We were venturing to the other side of Offa’s Dyke to attend Guy and Lynn’s wedding, so decided to check out the Llangollen canal the day before. It had qualified for Unesco World Heritage status so must be worth a visit, and from a kayaking point of view the lure of paddling over the highest aqueduct in the world was hard to resist.
All the local rivers were in flood anyway so there wasn’t a lot of option.
We started off at Chirk, which is actually in England.
Becky walked as I paddled along. Fortunately our cruising speeds were just about the same. It was all pleasantly scenic and quiet and peaceful, and very green.
First up, on the remarkable feats of canal engineering, was the Chirk aqueduct, which at only seventy foot high was trifling compared to what was to come.
Chirk tunnel followed immediately after the aqueduct. 460 yards long and a bit creepy in the middle where it is so dark you can’t even see your paddle.
Although I had a pathetic little torch I wouldn’t trust a narrowboat entering the other end to notice it. Fortunately one didn’t appear.
Not surprisingly because of all the boat activity wildlife was a bit thin on the ground today, but it was great to see several families of Mandarin duck on the canal.
My timing for the passage past a swing bridge was perfect because a narrowboat was approaching and a very cheerful Canadian gentleman was working the hand winch.
The increasing number of sightseers bulging out of the canal boats hinted that something remarkable was just around the corner.
Of course they would all have preferred to be travelling by kayak, or at least that’s what they said.
It was time for the BIG viaduct. Pontcysyllite…..the Stream in the Sky. With less than a foot of parapet to protect you from a 126 foot drop it is not for the faint-hearted. Peering over giddy ledges usually makes my head spin but if I’m sitting in the seat of a kayak it doesn’t seem to be a problem. And if Thomas Telford’s creation had stood firm without losing a drop of water for 214 years then it was probable it would see me to the other side and back (twice, because I couldn’t resist going over it again).
The canal somehow managed to maintain a very high level of visual appeal over the next five miles to Llangollen.
Sweeping through green fields,
past a cliffy bit,
and through neatly pruned gardens. As a bonus at one stage the sun almost threatened to come out, but then it started drizzling again.
We stopped for lunch at Llangollen wharf and consumed tuna and sweetcorn sandwiches. Unfortunately they were a bit fizzy because I had made them yesterday morning before we left Devon.
The canal side was busy with tourists spilling out of the town for a boat trip. Both conventional and horse-drawn were on offer.
Following refuelling ( on the high octane sandwiches) the nine mile paddle back was relatively easy for me because there was a significant flow of water in the canal, but not so easy for Becky because the towpath remained motionless.
The Mandarin family attracted admirers;
and the afternoon swelled the number of visitors to the viaduct, many of whom were more interested in phone screens than the staggering view or mindboggling feat of engineering.
Time for one last sweep of the Gopro to take in the dizzying height.
For the final four miles to Chirk I was sucked along in the wake of a narrowboat.