Tuesday 1 October 1985

Welsh Canal 1985

Tobermory - Clare Cruisers Ltd
Welsh Canal October 1985
Llangollen Canal, Shropshire Union Canal, Middlewhich Branch Canal and Trent & Mersey Canal

128 miles
50 Locks
7 days

I think that it is true to say that events that mark the end of an era are rarely recognised as such at the time.

This trip was to be the last of an era which stetched from 1969 to 1985, during which time I explored much of the available waterway network with the Capt Snr and Matilda. The travels had started with me as a young eight year old in the company of my brother and ended plus my aunt (the white haired one). At the age of 24 my love of the waterways was surpassed by my newfound love of the snowy Alps and then later my love for Belle, who I married in 1988. You can't' do everything and whilst I always cast a wistful eye in the direction of the inland waterways, this trip represented the start of a long 20 year waterways gap.

The boat, Tobermory, was hired from Clare Cruisers Ltd of Anderton (ceased operations in 1991) and involved a run up the Welsh Canal for what was then my fourth trip on this waterway, the first two being in the late 60's.

Looking back at the slightly faded photos the most apparent change is the loss of the unusual lift bridges which were unique to this route. I particularly remember the rickety wooden lift bridge in Wrenbury. In the 1960's a very young and foolhardy Captain hauled the bridge open, using a dangling chain and then climbed onto the weight box, scrambling up one of he balance beams and letting the bridge slam shut - with me perched up on top. I am not sure which was scarier, the wobbly bridge moving under me or my mother screaming at me to come down! I couldn't see what she was worrying about but I would be equally concerned if I saw Jeff tackle a similar manoeuvre (even at the grand old age of 15!).

This was a late autumn trip when the weather was kind for once. Short sleeves were much in evidence, as was the absence of puddles on the towpath.

The grand features of the Welsh Canal are the Chirk and Pontcysyllte aqueducts, which are virtually unchanged save greater or lesser quantities of undergrowth. One particular feature of this trip was the closure of the narrow feeder channel from Trevor to Llangollen. The length had suffered one of its regular 1980's breaches which were only resolved by the construction of the narrow concrete channels we see today. As we were unable to navigate the last few miles on this occasion I spent a memorable afternoon walking the route, right up to the Horshoe Falls.

Had I realised that this would be the last trip for 20 years I may have made more of it, taking more photos for posterity. Whilst this may be the last entry into the history section of the blog, I have discovered a rich source of transparencies covering the period 1969 to 1979. I have also secured access to a slide to digital imaging gizmo and am looking forward to documenting these really ancient trips, completed when the waterways were at their absolute worst. A time when an essential tool on and trip was a crowbar to force jammed paddles or obstinate gates. I am hoping to publish these images in the New Year.