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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Canal Boating in Wales part 2

Canal Boating ~Sept 15-Oct 1, 2010
Canal Boating in England and Wales, Week 2.

This report is being prepared 1.5 months after the experience.  A certain perspective has been gained and certain software has been obtained to make the photos easier to insert.  Apparently, it takes a while to load up the photos so start this file and then get something to wash it down with.

To recap:  We started this canal boating in Anderton (see map) and took 7 days to get to Llangollen Wales which was our McGuffin to start with.  We had the boat for another 7 days but had the desire to see Chester which was a turn in a different direction from where we had been.

We had traveled by train on the upper bit of the illustration through Scotland and then boarded our lovely little canal boat in Anderton, England, roughly in the upper right of the black ellipse below.

The next bit was on the canals as shown on this canal chart which shows some of the 4,000 miles of canals in England.  The black ellipse shows our cruising grounds for our trip.  Apparently, there are 39,000 licensed boats on these canals.  We saw many full marinas, which meant those boats were not out on the canal with us.

You can see the other canals in England on the chart that was in our boat on display, note how many we didn’t see!

We started out in yellow from Anderton (near Northwich)  and except for a stop at Northwich we went direct to Llangollen in Wales on the left with the long ellipse.  The green shows the trip back from Llangollen and the side trip to Chester.  The red circles are approximate locations for the stops at night. 

The rough numbers are:  170 miles round trip, 70 locks, and 12 lifting bridges.  Fuel was approx. 210 litres @ 1.30 pounds per liter.  1.7 dollars = 1 pound at the airport in Heathrow.

The most notable stop in the country is near the lower left of the rectangle which is where we saw the castle that has been in use since 700 BC.  More on that as the trip writeup progresses.

The canal to Llangollen is the busiest and the narrowest in England and I would not like to see more boats than we did because of the narrow canal parts we saw.

Section of narrow canal, lined with concrete on both sides.  Polly driving.  Lori photo.

Polly is steering the Great Blue Heron to Llangollen in the narrow bit.  It was difficult to take a nap due to the contact of the hull with the concrete or rocks on a regular basis.

Keep in mind, a walking person can go faster than our boat, easily!  Lori took this photo and then jumped back on. 

Even narrower than this was the aquaduct 200’ in the air and over 200 years old!  It is 6’ 9” wide and the boats are all 6’-6” wide.

Below is a photo of our boat being piloted by Lori.  One has to wait until there is NO oncoming traffic out of Trevor and then go across in a parade.  There were 3 boats going when we were going upstream to Llangollen, and we were the middle boat.

You can see the thickness of the tub we were floating in and that is a soccer field below to give some scale.

Some data on the Chirk Tunnel:  421 meters long.  Note the head room or lack thereof on the right here.

Below here we are entering following another boat that had issues with the minimal current.

Going through the Chirk Tunnel.  CF could not stand up in the cockpit.

The sign tells of the longest tunnel we had to go through and the second photo shows the entrance as we followed another boat inside. 

That boat, we found out later, drew 36” to our 24’ and it hit the current at the entrance and basically stopped.  We rammed into the back of him even though we were barely going.  Things like that happened regularly and is why the boats are built of stout steel.

Our lead boat made it through very slowly due to his extra displacement in the 42’ deep canal even though he had the same 42 hp that we had.  Apparently physics cannot be ignored with these boats.

Here is a shot of the side of the 200’ tall  aquaduct.  It was built in the glory cast iron age.

We made it easily from here to our end goal of Llangollen, which must be the hardest word we had to pronounce as it is Welsh.  The Scottish claimed to speak English but when they got excited it was tough to figure out what they were saying but the Welsh were downright hard to understand.  If they spoke slowly, we could communicate well.  The English were also tough to understand but the Welsh get the nod for the weirdest language issues.

Below is the marina in Llangollen, where we stayed for $6 pounds a night.   There was water and garbage and electricity and it was a very nice little pond away from the town and got the last of the sun in the area.

The Llangollen Marina with our boat in the foreground center.

Count Ferrari was able to turn the boat around and back into the slip on the first try.  He was very proud of that!  Our boat is the middle one in the foreground.

Below is the town of Llangollen with a river running through it below the canal level.  Also, they have tours with horse drawn canal boats to the top of the canal as shown in the photo below the river shot.

We went out to dinner there and did some laundry and bought some flags of Wales as the dragon looks much like a Griffin which we liked for our farm flag.  The town had a library with internet and seemed pretty alive.  Prices for houses were less than those closer in.  This town is kind of on the frontier and remote in the hills, thusly the houses cost a bit less.

Please notice the Count Ferrari documenting the Leisure Centre.  There were 4 of these encountered in our travels and as a Leisure Expert it seemed only natural that the Count should apprise himself of their whereabouts.

The Way Back:

The boat had been out now for ½ of the time it was chartered for, 7 days so far, and we were at the far end of our journey.  That sounds good but we had a detour in mind for the trip back which would take us out of the way to Chester, England.  It is the best preserved walled city in the UK and a tourist destination that turned out to be very worthy.

We got a late start out of Llangollen at 2:30 PM which might have been problematic if others were arriving up there that day.  It was a Saturday and the day the hire boats all kick their newly hired boats out, starting at 1:00PM or later.  We were able to get to through the narrow bits and even across the long aquaduct without stopping for oncoming traffic. 

