Thursday 2nd October: Marbury Lock on the Llangollen

I cannot believe that it's October and that it's nearly Friday - time is rushing by! Well, we are now on the Llangollen but we don't get into Wales till the very end of this 42 miles of canal. On Wednesday morning we set off in unsettled and distinctly blowy weather. This 10 mile stretch is beautiful and remote. When we stopped for coffee I rushed for my camera as Nick was just outside the centre hatch hauling on the rope, pulling the boat into the side using his entire weight - sadly by the time I'd sorted myself out the drama, and what would have been an excellent picture, was over! Then we had a nasty phone call! The  previous evening I had trailed down the towpath for 15 minutes with all our rubbish to a point indicated in our canal guide and although I wasn't totally sure the BW place was a totally convincing collection point left it anyway because I was exhausted. The phone call was from the rubbish police,  or someone. They had found the rubbish (all neatly bagged), and from it identified us (how?) and requested we return to remove it! We were however 2 hours away and although we checked the internet for buses it was clear we could not get back there for a day or two. However, after a few courteous, nay deferential,  phone calls from Nick to various people, we were excused from what would have been a huge inconvenience! Besides the wind there were heavy showers all day and we didn't carry on travelling too long. We lit the fire and christened our washing machine, which was keenly watched by Nick but was just fine! How the hell I'd get the stuff dry I didn't know - that's yet to be sorted.

Thursday started much the same, raining as we awoke, but it did improve. As I walked the dog, a little later in one direction, I looked east to the distant hills of Macclesfield, and west towards the Welsh hills! The weather today has been much better, some showers but distinctly brighter spells between. By ten o'clock we were on the main line of the Shropshire Union and before 11 were heading up the Hurlestone Flight onto the Llangollen. The first one was a 'gauge' lock, very narrow and some boats get stuck and are sent away and told this canal is not for them. Some boats who experience problems can achieve it by coming up this particular lock, and presumably other narrow locks backwards!  Today has been a kingfisher day - we have seen several but so far have been unable to capture that magical flight with the camera.

We steadily proceeded up and on through nine locks, thro' lovely countryside, and finished the day above Marbury Lock. Another little drama was again caused by yours-truly, who ended up losing the ash pan (newly-acquired at great expense) while tipping ashes discretely into the bushes and losing the said pan in a deepish ditch!  Nick put on his wellies and sort of abseiled down into the ditch, rope secured to boat, to retrieve it! The village, half a mile south, was described as especially pretty and unspoiled and we decided to walk there, ending up eating at the village pub which was lovely, especially when we were offered a lift back, as it was again raining as we left.

Saturday 4th October: Whitchurch

On Friday morning we proceeded and in a short time were approaching Grindley Brook Locks, three single locks followed by a staircase of 3 locks which we were able to move into immediately as the lock keeper supervised the 50 foot rise. We had planned to wait for Gill and Dave at the top but there was a distinctly unpleasant smell - I guess it is muck-spreading time - so we moved on and moored up on the Whitchurch Arm. We had expected them for lunch but there had been a degree of misunderstanding and they arrived at two and soon thereafter we set off on a 'cruise' upstream in quite pleasant but chilly weather. We ended up on on the Prees Arm having negotiated a number of lift bridges. We had a pleasant evening  tho' the chilli was challenging in its spiciness (albeit offset by a couple of bottles of Merlot)! Gill was especially exhausted after a very pressurised Ofsted Inspection, but we enjoyed Dave's cheery tales of his  semi-retirement: challenging adolescent behaviour, allotments, choirs, saxophone lessons, whatever! 

