Can You Make A Torpedo? Then Do So Mr Allnutt.

The leeches tell us that the Canal Company Trust Ltd is too skint to deal with the reeds.

The overgrowth does though somewhat hamper two-way traffic, and makes simply cruising some stretches as much of a leap of faith into the unknown as, well – leaping off the boat onto the unknown of the towpath.

Not clearing the vegetation on the towpath side that has been growing out over the years to meet the reeds though is perhaps one step too far into the obvious. They really don’t want boats on these canals, do they?

Some folk also choose to add to the disconvenience by mooring their yoggie-pohs in some peculiar choices of mooring. Generally, as here, using hairy string and Blu-Tack. This one added to the fun by swinging out 4′ or so on passing.

As Pink Floyd once asked, ‘Is there anybody out there coming in t’opposite direction?’…

The Llangollen has some interestingly maintained locks, and some challenging by-washes. Some of the flows aren’t simply a matter of adjusting for water coming at the boat from one side, they have manifold under-tows and swirly-swirly effects too. On the way “up” some positive welly is required on approach followed by a swift de-velocitating on actual entry to the locks. On the way down it’s quite cheerfully possible to exit and then be pinned agin the towpath. It’s all great fun.

The colours of Autumn/Winter are undeniably splendid, I love it when the trees turn ginger. The denudement also makes the scampering squirrels easier to spot.

One of the canal experiences that yonder land-lubberites may not guess is that of leaf soup. As many or more leaves fall into the canal as fall onto the towpath, and for a week or six they swarm around, waiting for a passing boat propeller to cling to.

The first sign of leaf-strike is generally that the boat engine is working harder than it ought to be for the speed achieved. A prop full of leaves does nowt but stir up an unruly wash. The lucky boater then finds that an enthusiastic blast in reverse and a drift for a yard or two in neutral dislodges the leaf-ball and leaves it behind. On the Llangollen, where the boat is already headed into a (relatively mild) “uphill” flow it can be a double gerschnortzenbunderheitengezziger mit shtrumpenfuddleuberglocken damnshitzengiggels- especially if the reverse and drift technique is ineffective.

Eventually, in the fullness of time and the loving arms of H2O and of the bacteria and slime that will one day become politicians, the leaves decay and fall to the canal bed, there to mulch into undredged oblivion.

Most of the bridges – and all of the other infrastructure – engender as much confidence in their structural integrity as does the rest of the system. Soufflé under heat-lamps comes to mind.

Mr Parry, when accepting the position as Lord High Me Got Big Pension Fund from his chums, heard the phrase ‘England has a crackin’ canal system’ and completely misunderstood it. I doubt very much, very much indeed, that Mr P’s home – or any of the offices of the swelling ranks of office wallahs – would tolerate cracks such as these. Call me old-fashioned if you will, but well – arse.

Lift bridges are a feature of this canal. Lift bridges, as childrens and Jung adultings who watch this channel on a regular basis will know, are furnished on the basis of “crew”. The moorings are on the towpath side, the controls are on the offside. Sashay over, wind up the bridge, and a chap can’t get back to his boat without a ballet step not seen since Dick Dastardly stepped on a Lego brick in bare feet.

Single-handerites mun perform all manner of circus tricks to get through these contraptions, tricks involving wing-walking and leaping off the bow, rope and windlass in hand, leaping back on the stern, roping boats through, or – in some cases – using the forks, Luke. The most civilised option is to team up with another boat wherein one party of the first or second part winds up the bridge while the second party of either part moves both boats through.

Yes, I have no bananas, and yes, I left my windlass on the spindle while I took this phomatograph. If the hydraulics failed then a flying windlass would likely be the least of my worries.

It is, to use the original Latin, a right old palaver.

All good clean fun though, and damned splendid exercise.

Six miles, five locks, two swing bridges, and a mild pantomime in the finding of a puddle of usable interwebnettings and there we wam, moored in Stepford.

I mean Wrenbury. Moored in Wrenbury. Moored in Wrenbury where the locals are not weird at all, and the church clock’s Westminster Chimes aren’t off by four distinct minutes.

