Llangollen is described as a truly amazing town, encapsulating the best North Wales has to offer in a small area. With more sun than Cornwall and less rain than the Lake District it is no wonder that this gateway to North Wales should be so popular with sightseers and walkers of all ages. But what about photographers?
I only had a short afternoon here and in that time I managed to get a fair amount of photography done, enough to satisfy my needs anyway. I visited Llangollen on a winter’s afternoon, the sun was shining and there weren’t too many tourists about. The downside though was not all that Llangollen has to offer was open. Anyway…
After parking in the short-term car park (£1 for 3 hours) I headed down the high street to the bridge across the River Dee.
In 1345 the first stone bridge was constructed by John Trevor I, Bishop of St Asaph. It is believed to be the first stone bridge over the Dee. In 1656, during the period of Cromwell’s Protectorate, the first major rebuilding of the structure took place. Records show the cost was 250 pounds indicating a great deal of work was required. However the bridge was still only 8ft wide and by 1873 wasn’t coping well with the increase in traffic brought about by Llangollen’s industrialisation. It was therefore decided to double its width, with all the necessary work undertaken on the up-river side of the structure, faithfully reproducing the original design. Ten years before this an extra arch was added to allow the railway into the town. In 1969 the bridge was widened again on the same side, meaning the down river side is still original.
So here we have a beautiful bridge and as the down river side is still the original it’s got to be on my photography list for the day.
Could I find a good spot for a clear shot? Nope! On one side you have the Royal Hotel with some nice views of the bridge from the terrace. On the other it’s totally overgrown and as you can see I had to walk down the river somewhat to get a sort of half decent shot. Never mind. Maybe they’ll let me get one from the hotel side. To cut a long story short I couldn’t get onto that terrace.
Back on the bridge I looked for a good vantage point to get a better photograph of the water flowing under the bridge; the station platform on the opposite side from the railway carriage looked good.
All I had to do was get there. Problem was the railway was closed for the winter (it only opens Saturday and Sunday) and the bridge onto the platform nearest the river was all locked up…and this is where a “very nice man” came to my aid. He runs the cafe on the station and he opened the gates over to the other platform.
The “very nice man” said I could also take photographs along the platform if I wanted and just to let him know when I came back. On the subject of trains and platforms, Llangollen Railway is a mainly Steam hauled Heritage Railway Line starting at Llangollen Station located beside the Dee River Bridge in Llangollen Town, and continuing for 7 ½ miles upstream, following the River Dee to the village of Carrog. The Railway remains close to the waters of the river for most of it’s length, On the north bank at Llangollen Station, the river is crossed on to the south bank via the Dee Bridge, approximately one mile upstream from Llangollen. Now the good thing about the railway running close to the river means that I can get better photographs of the bridge looking downstream.
Upstream with a viewpoint which is so much closer to the river, you get a better idea of how much the river is in spate at the moment.
Walking along the deserted platform I was tempted to get on board the train for some photographs, but I thought better of it. I didn’t want to betray the trust the “very nice man” had put on me. So instead I contented myself with another photograph from the platform.
All this walking had made me hungry so it was time to find somewhere to eat. Back in the town I came across the Wynnstay Arms which is a traditional 17th century coaching inn. Nice log fire, real ale and good wholesome food. You can get a bar meal or dine in the restaurant.
The Llangollen Canal is probably the most beautiful canal in Britain and supposedly the most popular. The scenery varies from isolated sheep pastures to ancient peat mosses, from tree-lined lakes, to the foothills of Snowdonia. However it wasn’t always known as the Llangollen Canal. Originally it was 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, Shropshire. In 2009 the eleven-mile section of the canal from Gledrid Bridge near Rhoswiel (half-a-mile inside England) through to the Horseshoe Falls, which includes Chirk Aqueduct and Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, was declared by UNESCO to be a World Heritage site. Now although it passes through Llangollen I was heading out of town by about three miles to see something far better on the canal.
To get there you need to take the A5 in the direction of Shrewsbury, go past the golf course which should be on your left and then look for a really sharp left turn onto the B5434. There’s a tourist sign directing you to the Trevor Basin. There may be a sign saying road closed, ignore it. You’re not going that far. At the bottom of the hill the road narrows to cross the bridge. Go over the stone bridge and park in the lane just to the left.
Once again I had difficulties getting a good photograph, the bank was very overgrown, shame really because it does photograph well, especially when the river is flowing. I did walk further down the river bank but by this time the sun was starting to get lower in the sky and there’s some lens flare.
However it wasn’t the bridge I had really come to see, that was a bonus I wasn’t expecting. From the bridge though you get a good clear view of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.
Pontcysyllte is a navigable aqueduct that carries the Llangollen Canal over the valley of the River Dee in Wrexham in north-east Wales. Completed in 1805, it is the longest and highest aqueduct in Britain.
To get to the aqueduct head on up the hill to Trevor Basin. Drive over the narrow bridge at the top of the hill, which crosses the canal, but watch out for oncoming cars. Once across go straight on for about 150 metres and take the right hand turn, back across the canal again. About 50 metres further on is the entrance to the Trevor Basin car park on your right hand side.
The aqueduct, built by Thomas Telford and William Jessop, is 1,007 ft (307 m) long, 11 ft (3.4 m) wide and 5.25 ft (1.60 m) deep. It consists of a cast iron trough supported 126 ft (38 m) above the river on iron arched ribs carried on nineteen hollow masonry piers (pillars). Each span is 53 ft (16 m) wide. Despite considerable public scepticism, Telford was confident the construction method would work: he had previously built at least one cast iron trough aqueduct – the Longdon-on-Tern aqueduct on the Shrewsbury Canal, still visible in the middle of a field, though the canal was abandoned years ago.
You can walk across the aqueduct and the view is amazing across nearly all of the span.
One thing I found a bit disorienting was, not the height as you’d expect, but I found myself being drawn to the canal side as I walked across the aqueduct. The other thing was the wind, it’s quite exposed up there, it was a relatively still day down below in the valley but I could feel it up there on the aqueduct. I’m not sure I’d like to cross on a very windy day.
Well, that about wraps it up. I hope you enjoyed my short tour Of Llangollen and Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.
Technical Note: All image are brackets of 3 RAW from -2 to +2 in 2 EV steps, taken with a Samsung GX10 fitted with an 18-50mm kit lens. Camera was mounted on a RedSnapper RS-284 & RSH-12 Ball Head and the shutter was fired using infra-red remote control. HDR processing was with SNS HDR Pro.