Apart from the fact that the double bed was problematic (well, it collapsed a couple of times under poor David!) we had a good night. Nick assures us that he will sort the problem for future visitors! I feared that Saturday would be stormy but it stayed dry all the way back, with some of us joining Caspar and collecting some kindling for the fire en route! Dave, Gill and I went on a quick foray into town which is delightful with local fresh produce stalls of which we took advantage. Caspar was bought a new 'curl up cosy' bed which is already a huge hit - it's now 5 o'clock and he had hardly left it! We had a lovely brunch, second this week, and then Gill and Dave had to make tracks to attend their sister-in-law's priesting due to be celebrated later in the afternoon. Nick went into town with them to get kitted with warm, water-proof gloves and a second woolly hat, as it is sometimes quite chilly now on the water. So, tonight we'll have a quiet time and plan to slowly make our way down towards the famous Ponteysyllte Aqueduct and Llangollen and attempt to assess whether we consider this canal a suitable place to face the oncoming winter.

Sunday 5th October: Ellesmere

Last evening it started raining before bed and it was still quite heavy as we awoke. We both stayed in bed hoping the other would get up and walk the dog! Nick did eventually and valiantly did a long walk and came back with a wet, muddy dog plus a Sunday paper and the chocolate biscuits I'd forgotten on Saturday, the latter important for Nick as we were heading into a lonely stretch. We had to cover again the stretch we had done the day before with Dave & Gill which was pleasant but unremarkable. However, after that the sun came out and we passed into glorious countryside, some of it commonland and then past huge meres (glacial features) with glorious trees, many beech which are always wonderful when the sun shines through their leaves (still emerald!), and finally out into lovely open countryside approaching Ellesmere where there is another mere, an arboretum and apparently a small, pleasant town which we will explore tomorrow. This area is Shropshire's Lake District. Again we can see the imposing hills we are approaching in the distance. Looking at the contours we will not be as high as we were on the Macclesfield but we will find ourselves among real Welsh mountains when we reach the end of this cut. We hear different stories about the Pontcysylite Aqueduct, some chilled and some hair-raising! My view is that if the horses pulling the boats managed it, then so can I!

Monday 6th October: Chirk

Today we awoke to the first frost and it was cold. Luckily there was just enough fire to resurrect for an hour or two, and the day turned out to be really very nice. After a porridge breakfast I walked into town with Caspar via a roundabout woodland route so I came into town from the north west and found a pleasant small centre  with a wonderful baker, greengrocer with health foods and organics, a butcher and a co-op. What more could a boater need? Not a Tesco, but sadly they are about to start a new store at the end of the short arm of the canal which leads from the main line into town, having paid for smartening up the canal access to the town. I would hate to see those lovely small town shops disappear but I fear that may happen. Nick, meanwhile had sorted a new connection for the light for tunnels on the front of the boat.

So we carried on in glorious sunshine which slowly dissipated, through rolling but rather sodden farmland, so that by the time we reached New Marton Locks (taking us just another 12 or so feet to the summit) there remained just a suspicion of blue. Perhaps this canal has a micro-climate as there are still blackberries, some summer flowers and I actually spotted a rather splendid butterfly  today. It has stayed dry and the countryside has been pleasant, though hills and woodland started to close in as we approached Chirk and the huge stone aqueduct carrying us over the River Cerriog way below, while to the west another, still higher, aqueduct carried the railway and beyond emerald pastures with sheep. Immediately after this incredible section we were straight into the Chirk Tunnel, almost 1400 ft of it! By this time we were losing the light and opted to remain just this side of the next and shorter tunnel, the decision underpinned by the fact that I had lit the fire and naked flame is not allowed in tunnels. When through this next tunnel we'll be very close to the even more dramatic, Pontcyslite Aqueduct, which is now under consideration as a world heritage site! We may well stay where we are until we have some sunshine to see us across in sunny splendour!

Tuesday 7th October: Trevor Wharf

Last night we were disturbed by a piteous squealing at about 2'ish which sadly was reducing by the time Nick put some clothes on and went to investigate - he seemed to think that it was a badger that had fallen in and was slowly drowning, and this was confirmed when I noticed what could have well been badger setts along the bank as we travelled on later. However, I saw nothing when I took the dog for a walk downstream in the morning between showers which persisted till almost midday, when we set off.

