Canal Holiday Cruising Notes from Whixall Marina

CRUISING WEST
(See also CRUISING EAST)

Within half a day's cruising west from Whixall, Destination ELLESMERE

You will cross the wild Whixall Moss, an untamed raised bogland with a rich and diverse flora and fauna. This is a delicate and rare habitat created at the end of the last ice age and it can be enjoyed from the boat or by following the mosses trail, which can be walked or cycled.

Middlewich Canal junctionAt the edge of the Moss are the four Meres, deep ice age pools which you will pass on either side of the canal. These are worth exploring and there is a visitor centre by the main Mere which explains the formation of the meres and their fragile ecosystem.

There is a short but exciting tunnel of 87 yards after which you will enter the outskirts of the pretty town of Ellesmere.
It has its own basin surrounded by the old industrial buildings typical of a once busy canal wharf. The boat can be winded (turned) here, and there are moorings along the arm leading back to the main line. From the basin it’s a short walk into the town where provisions can be bought or a meal enjoyed at one of the many pubs and restaurants. The town is well worth a visit with is narrow streets of half timbered houses, a medieval church and old castle earthworks.

Within a day's cruising west from Whixall Destination MAESBURY MARSH

Beyond Ellesmere is Frankton Junction, at the northern extremity of the Montgomery Canal which remains, the subject of restoration work to return the navigation to full use, an initiative Hire a Canalboat both applauds and supports. That objective is still some way off but the navigable section is interesting, pretty and well worth the deviation

There is the former Weston Branch just beyond the last Frankton Lock, and at Rednal a one-time canal basin, now disused, with old canalside warehouses at adjacent Heath Houses. The limit of navigation presently is Gronwyn wharf, just beyond the interesting and delightful village of Maesbury Marsh. Wind here and return to the village where there is a friendly canal-side pub, the aptly named Navigation which incorporates an eighteenth century canal warehouse. A variety of fare local and more cosmopolitan is served and there is a Jazz night too. If you are here n a Sunday why not visit the curious corrugated iron church, a rare survivor of a style once common in previously isolated communities of this kind.

From Maesbury Marsh, hardy souls will find its possible to walk along the towpath to the adjacent towns of Pant and Llanmynech, the latter having once been important for the quarrying and processing of limestone. The former quarries are now part of a beautiful nature reserve and both it and the surrounding Llanmynech heritage area are well worth exploring.

Returning to the main line there is a relatively short walk from Bridge 78, just east of the village to St Winifred’s Well, reputedly the last resting place of a 7th century princess. The well has been visited by pilgrims since the 12th century and there is an interesting restored timbered house operated by the Landmark Trust.

Navigation Note: If you are intending to cruise the Montgomery Canal, you might find it best to visit Ellesmere on the day you set off and the next day cruise to Frankton. This is because the lock keeper there will see boats through at particular times only, the last passage at the time of writing being 3.30pm, Monday to Friday, 12 noon Saturdays and 4pm Sundays.

Within two days cruising of Whixall. Destination LLANGOLLEN

Our advice would be to spend the first evening near Ellesmere. Remember your training will mean that in effect this is as far as you will get on the first day. But Ellesmere has many delights and is well worth the stop, and you will be able to begin your cruise proper the next day. And what a day that will be, taking in some of the most breathtaking canal structures and stunning scenery of any Inland Waterway. Our destination is the Welsh Eisteddfod town of Llangollen a jewel in the canal system of Great Britain, about eight hours distant

Leaving Ellesmere, the canal passes through rolling farmland until Frankton Junction is reached (see a day’s cruising west from Whixall). Expect this stretch to take you about an hour. Beyond Frankton, lies the scattered village of Welsh Frankton on rising ground to the north, with a church, New Marton lockchapel and both a Grange and a Hall.
Here is Maestermyn Marine, with a boatyard, moorings and a chandlery selling provisions and gifts. Beyond this the canal crosses the now disused and dismantled Ellesmere to Oswestry railway line. A little further distant is the tiny hamlet of Hindford, still with its pub the Jack Mytton Inn . This is pleasant countryside, gradually getting hillier, a fact soon demonstrated by the two New Marton Locks, but these will be the last you will encounter on your journey to Llangollen.

