Welcome to the story of Hale and Hearty travelling the canals of Great Britian

Sunday, 31 July 2011

City walls and deadly hallows

At last, a place where I have been able to get a signal to log on.
And so, Chester, wow, what a lovely city. We were able to moor below the city walls and just a few steps took us onto the wall and the opportunity to walk all around, which we did, but not all in one go. We arrived early enough on Sunday to attend choral evensong at the cathedral, which was a real treat. We also had a rather surreal experience, having found an oriental buffet with no one at all in it we had just sat down when two parties, one from Malaysia and one from China, arrived and suddenly the whole place was full. We took it as an endorsement of the food!
We so enjoyed all the good things Chester has to offer,  the pleasure of browsing in the ‘Rows’ where the medieval merchants buildings provided two levels of shops (if I could only work out how to put photos on here I could illustrate this!), the riverside, the museum and castle and of course the wall walk. We decided that this was a good opportunity to go and see the last Harry Potter film and asked advice from firstly a bin man and then in the tourist information. And the lesson learned is to listen to the bloke who works there! We walked, as the location illustrated by the tourist office was close-ish to the centre but turned out to be a good half mile wrong. We enjoyed the film very much and caught a bus back, oh my poor, sore feet on their little slip-ons, I gave them a nice soak.
We had coffee in the cathedral refectory, where a most beautiful window, showing the creation, had been commissioned to commemorate the millennium. After buying a little hat, to go with the dress I got in Nantwich, we left on Wednesday and headed south again. So the evening saw us moor with a fabulous view of Beeston Castle, old, in ruins and spectacular and in the morning we walked to the top and enjoyed fantastic views, even though a bit hazy, to Liverpool and beyond and similar in all directions.
Somewhere along the way I had hurt my back and by Friday morning it was so painful that I was struggling to get out of bed. Martin filled a drinks bottle with hot water, which was very effective and we decided that a hot water bottle was needed and Martin headed off to find out about buses. Lo and behold he returned with the said hot water bottle, given to him by a kindly gentleman from another boat. That is what the canal community is like, we could not repay him, so left a jar of homemade jam in his cockpit and hope we can be as helpful to someone else. I have worn it inside my clothes for 3 days and it has been very effective.
We turned up the Middlewich branch of the Shroppie and found it to be a rural delight. So on to Middlewich, a bit of a disappointment really, the old church locked, even on a Saturday morning and rather down at heel, suffering hard from the recession. Here we ran out of diesel, what twits we are, just thought it would last forever I suppose, but the nice people at the boatyard were very helpful. And onto the Grand Union, where we have been as far as the Anderton Lift, a huge contraption for raising and lowering boats onto the river Weaver and now we sit on a part of the canal that is very wide due to subsistence caused by salt mining and watch the swans, herons and other wildlife in peaceful solitude.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Two go to Wales (and back)