 I had enjoyed crossing the Chirk Aqueduct but found the Pontecyslite (pronounced pont-kis-ultai: it's Welsh!) a different experience. I shut the dog in, up front and stayed with Nick on the stern. To the right is a path with some solid railings but on the other there is absolutely nothing and Gloriana appeared to me to list marginally that way and bump into that side of the trough! You are very high up above the valley floor, a football pitch, the tops of trees and the fast flowing River Dee way down below. Nick was busy, with his camera, not quite hanging over the side but close! Sadly no photo taken from the boat can do justice to the experience as you just cannot capture the breathtaking structure over which you are travelling. Maybe I'll walk the path on the way back get some photos and feel altogether safer!

After that experience I had to cope with Nick reversing the boat, quite skilfully, I guess, through a narrow gap between boats and under an exceedingly low bridge (both chimneys down and satellite dish, on its side, centimetres clear) into the short Ruabon Arm to take the last mooring there! Being so close to the aqueduct allowed us to walk down beneath the structure and marvel! The River way below seemed decidedly noisy and threatening.

Nick has managed to fit in a clearing and cleaning of the roof, likewise one of the front lockers and some red undercoat on the pointed end.  What an action man! 
I managed some sorting of interior storage and clearing out of any  of the remaining light weight clothes. The trouble with clearing and tidying is that you end up with a pile of things that don't seem to belong anywhere. Tonight we don't even have a fire though it is now 10ish and a little cool. I think we have more or less decided to return to the far end of the Macclesfield before the winter closures. I am becoming a little anxious about this but Nick appears to think it no problem.

Wednesday 8th October: Llangollen Basin

It was a chilly night and we awoke to a bright and beautiful day so a quick porridge was required to warm us up! The good weather is such a bonus: we just haven't had enough mornings like this since leaving in June and the timing was perfect because the journey into Llangollen is very special, exceedingly narrow in places, just passing places at intervals, but you travel along a wooded embankment, high above the river, through woodland with breaks now and again to allow you to enjoy lovely views. It was good to be on the boat as the towpath was exceedingly muddy in places. As you pass along, the Welsh Hills close in and it is really quite dramatic. British Waterways are prepared for the boaters who struggle to the end and offer moorings with electricity and water for 6 a night - otherwise you must turn around and return from whence you came after 4 hours! Today the weather has remained good and we have been promised the same for at least the beginning of tomorrow. We have done two washes and most of the first lot is dry with sheets and pillow cases back on the bed, having been aired by the fire which we lit tonight, not wanting to get chilled again. Nick has been rubbing down and painting while I went down into the town to explore and get supplies. One clambers down from the canal and crosses the river, raging and tumbling under the old Corn Mill and over the rocky bed. There is plenty to see and do in and around the town. I discovered that Quakers meet at the Memorial Hall and sadly they don't have much of a profile in town as I asked several locals and even the Information Centre struggled to get the information, There are still tourists about and two boatsful booked for the aqueduct while the horse boat set off on a shorter trip.  The steam railway is only operating on particular weekends in October and sadly not this one. I came back and Nick was able to drag himself away from chores to walk with Caspar up to the Horseshoe Falls, the source of the canal, while I rested my knee which is troubling me somewhat. 

Thursday 9th October: Llangollen Basin

This morning the weather was again quite bright so the washing machine was put into operation again and amazingly it is again all dry (3 loads!) - now, to all you land-based readers this may sound mundane but when you are on a boat it's all a bit of a challenge. And it all smells of fresh air! We enjoyed the company of a lovely family from Sydney, Caspar, as usual, providing the means of introduction. They are on a ten week tour of Europe and have struck lucky with the Llangollen and the weather. Timmy, aged 6 or so, was enamoured with Caspar, and the whole family, Margie, David, Georgia and Sam, took him off for a walk toward the Horseshoe Falls. They had started their boat trip going over the Pontecyslite Aqueduct - quite a challenge, particularly as they had been given minimal instruction in how to mange a boat (unfortunately a very common [non]practice by boat hiring companies)! In a few days time they will be in Paris, a nice place for a six-year-old to spend his birthday!

