We’ve spent the last two days heading back to Trevor Basin to meet friends Val and John today, stopping over last night on the other side of Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.
Meg’s new friend Pepper, AKA Mini-Meg
Passing the Froncysyllte Lime Kilns above the Dee valley
Quarries in this area were a major customer for the canal, supplying raw stone or quicklime from kilns like these. Quicklime was used in lime mortar for building, and was much in demand by the growing industrial cities, and raw limestone had uses in the manufacture of iron and glass, and also as an agricultural soil improver. Quicklime is very volatile, adding water can cause rapid heat production and even explosion in confined spaces. So quicklime had to be carefully loaded and protected from the elements in transit. I imagine that there would have been a covered loading dock along here somewhere during the lime kiln’s production life. Here a tramway connected the wharf and kilns with the quarry on the other side of Pen-y-Graig hill.
We didn’t have any problem with Fron Lift Bridge, the ice which had held it fast during the cold weather has long since gone. We topped up the water tank, pulled in between the water point and the aqueduct, and I walked across to have a look at the situation in the basin. There were no visiting boats there, but the water was iced over bank to bank from the bridge and up the two arms. I had a poke and it was softening so I decided to leave it overnight before coming across the aqueduct and heading in.
So this morning, in bright sunshine, we set off, over Pontcysyllte and through the Anglo-Welsh hire boats.
Panorama as we cross over the Dee valley
If the iron trough has to be emptied for maintenance it’s a simple procedure. The ends are blocked off and the plug is pulled out!
Just lift the handle!
There’s a YouTube video of the operation here…
At some point in the past it was intended to fit safety rails on the offside too, hence the holes, but I don’t know whether they were ever installed.
We threaded our way between the hire boats then came a bit unstuck under the bridge at the entrance to the basin. It’s very shallow here, just mud but you have to go dead slow or else the stern bottoms out. The problem was that this was where the ice started too, so I needed a bit of power to push through. Catch-22.
The solution was to secure the rudder roughly in the middle with the tiller-string, leave the prop turning at moderate revs, then get off and rock the boat from side to side. We slowly made progress, squeezing the mud out from underneath and breaking up the ice in front.
A bit stuck at this point, till I started rocking…
…and we moved slowly forward.
I didn’t even consider trying to turn around; as soon as we were on the bollards I tied up. Not that we were going anywhere…
Our cupboards were well depleted so I walked up to Cefn Mawr to the Tesco’s, did a huge shop, then got collected by Val and John to bring me back down. They stopped the afternoon with us before heading home.
The warm afternoon has seen the ice steadily thin and large patches of water are now clear. It’s going to be cold tonight though, so it’ll probably skin over again later. Shouldn’t be a problem. We’ll be stopping here till the weekend, I reckon.
Locks 0, miles 2