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LLANGOLLEN CANAL 30 AUGUST - 6 SEPTEMBER 2003

7 Days, 77 Miles, 18 Locks

 

Day
Miles
Locks
From
To
1
4
0
Trevor
Llangollen
2
11
0
Llangollen
New Marton Locks
3
18
2
New Marton Locks
Bridge 43
4
4
0
Bridge 43
Whitchurch
5
12
0
Whitchurch
Ellesmere
6
15
10
Ellesmere
Montgomery Canal
7
12
6
Montgomery Canal
Sun Trevor Bridge
8
1
0
Sun Trevor Bridge
Trevor
 
77
18
 
 

 

Saturday 30th August
For this trip we arranged to pick up a “Kennet” style cruiser narrow boat, the “Wyre” from Anglo Welsh’s depot at Trevor, next to the Pontcysyllte aqueduct.

Anglo Welsh at Trevor

By the time we had picked the boat up, got unpacked and organised it was 4 p.m., so we decided to do the Llangollen arm that evening and to go across the aqueduct the following day. The Llangollen arm winds its way for four and a quarter miles following the contours of the valley until it reaches Llangollen Wharf. At the Wharf there are several tourist day boats, and even boats pulled by horses for day trips along the canal. There is a winding point just after the Wharf, after which the canal continues (un-navigable) up to Llantisilio and the Horseshoe Falls.

Llangollen Wharf

The Llangollen Canal is one of the fastest flowing canals in the country, and was saved from dereliction by an Act of Parliament in 1944, which preserved it as a watercourse to carry water to Hurleston Reservoir, to service Nantwich and Crewe.
The Llangollen arm is quite picturesque as it leaves Trevor, and either side the canal banks are lined with concrete slabs, presumably to protect its position on the side of the valley. The canal winds its way towards Llangollen, past the Sun Trevor pub at bridge 41, which is a good eating place. After bridge 41 and also bridge 44 there are very narrow sections several hundred yards long where the canal is only wide enough for one boat. Passing points are few, so it is advisable to send a runner ahead to ensure that nothing is coming.
As we approached Llangollen around 6 p.m. it was obvious that mooring space was scarce. We had intended to go to the winding hole and turn, but as there appeared to be only one mooring space left we decided to go for that immediately. A wise move! There was a hot air balloon festival on in Llangollen and the place was packed.
We had dinner at the River side Bistro, and watched 20 hot air balloons of all colours glide over the roof tops in to Llangollen. This was one of the rare occasions that I did not have my camera to hand, which was a pity!
After a swift pint in the pub next to the river we retired for the night, dreaming of the passage over the Pontcysyllte aqueduct the next day!
Sunday 31st August
We were soon back at Trevor and made a quick call to the Anglo Welsh office to get the refrigerator fixed, as it had played up the night before. After this we edged on to the aqueduct, very slowly, trying not to look up the Dee River towards Llangollen. On the one side you have the towpath and the handrail, which helps to convince the mind that you are not really 120 ft up in a 200-year-old cast iron trough! On the other you have nothing! You cannot see the 3-inch wide side of the cast iron trough, and it is though you are gliding through the clouds in a 48-foot long boat!

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

 

Coming off the aqueduct we turned left, next to Canal House Pontcysyllte, and through a small cantilever bridge, past Froncysyllte and on the way to Chirk.

Canal House, Pontcysyllte, where my grandfather on my mother's side,
John William Smith, was living at the time of his marriage in 1911.

Froncysyllte

The short (191 yards) Whitehouse Tunnel is followed by the longer (459 yards) Chirk Tunnel, after which you immediately go on to the Chirk Aqueduct. Similar to the one at Pontcysyllte, but not so high, the Chirk Aqueduct runs alongside the more modern railway viaduct. The aqueduct has a wide path on both sides, and is less threatening than the Pontcysyllte aqueduct.

Chirk Aqueduct

And so on down the Llangollen Canal. On Monday evening we moored near bridge 12, just above the New Marton Locks.

Moored near Bridge 12, New Marton Locks

Monday 1st September
We were soon through the two New Marton locks, and headed towards Welsh Frankton. We had intended to go down the Montgomery Canal, but the locks at Lower Frankton are only open from 9-30 to 10-30 in the morning and it was 10-45 by the time we arrived. We continued on to Ellesmere. We arrived around 12 noon, moored the boat at the entrance to the Ellesmere arm, and walked in to town to do some shopping. Ellesmere is a quiet little town, and we were amazed to see the derelict buildings around the winding hole on the Ellesmere arm. Down in the southeast such buildings would have immense value for development, but in sleepy old Ellesmere their day has yet to come.

