Friday, 1 July 2011

Rydym wedi cyrraedd

"We have arrived". That's what the Welsh title means - according to Google at any rate. And we have arriverd: we're sitting in the Llangollen canal basin right at the end of the canal.
It wasn't a long journey to get here today - but it was a memorable one. In 12 miles we had two locks, some extremely narrow sections, oh, and a couple of aqueducts.
The first of these, at Chirk, would be considered world class - a rugged stone structure whose impressive appearance is only backed up by the railway viaduct behind it. Unfortunately Chirk is, to use a topical metaphor, the Andy Murray of aqueducts and just down the road is the Rafael Nadal in the shape of the unique and mind blowing Pontcysyllte. But that is another story.For now a quick run down on the journey pre and post Ponte.
We started deep in Welsh/English border countryside. Ironically I'd realised the previous evening that we were just a mile away from Welsh Frankton, the home village of Phil Llewellyn, a late and much lamented motoring journalist chum. How entertaining it might have been to wander up to his door and be invited in by a beaming, ever jovial Phil. Then to stagger back, many whiskys later! Ah well, enough of that.
The first two locks for 20 miles (and the last on the canal) were s0on despatched and we headed on along a canal that mixes open stretches with nadgery twists and turns where bridges are usually hidden - and hire boats too. It's shallow in places but never impossible, though woe can betide you if you venture too near the edges.
The canal beats a rather secretive path around the edges of a high, steep valley and it's only when you glimpse the Looming Chirk aqueduct through the trees that you realise the scale of the achievement in getting a waterway here at all.
The aqueduct is a sturdy structure and despite its height above the valley one can potter across without a moment's anxiety. And 'potter' is the word for progress is slow across its shallow, silted channel.
The we were through the 450 yard Chirk tunnel - one-way and narrow like all the Llangollen tunnels with walls that threatened to bash the cabin sides. Another tunnel, another miles, a liftbridge and then we were at the Ponte.
Over that and we were in the mayhem of a hireboat logjam; three of them waiting to cross the aqueduct and the small arm we'd thought of mooring in choked with more. Steak pie at the Trevor Inn will have to wait until the way back. So we turned left and took the narrow, shallow channel to Llangollen.
I've been in narrow and I've been in shallow but rarely one so narrow and so shallow that at times we could barely move forwards and Vicky walked ahead to warn any oncoming craft to wait for us to come through.
The last half mile into the town is rightly famous - a concrete channel barely wide enough to be a storm drain runs between cottages and looks down on the town below before reaching the wharf and, finally, the mooring basin.


Adam said...

It's a great trip, isn't it. we did it last September. On the way beack, I'd recommend going down the Monty -- an oasis of calm after the mayhem of the Llangollen, very pretty, and a pub with great food at the end, The Navigation. It was the best part of the trip for us.

Starman said...

Just got back from an excellent meal at The Navigation - a fine pub!