Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Prees Branch

We had two reasons the turning into the Prees Branch; the first was to get diesel down at Whixall Marina, the second to was to have a longer walk down the remains of the branch.

We headed down to the Marina this morning, Ann opening Starks Lift Bridge for both boats to go through.

Starks Lift Bridge.SAM_0001 Starks Lift Bridge
The pay–at–pump price is currently 87.3p, so both boats got fully topped up. We each needed a gas bottle so that was sorted out as well.

We moored just outside the entrance to the Marina and after lunch took a walk down the remainder of the Prees Branch to see how far we could get. The navigable section of the Branch actually ends shortly after the Marina entrance.
The branch was built to cater for the villages heading down towards Prees, but never actually reached Prees, terminating near Quina Brook. The unnavigable section down to Waterloo Bridge is now a nature reserve.
This stretch is still in water although heavily silted and overgrown.

At Bridge 4 there is an earth dam across the canal to allow the farmer easier access to his adjacent field.

Bridge 4, looking north.SAM_0027 Br 4
The watered section ends before Waterloo Bridge, at a substantial piled dam.

End of the watered section

SAM_0004 Piling Dam
Even though it's now dry the channel carries on to another dam where Waterloo Bridge used to stand. The humpbacked bridge has been removed for safety, and the channel has been filled in.

Waterloo BridgeSAM_0007 Looking back at Waterloo Br
There's another barrier further along where a culvert used to go under the canal. The channel carrying the canal over the stream has been removed, and the stream has recently been dug out. In the debris on the bank side there are several old bricks presumably to do with the structure.

Culvert crossing.SAM_0015 Culvert Dam

A little further on the local kids have made a camp in the canal bed, then there's a short wider section before the canal disappears under overgrowth. The channel continues but is almost impassable with brambles and small bushes.

Lord of the Flies?SAM_0014 Den

Charles standing in the wider section of the canal bed.SAM_0012 In Canal Bed

Some timber edging still exists on the far side from the towpath.SAM_0008 Remains of timber edging
This is as far as we went. It didn't seem worthwhile fighting our way through the vegetation further on.

As well as the channel, the first few hundred yards of the towpath is also in very good condition. It seems unlikely, however, that this section of canal will ever be reinstated.

At first glance, it seems odd that the first mile of the canal is in very good condition and still navigable, but then it deteriorates rapidly. The reason for this is apparent once you know the origin of the basin which now contains the marina. This was originally a clay pit, the clay used for repairing and re-puddling canal beds. The clay would have been transported by boat, hence the need to maintain the first mile of the branch in good condition.

Returning to the end of the navigable section near the marina.SAM_0026 Towards the marina
Locks 0, miles ½

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