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Vyrnwy Aqueduct and Llanymynech Walk

A delightful walk beside arguably the most beautiful section of the Montgomery Canal, including its biggest engineering structure and other fascinating historical features

Walk

Branch
IWA Shrewsbury District & North Wales Branch
Location

Llanymynech

Distance

5.6km (3.5miles)

Ease

Active

activity image

This walk begins in the town of Llanymynech and includes a bus ride to the Four Crosses, where the walk begins.

The Vyrnwy Aqueduct and Llanymynech Walk is right on the England and Wales border, between Oswestry and Welshpool.

Walk Details

Surface

 This walk has a typical rural towpath, a narrow path on grass.

Parking

There is parking available at Llanymynech Heritage Centre.

Toilets

For toilet access visit the Heritage Centre when open.

Vyrnwy Aqueduct and Llanymynech Walk Map

Find directions to the Activity

Begin The Walk

1. The Canal Bridge

From the bus stop outside the Llanymynech Heritage Centre take Tanat Valley bus 74 (only two journeys each weekday) to Four Crosses, getting off at the crossroads.  (Both English and Welsh bus passes are valid.)  Cross the main road and walk along Canal Road to the canal bridge.  Join the towpath, walking north.

2. The Montgomeryshire Canal

The Montgomeryshire Canal was a locally-financed canal built primarily to convey limestone from Llanymynech and coal from Chirk and Morda to limekilns along its route.  Most of the settlements on the Montgomeryshire Canal had limekilns.   The quicklime made in them was used on the land to improve agricultural yields and also in making mortar for the building industry.

Having received its Act of Parliament in 1794, the canal opened from Carreghofa (where it had an end-on junction with the Llanymynech Branch of the Ellesmere Canal) to Garthmyl in 1798.  It was extended to Newtown in 1815–21. The canal was effectively closed in 1936 as a result of a breach further north.  Restoration has continued piecemeal since 1969.  Carreghofa Locks and the toll house were restored in 1986.

3. Clafton Bridge canal settlement

Until the turnpike road through Four Crosses was built in conjunction with flood plain reclamation  in about 1828, this was the main road from Oswestry to Welshpool.  The settlement at Clafton Bridge was created by the canal. Two of the cottages are early 19th century, the other cottages, warehouses and wharf buildings are mid 19th century.  There used to be four limekilns here.   The winding holes either side of the bridge provided material for the embankment across the Vyrnwy valley.

4. Pentreheylin Hall

Pentreheylin Hall was built in 1830 by John James Turner, using the canal to bring in materials. Pentreheylin Hall Bridge and Pentreheylin Bridge were built using ‘fish-belly’ cast iron beams to support the deck.

Pentreheylin warehouse was probably built in the early 1830s for John James Turner.  Although generally known as a salt warehouse, it probably dealt with all sorts of merchandise and produce.  Several years ago the warehouse was sympathetically converted into a dwelling.

5. The crossing of the River Vyrnwy

The River Vyrnwy joins the river Severn four miles to the east (in a direct line, but double that with the bends in the river).  In the 18th century it was navigable to a couple of miles above here, pig iron cast in the Coalbrookdale and Ironbridge area being brought up for conversion into wrought iron. There was abundant wood to create charcoal; the fast-running streams powered waterwheels to give a really good draught for raising the temperature.

The Vyrnwy Aqueduct is the largest structure on the Montgomeryshire Canal.  Built in 1795/6 in the then traditional method: massive, with the water channel formed in  a thick layer of puddled clay contained by relatively thin masonry walls.

6. Carreghofa Locks

Above Carreghofa Locks the Montgomeryshire Canal met the Llanymynech Branch of the Ellesmere Canal.  The Montgomeryshire Canal’s original Act had the canal continuing up the Tanat Valley towards the limestone quarries at Porth-y-Waen where it would have met a branch of the Ellesmere Canal to be built at a higher level than the Llanymynech Branch.  Plans changed, and neither the Ellesmere Canal nor the Montgomeryshire Canal reached Porth-y-Waen.

Carreghofa Locks have the distinctive Montgomeryshire Canal paddle gear designed by George Buck.  Although padlocked, it still works, though it gives fast and turbulent water flows which are potentially dangerous for inexperienced users.  The locks were restored by volunteers and were reopened in 1986.

7. Carreghofa Aqueduct

The building of the West Shropshire Mineral Railway in the mid 1860s necessitated the construction of an aqueduct, which was made up of riveted wrought-iron plates supported on cast iron columns. The slight diversion of the canal can still be seen.  This insignificant and often bankrupt railway went through various name changes, becoming the Potteries, Shrewsbury & North Wales Railway before being leased to the Cambrian Railways in 1881.

8. Llanymynech

Limestone from the quarries in the hill above was brought by tramroads to Llanymynech wharf then loaded into boats to be taken to kilns along both the Ellesmere and Montgomeryshire Canals.  Limestone was also transported to ironworks including, after the opening of the Birmingham & Liverpool Junction Canal, to the east Shropshire industrial area.

The railway arrived in Llanymynech in 1860.  A long siding was built to a large top-fed lime kiln, and towards the end of the 19th century the Warren kiln (a continuously burning kiln) was constructed.  Railway competition severely hit the canal’s limestone trade, and the tramroads were both closed by 1899.

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