Page published 16 February 2015

Go to Top Llangollen to Pontcysyllte

If you have reached this page then you should have come from the tale of our Trip to Llangollen, as this tells the tale of the return to Christleton and you'll have missed a lot by starting here!

Wenffrwd Bridge

© 1970 Graham Polley

Approaching Bridge 42 - Wenffrwd Bridge, from the Llangolen side.

When we made the return as far as the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is a bit of a mystery. If you had asked me I'd have said we made a hurried exit from Llangollen leaving within an hour or two of our arrival, stopping for no more than lunch. Initially, I thought that as the photos that cover this part of the journey show us all wearing something different to that we were wearing on our arrival at Llangollen, then that indicated that they show the following day. However, then I noticed that the shot taken while we were shopping in Llangollen, "Mike's" Mary has on a different blouse.

Mary On The Cabin Roof

Just after Bridge 42. Mary and Graham Steering.

I now suspect that it wasn't just "Mike's" Mary that changed from her red hooped T-shirt, but that "Other" Mary also made a change to go into town, though it may have been more than necessary to change from shorts to jeans and almost nothing on top to a warm looking, albeit short-sleeved, jumper. On the other hand, while others put on warmer clothes, on the boat am seen changed from jeans to shorts. Maybe that shouldn't be a surprise. I do remember feeling that the anorak I had worn in town was over the top. The point to all this being that did have a memory of stopping close to "White Bridge" (#33) for lunch - but before we get there, there are more photos to see!

View From The Forward Well

Approaching Bridge 41.

If you follow this journey on Google's Street View, and compare these images from 1970 with its more recent ones, some can be quite difficult to reconcile. For example, these days the second small arch in Bridge 41 is bricked up and the vegetation almost hides it, whereas the hills in the background seen after passing through Bridge 34 are much more distinctive..

Bridge 34 Llangollen Canal

© 1970 Graham Polley

This Is Bridge 34 taken on the return from Llangollen.

In the image above you can see my camera laying beside the open "Inland Cruising Booklet". It must have been taken only moments before I took the following one of "other" Mary. It makes me wonder what happened to Graham, or perhaps, it's not her sketch book that she has in her hands but Graham's camera.

Camp Site Near Llangollen

Just East of Bridge 34. It seems to be an extremely well spread out Scout Camp on the banks of the Canal

The next image shows where I believe we may have stopped for lunch, just short of Bridge 33. This idea fits in with my memory that we were early enough mooring in Llangollen to justify buying buns in Llangollen, rather than having lunch in the town.

Near Bridge 33 Llangollen Canal

© 1970 Graham Polley

It's impossible to tell from this image whether we were moored or merely in the side allowing for a boat to pass.

While the image above doesn't prove we were moored, the following image, with a mooring line hanging precariously over the stern does suggest we might have just left the bank. The wash also suggests we were in a hurry!

Approaching Bridge 33 Llangollen Canal

© 1970 Graham Polley

"White Bridge" (#33), close to Trevor. These days the towpath is tarmacked and on the bank of the canal.

Go to Top Pontcysyllte

Crossing The Pontcysyllte

Lining up to cross the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.

The next major landmark is, of course, that aqueduct. This time it is Mike and Mary that are in the forward well as we start across. While I may be well forward on the side of the boat as I take the photograph of the approach, the next image shows me on the helm, so I clearly didn't stay there long.

In fact, the following image took me by surprise. The only photograph I had that showed the guy in the red jumper was of him standing on the bank on the Chirk side of the aqueduct.

Until I checked the order of the images on the negatives, I would have sworn we met him on the way to Llangollen rather than on the return. Certainly, I have no memory of him crossing with us, as clearly happened.

What I do remember is that we got into conversation with him and it emerged that he was a head master, so naturally, our two female crew members were interested as both were at Teacher Training College at the time. Indeed, it is where Mike's Mary and met Other" Mary.

Considering this picture was taken at the height of the summer holiday period those who are only familiar with the canal these days will be amazed how empty the canal was in those days. Seven years earlier, when I had first crossed the aqueduct it had been emptier still.

Crossing the Pontcysyllte

© 1970 Graham Polley

Crossing the Pontcysyllte. It couldn't have been too windy or we'd have taken more care to stow Graham's flag!

Crossing the Pontcysyllte

© 1970 Graham Polley

Crossing the Pontcysyllte.

Headmaster We Met

The Head Teacher We Met

As we pulled away from the canal bank we seem to have left our head teacher with a puzzle. I have no idea what we might have said. If I remember right - a big if - he had his own boat and spent a good proportion of his spare time on the canals.

By now it must have been mid afternoon and we would have wanted to cover a good deal of ground before mooring for the night. Almost immediately there would have been the Fron lift bridge to negotiate, which then left only the New Marton locks, before reaching Ellesmere.

I have no photos of the return through the major landmarks of Whitehouse or Chirk tunnels or the New Marton locks. In those days, with developing costs to consider and film itself being relatively expensive, if you felt you were likely to have got reasonable pictures in the camera already you were less likely to "waste" film by taking more, but the lack of lock pictures does remain a puzzle.

I also find it hard to believe that I have no photos of us at any local pubs. In fact the only picture I have taken away from the water was that picture, taken by "other" Mary, of me outside a shop in Llangollen.

I have no memory of where we moored on the Wednesday night. Had we kept to a schedule of spreading the journey out evenly over the days, we should have moored beyond Ellesmere. However, it is clear we didn't get to Ellesmere until the Thursday morning.

Go to Top Ellesmere

When, in 2008, I first put the "holding page" on this site, to reserve the space for the record of this trip it was the photograph below, of Graham waving the Elsan bucket around, featured on that page. It reminded me how much things had changed in holiday hire boats since the 1970s.

