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Offa’s Dyke V – Llangollen – Chirk Castle Mill 19 February 2011

We booked a weekend in Llangollen almost as soon as we got back from the previous Offa’s Dyke trip, with the consequence that the weather is out of our hands. The afternoon of our arrival is wet and cold, but we manage a stroll from the town to the ruined abbey at Valle Crucis. An intended stop-off at Eliseg’s Pillar mound is abandoned as freezing winds and rain drive us to seek shelter and teacakes at the nearby Abbey Farm tearoom instead.

Castell Dinas Bran — Fieldnotes

Saturday dawns dry but very foggy. We finished our last walk in thick mist that enveloped the cliffs of Creigiau Eglwyseg and completely hid Castell Dinas Bran from view. Sadly, it looks like we will be picking up where we left off in almost identical conditions.

The top of the hill is invisible ahead, which may be something of a blessing; as others have mentioned, it’s a steep walk up here from the town, especially the last climb up to the fort itself. As a place to assault, I think I’d be favouring the “starve ‘em out” option, rather than the direct approach.

Due to the restricted visibility, we come upon the medieval ruins before really seeing anything much in the way of prehistoric ramparts. It’s an atmospheric spot, enshrouded in thick mist, where chunks of masonry loom out of the murk and just as quickly fade away again. We are missing out on the spectacular views though.

There are earthworks to be “seen”, especially at the northeast of the hilltop, outside the medieval ruins. There is also a daunting rock-cut ditch, but this probably belongs to the castle, rather than the fort. Even for Iron Age builders of great fortifications, I think that would have been a challenge too far, perhaps.

For all the atmosphere conjured by the mist, the lack of views makes the visit rather less than it could be. One to come back to on a clear day, with blue skies and a warm summer breeze. We make our way off the hilltop utilising the path heading northeast, and once off the top of the hill, fort, castle and all are immediately swallowed back into the pervasive gloom.

Castell Dinas Bran — Images

<b>Castell Dinas Bran</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Castell Dinas Bran</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Castell Dinas Bran</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Castell Dinas Bran</b>Posted by thesweetcheat<b>Castell Dinas Bran</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

Joining the lane to the north, once again we’re back on Offa’s Dyke Path. In a roadside field a couple of hundred yards away from the fort we encounter what looks on approaching to be a decent standing stone, but on closer inspection appears to be a naturally placed wedge-shaped monolith. It wouldn’t have escaped the notice of the fort builders though, no doubt.

Castell Dinas Bran — Images

<b>Castell Dinas Bran</b>Posted by thesweetcheat

The road takes us below the scree slopes of Trevor Rocks and into the misty murk of Trevor Hall Woods. There is a small defended enclosure above us here (Pen-y-Gaer (Llangollen), but it is not visible from where we are and the thick mist doesn’t encourage an uphill detour. Once through the woods, it becomes a semi-urban walk through Trevor, under a disused railway line and across the Llangollen Canal via Cysyllte Bridge.

From here we can see the magnificent Pont Cysyllte Aqueduct, although way out of TMA territory, an amazing piece of engineering by Thomas Telford, 206 years old and still fully functioning to carry canal boats across the Dee. This is the way we go now, not a comfortable place for those with vertigo, but worth the effort for the views of the mighty Dee, one of the major rivers we will cross on our walk along the Welsh borders.

The Dee/Dyfrdwy rises in Snowdonia and by the time it reaches this point in its course it has fed into and back out of Llyn Tegid/Bala Lake, flowing onward close to the Tyfos circle and Tan-y-Coed chambered tomb. At our crossing point, it separates the northern limestone scarps of Eglwyseg Mountain to the north from the rounder shoulders of the Berwyn range to the southwest, before making its winding way through Cheshire to the sea. It seems inconceivable that such a wide waterway could have been anything other than of major significance to the prehistoric people of this area. We should probably be crossing in a coracle!

Safely across, it’s a canal walk for a while, easy, boring and unfortunately it seems to be the local dog toilet. But all is not lost, as once we leave the canal at Pentre, we finally, after a little over 40 miles of walking the Path, encounter Offa’s Dyke itself. Although possible traces of the Dyke stretch as far north as The Gop, it’s pretty sporadic and the people who organised the route of the Path chose to follow the dramatic Clwydian Hills instead (good choice). It’s not the most impressive earthwork in the world at this point, not much more than a low bank under the hedge line that you wouldn’t pay much attention to generally unless you were looking for it. But for us it’s a real “Wow” moment, to at last be in contact with the thing that’s got us out on these walks. .

The Dyke is now with us for the next mile or so, either right beside us or at least visible nearby, as we climb steadily out of the Dee Valley onto the hills above Chirk. The earlier mist has gone, leaving an overcast day with better views into Cheshire/north Shropshire. The walking is easy; we’ve left behind the dog walkers and have Spring lambs for company instead. Eventually the impressive bulk of Chirk Castle comes into view, before we drop down again to the Ceiriog Valley and an impeccably timed bus back to Llangollen. A nice easy section today, barely 8 miles and with scant prehistory, but we’ve crossed the mighty Dee and finally met the Dyke, so it feels like we’re firmly underway now.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
26th February 2013ce
Edited 26th February 2013ce

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