Our passage today was from our mooring at the delightful canal side pub, “The Poacher”, near Chirk to the terminus of the canal at Llangollen. My favorite cap managed to stay on at The Poacher, but a telephone call has left me assured that it will be waiting for me at my return as will dinner and a pint.
Today’s weather was a gift and this section of our journey was easily the most spectacular both for the scenery and the experiences. It is this stretch that has appropriately acquired the status of a World Heritage Site.
Just beyond Chirk we crossed the Chirk Aqueduct and Tunnel. The aqueduct was built in 1801 and is carried upon 10 massive stone arches. The adjoining and equally picturesque rail trestle was completed in 1848. Immediately after the aqueduct we made a sharp blind turn and entered the 460 yard long Chirk Tunnel.
The passage across aqueduct and through the tunnel took about 20 minutes, but (thanks to Kris at the bow!) has been compressed into a 40 second time lapse video. Here is the link: Chirk Aqueduct and Tunnel.
Many consider the experience at Chirk reason enough to justify the travel days upon the Llangollen Canal. I count myself among them, and yet the best was yet to come.
Nearing Trevor, and 4 miles (about 2 hours by narrowboat) from Llangollen, we came upon the breathtaking Pontcysylite Aqueduct.
Supported by 18 massive stone arches, this 1,000 foot long iron trough carries the canal 127 feet above the River Dee. There is a walkway on one side with a protective railing, but for the narrowboat helmsman (that would be me) it is a matter of just inches from the tiller to an open abyss on the port side. This engineering marvel was completed in 1805, the year that Admiral Nelson and 458 British seamen perished in the naval victory over the French at Trafalgar. Only one life was lost in the building of the Pontcysylite Aqueduct. Here is a link to Kris’ time lapse video of our crossing of the Aqueduct: The Pontcysylite Aqueduct.
The majesty of the tunnel and aqueducts should not overshadow the stunning scenery as the canal seemingly ascends the hill and cliffside overlooking the valley of the River Dee. Necessarily, there are stretches where the canal narrows to a single boat width and oncoming vessels are required to “queue-up”. One of these sections is over a quarter of a mile long, and is chiseled through solid rock. The towpath along the miles from Trevor to Llangollen is well maintained and a popular walking/biking trail. It is here that watching the narrowboats becomes a “spectator sport”.
Not to be outdone by the canal, the town of Llangollen is a well preserved wonder from the past. More about that tomorrow.
Our evening concluded with an excellent dinner at The Corn Mill.
We were joined at table by Peter and Carol, a delightful couple of our generation who met 7 years ago “rambling” in Cuba, fell in love, and are now celebrating 2 years of marriage. Intrigued, we listened to the tales of their travel and hiking adventures, quickly coming to the realization that here were kindred souls. I thought to myself that surely they must have walked the Camino… indeed they had!
The world is small, and it is also a loadstone that seems to draw Christine and me to our far flung adventure seeking “siblings”. In a few days Peter and Carol will be taking the tiller of a narrowboat and heading up-water on the Llangollen Canal. We hope to pass them as we descend and perhaps reprise this wonderful evening.
Peace Everyone. Pete
PS: Oh yes… about the “interesting” boaters that caused our vessel to come unmoored at “The Poacher” last evening… we encountered them twice today. Once when they charged ahead heedless of the line of vessels queuing to cross the Chirk Aqueduct, and again as one of the two boaters proceeded against a warning sign that prohibited boat traffic from entering a non-navigable feeder at the end of the canal. On both occasions my yells projected at maximum volume arrested their misadventure. Their startled looks and submission brought me a degree of satisfaction.