And so to Llangollen…
In all the time Cleddau and crew were heading north west to Liverpool and back earlier this year no boaters showed any curiosity about how to say “Cleddau” or why the boat is so called… Heading west on the Llangollen Canal however, folk can pronounce the word (think: CLETH-EYE) and some even recognise the reference. “Ah, Pembrokeshire!” said a walker one day. “Is that the eastern or the western Cleddau?”
Then, at Ellesmere (Ellesmere in Shropshire that is, not Ellesmere Port north of Chester) from the towpath a boater grinned in recognition. “I know where that is, I was brought up in Milford…” A conversation ensued of course, during which knowledge even of the ferries Cleddau Queen and of Cleddau King emerged…How satisfying to have again a Monkton Moment*, in fact two Monkton Moments* in two days!
Locational knowledge and place names seem to be on the mind at the moment. A comment from Les on the previous post refers to this canal as the Lanny Golly. What a great nickname – especially when you view the spectacular aqueducts! Golly indeed! Lanny Golly manages to avoid the necessity of doing (for many) alien things with the tongue on the front teeth to produce the rather wet sounding double ll so often found in Welsh place names.
A video clip was received a few days ago, beamed 5,500 miles across the globe from Southern California. “This is where the boat is going,” Cal Son said to the Cal Three last week. He had written LLANGOLLEN on a piece of paper and challenged each of them to read it. First of all there were variations on lan-gol-en / lan-go-lan… None was approved as correct by Cal Son.
The guesses became increasingly wide of the mark. “London?” queried the six year old…
The ten year old studiously kept working at the word. “lon-gol-on?”
“Daddy, it’s Legoland. LEGOLAND!” joked the impatient near-teenager.
“Listen,” said their father, and he produced a very respectable and recognisable “Llangollen.” (Some years of education in Wales had brought some benefit there then…)
Swiftly the six year old imitated the sound, he too producing the recognisable double ll sound at the start and in the middle of the word… The corrected sound though seemed entirely lost on his older siblings. Does this just confirm the theory that the younger you are the more likely you are to distinguish and to be able to reproduce new sounds…?
If so, there may be no hope for the Midland boater of mature years. On numerous occasions, both before and on this trip, there have been cross-lock conversations with other boaters of the “Where are you heading /where have you been?” variety. So often the strangled reply has left Boatwif puzzled as to exactly where they were going or where they had been. To her ear it seems as if Black Country boaters are the worst manglers of “Llangollen”, often producing something like “LAN-go-LUN”.
What then will non-Welsh tongues make of the Llangollen Canal’s finest sighting…? The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is pronounced pont-ker-suth-tee according to a C&RT information board.
So what of recent days’ cruising? They could be summarised in two words “windy” and “congested”. The Llangollen Canal is popular with both hire and private boaters. There were times when processions of boats either side of a lift bridge or a bridge hole would require great patience and some delicate manoeuvring (not easy at slow speed and in gusty winds!)
Out in Shropshire there are stretches of strange landscape where the waterway seems raised above bog land. These are the mosses (Fenn’s, Whixall, Bettisfield, Wem and Cadney). Now these peat areas are Sites of Special Scientific Interest and at various points information boards and paths indicate access to nature reserves.
Further on but far from anywhere is Frankton Junction where a staircase lock leads down to the lonely 7 mile length of the Montgomery Canal. Will there be chance to have a look beyond the locks on the return trip…? Along the miles and miles of rural canal there are occasional glimpses of low hills – and then at last come two more locks, the two final locks on the Llangollen (Lanny Golly). Suddenly there was activity: the Captain paid a trip down the weed hatch, a small crowd of boaters was congregated around the bottom New Marton Lock. The crowd seemed to comprise an equal split between nervous novices and experienced hands. Could too many cooks spoil the broth? There was windlass angst as one was left unprotected on a paddle while its owner galloped to the far end of the lock. By then the experienced boater had found herself on the opposite side of the lock minus her vital tool. Meanwhile, with fear in their eyes, two Australians stood by, each clutching an insulated mug of coffee. Their boat was below the lock and they needed to get past this obstacle. Nothing like this had they seen before. “Eer, in Austreyelea we have really wide houseboats and the lockmasters do the work…”
At the lock ahead there was a similar episode. An expert boater was giving advice to another complete and very apprehensive novice. “You’d better get your fenders up – we got stuck here on the way up,” she announced before hoiking up a couple of the pipe fenders then urgently starting to add water from the top end of the lock. Again anxiety and confusion clouded the would-be boater’s face… Though this canal is widely recognised as boaters’ heaven, for folk new to boating there is certainly a fair amount of scare factor!
It was Saturday when they were crossed: first Chirk Aqueduct, accompanied by the higher railway viaduct on the western side, then, 3¾ miles, two tunnels and a lift bridge later, there was the One. Now it’s a World Heritage Site, the 1007 foot /307 metre long Pontcysyllte Aqueduct (remember, pronounced pont-ker-suth-tee).
Mission achieved. Late on Saturday afternoon Cleddau arrived in Llangollen, hovered behind the horse-drawn trip boat and then cruised into the boat basin.
Just the other side of the canal is the impressive Pavilion, site of the annual International Eisteddfod. More on that another time – but one does wonder whether those participants, those singers and dancers from all over the world, manage to say Llangollen (with two double lls) or whether they too create their own pronunciations – Lanny Golly , LAN-goll-UN, Lan-goal-en…
Posted from Llangollen: miles and locks so far covered from Higher Poynton: 92¼ miles 3 tunnels, 69 locks.
Monkton Moments* to date: 2
(Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections)