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Friday, April 27, 2012

For Steam Buffs everywhere

Steel, Steam and Stars III is a mega 9 day steam event at Llangollen. It is being held by the Betton grange 6880 society who are building a GWR Grange loco here in Llangollen engine shed.
Along the route there are events at Glyndyfrdwy and Carog stations that include vintage cars, tractors, steam driven vehicles and Model railways. Double headed trains with at times 12 engines in steam there was always something happening. Jaq enjoyed her first ride on a steam train as i`m sure did the huge crowds at every station.

In 1955 there were thousands of steam engines operating when British Railways decided to modernise and go over to Diesel. All those steam engines would be a big scrap operation and of the many yards involved the Woodham brothers at Barry in Wales.It is the most well known because of the large number of engines that were saved from the cutting torch by preservation society's all over the country. The story of Barry scrapyard can be read HERE. There are 3 parts so if the first part steams you up search out parts 2/3.

I must confess to a love of steam and hope this might interest others.
If you prefer Diesel check THIS LINK sent to me by Mike who by now is here in the UK having sold up in Canada to begin a life afloat. The train has 5 engines and 25 coaches.

Llangollen station now terminates just out of shot at the bottom of the picture. It once passed under the bridge in the second picture on it`s way to Ruabon, crossing the canal at bridge 39, and the main Shrewsbury/Chester line.
Looking through the station with the River Dee flowing by the line went as far as Barmouth until closure of the passenger line in 1965. Ten years later the railway re-opened with just 60 feet of track and to date the track now stretches past Carrog(7.5miles) and with new track recently laid is on it`s way to Corwen.
In British Railways Black 0-6-2 loco 58926 built in 1881 and owned by the National Trust sits waiting to switch platforms.

1744 is a 1921 0-6-2 tank engine owned by the Gresley society and visiting for the event from the Great Central Railway.

Built by the Caledonian railway in 1899 this 0-6-0 loco numbered 828 is visiting from Straphspey Railway in the Scottish highlands. It spent a lot of it`s working life on local routes from Aberdeen.

I expect 60163 Tornado recently built at a cost of £3m($4.5m) by the A1 steam locomotive trust was going to be a crowd puller. It is the 1st steam loco to be built for 50 years.

I liked the Auto coach set up. Generally the coach and steam engine would be coupled together and when the train arrived at it`s destination the driver would go to the coach and drive the train back. You can see the driver just about to pull away towards camera. The controls he has are speed, brakes and whistle and are linked to the engine where the fireman remains to tend the fire.

This train consists of 2 coaches with the engine in the middle. A link to a short film of the Auto coach working is

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Warm and dry on the Llangollen Canal

Woke this morning and the rain is pouring down and the wind is making waves on the canal. Sitting here late morning with all plans for a move abandoned we have the stove full of logs and the talk is of Bacon sarnies (sandwich) for lunch.

The hire boats keep going by battling on with perhaps a date to return the boat or having just started their holiday a determination to get as much water behind them before the week has passed.
One has just passed with 3 men on the back all wrapped up with 2 of them with backs to the wind the driver having pulled the short straw is facing rain coming at him in the wind almost vertically. I couldn`t see through the misted windows but i guess the women were down below with the heater on drinking tea and making next years holiday plans to a warmer climate. Jaq and I recommend Washington State and the 100F+ if that is what rings your bell.
Anyway there are many hire companies operating on the Llangollen canal and I just looked up and saw a Crest holiday boat go by. The price for a 6 berth boat this week the price is £975($1465) with a reduction of about £200($300) for a smaller 4 berth boat.
A boat just went by and the lone steerer had Tesco (supermarket) plastic bags on his feet, you see how we Brits get by when no waterproof boots are available.

