Sunday, 29 November 2015

Jan said I should have gone yesterday

Jan told me I should have gone for the walk yesterday when the weather was better.  I hate it when she is right!  The temperature this morning was 1°C in the cratch  so I opted to put on a thermal vest and lightweight fleece under my lightweight rain jacket.  My error (do I make them) was in not taking my waterproof over trousers.  The plan was to complete a 24km walk to the NE of Ellesmere recording a number of public footpaths not on the Open Street Map (OSM).  I would return via the towpath.

The planned route is shown as the purple line in the map screen dump below.  My actual route is a combination of the green and red lines.

Ellesmere NE Walk

Of course the minute I left the outskirts of Ellesmere it started to rain getting steadily worse the further I got from Waiouru.  Some of the farm houses in this area are rather substantial.


We have an expression in NZ “Never met a poor farmer!” Smile

The countryside around here looks slightly similar to some of the lower NZ sheep county.


Although it would be fences rather than hedges.  Gorse is the curse of NZ.  The climate is perfect and it has no predators.  It was just past this point that I discovered I would have to back track and seek an alternative route.  The dairy farmer was disposing his milking shed effluent by allowing it to run down the hillside.  He had marked the boundary with an electric fence which was to keep his stock out and I didn’t feel like wading through the stuff.

A couple of kilometres later I realised the batteries in the gps were going flat and if I wasn’t careful I might find myself taking the long route back.  To my surprise the footpath led to a substantial brick arch bridge.  I was anticipating a stream but the ground under it was dry.


Then I realised I had reached the former Whitchurch and Aberystwyth Railway.  Railways appeared in this part of England during the mid 19th century and by the mid 1960’s they had all been closed.  You can read more about them here.

Shortly after the bridge I deviated from the planned route and headed back towards Ellesmere along the A495 road.  I turned the gps off along this part of the walk which is why the route appears as straight lines in the map screen dump.  There is a road junction between the A495 and the A528 above Ellesmere Canal Tunnel (photo in yesterday’s post).  From there I walked the familiar towpath back to Waiouru where I received a warm welcome “Told you you should have walked yesterday!” After peeling off my soaking wet trousers I discovered my legs were cherry red with the cold.  Nothing that a hot shower couldn’t fix.  Now all I need to do is upload the recorded footpath data.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Round houses

Walking around Ellesmere today (nothing serious) I noticed a couple of round houses.  The first is on the junction of the canal arm and I’ve previously photographed it from a different angle.  Today’s photos were all taken with our old phone.


You can see the round section facing the canal.  Apparently the canal engineer Thomas Telford used to stay here when he visited to inspect the construction.  I’m somewhat cynical about this claim as also every town and village seems to boast about a building being used by Telford.  I’m more inclined to believe the round part of the building was used to monitor boat traffic.

There was a second building in Ellesmere with an unusual turret.


Why was it constructed?  The front appears to have bricked up windows.  A mystery!

The arm leading down to the winding hole and Tesco has filled with boats.  One assumes for the weekend.


I’m not sure I would want to moor here over winter as one of the locals told us the arm has frozen over to a depth of 8 inches. The main canal is less likely to freeze because it Is running water.

My walk took me back through the southern fringes of Ellesmere until I reached “The Mere”.  I thought The Mere referred to the lake to the east of the town, however I’ve discovered it is also the name of the park on the hill to the south of the town.  Eventually I found myself at the western portal of Ellesmere Tunnel.


I had been wondering what was above the tunnel and walked up to have a look.  I was slightly amused to see there is a road junction on top.  Not what I had been expecting.


On my way back to the boat I could see the signs of recent storm damage.  A large tree had fallen over close to the edge of the canal and had been cleared leaving the upturned root system.


