Aqueducting

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Rail bridge in the distance.

26 September 2015

Right, so now I’ve got to remember what I did yesterday, as I sit on a train and watch the scenery go by. Thank heavens I’m a touch typist (and if you find any mistakes, you’ll think not a very good one.)

As I said in yesterday’s aborted attempt – which I managed to upload at some daft hour this morning, we didn’t set out until 11am, which gave me time to type. When we eventually left, we headed for foreign soils…

Wales.

We took several detours along the way, mostly unintentional as we tried to find the… Excuse me while I find yesterday’s blog and do some cutting and pasting… Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. No. I don’t know how to pronounce it either. I just know that it’s very high.

We kept on passing signs leading to Oswestry, which won’t mean much to most of you, but was where Foggy Dewhurst of Last of the Summer Wine was stationed until he retired from the army and went to live, and get into trouble, in Holmfirth.

We managed to miss one turn-off because, although it was signposted clearly, the sign was facing away from the road we were on and we couldn’t see it.

Pen’s original plan had been that we walk one way along the path and the aqueduct (why isn’t it an aquAduct?) and then catch a canal boat back.

A good plan.

Except that when we found the carpark at Pontcysyllte (pass) and got out, gave Seth a bowl of water, and then went in search of information, we couldn’t find any. The map on the wall made it look as though you could only walk under the aqueduct as part of the 1.5 mile loop track. We didn’t mind the walk, but did want to walk over the aqueduct.

Rightio, we’ll ask someone if that’s right.

The visitor information centre, which was open until lunchtime was closed between 11.30 and 12.30.

It was 12.45. (I think. Without a watch I still haven’t got a handle on what time and date it is.)

I hung onto Seth’s lead while Pen hunted out someone who knew something.

She found people, but they knew enough to not be as helpful as they, or we, would have liked.

Anyway, it was back into the car and off on another aqueduct hunt.

Once again we took a right instead of a left turning, because of a lack of signposting and an excess of roadworks. (Wem’s practically cut off from the outside world because two of the three access roads into town are closed for roadworks.) Once we’d realised that we were heading the wrong way it because difficult to find a place to do a U-turn. We eventually managed to in an establishment that threatened legal action against: “Any person with a dog caught urinating or fouling the premises.” We’re not sure whether it’s the person or the dog who’s not allowed to do those foul deeds.

Having finally found the right road we stopped at the carpark and gave Seth another drink. Then we decided that it was time to refuel ourselves before we took in the sights. So we sat at a picnic table, on the banks of a canal, and watched the canal boats go by. One of our snacks was a “caramel cake bar”. It seemed very odd to be eating a cake wrapped up like a chocolate bar.
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As Wikipedia tells us, the (copy and paste again) the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct was built in 1805 to accommodate the motorways of the time – canals. It is – time for more copy and paste when I get to an Internet connection – 336 yards/307m long, 4 yards/3.4m wide, and 126 feet/38m high. I’ve found a photo with the measurements detailed on it, but they’re in imperial, not metric and I understand metric.
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Anyway, it’s not a place you want to be if you suffer from acrophobia. It’s not too bad on the towpath side, there is at least a good high fence to stop walkers falling off – especially when you’re standing to one side to allow others to walk past. But on the canal side there is the edge of the cast iron channel and then the drop to the river below. That would have been an interesting journey, but unfortunately we didn’t find any canal boats offering the journey to the public.
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Pen was carrying two plastic bags, one with our lunch and one with Seth’s deposit and a passing captain commented that he’d been a busy dog. Pen replied that she hoped she didn’t get the two mixed up.

We later watched this same captain, who clearly knew what he was doing, do a 180° turn in the approximately 30’ / 9.1m long, 7’ / 2.13m wide (I’ll metricise later) boat. They aren’t easy to turn.
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We observed the system they used for raising and lowering bridges to allow canal boats to pass through. Each canal boat carries a lock key which allows them to pass through locks. This same key winds the bridge (swing bridge on a canal, although it’s the “same” system as a drawbridge) up out of the way so the boat can pass through. Once you are safely on the other side common courtesy and logic states that you wind the bridge back down again.
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Having crossed this (down) bridge we continued back on the other side of the canal so we were able to watch the boats from the water side. Of course we couldn’t cross the aqueduct on this side (we didn’t fancy tightrope walking) so we took the handily placed steps under the aqueduct and back up the other side.
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As we drove out of the carpark, at least we knew which way we had to go this time.

Our next stop was to get some petrol. While Pen filled up I had a close up look at some wonky Tudor that was the side wall of the building next door. The wall had a definite bow to it, and one of the windows was about knee height off the ground. Things had risen over the centuries as things had been built up time and time again.

I paid for the petrol. How come the first time I used my travel card it insisted that I enter my PIN… When I had it wrong. And since then every time I’ve used it I’ve had to sign? It wasn’t a very good representation of my signature anyway. I was having to stand on tiptoe to write.

Our next canal adventure was at the Shropshire Union Canal. We parked next to the 80m long (thank you Canal and River Trust for putting metric on your sign) Ellesmere Tunnel.
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After a wander along beside the canal…

…we turned back and headed for home. The reflections in Lake Ellesmere (it can’t be a lake if it’s a mere!) were beautiful.
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We came home and I packed my bag ready for heading to Bath tomorrow. I also ordered a power adaptor online. There’s an outfit called Argos in England. They put out a telephone book sized catalogue and you can order online and pick it up in store. It’s been going since before the days of the Internet, but makes use of that facility now. Anyway, there’s a store in Bath and I ordered one for collection tomorrow. I’ll pay then too. Before I did that Pen and I had a discussion about what I could do about my lack of charging ability. Pen suggested we find a Canon shop for a phone battery charger, but that wouldn’t help EOS which is veeerrry slow charging from the USB.

Pen then suggested that she cut the plug off my cable and then rewire on an English plug onto it.

Ermmm….. No.

So just as well Argos was so accommodating.

This evening Pen put her telescope out and we shivered and attempted to see some of the stars. The moon was lovely and bright, which was a double-edged sword as while we could clearly see the craters, we couldn’t really see any stars. I did see Ursa Major – without the telescope. I was looking for it, but I’m used to constellations about the size of the Crux / Southern Cross and couldn’t find it. The size of the plough bit of Ursa Major is about twice the size of the Crux, and adding on the handle makes it about four times as long as the longest axis.

We gave up because of the light pollution from the moon. We’ll try again next time we’re in Wem

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