Diesel prices on the Llangollen have in my memory always been higher than the rest of the canal system. Perhaps the one way in/out has the marinas thinking they have a captive audience to charge as they fancy. We keep on board Nb Valerie, as do many other boaters, 2x20 litre Jerry cans mainly for winter in case of being frozen in. Not having used the fuel for a while and always being aware of diesel bug I decided to transfer the spare fuel to the main tank. Having been told of the almost canal side garage at Grindley Brook that has a red diesel pump I went and re-filled the cans with fresh fuel. The Red diesel at the garage was 81.5p per litre. The fully taxed road price was £1.45.9. Now our U.S. readers this is $2.19 per litre and I am not going down the road of conversion as our gallon is different to yours and as for litres to gallons, best of luck and feel free to work it out.
Oh while I remember the hire boat site tells hirer's;
ADDITIONAL COSTS: Diesel: The diesel used will be charged for on return from your holiday. The cost of diesel is set at slightly over supermarket prices prevailing at the time of your holiday. Your boat engine will
I am just wondering how much do they declare to the tax man having charged the hirer full duty. Plenty of hire boats moor up and have the engine charging batteries. Perhaps if they filled a declaration for each hirer on a 90/10 basis that is a lot of cash over a hire season.
Anyway for U.S. readers this link will help you understand the tax situation. Basically it is the UK being told by the EU how to run the country with none of our spineless politicians having the guts to..........sod it I`ve left all that crap on the land and can`t be bothered getting myself worked up. I will say though, I strongly believe if the British public were to vote we would not be in the EU. The diesel pump on the left is at Whixall, a marina on the Prees arm owned by BW and has the ability to accept your card and dispense fuel 24hrs per day. The price on the far right shows £0.95 @ 0% ----£1.25 @ 60% ----£1.45 @ 100%. The pump was set at £0.95 when I used it and can only assume it is changed by the marina so how can you self declare? The key pad gave no choices but as it was set at the cheapest price I did not dwell to much on it. Anyone know the full story?
Chirk marina when we stopped by for a bottle of Gas(propane) was charging a higher price but the details are sketchy in my head. I remember seeing in the office the list read £1.10 @ 20% and I think the 0% was £0.98.
Outside the rain still falls blown by the winds, we are still snug in front of the log burner, the hire boats going by out number the private boats by 20/1 and so in writing this blog not much has changed. The smell inside the boat is now of a Bacon joint boiling for dinner tonight something Jaq has taken quite a fancy to.
Oh and by the way the Bacon sarnie Jaq cooked me was toasted with Cheese and Onion.......Yum!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Brewood Walk: Part II--the village and its pathways at dusk

   Our first foray into Brewood was expressly for the purpose of getting a few groceries. I went back into the village by another route, climbing a tall, narrow staircase up from the cut where we were moored.
   The stairs took me up to the top of the cutting to a car park (parking lot) for a local canalside pub. From there I turn left, away from the canal, following the main carriage road through the village where I discovered a different foot path past the cemetary. Here then are my impressions of Brewood at dusk...
As I climb the stairs up the side of the cutting, a crow flies overhead.
A rookery of thirteen nests lies in the trees above the cutting where we moored.
Bargate street is the main carriage way through the village. Horse drawn coaches used to travel this route.
Would you like to live here?

This is a newer brick cottage painted to resemble an old oak beamed ancestor...
...with tiny, jewel sized gardens peeping from between cottages, beckoning one to stop and savor their beauty.
This is a view of Brewood village center. Church Road leads up to Market Place where Bargate street curves around to meet with Sandy Lane. The Cooperative food store seen in the previous Brewood blog post is just out of sight, behind me, which is the way I am walking. This path will take me down hill...
..looking back up Sandy Lane toward The Swan Hotel and the village high street.
Public toilets fascinate me! America has nothing like this to provide for public sanitation. Stateside you better go before leaving home, or hope the shops you visit will let you use the facilities. All toilets in America are linked to an abode, business, or shopping center. The only thing that comes close are the toilets at the local park! Here in the U.K. public facilities stand alone, clean and tidy, lacking graffiti and other items one would not like to contemplate while using the toilets.
Further down the lane I find these amazing steps. I have no idea where they will take me...but another public footpath sign beckons!
A long straight view to the other end piques my curiosity.
Intrigued by this path with its low stone wall bordering one side and tall hedges draped with swags of Hydrangea Petiolaris and swathes of Ivy, I continue my Brewood walk.
Ah! This path cuts across the top of the village, passing by the cemetary which sits adjacent to and behind the church and the High street. It begins on Sandy lane and comes out at the other end of the village on Dean Street.
The back side of the church with old gravestones planted alongside.
St.Mary and St. Chad's church in the gathering dusk.
I've reached the far end of the path. Looking back from whence I came.
The gate leading to Dean street, and a cottage with blue doors across the lane.  The Admiral Rooney pub is on the left outside the gate.
Old smithy cottages dating from the 14th century. One is for sale--available for £545,000. If you are interested click on this link to view the interior.
Private drive to swank housing which is named after the Apple Yard which is no longer there due to swank housing.
A public footpath appears just past the old Smithy cottages. The arrow indicates one walks through the driveway of this home and continues to follow the dirt lane around...
Where I wonder does this lead? For a small village there are sure a lot of public foot paths crossing thither and yon. It makes me wonder what the villagers were getting up to back when, eschewing the main streets for footpath and back lane.
An old and expertly laid hedge, laying bare in the February weather, waiting for spring to give it growth and fill in the spaces with green.
Aha! The church spire hoved into view and I suddenly realized this lane took me around from the opposite direction, to the foothpath Les and I used earlier to come into the village! It is named appropriately, "Dirty Lane!"
The lane at dusk...Brewood would make a great film location for a "brooding" mystery film.
Back up the lane the way I came through the drive of the large cream colored house and across Dean street at an angle from the old Smithy cottages sat this bench overlooking a wood along a road on the back side of Brewood called The Pavement.
Down the Pavement I walked, past homes lit up in the gathering dusk. I came across this lovely tiny walled back yard of another 14th century pocket cottage on the corner of the Pavement and the lower end of Sandy Lane. According to historical websites it dates to the 1600's and was a buttery added on to the end of a wood timbered home.
Old stone steps stack up, leading beyond large double doors to the blue front door of the Old smithy...
...which was re-faced in brick in the 1800's. This was the site of the actual town Smithy with a forge at one time.
Up Sandy Lane, past the footpath steps behind the cemetary...
Back around Bargate street towards the canal which came through in 1772...
passing by the Lion pub, lit up for the evening, on home to NB Valerie, where Les waited in the gathering dark for his wandering wife to re-appear!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Whitchurch Arm

The Whitchurch Arm or what remains of it today is under the control of the Whitchurch Arm Trust and it was their efforts back in the early 1990`s that saw the arm once again navigable.

