Enlightened was thrilled to be chosen by the Canal & River Trust and Wrexham County Borough Council, to technically facilitate and deliver a stunning Luminaire event Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct & Canal's UNESCO World Heritage Site Status. A designation that puts them in prestigious company with The Great Wall of China and the Pyramids at Giza!
The event encompassed five sites of significant international and national importance along the entire length of the 11-mile Pontcysyllte Aqueduct & Canal World Heritage Site. The five unique and beautiful sites illuminated during the event were: the parallel canal and railway; aqueduct and viaduct at Chirk along with the tunnel frontage of the aqueducts canal basin, as well as the glorious Pontcysylltte aqueduct, Horseshoe Falls and the brooding ruins of the medieval castle of Dinas Bran overlooking Llangollen.
Due to both the ecological sensitivity and environmental constraints of the locations, the event required a solution that could balance both sustainability and reliability throughout the events three-week duration and prolonged exposure to the elements. Our continued recent investments in LED fixtures meant we were able to submit an entirely LED solution to the team tasked with commissioning the event, one that provided the lightest sustainable footprint whilst maximising the creative impact and ensuring consistency.
Enlightened’s Lighting Designer, Ben Dodds, who was in charge of the creative lighting design for the entire luminaire project said, “Enlightened rose to the challenge by selecting a range of high powered IP rated LED fixtures, including investing in 36 Showtec Helix S5000 Q4 floods. The lighting for each site was pre-programmed in 3D Pre-Viz software, minimising the amount of time needed for adjustments on site. Astera AX10s were chosen to light Dinas Bran Castle, which was a completely battery operated site due to its remoteness..”
Enlightened’s Production Managers absolutely love the unique challenges luminaire projects like this one present. On projects like these not only are the structures themselves monumental in scale but are often set in locations that can be difficult to reach, let alone supply power to. These challenges are particularly prevalent on temporary outdoor events that are required to run unaided over a prolonged period. Sites such as these require production methods that are ostensibly temporary installations. Enlightened’s extensive experience across live event production combined with our expertise in providing innovative permanent architectural installation solutions makes us perfectly placed to meet these challenges.
The Pontcysyllte Canal Aqueduct was particularly exciting as an illumination project as the structure is the highest Canal Aqueduct in the world, towering over 38 meters high above the beautiful Dee Valley. The astonishing grace of the Pontcysyllte Aqueducts light, soaring arches stand testament to the ambition of Britain’s great industrial age and the talent of the engineers Thomas Telford and William Jessop who conceived it.
The engineer's solution pushed the very limits of eighteenth-century technology, using innovative, cast iron trough sections to carry the canal water and barges within only millimetres of thin air. The effect for those crossing was otherworldly, quickly earning the aqueduct the name ‘the stream in the sky’.
Lighting the tallest canal aqueduct in the world requires a fixture that can really pack a powerful punch and the SGM P10 does just that, delivering over 40,000 lumens into an incredibly light and compact all-weather RGB controllable fixture. That’s a lot of light and the units really delivered. The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct illumination looked truly awe-inspiring. The lighting dramatically accentuating the aqueducts soaring monumental arches.
The ambition of Thomas Telford and William Jessop is evident throughout the length of the canals engineering structures. The Chirk Canal Aqueduct which straddles the border between England and Wales was itself once briefly the tallest navigable canal aqueduct in the world, though the title was superseded by its own designers not long after its completion with the opening of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct only four years later, in 1805.
The Chirk aqueduct’s beauty is enhanced as it runs parallel to a railway viaduct. The mirrored stone arches of the aqueduct and viaduct are reminiscent when seen aligned from a distance of early roman aqueduct architecture, as the higher arches of the railway viaduct appear as if atop the arches of the canal viaduct, evoking the classical double arch aqueducts of ancient roman engineers.
The powerful IP65 Helix S5000 Q4 LED fixtures were the ideal solution at Chirk, providing both powerful and striking illumination to highlight the structures elegance and the perfect balance of intelligent dynamic control providing stunning pre-programmed sequences and glorious saturated colours.
“The colour palette for each site was restricted due to the presence of bats, wild salmon and other protected species, said Ben and a lot of careful planning was put into ensuring that this project would have the minimum possible effect on local wildlife.”
