The Montgomery Canal

11th October 2014 (a little delayed post due to O2’s 3G dead zone)

As I write this we have been out from Overwater for just over a week and so far, for once, we have stuck to the schedule.  Sunday to Nantwich, Monday to Wrenbury, Tuesday to Whitchurch, Wednesday to Ellesmere, Thursday to Maesbury Marsh (on the Montgomery Canal), Friday stayed put and walked the un-navigable section to Pant on the Welsh border and Saturday (today) we turned Oakmere around 250 yards beyond Crofts Mill Lift Bridge – you can go no further.  Tonight we are moored on the Weston Branch, in pole position for ascending the Frankton staircase which is manned and only open between 12:00 and 14:00.

I am sure some would complete this round trip within a week but where is the fun in rushing.

Much work remains to join up the entire Montgomery Canal (35 miles from Frankton to Newtown) but I am just grateful and amazed to cruise those first seven miles to Maesbury Marsh; when I first passed the entrance to the canal at Frankton in 1977, there was little trace of the canal which had closed in 1944, harder still to imagine it would ever re-open.

Oakmere remains an absolute joy.  She is a heavy boat with a larger draught than normal which means she handles beautifully, sitting rock steady in the water – the only downside being she takes some extra muscle to bow haul and she will find shallow water quicker than most (exactly like Florence).  Not only is the engine a joy to behold, the 3 cylinder Beta Marine sounds wonderful and generates masses of heat which permeates the entire boat – the true heart of the machine.

The weather has been mixed throughout, hardly a day without a monsoon shower. Equally there have been glorious periods of bright light, particularly in the morning and early evening when the low sun floodlights a sparkling wet world.  It has been a memorable trip and we are only just over half way … much effort remains for the hard-pressed crew 😉

A selection of images from the trip – not all in chronological order and not all on the Montgomery:

Narrowboat Oakmere in the evening light ... Narrowboat Oakmere Llangollen Canal Artwork at Ellesmere Junction ... Maesbury Marsh African Queen Oakmere in the evening light Morning mist ... All that remains ... Water under troubled bridge Narrowboat Oakmere
Narrowboat Oakmere
Evening light
Evening light
Slow down, you move too fast


Travel theme: Hidden

This is the entrance to Chirk Tunnel on the Llangollen Canal; I am hidden in the dark as the narrowboat enters the 495 yards of dank dark underground waterway dug into a Welsh hillside.  The boat is the Anglo-Welsh Water Daffodil which we hired out of Nantwich in 1977; once considered a very desirable boat, the odd example can still be seen on the waterways in private hands, most in a sorry state.

At the entrance, nearly hidden, stands young Alice waiting to be lifted back on the boat before disappearing down the rabbit hole.  I have not kept on good terms with Time who is not to be trusted – I realise that this version of Alice Liddell will now be in her late thirties:

`If you knew Time as well as I do,’ said the Hatter, `you wouldn’t talk about wasting it. It’s him.’
`I don’t know what you mean,’ said Alice.
`Of course you don’t!’  the Hatter said, tossing his head contemptuously.  `I dare say you never even spoke to Time!’
`Perhaps not,’  Alice cautiously replied: `but I know I have to beat time when I learn music.’
`Ah! that accounts for it,’ said the Hatter. `He won’t stand beating. Now, if you only kept on good terms with him, he’d do almost anything you liked with the clock’.
 – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland.

Chirk TunnelThis provides the perfect excuse to insert the Tom Waits track, Alice: