I cannot resist one further post on the subject of our recent canal trip.  Surprisingly, the most memorable night of the trip was the one that promised the least.  Obliged to moor at the bottom of the Frankton flight in order to be there for the limited lock opening times (12:00 to 14:00), the sky put on a fantastic show .

We tied up at the epicentre of nowhere as day turned to night and clouds rolled in from the west threatening the end of the world – the cloudburst was not long in coming:

Storm brewing

Within half an hour the rain had disappeared to the east and a lowering sun floodlit a dripping world. On the way down the flight I had noticed plaque to Cressy at the exit to the second lock so it was a short walk over Lockgate Bridge and up the flight for a closer inspection. The full story of Cressy is told in this book – it could be argued that this is the starting point for the entire revival and renovation of England’s canal system. The reason we can still travel these waters is almost entirely due to L T C Rolt and his crusade against the canal closures. We have much to be grateful for:

Cressy plaque

Narrowboat Oakmere
Evening ...

The humpback canal bridge at the Weston Branch junction, Lockgate Bridge 71, is not entirely compatible with 21st century vehicles, especially modern-day farm machinery. From the water the bridge looks quite innocent, but because the canal sits on embankments above the adjacent landscape, the approach roads on either side climb particularly steep ascents. Not only is approaching traffic invisible but for a tractor carrying a plough, it is near disastrous – nobody was injured – the driver having glimpsed the heavens thought better of it, reversed down the slope and took a different route:

Lockgate Bridge 71 Lockgate Bridge 71

Finally, I cannot close without mentioning again Oakmere’s glorious engine room.  It is the beating heart of the boat which generates a warm glow throughout the cabins; it looks wonderful and sounds like it was conceived by Thor – the Youtube clip makes it seem a bit clackety but nearer the end of the clip you begin to hear its true deep thud – bliss 🙂

Note the Brasso and the shining metalwork – that’s why my elbows ache!  Why four chimneys you may ask – I leave you to work it out/offer suggestions (owners of similar vessels don’t get to play 😉 )

Narrowboat Oakmere

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