Hello again people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here after me and my human had just completed the second part of the Llangollen to Chirk walk. The walk is rated in Julia Bradbury’s 100 Great British Walks. We completed the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct to Llangollen section, and back, in between Covid-19 lockdowns, when we were still able to travel into Wales. It is nearly seven months since we walked the first part of the route. Our intentions were to complete the second part a week later but, the virus put a stop to that. When I say that we have now completed the walk we have actually walked it twice because of doing out and back walks, from the aqueduct. It is a beautiful walk so, doing it twice is a bonus.
It was a sunny April late morning that we chose to do the walk and the weather forecast was perfect for a canal walk. So, we set off, snacks and drinks in my human porters day pack, on the 45 minute drive over the border. The main car park was almost deserted so we drove up to the payment machine. To park for the day was £3.00 and Scrooge only had £1.80 in coins and the machine didn’t take notes or cards. So, we drove back to a small layby just off the main road. After a few minutes of my human faffing about, we were off.
After a short walk alongside the main car park we came to Trevor Basin with its Visitor Centre, floating cafe and nearby pub. It is a popular area for canal boats to moor overnight and for walkers and cyclists to set off on a canal towpath journey. On this occasion we planned to hike to Chirk by walking over the aqueduct and simply following the towpath.
Although the area wasn’t as busy as it was last September, when we were previously here, there were a few people milling around. My human grabbed a couple of bottles of water from the Floating Cafe, a converted narrowboat, moored next to the visitor centre. After a few minutes of waiting patiently for the big feller, and meeting a few other pooches and exchanging sniffs, we set off across the aqueduct.
The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct was designed by Thomas Telford and opened in 1805. It has been awarded the honour of becoming a World Heritage Site. The aqueduct spans the River Dee and the Ceiriog Valley, 127 feet below and is over 1000 feet long. The Llangollen branch of the Shropshire Union Canal carries many pleasure craft nowadays but, originally it was a busy trade route. The towpath over the aqueduct has a hand rail but, the opposite side is unguarded. There is not much room for passing other people on the towpath but, we managed to muddle our way through. My human didn’t spend much time on the aqueduct because of the pandemic social distancing rules. He hoped that it would be quieter on our way back.
As soon as we left the aqueduct behind us we were on our own, except for people in boats travelling along the canal. I was off-lead and running free. On the opposite side of the canal we came across the pretty little village of Froncysyllte. The way to the village is either over a footbridge or, by car, over a hand wound small bridge.
As we walked, or in my case sprinted, along the towpath we were gifted with views over to Cefn Mawr, on the opposite side of the River Dee. The weather was glorious, warm, dry and still with a slight cooling breeze. There was some shelter from the trees and the hedgerows as we walked and plenty for me to sniff. Perfect!
As we walked we had perfect views of the Cefn Railway Viaduct just beyond Ty Mawr Country Park. The viaduct carries the Chester to Shrewsbury line over the River Dee and was opened in 1846. Another stunning construction and is Grade II* listed.
The towpath was very quiet with just the odd cyclist passing us. In the trees above us we could hear the cawing of crows as they flew into and out of the many seemingly precarious nests. The odour from wild garlic pierced the air and the twittering and singing of thrushes and starlings made the walk a pleasant experience. Every so often a pair of ducks would zoom past us, flying a foot above the canal and then landing in the water. Show offs!
We had a short conversation with a couple of cows that came to see us on the opposite banks. I tried barking a conversation with them but, all they seemed to know was the word moo! Considering their size I don’t think that they are very bright.
My dad said to me that I had to go back on my lead for a while because, we were about to walk through a tunnel. Whitehouses Tunnel is 570 feet long and passes under the A5. It is just wide enough to take a narrowboat on the water and one dog and his human on the towpath. There are handrails for humans and the headspace is just enough to allow the big feller to pass through, without bumping his noggin! The tunnel soon became as dark as a coal mine, well almost. The clumsy one managed to kick me once or twice. He blamed this on my coat being black. Well, I could see him quite clearly. You humans are simply not a very advanced species! Luckily, we managed to pass through without any real disasters.
Once or twice we came across ducks resting on the canal bank. I surprised my human by not chasing them into the water. Instead I nonchalantly walked past them with just a sniff and a nod. The big feller was gobsmacked to say the least. It wasn’t a one-off either. I’m such a good boy!
As we walked we were treated to the smell of wood being cut. Soon this combined with an odour of chocolate. A weird combination but, the smell was being created by Kronospan and Mondolez. A wood mill and manufacturing plant and a Cadbury chocolate factory. The ugly sight of the Kronospan factory was soon hidden by a large embankment and although we could still hear it, we couldn’t see it.
Shortly after the factory we came to the second tunnel of the day. Chirk Tunnel was constructed between 1794 and 1802 by William Jessop and Thomas Telford. It is longer than the previous tunnel at a length of 1381 feet. It is also darker, colder and in places, damper. My human was yodelling (or that’s he called it) and making silly noises to produce echos. He wanted me to bark, I gathered, but I wouldn’t. Silly human! It is alleged that the tunnel is the first to have been constructed in the country with a towpath.
When we were back in the sunlight everything was very bright and the temperature jumped by quite a few degrees. As we warmed up we soon came to yet another pair of amazing engineering constructions. Running parallel to each other is the Chirk Aqueduct and the Chirk Railway Viaduct. The railway viaduct was built by Henry Robertson in 1848 and stands approximately thirty feet above the aqueduct. We walked over the aqueduct which is as the Pontcysyllte aqueduct, part of the World Heritage site.
The views under the viaduct and to the left, over the River Ceiriog, were beautiful, according to my human. I found the area to be good sniffing as I leaned precariously over the canal. We were nearing Chirk and our turn around point. We were ready for a rest, a drink and some snacks. So we plodded on to Chirk Bank.
We were no longer in Wales. We had crossed the border into Shropshire, England. Chirk Bank is a small village above Chirk and by the River Ceiriog. I found a bench for my human to sit on while we had our lunch stop. It is a lovely little village where people take a lot of pride in the appearance of their houses. We had a twenty minute rest in the sunshine and decided to not walk into the village of Chirk. Instead, we chose to return along the canal in the peace and quiet of a sunny afternoon.
We hardly saw any other people or pooches on our return journey except for on the odd narrowboat. My human was enjoying the gentle walking and the beauty of the area. I spotted a grey squirrel once or twice, which I naturally had to chase. I was enjoying the freedom of being off-lead as I ran ahead until I was called back. Sometimes, I ignore my human and pretend to have not heard him. I think that he knows that I am ignoring him too but, as long as I stand still while cyclists pass, he is happy with me.
As we neared Froncysyllte we saw some great views back toward Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. We had a short rest at another bench in the shade while we cooled down. Shortly, we reached the aqueduct and this time we had it to ourselves. No boats, no people and no pooches. I considered marking it as my territory but, unfortunately, the tank was empty.
The terminus of the canal in Trevor Basin was completely deserted so, we had a gentle mooch around while the big feller read every information board that he could find. A few minutes later we were back at the car. It was time for a big drink and a snooze on the rear seat. My human took over from that point, driving us back home, while I had a well deserved nap. He had a good moan about his aches and pains but, by then I was snoring. He said that our walk would be nine miles but, when he checked it later, we had walked just over eleven. Our longest walk for a while. He did say that his knee would pay for it the next day but, I still wasn’t listening. ZZZZZZZZZZZ! Till next time!