Monday, 10 September 2012

Llanymynech to Ellesmere

Susan - before the rain!
Accompanied by Susan, we stayed at the Cross Keys in Llanymynech on the Sunday evening after a train journey to Welshpool and a taxi for the last eight miles. Awful! Fortunately we managed to move from the E- twin room to which we were shown initially to an E+ en-suite family room. But it was still pretty dire. A brief stroll after arrival along the Montgomery Canal revealed that Llanymynech must be the slug capital of Wales – huge brown slugs ten centimetres or more in length were on the path in unbelievable numbers. Is this a local phenomenon, or just a characteristic of a very wet summer?

The evening was not improved by dinner: the steak I was given was completely inedible! But extra wine was a minor compensation. Breakfast was in the company of three women walkers, who were doing the whole of the Offa’s Dyke path, and who must have been equally disappointed with the Cross Keys – though we didn’t actually ask.

Shortly after 9:30 we were on our way along the Montgomery Canal. The bit through Llanymynech has water, and there was actually a narrow boat moored outside the little visitor centre by the bridge. But it can only have a very limited range, because within half a mile the canal becomes dry.  This stretch is heavily overgrown, with often quite mature trees in what had been the water course. Compared with what we had seen before and after, this looks a major challenge if it is ever to be restored. But it’s still attractive country.

Work under way on the Montgomery Canal
After Pant the line of the old canal bears away from the line of the hills to the West, and crosses open country, with much less in the way of tree cover. In total there are about three dry miles, and a half mile of the most Northerly section has already been renovated, even though the OS  map shows it as still dry. And they are currently working on a further 500m or so. It looks pretty demanding work, though. The bottom is covered with bituminised cloth, and then with breeze blocks. Nobody working on a Monday, though, so presumably it’s all volunteer work carried out largely at weekends.

It would be fascinating to know how much it costs per metre, and how long they think it’ll take to complete the whole job. Quite apart from the basic canal work there will need to be half a dozen or more new bridges where roads or tacks now cross at canal level, and the aqueducts over the River Vyrnwy to the Southwest of Llanymynech are even more of a challenge. I wonder whether they have any idea when (or even if) the whole 35 miles will have been reinstated? It would certainly be a huge achievement.

Nearly there! The last milepost on the Montgomery Canal
Lunch was at the Queen’s Head, which is just off the A5 where it crosses the Canal. This is two miles or more North of the point where the canal has been fully restored and is readily navigable. Then it was a further four miles to reach the junction with the Llangollen Canal. The first stretch was wooded, then it was largely across open country, and finally up a flight of four locks to the junction. We encountered half a dozen or more narrow boats working their way Southwards, so the of the Montgomery Canal that is open is obviously popular. It suggests that there’ll be even more use made of it once it has been opened up more.

At Lower Franklin we cut a corner and saved a mile or more by walking across four or five fields to meet the Llangollen Canal again a mile or so to the Northeast. The path was for the most part obvious, but it does help to have binoculars so you can see where it crosses the next hedgerow. Then it was a final two miles or so to reach the Ellesmere junction, where we left the canal to walk into town. Frustratingly Ellesmere is right on the edge of the OS sheet, and I had sent the next sheet on with the luggage, so the route we took to get to our B&B was longer than it could have been.

Ellesmere Church
It was up a slight hill – Love lane - between damp walls with little room for passing traffic, and then down Church Lane to the Mere. And then it was a final quarter mile or so along the Mere to reach Mereside Farm.

Our accommodation was a wonderfully welcome sight – a decent bedroom, and separate sitting room with a corner kitchen. Obviously a good base for self-catering as well as an excellent B&B.

We managed to recover sufficiently to make our way into Ellesmere itself for dinner (indifferent) at the Red Lion, but after that we were early to bed. We’d both found it a long day, and surprisingly tiring. I think it shows that it takes a day or two to get back into shape after a lay-off of the kind we’d had over the summer months.

Cloudy, with occasional showers. Temperature 14 to 18C. 23.2km; 30m ascent, 25m descent. Virtually completely flat, except when level changed after locks on canal and last stretch in Ellesmere.

No comments:

Post a Comment