Ellesmere to Maesbury
10.5 miles - 8 locks - 7 hours
The storm blew itself out overnight and we were left with a short tun to Welsh Frankton Locks and the entry to the Montgomery Canal. To me any day which involves new water is exciting, and I had been looking forward to this for years.
Our passage was booked for 12.00 noon so no need to hurry but alas that didn't seem to apply to the boat ahead. Its crew decided to run round the gunnels and promptly fell into the cut. It was so cold I would swear that he bounced out faster than he fell in!
The snows had coated the hills around us providing a spectacular backdrop, but also fuelling a bitter wind which nipped at my fingers. We rolled up to the junction at 11.30 and met the other eight boats entering the Monty. Five were due through yesterday but the weather decimated the fleet and in the event a solitary boat passed through and the rest showed up today.
It has to be said that the Montgomery is a slow canal, even by the standards of the Llangollen which is not know for its speed of passage. Its shallow and you shouldn't expect to get anywhere fast, not that there is any point going fast as there are only about seven miles of navigable water and they need to be savored. The passage down took some time as the lock keeper directed operations and this gave lots of opportunity to have a good chinwag with the other boaters. These included the infamous Felonious Mongoose with its electric propulsion system which its skipper was very happy to explain and demonstrate. It seems that he managed to get two days cruising out of the £5 spent on an electrical hook up in Llangollen and it was certainly surprising to see him moving his boat through the locks under remote control.
Frankton Lock house
The four locks at the junction lead to open countryside and the old junction with the Weston Arm - a route which was to be the mainline but was never completed. Then its through the diminutive 1ft drop of the Graham Palmer lock and onto the long straights which lead to Queens Head, it's sides reinforced with rock filled gabions and water resistant lining.
The area has a limit on the number of boat passages to minimise the impact on areas of wildlife. To be honest, these areas don't seem too troubled by the craft which have been passing for the last 10 years and the barriers are all falling down.
Queens Head - Montgomery Canal
Beyond Queens Head you pass the three remote locks at Aston, a quiet remote spot if ever there was one. Then its on to the last significant village on the line at Maesbury with its BW services, farm shop and an excellent pub / bistro / restaurant in the shape of the Navigation, or Navvy as it is affectionately known.
The canal does extend beyond - on past Maesbury Marsh to Gronwyn Bridge which really is the end of navigation. The next 1/4 mile is in water but stanked off waiting for the canal to reach its next winding hole destination.
Gronwyn Wharf - current head of navigation
We moored next to Canal Central, a coffee shop who make a living from the tourists attracted to the canal and its environs. With so few boats allowed on you can expect hardly any boat movements which is in stark contrast to the constant procession of hire boats ploughing to and fro a few miles to the north.
Moorings at Maesbury Marsh
Our day ended with an excellent meal at the Navvy a three course special for £13.50 each all served by a welcoming landlord.
This represents one of the finest unspoilt corners of the canal system, and a mecca for restoration enthusiasts.