Saturday, 11 June 2016

All Change

We spent quite a bit of time on our last trip thinking about the way ahead. For some time we have been avoiding the issue of how long can Take Five meet our needs and that we will be able and willing to look after it. We have spent quite a lot of time, money and effort bringing it up to scratch, including new engine and stern gear, so it is now in quite a good state. (It recently passed its BSS with no rectification work required. Just as well Mike remembered to replace the gas label after putting on the non-slip to the locker at the New Year)

We made initial enquiries about the costs of a new boat and felt that it would be just about affordable so looked for a way of selling. When we reached Sawley Bridge Marina, where we were booked to leave the boat for a couple of months whilst we fulfill various obligations back home, we were reminded that they also have a brokerage and so made contact.

Before leaving we left some of the basic details and said that we would get in touch. In the few days after returning home we decided to test the market via Swanley (other options were available!) and by this weekend it appears on their website, complete with details, photos and video. (Do take a look Swanley Brokerage)

We were grateful that we are moderately retentive about documentation so that we could look up the answers to the many questions that formed part of the sales material. Never under-estimate the amount of time that this takes! Because we were doing this back at home, quite a bit of the inventory had to be done from memory. It is surprising how much you can miss when doing a mental walk-through of the boat! We both did it many times before getting to the point at which we were not adding to the list of what we would take and what we would leave.

A major factor in opting for Swanley was the simple result of just being there. If we went with anyone else (and others did seem equally competent) we would have had to wait at least two months in prime season before starting - that would probably have been the earliest that we could have moved the boat.

And now we shall see . . .

Looking for a new boat now starts in greater earnest but the arrival of funds from the sale will be a necessary precursor. At least it should make a decent deposit! We can always anticipate that there is someone who wants to get on the water this summer.

Let's hope that the most difficult decision will be the name. Creating another Take Five will allow us to stick with this blog - or change to something that has more connection with us? Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Time to Leave

We made a good start on the final packing and cleaning and it looked as if we might have time to see if we could call at the boat builder in Rode Heath on the way back.

However, as Mike was returning from one loading trip to the car, he saw a many standing alongside a new boat obviously waiting for someone. After a light-hearted comment about being stood up he remarked that he was waiting for the owners.

Mike asked, "You are not a boat builder by any chance?" and, yes, it turned out to be the person we had been told about yesterday by the broker. He had already been given our name by the office and happily came to talk to us about possibilities. In the end it took some while to get away and we were an hour after the schedule we originally set for handing over Alice to her dad on the way back! Fortunately we also agreed to phone when we were leaving as he had the shorter trip to make.

We met as planned just off the M5 at J11A at a coffee shop where we sat and chatted in the sun over a cup before making our respective ways home.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Swanley Bridge Marina

Today's Canal - Llangollen

Our target today is Swanley Bridge Marina where, alas, we will be leaving the boat until the end of July. It was a bright sunny day as we set off in good time.

By mid morning we had arrived at Wrenbury where we thought we might look for a place to eat tonight. There are two pubs listed. Whilst Christine looked at the nearest (Dusty Miller) and then returned to carry on boat cleaning, Mike and Alice walked to the shop in the village. On the way there they found that the other pub did not open to lunch time and there was no indication of the food options visible outside.

After visiting the shop, on the way back they took a diversion to look inside the village church. This proved rather interesting as it is one of the few churches in its diocese still to have box pews. Originally they were much higher as one remaining sample shows. They re-modeled and made a little more comfortable for seating.

A much more unusual feature is the Dog Whippers Pew. This role, later called the Beadle, was to control unruly dogs!

The church also has a proper West Gallery, albeit partly now occupied by the organ that replaced the former singers and musicians. We climbed a narrow set of stair and had a grand view of the church below. Alas, the front of the gallery is not considered high enough for modern safety considerations so the front row cannot be used.

Back at the boat we found that Christine had had a much more successful look at the Dusty Miller and so we will return here later (by car!)

