BRITAIN’S longest, highest aqueduct has undergone a facelift courtesy of abseiling contractors.

The sun shone yesterday as workers wearing harnesses tackled the heights and started clean-up work on Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which included removing vegetation from the structure.

Specialist harnessed contractors from OCS Group company Fountains carried out vital maintenance work to remove the unwanted vegetation which had taken root in crevasses of the 126-foot grade one listed structure, which is also a scheduled ancient monument.

Using trowels and other hand-tools, they dug out ivy, moss, weeds and even young saplings attacking masonry on the impressive 209-year-old structure.

Steve Hinton, contracts supervisor at the Canal and River Trust, said: “This is a rare opportunity to see contractors abseiling over this breathtaking structure to remove overgrown vegetation which has built up over several years.

“The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and other historic landmarks within the World Heritage Site are some of the most visited attractions on the country’s 2,000-mile canal network.

“The work we are doing here will help to safeguard these unique, internationally-significant heritage structures for generations to come.”

The specialist work took place throughout Monday and can only take place throughout the winter months, according to Mr Hinton.

He said: “This work can’t really take place during the summer when there are more boats about. Winter’s the best time for it. 

“Touch wood, we’ve been lucky today. It’s not been too wet or too windy thankfully.”

The work is part of a wider £80,000 Canal and River Trust project to protect historic structures along the Llangollen and Montgomery canals this winter, including Montgomery and Chirk aqueducts, and Ellesmere, Chirk and Whitehouse tunnels.

The aqueduct and canal were made a world heritage site in 2009.

It was constructed by famous canal engineers Thomas Telford and William Jessop between 1796 and 1805.

The cast iron trough holds 1.5m litres of water from Llangollen Canal and is supported by 18 piers and 19 arches.