New Waters

From England - Wales Border to The Queen's Head PH (Montgomery Canal), a distance of 19 miles, 2½ flg and 11 locks.

We got up to a slightly misty and damp morning which made the Moss look even more desolate and eery than it normally does.

But the sun soon burned through the mist and the cloud and it was quite pleasant by the time we made it to Blakemere Visitor Moorings

Fisherman at the mere
Looking across the mere.

A couple of boats had cast off in front of us and we were at the tail end of a little convoy as we approached the tunnel.

As we exited Ellesmere Tunnel (western entrance) we met an ice-cream boat ( I don’t think they were going to do much business) who seemed to be intent on going into the tunnel with just a small hand held torch for a light (They did actually have a front headlight but it was obscured by what looked like a storage cupboard).

We had to pull into the bank immediately after Red Bridge No 58 to let Mountbatten and Jellico past as there were just a few too many boats milling round the Ellesmere Branch Junction

The section from Ellesmere on is quite pretty as the canal winds its way through the open countryside but at times it does feel like you’re not really making any progress and I was anxiously checking the time as I really didn’t want us to miss our booking.

We got to Frankton Junction and there were three boats moored up – two were going down and one was just moored up and doing some painting.

Commemorative plaque on the Lock Keeper’s Hut at the top lock.

We seemed to sit round for ages – which is odd because the locks themselves seemed quite quick.

Boat leaving the bottom lock of the staircase.
Looking down to the next lock from the staircase.
Looking back to the staircase from below.
House on the offside above the bottom lock.
Leaving the bottom lock

We left the bottom lock and the canal ahead looked almost abandoned – it was full of reeds and seemed to be extremely shallow as we made almost no headway at any revs, even at tickover and I was seriously concerned about how far we’d actually get. But as we approached Weston Arm Junction the canal suddenly widened and got deeper.

Graham Palmer Lock No 4 was added when they restored the canal to counter changes in ground levels since the canal shut and so is only a few inches deep. Sheltered in the trees to one side is the memorial to Graham Palmer the founder of the Waterways Recovery Group.

Photo of the Graham Palmer memorial at lock 4
The memorial to Graham Palmer. The image is a recent replacement as the memorial stone is very soft and the original carving had deteriorated.

The canal along this section could have good views but in many places trees and shrubs hide most of it, but the sun was shining so it was quite pleasant.

There is a long straight between Perry Aqueduct and Keeper’s Bridge No 73 and although you are level with the ground the trees and bushes almost make it feel like you are in a cutting. There isn’t really much left of Keepers Bridge – just a narrowing of the canal, and the vague remains of  a track on the towpath side of the canal.

From Green Wicket Corner to Rednal Basin the canal runs in another long straight – which sort of makes sense : if you’re building a canal across a moss then why bother putting bends in unless they’re absolutely necessary.

Rednal Basin is a bit of a let down really – the entrance has a fixed low level bridge and there is nowhere to moor up and go explore the nature reserve that has been established as part of the canal restoration.

Rednal Basin entrance
The entrance to Rednal Basin – now an “offline” nature reserve

A couple of bends brings you to Heath House Railway Bridge and a nicely restored canalside packet house, and the start of another long straight down to The Queen’s Head PH (Montgomery Canal) where there are some moorings and two bridges for the A5. Queen’s Head Bridge No 76 was built when the canal was restored and replaced the original bridge that had basically been flattened – it can’t have been cheap to do.

The rebuilt Queen's Head bridge
The rebuilt Queen’s Head bridge

Then a few years later they built a bypass and put the A5 on the higher level Queen’s Head Bridge No 76A leaving the original bridge to basically just take a small amount of local traffic.

The new Queen's Head Bridge
The new Queen’s Head Bridge

The first of the three Aston locks marks the start of another long straight. Alongside Aston Top Lock No 5 there is a nature reserve which was built when they restored the locks to move plants and wild life out of the canal channel. I think this canal is the only place where this has happened and it must have added a significant cost to the overall restoration.

Considering that the number of boats allowed on the canal each day is limited the locks were in very good condition and easy to work and with only the two of us we made very good time through them.

Park Mill Bridge Winding Hole is immediately before Park Mill Bridge No 78 but it’s actually hard to work out where the canal goes as you approach it.

Park Mill Bridge and Winding Hole
Park Mill Bridge from the Winding Hole

The The Navigation Inn (Maesbury) marks the centre of the only real settlement you’ll find on this part of the canal  – it’s about twice the size of Queen’s Head, but it seemed to closed as we passed so we didn’t stop. There is a CRT services block by Maesbury Marsh Bridge No 79 and a rather fine crane on the wharf.

Maesbury Wharf Crane
The Crane at Maesbury Wharf

Gronwyn Wharf marks the end of the current navigation although there is a good length of canal in water beyond this point there isn’t another winding hole.

Gronwyn Wharf
Gronwyn Wharf – the current end of the canal

We then made our way slowly back up the canal before stopping and going to the pub for the evening. The Queen’s Head isn’t a bad pub at all – the food was good as was the beer. It was quiet but given the Covid epidemic that wasn’t unexpected and we were just about the last people to leave.

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