Off again just after noon with a passer-by warning u that there have been problems at the Baddiley Locks ahead of us. We arrived, having had lunch on the run, almost an hour later to discover that whatever problem there had been was now cleared. We understood later on that there had been a log or similar obstruction preventing one of the bottom gates from fully operating but that it had been cleared quickly by CaRT staff - a far cry from the 'it has been closed all week' that towpath gossip claimed!

On then down through thw final two locks at Swanley and we were ready to turn into the marina. Mike held the boat at the mooring just outside whilst Christine went to find our particular berth. Armed with a plan she then walked to the actual location so that she could signal to Mike as he came in.

Amusingly, as Mike manouvered in, one of the marina staff (it turned out later to have been one of the brokers) was filming him - or more probably the boat. Fortunately he did not go astray, although it took a couple of goes to reverse into the appropriate slot. Although Chrsitine could arm wave to show the right place, for once the pontoons had clear numbers on the outside ends.

After mooring we loaded what we could into the car and then went to the marina office to investigate their brokerage services. This was quite helpful and we were given the names of a couple of builders - one a larger firm and the other a one-man operation just starting up who sells his boats through the brokers. Alas, we forgot to take any photos of the marina or our bertyh - perhaps we may remember to do that when we return. Nevertheless, we found it a pleasant and friendly place.

Once all the sorting and cleaning was done it was time to drive back to Wrembury, just a fedw minutes by car although the road crossed the canal three times en route. The Dusty Miller proved a good choice - we found them very welcoming and not too busy. Alice especially enjoyed her choice from the menu - including the chocolate pud.

7.7 Miles - 6 Locks

Thursday, 2 June 2016


Today's Canal - Llangollen

Despite the warning that a passer-by gave us yesterday that today's foreast was for rain, it remained warm, bright and sunny all day, once the early cloud had cleared.

Before long we arrived at the first of the two lift bridges before the junction with the Whitchurch Arm.

We stopped at Whitchurch Marina to fill with fuel - we must be doing better as this is the first re-fuelling this trip and we were not dangerously low.

The Whitchurch Arm is not very long - it once ran right into the town but much is now under housing estates. However, it is a quiet place to moor with a winding hole near the end. There is room for perhaps 8 or 9 boats on the visitor moorings. It ends rather abruptly.

We set off to walk into town - it is not really convenient for shopping and we would not really want to be doing a major shop here (even though the shops are very interesting and varied). We walked in using the Canal and Country trail which is mostly through woodland, close to the original canal line but just a little away. We were intrigued by seeing a grass cutter with a remote control machine - copes with banks where new rules mean that ride on mowers or even hand held strimmers are not permitted. The operator was quite happy to chat about it and claims that he can get through a lot more grass than before.

We emerged just before the parish church and the start of the High Street.

Although many of the buildings are old, not all have elegant modern uses! This car showroom dates from the mid to late 15th century.

We enquired about the location of a supermarket (Tesco seems the only one) but were sent on a wild goose chase completely the wrong way out of town. However it did give us a chance to see some more of the old buildings, including The Old Cottage and the former Congregational Chapel.

After re-tracing our steps we went through a narrow arcade of shops and were delighted to find one that specialises in making pork pie. The business - and the recipe - have been in the family for a long time. The wooden moulds used to shape the crusts belonged to the current owner's father.

We were told that regretfully they only had the large size left today - so sad that we just had to buy one! Part of it went well at lunch time.

As we left the town centre we took time to visit the church. Although there has been a church on this site for a very long time, the present building was built in the Georgian style and once had a gallery on three sides. Only the West End gallery now remains.

Most of the windows have highly decorative stained glass.

The East window had become very fragile and needs £65,000 reapirs. Whilst they are being done the window has been filled by art work done by a local school as part of a special project.

A modern sculpture is fixed to one of the main pillars.

At the back of the church there is a memorial with a link to the Battle of Trafalgar.

Leaving the church we walked back to the boat but this time followed the somewhat shorter but less interesting road route. Time for lunch - including a piece of that pork pie.

