Day 34

Day 34

Sometimes I moan about too many locks but today I had a long drag with none at all and was almost glad to have to pass a few lift bridges to break up the trip. There’s an odd thing about Llangollen Canal lift bridges, they have the landing stage on the opposite side to the lifting gear, which makes single-handed operation a challenge.

Heading East Into The Morning Sun

I turned on to the Ellesmere arm out of curiosity, it’s only about half a mile long and ends in a wharf with some old canal company buildings, one of which has been converted/extended for Tesco. Stopped for lunch somewhere near Bettisfield (I think). The local cattle were not amused.

What you doin’ in my canal?

Shortly after that came the Grindly Brook Locks, a three-lock stair case (assisted by a CRT Lock Keeper) then three single locks. Then Povey’s Lock and I’d had enough, I stopped just before Wileymoor lock, where according to my map there is a pub. I might verify that later.

While I’ve been typing this four ABC Hire boats have passed at stupid speeds bouncing me and Seren about. I feel an email coming on.

Day 31 – Free Moorings

The Llangollen Wharf and Basin count as a single location and CRT limit stays to 48 hours. I moved out on Sunday and back Monday morning then out again on Wednesday morning with Linda walking ahead to check the single working section and Gill along for the ride.

Between the narrow section near the wharf and the the longer narrow section further out there is a sanitary station so I’ve emptied the loo each time I passed. From now on though with Linda and car available to pick me up I’ve decided to stay on the free mooring out of town. The tricky bit is that when I need water, or the WC emptying I have to turn around, go back to the Sanitary station, then turn around again.

During the day the boat movements in and out of Llangollen can be difficult and it seems some boaters try to avoid it by leaving early. I understand the motivation but did two boats really need to leave at 5.00 on Thursday and nearly tumble me out of bed as they passed?

Eisteddfod News

On Wednesday evening Linda picked me up from the campsite just below the mooring. Traveling in a car seems very fast after a month at walking speed. The ‘Saints and Singers’ billed as a celebration of Welsh music was disappointing. The two finalists from the day’s Solo Singer competition were included but the running order wasn’t well thought out making for a choppy first half with the large choir taking time to come on and go off stage to make way for the soloists. Then, rather than announce the winner immediately after the interval as planned it was held over to the end. I suspect that having the second solo just before the short interval hadn’t given the adjudicators enough time. By the end of ‘Teilo’ a lot of people had already left and many more left straight after despite the announcer’s plea for them to stay.

It’s a good idea to integrate the competitive aspect of the Eisteddfod with the evening concerts but the show would have flowed better if the soloists had come on first and the judges had the rest of the first half to consider their verdict. Much less to-ing and fro-ing with choirs and presenters.

The choice of music for the night was challenging. It’s good to hear new music, though letting the musical director perform his own composition smacks of jobs for the boys. Music is highly subjective, a lot of it can move move me to tears, sometimes I’m dazzled by the virtuosity. Neither thing happened this time I’m afraid.

After a challenge like that most concert arrangers would have given the audience something more familiar and reassuring for the second half. Teilo is neither. The story of an early christian saint from post-Roman Britain is pretty obscure and it would have been impossible to follow the plot from the words sung by the choirs as the sound was too muddy. It was helped a little by Terry Waite’s narration but he was woefully under-rehearsed and not agile enough to leap up quickly when he missed a cue.

I spent most of Thursday on the Eisteddfod field watching the youth choirs competitions (much better entertainment than the previous evening) and taking in some of the acts on the outside stages. The World Stage especially had some interesting acts.

And the curry wagon was a good as ever!

Day 28 – This is July?

Jools Holland concert last night, warm up act was pretty poor especially when he mistook the sound system for genuine acoustics and walked away from the mic in the belief we could hear him.

Jools was good but over amplified, especially the brass section. It was really really cold walking back from the field and cold all night in Seren. Still cold at 10 in the morning, but at least the wind has moderated.

Linda due this afternoon. Her and Gill are going to the Classic/Operatic concert tonight but it’s not my idea of a good night out. I like orchestral music, chamber music, solo instrumentalists but opera-style singing doesn’t engage me in the same way. Each to their own.

I think they are planning to eat out before the show, so no dinner to cook tonight. I think I’ll go to the Oggie Shop for lunch.

