Jonathan Goldberg: Pontcysyltte

As a London resident who struggles to escape the capital’s strong gravitational pull, it was with great excitement that I was destined for the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in North Wales, as part of my six month residency.

Selfies at Pontcysyllte Selfies at Pontcysyllte

This stretch of the canal network was recently designated a world heritage site, and offers awe-inspiring views of the lush valley below. 

How to photograph a location featured so dramatically in every guide book? 

My emphasis is generally on people, and those I met had come from from as far afield as East Asia as well as continental Europe and throughout the UK. 

It was a local dog walker that caught my attention initially. I was drawn to the Welsh dragon on his carrier bag, the ultimate national symbol. I liked his purposeful stance and the eagerness of the canines to continue their daily walk.

Narrow boats cruising over the aqueduct must ensure there are no vessels coming from the opposite direction before setting off, such is the slim width of the basin. I enjoyed photographing passengers crossing for the first time. They were the ones squeezed out on the bow jostling for positions with camera phones poised. 

There were numerous kayaks too, looking toy-like within the majestic backdrop. I talked to a man named Rupert who referred me to his blog dedicated to stories of his solo rowing adventures in the UK. When I encountered him he was hugging the shallow rim, sizing up the long drop below with wide-eyed wander. 

There’s a sense of timelessness that pervades on this tranquil stretch of the canal network.

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Rainy day at Pontcysyllte Rainy day at Pontcysyllte

Following on from shooting these and other portraits, I wanted to capture the aqueduct from distance. I found this challenging with the sky so overcast and featureless, and my requirement for a narrow boat to feature in the photo meant waiting patiently in a sodden field. The tall grass in front of me provided  some foreground colour and texture. 

Before my time was up in North Wales I cycled along the length of the canal in either direction. With Horseshoe Falls at one end and the canopy-covered Crick at the other, I was spoilt for beautiful scenery, though somewhat disappointed to encounter fewer than expected people on the towpath.

This forced me to turn my attention to the animal kingdom more than I would ordinarily. Sheep grazing by the water was of partial interest, as were waddling geese that mirrored the sculptures in a residential garden overlooking the water. 

There’s a sense of timelessness that pervades on this tranquil stretch of the canal network. As I waited for my train at the rural Crick station I savoured the my last minutes here, before my next port of call, London’s bustling Euston Station.   

Last date edited: 3 July 2019