Nick went down into the town to take some photographs, as the weather forecast for later in the day was not especially good. On his return I went to do a little culture by visiting Plac Newydd, the Ladies House, a charming Elizabethan house on a hillside on the south west edge of the town. Two Irish ladies eloped here in 1780, leaving aristocratic families in Ireland, and set up house here, living a highly cultured life style with music, art and books and creating a wonderful garden, entertaining many eminent visitors. It was certainly worth the hour or two I spent there. The  weather closed in at nightfall with rain but the barometer is encouraging and we are hopeful of a reasonable day tomorrow. Nick has had a go at sorting the Eberspacher - the thing that heats the radiators and water when we are not actually travelling - unfortunately without success. We had to call in a specialist engineer once before to no effect, but we really do need to sort the problem as autumn closes down and winter sets in.

Saturday 11th October: Trevor Basin

We had to leave the basin at Llangollen by midday so it was a busy morning on Friday, Nick still had work to do on the boat and he popped down into town to photograph the steam trains we could hear and for some last minute shopping. I decided to take the dog for a walk uphill towards a distant ruin on a hill to the north. We went so far but it was very steep and it would have been foolish to stress my sore knee too much! (Okay. I'm feeble!) I did arrive back with a chunk of oak which I proceeded to saw up. We are getting anxious about fuel - we had bought two bags in Middlewich but we've started the second bag so foraging for wood is a necessary pastime. So on our way back we stopped a couple of times where we saw wood and put it on Nick's newly cleaned roof. Later we were able to cut and saw it up between us - I'm trying to prove to Nick he doesn't need a chain saw! A little sawing each day gives us enough wood when we use slow burning coal as well! As the day progressed it became increasingly windy and we moved on from one mooring where the tree noise had seemed formidable and ended up again in Trevor Basin where we had a pub meal in the Thomas Telford pub. We lit a fire and burned some of our newly acquired wood but in fact it was quite a warm night, We have established we are not having visitors this weekend so we will proceed back into England and towards Ellesmere tomorrow.

We were up promptly and thoroughly enjoyed talking to Joel (aged 11, I guess) walking his dog Baxter. He was all dressed up in his football kit for a practice on the pitch we will shortly look down upon from the aqueduct. He was extremely personable and I might adopt him tomorrow if I could! I clambered around under the first pillar in order to attempt to photograph the boat setting off across the aqueduct and then elected to walk this time, which was much more comfortable than staring into the abyss! Caspar wasn't too impressed with the aerial walk and scuttled into the boat at the first opportunity a third of the way across. Then, after the two tunnels and the Chirk Aqueduct we were on our way back and into Ellesmere to shop before closing time. I have spoken to a contact from Oswestry Quaker meeting and a local Friend, Brian Fitz-John will give me a lift there tomorrow morning.

Monday 13th October; Montgomery Canal

Sunday we awoke to a beautiful day, a suggestion, but no more, of mist. I left for Meeting arranging to meet Nick at the Frankton Locks, locks which we can only do between 12 and 2.00 as a lockkeeper sees you through. This canal has a special eco status and boats are restricted to that 2 hours to ensure only a few boats use the canal. You have to ring and book your passage before 10.00am on the day of passage and through the winter you need to give 2 days notice!

Brian, a retired gentleman and a Quaker of 25 years, picked me up as arranged. His wife went to the C of E in Ellesmere. Oswestry have an attractive  small brick detached Meeting House in the outskirts of the town and it was a Sunday for children's meeting. After three adults and 7 children left there were still about 20 adults. The Meeting Room had glass panels on the ceiling letting in natural light which was lovely and we had a silent meeting with a significant contribution afterwards. One  member had been thinking about about the financial crisis which is dominating the media to the exclusion of all else and had been thinking (she said sanctimoniously) why those wringing their hands are not out in the countryside admiring the beauty of the Autumn trees. Then she 'earthed' herself considering that under those trees was mould and decay! The children had been working on labyrinths with the idea of centring oneself in a silent meeting and had created a labyrinth with 3 different ways of reaching the centre - this was done with glue and sand and gravel. Two of the older children had created a labyrinth with 7 ways to the centre. They were going to have a picnic lunch and then create a nature garden within the existing garden! So lots going on with the children, and there were lots of activities for adults with evening talks and they had recently arranged 2 different activities for Quaker Week which had been reported in the local press. Most important was that they were all extremely friendly and I felt really welcomed. There were boat stories; one member had recently spent a week on the French canals and had been hugely impressed by the technical wizardry; another elderly member (post 80) had spent just two days on a boat she and her husband had hired the previous week and found the whole thing "rather too rigorous!" Another visitor was from Keithley Meeting on the Leeds and Liverpool who said she hoped to see me there!

Brian kindly made a detour on his way home to drop me at Frankton and within a short time Gloriana and inmates were down the staircase and the other three locks and we found ourselves really enjoying this very peaceful canal. It was really summery with kingfishers, the odd dragonfly and butterfly and dozens of giddy water boatmen zooming on the water. After passing the one pub on the only centre of civilization we passed down a further 2 locks and found a quiet spot to enjoy the waning sun. We had a lovely fire on board that evening as we had stopped and cut up some beech saplings which had been left on the side of the towpath.

We awoke to cloud and dampness in the air but Monday improved as we went on to the end of the canal where we stopped to do a pump out and realised that no way were we to make the return up on to the Llangollen Canal, today  particularly with the speed limit of 2 mph! An industrious hour was spent cutting up oak from a tree which had fallen across the canal weeks before and been left in a ditch on the tow path. There is something particularly satisfying about collecting and cutting wood. Nick has promised to buy me a bow saw - I pointed out he could probably buy 6 and get change with what it costs to buy a chain saw! We stopped for late luncheon pint at the Queens Head and continued back towards Lower Frankton on a day that had improved considerably, not as idyllic as the previous day but most pleasant. We stopped this evening in a sunny spot by an aqueduct (a modest one!) and anticipate that tomorrow we will be extremely lucky not to wake up to rain. A tractor outside has just finished ploughing, at 9pm, and I can clearly hear the stream bubbling below us and see the moon, nearly full.

Tuesday 14th October: Ellesmere

Another unseasonal morning and surprisingly not raining - it's grand to wake up in such a lovely, peaceful location and no rush to move on as we are unable to pass thro' the locks. less than an hour away, before midday. As it was, we arrived well before and there was a queue and lots of drama with a hotel boat and butty going up and Saturn. a splendid ancient butty, designed for horses, but being pulled to winter moorings by a motorised craft. There was a degree of canal rage when the lock keeper wanted to organise things differently to the respective skippers! One, apparently a vicar in a former life, kept people amused with colourful language: we had met him the previous day when his attitude had persuaded Nick to withhold a friendly offer to allow him to use the pumpout facility before us. Although we arrived at the bottom of the flight at 11.30. it was gone 2 before we were through which leaves plenty of time to chat to other boaters, Before long we were lunching en route and in Ellesmere by 3.30. where Nick procured a wonderful bow saw and managed, with a little help from me, to cut all the oak logs from the roof. Soon after the rain set in and we battened down the hatches for the night.

Wednesday 15th October: Whitchurch

I had a rude awakening at 4 this morning. We had moored under a giant oak on the branch leading into Ellesmere and yes, the irregular noise on the roof above, caused by rain and flurries of wind meant I was sleeping fitfully. Nick was however being driven to distraction, particularly by a "boy'ng" noise caused irregularly by large drops of water falling on a brass spring (created by a loose brass ring on the dummy exhaust pipe) on the roof. When a particularly loud thump occurred, he upped, donned clothes and raingear and took the boat through the dark to find a mooring with no trees overhanging, a 10 to 15 minute journey! So, the back of the boat now roared and shook with engine noise, (in my opinion Gloriana is possibly noisier than the average boat!) and I felt mortified that we were probably waking all those on all the other moored boats. We were lucky to find one last mooring before the canal enters the lovely wooded stretch with meres! We settled only to discover the rudder was banging, caused by the flow of the canal, and amazingly roared with laughter at this! Nick had to make another quick expedition to sort it and then fell blissfully asleep till well past eight o'clock.

