Meandering On The Montgomery and Llangollen Canals

Since our humble beginnings in April 2007 of four days and nights on a hire boat, we’ve traversed almost all the UK Inland Waterways network. No mean feat I might add – it includes over 2,000 miles of navigable waterways, mostly interconnected. Last month we were able to add a stretch to our list. The delightful Montgomery Canal. To be perfectly truthful, we only experienced the first seven miles of this special canal. That’s the short navigable section via the Llangollen Canal; from Frankton Locks to Gronwyn Wharf. We’d love to one day travel the whole length to Montgomery. The likelihood of it being restored while we’re fit enough seems slim sadly.

We’d been toying with wintering on the Llangollen this year, as it’s so close to my eldest daughter not far from Whitchurch. But the Hurleston Locks closed on Monday 4th November for repair. The bottom lock is having one of its walls re-built, a rather massive and badly needed mission, not re-opening until 30th March. So if we’d been on the canal on 4th November there we’d be stuck till spring. It felt too claustrophobic for us – plus public transport, internet coverage, and places for Barry to send orders away were few and far between.

So we ‘escaped’ from the Llangollen on Sunday 3rd November, and are slowly making our way towards Chester. We love the winter mooring extensions, where most 48 hour spots become 14 days. This part of the system feels like ‘home’ to us, having spent over six months at Tattenhall Marina from August 2013 to February 2014. Barry had to return to New Zealand for his first visa application during that time. Six years later we have his ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’, and now in the process of applying for his citizenship. Long, laborious and expensive. But we’re on the ‘home’ straight now!

Back to the Montgomery …

A Narrowboat Experience Experience!

We’d planned to meet Kath and AnnaMarie, from ‘Narrowboat Experience’, at Frankton Locks on Thursday 24th October. We first met this inspiring couple at The Black Country Boating Festival last September, and instantly jelled with their enthusiasm, optimism and courageous outlook on life. They recently asked us if we’d take part in an up-and-coming Vlog series they’re planning. Feeling most honoured, we eventually found a mutually suitable date when we were both on board and available.

Check out their Vlog channel – they post weekly entertaining insights into their boating life. I can only imagine how much work and commitment this must take. They seem to really enjoy being on the cut, and it’s pure joy to watch and listen to them. We’re so excited that one day we’ll be featuring in one of their vlogs! Watch this space, we’ll let you know when we go ‘live’ …

The Frankton Locks are manned all year round, by CRT staff and volunteers. Passage must be booked in advance – well by 10am on the day you want to travel. There’s only 12 slots, so in peak season I imagine you’d want to do that a few weeks beforehand!

Having waited years to get onto this waterway, sadly the weather gods decided not to let us see it at it’s best.

Sandra’s Short and Sweet Drive

I don’t drive Areandare much anymore. I used to. But somewhere along the line, from being off the boat so often and then working inside much of the time, I haven’t had a chance. Recently Barry has fixed some sort of electronic gadget thing onto the gear stick, so that he can better control the revs (he can explain it far better than me!). We have an unusual engine, a Beta Marine 50hp Mini Prop Gen. A few readers may understand that …

Basically it comes in two speed. 1100 revs or 1500revs. When the 1500 revs are on, we can use the electric oven and the washing machine without a hook-up. But it sounds like we’re going really fast. Even when we’re not. So cruising slowly past moored boats can be tricky. It was a challenge to get the revs at just the right pace. Hence Barry has done something magical to it.

I finally had a bit of space to do some driving while we were on the Montgomery. Luckily Barry didn’t leave me to it because not long afterwards he shouted “Watch that tree branch!“. Too late. I couldn’t figure out in time how to slow down, as the reverse revs were too low, and I couldn’t work out how to increase the them. The aforementioned tree branches had previously been chopped, but were hanging so low they banged into the canopy and our top boxes, almost shoving them off the roof.

Looking back …

That was the end of my driving for the foreseeable future. My confidence plummeted to the depths …

I reported the problem to CRT via Twitter (such a fantastic medium for getting things done swiftly I find), and they said they’d report it to the nearest CRT branch.

Re-visiting The Queens Head and An Early Start

My eldest daughter lived in West Felton some years ago. When Barry first came with me to England in April 2007, already fascinated by the canals, he walked for miles from there to The Queens Head, and did a sort of circular route that took him many hours!

I’d posted on our Facebook page that we were heading there, and someone we’d met in 2009 on the Rochdale flight in Manchester got in touch. He lived a few miles from there and met us for a drink. Chatting about the Rugby World Cup, David suggested his local pub may be showing the England vs New Zealand semi final the following morning, and he could pick us up to watch it.

Bright and early he did. And was kind enough to take us on a slight detour to see the Vyrnwyn Aqueduct, the largest structure on the canal at 89m long and 9.4m wide overall. It has five segmental arches, the north one of which is over land. On both days we’d scheduled for the Montgomery Canal, it rained persistently. Unsurprisingly after the inordinate amount of recent rain, the river levels we high. It would’ve been amazing to cruise above this …

Vyrnwyn Aqueduct Montgomery Canal

Sadly the pub that’d said it would be open early for the match wasn’t. So we went to David’s home in Arddleen, and watched England thrash the All Blacks embarrassingly. A rare occurrence indeed! I’ll say no more about that and what happened following the match – it could be a whole other blogs post about my feelings around the dissimilarities of each country …

About Turn and Back to Frankton

We weren’t entirely sure where the navigable section of the Montgomery ended, but came across a winding hole that looked like it could be the end of the line. Unfortunately we saw no notices anywhere to inform us to do so. So we asked the man at his wharf and he said yes.

We’d hoped that on the return journey the overhanging branch would be gone. Quite a big ask for CRT to have sorted it out in a couple of days. And a weekend to boot. They hadn’t …

Barry had no choice but to DIY – the canal is shallow on either side, and going straight down the centre meant scraping the top boxes and potentially our solar panels. In true kiwi-ingenuity-style he battled on until he’d extricated the offending branches and we continued.

CRT did get in touch via Twitter a day or so later to say they’d sorted it – which would’ve been a lot easier after Barry’s efforts 😉

Off In The Nick Of Time …

We went back up the Frankton Locks and off the Montgomery Canal on Sunday 27th October, and off the Llangollen down the Hurleston Locks in the nick of time Sunday 3rd November. Most of the time we were on the Llangollen I was off the boat – so Barry will be posting some of his far superior photos at some stage soon …

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7 thoughts on “Meandering On The Montgomery and Llangollen Canals

  1. That work on the Llangollen is happening none-too-soon! … I’ve been following Kath and AnneMarie’s adventures for a while now, they’re … well I was going to use a bunch of adjectives, when really only one will do … genuine. 😀 … I’ll definitely watch out for you there. 😀

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