Download the information and take this 1 mile walk when convenient. Alternatively we have a 4 mile walk which you can download from this link.
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Chirk Aqueduct Walk
The walk: About a mile from the car park to the far side of the aqueduct, then walk back. Tarmac surface.
Parking: The public car park is adjacent to the Poacher’s Pocket pub [SJ298367] on the B5070. At quiet times it is possible to park by Chirk Bank Bridge [SJ292371], which halves the length of the walk. For just the aqueduct and the tunnel, it is best to park at Glyn Wylfra (pictured right) in Castle Road (the B4500), Chirk [SJ287375].
Refreshments: The Poacher’s Pocket or the Bridge Inn (at the bottom of the hill at Chirk Bank). Glyn Wylfa is an all day café. Also there are several places to eat in Chirk village.
Please note: No date is stated for this Chirk Walk because you choose! Peter Brown (pictured below) has provided the notes so that you can download them and enjoy the walk whenever you wish.
World Heritage status
UNESCO made the eleven miles of canal from Gledrid Bridge to Horseshoe Falls a World Heritage Site in July 2009. The citation states: ... The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal are early and outstanding examples of the innovations brought about by the Industrial Revolution in Britain, where they made decisive development in transport capacities possible. They bear witness to very substantial international interchanges and influences in the fields of inland waterways, civil engineering, land-use planning, and the application of iron in structural design.’
The first mile of the World Heritage Site is in Shropshire. After rounding the bend, the canal is on the side of the hill, involving cutting into the hill and using the material to create a platform supporting the towpath and containing the water. Here, over the years, there have been several breaches. The canal is now safely restrained in a concrete trough.
Shortly before Chirk Bank, on the off-side (far side) of the canal, is the site of the wharf made in 1871 to which coal was brought on a tramroad from Quinta Colliery. It was found that the drop broke up the coal excessively, and the wharf was soon abandoned.
Chirk Bank Bridge (21) carried the original turnpike road from Oswestry to Wrexham and Llangollen. It shows an early use of cast iron beams to support a bridge deck, making the gradient less than it otherwise would have been. Immediately to the west was a wharf; the warehouse was demolished in 1933.
Further along the canal, the quarry on the off-side provided stone to build the aqueduct.
The five Aqueduct Cottages were built by the Shropshire Union in 1874 in order to house workers on the Glyn Valley Tramroad, which was then being operated by the canal company. Between numbers 4 & 3 is an earthwork platform believed to have been used as the construction yard for the aqueduct.
Chirk Bridge and the Holyhead Road
The road history here is complex. Chirk Bridge (1793) was one of Thomas Telford’s early works as County Surveyor for Shropshire. The embankment (1826) rising from the bridge is part of Telford’s new Holyhead Road — the gradient is 1 in 20, the only place on the whole road across Snowdonia where he could not achieve his planned ruling gradient of 1 in 30. This road replaced a turnpike road, the earth-works of which can still be seen, which in turn replaced an even steeper road on the line taken by the footpath.
Chirk Bank Colliery
West of the bridge, on the south side of the river, was a colliery which opened shortly after the canal was built. As early as 1808 there were concerns that the canal was being undermined, then on 28 December 1816 the embankment failed and canal water cascaded down into the valley, filling the mine, drowning the horses and destroying the machinery. Luckily this happened on the only night of the year when there was nobody down the mine, the workers having collected their Christmas bounties. Although the breach was almost certainly caused by the mining, the courts decided the canal company was liable to pay damages.
Chirk Aqueduct, completed in 1801, has ten masonry arches, 68 feet above the river Ceiriog. The top part of the piers and the arches are hollow, then an innovative concept. The bed of the canal was a cast iron plate; the sides were made waterproof through the use of hydraulic mortar. The contractors were John Simpson and William Hazledine, the total cost being £20,898.12s.9d. The full iron trough was inserted in 1869.
The aqueduct crosses the England–Wales border. This does not follow the present line of the river but its former line, which can still be clearly seen in the flood plain below.
The railway viaduct alongside was built 1846-8; Henry Robertson was the engineer and Thomas Brassey the contractor. The side spans were originally of timber. In 1858 these were replaced by six additional masonry spans, the canal company giving permission for a temporary tramroad being laid across the aqueduct, presumably on the off-side, to assist with the construction.
Chirk Basin Wharf originally had a weighbridge and a wharfinger’s hut. 'Telford Lodge’, on the other side of the railway, was probably the resident engineer’s house whilst the aqueduct was being built.
The tunnel is 459 yards long with a maximum depth of 46 feet below ground level; it was built mainly by cut-and-cover with the central section excavated from two shafts (one of which survives). The towpath is on brick arches allowing the water to flow below it, reducing the resistance to boats.
Beyond the tunnel is a long dank cutting leading to the wharf at the end of the Glyn Valley Tramway and another wharf linked by tramroad to Black Park Colliery.
Bridge 21 at Chirk Bank
Glyn Wylfa in Castle Road,Chirk LL14 5BS
Chirk Aqueduct and Chirk Railway Viaduct from England
Chirk Aqueduct and Chirk Railway Viaduct from Wales
Chirk Tunnel, southern portal