Hello people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here. Me and my human have been for another flat walk. My dad’s knee injury is limiting us in where we can hike so, the world seems to have become quite flat. He can walk for hours, providing that the surface is flat. Hills and mountains will have to wait for now. This isn’t really a problem just a limiting factor in my enjoyment. He had a look at the hiking apps that he uses and found a good walk for us in North Wales. Being only a short drive for us, it was fine with me. He chose to do an out and back hike along the Llangollen Canal. We would park at Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, mooch around there, then walk to Llangollen and return.
It was a beautiful Sunday morning in late September, with plenty of blue sky, a light breeze and temperatures around twelve degrees Celsius. It was perfect for hiking. So, with a small rucksack packed with essentials such as treats for me, food for me and plenty of water for me, we set off to the Vale of Llangollen.
We parked in the large car park, for £3 for the day, close to the aqueduct. At the head of the car park, a short walk along a footpath took us to the Llangollen Canal. There are plenty of finger posts pointing to the aqueduct and to Llangollen along the towpath of the canal. My dad stopped at each of the information boards in the area to read about the aqueduct and to check our route. We didn’t need a map that day as our route was straightforward and well signposted.
The aqueduct is a spectacular structure and an amazing engineering feat, spanning the River Dee, 39 metres below in the valley. It was built in 1805 by Thomas Telford and William Jessop to carry narrowboats along the Ellesmere Canal, from Trefor to Froncysyllte. The bridge consists of 18 stone piers that carry a cast iron trough, 307 metres long. The structure has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a very popular site for visitors. A footpath / towpath runs along one side of the canal, across the bridge, giving incredible views along the Vale of Llangollen and down to the River Dee.
We walked across the aqueduct and back again, after taking in the sights. We arrived back at the Trefor Basin, with its information shop and (closed) canalboat café, before crossing the canal over The Slip road bridge toward Llangollen. We then joined the northern side towpath of the canal, until we crossed a footbridge, to join the southern towpath. The footpath was sheltered by broadleaf trees, mainly oak, whose leaves were starting to change colour and fall into the canal. Every few minutes I was startled by the loud ‘plop’ of an acorn falling into the murky water.
On the drive to the hike my dad had been listening to Radio 5 Live. He had heard ‘Runaway’ by The Coors so, I had to put up with him singing the one line of the song that he could remember, on a continuous loop. He even tried to sing it in the same high pitch as the original recording. Have a word, somebody. Please!
As we plodded along the towpath, we could sometimes see the Afon Dyfrdwy, or River Dee, through the gaps in the trees and hedgerows. Across the valley we caught sight of the Clwydian range and to our right we could see Eglwyseg escarpment, looming above the green rolling farmland. We passed under numerous old arched stone road bridges where the big feller had to duck so that he didn’t bang his bonce.
The canal was quiet and peaceful, until we reached sections that ran parallel and close to the A493, with its numerous roaring motorbikes. My nemesis. Motorbikes always frighten me, especially the big ones, that race along otherwise quiet country roads. My dad said that he loves the sound of an old English motorbike with their throaty roar. I can’t understand the appeal myself. Once or twice the canal ran close to the river and we could hear the water rushing over the mini-rapids. Now, I like that sound. It makes me want to go for a dip!
We weren’t walking very fast but, we did manage to overtake a number of narrowboats pootling along the water. Most of these were day-hires from the nearby Llangollen Wharf. We noticed the difference between day-hires and privately owned boats as the latter almost silently glided along the water. My human thought that it was funny to watch the antics of some of the day craft as they zig-zagged, sped up and slowed down as they clumsily went on their way.
We could see Castell Dinas Bran sitting on top of the hill, overlooking the town of Llangollen, as we neared our turning point. We love walking up to the top to see the views all around. This day was to be a flat day however, as we headed toward the town. Just after we passed the Bryn Howel Hotel, with its overgrown boathouse, we found a viewpoint with a couple of well maintained benches. We sat and ate our lunch as we overlooked the Vale of Llangollen, with sheep and cattle grazing in the fields. My dad ate his Coronation Chicken sandwiches while I ate my kibble as fast as I could so that I might grab a corner of his butty. It worked. I shared some of his sandwich and after a drink of water we carried on with our hike.
I found a long, thin tree branch in the grass at the side of towpath so, what else could I do? I picked it up in my teeth and ran with it. A family walked toward us, and I soon ensured that they socially distanced themselves as they had to avoid my new toy. They found it amusing but, it’s serious business, stick carrying!
My dad was fascinated by a manually operated drawbridge, that spanned the canal to allow livestock to graze in the lower fields. The canal narrowed into a one-way system along lengths of the way into Llangollen as it passed alongside steep rocky outcrops. Trees overhang the canal, precariously attached to the rocky wall, along the approach the wharf.
When we reached the wharf, we decided to walk down the steep hill to the road bridge that straddles the river. The area was becoming very busy with visitors as the late September sun had tempted people to this popular spot. My dad took a few photographs and we decided to retrace our footsteps to the canal. We quickly walked through the open-air café at the wharf and headed back along the towpath.
When we arrived at the viewpoint that we had rested at previously, we had another short break. We could see paragliders soaring above the hills on the opposite side of the valley and golfers below us on the green fairways of the Vale of Llangollen Golf Club. The river glistened in the sunlight and roared over the rocks. It is no wonder that someone has placed benches at this spot as it is truly stunning and peaceful.
After our short rest we carried on along the towpath. In this direction the views of the escarpment were an improvement on the outward journey. The Vale of Llangollen seemed to appear more frequently through the trees also. The continuous plopping of acorns dropping into the canal still startled me as we walked. The walk back to the aqueduct seemed to take no time at all.
When we reached Trefor Basin we looked around for a place that my dad could photograph the aqueduct from a different angle. We found a side path that was signposted toward a viewpoint so, we headed off along it. There was a gap in the trees not too far along the path which wasn’t exactly what he wanted to see but, because of his iffy knee he didn’t want to walk down any hills. So, we headed back along the footpath toward the canal. It was a lot busier than when we had arrived earlier so, we headed back to the car.
We had walked for 11 miles. It is 4.5 miles from the aqueduct to the wharf but, we added a few other bits onto the walk. The weather had been fantastic as had the scenery. I had the chance to run off-lead for some sections so, I was happy. A good day! Until next time!