Llangollen Canal


Llangollen Canal

The Llangollen Canal is a canal in England and Wales.

What is today known as the Llangollen Canal was originally the centre section of the Ellesmere Canal, and later became part of the Shropshire Union Canal network. Only with the increasing popularity of pleasure boats was it renamed the Llangollen Canal in an effort to attract more visitors.

Today, the canal links Llangollen in Denbighshire, north Wales, with Hurleston in south Cheshire, via the town of Ellesmere in north-west Shropshire.

History

The Ellesmere Canal was intended to link the River Mersey at Netherpool (now known as Ellesmere Port) with the River Dee, and from there via Overton (south of Wrexham) to the River Severn at Shrewsbury. This proposed canal would have branches, to the iron making and coal mining areas at Bersham between Wrexham and Ruabon, and to Llanymynech, where the end of the proposed Montgomeryshire Canal was. However, there were also suggestions that it would be better to take a more westerly route from the Dee to the Severn, passing directly through the Ruabon industrial area, and it was this proposal which was accepted. This route included a high level crossing over the Dee at Pontcysyllte, and a tunnel and aqueduct near Chirk.

The Ellesmere Canal was never finished as intended, and the central section was only built from Trevor to Weston Lullingfields, via Lower Frankton. Instead the centre section was extended westwards from Trevor, through Llangollen to Horseshoe Falls, a weir on the River Dee, as a navigable feeder. The canal was extended eastwards from Frankton Junction via Ellesmere and Whitchurch to Hurlestone Junction near Nantwich, on the then rival Chester Canal.

The Ellesmere Canal merged with the Chester Canal in 1813.

A merger with the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal in 1845 was followed in 1846 by the formation of the Shropshire Union Railways and Canal Company, making the canal part of the Shropshire Union Canal network.

Decline

Traffic on the canal greatly declined after a breach on the line to Newtown, Powys (now considered part of the Montgomery Canal) in 1936. By 1939 traffic on the line from Hurleston to Llangollen had ceased, and the canal was formally closed to navigation under the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company Act of 1944. However, the line was retained to facilitate waterborne maintenance of bridges, as a water feeder for the Shropshire Union Canal main line and for drinking water supply to the reservoir at Hurleston. An agreement in 1955 with the Mid & South East Cheshire Water Board secured the line's future.

On 6 September 1945, due to inadequate maintenance, the canal breached its banks east of Llangollen near Sun Bank Halt. The flow of water washed away the embankment of the railway further down the hill. This caused the first train in the morning, a mail and goods train to crash into the breach, killing one and injuring two engine crew [http://www.llangollen-railway.co.uk/hist/accid.html] [http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/northeast/sites/denbighshire/pages/int-eist1.shtml] .

Resurrection

In the late 20th century canal usage for leisure boating grew in popularity. The "Llangollen Branch of the Shropshire Union" became popular due to its aqueducts and scenery. The canal was renamed the Llangollen Canal, and become the most popular canal for holidaymakers in Britain.

The canal's most notable features include the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, an aqueduct engineered by Thomas Telford to carry the canal over the valley of the River Dee east of Llangollen. Another aqueduct carries the canal over the River Ceiriog at Chirk, and there are tunnels nearby at Whitehouses, Chirk, and Ellesmere.

The canal also forms the boundary on two sides of the Fenn's, Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses National Nature Reserve.

Route

Hurleston to Frankton Junction

The canal at Hurleston Junction rises from the Shropshire Union Canal main line, through four adjacent locks.

Wrenbury lift bridge is operated by use of a British Waterways key, and involves lowering barriers and stopping traffic on a sometimes-busy road.

At Grindley Brook the canal passes through three locks and a three-chamber staircase lock, attended during summer months by a lock keeper.

At Whitchurch a short arm of the canal remains open. Originally this continued almost to the centre of the town, though sections have since been built over. Whitchurch Waterway Trust promotes the restoration of this arm.

Between bridges 44 and 47 the canal passes through Whixall Moss.

Adjacent to bridge 46 is the Prees Arm of the canal. Originally intended to reach Prees, it was only constructed as far as Quina Brook, and today is only open for a short distance, with a marina at the end.

Between bridges 54 and 57 the canal passes the Ellesmere meres.

At Ellesmere there is a short arm towards the town.

The canal also passes though Burland, Quoisley Bridge, and Bettisfield.

Frankton Junction to Trevor Basin

The canal passes through Hindford, Saint Martin's, Preesgweene, Chirk Bank, Chirk and Froncysyllte.

Trevor Basin to Horseshoe Falls

This section was built as a navigable feeder and is both shallow and narrow. Some sections near Llangollen are too narrow for boats to pass and it is necessary to scout ahead to check for oncoming boats.

Navigation by powered craft is prohibited beyond the entrance to Llangollen Marina and the final section is used only by the horse drawn trip boats. BW maintains a gravel Shoal immediately upstream of the marina entrance at Llangollen Wharf. This maintains a draft which most narrowboats cannot pass, but which is passable by the shallow drafted trip boats.

A marina was constructed by British Waterways, close to Llangollen Wharf, in 2005 to relieve the acute shortage of casual moorings. It was intended to be larger, but local opposition restricted it to its present size. Fact|date=February 2008 A charge is made for all overnight mooring at Llangollen, and there is a 48 hour limit on moorings.

References

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