Tuesday, November 26, 2013

On the Monty

I expected there to be a touch of ice on the water this morning, last night’s forecast was for around -4° in rural areas, and it was down to -1° when we went to bed. But the blanket of cloud that was due this morning must have arrived a little early, raising the temperature in the early hours.
It wouldn’t have been a problem out on the main canal, but we moved into the Ellesmere Arm on Saturday, easier access to the shops and easier for our visitors.

Leaving the Ellesmere Arm on a cool, grey morningSAM_7245

It’s a fine little town, is Ellesmere. We’ll be coming back, after we’ve had a brief sojourn down the Montgomery canal, to do some Christmas shopping.

Back onto the main lineSAM_7246
Apart from the usual sanitary facilities, there is a forge, workshop and dry dock here. Beech House, just off to the left of the picture, used to be the canal company offices.

It was three miles to Frankton Junction and the Montgomery Canal, a steady hour and a half. The canal has to hairpin around Val Hill at one point, giving extensive views to the south and east.

Long views at Val Hill

There are three bridges on the tight turn, Val Hill Nos 1 and 3 are not so bad, but No 2 is unsighted from both directions.

Val Hill Bridge 2

I’m sure it makes for some interesting encounters during the season!

We arrived at the junction at soon after 11:00 for our midday booking, but the lockie turned up at the same time and said he’d send us straight down. There is a staircase pair at the top, then two individual chambers further down.

Just turned onto the MontySAM_7261
We’d intended to come here yesterday, but couldn’t pass up a chance to see Val and John.

Mags in the top chamber of the staircaseSAM_7262

Going down….SAM_7264

Heading for the bottom lock, Lock 4
There was only us using the locks today, in fact the lockie thinks there’s only one or two boats down on the canal. Top and bottom locks on the short flight are padlocked when not in use. Not because they’re difficult or complicated and needing supervision, but because access to the canal is controlled. Only twelve boats at a time are allowed on the 7½ miles restored length to limit the impact on the flora and fauna. The canal is an SSSI, and objections from the conservationists had to be overcome before restoration to a navigable standard could commence.

We didn’t get far below the locks, pulling in on the short remaining stub of the Weston Branch.

Moored on the Weston Branch.SAM_7268

Looking back at the locks

The branch used to go to Weston Lullingfields, a distance of about 6 miles. It seems an obscure destination for a branch, until you consider the history of the associated canals. In 1793 a plan was hatched to build a canal from the Mersey at what is now known as Ellesmere Port, connecting to the River Dee at Chester, then Wrexham, to the Severn at Shrewsbury. An extension to the south west was intended to connect to the copper mines at Llanymynech. A branch would also go to Ellesmere, Prees and Whitchurch.

The first, relatively straightforward section from the Mersey to Chester was completed in 1797, but the route via Wrexham was scrapped due to the cost of construction over difficult terrain.

As was common, various sections of the canal were constructed at the same time. The route from Frankton to Llanymynech was completed in 1796, and the “main line” from Trevor to Frankton in 1805, after the construction of formidable aqueducts at Pontcysyllte and Chirk. This  isolated waterway needed a source of water, which was initially intended to come in on the abandoned route north of Trevor. So a navigable channel was built to the River Dee at Llangollen.

While all this messing about was going on, other canal companies had been busy with their own projects. The Shrewsbury canal network was being built, making it unnecessary now to link to the town, and the Montgomeryshire Canal had connected the end of the Llanymynech Branch to Newton. The Ellesmere Canal still needed an outlet to the Dee, so the decision was made to make a connection with the earlier Chester Canal at Hurleston. Branches or arms would connect with Ellesmere, Prees and Whitchurch.

This is what we have now; what is now know as the Llangollen Canal from Hurleston to Llangollen, with branches to Whitchurch (now mainly lost), Prees (it never got there), and Ellesmere (success!). And a junction with what we now call the Montgomery Canal at Frankton. So what we’re sitting on now, far from being a minor stub on a minor canal, is in fact the main line of the Ellesmere Canal, an ambitious waterway linking three great rivers. Phew! Complicated, init!

Hi Jacquie, we've been here before, about 4 years ago. Looking forward to revisiting.

No ice yet Carol! Yes, Mags did convalesce with Val and John last year. We owe them a lot.
I see Still Rockin' is coming on nicely!

Locks 4, miles 3½


Carol said...

Watch out for Bonnie and Clyde at Aston Top Lock - see http://nbrocknroll.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/maesbury-marsh-where-wats-dyke-meets.html.

Have a great trip … stay warm!

Geoff and Mags said...

Hi Carol
All being well, 18 months on, they'll be in the pot!