Thursday 5 April 2007

One way trip Llangollen - Wrenbury to Prees Arm

5th April 2007
Wrenbury to Prees Arm
Llangollen Canal (Welsh Canal)

14 Miles
10 Locks
7 Hours

A frost start in a wintry mist, but with clear skies above there was the prospect of a lovely day.

We were late off (10.00) and all the boats moored near us had already moved on. The mist looked like lifting so a late start seemed in order and the sun started to make an appearance as we reached Marbury Lock , about 40 mins later. Quoisley, Willey Moor (Jeff liked that one) and Povey's locks followed in quick succession leading to the foot of Grindley Brook. The first three individual locks were fine but as we emerged from the last our delayed departure was seen to be a mistake. The pound to the foot of the staircase three was lined with boats waiting to rise. This bottleneck has loads of scope for water rage, but fortunately the flight is manned by a BW lock keeper who applied a strict three up, three down policy. Sadly, we were boat number four so we had to wait for about an hour but hey, the sun was shining, belle discovered an internet cafe in the tea room half way up and the kids were pacified with ice creams. As for me, I like staircases and it is almost as much fun to watch them being worked as it is to go through them myself.

Having availed ourselves of the rubbish and water facilities above the top lock we moved on past Whitchurch and its diminutive arm. There then followed a remote stretch along the Shropshire / Clwyd border interrupted only by a few lift bridges, now made of steel which replaced the creaking wooden structures I remember from my youth. Finally, as if all this remoteness has to be taken to another level, the canal enters the Fenns, which are now a nature reserve. This is a huge area of peat bog which used to be commercially harvested, causing the land to sink and the canal company to employ a permanent gang of labourers to repeatedly raise the banks.

If you read my accounts of travelling the BCN you will realise that I love side arms, the little bits most people miss out, which are are often gems. The Prees Arm is, by my standards, a huge side arm running on for a whole mile (it used to be four miles) and services Wixall Marina. This marina is on the site of an old quarry and is said to be incredibly deep.

The arm itself is very narrow and shallow after the first of two lift bridges, reducing forward travel to maybe two miles per hour and the reeds on either side reducing the channel to about 10 ft in places. We turned in the marina entrance and went back along the canal for a couple of hundred yards, mooring in a gap in the reeds, leaving just enough space for another boat to creep through (only one did during our stay). This mooring spot goes down as one of the most idyllic I have ever known. It was a clear sky sunset giving a warm end to a spring evening, warm enough to discard coats and fish in fleeces. The undisturbed waters teemed with fish and we settled down amidst the fields and farms, with the cows moo's competing with the evening birdsong.

If you end up in this area when it is time to moor, don't stop as the entrance to the Prees Arm, like most boaters do. Press on for half an hour and moor at the far end. Satisfaction is guaranteed.

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