Rings and Things
Our first canal trip was in a boat hired from Canal Cruising Company in Stone. 1976 was the year of the drought with hosepipe bans in force from mid-February onwards. James Brindley II was in the vivid green livery still used by CCC today - it was 36ft long and slept six.
One bedroom also doubled as lounge/diner and when the table was erected it rendered the front door unusable. The toilet was flushed by pumping a handle at the side with drew water in from the canal and returned it along with your deposits. In order to get our money's worth we drove ten hours every day and so reached Llangollen in six days which gave us ample time to replenish the crew and return to Stone within our fortnight. It was a very memorable trip for many reasons many of which I would be too embarrassed to recount here. One thing which still sticks in my mind was the tunk, tunk which accompanied the evening birdsong as fellow boaters hammered mooring pins into the dry ground. This year we made our second trip along the Llangollen Canal although we could not venture past Trevor with a draught of 33 inches. Of the changes we noted the most remarkable is the profusion of prepared moorings - rings, piling or bollards - we didn't use mooring pins once.
Canal Cruising Company is still hiring boats and gained some publicity recently when they prepared Terry Darlington's boat Phylils May for its ridiculous channel crossing which he chronicled in Narrow Dog to Carcasonne.
Giant Haystacks Time
Around the time of this first trip on the Llangollen Canal was the era when Grannies all over the country would spend Saturday afternoon shouting at the TV as the likes of Jackie Pallo, Mick McMannus (not to be confused with Mark McMannus who starred in Taggart) and Giant Haystacks pretended to beat the **** out of each other in what was called professional wrestling. It was fortunate that the commentator, Kent Walton, was heard and not seen as he must have found it difficult to keep a straight face describing their antics in such a serious manner. The entrance to the Llangollen Canal is guarded by what claims to be the narrowest locks in the English system - at Hurlesden. A local farmer has been adorning one of his fields each year for the past decade with sculptures built from straw bales. These have included The Millennium Dome, the London Eye, an ice cream cone, a Jersey cow, a windmill and Jodrell Bank.
This year his offering is St. Stephen's Tower, Westminster ( see Blog post - Who has seen Big Ben - 6 June 2007)
Some things have not changed
We were surprised to find the butty Saturn on the bank at Ellesmere with its elum removed. I did not realise it was still around.
Boats in the Sky (for Denny & Nikki)
The highlight of such a trip has to be the two aqueducts at Chirk and Pont Cysylte. After waiting for 30 minutes to capture a photograph of a train and boat crossing their respective structures simultaneously I gave up.
She who must be obeyed had more luck than I.
Flying Boats (for Dave)
The most unexpected event occurred in the Bridge Inn in Chirk Bank. Dave's research discovered that Wednesday night was quiz night so we tried to mingle unnoticed (unsuccessfully) with the locals for an evening of humiliation (successful). The only question I thought I knew the answer to proved incorrect. The first trans-Atlantic flight was made by Alcock and Brown in June 1919 in a Vickers Vimy which had been assembled in Leighton Buzzard on the canal-side site now occupied by Tesco. Or so I thought. Apparently about a month earlier a US Navy Curtiss flying boat made a crossing from new York state to Lisbon. This took 10 days 22 hours with two stops in the Azores. Over that period the plane was in the air for 26 hours 46 mins. Alcock and Brown, of course, made their crossing in one hop of 16 hours 12 mins. Despite my efforts we managed to finish one place above the bottom which seemed to satisfy the locals. They were a little less satisfied when Dave's ticket was drawn and he masterful playing of Play your cards right netted the jackpot and cleaned out the quiz kitty.
We may have to wait another 30 years before we venture that way again.