Thursday, September 30, 2010

Welsh chaos!

This week we have done … Ellesmere Arm to Ellesmere Arm ! Via Llangollen! It’s been absolutely chaotic !! Never seen so many hireboats in one week. It’s been a million times more busy than when we did this same canal early July 2009.

The Llangollen is a lovely canal but in future we will only go as far as Ellesmere as we’ve both been up to the end several times now and because of the tunnels, aqueducts and narrows it does get a bit like Piccadilly Circus in rush hour! Plus the fact it is quite shallow which does hurt Jandai’s bottom from time to time.

We spent 2 nights in Llangollen. Costs £6 a overnight but we did get electricity in for this which meant we didn’t have to run the engine whilst up there so saving on fuel. We moored on the towpath rather than in the basin as it’s better for Foxxie rather than being on pontoons but does mean it is rather dark because of the high trees both sides but, then again, cos we had electricity then I could put the lights on without Dai screaming about his batteries!!

It was very busy in the town as it’s a bit of a tourist trap - especially cos the sun shone over the weekend we were there. We walked up to the Horseshoe Falls and watched the canoeists on the River Dee shooting the rapids!!!

On Monday we climbed a mountain ---- well, I would call it a mountain but of course Dai kept telling me it was only a foothill !! My calves and front thighs definitely called it a mountain the next day!

We followed the Llangollen History Trail including climbing the mountain to Dinas Bran Castle which is now in ruins. The castle was built in the 1260s by a local Welsh ruler, Prince Gruffudd ap Madoc, to guard the strategic route through the Dee Valley. It only had a short working life and was abandoned in 1282 (see - the owners leg muscles gave out !!!). Then we trekked to Valle Crucis Abbey which was once the second richest abbey in Wales. Founded in 1201 by Cistercian monks, the abbey was lived in until the Dissolution of the monastery in 1537. Then back down to Horseshoe Falls and then 2 miles back down the towpath to the boat.

We managed to sup a few pints of Welsh beer - one of our favourites - Rev.James by Brains - that evening which passed happily chatting to a group of narrow boaters in the oldest pub in Llangollen.

Where we moored last night - in the middle of nowhere just before the New Marton locks - Dai was wood hunting and discovered some blackberries - I couldn’t believe it, they were really huge and hanging like bunches of grapes!! Sadly no jamjars left to make more jam but I just couldn’t let them go to waste so made some blackberry vinegar instead which will be good medicine for sore throats ….. Wonder if hot water and vodka will mix with it? Even better medicine then!

Going to spend 3 nights here in Ellesmere and then carry on down the Llangollen towards the Shroppie.

Since last blog we have done … 37 miles and 4 locks
This makes total since Setting Off ….. 781 miles and 788 locks.

the Welsh hills are approaching

Chirk Aqueduct and Viaduct

Dai taking us over Pontecysyllte Aqueduct

Almost over the Pontcysyllte !   This Aqueduct is the most famous and spectacular feature on the whole canal system.  It is 126 ft above the River Dee and 1007 ft long.    The towpath side is fenced off with iron railings but the offside is completely unprotected from about 12 in above the water level.  It was constructed by Thomas Telford taking 10 years to complete and opened in 1805 at an estimated cost of £47,018.  Today the aqueduct remains as built, apart from renewals of balustrading the the towpath structure.  The masonry is apparently in prime condition (the very thin masontry joints were bonded by a mortar made from a mixture of lime and ox blood).  The dovetailed joints in the iron trough are sealed with a combination of Welsh flannel and lead dipped in boiling sugar and hardly leak at all.  

  looking down on the River Dee from the Aqueduct

still standing after serious climb to Dinas Bran Castle ruins in Llangollen

ruins of Valle Crucis Abbey

the chain bridge where monks from the Valle Crucis Abbey once crossed the River Dee - unfortunately you can't walk over it now!    There is now a hotel overlooking the river and bridge

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