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My blog nick-name is SIR HUGH. I'm not from the aristocracy - my middle name is Hugh which relates to the list of 282 hills in Scotland compiled by Sir Hugh Munro in 1891. I climbed my last one (Sgurr Mor) on 28th June 2009


Saturday, 19 June 2021

Llangollen Canal Walk

Monday 14th June to Thursday 17th June 2021
Llangollen Canal Walk - 49 miles.

This canal dates back to the late 1700s and early 1800s and was used for transporting iron and coal, but is now perhaps the most popular leisure canal in the country. For my overseas readers: the original steel hulled narrow boats have been modified to provide well equipped leisure craft with a sort of cult following amongst the private owners as well as many companies offering craft for holiday hire. The canal's history is complicated with its interconnection with other canals but suffice to say it links  with the main English canal system - there is much interesting background in the Wikipedia article.

After Covid restrictions a flat fifty mile walk of four to five days seemed like a good way of easing back into longer distance, multi-day walking so I could find out if my now octogenarian frame could still take it.

I prevaricated about taking a tent and/or cooking equipment. I decided to ditch the latter, but on reflection even that saving left me with a pack that was uncomfortably heavy. That was partly due to my paranoia at the possibility of going hungry influencing me to stock up with quite lot of heavy victuals from Morrisons in Nantwich which I carried for the whole journey because I was finding alternatives and stupidly preserving the original stuff in case of emergency.  I also carried more than usual water in consideration of the very hot weather throughout.There was much that I carried and not used including my walking poles which remained strapped to my rucksack .

Day 1

I had intended to post daily on the blog using my iPhone (on previous walks I have used my iPad Mini which is hard work but just feasible.) After the first attempt resulting in more typos than correct text I gave it up as bad job and am now writing up from home and below is the translation and edited version of that first attempt.

Monday 14th May 2021

"Not many camping sites up there."

I am so addressed by an elderly gent as I walked up a busy street in Nantwich. I had just arrived on the 9:17 am train. I'm not sure what he meant by up there. I had shopped at Morrisons and marched on to ascend to the aqueduct about a mile from Nantwich centre which marks the start of this forty something mile walk There is a damp fizzle in the air.Tthe canal is busy with boats. I decide to record  quirky boat names. I have chatted with numerous boat people.

Endeavour proved disappointingly to originate from an Inspector Morse novel and not Shackleton. I correctly identified Bright Water with Gavin Maxwell's Ring of Bright Waster of otter fame. Moving on to science I was beaten by Coriolis.The owner was a retired educated engineer who tried to explain the connection with this French mathematician - something to do with not ending up on your travels where you had intended, but like listening to Brian Cox I was lost not far from the start. I have now arrived at the Cotton Arms and campsite at Wrenbury-cum-Frith where I had booked a meal for 7:00. I am now lying uncomfortably in my tent at 3:30 typing this on the iPhone with difficulty.Oh! the sun came out this afternoon. That is a pleasant contrast from the drab weather from this morning.

The standard pub menu in the Cotton Arms left me with the inevitable, hopefully safe choice of fish and chips. I have to say that turned out to be as good as it gets with very crispy light batter with no inner pap and succulent white flakers of fish.

I have a RAB Neutrino sleeping bag (ok RR, I can't help these names and I didn't find myself in two different places at the same time.) The Neutrino is a summer, down filled bag which was not up to this cold early summer night.

Day 2 - Tuesday.

Breakfast - two mini pork pies and shortbread biscuits with a swig of water. Off to a good start at 8:00 am.

