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A spring time canal walk

We love to take gentle strolls along canal towpaths once stepped on by the large feet of horses pulling barges. At this time of year leaves are coming out from their buds, wildflowers are beginning to flower and birds are becoming more active.

We began just outside the Welsh market town of Welshpool and walked away from the town. As we moved further away more wildflowers were showing themselves, some plants of the hedgerow or woodland edge. They seemed happy living by a canal.


We walked past a swing bridge, a beautifully balanced piece of machinery. Later we found another which proved too much for Jude and Vicky to resist trying out.

Not long after we reached the point at which we planned to turn back, Pool Quay. We stopped for a coffee before making the return wander back along the towpath. We found a few surprises, an old door with no purpose and a beautiful nesting swan who gave us a hard stare as we walked past. Her partner hissed and flared his wings at us when we met him further along the canal.

We love canal side walks and often return to this path to stretch our legs.



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A return visit to the Prees Branch Line – a canal nature reserve.

My brother Graham and his wife Vicky came to stay with us in early September and we went for some good days out, one of which was to the Prees Branch Line, a disused canal branch that never actually opened but now is a rich nature reserve, the longest wildlife pond in Shropshire. We have visited several times in the past at different seasons and enjoyed every walk along the old abandoned canal, as there is always so much wildlife to observe, encounter and surprise.


The site sign hints strongly at its main wildlife star, the Water Vole with a lovely illustration, but this is a star who is a real secretive creature and visitors have to be very lucky to spot one. It is more likely to find stems of reeds nibbled down in the vole’s distinctive style, or hear the plop as it enters the water again a very distinctive sound. We have heard them plop and seen signs of their nibblings at this reserve but never as yet spotted one.


We began our walk enjoying a coffee as we put on our walking boots and luckily spotted some fruit trees close by, the native Shropshire Damson otherwise known as the Shropshire Prune. This tree is a feature of Shropshire’s hedgerows and we have enjoyed many while on walks. These however were the sweetest we have ever tasted, the nectar of the gods.

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On this latest visit we were lucky to spot and watch for a long while a rare bee, the Moss Carder Bee which was a first for us. It appeared right in front of me as I was taking a photograph of a plant so I had the rare chance of taking photographs so effortlessly. The bee really just posed for me. Graham and I watched it for a while and got very close, close enough to appreciate the beauty of its delicate colouring and the subtlety of its markings.

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Not so long after this a similar thing happened. Again I was taking a close up photograph of a plant when a hoverfly firstly came into view above the flower, then landed on it closely followed by a second identical one allowing me to get these shots. Twins! Identical twins!

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Berries were at various stages of ripeness from hard green to the darkest of ruby red.

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And wild flowers added spots of colour to the impressionist painting that is the bank of the canal.

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There was so much to see as we ambled along the narrow track along the towpath of the canal branch line that never opened to barges just to wildlife. Rather than narrow-boats plying the waters it is Swans, Mallards and Water Voles instead! We barely moved forward a few steps before something caught our eyes and stopped us in our tracks. I took so many photos that I thought I could invite you to join us as we followed our canal side path “there and back again”. Enjoy!

As usual just click on the first photo and then navigate with the arrows.









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A Canalside Walk in the City Centre

A canalside walk in the city centre! It just has to be Birmingham. You may remember a recent post about the new library in the great city of Birmingham. To those of us who live in the centre of the UK and not in the South and who know the city well, then it is obvious that Birmingham should be the Capital of England and not London. Being in the middle of the country it could represent the whole nation properly without the dreadful North-south divide that having the capital in the south has created.

The first photo is a self portrait and also sets the scene. The following batch illustrates the quality of light available for me to use that day. All the photos were taken on my Galaxy Phone’s camera – great little camera to use on the streets when you don’t want to be noticed. People remain at ease if you have a phone in your hand rather than a camera.

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The new library proved what a vibrant, forward thinking city Birmingham is. This post will feature a part of the city’s past that has been brought back to life. Its canals. Here small business thrive, cafes and bars are full of life and people just wander looking contented.

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We soon discovered that there is such an array of buildings of all shapes, sizes, functions and ages to be viewed from the canal towpath.

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It was hard to imagine as we walked the towpaths that this thin strip of water was a hub of transport a few centuries ago, the equivalent of the clogged M6 motorway we had traveled on to get to it. This little tug barge was one of the few signs of the canal’s previous importance.

