Saturday 7 April 2007

One way to Llangollen - Chirk to Llangollen

8th April 2007
Chirk to LLangollen
Llangollen Canal (Welsh Canal)

9 Miles
0 Locks
6 Hours

And so the journey comes to an end, but what an end!

The Welsh Canal saves the best till last, and no matter how many times you come this way you can never fail to be impressed:

1. Chirk wharf, very pretty.

2. Chirk Aqueduct - a huge stone structure containing an iron trough. In itself it is an impressive structure stretching over the River Ceiriog, but with the larger railway viaduct running alongside the experience is sublime. All the way across you get excellent views of the Welsh countryside framed beneath the curved arches of the aqueduct's big brother. A picture of the aqueduct and viaduct next to each other must be included in every known photographic record of this canal.

3. No sooner are you off the aqueduct than you are diving into the 459 yard Chirk Tunnel, complete with towing path courtesy of Mr Telford.

4. A short gap exists between Chirk Tunnel and is shorter neighbour, the Whitehouses Tunnel, both of which donated their spoil to the construction if the huge embankment which takes the canal onto is piece de resistance - the massive Pontcysyllte Aqueduct (pronounced Pont-ker-sulth-tee).
Its hard to find the right superlatives for this 1000 years long behemoth of the canal age, carrying the channel in an iron trough 127 feet above the River Dee. This isn't a place for those with vertigo, particularly steerers who stand on the stern of their craft with absolutely nothing between them and the void below.
Put simply, it is amazing. So amazing that even now, 200 years after its construction, visitors throng to see it and walk along its narrow towpath, marveling that the spindly columns can carry the weight of the water filled trough perched on top.

5. You would thank that that is the end but no, just beyond the end of the aqueduct the canal takes a sharp turn left and onto the Llangollen Arm. This was originally constructed as a feeder from the River Dee higher up the valley, but was later widened to navigable dimensions - just.
The last four miles wind up the Dee valley, clinging mid way up the northern slope. The section runs over unstable ground and the gravity defying waterway has regularly succumbed, sliding bodily into the valley below. These massive breaches have been repaired and repaired again, most recently in massive concrete trough sections which reduce the channel to single track operation and necessitate a crew member running ahead and ensure a clear passage is possible on blind corners.

7. Finally, the canal terminates high above the town centre, which has the hustle and bustle of a seaside resort, complete with chip shops and ye olde English (or maybe Welsh) tea rooms. Mooring used to be restricted to the wharf area but the recent addition of a public mooring marina has eased this problem, and is well worth the £5 per night charged by BW. Llangollen is famed not only for its beautiful canal and river, but also for its annual Eisteddfod music festival, which occupies a permanent site immediately below the mooring basin.

That was the end of the trip. Eight fantastic spring days on one of the nations prettiest canals. This must have been my 6th journey to Llangollen but it still enchants me and fills me with enthusiasm to stage a return.

Messrs Whately (Snr and Junior) were spied in the town centre and kit was swapped leaving us with a 2 hour journey back to the Midlands and the lads with a 6 day return journey in WB, retracing our nautical footsteps minus the excursion to Chester.

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