Day 27

Day 27

A bit of a round up, mostly for my benefit when I come to edit all this into a coherent story for WW.

One of the more important facilities in Llangollen for the small boat traveler is the launderette. I took a load of clothes on Friday and my sleeping bag and pillowcases on Saturday. Did some food shopping too and bought Elsan fluid from W&W (and had a chat with Graham). Popped into N. Lea News and found Nigel has finally retired.

Seren in Llangollen Basin

We had to be out of the basin on Sunday and though we could have stayed until 5pm Nick was ready to leave and there was nothing for me to stay for so I followed. There was a narrowboat leaving at 9.00am so we followed them relying on their ‘scout’ making sure the way was clear. It was such a good idea a couple of other boats followed.

I pulled in at the CRT facilities to empty the loo but caught up with the convoy a little later. About a mile out of town are some free CRT moorings so I stopped there while the rest carried on.

I tried (again) to fix the port side transom fender, partially successfully. After lunch I walked along the canal to check that the potential turning spot I’d noted on the way in was really as I remembered it. It’s a place where the bank has collapsed, or been lowered so that cattle can drink, and created a little bay. I reckoned I could put Seren’s bow on the sand/mud and let the current push the stern around. Unfortunately a narrowboat was moored on the opposite bank so there wasn’t enough space. Walking on I found another similar bay that looked big enough, so walked back and returned on Seren.

We turned without a problem, though the stern cleared the opposite bank by about 1cm. Then I returned to the out of town mooring facing the other way. One of the advantages of a small boat, narrowboats would have to go to Trevor Basin to turn.

Mid afternoon I went for a walk around old haunts (inc Bryn Villa) and had a chat with Paul (?) in his shepherd’s hut workshop. He’ll be exhibiting on the Eisteddfod field so I’ll see what he’s doing these days.

Knackering walking back though. I plan to move Seren back into the basin this afternoon, the basin is right next to the Eisteddfod carpark so it’ll be handy for the Jools Holland concert tonight. Linda (and Gill) are coming tomorrow so getting around will be easier. I might go to Chirk Marina (£7 per night but facilities included) or I could come back here (Linda could drop me off / pick me up on the A5 at the campsite, there’s a track through to the canal. (free but a hassle moving to get water, empty loo then have to turn around).

Day 26 – Croeso i Llangollen

Not much blog today, Phil Robinson of Llanblogger came along to guide us through the one-way sections, and he’s taken some photos and put them on Llanblogger here.

We got here about 12.30. Been shopping, met a couple of old acquaintances and got my washing done in the launderette. Off to The Sun, my favourite Llan pub when we lived here. Hope it hasn’t changed too much.

Unless something amazing happens I won’t be blogging for a week. Service will resume when I set off back to Beds.

Day 25 – Chirk Marina

The last time I didn’t move Seren was at Wellingborough when the rain was pouring and the river Nene in flood. Today there is brilliant sunshine and I’m stationary. My ‘wing man’ Phil Robinson is coming tomorrow to help with the narrow sections on the final stretch into Llangollen but today is a rest day. And a cleaning, washing, greasing, emptying, watering day but that’s not very blog-worthy.

As a break from all the chores I’ve been investigating and number crunching some technical issues on Seren.

First, the leisure battery/inverter/fridge problem. I realised days ago the fridge was killing the battery in the evening, the fridge itself stopped working the lights dimmed especially when using water (electric pump). So for a while I’ve been in the habit of turning the inverter off in the evening, it’s been so cold at night the fridge hasn’t really got that warm anyway. Then after a few minutes of engine time in the morning putting it back on.

Today is unique in two respects, it’s sunny and I haven’t started the engine. Early morning the volt meter showed 11.7V, lights etc fine but fridge still off. Waited until the solar panel had pushed that up to 12V then switched the inverter on, but left the fridge off. Voltage dropped to 11.9 but soon recovered, current consumption by un-loaded inverter is about ½Amp. Voltage continued to climb, not only is it sunny, I washed the solar panel too! At 12.3V I switched the fridge on. Three hours later the battery indicator shows full, the fridge is working fine.

