Waking up after our first night on the boat was much earlier than anyone expected. Rhonda and I woke up around 6 or 6:30 in the morning. And since we were sleeping on the lowered kitchen table, we wanted to bring it back up to dining height before anyone woke up. Trying to do that quietly, however, is impossible. When we pulled the table up off its shorter legs, they came completely off and clattered all over the floor waking the rest of the bunch up. Oops. 🤫😬
Rhonda made us all coffee and tea, after figuring out the trick with the gas stove to boil the water in the kettle. The instant coffee they have here in the UK is surprisingly good. Not like the Nescafe in the US. We started the boat so we could all charge our dead phones. We were all so busy taking photos and videos the day before that we didn’t think about charging our phones before the engine went off. A couple of us had external batteries, and they came in handy, for sure.
Our next plan for the day was to eat lunch in Ellesmere, do a little sight seeing and then see how far we could get before we stopped for the night. Rhonda started us off and Aimee quickly took over the driving of the boat. We all wanted to take turns driving to dive up the load. As usual, with a new driver, there were some bumps that were quickly ironed out. Today our challenges would be swing bridges and our only set of locks on the journey.
The locks were less than 100 meters, right around the bend from where we spent the night. Luckily, there was another narrowboat heading the opposite direction, so the lock was in the proper position for us to enter. Meaning that once the opposing narrowboat left the lock, nothing needed to be done except for us to enter the lock. While we waited for the opposite boat the leave the lock, Debbie, Michelle, and I jumped off the boat with the lock keys and went to talk to the people operating the lock from the other boat. They showed us how to close the top gate, open the bottom locks, wait for the water to empty, and then open the lower gates so that we could leave. As we were emptying the lock of water, another boat showed up going the opposite direction we were, so we didn’t have to close the gates as they were going to pull in once we cleared the lock. Pretty easy once you figured it out. Also, the book in the narrowboat had detailed instructions on how to operate the various types of locks and bridges on the canal.
We saw various sheep and cow farms along the way to Ellesmere. Beautiful green fields, and tons of blackberry bushes, Guinea hens, and pheasants. We arriving in Ellesmere by noon and found a parking space very close to the end and the winding hole. The winding holes are specific spots on the canal made for turning a narrowboat around. One is not meant to moor the boat on the winding hole, and there are signs stating as much. Since there were no signs, and there were mooring cleats available, we moored to boat. We didn’t get yelled at, so I guess all is well.
What luck! There is a Tescos Supermarket less than 50 meters from were we parked! We decided we would stock up once we came back from lunch and sightseeing. So, we headed into town and stopped at the first place we saw, The Black Lion Hotel. Since it was Sunday, we had the traditional Sunday roast. They had lamb, pork, beef, salmon, and chicken which came with potatoes, roast veggies, and gravy. The beef roast also came with a Yorkshire pudding on top. We ordered one of each, minus the chicken, and doubled up on the pork. Ranking them in order: pork, lamb, salmon, then the beef. This was my first Sunday roast, and it was delightful. We also had the cutest kid, Dillon, waiting on us. He was 15 and his father owned the hotel. He’d only been waiting on tables about a month, so we gave him TONS of advice. Between he and his sister, we were well taken care of. He giggled a lot but kept coming back to talk to us. We left him a big tip.
Ellesmere is named after the big ‘mere’ located nearby. There are actually 9 meres with “The Mere” or Aelsmere – meaning principal – being closest the the town. We were told that a mere is a body of water that has no discernible water source. It was a made by a glacier making the depression in the earth. There are no streams coming into the ‘mere’. Yet when I look up the definition on google, it has various definitions: old Saxon for pond, or a body of water that is broad in relation to its depth. In any case, nothing exciting. Just a small lake or big pond that is used for kayaking or SUPs. Ellesmere was the main trading village in the area and when the canal was built in the early 1800’s it was even more prosperous. The Ellesmere boat yard is still used and is the main foundry for ironworks for the canal. It’s also known for having a big cheese factory making Cheshire cheese and was the largest employer in the area until the factory closed in 1987.
Before we left Ellesmere, we went grocery shopping. We didn’t really want to cook, so we only bought stuff that was easy to fiddle with: cheese, meats, veggies, and fruit. Also, our fridge was dorm sized so we didn’t have much room. Alcohol was also needed and Aimee found some Buffalo Trace Bourbon.
We weren’t sure we could turn the boat around with the engine, since backing up was difficult at best with a rudder. So, Debbie and I grabbed the bow rope and mid boat rope and pulled it around the winding hole. We traveled for a few more hours and found nice place to moor for the night. We drank another bottle of champagne, and had a nice dinner of cheese and fruit, along with the caviar my husband gifted us. We had a few little pancake things left over once we finished the caviar, so our desert was banana, strawberry, and Nutella bites. The bourbon was cracked open, we took quick showers, listened to some music on the speaker I brought, and Debbie entertained us by dancing on the roof. She also found some friends in the boat moored in front of us. Rhonda and Aimee went to find her and they brought her back to the boat so we could all go to bed. I’m glad I brought some earplugs because, damn, there was a lot of snoring going on.
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