The Ellesmere Arm

Leaving Ellesmere at 2 p.m. we approached the 87 yard long Ellesmere tunnel to find a boat already coming through and a GRP boat moored on the place reserved for boats waiting to go through. This made things difficult and we ran aground. I was quietly cursing the man in the GRP boat for breaking the rules and using the tunnel moorings. However we got through and on our way. We had not got too much further when GRP-man was buzzing behind us in his boat, trying to get past! I pulled over to the side to let him through. To our amusement we came across him again half an hour later broken down at the side of the canal! He asked for a tow; my immediate reaction was to ignore him, but he had his wife and 3 kids with him so we took pity on him and towed him. He had moorings at Whixall Marina down the Prees Branch of the canal, so we kindly towed him back to the Marina before going on our way. It was only a mile each way down the Prees Branch, and I suppose we saw part of the canal system that we would not otherwise have seen, but it did take a lot of time. We moored for the evening just after bridge 43, being unable to find suitable moorings at Platt Lane (which would have meant that we could have gone to the pub!)
Tuesday 2nd September
We had a leisurely day on Tuesday, going only as far as Whitchurch, some 4 miles. We moored up in the Whitchurch arm, next to narrow boat “Kentish Maid” owned by a lady called Carol who lived on her boat. We got chatting to here and she gave us a guided tour of her 1-month old Liverpool Boats 58ft narrowboat.

Whitchurch High Street

We went into Whitchurch for lunch, quite a walk from the mooring, and when we returned we found Carol trying to get a new wicker chair through a very narrow door in to her boat. The only way to do it was to unscrew both doors, and I promptly gave her a hand to do it.


In the afternoon we walked about a mile down the canal to Grindley Brook locks. We decided not to take the boat down, as it would have involved 10 locks before we could wind and return. No point in doing 20 locks just for the hell of it!

Grindley Brook Locks

We moored overnight at Whitchurch, having a leisurely dinner and an early night.
Wednesday 3rd September
Setting off from Whitchurch we had a leisurely trip back up the canal to Ellesmere, and moored up in the Ellesmere Arm. In the evening we went in to the town and had dinner at the Black Lion pub, where they did a very nice Shank of Lamb!
Thursday 4th September
We set off from Ellesmere at 8 am to be at Lower Frankton for 9-30 am so that we could go down the Montgomery Canal. Ann and Rog were joining us for the day, and just as we arrived at Lower Frankton they appeared in their Toyota Landcruiser on the nearby canal bridge. Excellent timing. We only had to wait 15 minutes and the lockkeeper opened the Frankton Locks. We were third in line, but it still took 50 minutes to get through the 4 locks. We carried on through the Graham Palmer Lock, and then through the Aston Locks, before winding at bridge 78. The canal was quite narrow here and the passage restricted by reeds; winding was a bit tricky as it was very muddy, and we had to pole-off.

Graham Palmer Commemorative

We were soon back at the Aston Locks where we moored for lunch….. taken on the cruiser deck of the narrow boat under bright sunshine with a nice glass of white wine.

Sue, Rog & Ann at the Aston Locks

We headed back up the canal and arrived back at the Frankton Locks around 4-30 p.m. We moored up the boat and went into Ellesmere to look in an antique shop, where we had seen a Staffordshire flat-back that we liked. We had fish and chips in Ellesmere, and Ann and Rog took us back to the boat before they left for home.

Evening at Frankton Locks

 

Friday 5th September.
We were first through the Frankton Locks and headed back to Trevor. We went up the Llangollen arm again to the first winding point near bridge 38 and moored for the night. We walked the mile or so down the canal to the Sun Trevor pub for dinner, the walk back being more tricky having had a couple of beers and it being quite dark along the canal! We were alarmed when two motorbikes appeared from nowhere in the darkness and missed us by inches!
Saturday 6th September
We were back at the Anglo Welsh wharf at Trevor by 9 a.m., our week’s holiday over. We just had time to call in to the antique shop at Ellesmere and buy the Staffordshire flat back!