Visits: 3rd August 2013, 7th May 2016
I’ve been to Pontcysyllte a few times. Once a long time ago as a child, again in 2013 when I went to visit my grandparents Wilf and Glennys and most recently in 2016 with Natalie and Granddad.
This site was inscribed on the UNESCO list pretty recently, in 2009. I suppose that means that I visited it last time before it was picked out as special, so don’t anybody accuse me of only going to places after they become famous. The inscribed site is 18 kilometres of canal, including two aqueducts and two tunnels.
The most visually impressive part is without doubt the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, pictured at the top, and below (in the obligatory proof of visit photo).
You can walk across the bridge as narrowboats squeeze alongside. There is only a fence on the footpath side, so woe betide anybody on a canal booze-cruise who slips off the side of his boat!
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal is deemed to be worthy of recognition because it is an early example of the ingenuity of the engineers and architects of the Industrial Revolution. Wales’s hilly terrain does not lend itself to the needs of canals, yet this section traverses the countryside without resorting to locks.
Conceived of and overseen by Thomas Telford, construction began in 1795 and was completed 10 years later. The bridge has withstood the test of time, with even the cast iron trough being the original one put in by Telford more than two centuries ago. The mortar is apparently made from lime, water and ox blood!
In addition to Pontcysyllte, on my 2013 visit I went to see the less famous Chirk aqueduct (below). It was completed four years earlier than Pontcysyllte and is now flanked by a railway bridge alongside it. From the aqueduct the canal goes quickly into a tunnel, which provides a clear reminder of just how undulating the terrain is. The landscape, formerly covered in foundries, brickworks and lime kilns, was described in Victorian times as “a vision of hell”. Nowadays that description couldn’t be further from the truth.
Fast forward to the 2016 visit and, having come to the end of a busy day’s sightseeing at the castles of Gwynedd and a brief visit to Pontcysyllte we relaxed at the on-site pub: suitably named after the canal’s creator.