Using The Sanitary Station

Mike fills with water while Graham shows off the now empty Elsan Bucket at the Ellesmere Sanitary Station.

Whether we turned left to Ellesmere Basin, in order to pick up some final provisions - not that then there was a convenient Tesco at the head of the branch - or opted to carry on down the canal on leaving the sanitary station, I cannot recall. However, it seems we had a decision to make about where our target should be for that evening.

From Ellesmere to Hurleston is some 26 miles and 19 locks. From Hurleston to Christleton is a further 11 miles and 6 locks. Using the old 4 lock/miles an hour formula that means there was still some 16 hours cruising time to go. With only an hour or so available cruising time on Saturday morning, that meant we needed to squeeze in a lot of boating in a little over one and a half days left. no wonder I didn't take too many more photos!

Consulting on the Guide

Crew Conference: Mike reads details from the BW "Inland Cruising Guide". It seems we were planning our target mooring for Thursday night.

Setting off from Ellesmere, once again we would have passed the by Blake Mere and Cole Mere. This time I managed to take some photographs. I have one showing a small day boat moored with a view of Blake Mere beyond, but my camera let me down and the foreground is too dark and the view across the water massively over exposed, so I don't consider it suitable for use here.

Next we encountered some buildings. I had assumed they overlooked Blake Mere but a friend, who's been living aboard on the Canal for the last six months reports of the site:

"It's off the towpath just short of Bridge 55 and overlooking Cole Mere. The Green hut's still there, though equipped with stove and chimney now and looking very cosy. The dreadful building in the foreground's been rebuilt and is now a rather lovely cottage that.must be worth a bomb given the view it has."

Chalet Near Cole Mere

These canalside buildings were obviously a little out of the ordinary or I wouldn't have chosen to photograph them.

When you see the photograph of the buildings now known to be beside Cole Mere, you might wonder why Lauriston is at such an angle, seemingly heading straight for the bank. The next image reveals the reason, there was a BW work boat heading for Ellesmere to be manoeuvred round.

Workboat Near Cole Mere

Mike executes a successful manoeuvre round an old BW work boat.

Go to Top Whixall Moss

It's a straight run with neither locks nor lift bridges from Ellesmere to the junction of the Prees Branch, and the day became very hot...

Prees Branch Junction

Everyone took to sun bathing before we'd reached Whixhall Moss Roving Bridge (#46).

...but it was soon time for action as we reached Morris Lift Bridge, where once through, a pair of swans took to following us.

Lift Bridges

Morris' Lift Bridge (#45) with swans following us once we'd made our way through.

I got confused as I was preparing this page. Morris Lift Bridge has been replaced and no longer looks as it did in 1970. For a while I thought these photos might have been of Wrenbury Frith Lift Bridge. That bridge still is of the pattern seen here, while the current Morris Lift Bridge is an all-steel affair. It's main horizontal arm has no tensioning cables above it and it is mounted on steel A-frame uprights. However, a picture from the Geograph site, showing the bridge in 1979, confirms that Morris Lift Bridge is the right location for the photographs above. (The other factor that determines it is that at Wrenbury Frith you'd see Thomason's Bridge only 600yds beyond.

Go to Top Grindley Brook

Finally, in baking heat, the middle of the afternoon we reach the big one - Grindley Brook, with its triple staircase and three further locks within a quarter of a mile.

Grindley Brook Staircase Locks

Two young boys are helping work their own boat through the staircase.

Grindley Brook Staircase Locks

Bringing Lauriston into the top of the staircase.

It seems that the other boat was working up the flight as the ginger-haired mother of the two boys disappear from my photos as we begin to make our way down.

Grindley Brook Staircase Locks

We make our way into the middle chamber of the triple staircase.

Grindley Brook Staircase Locks

Finally, we emerge under the road bridge, with only the three single locks still to do.

It could be that we got as far as Wrenbury on the Thursday evening. That's another four locks after completing the six at Grindley Brook. That might have been a good place to find a pub for a meal out. Whether that is what we did I do not know.

Go to Top Last Night

Last Night Supper

© 1970 Graham Polley

Were Graham and my tankards those given to us at a friend's wedding? If so mine is the one that, these days, hangs behind the bar at the Pleasure Boat Inn, Hickling!

I assume that the last photographs that we took were of our last night aboard. Graham and I appear to have matching tankards. They could have been those that we were presented with for being ushers at a mutual acquaintances wedding, but I prefer to believe that mine was the one I still possess, but these days is hung in the bar at the Pleasure Boat Inn, Hickling, where my SeaHawk Just 17 is moored.

You'll notice that the labels on the Woodpecker Cider have changed remarkably little since 1970. (Woodpecker Cider? What were we thinking? You must forgive us, remembering that this was in the days when the alternative might have been a Watney's "Party 7")!

The meal itself looks suspiciously like a "Vesta" Curry and, I'm sure, would have been served with canned vegetables. While we may have had a refrigerator on board, I think it highly unlikely that it could have coped with much in the way of frozen food.

Last Night Supper

I'm not sure what was to follow, but it looks like Mary was preparing to serve a dessert.

As for the final photograph. It was one of Graham's so I'm not sure where it should fit in the sequence, but I believe it was taken one evening in the middle of the trip. Rest assured we were all fully clothed under that quilt!

Playing the Fool

© 1970 Graham Polley

Oh well! Youthful exuberance!

I do have a few more Mystery Images that Graham took that I am currently struggling to fit in to the story of our cruise. If you knew the Shropshire Union of Llangollen Canals in the early 1970s then you may be able to help locate them and prod my memory with more details of the trip.

Go to Top