John Dodwell gives us the latest installment of his boat trip around the north of England.
I went into the Ellesmere Arm briefly before heading - through unmistakable Cheshire dairy cattle land - for Frankton Locks, the start of the Montgomery Canal (which is a lot quieter than the Llangollen).
These locks are only open for two hours a day - but you can ring in at up to 10am of your morning of passage. There are two reasons for the restrictions. One is that the two lock staircase has locks - unusually - of unequal size and thus visiting boaters unaware of this can cause flooding when filling the lower (smaller) lock.
The other reason is a limit of 2,500 boat movements a year since part of the Montgomery Canal (around Aston) is a nature reserve - albeit there are no signs to indicate this.
Three boats were going down and one going up. I stopped for lunch in the stub end of the Weston Arm before going on through Graham Palmer Lock. This is a memorial to a great guy who started the Waterway Recovery Group of the IWA and who had great enthusiasm to see the Montgomery restored.
I had stopped for the previous night just before Aston top lock and in the morning looked around the nature reserves made by the WRG when they restored Aston Locks.
As I travelled on, I could see the hills gathering in the distance. I stopped at Maesbury Wharf where there's a facilities station (and a good pub/eatery at 'The Navigation' and some good historical interpretation signs) before going on to Bridge 82, the present temporary terminus.
Although the next section has been restored and so is in water, there's no winding hole and so boats like HELEN at 51 ft can't turn. That there is hope for the future is shown by the yellow sign just before.The next section of restoration - which has just started - aims to get to Crickheath winding hole, so resolving a problem.
One of the very unusual features of the Canal here is COUNTESS, a purpose built horse drawn boat, making use of the pulling power of the horse Cracker - so this provides a way of travelling along the recently restored section. Some of you may know that Cracker (apparently) writes a column in 'Towpath' magazine.
I was last down here in 2009. Last year I became chair of the Montgomery Canal Partnership, a group of local authorities, statutory groups and voluntary societies along with the Trust, whose aim is to see the Montgomery restored. Raising the money has always been the problem rather than great engineering problems. This is not the place to go into detail about our plans but I hope you will soon be able to hear more about them.
I have left HELEN at Maesbury for about ten days. On my return, I shall go back to Hurleston and join the Shroppie and then the Staffs & Worcs, aiming for the Stourbridge Bonded Warehouse Open Weekend.
John Dodwell was formerly one of our 10 trustees. He owns Helen, a 51ft old BCN tug/icebreaker which draws 3ft and is based near Stourbridge, West Midlands. His waterways interest goes back to the early 1960s.
John’s been involved in the waterways since the early 1960s and he enjoys all aspects of the waterways. To pick out one oddity, he was pleased and surprised to see about a dozen herons this June around the BCN Main Line, including two under the M6 motorway!See more blogs from John Dodwell