Catching up still on the Llangollen

I’m many weeks behind sharing our autumnal adventures, so to catch up on our journey having done the “half full monty” we continued floating downstream along the Llangollen. We enjoyed a few days in Ellesmere,

Ellesmere basin

where the yarn bombers had adorned a letterbox to commemorate armistice day

Lest we forget

We do love a bit of street art, but sometimes canal artists know how to sum up the mood of the nation just as well

Bloody Corona indeed

Though sometimes you just can’t beat nature

A moment of joy

Our plan was to be off the Llangollen before the planned winter closures started on the 8th November, but we still had time to walk around Whitchurch. It has some lovely “old” timber framed buildings Not all of them quite as old as they seem being built in the 1930’s.

All walkers need a Walker’s pie and pastry

And then onto Marbury, which does have a genuine old church which claims to be home to the oldest pulpit in Cheshire, 1456

We still haven’t quite relaxed into properly exploring the places we visit, but churches usually feel a safe space to wander around midweek,

Even the grave yard was lovely to wander through

and we are very grateful to the communities who have left their doors unlocked for the likes of us.

But we’re not out of the woods yet with more Covid bridges to cross and canal bridges to float under.

Let’s do the full Monty

Arriving at Frankton locks

But, because the Montogomary canal is still one of those restoration projects that has an unnavigable section in the middle we could only get so far. But never the less we were both keen to explore as much as possible, so we booked our passage through the Frankton lock flight (which is only operational between 9am and 1pm each day) expecting to explore the viable 6 miles during a three night stay.

Something to look forward to

But we were in for another treat, this little used rural backwater proved to be a haven of peace and tranquility after the superhighway of the Llangollen. The friendly volockies suggested we stopped at the Weston junction for lunch, but we ended up staying 2 full days.

Reversing into our mooring at Weston junction

The Weston Arm was abandoned and filled in, but the first 100m or so now holds a services station and just room for a few boats to moor, but the junction itself has been created into meeting point for boaters, and walkers alike, with picnic tables and a small car park. Needless to say we made the most of some sunshine to relax.

A few days in the sunshine

In its heyday (the early 1800’s) the Monty was actually the main line built with the purpose of transporting lime to be used as agricultural fertilizer. Unlike many other canal companies the land owning shareholders made their money from increased agricultural output and profit as opposed to commercial traffic tolls. It was 35 miles long, intertwining between the English and Welsh border, from Frankton to Newtown.

A pity only 6 miles is navigable for narrowboats now

Nowadays the navigable section in only 6 miles to Gronwyn bridge 82, although the last mooring opportunity is at Spiggots Bridge 80. We moored overnight so we walked the last mile to the end.

Bridge 82, as far as we can go

We the last winding hole is just before the bridge, through a lift bridge, so I just waited for Firecrest to return before lowering it

Looking towards Gronwyn wharf and lift bridge

As we meandered slowly back along the twisty narrow canal we realised one of the reasons for having to book passage is to limit the number of boats because of the tricky route and limited mooring.

It’s a bit shallow and narrow in places

Our friends Kim and Paul have been cruising a similar route to us and we agreed to meet up at the Weston mooring to take advantage of the picnic table and the sunny weather and enjoyed a barbeque together.

In the end we extended our stay on the Monty to 6 nights and having reached Gronwyn we can add it to our list to claim a Golden Propeller badge. We’d recommend it to anyone travelling without time restrictions, if just for some peaceful time out.

Going with the flow

What a difference the flow of water makes to how fast we can travel, or rather how much less power it takes to travel back from Llangollen. We thought it best if I walked ahead again to act as the mobile traffic light. But it was a peaceful day and we didn’t meet many oncoming boats

Heading back to Trevor

We toyed with spending another night at Trevor but it was such a lovely day we cruised on, over the Pontycysllte aqueduct, this time I took the opportunity to have a better look over the edge

That’s a long way down

But soon thought better of that idea and leapt off…. onto the Towpath for another angle.

Crossing the aqueduct

We continued speeding (relatively) along through the Chirk tunnel. It took us roughly 20 minutes pushing upstream and about 7 minutes downstream and that was just thanks to the power of the flow carrying us.

Exiting Chirk tunnel

And over the aqueduct back into England.

Making the most of Llangollen

The powers that be place a £6 per night charge to moor in Llangollen but only permit a 2 night stay. We don’t object, it includes electricity, which for us is very cost effective. We’d happily pay for electric if only CRT would install accessible points along the cut. But that’s another issue, we were here in Llangollen and wanted to make the most of it.

Our mooring at Llangollen wharf

We wandered along the wharf to the shop that manages mooring fees, and found they also sell ice cream…. banana and chocolate chip….

And it tasted as good as it looks

We were off to a good start. This is where the horse drawn trip boat operates from.

Harley the horse and the James Brindley trip boat

Not only is it a treat to see the boat being pulled by a horse, the vessel itself is a object of beauty. Llangollen wharf has been a tourist attraction for well over 100 years and I’m not sure if the two trip boats are the restored originals or reproductions. They plod gently along what’s little more than a stream

Kings bridge 49W

With a photo opportunity at the chain bridge over the river and in true Dr Dolittle style, the horses and tiller are simply unbuckled and reattached for the return journey.

The chain bridge at Berwyn

However as there’s no winding hole beyond Llangollen basin, for us to turn firecrest around we chose to walk the remainder of the canal to its source.

The start of the Llangollen Canal

This is where we see the true reason for the Llangollen Canal. Not only did it transport goods such as coal and iron, it also carried the main water supply for South Cheshire.

The Horseshoe falls

The water flow is managed by an impressive 140m weir designed by Thomas Telford in 1808. Its known as the Horseshoe falls. As with most canals, the Llangollen has seen many owners over the years, usually the railway companies. After the decline of commercial traffic in the 1930s, in 1944, the London Midlands and Scottish railway were granted a parliamentary act of abandonment allowing it to close a 175 miles of canals. However the stretch now known as the Llangollen Canal was saved and maintained because it provided the main water supply south Cheshire. 12million gallons of water are drawn through here every day.

The river Dee at the Horseshoe falls

In 2009 the sheer beauty of the location alongside the pioneering engineering earnt the last 11 miles from Chirk to the Horseshoe falls was awarded a UNESCO world Heritage site status

Llangollen Bridge

Of course Llangollen isn’t just about the canal and the river, the town is a thriving tourist attraction in its own right, which makes it very busy with a combination of tacky gifts suitable for landfill and some fine artisan crafts and delicacies. We treated ourselves to Oggies for lunch, the Welsh equivalent to a Cornish pasty and in our opinion much better.

Two Oggies

And whilst we were plugged into an unlimited power source, I took the opportunity to bake some Christmas cakes.

Something to look forward to