Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Newtown Reconnaissance

Standing by the remains of the last canal bridge before the original canal wharf
Last Tuesday saw myself, Sylvia Edwards, Marion Blockley and Mike Davies from River Severn Custodians get together for an exploration of canal-related sites between Newtown and Pwll Penarth. Along this section the canal bed is dry and is now a riverside footpath. The spot above was a good starting point, as there is a section of the parapet of the last bridge before the original canal wharf now incorporated in to a garden wall (see close up below). We tried to locate the exact site of the canal basin, which appeared to be in the back gardens of a housing development.

When is a garden wall not a garden wall?
We walked on along the path of the canal bed, past buildings that would have been on the canal-side, with distinctive architecture including these split level houses which can be accessed on the top floor at street level the other side of the wall.

Heading towards the edge of town we passed the old pump house where water was drawn from the River Severn to feed the canal. The photograph below shows the back of the building, where the brick tower of the steam pump was sited.

The proximity of the river and the canal bed as it leaves Newtown is striking. We imagined the contrast you would feel arriving in Newtown by narrow boat, between the open fields of the Severn valley and this close intersection of river and canal. The land cleaves and buildings cling to the steep incline with the road high above. I felt the importance of a canal terminus as it would give the canal its focal point, a sense of having achieved its journey.

We looked out for visible signs of the presence of the canal in the landscape and built environment, and the closer we looked, the more there were. After Llanllwchaiairn village we passed under a bridge along the dry canal bed. Later that day, in Newtown Textile Museum, I saw this postcard of the canal in water at what looked like that very site.

Further along we passed canal-side buildings, including a wattle and daub cottage, and another bridge, this one with an iron fish-bellied bridge deck. 

The fish-bellied bridge between Llanllwchaiairn and Pwll Penarth photographed at sunset in February 2015

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