Back at the showground I decided on the spur of the moment to enter both dogs in the fun dog show which was to take place at 2pm, and I was just in time to register them. The entry fee was £1 per class and I entered both dogs in two classes each - Sophie in the 'prettiest female' class and the 'best short-haired' and Sugar in the 'best veteran over 9 years old' and the 'best rescue'. There were quite a few dogs taking part, from a couple of tiny Chiuauas to a large Great Dane, and I didn't think either of mine stood a chance, but it was all in fun anyway and the entry fee went to an animal charity so I didn't mind if they didn't win anything. It was Sophie's turn first, in the class for prettiest female, along with five other dogs, and I was quite surprised when she was judged in third place - her prize was a small pack of dry dog food, a handful of chews and a rosette. In the next class she got fifth place and was rewarded with a handful of chews and another rosette. We had to wait then for another couple of classes to be judged before it was Sugar's turn - and she gained fourth place, a handful of chews and a rosette for best veteran. After another couple of classes it was Sugar's second entry - and I was totally amazed when she won first prize and was rewarded with a large pack of dog food, chews and a rosette. After I had taken everything back to the van I fastened their rosettes onto their collars - they had both done well and I was proud of them, so I thought they deserved to show off a little.
After giving them a drink and some of their chews I went over to the main ring for the parade of tractors - I was standing near the entrance as they came through and there were so many of them I thought the line would never end. I watched them all drive round the ring then went for a final look round the stalls - the show was beginning to wind down by then, ready for finishing at 5pm, and there weren't quite as many people about so I could walk round with the dogs quite comfortably. A couple of people stopped me and asked what their rosettes were for, and one little girl really fell in love with Sophie - I think she would have taken her home if she could. Once I got back to the van it didn't take long to pack things away, and with the dogs in the back ready for leaving I went to say my goodbyes to Graham and Jean, hoping that when I see them at the show next year it will be as an exhibitor.
It was 5.30pm when I left the showground, the sun was still hot and there was still too much of the day left to go straight home so I decided to stop somewhere en route and explore for a while. My route took me in the direction of Llangollen, but about three miles before the town I spotted a sign for the Pontcysyllte Aquaduct so I headed for there instead. Turning off the main road I followed a narrow winding lane down the hill till I came to the Llangollen canal - I had been to this particular aquaduct a few years ago but only to the far side, so what I saw here was a very pleasant surprise. The canal went round quite a sharp bend at this point so it widened out into a basin to allow the long narrowboats to make the turn towards the aquaduct. There was a row of pretty cottages on my right and the lane ran past these to a couple of bridges over the canal - one was a footbridge with steps at each side, and the other was flat and level with the canal bank to enable wheelchair users to cross. A boat was just approaching the bridge, so I parked the van on the grass verge and watched, fascinated, while one of its occupants jumped out onto the bank and proceeded to raise the bridge by winding it up enough to allow the boat to pass through.
Walking up over the footbridge I stopped to take another photo then continued down onto the path at the far side of the canal and walked along to the aquaduct, keeping the dogs firmly on the lead until I'd got across it to the other side - and when you see the photos you will know why!
For anyone not familiar with this aquaduct here's a little history lesson - it was engineered and built by Thomas Telford between 1795 and 1805, and carries the Llangollen canal over the River Dee valley. It is just over 1,000ft long and is 126ft high, and to cross it either on foot or by boat isn't to be reccommended for anyone not keen on heights. The water itself is only slightly over 5ft deep, but while there are railings protecting walkers on the towpath the other side is totally unprotected, so crossing by boat gives a feeling of being suspended in mid air, with nothing between you and the valley floor 126ft below. Certainly not for the faint-hearted!
At the other end of the aquaduct was Trevor Basin, where the canal took another sharp bend and widened out again to allow boats to make the turn. A footbridge crossed the basin, several narrowboats were moored alongside the towpath, some three abreast, and there was a pub/restaurant with a nice beer garden over the far side. I was feeling quite thirsty by then and decided it was time for a Coke stop, so I crossed the bridge, found the gate leading into the garden, and fastened the dogs to a railing near a table while I went to order a drink. The garden was quite busy with people enjoying a meal or just a drink, and it was very pleasant to sit in the sunshine with my glass of Coke and the dogs lying quietly behind me.
With my glass of Coke finished, and feeling refreshed, I crossed back over the bridge and continued my walk along the towpath. The whole area was very pleasant, with well kept grassy areas bordered by bushes and trees, and with tubs of flowers at various points. Going under a stone bridge the grassed area widened out and there were a couple of bench seats where people sat enjoying the sunshine. A group of young men were sitting on the grass and one was throwing a ball for a dog - and it was when the dog came up to say hello to Sophie and Sugar that I got chatting to the young guy and found out that quite coincidentally he was originally from my home town. He had moved to that area four years previously for work, but still had family and friends back home - I ended up sitting on the grass with him and passed a very pleasant hour chatting about home and various other things until it was time for me to leave, and even though his friends were waiting for him he walked all the way back to the van with me. He even gave me his phone number and said to contact him if I would be down that way again sometime, and we could have a drink together - he was a nice young guy and it was a nice idea, and had I been ten years younger and he ten years older then I may have contacted him again - who knows? But when I got in the van and drove away from the canal I knew I would never see him again.
Leaving the canal I followed the lane through the nearby village, down the hill into the valley and up the other side, and came out near to the pub/restaurant where I had stopped for my drink. From there it was an easy and uneventful drive home, and I arrived back with still some daylight to spare. It had been a lovely weekend; the weather had been glorious, the show had been good, I had taken some nice photos and best of all the dogs had won some prizes and rosettes - I couldn't have wished for anything better.