With all the recent high winds we have been paying particular attention to our mooring locations.  Trees can provide shelter but they are also a potential hazard.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Boat for Sale

Not Waiouru……. Due to a change in circumstances Pip & Roger are selling Windsong.  You can read about it <here>.  Windsong is a Beacon Boat and I think she might have been undergoing fit-out when we visited Beacon as part of our tour of potential boat builders in 2009.  I was impressed with the quality of Beacon Boats and we would probably have placed an order with them except they had a 3 years waiting list for a build slot.  That probably tells you something about the quality.

We moved today and are now moored just outside Ellesmere.  I think these are the designated winter moorings but the solo boat here isn’t showing a winter mooring permit and it departed shortly after our arrival.  We changed our clothes this morning and Jan also did the laundry <sniff sniff>, it must be the toilet tank!


It has turned out to be a rather good mooring with both satellite and terrestrial coverage, including all Jan’s favourite channels.  We’re within walking distance of Ellesmere and the CRT water and rubbish are only a couple of hundred metres away.  We’ll probably be here a week.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Waste of a day

This was to be the day the new SIM was fitted to the phone so we could have internet access.  A 5 minute job which is still being completed after eight hours <grrr>.

The first problem was the decision to use the old Samsung phone.  Actually it made sense to use an old phone because it’s only going to be a static wifi router.  However the new SIM is micro size and the phone takes standard sized SIM cards.  I needed to fit the micro SIM into an adapter and then insert it into the slot in the phone.  Easier said than done!  After an hour of failed attempts I used sticky tape to hold the SIM in the adapter.  Then I realised the phone didn’t have the standard operating system (I’d modified it a year ago).  This meant I needed to re-flash the ROM back to original.  My first effort resulted in me “bricking” the phone.  Basically this means the phone was useless. 

Four hours were spent attempting to “unbrick” the phone.  Eventually I succeeded and managed to get the phone working, except there was no internet on the phone.  It was turning into one of those days! After fiddling around with the phone APN settings it decided to work.  Great, now I could download and install the VPN software onto the phone.  Six hours had elapsed and I’d been anticipating a five minute job.  But then the VPN software reported it couldn’t be installed on the phone because it (the phone) is too old.  It was enough to make you want to run out into the rain and look for hemlock.

The SIM is now in one of the new smartphones and the VPN software is working.

Jan made a strategic (perhaps diplomatic) trip into the town during the more frustrating moments.  Part of the trip was to look for buttons to sew onto the cardigan she is knitting for herself and probably partially to get away from her grumpy old man.  Anyway, she returned with chocolate and other comfort food.

On a more positive note we stopped the fuel boat Mountbatten as it was passing and topped up all three diesel tanks with a total of 179 litres along with a replacement calor gas cylinder.   We weren’t low on fuel but decided to make the most of the opportunity.


I wasn’t sure whether culvert 38 (currently closed for maintenance) was before or after Whitchurch and asked Jon on Mountbatten.  He informed me it Is before Whitchurch.  After looking at the Waterway Routes canal map I realise there’s little point in cruising down beyond the Prees Branch until the canal reopens. 

After leaving us Jon & Hannah were planning to go down the the junction and then return.  It will be a long and cold day for them.

Hopefully the last of the new mobile internet setup can be completed tomorrow.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Alternative Walk

The local walk didn’t eventuate, instead we caught the bus to Shrewsbury.  It was a 50 minute ride and certainly not boring.  If the countryside wasn’t interesting we could listen to the lady at the front telling everyone her family life history and concerns.  There must have been eight passengers aboard waiting for the bus to depart when she arrived.  The driver departed 5 minutes late because she decided to bash his ears before taking a seat.  Once seated she struck up a conversation with all the passengers around her.  It was an entertaining trip.

The main reason for our trip was to check the mobile data deals from the major networks.  The young lady who served us in the EE shop immediately picked up on our Kiwi accents telling us she was from Australia (probably doing her OE).  We asked where in Australia she was from and we were told “Adelaide!”  Actually she was from Victor Harbour which is another town SE of the city.  The deal was the standard £20 for 15Gb per month and she confirmed once the data had been used up you got cut off until the following month or bought additional data.  We left with her telling us “You have to buy a plan from a fellow local”  10/10 for salesmanship!  The young lady in the 3 shop told us the plan was £23 for unlimited data and text + 200 minutes.  The tethering allowance was 4Gb which would be cut off when used.  I informed her we had seen the tethering allowance on the website was 12Gb but she insisted it was 4Gb.  After that we headed to the “spoons” to have lunch; use the free wifi; and mull over our options.