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Our usual coffee break was taken within the comfort of one the National Convention Centre cafes. One of our favourite concert venues, the Symphony Hall is integrated with this building. There are some wonderful features here both inside and out.

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As we progressed around our canal-side ramble we got occasional glimpses of the New Library. Can you spot it in the picture below?

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No canal wandering can be complete though without a few reflections to enjoy, and not forgetting a nice old curvy bridge!

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I keep trying to get a good picture of shadows created by benches and am never very pleased with the results. The one below I was actually quite pleased with. I then finish off with a pic of patterns found beneath our feet and my favourite photo of the day, the glass globe against a filigree of delicate branches.

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A Canalside Walk in Leicestershire

When visiting Leicester recently for a few days, we passed a brown tourist sign to “Foxton Locks” and we both thought we knew the name. So when we had a morning to spare we found the sign again and followed it. We were so pleased we did. Here we found a series of locks which were a popular tourist attraction. The area was so picturesque.

The old lock keeper’s cottage was now a cafe, the seating area of which was adorned with this bronze figure and traditional “Roses Castles” narrowboat ware.

Artifacts decorated the grass slopes alongside the canal, and served to emphasise its past importance.

Beautiful and almost life-sized the sculpture of the canal worker and his horse provoked memories of the people who lived and worked the canal.

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A Walk along the Montgomery Canal – There and Back – Part 2 Back

My last ramblings left us just as we retreated into the shelter of the wooded bank of the canal, through the little wooden gate. Inviting as the shelter was I was tempted to linger and photograph the silvered wood and rusted, pitted ironwork on the gate.

It always surprises me just how different a return journey can be. Different things catch the eye, different sounds invade the ear, different scents entice the nose for a closer appreciation. We found wild flowers, trees and bushes that we had not spotted on our way and enjoyed different reflections on the mirrored surface of the canal.

When we reached  the spot where we had stopped for a coffee break on the way we stopped once again and leant on the same gate, but it was not quite a case of deju vu.

From our coffee-drinking, gate-leaning vantage point we  watched sheep grazing on the field beyond the far-bank trees and spotted a long, low red-bricked barn half way up the sloping field.

The footbridge that passed over our heads provided ample opportunities for some creative picture-taking.

These little banded snails with their glossy coloured shells decorated with chocolate or black bands which followed the spiralling shape of their shell homes, began to appear after the shower of rain.

Canalside paraphernalia draws attention along any towpath walk, bringing to mind queries and questions of their uses and names. This first object was a simple arch of iron appearing from the ground and disappearing about a dozen feet further along the towpath. We couldn’t work out what its purpose  could possibly be but it did present a graceful archway in the grass.

As we follow the last stretch of the Montgomery Canal back to our starting point of a few hours earlier we can look at the different native plants we found and views of the canal that we enjoyed.

What an inspiring way to spend an afternoon that presented us with uninspiring weather. We enjoyed this wander very much were saddened to see that in such a beautiful place the selfishness and laziness of a few can leave their mark – plastic litter, probably one of the most damaging marks of man’s existence.

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A Walk along the Montgomery Canal – There and Back. – Part 1 There

Fed up with the constant rain yesterday we decided we would defy it once again, get our walking boots and waterproof jackets on and go for a walk. We felt like wandering alongside water but as the nearby River Severn and Rea Brook were both flooded we set off for the Montgomery Canal. A half hour drive took us to Welshpool, just into Wales, and surprisingly as we got nearer the rain gave over and we were treated to a dry walk. Dry overhead but very wet and muddy underfoot. I had new walking boots to settle in and make sure they didn’t look new. This was just perfect conditions to knock the shine off them and make them look a bit more lived in and more loved.

The tiny car park at Buttington Wharf holds a half-dozen or so cars and we were surprised to find three others parked up before us. Other lovers of the great outdoors fed up with the rain? On the banks of the canal just through the trees we spied this sculpture of a jolly looking character – David Jones. He was a lime-kiln owner and coal merchant back in the early 1800’s, and we found signs of the kilns nearby. No wonder he looked jolly – he must have been a rich man.  A symbol based on his working lime kilns was cut out of the metal information board.

In the surrounding greenery, well-hidden under trees and bushes we found some old brickwork, the remains of the kiln entrances.

