Prees Arm - the dry section
The first mile of the hunt for the abandoned section of the Prees Arm lulled me into a false sense of security. Those first furlongs had been on a well maintained towpath, but as the water ran out so did the towpath.
There was a hopeful looking sign which suggested a parish footpath along the old towpath, but it was all so overgrown it was soon apparent that progress would be impossible. Instead I resorted to the adjacent road with the aim of picking up the route wherever possible.
Before long an earth bank had been pushed over the line, giving easy access to Jubilee House but then the road diverts away to the north, tracing but never touching the line of the canal. If I am to follow this route I am going to have go "of piste" for a while and hope to regain the road at the next crossing about a mile ahead.
The start was promising. The canal bed was intact, even in water here and there and an intermittent towpath offered a reasonable rate of progress. The path became less distinct after the first two barbed wire fences (I wonder why!) but having gone so far I had kind of passed the point of no return, so it was a case of pressing on and seeing what I could find.
The canal stretches on in a generally south easterly direction, tree lined and often in a shallow cutting. It still serves as a drainage ditch, although this has been cut into is base and progress is mostly along the dry bed either side of the stream. The problem is that as well as becoming wetter and wetter underfoot, and the undergrowth denser and denser, It was becoming really remote with just a couple of farms to keep me company. It's the sort of place I seriously worry about being taken for a wild animal and shot at, in spite of my bright blue coat. My saving grace was the weather - who would be out in this sleet?
I finally came to a stop about 400yds short of the old bridge crossing I had been aiming for. The can had been ploughed in and barbed wire fences hemmed me in on all sides. I would have tried to make a bid for freedom through an adjacent farm but the canal bed was too wet to cross. In the end I struck off to the south, crossing pastures in the hope of hitting a country road my Blackberry GPS suggested was nearby. Success - I found the road and followed it round to the old canal crossing and so completed this obscure section.
A word of warning. Going isn't easy, even in April before the undergrowth comes up and the route would be impassible later in the year. Of course, there is also the added complication that it is all on private land with no public rights of way either along or across it so one has to adopt a somewhat progressive approach to the rights to roam if you want to explore this bit!
Waters end on the Prees Arm