Monday, April 15, 2013

History of Wales's Pontcysyllte

PontcysyllteIf you were to take a trip down deep into the heart of Llangollen in Denbighshire, you would find, overlooking the beautiful Dee Valley, a little something called the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Okay, so perhaps the word “aqueduct” doesn’t inspire much interest or intrigue in you, but, for this time at least, it should.
What Is Pontcysyllte Aqueduct?
Well, quite obviously, it is first and foremost an aqueduct. However, when something has the nickname “the Stream in the Sky”, you know it’s going to be special. The main part of the aqueduct floats 126 feet in the air, a thin water bridge above the valley.
The History of the Aqueduct
Designed by the famous architect Thomas Telford, with its construction lasting ten years and being overseen by William Jessop, the aqueduct was completed in 1805. Its original purpose was to transport raw materials (obtained from the nearby mines) over the Dee Valley, so it could be further moved through the rest of the British Isles.
It linked Froncysyllte with Llangollen, and it is from the latter township that the aqueduct gets its name – Pontcysyllte is known as the “Bridge of Cysyllte” in English.
How Was It Made?
The bridge itself uses an 11 foot wide trough made of cast iron, and is held up by quarried limestone pillars, 18 in total. The mortar itself has a rather unusual composition – being made of lime and water mixed with ox blood, you’d want to scrub your hands after a hard day’s building!
The trough was actually built just up the road from the aqueduct, at the Plas Kynaston Foundry in Cefn Mawr, which itself was set up purely for the construction of Pontcysyllte.
The Legacy of the Aqueduct
The construction of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct revitalised the industry surrounding the afore-mentioned raw materials, and showed the world how you could use canals to their full advantage.
It is now open to the public, and is a free attraction maintained by British Waterways. It can make for a great day out, and here’s why:
Why You Should Visit Pontcysyllte in Wales
For a start, your average day out at Pontcysyllte is completely free, not to mention unforgettable. Although you’ll need a good head for heights, a walk across the surprisingly narrow, surprisingly high bridge comes very much recommended – the views are beyond amazing from the top.
But why stop there? If you decide to go on a jaunty canal boat holiday, you should make Pontcysyllte one of your stops – you can take your boat all the way across! It’s a bizarre feeling, but only because you’ve never done something like this before. It’s an unmissable experience.
But that experience is only made better by this, the best way to experience Pontcysyllte – horses. Local horse like Togg and Geordie are all too happy to help; you can enjoy a horse-drawn boat trip, starting in Llangollen’s canal wharf, crossing the aqueduct and ending up in Horseshoe Falls.
Take a picnic and a camera: the trip lasts about two hours and you’ll want to document it!

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