After this discovery  we set off along the mud of the towpath under the trees dripping with rain. It looked so inviting. It didn’t disappoint!

The canal side was lined with trees and mature hedgerows, which occasionally opened up to give windows onto the local Welsh countryside.

After the rough weather in the morning wildlife was not much in evidence, the skies empty and the trees quiet but this female Mallard fed busily in the far reed-lined margin. But as the day moved on and with the passing of time the weather improved, birds re-appeared and their celebratory song accompanied us for the rest of our waterside wandering. The Mallard created shimmering shapes in the reflections as she busied herself.

The wild flowers decorating the towpath and canal banks were like sparkling jewels glowing in the dull light.

One wild flower shone out like a yellow globe having burst through the surface of the water – one of our native waterlilies.

As we walked, on the light changed and the canal surface reflected the bankside vegetation, the boats moored up against its side and the canal structures.

Half way along our outward journey a coffee stop called and we leant on a gate near a swing bridge and rested awhile.

As we ambled onwards the land alongside the canal opened up and through bankside trees we could view farmland. The thin line of trees appeared as silhouetted sinuous shapes, emphasised by their reflections mirrored on the water. My camera and I enjoyed the challenge presented when trying to get a reasonable shot of reflections.

The countryside changed as we continued our ramblings and each opportunity of a broad landscape view, afforded us by breaks in the vegetation was appreciated.

We reached the lock at Pool Quay, the point in our walk where we decided to turn back.

As we enjoyed our exploration of Pool Quay lock and the break from walking the rain returned. The little wooden gate invited us to begin our journey back especially as the tree-lined bank promised shelter.

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A Canalside Ramble, There and Back. Part Two, Back.

Suitably refreshed we set off back along the canal to re-trace our steps. It is always good to do this as things look so different and there are different things to see that were missed on the way. The view below is a typical canalside scene with the barge, the canal workers cottage and the lift bridge.

We particularly noticed the remnants of ironwork and machinery once important to the working of the canal but their commercial uses are now long-gone. They are now used by barges as part of the new leisure industry, as canals are once again coming to life, and they create interesting patterns and shapes along the waterside for photographers to spot.

Half way back and a deserved break found us sitting on the stumps of coppiced Alders. This little coppice of Alders was alive and bustling with bird life. We heard their calls and songs and watched them flitting amongst the branches. Lots more Chiffchaff and Willow Warblers, Blue, Great and Long Tailed Tits. Their gentle songs were interrupted by the alarm calls of Blackbirds as Buzzards flew overhead. Those tiny songsters the Wrens sang with gusto as they moved rapidly low in the undergrowth. The real entertainers though were the two birds of the tree trunk, the Treecreeper and the Nuthatch. The little mouse-like Treecreeper flew between trees landing low down the trunks and climbed upwards searching the bark for insects, whereas the more burly and more colourful Nuthatch landed higher up and climbed downwards head first.

Wildlife today kept disappearing into holes. Blue Tits disappeared into their nest holes on the rotten branches of trees, Red Tailed Bees disappeared into holes in tree trunks low to the ground, Long Tailed Tits into the tiny holes in their neat spherical nests and squirrels into their dreys.

As we neared the end of our waterside walk we were startled by loud screechings emanating from the top of a clump of trees. The arrival of an adult Heron was all we needed to realise that this terrible cacophony was caused by hungry young Herons calling from their “rookery”.

On returning to the bridge nearest to the end of the trail the harshness of the light created dark shadows emphasising the beautiful curve of its arch.

From here on we kept coming across that wonderfully coloured butterfly the Brimstone in its bright yellow livery with a hint of lime green. these early adults were searching along the canal side and the hedges bordering the toll paths searching for the flowers of Dandelion and Cowslip. It was impossible to photograph one because they never stay still. They fidget and flit! But they glowed in the sun, such brilliance of colour.

The canal narrowed the closer we got towards the finish of our walk, as the reeds closed in on either side, leaving a narrow winding ribbon of water. This created interesting reflections of trees and fences on the opposite bank.

We caught sight of this rectangle of sheep’s wool caught on the fencing where a sheep must have been scratching to alleviate an itch.

We discovered a great place to walk and watch wildlife (we recorded 40 species of bird), to listen and appreciate the countryside of our home county, Shropshire. There are so many places still out there awaiting our discovery.