Visitor numbers quadruple at Pontcysyllte aquaduct
Vistors to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the 'stream in the sky', have quadrupled since it was designated a World Heritage Site a decade ago.
The Canal & River Trust charity in Wales is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the World Heritage Site designation of Britain’s highest, longest navigable aqueduct, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and 11 miles of the canal from Chirk Bank to Llangollen with a host of evenings.
In 2009, the 200-year-old aqueduct, built by canal engineers Thomas Telford and William Jessop, joined the elite club of 1,000 UNESCO World Heritage Sites which includes such structures as Stonehenge and the Pyramids as well as Telford's Ironbridge Gorge.
Lynda Slater, Trevor Basin Visitor Centre manager with the Canal & River Trust, said the enhanced profile provided by the special heritage status had made the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct a must-see destination for thousands of international tourists.
"Visitor numbers have quadrupled over the decade, with nearly 500,000 people visiting us last year, providing a major boost for the local economy.
"Visitors come from all over the world, with Australians and Japanese heading the international league table. Signing the centre’s visitor book last year were tourists from 52 countries from faraway places such as Zambia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and the Philippines, as well as most European nations."
The aqueduct has also become a regular media star appearing on Bargain Hunt, Antiques Road Trip, Lost Railway Walks, Escape to the Country, CBBC and several news broadcasts last year.
Over the coming year, the Trust, which looks after 2,000 miles of waterways, will be working closely with Wrexham, Denbighshire and Shropshire councils and Cadw, the Welsh Government’s historic environment organisation, to organise 12 months of celebrations and events to mark this important milestone.
A new photography competition, a specially-brewed beer, spectacular luminaire structure lighting, ‘Under the Arches’ celebration and a wide range of community and cultural events and workshops are due to take place.
“The World Heritage Status has made a world of difference to this spectacular structure and the 11 miles of Llangollen Canal which surround it. The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct has gone from being a national treasure to a tourist destination of international significance.
“During the main summer season we get coach-loads of tourists from dozens of different countries, mixing with thousands of British holidaymakers, walkers, boaters and cyclists. A café boat was installed in 2017 and last year we opened new car parks to provide extra capacity during the peak summer months which has helped.
“The challenge for the future is how to offer people more on-site facilities which will mean they spend more time here, have a better experience and hopefully spend more money in the local economy. Working with Wrexham County Borough Council, landowners Solutia and a range of partners, we are currently part way through a strategic masterplan process to identify how to provide better visitor facilities and what they might look like."
An army of volunteers keeps the World Heritage Site in top class condition for visitors. The Canal & River Trust is currently recruiting more people to join the team for the 2019 season. They need destination assistants to work in the free visitor centre; aqueduct, towpath and litter rangers; and volunteers to take part in the towpath taskforce. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.