Monday 19th to Sunday 25th March 2012.

And we’re off. That is, we’re off the Llangollen Canal. There’s space for you if you hurry and just like wasps the billions of hireboats are flexing their tillers and threatening to jam up the honey pots like Trevor, Ellesmere and Llangollen.

For us it was a left turn at Hurlestone Junction and a quiet couple of days at Calveley.

We caught the pensioners express to Chester (09:30am) and enjoyed a sunny day in the old Roman city, walking the walls and admiring the timber framed houses.

The town wall is quite interesting, I’d recommend going the opposite way to the arrows, it’s easier for passing the guided tours.
The best bit was the view over the River Dee at low tide. I pondered how a narrow boat could get down there now that the locks are signed ‘No Entry’. It isn’t for the likes of you, I heard the voice in my head say, but there is one down there, I could see it, a Louis and Joshua built boat, number 87.
So what’s that all about?
Better still how do I get to sit on the mud like this boat?

We know Chester is Roman because they’re still living there. Sadly my Latin was too rusty to strike up a conversation with the soldiers and anyway my mind went blank, all I could think of was amphora and cappucinno.
Roman Chester

It took me three goes to get the spelling of cappucinno, which reminds me of a sign at the side of the road:-

Kindeling Kindleing

Chester was worth a second day but onward we must go.

By Wednesday we were at Hack Green on the Shropshire Union Canal, better known as the site of the Secret Nuclear Bunker. Like the Llangollen Canal we had meant to stop here on previous cruises but somehow it never fitted our diary.

With a copy of the Official Secrets Act in one hand and a secret camera in my pocket we walked the 200yds from the canal only to find another half a mile between the secret entrance and the secret building.

Once inside, tired and nearly 14 pounds lighter (£6.80 each) we wandered the corridors alone.
There are two floors open to the public and one suspects another dozen hidden from view. The lights go on automatically and audio recordings start as you enter the rooms.

No windows and no heating, it was on the chilly side and certainly too cold for a bikini so I can’t imagine why there was a Bikini Alert.
secret bunker1

Exhibits pretty much cover the Cold War as far as preparations for running the country after we’ve been blown to pieces by the Russians.
If every missile pointing at all the RAF bases had been launched then only coal miners coming up from their shift would be available to be administered by the secret bunker bods.

You have to laugh at some of the exhibits, someone has been a bit too creative with their make-up.
secret bunker2

And quite where a lifeboat emergency transmitter fits in with the operation escapes me.

If you got sick underground, and who wouldn’t, then you would have to pay a visit to this individual. You can tell this is the 60s by the Beatles haircut.
secret bunker3

From Hack Green we pootled on up to Audlem and pitched our home a lock below the ‘Shroppie Fly’ to avoid the swarm of villagers foraging amongst the waterways tree surgeons. One or two boaters had managed to negotiate something for the fire but cars with trailers were hitting the canal bank hard and even before the chainsaws had cooled the ground was bare.

There’s nowhere to hide at Audlem and nb.Anastasia was our first find of the day. Mike was making the most of the day doing engine room things having come down the lock flight in the morning. Haven’t seen Mike for a while and it was good to catch up on news. News sharing extended well after dark as we wined and dined aboard Anastasia. Delicious and nutritious Mike, I was almost tempted to go veggie, and it was only the bacon and eggs this morning that stopped me.

A walk up the road for a look at the shops turned up Les and Jaq in the High Street. Their home, nb.Valerie, is moored at the other end of town so we were bound to meet at some stage.

Poor Les, as Jaq explored the shops he stood on the pavement scratching his head over problems with his Blogspot blog. Afraid I could only sympathise because we operate differently here at (P.S. We called on Les and Jaq later and found them in the middle of implementing Sue’s suggestions and so, fortified by a cuppa, we encouraged him through the procedure until he started successfully uploading piccies once again. Result – no computer in the canal!)

After a cuppa in the cycling café, as I like to call it, we popped into St James the Great to look at the stained glass and purple stonework that is characteristic of churches in this part of the country.
St James

Which brings us to Sunday and another excellent day for weather.

Mike popped in to say he was on his travels again and to show his new acquisitions, two fabulous framed photos by (and her name escapes me). You’ll have to stop him and ask to see them.

Our next rendezvous is with parents-to-be Kass and Joe, hopefully bringing a kilo of oxalic acid. No, it’s not an alternative to drugs like coffee and tea, it’s going to solve all my problems with porthole stains.

I am also hoping to get my hands on some of that new bamboo wood treatment, it’s the stuff that seals gaps by making the wood grow again after it has shrunk. I see BW’s tests with sealing leaky lock gates has had a good write-up and reckon if it works for them it should do everything I need it to do.
Bamboo is the latest in wonder cures and after proving itself as an odour-eating material for clothing it is now finding its way into wood reconditioning treatments. More about that next week.