At the bottom of the valley – here briefly
more gorge than valley – the ice age river
runs white and rapid. Deep in its narrow banks
rest the vast brick columns of the aqueduct
that carries, in a narrow cast iron canal,
one hundred and twenty seven feet above,
water from the river tapped upstream –
Thomas Telford’s genius, recognised
as one with the Statue of Liberty,
the Taj Mahal and the Acropolis
and become a stop for Japanese tourists.
Above the valley along the toll road
Telford built from Holyhead to London
is the scattered village developed and named
for the aqueduct – Froncysyllte* –
of a thousand souls at its zenith.
On the war memorial by the roadside
there are thirty six names – the first two
from the Boer War. Two small plaques list
the World War dead – and, between them, an ornate,
tiled drinking fountain (now dry) for the lads
lost on the high veld, one in battle,
the other from typhoid. The legend is
Parcher Y Dewr – ‘respect the brave’.
By chance or design, you would have had to
bow your head, when, at the turn of a tap,
the waters from ancient volcanoes
would spring into your mouth.