Today is our last full day and it is a sunny one. We also have a day left on our rover train ticket.
After the usual breakfast at the station, we caught a different train, this time the 9:30 to Birmingham which will take us to Chirk. There we will take the bus to our destination.
We arrived at Chirk station without more ado but that was where the problems began. It seems the the timetables posted at bus stops are works of fiction because the running times of the buses do not reflect them at all.
We eventually got a bus to town and then waited while the times of advertised buses came and went without any sign of the buses themselves.
At last a bus came that would take us where we wanted to go, Llangollen Wharf, but with many a detour into the hinterland, where it often had to turn around to follow the same route back but without ever picking up any passengers.
The town itself seemed to be in festive mood as suggested by the many flags fluttering in the breeze.
From the town, Llangollen Wharf is reached by a short but very steep hill. The wharf is on the Llangollen Canal and has a cafe and the usual shop. Here you can buy tickets for trips by canal barge. The most popular is the motor barge that goes to the Aquaduct.
When we arrived, this trip had been sold out so we took a ride on the horse-drawn barge. This doesn’t go anywhere particularly spectacular but the scenery is pleasant, enlivened by the antics of the waterfowl, especially the ducks who at this time of year have broods of ducklings, and the experience of travelling in this way is interesting in itself.
Another attraction is the Llangollen Railway. This had closed down and the tracks had been removed, though many of the buildings remained.
It has been taken over by enthusiasts who run it as a steam railway. From Llangollen, the train calls at three stations including Carrog, the terminus.
Here the steam loco changes ends ready for the run back to Llangollen. This operation attracts a crowd of interested people. I am unable to tell you the age and model of steam engine but if you are interested you may be able to identify it from the photo.
The carriages were of different ages and provenances but all were old with slam-doors operated from the outside. We chose a compartment and sat at the window where we had a good view of the countryside. Stations were either side of the track.
After our train ride, which lasts about an hour and a half for the round trip, we took a turn around the town and then caught the bus for Wrexham. However, when the bus stopped at Ruabon, we realized we could catch a train here for Chester, and left the bus hurriedly.
The train was due at 17:54 and was late. There was nothing odd about that, of course, as trains and buses in Wales tend to be late as a matter of routine. However, this did present the chance to observe a little trick that they play here that I have often observed in Wales but nowhere else.
Say the train is due at 17:54. The departures board alternates the time with the phrase "On time". Then when the train is late, the time is updated to, say, 17:58 but the phrase "On time" continues to show. That way, your train is never late! It is always "On time"! The railway company (Arriva, in this case) maintains a record for punctuality. This is deceitful and shows how little respect they have for their paying customers./p>
The train, several minutes late but still indicated as "On time", arrived and carried us to Chester. After a brief foray in town for some shopping, we walked back to the hotel via the canal tow path.
It was now very warm and we went up to our room to cool down and rest. For supper, we decided for once to have a meal in the hotel restaurant to save going out. It wasn’t bad.
Despite the the difficulties caused by the Welsh bus services with their fictional timetables, we enjoyed our day out. It was worth the struggle to get to Llangollen, though if we go there another time, we shall try to find a more efficient route.
It was strangely peaceful travelling along the canal in a horse-drawn barge and it made me realize how long it must have taken the old freight barges to work their way through the waterway system to their various destinations when this was the standard form of motive power.
For anyone who loves old railways, the Llangollen steam train offers a fun ride. Many of the passengers were elderly folk who would no doubt remember when all rail travel was like this but I also spotted some younger railway buffs carefully photographing the rolling stock. Such resuscitated railway lines not only provide fun but are a valuable form of history affording not only exhibits to look at and admire but also a chance to experience their use in action.
Tomorrow we return to London with memories of enjoyable days travelling around North Wales and exploring Chester and plenty of photos to back up those memories.