At the small border village of St Martins Moor, which has a Methodist chapel and a Wharf (pictured above) and over an early lunch perhaps or elevenses you can consider an option for the return journey. From this wharf a pleasant circular walk is possible taking in part of Wat’s Dyke – a new heritage trail which mostly follows this ancient earthwork into Flintshire over some 61 miles of border countryside.  Although it not possible to visit Henlle Hall, the former home of the Lovett family and the subject of a terrible fire in 2009, the Hall itself is visible in the grounds of Henlle Park, around which the canal will skirt. Return to the wharf over Preeshenlle Bridge along Wat’s Dyke, over a disused railway and then back to St Martins Moor.  It’s hard to imagine that this pleasant rural idyll was once a hive of industry. To the north of St Martins was Ifton Colliery, which had a famous silver band and brought coal down to the canal along the railway the walk crossed to a small bridge just before Rhosweil A little further on at Rhosweil there is a small store and the canal passes through a cutting. You are heading for the border now, at Chirk.
                                                             
At Chirk Bank, you can stop and enjoy a pint in the warm and friendly Bridge Inn, which has a real fire in the autumn months and fine views of the Chirk aqueduct, all year. Known as the last pub in England, it has meals all day, every day.

Beyond this the canal crosses the now disused and dismantled Ellesmere to Oswestry railway line. A little further distant is the tiny hamlet of Hindford, still with its pub the Jack Mytton Inn . This is pleasant countryside, gradually getting hillier, a fact soon demonstrated by the two New Marton Locks, but these will be the last you will encounter on your journey to Llangollen.
Ifton-Colliery-Coal-Colliery-Archive-Album-001At the small border village of St Martins Moor, which has a Methodist chapel and a Wharf (pictured left) and over an early lunch perhaps or elevenses you can consider an option for the return journey. From this wharf a pleasant circular walk is possible taking in part of Wat’s Dyke – a new heritage trail which mostly follows this ancient earthwork into Flintshire over some 61 miles of border countryside.  Although it not possible to visit Henlle Hall, the former home of the Lovett family and the subject of a terrible fire in 2009, the Hall itself is visible in the grounds of Henlle Park, around which the canal will skirt. Return to the wharf over Preeshenlle Bridge along Wat’s Dyke, over a disused railway and then back to St Martins Moor.  It’s hard to imagine that this pleasant rural idyll was once a hive of industry. To the north of St Martins was Ifton Colliery, which had a famous silver band and brought coal down to the canal along the railway the walk crossed to a small bridge just before Rhosweil A little further on at Rhosweil there is a small store and the canal passes through a cutting. You are heading for the border now, at Chirk.
At Chirk Bank, you can stop and enjoy a pint in the warm and friendly Bridge Inn, which has a real fire in the autumn months and fine views of the Chirk aqueduct, all year. Known as the last pub in England, it has meals all day, every day.

Immediately after Chirk Bank is the aqueduct, built in 1801, from stout masonry with a cast iron trough in which the water is carried. Alongside this runs the mainline railway on its own viaduct, the two crossing the river Ceiriog 70 feet below. Directly after the aqueduct is crossed is the 459 yard tunnel which isn’t wide enough for two boats to pass. Make sure therefore there is no headlight in the distant darkness before you enter the tunnel and make sure yours is on! Unusually, the tunnel has a towpath.
                        
Emerging from the tunnel, the railway station is above the portal on the eastern side. To the west is Chirk Castle built to subjugate the Welsh in the reign of Edward 1. The last native Prince, Llewellyn, was murdered by the efforts of the original inhabitants of the castle, the Moirtimers. The castle is open to visitors and throughout the season though only on Saturdays and Sundays in October.

After Chirk is the shorter Whitehouses tunnel (191 yards). This is also a single bore tunnel with a towpath and throughout this stretch the canal hugs the hillside with the railway alongside. To the east were two collieries, Maesgwyn and Black Park, the latter, which was sunk by the Myddleton’s of Chirk Castle, was one of the oldest pits in North Wales surviving into public ownership in 1947. These and other enterprises brought their coal and goods to the canal at a number of wharves along this stretch. At Irish Bridge, however, the canal leaves the railway and most of the old industrial sites behind as it takes a sharp turn to the west to head off into wilder country, of the brooding Welsh mountains.

