Saturday, 17 September 2016

Pastures New.

Saturday 17th September, 2016 at Maesbury Marsh.
We awoke to a beautiful day with lovely clarity of light. An adventure lay ahead today as we have booked passage down the locks at Frankton Junction on to the Montgomery Canal.
The Montgomery Canal is the subject of a very active restoration programme. So far, only the first six and a half miles are accessible from the main network. Frankton Locks, by which you access the Montgomery, consist of a staircase of two locks followed by two more single locks. Passage has to be booked in advance, is rationed, and takes place between twelve and two each day, assisted by a lock-keeper. Access is restricted because the Montgomery draws its water from the main Llangollen Canal and, if too much is taken, then there might not be enough water for Hurleston Reservoir and the Shopshire Union main line.
We set off after breakfast for the short cruise to the junction, where we turned on to the Montgomery.
We were slightly disappointed to find that there were four boats already there in front of us (some of whom had arrived the night before!), so we moored up as "tail-end-charlie" of the five boats to go down the locks today.
Lesson learned, get to the locks early going down or up - or you will be at the back of the queue!
The lock-keeper arrived at about 11:30 and, with five boat crews waiting to go down and four waiting to come up, he had lots of help.
An hour or so later, it was MM's turn to go down the two staircase locks.
Below the staircase locks are two single locks and between them there used to be a boat yard and dry dock. This is where the narrowboat "Cressy" (the subject of Tom Rolt's famous book "Narrow Boat") was originally converted from a Shropshire Union "Fly" boat to a leisure touring boat in the 1920s for Tom Rolt's uncle. The space is now occupied by an "O" guage outdoor model railway, which was running and being admired by several gentlemen. Tom Rolt would have approved!

The Canal is very rural, with virtually no houses, and no towns or villages along the navigable six and a half miles. In the middle of the canal are the three Aston Locks, which are very remote but very pretty.
There is a winding hole between Bridges 81 and 82 where we turned MM and Bridge 82 (the one in this photograph). It is the current limit of navigation.
Having moored MM up close to the winding hole, we decided to walk along the next non-navigable part of the canal.  The next section between Bridges 82 and 83 is in water and ready for navigation, but there is nowhere to turn at the end of it. In the middle of this section is a "new" lift bridge to allow the farmer to get his cattle across the canal.
At Bridge 83, there were stop planks. The section between Bridges 83 and 84 is basically complete but the water level has been reduced.
At Bridge 84, a dam completely stops the water, the section beyond is dry and the first hundred yards or so was being worked on.

Beyond that, the canal is still there but it is very overgrown and virtually dry. The plan is to complete this section together with a winding hole at Bridge 85, which will open up another mile and a half to navigation. There is an awful lot of work to do to get the next section open. That is the canal on the right, under all the vegetation!
We walked all the way up to Bridge 85, which was a sad sight. We wondered how many years it would be before there was water back under this bridge.

By the time we got back to MM, it was getting dark and we had an early night. Tomorrow, we have decided to do an early start as the weather is forecast to be clear and we want to be at the front of the queue for the locks (and we happen to love seeing the sun rise!).

Today: 7 miles, 8 locks and 4.8 hours.
Trip: 372 miles, 253 locks and 270.7 hours.

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