The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct will celebrate the 10th anniversary of World Heritage Site designation this year – with visitor figures at the site quadrupling over the past decade.
Back in 2009, the 200-year-old aqueduct, built by famous canal engineers Thomas Telford and William Jessop, joined the elite club of 1,000 UNESCO World Heritage Sites which includes such iconic structures as Stonehenge and the Pyramids.
The enhanced profile provided by the special heritage status has made the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct a ‘Must Do’ destination for thousands of international tourists, with visitors numbers quadrupling over the past 10 years.
Last year alone saw nearly half a million people viewing the ‘Stream in the Sky’ and Trevor Basin.
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.
Lynda Slater, Trevor Basin visitor centre manager with the Canal & River Trust, said the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct from “a national treasure to a tourist destination of international significance.”
“The World Heritage Status has made a world of difference to this spectacular structure and the 11 miles of Llangollen Canal which surround it,” said Lynda.
“During the main summer season we get coach loads of tourists from dozens of different countries, mixing with thousands of British holiday makers, 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.”
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 the important milestone.
Such celebrations include 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.
Lynda continued: “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.
“Guided by extensive community engagement, we are considering several ideas to bring new and extended attractions to Trevor Basin and the surrounding area, along with possible sources of funding.”
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 task force.
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