After our cholesterol attack we went back to the 3 shop to tell the sales assistant the website definitely stated 12Gb of tethering.  She was most apologetic telling us she had also checked the website and we were correct.  The information displayed on the wall posters in the shop was out of date.  We opted for the plan from 3.  It Is slightly more expensive (by £3 per month) and we get 3Gb less tethering.  However the plan does have the 200 minutes and unlimited data for the phone.  Our strategy is going to be web browsing using tethering and any downloading directly to the phone. 

Jan wanted to visit two of her favourite shops (Poundland & Lakeland).  She buys in the former and drools in the latter!  Actually Jan makes a mental list of everything in Lakeland she will buy to take back to Australia.

Meanwhile I’m giving the local architecture the once over.


This one looked to be leaning in every direction.  But this next building looked even more interesting.


A couple of locals noticed me taking the above photo and one exclaimed to the other “How long has it looked like that?”)  Just goes to show some people don’t look at their surroundings.


The upper two floors of the pub looked like they might be going to fall into the street


It must be a very interesting task for the builder refurbishing the interior of one of these old buildings.  How do you fit square and plumb walls in a building where nothing is level or vertical!

Our bus trip back to the boat had more passengers but was much quieter. Smile  The next task will be to reconfigure the phones on the boat by swapping the various SIM cards around to ensure the new SIM is in the best phone.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

A short local walk

Thank you to those blog readers who commented on the recent problem with ID.  What I wanted to do was highlight a potential trap for anyone who read the post.  We have been burnt and a wise person should learn from others mistakes.  Mick, we know about the EE 15Gb plan and will check it out.  I’m drawn to the fact they cut you off rather than charge an excess fee.  George, looking at the Three website it appears they currently have some good specials.  I’ll be making sure we don’t get caught with an excess charge.  Peter, yes we feel ripped off.  Two expressions spring to mind

It’s 9 times easier to keep an existing customer than gain a new one

Good news travels fast.  Bad news travels even faster!

I went into the nearest Carphone Warehouse today to give the required 30 days notice of contract cancellation and was informed they can’t cancel the contract as they only sell the ID Mobile contracts and don’t have any other responsibilities.  I will now (reluctantly) phone ID to notify them and will be insisting they provide me with some type of reference number to confirm the notification has been received.

This morning we awoke to negative ambient temperatures, the first for this winter.  There was a light frost on the ground and over Waiouru.  However it was warm inside and we are still sleeping under our summer duvet.  I went for a local walk along the towpath and then back through the town via the mere taking a number of photos using the mobile phone.  It wasn’t until I attempted to download them onto the laptop that I discovered (remembered) I’d previously removed the micro SD storage card from the phone <Duh>.  So no photos <another seniors moment>.  No photos today folks!

Jan is going window shopping in Ellesmere tomorrow.  She needs some buttons for a cardigan she is knitting.  Tuesday is also the town weekly market so I guess she will browse the local produce.  Meanwhile I’ve been examining the map to identify a suitable route for a local walk.  This time I’ll make sure there is a storage card in the camera.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Got that Wrong!

The boat accountant and family chief financial controller was going through the online bank statement several days ago when she loudly exclaimed “What the hell!”  It appeared ID Mobile (Carphone Warehouse) had deducted £113 from our bank account at the beginning of November.  Obviously it’s a mistake as we have a monthly £20 deduction for our 20Gb of internet data. We watch the data closely in an effort to ensure we don’t exceed the data limit and get cut off.

