got the hang of the steering, barring a few bumps, and within 10 minutes we were passing through our first tunnel. Several bumps later we re-emerged into daylight and happily continued on our way. About an hour after departing we encountered Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. The views were breathtaking and it really did feel like ‘a river in the sky’. Andrew even braved a look over the side.

    Upon arrival at Trevor Basin there is a sharp left hand turn onto the Llangollen branch, this was complicated by another boat waiting to cross the aqueduct blocking the entrance. Sarah was very impressed at Andrew’s skilled handling of the boat as he gracefully made the turn! The canal from here is very narrow with a strong flow against our direction of travel. This made steering difficult, especially through bridges. Sarah took over at the tiller for a while giving Andrew a little break.

    The approach into Llangollen is very narrow (only room for one boat), so Sarah went ahead with a walkie-talkie to ensure the way ahead was clear. Thankfully nothing came from the other direction! We arrived at Llangollen at around 18:15 and moored up for the night.

    The boat feels very cosy and is well equipped. We are settling in nicely, a good start to our holiday.
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