In and out of Wales – Or Three Drunks in a Canoe

From The Queen's Head PH (Montgomery Canal) to New Marton Bottom Lock No 2, a distance of 21 miles, 2¼ flg and 9 locks.

It was a good thing that whilst we were out on the boat England and Wales had the same restrictions when it came to Covid19 control. The Llangollen crosses the border three time between Whitchurch and Llangollen – twice in the section by Whixhall Moss, and once by Chirk.

We got up to a slightly misty and chilly but sunny morning, with the sun adding a nice warming glow to things

In the mist

The early mornings at this time of year can be amazing, they can be foggy, they can be frosty, they can be sunny or a mix of any of these but so many people sleep through it. I think some of our best early mornings have been on the September holidays.

In the mist

The sun quickly burned off all traces of mist any by the time we reached the end of the long straight at Heath House Bridge No 74 the sky was clear blue and it looked like the weather was set fair for the rest of the day.

The Packet house at Heath House
Heath House and the packet house.

We made our way back to Weston Arm Junction and turned into the arm so we could empty the porta-potti at Weston Arm Services (C&RT). Well that was the idea – we did also wonder about filling up the water tank but the waterpoint moorings were full with moored up boats who weren’t watering and obviously hadn’t been watering.

The CRT services building in the Weston Arm

At first sight the services building, which is right at the end of the short navigable stretch, looks derelict, but behind the slightly ramshackle door there is a nice, clean, services block.

The Weston branch canal ran for several miles, the section in water beyond the services is another nature reserve.

We reversed back down the arm – with some rather foul stares from the people moored over the water points and headed off to Frankton Bottom Lock No 3 to start our ascent off the canal.

There seemed to be no CRT volunteer lockies on the bottom lock and it was rather chaotic – we went into the empty lock and started to fill it and a boat coming down drifted over onto the offside and got stuck because the pound was low. We worked ourselves through Frankton Middle Lock No 2 and ran some extra water through into the pound below. At the staircase I talked to the Lockie and told him what was going on and he said he’d run some more water down. Looking back I could see that the boat was still stuck aground and now there were two boats in the pound.

We got to Frankton Junction and turned left and headed off up the canal towards Llangollen.

Nick hopped off near Lion Quays and went to the garage on the A5 to grab some basic supplies and came back with all that he went for plus two rather tasty Cornish Pasties. So it’s good to know that it’s there but it’s not the easiest place to get to because it’s on the side of the A5 that has no towpath access.

The section of canal from Poachers Pocket Visitor Moorings to The Bridge Inn (Chirk) is usually a bit of a nightmare with lots of boats moored or trying to moor but for once we managed to get through the section without people doing stupid things in boats.

As we crossed Chirk Aqueduct it started to rain, luckily not heavily as Mintball really doesn’t get on with any of the aqueducts or tunnels on the canal – well not when you’re going upstream!

We had to wait for a couple of boats to come out of Chirk tunnel before we could go into it and start making slow progress. This progress wasn’t helped by some idiot on a boat at the northern end who seemed to have an LED headlight that fired a very tight bright beam of light through the tunnel. Can’t see how it would help you steer your way through a tunnel and I’d hate to be coming towards him in a wide bore tunnel.

I’ve always felt that the section of canal round Froncysyllte Aqueduct would be much better if they cleared some of the trees off the side of the hill so you could get a better view across and along the valley to Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.

However even if they had we wouldn’t have been able to admire the view due to the canoe wobbling it’s rather erratic way along the canal. There were three men in it, all extremely the worse for drink, and although they seemed to be having a good time everyone on the other canal boats coming the other day, and the people walking their dogs on the towpath, seemed extremely concerned for their welfare.

Eventually, after nearly capsizing multiple times, they pulled into the side and one of the guys leapt off and ran off into the woods – either to relieve himself or to be sick. As we passed the canoe you could smell the booze and the bottom of the canoe had about 6 inches of water sloshing around in the bottom of it, along with multiple empty cans of lager.

We crept past them slowly, giving them as wide a berth as possible and headed to Coedfryn Winding Hole where we turned, having decided that it really wasn’t worth going any further given how bad the weather now was.

The canoeists, and the canoe, were nowhere to be seen on the way back, so I guess they’d dragged themselves out somewhere.

The grim weather continued right until we moored for the night just beyond the moorings below New Marton locks.

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