I rushed off an email to ID Mobile querying why this had occurred.  They replied late the following day saying the deduction was correct and that we had probably been billed 10p for every Mb we had exceed over our 20Gb allowance.  On doing more in depth searching through the account I discovered ID showed we had exceeded our allowance in October by 1.4Gb.  This gave me two surprises.  First, that we had exceeded our allowance as I watch it every day and second; that instead of being cut off ID imposed an excess usage charge.  I pulled out the contract and re-read the fine print (two A4 pages) which required a magnifying glass as it’s so fine.  I could find nothing in our contract documentation about a charge for excess usage so I wrote a second email.  ID replied the next day advising the information was on their website.  It can be found in the Help & Advice section under mobile phones.

This is what I hate about direct debit systems.  You are giving the other party permission to rape and pillage their way through your savings.  My guess is that if the ID data usage record is correct then there must have been some type of automatic system update on one of our devices during the night which took us over the limit.  But I do think the 10p per Mb is excessive.

20GB for   £20

1.4Gb for  £93

ID Mobile use the 3 Mobile network.  I checked the 3 website and they charge 1p per Mb for excess usage.  If we had been with 3 the excess cost would have been £9.30.  I would have grumbled but would have been even more vigilant in future. 

Needless to say our contract with Carphone Warehouse is going to be terminated asap. 

We need another internet data provider and this time it would be one that doesn’t have any nasty surprises.  My research thus far is EE simply cut off your data when you reach your limit whilst Three charge you 1p per Mb excess.  O2 and T-Mobile belong to EE.  Vodafone canal coverage is so poor as to not consider it.  

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Maintenance Day

A light smattering of snow last night, our first for the 2015/16 winter!  The ground was too warm and none of it settled.  After a rather windy night we awoke to the forecast bright but cold day.  Jan could hear a humming sound from the bedroom wardrobe and I couldn’t think of anything in the wardrobe which would make a noise.  Eventually we resorted to emptying the wardrobe and even my bad hearing could make out the light humming.  My guess (correctly) was it might be the bow bilge pump.  Waiouru has both a bow and stern bilge pump which are both automatic (float switch) and manually operated.  The boat has dry bilges with a water lubricated dripless stern tube setup and a dry cratch because we have a cratch cover. 

I removed everything from the starboard (right) bow locker to find the bilge pump running.  Over the last three years enough condensation had formed in the cratch to put enough water in the bilge to activate the float switch but insufficient water existed to pump out the bilge.  Obviously we don’t want the pump to run dry 24/7.  The bilge also looked like it could do with a damned good clean.


Bilge pump removed

Once the pump had been removed from the bilge I could give it a good clean.  The wiring and float switch were then checked.  Finally I soaked up the small amount of condensation in the bottom of the bilge with an old sponge before giving it a clean with an old rag.


It Is obvious the bilge and bow locker will need some TLC next spring.  The pump went back in and is working correctly (that is to say it’s not working because the bilge is dry).

The second maintenance task was to replace the smoke detector in the saloon.  I gave it the regular monthly test last week and it didn’t “beep”.  It still didn’t “beep” after replacing the battery so I assumed it had reached the end of its life!  On Wednesday I went to B&Q (seniors discount day) and purchased a new detector.  The price was just under £5 which is a small price to pay for peace of mind and safety.  The lady at the till flattered me by telling me “You’re not 63!” when I handed over my discount card.  “No I’m not…. I’m older!”  I replied.  Then I thanked her for the compliment and discount.

The new saloon smoke detector is now functioning alongside the CO2 detector.


Saturday, 21 November 2015

Aground and a Cold Day

There we were in bed last night watching the weather forecast on the second TV (I know – decadent) realising it was probably going to snow tomorrow afternoon with bad weather for the weekend.  The forecast for the morning was light showers and sunshine which resulted in a decision to move before lunch.

Jan arose to a cold morning whilst I stayed in bed waiting for a hot cuppa….. and waited….. and waited….. until “Get up Tom it’s 7.30!”

We had last night’s mooring all to ourselves. 


A very exposed mooring which meant a good signal for both the ‘dot’ and the terrestrial TV.  However I wouldn’t want to be here in a storm.