I was lazered with hot sunshine and my pack was just that bit too heavy. No matter, the canal runs through the best of green English countryside and with many twists and turns of the canal the scene changed frequently like a slideshow presentation. I logged quirky boat names which can be seen on the slideshow link at the end of this post along with comments and interpretations. A footpath way-mark showed me the point where I had arrived at this canal on my last punishing day of the Sandstone Trail and my final stretch into Whitchurch to catch the train home. That is described at the end of a  long multi-day post: CLICK IF YOU WANT

It seems that my long walks these days inevitably coincide somewhere with previous ones. Later I must have passed a point where I crossed the Llangollen Canal on my Welsh Boundary Walk but I didn't recognise it and my records are not detailed enough. If I had my time over I would keep more detail of my doings.

I had a surprise stop at a Texaco station near Grindley Brook where the canal coincides with the A5. I had a good machine coffee and more impulsive food purchases to add to my burden.

Further on a well populated canal-side café appeared. I din't really feel like food, but tea was the tempter. I had a disgustingly soggy bacon butty and a sickly chocolate brownie, but the tea was as a life saver. Cafés are rare and it is hard not to take advantage when one presents itself.

I had no fixed arrangement for my night stop but learned of a posh, adults only caravan site at Hampton Bank. That turned out to be a well appointed private farm site. I was graciously given permission to camp. I had a triple sandwich pack and some biscuits. After eating  a caravaner from one of only two on the site came across and invited me for beer and an evening's chat along with the farmer - I opted for tea and sat with them having pleasant conversation until dusk.

Next morning I was offered and accepted tea by the farmer's wife before I departed at 8:00am.

Day 3

Another incredibly hot day. At 49 miles I thought the walk would take 4.5 days. By now I had eaten into the average required to achieve that and it was now becoming an intriguing possibility that I may finish within four days thus saving a fourth overnight.

Ellesmere Tunnel was interesting. I plodded through not knowing where my feet were  landing and fearing a  sudden trip into some hole in the concrete path. I was illuminated some of the way by a boat passing through, but not enough to see where my feet were going.

Further on a huge tree had fallen across the towing path and at first it looked almost unsurmountable. A young cyclist arrived and between us we hacked our way through, he encumbered by carrying his lightweight carbon fibre bike. He was on his way to Llangollen and said he would see me again on his return which he did later in the day.

I saw an object at distance bobbing up and down in the canal. It looked like a mini Loch Ness Monster and I wondered if it was a baby otter or an undiscovered species of mammal. I hurriedly and nervously got the camera to bear and struggled to latch on with a long zoom . It turned out to be a floating beer bottle.

I arrived at the pub at Hindford, now much hot and bothered and concerned about finding accommodation. I was allowed to use their WiFi and Identified the Moreton Park Hotel at Weston Rhyn and booked a room. That was another six kilometres which put me well ahead of my average target and I then knew I would be able to finish the walk within the four days.

The hotel was a road house in the style of Travel Lodge but more upmarket. I haggled about the price and secured a £10 reduction on the initial quote. I was given a crazy room on the ground floor with a staircase of about twenty steps leading to a mezzanine bedroom. That seemed like a gimmick to me and I was thankful that I didn't need to get up in the night to plod up and down those stairs. I do stiffen up quite lot these days at the end of a day's walk.

I ate in their attached pub, I asked for a pint ginger beer shandy. "No ginger beer" came the reply from the youth on his first day I think, so I said ok, lemonade. I was brought a half pint of lemonade. I sent that back and then a mature lady arrived and apologised and when we had finished a learned discussion on how to fix a pint of shandy it duly arrived to accompany a lacklustre meal of roasted-to-death-salmon and new potatoes with a pot of mushy cauliflower to accompany - at least I din't go hungry.

Day 4

The paths up till now had been varied with quite a lot of those the width of a single foot in a trough in cropped grass and quite tiresome. Today all the paths were on wide hard surfaces making for fast progress. The Chirk Aqueduct and tunnel and then the magnificent Pontcysyllte aqueduct were highlights of the trip. The latter was designed and supervised and built by Thomas Telford between 1795 and 1805, an achievement beyond belief.

The canal by-passes the town of Llangollen and continues for another couple of miles to finish just before the Horseshoe Falls. That is a man made kind of weir built to provide water for the canal.