At the northern end of the Chirk Canal Aqudect just across the Welsh border is the 421 metre-long Chirk ‘Darkie’ Tunnel. The longest of the tunnels on the 11 mile-long World Heritage site the ‘Darkie’ has been aptly named by locals as even on the brightest of days its narrow gauge and length mean very little light penetrates its interior.
To create a focal point for visitors to the sites luminaire event, a poem was selected to be projected above the tunnels arch in both the Welsh and English language to highlight the sites geographic significance. The poem was chosen from among those written by children in response to their experience of the canal and was submitted in a previously held competition held by the Canal and River Trust.
Another structure we were enthusiastic to illuminate was the beautiful Horseshoe Falls. Critical to the success of the canal the Horseshoe Falls spans the river Dee, three miles north-west of Llangollen, and was the engineering solution that allowed the engineers to manage the canals water retention along the entire length of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal UNESCO World Heritage site without the need for a single lock. The engineer's construction of an elegant bow-shaped weir has created a solution of graceful simplicity that belies its essential efficiency.
The Horseshoe Falls lie in the bowl of the Dee Valley. Getting our waders on we placed fixtures on platforms within the river itself, on the island and both opposing banks to uplight the surrounding trees and those on the central island in saturated reds and greens to create a magical tableau contained within its own natural amphitheatre.
The fifth structure along the 11-mile heritage site is older than the rest of the sites combined age and has stood guarding the beautiful Dee Valley in some form or another since prehistory. The Castell Dinas Brân dates back to the medieval period with the present ruins probably constructed in the 1260s, though the site had been strategically important since long before that with much earlier occupation including an Iron Age hillfort.
Dave Thorpe, Head of Production at Enlightened and leader of the entire Luminaire project said he particularly relished the challenge of lighting Dinas Bran perched on its 320-metre high hilltop. “Environmental constraints meant we approached the ancient monument site of Dinas Brân with the most sensitive solution possible. This involved engaging the cooperation of the landowner and farmer who kindly agreed to transport our equipment up to the castle using his ATV. The subsequent daily site visits were carried out on foot to swap out 2 of the 8 light units on a rota. They knew what they were doing when they built the castle it really is quite a steep hike, but worth every rest stop. The castle dominates the Llangollen valley and can be seen for miles. Illuminated at night it looks incredible.”
The scale of all five sites required its own solution. Dave needed to be able to direct his team and monitor the nightly performance of the event across the whole 11-mile site. To facilitate this he said, “Remote monitoring of power and lighting systems is key to our confidence that the sites will be illuminated every night and allows us to swiftly direct our crew who remain in the locality to any issues that require equipment to be checked or serviced”.
The entire project has been a fantastic opportunity said Dave, “We absolutely love projects like these. The team at Enlightened have huge amounts of experience in providing spectacular event lighting for both short and long term projects. Having managed numerous similar seasonal attractions we know that key to the success of these projects is meticulous planning. From designing the power systems in line with BS7909, that guarantee safety, to devising installation methods that are resilient to inclement weather. It’s a privilege to work with such an experienced team on such an exciting project.”
Commenting on the project Ben Dodds said, “The key challenges of the project were the scale and remoteness of the structures that we were enlisted to light, the notoriously wet weather of North Wales and various environmental and heritage constraints on each site.
In terms of infrastructure, the team worked hard to ensure that all sites can be remotely monitored from Enlightened HQ back in Bristol, including installing 4G based CCTV and remotely scheduling generators. Despite some challenging weather for the build, the project was installed without a hitch and all sites were lit up on time”
Enlightened would like to thank the organisers of this spectacular Luminaire event for such an exciting opportunity. The Luminaire was organised by the charity, Canal & River Trust, Clwydian Range & Dee Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Wrexham County Borough Council and Denbighshire County Council as part of the Pontcysyllte aqueduct and Canal World Heritage Site anniversary celebrations. This project has received funding via the Regional Tourism Engagement Fund (RTEF) and supported through the Welsh Government Rural Communities - Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Welsh Government, the Fund to improve the visitor experience and create stronger destinations by working together. The project also benefited from The National Lottery Heritage Fund through the Our Picturesque Landscape Project.
Enlightened Photo's by Andrew Gale (Note: images are not to be reproduced without seeking permission) High-Resolution Images can be provided upon request.
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