It was a short cruise down to the water point above New Marton Top Lock.  There is good water pressure here however filling the tank still took some time after having additional crew for the last few days.  Jan got talking to a local dog walker who told her that he was a retired canal lockkeeper.  It was apparent he had a dry sense of humour when he told Jan that if she could see the trees on the hills in the above photo then it was about to rain.  If she couldn’t see the trees then it was raining!

We dropped down through the top lock only to run aground exiting it.  A combination of the by wash current and wind pushed Waiouru diagonally across the canal.  The lady from the canal cottage appeared and offered to help Jan pull on the centre line in an effort to free the boat.  Then two CRT workers arrived informing us they had dropped the water level in the pound between the top and bottom locks in order to expose the weir so they could remove all the debris.  They had completed this and were on their way back to the top lock to run more water down.  Once they had done this Waiouru floated off the mud bank.  Jan walked to the bottom lock whilst I slowly cruised in what was a stiff side breeze.  When we reached the bottom lock it was apparent how much debris had been removed from the weir.


The water level was normal below the lock and we made steady progress passing Maestermyn Cruisers Hire Base and Frankton Junction.  The weather alternated between cloud, light rain and sunshine.  Fuel Boat Montgomery was moored at Bridge 63 but no one appeared to be aboard.  We need a replacement gas cylinder, but it’s not urgent.  The diesel tank is still above half full and we have another 50 litres in containers.

Eventually we reached the CRT facilities at Ellesmere where we disposed of our rubbish before going down the arm and winding before mooring adjacent to a hedge but away from a rather large tree.  We’ll probably be here for the next three days waiting out the weather.  Tesco is at the end of the arm so we won’t starve! Smile

Friday, 20 November 2015

On Reflection

This morning our additional crew members left for London and their international connection.  Before departing they kindly left a copy of the photos they took during their stay aboard.  I find it interesting to see another perspective of boating on Waiouru.  Joyce has a GoPro camera and one of those “selfie sticks”.  Her photos provide a different view.

thumb_G3588505_1024I think the photos of us crossing the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct were the most interesting.


We are now moored above New Marton Locks having passed through a large diesel slick on the downstream side of Bridge 13W.  Some of the diesel has been pushed by the wind and is now passing around Waiouru.  I have advised CRT who are sending people out to investigate and assess the situation. 

It’s bad enough the people of Nantwich and Chester have to drink my shower water without adding diesel to the taste! Smile

Thursday, 19 November 2015


Apologies for the lack of posts over the last few days, we have family visiting and have been rather busy.  I was going to attempt to write a post last night but spent time outside in the high winds and rain attempting to secure everything on the cabin roof.

Today our guests wanted to do some local sightseeing so we went to Chester in their rental car.  It was their first visit to Chester whilst we have obviously been there before, including one trip by boat.  Actually we may be there around Christmas or New Year.

The Chester Christmas Market stalls were being setup outside the Town Hall and covered market.  It reminded me about our visit to the Birmingham German Christmas Market last year.  How time passes!


The Chester Christmas Market is nowhere the same size as Birmingham.  However I was attracted to this omnibus.


We walked a section of the city wall and stopped by the clock for the obligatory photo.


Daniel & Joyce

Chester is renown for it’s Tudor style buildings and ancient city walls.


Afterwards we headed to the Odeon theatre In Wrexham to watch the latest James Bond film.  Some good action scenes but the plot was too implausible for me.

We have a decision to make.  Do we cruise tomorrow in the forecast rain or wait until Friday for the forecast snow!

Monday, 16 November 2015

Wild Night and Adam’s Right!

With all the wind and rain neither of us got much sleep last night.  Waiouru keep bouncing against the concrete edge and the trees moaned overhead.  We’d only just gone to bed when I realised I hadn’t done anything extra to secure the solar panels on the roof.  Usually that isn’t a problem but last night the winds were the fiercest we’ve ever experienced. At 1am I went to the back hatch and checked the roof from the shelter of the pram cover.  This partially satisfied my concern but we were both up again at 4am.  This time I dressed and went outside for a closer look.  I’m pleased to write that there were no problems.