I think the issue is the weather. On the last big trip it was sunny into the late evening so even when the engine was off the battery was topped up until sunset then held enough charge to last the night, especially as the sun was up again a few hours later. Most of this trip it has been gloomy all day so probably very little boost from the solar panel and the battery has started to discharge as soon as I stopped the engine in the afternoon/evening. Need to do proper bench tests when I get home.

Then there’s the fuel consumption. I’ve dates, quantities and type of waterway and find that:

From Buckden to New Mills (Mostly river some canalised in the fens) Seren used about 4.8l per day (about 2l less than last year).

From New Mills to Whitchurch (mostly canal) she used about 3l per day.

The reduction on canals is probably due to two factors; the speed limit is lower so Seren trundles along at about 1600rpm rather than 2250rpm on rivers. That doesn’t seem like a lot of difference but at river speed she is pushing up a bow wave and trailing a wake, both mostly absent on the canals. And secondly on long lock flights I often leave the engine off for hours and haul her in and out of locks.

Day 24 – Fun with Hirers

I arranged to meet friends, Jude and Di, in St Martins so before I set off at 8.20 I sent them a text saying I’d be there in ‘approx 2 hours’. Not a chance. I quickly found myself in a procession of slow-moving hire boats and we crept towards the remaining two locks (out of 230) of the trip. Of course there was a queue when we got there, and the first boat too an age to fill the lock because they hadn’t closed one of the paddles fully. One group got their boat sideways across the canal and a Canadian(?) man was trying to pull his boat into the bank with the centre rope while his other half revved the engine and shoved the tiller the wrong way.

Rather than meeting Jude and Di for 11ses it turned out to a lunch date. They’d already eaten so I grabbed a sandwich while we chatted then Di went home and Jude and I carried on past a lot of landmarks I remember, over Chirk aquaduct, through Chirk Tunnel and on to Chirk Marina. Di took Jude home, leaving me with a delicious lasagna for dinner and a gooseberry fool made with berries from their allotment . I’m staying here a couple of nights.

I need a rest and Seren needs some cleaning and maintenance. On Friday morning Phil Robinson, editor of www.llanblogger.co.uk, is coming to join me fr the final run into Llangollen. There are several narrow twisty sections where you really need to send a crew member on in front to check no-one’s coming the other way. He will be that crewman, in return for passage over the Poncysyllte Aquaduct.

Day 23 – Still some locks left

Seren was the first boat through the works at Wrenbury and about an hour later I passed Nick as he was preparing to leave on Ebenezer. He caught up with me at Willeymore Lock and we followed each other through Poveys and the Grindley flight. In the rain, again.

At the top of the Grindley Brook staircase there’s a lockside cafe so we had a civilised lunch rather than the usual sandwich on the go and remarkably it stopped raining.

I stopped at Whitchurch for water, diesel and loo emptying. Nick with bigger tanks for all the above pressed on.

There are several lift bridges on this section which slows everyone down, unlike locks they’ve got very little mooring room before or after the bridge so it’s tricky getting off, opening the bridge, going through, closing it and getting on again. Sometime late after noon I caught up with Nick and followed him for a few miles across Whixall Moss.

He stopped for the night somewhere near Bettisfield and I carried on to Ellesmere.

Day 22 – On the Llangollen Canal

Nick had warned me that I’d have to remove all the fenders before entering the Hurleston Locks at the start of the Llangollen Canal. But he has a steel tug and I have a GRP cruiser so I was a bit sceptical. Then I met the volunteer lock-keeper who insisted. I removed the fenders at Seren’s widest point but pointed out that she isn’t parallel sided like a narrow boat, her sides are curved. so at front and back she is quite narrow. Also the sides slope inwards so the fenders hang under the deck. Jobsworth wasn’t having it. I removed them and replaced them later.

I trundled along for the rest of the day, 2 locks at Swanley and three at Baddiley then on to Wrenbury. I’d heard days back that there had been a partial bank collapse at Wrenbury and that CRT and their contractors were only allowing supervised boats through between 8-9am and 4-5pm so they could work on piling and lining the bank. I got to the stoppage at 4.50pm but CRT staff were waiting for the last boat to come down and when it did their would be no time for any more to go up. So another night in the wilderness with no internet. I did manage to scrub one side of Seren’s superstructure and side deck though.