Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Horseshoe Falls and Shrewsbury

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August 16th 2018
Published: August 20th 2018
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This morning we packed the car to head down to Shropshire for a few days. With the accommodation in Shrewsbury pre-booked on the Internet weeks ago we were locked into visiting Shropshire despite Bernie learning last night that the Iron Bridge, the first iron bridge in the world, that he particularly wanted to visit, is currently all wrapped up for conservation works!

One evening, a day or so after we arrived, we watched a documentary on the Iron Bridge that Albert had recorded. The documentary also mentioned the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct (pronounced Pont - ker - sulth - tay) that was completed in 1805 using the new cast iron techniques that had been used for the first time during the construction of the Iron Bridge that was opened in 1791. Although we had driven past the aqueduct on another trip, Kath and Albert had never seen it so we asked Siri to take us there on our way to Shropshire.

We started out as we did yesterday morning travelling on the M60 and M56. Today we didn’t turn north onto the M6, but continued westwards towards Chester. To the north-east of Chester Siri directed us onto the M53 and A55 which took us around the city. At the A483 we turned south and into Wales. We continued driving south until we reached Ruabon where Siri directed us onto the minor roads that would deliver us to the World Heritage Site. We travelled along the A539 through the villages of Trevor and Garth where we dropped down into the Dee River Valley on a very narrow, very steep B road. We could see the amazing aqueduct spanning the valley, but where were we going to park the car so that we could take a closer look?!

After a couple of circuits of the steep and narrow roads circling the valley, we eventually found a park alongside the Llangollen Canal leading into the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. On foot we were able to walk along the canal and then from one end of the aqueduct to the other using the footpath at its side. It is really weird watching people sail their narrowboats along the aqueduct with the valley floor 39 metres below. It is certainly not for anyone who has a fear of heights!

At 39 metres high the aqueduct is the tallest navigable aqueduct in the world and with a length of 301 metres it is the longest navigable aqueduct in the United Kingdom. Designed by Thomas Telford and William Jessop it was constructed between 1795 and 1805 at a cost of £38,499. It consists of a narrow trough of iron plates, sealed with Welsh flannel and lead, sitting atop 18 tapering stone piers and 19 arches. A truly spectacular feat of Victorian engineering.

From Pontcysyllte Aqueduct we drove down into Llangollen where we stopped for some lunch. Llangollen is at the beginning of yet another heritage railway and, would you believe it, steam trains were running today. At the risk of sounding like trainspotters I have to confess that we went across the bridge to the station to see the steam train. Of course this was only because Kath and Albert haven’t seen a steam train recently ... unlike the two of us who last saw a steam train on Sunday!

After the train left the station we continued along the A539 to the Horseshoe Falls. The falls are integral to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. As part of the project to enable canal traffic to cross the Dee River Valley Thomas Telford designed a J-shaped weir on the River Dee to divert water into the start of the Llangollen Canal which then flows into the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.

A short walk along the river took us to the Chain Bridge. The original bridge was built in 1817 by Exuperius Pickering, a local entrepreneur, who wanted to link the Llangollen Canal with the London to Holyhead Road to facilitate the movement of goods such as limestone and coal. The bridge was rebuilt in 1826 and 1929 and restored and reopened in 2015.

With the afternoon drawing to a close it was time to make our way to Shrewsbury where we had arranged to meet the cleaner at 6.00pm to be let into the apartment we have booked. Siri took us across the River Dee at Llangollen onto the A5 which took us all the way to Shrewsbury. To get into the town centre we did go by way of some B roads which it would have been very difficult to navigate without Siri’s guidance. She unerringly delivered us to the St Julian’s Car Park where we will have to park for the next few days because there is no parking available on the High Street where our accommodation is located.

With half an hour to fill in we walked into town and found 14-15 High Street and then nipped around the corner to the Tesco Express to buy a few supplies. Bernie headed back around to the shop front at 14-15 High Street to meet Zoe. When we arrived a bit after 6.00pm he was still waiting out the front. Oh no, have the text messages between Bernie, Nick (the owner) and Zoe (the cleaner) been misinterpreted? I went up to the door at the side of the shop front and peered in and there was Zoe standing at the end of the passage that goes through to The Cottage behind the shop. So, Bernie and Zoe were both there at the appointed time - just not in line of sight with each other!

With the keys in hand Bernie and I went down to the car park to bring the Golf up to be unloaded. Main Street is a narrow, one-way street but, fortunately, has a loading bay quite near the apartment. Damn, because we had the car we had far too much loose stuff that got thrown in ... you know, just in case we needed it! It took us several trips to ferry everything in. We left Kath and Albert transferring the foodstuffs into the fridge while we returned the car to the car park.

Because of all the one way streets in Shrewsbury we had to return to the car park by a circuitous route that took us out over the River Severn via a toll bridge. What the ...? We need twenty pence to open the gate, have we even got twenty pence on us?! Bernie managed to dig his wallet out of his pocket and found twenty pence in it which he put in the machine and it dropped straight through ... twice ... before it finally raised the barricade! So, out over the river and then along the river as far as English Bridge where we were able to cross back to the inside of the loop in the River Severn in which the old town centre of Shrewsbury nestles.

Our accommodation has quite a lot of house squashed into a very small footprint at the back of the shops. The entry is into a large L-shaped kitchen. The rest of the ground floor is made up of a small sitting room and a powder room. Through a fire door and up a steep flight of stairs to a bedroom and a bathroom and then up an even steeper flight of stairs to another bedroom with an ensuite. Chloe’s parting words to us had been to be very careful on the stairs!

There are so many beautiful half-timbered buildings nearby and the Old Market Hall looking very atmospheric in the late afternoon sunshine behind an imposing statue of ‘Clive’. Hmmn, Clive ... who? The only Clive I could think of, famous enough to not need his surname on his statue, was Clive of India. Sure enough, when I checked the map later it is indeed Clive of India gracing the square.

After being on the road and sightseeing most of the day we settled for an easy dinner of take-away pizza from an Italian restaurant just a few doors along the High Street.

Bernie won Jo again. His luck has turned!

Steps:16,810 (12.57kms)

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21st August 2018

Love the photos, looks like you have seen some varied sights along the way and much to delight a photographer’s eye! I could not have gone along that viaduct!

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