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  • Writer's pictureDan Brown

A Perfect Narrowboat Winter

During the winter of 2020-2021 the UK was passing in and out of Lockdowns, both national and local, in an unpredictable cycle that chased the grim figures being reported on the news. At the time I was cautiously moving Narrowboat Abel's Ark towards the Welsh Border, anticipating (but not daring to actually plan) some work being carried out in Chirk.

With the added unpredictability of Wales and England not following the same Covid restrictions in the same time frames, I was getting a little concerned that I may take my boat into a marina to then have it stuck out of the water for the length of a lockdown. As fate would have it, Wales locked down before I even had a chance for that to happen, which in turn led me to have the boat in the perfect place when England also introduced a national lockdown.

That place, was none other than "The Poachers Pub". Formerly known as "The Poacher's Pocket" and the very location that I had moored up at for many months under the previous paid winter mooring rules, before it was scrapped as a winter mooring location. This was the first time that I had ever moored there for winter while also owning a car, something that took the sting out of the cold winter morning commutes that I had previously completed by bicycle... but also started to expand my waistline somewhat!

With the decision taken out of my hands, I would enjoy wintertime in the same place that I had done so many years previously. While the world continued in turmoil and tragedy, myself, and many boaters I have spoken to in recent times, found the canals to be a calmer and quieter environment than it had been in previous winters. This calm time would be paid for by an extremely busy summer on the canals due to the lack of international holidays!

The weeks rolled by, and we had a decent amount of "proper" winter weather. Freezing mornings, ice on the boat roof, and a dazzling sun that would rise as I was out enjoying misty, early morning walks. The slightly damp midday period would follow, as the world thawed out before the bitter stillness of an early, rural, dark night froze the world once more.

The village of Chirk was only a short walk over the Aqueduct, so supplies were not too far away. Although during the later period of lockdown I would follow the path by the road to the village as it became too crowded as people who were sick of being stuck at home came to visit one of the local places of interest.

Chirk Aqueduct and Viaduct are well worth seeing in the daylight, but when crossing the aqueduct in the dark, it often takes on an eerie demeanour. I have been on there in the dead of night a few times when the dozens of carriages of an unlit freight train roar over the viaduct. Perhaps its just me, but the noise and the silhouettes rushing over the viaduct slightly higher up than the canal, have a very menacing feeling to them!

On one evening as I was walking towards the aqueduct, I couldn't believe my eyes when my touch shone upon not one but two foxes on the far bank of the canal. Wether it was a territorial dispute, or a mating ritual I couldn't say, but they ran up and down and tumbled around, one of them briefly slipping its hind legs into the canal. A very rare prolonged fox sighting, just to add a little bit of excitement to my evening.

During the daylight, as many people were coming out to walk over the aqueduct, I made it an almost daily ritual to walk beneath the huge arches. Seeing the far bank of the river slowly collapsing as it runs parallel to the canal was a little alarming when thinking about the long term reality, but the day to experience of walking along the rivers edge was just the cure for my increasing restlessness.

Seeing huge icicles form on the arches, walking beneath them as the whole place was white over with snow, then almost wading through mud after it had thawed out... all had their merits, though some walks I enjoyed more than others!

As I mentioned previously, mooring in this place with a car was a game changer. I didn't have to rely on friends and family and peddle power. So the boat was able to remain stationary for months on end. With the car parked less than two minutes away, I could easily get supplies of coal, take diesel from the fuel boat and I even fill my main water tank from huge water drums that I would fill up from my nan and grandad's outside tap on my way home from work on a Sunday! Plus, under the cover of darkness I would drive my toilet tanks to an emptying station so I had the complete set of facilities accounted for. No more worrying about waste capacity or running low on fuel for the fire... definitely something I appreciated on more than one occasion.

Finally as the winter turned to spring, and the world started to open up again for a chaotic summer, the cruising rules came back into force and I moved along, taking a moment to stop in another of my favourite places just above the New Marton Locks at St Martins. So it was that another tumultuous year would get under way, and another set of beautiful memories were about to be created.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this my friends,

As always,

Keep it boatworthy,

Keep it interesting,

and farewell!


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