Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal
Highlights of Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal
Introduction to Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal
Considered one of the United Kingdom’s greatest Industrial Revolution-era feats of engineering, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal is located in northeastern Wales. Measuring 18 kilometers (11 miles) long, the aqueduct and canal traverse land that would have presented myriad engineering challenges to those who built it in the early years of the 19th century. Designed by Thomas Telford, the structure had a strong impact on future civil engineering projects, land and inland waterway use, and iron and structural design.
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Guide to Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal
As the canal and aqueduct is still a functioning waterway, many outfitters offer boat trips along the Llangollen and across the “stream in the sky”. These generally include a chance to explore the lovely Dee Valley. Most trips take about 2 hours or more via a special motorized narrow canal boat. Traffic can only travel in one direction at a time, so during the busy season there is often a queue of boats waiting to cross.
Visitors can also cross in their own kayak or canoe rather than on a hired boat tour. Such a trip is not for the faint of heart and it is not possible to stop on the bridge to snap photographs. Those wishing to document their trip can moor their boat just before the crossing and walk to the center of the bridge on the towpath to enjoy the view.
More information can be had from their extensive website here: http://www.pontcysyllte-aqueduct.co.uk
Video of Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal
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History of Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal
The idea for building the Ellesmere Canal was conceived in the late 18th century so that Chester and the Mersey estuary could be connected to Severn and the Midlands canal network. Though the original project was not meant to reach the foothills of the Welsh mountain and the Dee and Ceiriog Valleys, the need to have access to the coal and limestone in those regions prompted the building of another section that would be known as the Llangollen Canal.
Engineer William Jessop, chief of the canal project, hired Thomas Telford – known for his amazing ingenuity and his use of cast iron – to assist with this portion of the project. For the aqueduct over the Ceiriog, Telford used stone, but the conditions at the point where an aqueduct would cross the River Dee were much different. After much thought, Telford turned to the more affordable cast iron to traverse this deep and wide valley.
From the day it opened, people recognized the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct as something special. Its sheer size and the beauty of its design attracted engineers from around the world who came to study the design. Artists also came from far and wide to paint images of the aqueduct. Telford quickly became famous and was lauded as the premiere builder of iron bridges and canals. His work influenced the development of canals worldwide.
Not only was the aqueduct pleasing to the eye, but it also had a major impact on industry in the area, particularly the coal, metal working, and limestone industries. The use of the canal was heavy for decades, thanks to its connections to other canal systems which traveled as far away as London. However, when heavy industry began to decline in the late 1800s, so did the use of the canal.
But when industry traffic slowed, tourism traffic picked up. Historians show that by 1884 canal tourism was in full swing and it continued to increase through the early 1900s. Small organized cruises were offered to visitors and the countryside was promoted as a healthy and scenic place to stay. However, World War II largely ended the pleasure cruises and the canal was eventually decommissioned in 1944. Its condition deteriorated and it was eventually no longer navigable.
Interest in the canal and aqueduct by historians and environmentalists in the 1950s led to the eventual restoration of the canal and prompted its regular maintenance. Since 1954, it has been maintained in navigable condition and remains a popular Welsh tourist destination and photo spot.
Getting to Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal
Wales, in general, does not have extreme temperatures. However, the most pleasant time to visit the canal and aqueduct is when you can enjoy a comfortable, leisurely cruise through the Dee Valley and over the bridge. The best seasons for this are the spring and summer. Summers represent the peak of the tourist season, so boat hires are a little harder to come by and there is often a line of traffic waiting to cross the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.
By rail from London, the National Express Coach line runs a train from London to Llangollen via Shrewsbury and Birmingham. It leaves from the Victoria Coach Station and the trip takes about 5 ½ hours one way. However, this train service is infrequent. Many visitors opt to travel from England to Wales via automobile. The drive to Llangollen would take about 3 ½ hours.
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