Well, what an exciting time we have been having. We have not been able to get a good enough signal on the dongle for a while so we have a long gap to fill.
We couldn't leave Nantwich without going back fcor some more of the lovely brownies at the Cheshire Cat, but that also allowed me to find the most lovely shop Doll, where the owner made a point of trying to fulfil the needs of ladies of a more shapely disposition and I bought some new clothes (weddings ahead).
We filled up with water and set off for the LLangollen canal. We had been warned that it might be busy, with long waits for the locks, but we were very lucky and sailed through with little delay. Suddenly we were on a narrow rural canal again, and passing through lovely countryside. We visited Whixall Moss, a place where old peat workings have made a valuable wildlife habitiat, and the little town of Ellesmere where we reprovisioned the boat. After that we had the excitement of passing through two tunnels and the two famous aquaducts at Chirk, where it is not too scarey as there is a path on both sides, and the Pontcysyllte, the one you see all the pictures of, which is quite terrifying! Martin sailed across, looking down into the valley with great aplomb, I clung on for dear life!
After that we turned up the last bit of the canal, never intended to be navigable, fast flowing from the river Dee feed and narrow and shallow. It was gloroius and there in the distance were the hills of Snowdonia. The canal basin is a beautiful setting (running out of superlatives!). It is really hard to believe that we had not gone up very far, as by the time we reached the town of Llangollen it was in a valley below us and there were hills all around. Llangollen is a lovely town, with all a boy could need, a lovey fishing river, the canal, mountains and a steam railway! Martin had a days walking and I locked myself out of the boat. We had a day going up and down the railway with both steam and deisel locos and a picnic with our toes in the Dee at Carrog. It must have been a nice day, we have not had many.
We could only stay 48 hrs in the town so moved off and went back over the aquaducts - I walked and looked at my feet and sang, what a wuzz. We visited the National Trust Chirk Castle, a good mile and a half walk from the canal (we are getting plenty of exercise) and then on the Montgomery canal. Only 7 miles have been re opened but it is even more remote and lovely. It was here that we met a couple from Taunton and shared a beer or two. On the way back passed Ellesmere we stopped a night beside the Blake Mere, with a mereside mooring where we could set up our table and enjoy outdoor eating with a view of the birdlife. Here we heard again from Ali and Stu and arranged to meet up with them on another little arm, only a mile long and share a few more beers before they returned their hired boat.
There followed 2 busy days, one when we cruised for 10 hours against a strong wind which was rather tiring, back onto the wide waterway of the Shropshire Union main canal, which feels like a motorway, travelling towards Chester, where we arrived on Sunday and are now moored below the city walls - what a spot.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Further adventures of the 'Terrific Two'

I haven't written much for a while as that nasty word 'work' got in the way! We pottered about around Brewood and Wheaton Aston for a couple of days before I had to go to Birmingham for the day, an adventure in itself, a bus to Wolverhampton and then train to New Street. Martin accommpanied me to Wolverhampton where he breakfasted at the Wolves supporters club cafe and visited St Peter's church on St Peters' day, finding packed with the staff and pulips of St Peter's school. At the art gallery there was a celebration of the Black Country origins of heavy metal music featuring interviews and some stunning pencil drawings of working in a steel works, as some of the artists did. The work trip went off without a hitch, and being very cool I stepped aboard in my business clothes as Hale and Hearty passed under the bridge and off we went into the country. Martin had also had a lovely evening with the Brewood bellringers practising and enjoying the excellent ale at The Swan.
We travelled up to Market Drayton over two days, with an overnight stop out in the country, where we woke to a perfect misty morning with still water and clear reflections. Arranged more library internet support and car hire and so for a few days we were both back to the land of work. I went to Hampshire and Martin worked 'from home'. I was kindly taken in by dear generous friends, as I had completely failed to organise accommodation for myself and Martin got to enjoy the delights of Market Drayton, a rather lovely old town with a big market that reminded him of Lymington.
I got back on thursday evening and we made a final trip to drop off the car - a relief to return it undamaged, but it gave very good service and it took me no longer to get to Hampshire from the Midlands than from Devon. We also visited Market Drayton's charming little museum, full of interesting objects that visitors can handle and discuss. Martin had vittled up, emptied the loo and filled up with water, so all ready for the next voyage!
Off we set, in rain as ever, it has an uncanny way of starting just as we cast off, and cruised gently to Audlem, through 16 locks and a total distance of 6 miles. Audlem is a delightful little place, with a large and lovely sandstone church. It was here that we met the most interesting and charming Edward Wilkins, an ordinary chap who served on HMS Colombine, a Corvette build in Bristol, during WW2 and has written a book about his experiences.
And so on to Nantwich, where we managed to do laundry and attend St Mary's Church today, a lovely service and again a most welcoming place. We found a wonderful eaterie, 'The Chrshire Cat', on the road to town from the canal and had one of the best Sunday lunches we have ever had. What made is so good? Tender and perfectly cooked meat, lovely fresh vegetables, all seasoned exactly right, crisp Yorkshire, apple fritters with the pork and the most sublime brownie ever tasted. If you are ever in Nantwich they do a great Sunday menu. Now need to sit a while, as carrying a big tummy back to the boat has tired me out!