At long last the weather has picked up a bit and we have had a few days of rain-free cruising. What a difference. I even had my jacket off yesterday and was cruising with only three layers on, so summer is definitely here at last.
Last weekend we had our first overnight guests stay. An old school pal of mine, Vic and his first mate Liz, live a few miles from the canal, and were keen to be our guinea pigs for the weekend. I am not sure who enjoyed the experience more, them or us. We met them in Middlewich and trundled down that part of the Shropshire Union before joining the main line and turning right on the Llangollen. Having two pairs of extra hands meant we made good progress, though this is not an area that is as heavily locked as that from Kidsgrove to Wheelock - “Heartbreak Hill” – the 26 locks that we did on Thursday and Friday. Pat slept well on those nights.
|Traffic jam at the Swanley flight on the Llangollen|
Anyway we completed nearly 20 miles over the weekend, at a fairly leisurely pace. I knew the Llangollen would be busy, but on Sunday morning we experienced our first traffic jam when we got in line behind four boats all waiting to go up the Swanley flight. My pal Jan from narrowboat Jandai told me to watch out for the bywash on entering the locks on the Llangollen and she was not joking. It took me three locks to get the hang of it, and a couple of bumps, but I’m cool with it now. Not much phases me now. I am feeling a lot more confident with my boat handling in general, which is just as well as I am finding this is a very busy waterway.
|The Cat's Whiskers first overnight guests, Vic & Liz|
We moored up Sunday lunchtime in bright Shropshire sunshine in Wrenbury and had lunch in “The Dusty Miller” - another Jan recommendation, that a pub that Vic and Liz also knew well, and they treated us to a very substantial roast. They then packed up their stuff and walked down to the railway station for a train and bus ride home, but we will see them again on the way back, I am sure. Vic is now talking about getting a small boat, so it looks like he has got the bug as well. Wrenbury is not much more than a village, and it is the first place we have found ourselves with no phone signal , no internet signal and no TV signal.
|Pat stops the rush-hour traffic at Wrenbury. A bike, a tractor and two dogs|
The day after we crept further towards the Welsh Border on to Whitchurch in Shropshire where we are having two days off from cruising to enjoy the sunshine and take it easy for a bit. Huge queues on the staircase flight at Grindley (three hours hanging around) but so what – we have nothing else to do. We are currently moored in a little cut that originally went into Whitchurch, but which now ends a mile from the town centre. Whitchurch is an attractive little town, with a lot of good pubs. Still having a few problems with our washing machine so doing our towels and bedlinen at local launderettes as we move around so this afternoon in between polishing the boat, we visited said establishment and also Tesco.
|Pat's getting the hang of the tiller|
Going to have another day here tomorrow and set off for Ellesmere on Thursday. Want to try to get to Llangollen by Sunday. Surprisingly we are informed that it’s quiet there over weekends. And next Tuesday the Olympic flame comes that way and is going over the Ponteysylite Aquaduct the wonder of the Waterways, hand-hauled on a heritage boat, so we might hang around to watch it go over, before we head back and to Chester.