Once setting off it was not far to the Grindley Brook locks. We needed first to use the water point. With all four in action the pressure as not great so it took a while to fill up. When we moved down to the top lock there was only one boat waiting ahead of us and we completed the six locks in about three quarters of an hour. (But we had a good team!)

It was a beautiful evening and so we continued through another three locks before find a quiet spot to moor for the night.

After our evening meal, Mike and Alice went for a walk along the towpath and saw four particular things: the sun just going down below the horizon, red sky, so hopefully another good day tomorrow, daisies closing up their flowers for the night and ripples on the still water from bubbles coming up from the mud.

5.9 Miles - 9 Locks

Wednesday, 1 June 2016


Today's Canal - Llangollen

We awoke to a grey morning and a lot chillier than over the long weekend. However, by the afternoon the weather improved considerably and blue sky dominated, much warmer but a pleasant breeze so 'doing things' was not too tiring! Alas, we remained largely without internet - it appeared very briefly at one point during which we had an email update and Mike was able to send just one to Kings Lock about the Eberspacher. Not enough time, however,. to create yesterday's blog and tonight's will have to wait for another day.

Mike went to Tesco whilst the others were getting dressed and had a further look around the town centre, but did not find much new. When he returned to the boat, grass cutters (mower and strimmer) were at work on the towpath and quite keen for us to make a quick getaway as they have to take great care alongside boats - usually they have to wait for the boat to leave and then come back again. All too easily a boat can be left covered in fine grass cuttings. Not desirable and quite hard to clean off.

Ellesmere Tunnel may be one of the shortest but it is approached on a bend so that it is only possible to spot oncoming boats at the last minute. We had to wait for two - the first was a rather strange and ornate version of an Oxford barge. Please do not spot the front centre line almost falling off the edge - we fixed that just as soon as we could get through the tunnel.

We had a pleasant run alongside the Meres - Alice opted to have a driving lesson, the first of three today and she took the tiller for quite a long time.

Passing the junction with the Prees Branch, you can see just how dull the sky was.

After the following lift bridge we pulled onto a vistor mooring close to the Mosses Walk we noted on the way up. Buty first came lunch and then we set off, having found a good guide in a box at the lift bridge.

The area was established as a raised peat bog a very long time ago but did become quite a centre for peat extraction. This became gradually depleted and trenches in the ground meant that the whole area became unnaturally waterlogged. In the late 1990s the last full time peat collector retired and not long after the area was protected so that the bog could eventually return to its more natural state. It does, nevertheless, require active conservation.

A number of walks are signposted and we took one that was just about two miles. A can be seen, blue sky started to re-appear and it was a very pleasant walk. Quiet soon we could see the formation of peat and the special kinds of plant growth.

We also met a keen wildlife photographer with a very expensive camera and long lens. He was more than happy to talk about what he had spotted and captured. Some amazing close up  pictures of a stonechat and mate. From what he told us,. today would have been a poor day for many similar birds that live on insects as they are only really in sufficient supply on sunny days. Two days without food and the chicks can easily perish. At least they then provide a meal for the carnivorous birds!

The reeds look like cotton plants.

Just before our walk brought us back to the towpath it passed the remains of a peat mill, driven by a small petrol engine. The rotating drum sieved out the coarse bits so that the finer part could be bagged and sold to gardeners.

Walking along the towpath there was an abundance of wild flowers and many different types of grass. We took out time and saw so much more than when passing by quickly. Look at the markings on the clover leaves.

Mike spent some time tracking this bee as it flitted from one flower to another - it only visited just the one type - as it gathered nectar.

This house seemed to have a one hole golf course in the garden (just the hole, no tee!)

We continued a little further with time for Alice to get in some more steering practice. Only one lift bridge this time. The couple in the car were not waiting to cross, they seemed to sitting and watching passing boats, enjoying the crew exhausting themselves with up 80 turns of the windlass to raise the deck.

When we came to pull in for the night it took rather longer than usual as we picked a place where the bank was shallow in places and we strugghled a while to find enough depth to get the boat close to the bank.

11.4 Miles - 0 Locks