The journey from Ellesmere to Whitchurch takes about 5 hours and passes from woods and lakes to rolling farm land, to Whixall Moss, boggy, peaty area and SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and then into an indeterminate area and we reached Whitchurch in time for me to trek into town for provisions as we are passing into a lonely-ish area. Whitchurch is a small town  with narrow streets and some lovely houses with lots  with lots of character. I also spent a while in the handsome parish church of St Alkmund, quite unusual with a striking, open interior with large windows. some with clear glass and some beautifully stained glass. The weather has improved as the day has gone by, the late afternoon has been lovely and we are promised a few good days tho' it won't be so warm.

Thursday 16th October: Baddeley Hall

Today was bright, for the most part, and cool as we passed back down the Llangollen, through the triple staircase at Grindley Brook and onwards and are now just an hour or two from the Hurlestone Flight which will lead us on to the Shropshire Union: we are at present undecided on where we go from there. We have a little time in hand before we head for Macclesfield -  south down the Shroppie to Nantwich or north to Chester but that would mean time would be quite tight! We have just received notice that our tenant, James,  is proposing to leave the Hungerford house either at the end of December or January. That means if we are finding the winter difficult we can have a month or two at home before we continue our travels. We have been so lucky on this canal with the weather - we have had a fair amount of rain but almost all has been at night. It means the tow paths are still pretty muddy. It is good to shut up at the end of the day and light the fire.

Sunday 19th October: Middlewich

Nick took the dog for a walk on Friday morning and found a long fallen oak tree so went back with the saw and cut manageable lengths. After breakfast we moved the boat to the next bridge and Nick struggled to heave the lengths over a gate and on to the roof of the boat. Then we proceeded down the next few locks and found ourselves at the top of the Hurlestone Flight on a gloriously warm October day. Having taken on water the previous day, we were down the flight and turning south onto the Shropshire Union and were soon crossing the handsome aqueduct over the Chester road at Nantwich. I caught the bus into the centre of the town while Nick tackled the wood pile which was a tidy stack of logs on the roof by the time I returned.

The next day we were expecting Patrick and Elanor so I returned to the town which had impressed me the day before. The centre of the town with its narrow streets and historic and elegant houses fan out from the handsome red sandstone church with its octagonal tower and the nearby charming market hall which turned out to be buzzing with activity on Saturday morning. Nick had turned the boat around and we went back a mile or so and moored within a short walk of Acton and The Star where we had arranged to meet Pat and Elanor. After the chaps had enjoyed a pint we returned to the boat and somehow dropped Elanor's favourite 'Wuff-wuff' as we walked back to the boat. Although Pat and Abi later went back to see if he was still there there search was unsuccessful: RIP Wuff-wuff. We travelled back past the Hurlestone Junction and on to Barbridge Junction where we turned east, Abi meeting us  a few miles and an hour or so later up the cut where we enjoyed supper all together. Afterwards, Elanor, who had been quite 'hyper' all day, settled to demonstrate how much she had learned in her first half term at school, writing her name, practising the letters she had learned and drawing pictures with great concentration! We were duly impressed. And Glory be! We had a satellite television signal and I was able to watch Strictly!

This morning we set off along the branch and were in Middlewich soon after lunch time where I made a quick trip to Somerfields to get a Sunday paper tho' all copies of the Sunday Times were gone. It's been dull and a bit windy but it has stayed dry today. Nick has collected another half-forest from  nearby our mooring so there's a lot of upper body exercise in prospect tomorrow: one certain way to keep warm!.

