Sunday 30th and Monday 31st August; Prees Arm junction to Ellesmere, Ellesmere to Frankton Junction
We had a lovely quiet and sunny mooring so we stayed put for a little while, watching the boats go by while rubbing down and varnishing the galley window (Dave) and cleaning the rest of the boat (me). We didn’t set off till after 11, the weather still quite sunny, and stopped opposite Cole Mere for lunch. Last time we came this way we moored at Blake Mere where the mere banks were lined with fishermen and it was very busy, but Cole Mere was gloomy under the trees and when we saw how quiet Blake Mere was we wished we’d gone on a bit. Never mind.
Boats can’t pass in Ellesmere Tunnel so you must make sure it’s empty before going in. The eastern approach is on a bend, which means you have to move out across the canal to check before realising you have to come back and wait. It also means that if the boat coming out takes too long looking behind to check where the boat is behind him, he gets stuck on the outside of the bend! At least he could tell us there was another boat coming. This seems to be a new-style tunnel information board; after the tragedy in the Harecastle last year you are now ‘strongly advised to wear a buoyancy aid/lifejacket’
As we approached the start of the long Ellesmere moorings, we were warned of a boat ‘swinging out’ into the cut; it was the impatient hirers from Grindley Brook who must have gone shopping. Two of their three mooring pins had been pulled out – hardly surprising with the speed some boats have been going, but the third hadn’t been banged in very far anyway so actually it wasn’t very surprising at all. We secured their boat properly before mooring further on round the bend, by two of the elements of the Ellesmere Sculpture Trail.
We didn’t think much of the one above, and clearly the dogs preferred the hedge to the one below!
We went for a stroll round Ellesmere, which had bunting across the streets for Carnival Weekend. We missed the procession, which was yesterday, and most of the shops were shut as it was Sunday afternoon. When we got back I took Meg for a good run up the towpath. On our way out I spotted Inca on the visitor moorings opposite the service area, and on our way back there was Carolyn walking her dog, so we had a nice chat. They are going up to Llangollen too, so we should see them again.
7 miles today, no locks or lift bridges.
Monday dawned grey and wet. Yes, I was awake at dawn – we thought we had moored beyond the drip-line of the trees in the hedge, but it turned out that we hadn’t …. but we didn’t get up early, and waited for the rain to stop before we went shopping. This is one of the more fetching ornaments we have seen on a boat roof! His feline friend is put quite in the shade by his exuberant hair, which looks like the purple moor grass which you can buy in the garden centre.
As it was Bank Holiday the butcher and baker were closed, but the hardware and tool shop by the car park was open so Dave could get the bits and pieces he needed, then of course a trip to Tesco was in order. For lunch we had some delicious chilli and cheese bread which was being promoted by a young lady in Tesco, then decided to move on as it had stopped raining. While the water tank filled we chatted to Gary and Carolyn on Inca across the other side. They are inside as by this time it was raining again.
A little way round the bend was Saturn, the ‘last horse-drawn Shropshire Union Canal fly boat in the world’. Fly-boats worked round the clock, delivering perishable products. (In ‘Maidens’ Trip’ by Emma Smith, an account of a crew of young women working a motor and butty on the Grand Union during the war, the author describes how the working boats always had to give way to the fly-boats delivering beer). Saturn has been restored and is run by volunteers of the Shropshire Union Fly Boat Project.
For such a short time on the move we saw an unusually large number of interesting things. In spite of the rain we saw several kingfishers and then an interesting example of boat gardening. If it’s what I think it is it should be tucked up in the warm with a bright grow-light to keep it happy! Unless it’s being grown for bird-seed, of course. Which it surely is.
We soon pulled in on the lovely moorings just above Frankton Junction. Dave took Meg for a walk down the Monty, where he took a few snaps. The Welsh Frankton bit on the mile marker seems rather superfluous.
I seem to remember the Graham Palmer memorial stone was in a poor state when we first came down the Monty long ago on our share boat. I think the stone may have been restored but can’t find any information about it.
Just two and a half miles today.