After the aquaduct the scene became moderately frantic with the newbies really doing a bumper boat run towards us.  Since we had been out a week, we were quite smug as we were EXPERIENCED now and knew the drills to avoid looking really stupid.

We stopped at a side rail or baby branch line that was ½ mile long to the town of Whitchurch.  We had to take a shallow right turn on our way in and Lori got to try a turn around in the basin.  The wind bumped us against the shore a couple of times but she finally got it.  We parked for the evening and enjoyed the walk into town.  More ancient churches and commercial buildings with nice newer brick homes on the edge of town.  The town, Whitchurch is so named because the rock they built the church out of was white in the1700s and still has some whiteness in it.

We started earlyish, 7:00AM or so and Polly walked to the first obstacle which was a lifting bridge where the branch canal meets the main canal.  CF tried turning right into the main canal and found out it was only 54.5’ wide and a 55’ boat would not turn in that space.  Almost stuck between bank and tree, he had to push the bow off the bank and then he had to go up the canal for ¼ mile to another turnaround and then come back and pick up Polly.

We made a pretty long run that day until near dark and pulled over.  The next morning we got an early start, near 8:00 AM so we could make some miles, get in the side trip to Chester, and still get the boat home in time for the handoff.  We had a record run through the step locks and saw a huge fleet trying to go up them.  That was a serious CF that would take them most of the day to negotiate.

We made the turnoff to Chester, which was just after Nantwich and as soon as we turned we noticed the canal was a LOT wider.  I went ashore and found a half dozen eggs at a pub which a patron had in her car! 

Here is a clever way of saying to slow down as one goes by….

The next day, we started up the lockings toward Chester and discovered the locks were 2xs a wide as the other locks we had been in.  They would fit two boats, side by side and actually it was easier that way because the boats wouldn’t get sideways as much in the lock as the water turbulence moved the boat/s around.  The downside was the lock doors were 2xs as big, making them tougher to move.

Polly opening the larger lock gate on her own.

It is always longer to go some where the first time than it is to return from whence one came or to travel a second time to that destination.   We made a strong push to get to Chester and ended up parked right downtown, about ¼ of a mile from the wall and the tourist area.  There were a few sirens and traffic noise but it wasn’t too loud and the luxury of having the city right there, made up for it!

Chester, the historic walled city:

Entering Chester.

Our parking spot downtown Chester.  No Charge.

Lori and Polly heading into the city to see the sights.

The wall and one of the Gates.  A cool Clock below on the wall…
A view of the town inside the wall.  A LOT of tudor!

Girl Gladiators in the Roman Amphitheatre.
The way Chester may have looked with the Romans in town.
Knife, Spoon, and Fork each about 10' long.
Tea saucers stacked up with mug.  Maybe 20' tall.

Cool carved sculpture, each about 10’ long.  Below is the stacked dishes about 20’ tall.

Count Ferrari, Claire and Jenn after his breakfast at the Watergates Bar.
City art abounded with sights for all!
Touring the oldest artifact we found:

We left Chester after only 30 hours, we could have spent more time here but we were on the dreaded schedule.  On our way in we had seen this old castle up on a hill about a mile from the canal.  It turns out to have been in use since 700 BC!  What a view from up there.  The following photos are from touring that spot.

High marks are to be given to the UK for providing walking paths everywhere!  This castle was on the list of places as were way too many things for us to even think about.  There is a lot of history recorded in this part of the world.

Polly standing by the boating canal with the castle visible on the right side of the hill in the background.   Note the lushness of the pastures.  This is a very easy place to grow things with lots of water, moderate temperatures, and VERY rich soil that has been worked for thousands of years.

Each Red bit on the map to the left is some historic castle or church or ???? and they are all connected by walking trails.

Lori standing outside the outer wall Main entrance.  There are very high cliffs on 180 to this fort which had been in use since BC.

You can get some idea of the scale and difficulty of getting in when the wall was unbreached.
This photo and the one above are part of the outer wall, last breeched in 1745 during England's Civil War.
The entrance to the inner Bailey.  The rock was quarried here and there was a moat.

The view from the inner Bailey.  Note our boat is a whitish line by the triangular brown wheatfield on middle right.  This view went 360 on a beautiful day!
Looking up at the inner Bailey walls on the precipice to document the construction techniques.

Cool sculptures on the grounds.   Count Ferrari is considering putting one of these together when he has a free moment.  Griffin Hill Farm can always use another horse.
After this most excellent day trip, we returned to our boat and headed for Anderton and got there in plenty of time to hand the boat over.

An observation on the web connection over in the UK…  The ‘dongle’ we purchased in Northwich for $25 pounds was a USB stick modem that had a prepaid 3 gigs of service if there was cellular service.  What a great idea.  I wish I could get that in BC.  Up there I had to purchase the modem for $200 Cdn. And then pay an additional hook up charge, then $30 a month for 5 gig a month.  MUCH MORE and one had to suscribe AND provide a local Telus phone number in BC  to even get that!

We had fun on that trip and give it a total ‘thumbs UP’

Submitted by Count Enrico Alfredo Ferrari on November 23,2010.  Written at Griffin Hill Farm.

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