Approaching the aqueducts

If there’s one thing non boaters have heard about on the canal system, it’s the Pontycysllte aqueduct. But they rarely comment on the Chirk aqueduct which we think is prettier, albeit less dramatic but still one of our favourites. The next few days saw us cruising slowly towards these feats of engineering, but we still had time to enjoy the journey.

Sometimes it’s the clouds that make the scene

After we passed the junction of the Montgomery canal we noticed the bridge numbering changed, instead of continuing with sequential numbers, the sequence began again with the addition of a W. Was it 1 Wales or 1 West we wondered, but as we had not yet reached Wales we assumed the latter.

Bridge 1W

We passed through Whittington Hire base, which is where we had hired from in 2012, although it is in new ownership now and sports a dazzling red livery.

Whittington Hire fleet

And onto Chirk, where we were met by a guard of honour

3 little maids


Before we crossed the border between England and Wales on the Chirk Aqueduct

Crossing the Chirk Aqueduct, the bow’s in Wales and the stern in England

One reason we like it is because the railway viaduct runs parallel to it, so we get some lovely views through the arches onto the River Ceiriog below

The Chirk Aqueduct is 21m high and 220m long, it was designed by the civil engineer Thomas Telford and completed in 1801. The water is carried in an iron trough although it’s the 10 stone arches that make is so attractive
No sooner had we crossed the aqueduct, we were straight into the 421m long Chirk tunnel

Disappearing into the darkness

And whilst I’m not a fan of these long dark holes under ground, I can’t begin to imagine how many locks I would have had to work, if Telford hadn’t risen to the challenge. So whilst I might have found the aqueduct and tunnel an easier option, Eric certainly didn’t. The narrow shallow channel means there is little room for water displacement around the boat. And combined with the flow of water coming from llangollen makes it really hard going to move the boat forward. The boat crawls regardless of the throttle used, quite unlike punching upstream on a deeper wider river.
We opted to moor up outside of Chirk Marina

Chirk marina

where the heavens duly opened and we sat out the rain for the next few days

Promises to be fulfiled

Wending our way to Whitchurch

We always knew the Llangollen is a popular canal but despite the number of boats it’s still been a pleasant rural cruise. We enjoyed beautiful vistas over the fields, enhanced by dramatic skies with rainbows taking the stink out of the torrential downpours.

Looking over Knowles Hill

Not all of the going was smooth, parts of the canal had been infiltrated by reeds making it difficult to navigate. I collected photographic evidence to send to CRT to complain, but the thought of a trite rebuffle citing the need to create wildlife havens, just makes me think why bother. Come on CRT, the wildlife living in canal reeds isn’t going to increase with a wider footprint, keep the channels open for boats and just let the stretch of reeds run for longer, if you must. But perhaps maintenance costs have got more to do with the problem than environmental concern.

Not our idea of a well maintained canal

Balmy days and lock side pubs all made it better. But as we’d had fish and chips for lunch at the Dusty Miller, (delicious and good value) we only quenched our thirst here at the Willey Moor.

The Willey Moor pub and lock

There’s a lockie at Grindly Brook staircase locks so we were up and through before I had time to blink, and we were lucky to get into the mooring by the Whitchurch lift bridge

A good place to stop

So we had the opportunity to take a meander into this peaceful little town. Navigation into the town comes to an abrupt end at Chemistry bridge when navigation ceased in 1939 and the canal was filled in.

The abrupt end to the Whitchurch arm, although the footpath does follow the old canal route into town

But the route was bought by the Whitchurch Waterways trust, who plan to open it up and create a small marina basin. It will be a lovely place to visit if it ever comes to fruition although they might have to do something about the wildlife

That’s a scary looking dragonfly

Whitchurch itself is worth exploring, the Roman road from Wroxeter (south of Shrewsbury) to Chester passed through here although there have been Neolithic remains found here. After the Norman conquest, a castle and stone church were built out of the local white Grinshill sandstone. So “Westune” (meaning West Farmstead) became Whitchurch. That particular church is no longer standing but the current parish church built in 1713 is particually beautiful inside and worth a visit.

Inside St Alkmunds

Whitchurch was granted it’s market town charter in Tudor times and although it is in shropshire, it became home to Beltons, a major producer of Cheshire cheese.

Whitchurch High Street