Thursday 3rd September; Whitehouse tunnel to Llangollen Basin
Rather a long post today, and it’s not because of crossing the aqueduct! On our walk yesterday we only saw a few boats facing in the Llangollen direction but we didn’t want to cross the aqueduct in a long train of boats as we did last time; Dave said it was like being in a railway carriage. So we were away by 8.30 though the boat moored ahead of us had left before 8. The first of the autumn leaves had fallen on the roof.
A hire boat pulled out in front of us from one of the other mooring spots, which was a bit annoying but then the lovely people opened the lift bridge at Froncysyllte and waved us through. Then we saw our early starting neighbours approaching, having gone across the aqueduct and turned at Trevor. Lots of hirers do this too rather than go all the way to Llangollen, probably the best choice if you are on a tight schedule and it certainly makes life easier for those who aren’t! Anyway, the aqueduct was now clear and as the hire boat dropped right back to take photos, we were almost in splendid isolation as we crossed. The crew clearly has a head for heights! They had dropped so far behind that enlarging the photo has made it blurry.
Dave also has a good head for heights though it doesn’t look like it here. His knuckles are not really white though – it’s purely an effect of the cold wind on his weatherbeaten hands!
Here are two more obligatory photos to add to our Pontcysyllte collection; the river Dee on the towpath side and desirable properties on the other.
There was only a trip boat making ready on the Trevor side, so we were soon round the junction and on our way to Llangollen. The rain set in almost at once; not heavy but persistent, just occasionally letting up a bit. By now a large number of boats was coming towards us; it had been the right decision to leave early. Dave got off to take some photos as we went through the first set of narrows. Check out the little gnome bundled up against the rain and cold trying her best not to hit the sides (largely achieved).
There had been several dodgy moments at bridges but no real problems and as we pulled in at the services the rain eased off too. We got rid of the rubbish and I emptied a cassette, only to discover the chain for flushing the hopper coyly curled up in a corner. I did climb up and try to use the arm thing to operate the flush but it wasn’t there, so we called in to CRT once we’d moored. The basin was half empty and we picked a lovely quiet mooring by the grass. We went down to the town for some supplies, coming back via the towpath, where there is an unusual memorial seat. The carving reads ‘Why stand when you can sit?’ with the name of the person in whose name it was placed there.
As we crossed the bridge to return to the basin the horse-boat clopped towards us; well the horse clopped, the boat just trickled. The operators of this service always look bored out of their minds, plodding the same route day after day, though the horse just looks patient as horses do.
Over the bridge we met an American lady wondering if the blackberries were ok to eat as they didn’t have much flavour – we thought it was probably the recent lack of sunshine and suggested she cooked them with apples and sugar. I went off for a run up to Horseshoe Falls, spotting on the way that the chain bridge had been restored (it was in a sorry state when we saw it from the steam train window a few years ago). I sneaked into the hotel entrance area to take this snap on my phone.
The bridge is supported by these cables running above the hotel roof to a massive block of concrete on the cliff high above the canal. I got a crick in my neck taking this – it’s a lot higher up than it looks.
Just as I returned from my run there was a knock on the side and a courteous American gentleman invited us to join them on the hire boat next door for a taste of his wife’s blackberry cobbler. After a speedy shower we joined them – four delightful people from Washington State. What they call cobbler though is known as a clafoutis over here; the fruit is cooked in a Yorkshire pudding batter with added sugar. Whatever it’s called it was utterly delicious. They were lovely people and we would cheerfully have spent longer with them, but were on our way to the Town Hall to see if there had been any returned tickets for the Mikron Theatre performance that night as we’ve never managed to catch them in the past. We didn’t even need to go inside to enquire – the ladies behind us had two tickets to return. Transaction completed, we shot off down to Fouzi’s by the bridge to grab a quick bite and came back to discover that all the reserved seats had been released and we were in the front row.
The show was excellent. We saw ‘Raising Agents’, about a beleaguered branch of the Women’s Institute, and most of the audience (though not me) were members of that august institution. The four cast members – the two men were playing women – were brilliant, all playing an instrument and singing too. We were in fits of laughter, though there were serious bits as well. At the interval Dave chatted to one of the very few other men in the audience while I got a glass of wine and some cake – supplied, of course, by the local WI so we knew it would be good. The elderly lady I was sitting next to explained some of the finer points of Welsh pronunciation – each seat had a piece of paper on it with the words to ‘Hen wlad fy Nhadau’ (Land of my Fathers). At the end of the performance she zoomed across to the little electric piano at the foot of the stage and the audience leapt to its feet for a rousing rendition of ‘Jerusalem’, followed by ‘Land of our Fathers’. Our Welsh was sadly not up to that one.
I took some photos on my phone as the cast members took their bow but they didn’t really come out. This is the best I could manage – their van outside.
We dropped in to the Bridge End Hotel for a pint on our way home to the boat. It was so late when we got back we had to creep in quietly as most of the other boaters had already turned in for the night.
6 miles, 1 lift bridge, Pontcysyllte aqueduct and a lot of rain!