The Cardinal’s starter battery, hearing tale of my recent change of domestic batteries, upped and died in Stepford. I mean Wrenbury. Dead as a dodo. Gone, and never once called me ‘Mother’. It became a non-battery, erg and amp-free, just another expensive paperweight (were I to keep papers in the engine-bay). All of its volts were gone. Self-promotion to Non-Functional Mode.

When I turned the ignition key one morning Mr Engine merely gave me a very Gallic shrug, and started not. Magneto and Titanium Man were, in engineering parlance, thoroughly unexcited. Reciprocating rotational boisterousness was not achieved. Horse-powers were unavailable.

Fortunately the nearby hire boat company stocked such items and, after a gut-churning spot of pure terror and a mild case of random spot-welding performed by and with a seriously inadequate set of jump leads (and two Hail Marys, an idiot called Me, and a burnt index finger; sniffle) a battery transplant was performed.

I am happy to report that (this mechanical surgery being some days ago, there being a delay in the posting of these posts) this morning, after an overnight soak at -8°C, the Cardinal started in the more usual manner, like a keen and dedicated starting thing. Long – again – may that last.

The Llangollen is being comprehensively shut for “Les Winta Wurks” come the beginning of January, so by the time you read this, dear Singular Reader, the Cardinal and I will be pointed back towards (semi-)civilisation.

It’s a beautiful canal, far, far too picture-skew for the likes of Her Maj’s General Public to be allowed to crawl all over it. I propose that once the “Les WInta Wurks” are done with the canal be re-opened but only to live-aboard boaters.

Even on the edge of town there are worse views to be had from the side-hatch. The snub-nosed sheeps in this field were most amusing, if slightly skittish, having heard of my reputation.

Wrenbury Village Stores does not stock broccoli.

Had they done so then I suspect that I may have been in the vi-cin-it-ee still.

But I’m not.

Winter drawers on. Also socks and Nighty-Nighty Sleepy-Sleep bobble-hat.

Is it cold in winter on a narrowboat? Depends where you put it, really. Mid-seventies Fahrengezundheits (early twenties of the Celsiums?) is norm at head height – but being 27″ under the water the baseplate is cold, and the “floor” being 4″ over that is not too wild on the bare foots either. Surfaces get cold. A chap in his executive recliner alongside the stove and with his plates of meat up on the foot-stool is on the comfortable side of “just one more chapter before bed”. Bed is under winter duvet and two blankets. It’s all good.

To put it mildly, there are far worse places to be.

Bosnia, for one.

The Incredibly Silly Season approacheth fast, and the Cardinal and I must hie hence and off this canal to pastures of a more hibernatory aspect, there to shoot at passing reindeer and wandering minstrels bleating carols. We had our first snow of the season today, but it wam mixed in with sleet and rain.

Chin-chin for the mo, Chaps. Keep young and beautiful, if you want to be loved.

Ian H., and a Comprehensively Re-Electrificated Cardinal W.


  1. There have been a number of terrible songs written around that time (1920s, I suspect). Your parting quote is one of them, saying only the young and beautiful are deserving of love! 😏
    That bridge looks ready to fall. Are you taking bets as to how long it will last? A bit of rain and a few frosts should do it.
    It makes you wonder about the intelligence of the people who built the lifting bridges. Didn’t they realise that one has to return to one’s boat to pass through? Of course, you could always get a remote control.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Quite a lot of song lyrics are indeed on the dubious side of ‘what the heck?’, although I can’t speak for most songs under about twenty years old (since I haven’t been able to understand a single word sung since the minnellium, diction having long since flown out of the studio window)!

      One thing is for certain about the state of that brickwork – it’s not going to improve itself any time soon. The Canal Company Ltd just doesn’t seem to comprehend the word ‘liability’ or the phrase ‘criminal corporate culpability’.

      No idea who it was who thought that bunging all of the controls on the offside was a good thing, but I’m willing to bet that they licked a few windows in their time. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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