Friday, 6 April 2007

One Way to Llangollen - Prees to Chirk

6th April 2007
Arm to Chirk
Llangollen Canal (Welsh Canal)

18 Miles
2 Locks
9 Hours

Did I say idyllic? The thing I forget about the peaceful countryside is just how noisy it can be! I think I have been a townie for so long that I have forgotten my agricultural roots.

The Prees mooring is beautiful but those moo's I raved about yesterday turned out to be uttered from the mouths of milking cows and milking cows, by definition, need to be milked. At 4.30 am actually! So what with the cows mooing, the dogs barking, the cockerels crowing, the tractors roaring and the farmers shouting - it was all something of a cacophony first thing. Never mind, it was a lovely mooring and an early start never killed anyone.

Once back on the main line the canal continues its remote wanderings, initially on a long embankment over the Fenn's and then slinking westwards through Bettisfield and Hampton Bank before reaching Ellesmere's "little lake district". These seven lakes (or meres) have no inflow or outflow, having been formed by the retreating ice caps of the last ice age 10,000 year ago. Easter is a good time to pass through as the leaves have yet to emerge on the trees and obscure the delightful views. Predictably, the area is a popular mooring spot for boaters and is well catered for with formal moorings.

There is a short tunnel (87 yards) just before Ellesmere plus a marina with all the usual services. There then follows the Ellesmere Town Arm which should be a good mooring spot. However, the area is undergoing a slow regeneration scheme and, apart from the decaying Shropshire Union warehouse, the area is mainly a demolition site where a creamery once stood. The end result is rather barren so after picking up supplies in the pretty town centre, we winded and made our way back to Beech House, which stands as a sentinel guarding the arm entrance.

Its back to the wild open spaces of Flintshire (its not called that any more but I like the name) and on westwards to Frankton Junction. I had harboured plans for a trip along the restored 7 miles of the Montgomery Canal to Maebury Marsh, but it became a toss up between Chester and the Montgomery. In the end the family appeal of Chester won over, and the Monty has been left as a good destination for a future ten day trip.

Frankton's locks were therefore left untroubled and we moved on to Maestermyn Cruisers base, topping up with diesel, replacing a gas cylinder, pumping out the loo and filling up with fresh water. On our arrival I realised that I had hired a narrowboat from this centre in the early 1980's accompanied by Jon (to be my best man) and Rod and Rita (to become the vicar of Ipswich). That's another trip to record and whilst I know I took some photos, I have no idea what I did with them. Another trip into the loft!

As the afternoon wore on we arrived at the lower of the two locks at New Marton. A ground paddle had broken slowing one lock down to a snails pace, and causing a huge boat jam - about 12 boats long which took about an hour and a half to clear. As with Grindley Brook, one has to adopt a laid back approach to such delays and while away the time chatting to the boaters before and behind us. As it says repeatedly in the Good Book "it came to pass" - and so it did, with the light failing and the warmth of a spring day being replaced with a chilly cold which penetrated even my fleecy trousers and thick coat. We continued on to Bridge 16, near the Lion Quays pub and settled for a less picturesque, but ultimately much quieter mooring.

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