A mouse in the rat race #England #narrowboat #offgrid

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nb Cardinal Wolsey, snoozing after his labours on my behalf

It is difficult to believe but I think that I have moored on a very hum-drum, ho-hum, wholly humble stretch of the Llangollen Canal. If I didn’t know better (and I don’t) then I’d say that this is a stretch built merely with the intention of joining together two other parts of the canal. Oh, it has its tight turns and blind bridges and there’s a spot of scenery to either side, but somehow it lacks the je ne sais wotsit of most of the rest of the Llangollen.

I knew that something was up the moment I left the moorings at Ellesmere. For one thing, everything about leaving went smoothly. My chains weren’t jammed in the armco, the wind wasn’t trying to blow the Cardinal out to the Hebrides while I untied our ropes, and six assorted hire-boats crewed by amiable drunks didn’t appear at high velocity, as usually happens, the moment I had the Cardinal held on nought but the centre-rope.

Even the short, eighty yards long Ellesmere Tunnel was clear…

(and fyi, the noises that you can hear as we enter and exit are farm vehicles going over the roadway above. By “we” I mean the nb Cardinal Wolsey and me. I. Us.)

The narrows past the two meres were relatively free of traffic… although still too narrow to moor in by my standards. I really shouldn’t be so fussy, the view over the mere would have been spectacular to wake up to through my windows and portholes.

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The canal past the Ellesmere meres is spectacular, but to my mind too disconvenient to moor up on, with the other boats squeezing and sliding past.

Still though, I didn’t suspect a thing.

Innocence walks abroad, and its name is “me”.

I pootled, I mooched, and had we not been afloat I would have trundled. It was all very pleasant indeed. Then it began! At every awkward spot I met boats coming in the opposite direction, I met boats moored in the most ridiculous of places, and I met them all in shallows with ne’er a hope of a sudden disacceleration (new word, I just coined it) or an effective ensteerination (ditto). Naturellement we avoided the Timothy & Pru “contact sport” modus, but it was a close-run thing indeed and hard work.

All of the bridges over each and every English canal bears a number. At each move I set myself a bridge number beyond which I will look for moorings, and on this move that led me to hove up to the official Hampton Bank moorings with the easy rings and the scenery and the wotnot. Hah! We grounded. After an indelicate portion of full-astern we recovered our poise and tried again, farther down. Oddly, the (deeper-draughted) stern would come into the towpath bank there, but the bow wouldn’t. On our third try both bow and stern sidled up nicely to the grass – until a boat went past and we grounded again in their wake, and I realised that we probably had only about an inch of water under the baseplate.

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Hampton Bank (Bridge 50, Llangollen canal) moorings – too shallow for a 27″ draught

Clonk, clonk clonk clonk, bang, thump, clonk do not a soothing lullaby make.

Oh, there are benches to sit out on and everything, but there is also the thought that the offside is so well-tended because it belongs collectively to a golf club and a fishing club. Cue the flying bait maggots and the incoming-missile stray golf balls. No thanks. I moved on again.

Of course, immediately through the next bridge I met a moored boat in, again, the daftest of places, and in combination with an oncoming boat – all on a bend, in even more shallows.

Fun fun fun ’til Daddy takes the T-Bird away, eh?

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A sample bridge and a towpath that knows not whether it be eroded or be overgrown

We both took the necessary, both avoided the moored half-wit and both of us got grounded.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; the Llangollen will be a lovely canal once they finish filling it with enough water!

This being England of course, where we tend to have four seasons in one day, at least twice each and never in the expected order, the day was by then overly warm and overly humid – and so was I. At the very next likely spot, I pulled in – successfully this time – and lashed the ropes onto dry land.

Thusly I come to be on this quite decent, but less than spectacular little stretch of canal, We are some twenty feet or so higher than the surrounding land, on a purpose-built embankment, but the views have all been closed off by scrubby bush and trees.

It is quite difficult to make the immediate area look picturesque even with a sunrise.

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Even at dawn this poor little stretch struggles

Stroll a few thousand paces in either direction though, fore or aft, and there are some nicely bucolic scenes to be enjoyed. I strolled, and I enjoyed.

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A spot of England in early-morning sunshine
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One of the bridges over the canal, carrying the road to nowhere

We – the Cardinal and I – will be here for a couple of days, but then we must sail on a few more miles, otherwise I won’t meet my solution to that living-on-the-canals formula, the one that pits travelling at a snail’s pace against making it to the next “services” area before the water runs out and the gazunders fill up.

This isn’t a wholly indifferent spot – it’s good for the solar panels, losing only the last of the evening sun, when the clouds allow. 🙂

We are, as well as being here, also on the brink, so to speak. At the next move we shall cross the half-way mark, halfway back towards the main canal system, three-quarters of the way through this expedition up and then back down the Llangollen Canal. From the next move onward we are back into lift-bridge and scary lock territory…

I think I’ll take a couple of buckets of water with me, just in case I need to sling them under the Cardinal if it gets any more shallow.


Ian H.


    1. Many thanks Chris, much appreciated! This was indeed one of those days when I set out feeling like Horatio Hornblower and ended the day feeling more like Sid James in Carry On Cruising! Oh well, so long as we live, we learn. Back on the road (the canal) tomorrow or the day after. It’s all caffein-dependent at my age!

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  1. I enjoyed the video going through the tunnel – it felt like I was a guest aboard The Cardinal. It looked so surreal just before the boat emerged from the darkness of the tunnel. Beautiful still pictures too. When must you be back to your home base for the dreaded winter?

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    1. Therein lies the fun – no home base this year, I’ll be taking (and giving back) whatever the winter throws at me. Should make for some good photos, whatever happens! 😉

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  2. I really enjoy all your fine photos and commentary about life on the canals. You’re sorta a British Mark Twain!

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    1. Hi Janice – and thank you! Every few days here a fresh garden to look out over, and someone else does all of the gardening! 😉


  3. “The exigencies of birth and training provide all of us with opportunities for snobbery.” ~Rex Stout in Fer de Lance.
    You have some very rigid standards for scenic. You’ve become a canal scenery snob. 🙂
    In the scheme of things, it’s not a bad thing to be a snob about.

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    1. It’s seriously nice just a short walk back or a short walk ahead, it’s just this little stretch that was under a lettuce leaf when the “ooh la la” shaker was over the plate! One supergreat thing that this spot does have though is a mobile internet signal! Yee-hah! 😉

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  4. I agree with Pat’s opinion of the photos. I really don’t envy you all the problems of boating. I think that I shall stay here on dry land.

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    1. I am about half and half on the boating – it’s a challenge, and some days I can rise to it, while other days I’d rather stay in bed! I do enjoy mooching around from place to place though, with my home on my back like a “glamping” snail!

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  5. Eek, and it’s coming up to the Bank Holiday when all the jaunties come out to play! Moor up, stay safe! Protect your extremities! What amazing photos even where you claim it is commonplace, it’s wonderful!

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    1. Aye, tis indeed still a decent patch of scenery around and about – just not the few hundred yards where I am moored! Mind you, it has an interwebnet signal and it’s not the M62, so there’s good for you, yes indeed! 😉 I had forgotten about the Bank Holiday thing – damn, I shall have to re-think my plans until I know what it is like…


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