Monday 20th October: South of Wheelock

This morning we awoke to a dreary, damp start. After breakfast we (well, mostly Nick!) started the attack on the wood collected the previous evening. By eleven as we took on water at Kings Lock Junction, there was lots of blue sky and a warm breeze. By one o'clock we had lost the blue and there was a chilling breeze, and by four, as we travelled through Wheelock and took on pet food, it was grey, the wind was causing us problems with steering the boat, and the barometer was reading a low that we hadn't seen since the first week of September. When we moored for the night the conditions had changed, yet again, to present a beautiful evening sky. It is now almost bedtime and the rain is beating down outside. Ahead, for tomorrow. are the locks of Heartbreak Hill and going up is more tricky than coming down as the lock paddles create a tow which pulls the boat back and then fiercely drags her forward so that the engine has to be put into reverse and revved like mad. So, we need to take it easy, which means up to 30 minutes going thro' locks as opposed to 15 minutes.  I'll be delighted if we are just over half way up tomorrow if these conditions persist. And we can always hope that lots of boats are coming down so the locks are prepared! The good news is that we have been told that the closure on the Macclesfield we were aiming to have passed beyond by November 3rd, has now been postponed 'til January so we now have no time pressure at all!

Tuesday 21st October: Red Bull Aqueduct, Macclesfield Canal

A bright cool start but we were on our way before nine and had completed ten locks and were stopping for coffee and a sausage sandwich in order to energise ourselves for the next twelve which Nick did comfortably, tho' I flagged a bit as the afternoon wore on, The weather has been kind - bright and chilly, and we have had to work hard at setting locks most of which were against us, though the boat following us for most of the mid part of the day benefitted from our preparing the lock twin whilst we waited for ours to fill. You keep really warm while walking and working locks and then cool off on the helm. We met just one boat coming down until nearing Kidsgrove where we met another one or two. and were aware of just one or two boats coming up the flight behind us. I guess the cut is really beginning to shut down for the winter! We are no longer on the really popular hire boat areas as in the Anderton area, Middlewich, and on the Llangollen. Caspar keeps going really well, he's been on and off (more off!) and is now curled up on his bed near the fire. I guess we, too, will sleep well tonight. We are now set to settle for extended periods in chosen areas, the first likely to b Congleton.

Wednesday/Thursday 23rd October: en route to Congleton, Macclesfield Canal

On Wednesday we continued a short distance along the lovely first few miles of the Macclesfield and past Ramsdell Hall with its wonderful views north east over the most delightful countryside over the handsome railings that are being smartened up, thanks to various grants. We decided to stop here as it is so beautiful, we have been travelling a lot, and there are jobs to do and some relaxation needed. Furthermore we spotted Tancred moored on the opposite side of the cut and were hoping to catch up with Annie who we met previously in Congleton and whom Nick helped with the battery problems she was having. She is lucky to have such a beautiful mooring and has made it her own with a swing for her grandchildren with wind chimes attached.

The weather forecast for today, Thursday was not good but I managed a dry walk with Caspar this morning tho' we have had a little rain and the wind is quite blustery. I have sorted kitchen cupboards which have become a bit chaotic and Nick has done some paperwork (well, it's computer work really!) I've also taken a little more time than usual sorting a curry and a coq au vin , so there will be no evening preparations when I'm tired. Tomorrow, when the weather is better we will move on to Congleton and the priority is to find a spot for Saturday Strictly as we may have problems with the satellite signal.

Friday/Saturday 25th October: Congleton

I've been reading the entries of the diary for the last week and I'm struck by how amazingly negative I can be! At the bottom of the flight I'm looking at the blackest outlook, so that the entry for the next day, when we've positively whizzed up the flight, hits the opposite stop,  I must appear morbidly negative. I've considered this and wonder whether perhaps Nick and I balance one another, as he is very positive. It is good when I have anticipated a hard time and it all turns out easy; then my mood soars and this is good. However, when I look at my self development I need to be aware of how I avoid challenges, spiritual, moral, physical, emotional, etc. because I anticipate more difficulty than actually exists! Now, that's enough navel-gazing on a rainy Saturday!

