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17 September 2014
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Llangollen Canal


Llangollen Canal c/o PA Images

The Llangollen in North Wales is one of Britain's most picturesque canals.

At 46 miles long, it winds its way from the foothills of Snowdonia through Shropshire's 'lake district' into Cheshire's low-lying farmland.

Cruising on the Llangollen Canal.
Photo c/o PA Images

Spring is the perfect time to cruise this canal and see the wildlife when it's slightly quieter than in summer when tourists flock to the area.

Along its route, the canal passes some remarkable scenery including a few man made wonders such as the impressive Poscysyllte Aqueduct.

This 18th Century structure has been described as one of the most amazing feats of water engineering in the world.

From the aqueduct there's a stunning bird's eye view of the valley below.

Wildlife on water

Sand Martin in rocksWhilst you're cruising there's some great wildlife spotting opportunities.

The area is ideal for the Common Kingfisher as they love slow-flowing waterways with smooth, clear waters which provide great hunting habitat.

This small bird is barely bigger than a House Sparrow but it's a master angler and it has been known for a pair with a brood to catch over a 100 fish in a single day.

Also look out for Sand Martins just a short walk from the canal at the Wood Lane Reserve, part working quarry, part but bird reserve.

There are over 200 pairs of this amazing little bird nesting on the cliff face and darting back and forth.

This is a relatively small site which makes birding easy, so it's great place to spend a lazy afternoon.

Bog life

Least Water LilyThe canal route also takes you through an ancient water logged landscape that was formed at the end of the Ice Age.

The area is characterised by meres which have no flowing water draining in or out of them, making them of special value for wildlife.

Colemere is the second largest of Shropshire's meres, located close to the canal, and is home to a very special plant called the 'Least Water' Lily.

It is the only known colony of these lilies in England, and the plant is recognisable from its small yellow flowers and delicate leaves.

This classic kettle hole mere was created during the Ice Age by a melting glacier with steep, deep sides.

Lowland bogs

BogAnother similar watery habitat is Whixall Moss on the English-Welsh border.

The moss is an unusual landscape which was is man made in that it was intensively cut for peat.

This is one of Britain's largest lowland raised bogs, an extraordinary landscape and home to a whole host of endangered wildlife.

Cotton grass is a plant that grows in wet acid bogs - during the spring the seed heads with their silky white plumes create the illusion of a snow covered landscape.

The site is also important for bog moss, bog rosemary, sundew and dragonflies.

White faced DarterAlso look out for large Raft Spiders walking around on the surface of the peat cuttings looking for small insects to devour!

There are also 28 species of dragonfly including the White faced Darter and the Four spot Chaser.

Bird highlights in spring include:

* Reed Buntings
* Meadow Pipits
* Curlews



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