By: Blonde One
I’m not much of an engineer and I have admitted to being stumped in the past by a bit of Lego, but I know an impressive bit of construction when I see it. The work of Thomas Telford and others, that I have seen over the week on the canal was more than a little bit incredible.
The canals and locks themselves are a feat of genius in my opinion. How they have been constructed to cut their way through the countryside is brilliant. The level of water is controlled using locks to enable the barges to go uphill or downhill. I can’t even begin to imagine how these intricate contraptions were initially designed: who would have such an amazing technical brain to allow them to come up with such a fantastic idea? There are numerous bridges passing over the canals giving cars, pedestrians and cattle an easy passage over the water without getting wet feet.
We ventured over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct which became a World Heritage Site in 2009. It is spectacularly high and apparently is the longest and highest in Britain. On one side there is a handy towpath where you can hop on and off the boat to take some fab photos, but on the other there is a sheer drop down the 38m to the bottom. We felt like we were floating on air! The engineering and construction credits go to Telford and William Jessop.
After crossing the breathtaking Aqueduct we travelled through another of Telford’s constructions: the Chirk tunnel. It was built just before the Aqueduct, in 1801 and is 420m long. This tunnel’s claim to fame is that it was the first in Britain to be built with a towpath as Telford considered legging to be dangerous and undignified. The process of legging, I think, involves lying on top of the boat and walking your legs across the roof.
It is easy to forget whilst holidaying on these canals that they were once a crucial component in Britain’s industry, carrying important cargo to and from towns and ports.