Poncysyllte aquaductHeading up the valley of the river Dee the scenery becomes truly awesome, with fine views at every turn. The village of Froncysyllte stands on the valley side, so benefits from these views and there are a number of shops here including a post office and several pubs. After this, the canal heads out on a massive embankment before crossing the world famous Poncysyllte aqueduct. This is an incredible structure which, like that at Chirk, was built by the famous engineer, Thomas Telford. Here is what Attractions North Wales, has to say
At over 1000 feet long, Pontcysyllte is the longest and highest cast-iron aqueduct in the world. Treasured by British Waterways, it is today a protected Grade I listed building, a Welsh National Monument and is one of the seven wonders of the British Inland Waterways System. It is of course still used for its original purpose, being crossed by more than a thousand canal boats a year.

            Navigation Note: This is an experience you will never forget, but treat the passage with respect and once you have determined nothing is already on the aqueduct and coming your way proceed calmly and steadily across taking due care and attention at all times. It’s a drop of 126 feet into the Horseshoe Pass, so whoever is best with heights needs to be on the tiller and children should remain inside for safety. They still get a great view! At the end of the aqueduct, the canal turns sharply to port (left) and you need to approach this steadily and with a warning as there is a bridge on the bend, and so oncoming boats are unsighted. Directly ahead of you is the Trevor Arm, which originally was planned to descend to Chester

            The canal follows the pretty Vale of Llangollen toward the town of the same name, some 3 miles distant. There are many places to stop and admire the scenery, or for the more adventurous, explore the various footpaths and bridleways. At Trevor Uchaf is the Sun Trevor, a pub from which some of the most memorable views can be enjoyed.

            Navigation Note: the canal is at its shallowest between Trevor and Llangollen, plus the flow is most evident. Stay to the centre of the channel wherever possible, moving over to the left hand side to allow other boats to pass.
Approaching Llangollen itself, the canal perches high above the town. The moorings  are on the town-side. The limit of Navigation is a winding hole beyond Siambr Wen Bridge and the Museum. You will need to turn here and find moorings to enable you to explore the town and its surroundings.

This may be as far as your boat can go but it needn’t be the end of the trip. The waterway that feeds the Llangollen canal continues up the valley to the Horseshoe Falls, which Telford built across the River Dee to capture the water and persuade some of it to flow down his new cut. This is what feeds the canal along its length, and why there is a constant and steady flow toward Hurleston where 12 million gallons enter the reservoir daily. This narrow channel is navigable by one craft only, a horse-drawn boat in which its possible to take a leisurely journey to the head water at the falls. More energetic souls may wish to walk this along the towpath, perhaps taking a detour to Vale Crucis Abbey, a former Cistercian Abbey, established in 1201 high above the town.Crucis Abbey
Alternatively walkers can climb the  1100ft to Castel Dinas Bran, which was the home of Elisig, Prince of Powys. For those who like their history to be more recent than this there is a motor museum and canal exhibition near to Bridge 48
The musical Eisteddfod takes place each July and for lovers of literature Plas Newydd is a memorial to the visits of Browning, Scott Tennyson and
Wordsworth among others.
 No visit to Llangollen would however be complete without a journey on the Llangollen Steam Railway. This takes tourists up the Dee Valley from the historic station in the town to Carrog.

This eight mile trip through the picturesque welsh countryside truly takes you back in time,. As it follows the river, the line which was reopened in stages from 1975 passes through some memorable scenery stopping at lovingly restored stations from which passengers can explore the surrounding area, There are dining cars, Thomas specials  and a vintage bus, so truly something for everyone



End of CRUISING WEST
View and or Print as Adobe .pdf

(See also CRUISING EAST)

All distances and times are approximate. The timings do not take account of cruising conditions which are variable and be aware delays can and will occur. It is your responsibility to return your holiday narrowboat before or at the time specified in your agreement(s) with the Company.


    Share this page

 
 
 
2006 - 2013 © copyright Hire a Canalboat Ltd
 
Superb Canalboat Holidays on the Trent & Mersey and Llangollen canals
INTRO
THE BOATS LOCATION ROUTES INFO FAQ LINKS SITEPLAN