Today we walked back into Llangollen for Sunday lunch.  We opted for the same pub as last week.  Jan because she enjoyed the meal and me as I wanted to check where I’d get a Yorkshire pudding if I ordered the beef.  Adam (nb Briar Rose) left a comment on last Sunday’s post informing us you traditionally only get the pudding with beef.  After today’s lunch I can confirm he is right! 


This next photo is for our good friend Trevor back in Adelaide.  If you every wanted to tell someone to “get stuffed” this is the place for them to go in Llangollen.  It’s located beside the Bridge Hotel.


The local taxidermist

We wandered into town to buy some bread from the bakery where Jan admired the Welsh Dragons.  She thought her mother would like one but it probably wouldn’t last the distance.  It would be a green dragon by the time it arrived in Sydney! Smile


It must be getting closer to Christmas.  The council workers were erecting the coloured lights on the bridge and Jan also noticed a reindeer down a side alley.  It’s interesting how the Christians have incorporated ancient pagan traditions into the festive celebrations.  Somehow I don’t think there have been many wild reindeer in Palestine.


The River Dee has risen with the overnight rain and some canoeist were out having fun.


Saturday, 14 November 2015

The Eisteddfod, Bridge and Sainsbury’s

In contrast to the the weather forecast the morning was clear and sunny, but a little crisp.  I decided to walk back through Llangollen for another look at that chain bridge near Horseshoe Falls.

The linear canal moorings before the cafe are almost empty.  One boater informed Jan CRT had only allocated 5 winter moorings this year which was half of the previous years.

P1020130 It looks strange seeing a long line of empty moorings.

On the other side of of Llangollen is where the annual International Musical Eisteddfod is held.


I don’t recall seeing this large permanent ‘tent’ when I walked to the Falls in 2001.  I should mention an eisteddfod is a Welsh festival of literature, music and performance.

The first official Eisteddfod took place in 1947.  I did chuckle when reading the Wikipedia comments about the first event “the Men's competition was won by the Hungarian workers’ choir, who had completed their journey to Wales by hitch-hiking when their train had been cancelled at Basle because of a French rail strike”. 

Further along the canal is the Llangollen Motor Museum

P1020135Jan is the one who is interested in music and I can’t say I’m much interested in vehicles except as a reliable form of transport.

The Chain Bridge hotel is squeezed between the canal at the rear and the River Dee in front.

P1020136From the information I could find it appears the area became popular during the Napoleonic Wars when doing the “grand tour” of Europe became fraught.  The English then started to discover their own country.  The canal became popular for both tourism and commerce with the construction of the hotel being but one of the consequences

Today I spent some time examining the bridge and the first thing I noticed was the construction is chain bar.  I’d been expecting to see something like an anchor chain.


A close up photo shows the detail of the bar and links.


The bars are made from strips of rectangular cross section iron bent into a loop at either end.  In the background you can see that road and rail bridge from yesterday’s post.


What appears to be an original part of the hotel is now sandwiched between two larger and more modern wings.  At the other end of the bridge is the Llangollen Railway which is now a heritage steam railway.  One assumes many of the hotel guests would have arrived or departed by rail.


I then did some walking in the hills behind the railway recording a few public footpaths for the Open Street Map.  Then the weather changed and small pieces of solid rain started to fall.  Hailstones hitting the tops of your ears can hurt, particularly if you have large ears!  So I shortened the walk and headed back towards the boat skirting the southern edge of Llangollen.  That’s when I noticed the new retail outlet on the SW corner of the town.

P1020147I guessed it might have been a new supermarket or some other type of retail outlet (Wickes, B&Q, Homebase, etc).  Jan knew more explaining it was a new Sainsbury’s which the company has now decided to abandon. <more here>

Of course the sun decided to return as I arrived back at Waiouru.