There was no apparent transport back from that point and I retraced steps branching off to get into Llangollen town. At a pub I was given taxi details. I phoned and the taxi man said he would be down the road in five minutes. I said I wanted to go to Chirk railway station but he asked me where I was going. Using as mobile stuck to his windscreen he quickly researched train times (which I had not done) and suggested that he could get me onto the next train by going to Ruabon instead of Chirk, and that we did with only minutes to spare - he even directed me to cross the line on the footbridge to save me time  finding out for myself. What a good guy - I gave him a generous tip. Three changes and I was back home in Arnside just after 9:00 pm.

Below is a link to a slideshow in Dropbox.

Click on the first thumbnail photo to open in broader view then go to the bottom and click on two diagonal arrows to view as proper slideshow. Any problems please let me know asap. 

 CLICK for slideshow


  1. Je te tire mon chapeau.
    ... I can also translate Yorkshire. Photo 27. "I will do it tomorrow"
    Photo 28.CHY TYAC - working on it.

  2. When I read your report from Day 1 and learnt you were on a trip, I really hoped there would be a report of an unsolicited cup of tea on Day 2. You didn't disappoint! Equally pleased that you seem to have had a good trip.

    I can't view the photos properly on my phone, but will peruse them on my laptop when I have the opportunity.

  3. BC - Mon chapeau is a bit heavier these days since I re-adopted the Tilley. I find it doesn't restrict my view as much and I am seeing more of the world about me. I am sloughed at failing with the Yorkshire idiom. I have just tried CHY TYAC with an online anagram generator with no success. I think we need a bit more out-of-box thinking between us.


    Gayle - I too was anxious anticipating falling into a state of depression if I didn't get any offers. I have just remembered that I was offered water by a caravaner when I entered by the back door of my first night's camp site and I was enquiring about the location of Reception. As water was the best they could do I didn't really think that offer counted.

  4. Lovely account of your walk, Conrad. Yes, setting off on shorter walks, and on the flat, seems a good way of easing back into longer treks. (I’ve been walking around the Wash to try to get myself back up to Scotland!) And you were carrying a camping pack too - something that fills me with awe, as I find my little rucksack heavy enough. I do carry a torch sometimes, if I anticipate tunnels ahead. It takes courage to keep putting one foot in front of the other when you are walking blindly in the dark. Anyway, great to see you back on the trail x

  5. Hi Ruth - good to hear of you keeping on walking even if it is not "up-north."

    The pack was too heavy and I'm glad it was easy walking. I'll be thinking about that for future ventures.

  6. A very nice account of your walk Conrad. I presume you had the Rab Neutrino 200 as the "Neutrino" par say is regarded as good all round bag. I guess that is the 400 though. What a splendid taxi driver you had. So good to hear and also the camping night at the Adults only caravan site is worth remembering.
    So, did the Octogenarian body cope well under the strain?

  7. Alan R - I am not certain which Neutrino I have but suspect it is the lighter one. There is no label indication on the bag other than the RAB logo but if it was filled any less it would be useless.I seem to remember I bought one of the first releases of that bag so perhaps it is some kind of prototpe? As for the 81 year old frame I reckon it stood the test very well considering, but for the future I reckon I will be planning around B and Bs.

  8. Well done Conrad, that was most enjoyable. I like the 'Canal boat names' theme, and well done on finding accommodation.

  9. Great to see you out on such a major trip, and nice to read all about it. I've never been on the Llangollen canal, but would love to see it.

  10. Phreerunner and Paul H - Thanks for your cpmments.

  11. for an initial postdemic journey, a very good start - now for the 'old familiar mountains' ?

  12. gimmer - Much as I would like to be going higher "things" seem to keep getting in the way and I have other projects and obligations which need attention. I am much missing my caravan which provided the perfect base for exploring more distant new ground.