On Friday morning we moved from our lovely mooring with a view, and it took us an hour or two to travel onwards in a north-easterly direction to Congleton. Caspar had plenty of exercise along the tow path so we were able to leave him on the boat and walk down into town together. Nick needed a new blade for the bow saw and I needed Nick's strength to help carry heavy-ish provisions. Nick was offered an afternoon appointment at the optician and so I ended carting most of the shopping back to the boat, but there is an excellent bus service which takes you from the town centre, up the hill to the aqueduct where we are moored. I had done a little sawing when Nick arrived back from town. and with his new blade he attacked the remaining wood, which I added to after I had taken Caspar for a woodland walk and arrived back shouldering two more pieces of oak!

I popped down into town for the market this morning. The weather, as I speak, is quite rainy and miserable but I have plenty to do - , some tidying, cleaning, soup, a ratatouille, and a bread pudding to use the excess stale bread we have and that will take me through until 'Strictly!'

Sunday 26th October: Congleton

Sunday morning was dull and dreary and we both continued with boaty domestic chores, setting off in somewhat brighter weather in the middle of the day towards Bosley while checking for moorings which are phone/satellite/e-mail friendly. Nick is recording results so we have a record of where to stop if we need those services when once again in the same area. We didn't travel too far and stopped within a short distance of the Bosley Flight. The weather was quite bright and we considered a walk perhaps towards the distant hills but the tow path was so sodden we lost heart tho' I did pick the last blackberries of the year and we actually had a blackberry and apple crumble later in the evening.

Monday 27th October: between Bridges 62 & 63

We awoke on Monday to rain which had been fairly incessant through the night, which stopped a while and then started again quite heavily. In  a brief respite we made it to the bottom of the flight, which is remote and impressive, with distant views north and south to viaducts over the River Dane, the canal crossing the said river, which flows swiftly thro' a  60ft steep-sided valley below the canal. After a leisurely coffee the heavy rain cleared and we figured that we could manage a fair bit of the flight before it started again. In fact we were coming out of the top lock two hours or more later when the heavens opened with another deluge which included heavy hail.  We also learned that we had avoided a delay with a tree which had come down across the canal just a short way back from where we had moored the previous night. How lucky can you get!

When the rain had stopped we carried on, with a brief stop for useful wood (about five evenings of heat) Nick had spotted and made it to the Gurnett Aqueduct and the Old King's Head, just south of Macclesfield by five o'clock. It's been quite cold today but the forecast promises some particularly brutal cold tomorrow. I hope we will be as cosy tomorrow night as we are this evening.

Thursday 30th October: Marple


Wednesday morning was quite cold - just a little ice inside one or two of the north-facing portholes - but glorious.  I am able to resurrect the wood burner quite quickly these cold mornings so we are soon comfortable. The frost disappeared quickly and the journey onwards towards Marple was very lovely as the trees are wonderfully colourful. Clouds pile in and a wonderful rainbow arches across the sky in front of us. We are in Marple surprisingly quickly, before one o'clock, stopping only twice, once under a bridge while Nick dashed back to cut a dead branch he noticed and once to check if the baker in High Lane was baking which sadly he wasn't.

We were expecting Patrick to bring Elanor over on Thursday, which he did. We spent a happy time but didn't travel because the weather was cold and rainy so it was activities on board and a trip down into town. Abi came over with Patrick for supper and Elanor elected to go home with them rather than sleep over as planned. So here we are, having an unexpectedly quiet time. 

Friday 31st October Disley Return!

Another frosty morning and then, in bright sunshine we travelled south down the lovely Peak Forest Canal to Disley where Nick went to the shop where we bought the satellite dish to discuss issues - basically, it rarely works and we are not certain whether it's us, our locations, or the equipment. It didn't take long ,and after a light lunch we returned to Marple, meeting Patrick and Elanor, fresh from the swimming pool, to collect a gizmo Elanor had left on the boat the previous evening. This evening we are off to the Ring o' Bells, a canal pub here in Marple. I have had instructions this evening on the use of the generator and the inverter which I will need to use while Nick goes south for a family party and to sort a problem at the Hungerford house.