A new safety campaign has been launched to deter thrill-seeking stand-up paddle boarders and speeding cyclists from crossing Britain’s highest aqueduct at the Pontcysyllte Canal World Heritage Site in North Wales inappropriately.
‘PontySafety’ aims to stop dozens of people who each year put themselves and others at risk by paddling on stand-up boards along the aqueduct trough, which has no railing on one side, or cycling along the narrow towpath and potentially crashing into pedestrians.
As the schools break up for the long summer holidays, we are appealing to everyone to ‘share the space’ in a responsible way and not take unnecessary risks.
Lynda Slater, Trevor Basin visitor centre manager with the Canal & River Trust, said: "The beautiful Llangollen Canal and the stunning Pontcysyllte Aqueduct are wonderful places to visit and enjoy the great outdoors. Last year nearly half a million people came to admire our spectacular World Heritage Site and the numbers are increasing year on year.
"Unfortunately some people see the ‘Stream in the Sky’, 126 feet above the Dee Valley, as a dare-devil, sporting challenge. Out of courtesy, we ask all cyclists to dismount and walk their bikes along the aqueduct towpath. Sadly some people ignore this advice and put themselves and others at risk by pedalling at speed along the narrow path."
Ani Sutton, engagement manager with the Trust, commented: "As a stand-up paddle boarder myself, I know how easy it is to get blown over or off course. The aqueduct has its own micro climate, with sudden gusts of wind.
"Anyone who stands up on a paddle board across the aqueduct, with no safety railings, is taking crazy risks. We ask everyone to get off their board and walk along the towpath, towing their paddle board in the water behind them. The canal is a great place for enjoying both cycling and stand up paddle boarding - we just want people to be safe and behave responsibly."
The 11 mile Llangollen Canal World Heritage Site features two aqueducts at Pontcysyllte and Chirk and two tunnels at Chirk and Whitehouse.
Our safety guidance is: it is fine to paddle board over Chirk Aqueduct, which by virtue of its historic design has better protection, but paddle boarders should dismount and tow their boards along the Pontcysyllte and through the two tunnels. Canoeists are allowed to paddle along both aqueducts and, when wearing a head light, through both tunnels. Cyclists are requested to dismount and walk their cycles along all aqueduct and tunnel towpaths.
Lynda added: "The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is a very special structure - one of the wonders of the waterways. We want everyone to enjoy their visit here. Canals are marvellous places to enjoy the fresh air and get fit and healthy. We just appeal to everyone to ‘share the space’ and be considerate of other people."
Visitors can enjoy a range of activities from Trevor Basin, next to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, including a free visitor centre, café and boat trips over the aqueduct. Day and holiday boat hire is also available here from Anglo Welsh. Good quality towpaths along the canal make the area great for walking, cycling and angling.