Although there was a lot of industry around the canal it is long gone and in many places there isn’t any obvious signs of it ever having been there, but at Fron there are the impressive remains of The Old Limekilns right by the side of the canal.
The wharf in front of them has been turned into quite smart private moorings where we saw this rather interesting use for a picnic table
As you approach Fron Footbridge No 28A it’s worth looking up and across the valley as you’ll get a very impressive view of the aqueduct.
When you reach Coedfryn Winding Hole you get your first navigational view of the aqueduct. We were quite lucky in that there were no boats actually on the aqueduct so we could go straight on. Nick really doesn’t like crossing the aqueduct so he chose to stay off the boat from the lift bridge and took the road that runs down and crosses the valley just up stream of the aqueduct.
We were a few feet onto the aqueduct when a boat appeared at the other end… they started to come forward but then realised and backed up.
Mintball is a pretty snug fit in the tunnels and the aqueducts and with quite a flow on the canal heading upstream isn’t the fastest of things and it took quite a while for us to make our way across the valley.
There were some people with a drone when we came off the aqueduct, apparently they’d decided not to send it up because of the weather conditions which I could sort of understand as there was a bit of rain in the air and the odd gust of wind and with all the trees round I suspect it would have been all rather too easy to lose a done.
Once you take the sharp turn at Ruabon Branch Junction the canal changes totally : it becomes much narrower and significantly shallower, especially at the edges and it can be a bit of a tight squeeze at times – especially when you meet a partially laden old working boat coming downstream on the flow…
Progress along this stretch is very slow going upstream and at Llangollen Narrows Section (300m) you pretty much come to a stop. This is the first section where you really do need someone on the bank walking ahead to check for oncoming boats and to work out who should be stopping and who should be proceeding. I do understand that when they rebuilt this section they needed to keep the original profile of the canal but you would have hoped that maybe they could have made the canal channel a little wider, or deeper, or something.
The next section of narrows ( Llangollen Narrows Section (500m) ) are slightly better in that the canal is a bit deeper but, like the previous section, navigation is made more difficult by the fact that the narrows has a bend in it so you can’t actually see if there is any traffic coming down. We had to wait for about 5 minutes for a small cavalcade of boats to come down before we could head up stream.
There is one more set of narrows right before you get to Llangollen Wharf – these are the shortest of the three but again they’re not straight and progress through them is excruciatingly slow heading upstream.
Turning at Llangollen is so much easier since they put Llangollen Basin in, but take care when turning and make sure you go a good way in so that your back end doesn’t get dragged by the current flowing down from Llantisilio – Horseshoe Falls – also be aware that there seems to be a lip or something below the waterline on the concrete edged towpath.
Having turned we headed downstream at a noticeably faster speed than we’d made coming up. We’d used a couple of walkie talkies on the way up and we’d left them on as we headed down the canal, and we started picking up a conversation between what we thought, at the start, were two boats, but it became obvious as the conversation continued that it was between two sets of people on one boat…. the big give away being when they started talking about a cup of tea and how many sugars they wanted in it.
The chatter reached its peak as we got towards Llanddyn No 2 Lift Bridge No 44 when we heard one on them say something like “Someone has left the bridge open” followed by a loud squawk from the front of their boat that “There’s a boat approaching”…. at which time we were in full view of both the group on the front deck and the one on the back deck.
We made very good time back to the aqueduct and we flew across it in a fraction of the time it took to come through it coming upstream and there were no boats waiting as we came off the aqueduct and round the corner. The dog was still sitting on the table and looked extremely comfortable.
Now its a pretty much universal law when it comes to canalboating that you will always meet a boat coming the other way at the most inconvenient moment so we just knew as we approached Irish Bridge No 27 that when the boat in front of us went into full reverse and went diagonally across the canal, there was a boat coming the other way…. and there was… actually there were about 3 and then the boat in front tried to go through and had to back out again because there were even more boats coming through.
It was similarly chaotic when we got to Whitehouses Tunnel (North end) with people on the towpath basically trying to stop boats going into the tunnel because they wanted to come through. We made steady, but sometimes stumbling progress to Chirk Tunnel Visitor Moorings where we pulled in as we were swapping some of our crew round.
We’d found out that the trains were not running but buses were running instead so after leaving Simon to get a bus home we wandered into town
and had a couple of quite nice pints in The Hand Hotel which was very busy serving food and running a large wedding reception, but they still had friendly staff on hand to serve drinks in the little bar in reception.
Then we wandered back to the Station where we waited for David to arrive on another bus.
There were quite a few boats moored up at the Poachers Pocket Visitor Moorings – it seemed to be another day when people were stopping early. It was pretty quiet down to New Marton Bottom Lock No 1 where there seemed to be quite a queue of boats, but oddly enough no-one really seemed to be eager to work their boats through the lock and we basically did it by ourselves as crews from the queuing boats just stood round on the towpath.
We chugged on and moored up for the night and went and ate in the pub and sat near their log burner drinking beer until they threw us out at closing time.