In 1944 the Llangollen canal was closed to navigation following commercial traffic ceasing some 5years earlier. In the 1950`s the Llangollen re-opened but the boating activity was now for pleasure and it was to be some 40 years later the short section of the Whitchurch arm opened.

Much of the original canal that went into the town has been developed and some Bungalows built on the old route have suffered subcidence so a local who moved from one informed me. He also told me the trust were having problems with a new canal route because the Enviroment Agency won`t allow canal water to mix with the Brook that runs through the area. If you look at the route of the Brook walking into town you can see the problem because the old route away from it is no longer viable.

Anyway I am not sure if the the proposed development and the cost,£490.000($735.000) , which is bound to increase is worth the effort. The Trust want to take the arm into the town eventually so rather than a very short section of canal ending in a basin that will berth just 8 boats would it not be better to head into town as far as money will allow. Please comment as I would be interested in your views.

Above is the plan submitted for approval and I have marked it A+B. My pictures 1and 2 below are A on the above and pictures 3,4 and distant shot 5 are at B on the above plan. The road along the bottom of the plan is the bus route from town and most boaters would alight at the roundabout if that helps to picture the location.

Picture 1

Above the end of the present arm.

Picture 2

Standing under the bridge in picture 1 and you can see it is not far to the next bridge that was created for the canal route during housing development. As soon as the canal passes under that bridge it will enter the basin to the right. Probably no more than 4 boat lengths between these bridges.
Picture 3
Above a close up of the bridge created for the canal.
Picture 4
Above standing under that second bridge and that grass mound to the right is the basin site.
Picture 5

Above looking back to that second bridge and the grass bank that will be dug away for the basin.

They talk of the basin being nearer town and the bus stop but for the small distances involved that is not a good argument.
To me it all seems a lot of work and I would rather see the canal make progress towards town with that money being used for a lock that will most definitely be needed. A decent length of canal could be dug if that basin was not dug out.
As I say it would be nice to hear your views.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Grindley Brook, Whitchurch and a Pointer

We approached the lock flight and decided to have some lunch before tackling the Grindley Flight of 6 locks 3 of which form a staircase flight. After lunch we joined a queue of just 2 boats for the first 3 locks and upon reaching the staircase that as always is under the control of a lock keeper we were told
we were the 4th and last up the flight as he had a queue of boats waiting to come down. So a lucky break during what was the Easter school holiday break. Upon reaching the top we stopped at the service block for water etc and counted 18 boats waiting to go down. A couple talked of being there 3 hours. So for us an easy journey. The lockeeper let 8 down before once again letting boats up.
Walkers in Whitchurch was originally built as a house in the 15C and has alterations made in the
16C and 17C. This timber framed building is the second oldest in the high street and the most complete medieval building. Never having been inside I took Jaq in and we had coffee on the upper floor. The stout wooden beams i felt could tell a few stories of the past 500 years.
The restaurant upstairs

I have been with T-Mobile for a few years and my present contract had run it`s course. My plan had been Web `n` Walk £15($22.5) per month and allowed 3GB. I decided it would be nice to have a wireless router for the Internet and went into the T-Mobile shop to check it out. The so it seemed helpful young lady said I could have the Pointer for £7.50 ($11). All terms and conditions the same so i`m thinking this is a bargain.

On left Web n Walk dongle, on the right the Pointer wireless. I can still use either by just moving the sim card.
Anyway after a short time the screen told me i had exceeded the T-Mobile  fair use policy. Now although T-Mobile will not cut your connection and still allow general surfing and e mail your heavy download ability is blocked. For me this was a first, we don`t download much in  the way of video etc and 3GB has been fine for years. So on the phone I discover that the Web n Walk is no longer sold and that the new plans come with 1GB!!!!!!!!! Click HERE and hold your cursor on the i after always browse and e mail where the plan details box is and it will reveal the 1GB info. SLY is just one word I would use.
I managed to change my plan to 10GB at a cost of £12($18).  So at least I now have the wireless unit and a reduction in price. Just be warned if you have the web n walk deal. Just a mention for our U.S. readers the wireless device is free when you have a monthly plan as  is a cellphone plus a new phone each time you re-new your contract. Jaq is not sure how it works in the states but does say she paid $55 per month for hi speed broadband so any U.S. comments would be of interest to us here in the UK.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs