Autumn in the Welsh countryside

I realise my posting has been somewhat non-existent lately but the drawing part of my life had taken over. Which means no big Welsh adventures either.

I managed to squeeze in some Sunday afternoon strolls though and considering that the beautiful countryside starts right at my back door, I didn’t have to drive that far either. So I hope you enjoy at least these small glimpses into the beauty of Wales and hopefully there will be some bigger adventures soon.

Pre-New Year’s Resolution: Get out more again.

First the Panorama Walk near Llangollen – beautiful autumn light and views of Dinas Bran.

 

The Minera Lead Mines and the quarry not far away offer more of a view into the industrial past of the area. Very impressive nonetheless.

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Erddig Park and its castle

It’s funny how you tend to write about places you travel to but hardly about the ones right at your front door. While visiting Erddig Hall and the adjoining park for the annual apple festival this weekend I realised, I had never written anything about this beautiful place just outside of Wrexham even though I visit it several times a year.

Erddig Hall is one of the country’s finest stately homes and, as well as the park, managed by the National Trust. In Erddig Park you can find the ingenious Cup and Saucer and the lesser known Motte & Bailey Castle. This old castle mound seems to be one part of the park which is often overlooked and not so well known. Even on beautiful sunny days when the park is enjoyed by many, you can have the old motte-and-bailey castle all to yourself. One of my neighbours, who lived in this area for more than 30 years, didn’t even know it existed.

When visiting Erddig Hall I like to include a little stroll through the country park so why don’t you join me. And yes, the park is much bigger than what you will see right now.

Even though the park might look like it was created by nature, it is actually the work of landscape designer William Emes who worked at Erddig from 1768-1780. He planted many trees and manipulated the flow of water across the park. His most famous feature is the Cup and Saucer waterfall.

One of the lesser know features of the park is the Motte and Bailey Castle that was incorporated into Emes’ design. Built by the Normans in the 11th century, the Motte and Bailey Castle’s purpose was to enforce their control over the local area. All that is left today are some earthen mounds hiding between the trees but once the castle would have dominated the skyline. When Emes started his work 700 years after the castle’s originial construction he planted an avenue of trees on its summit named Cathedral Isle. Back then the avenue was leading to a spectacular view over the surrounding landscape but nowadays the trees are just too high to see much.

The park surrounds the hall and offers, apart from the beautiful woods, many meadows and a lake – Llyn Erddig. Also included in the park is a section of Wat’s Dyke, a 40 mile long defensive earthen dam built in the 8th century.

I will do a proper post on Erddig Hall soon but as I had mentioned I was going there, I have included some pictures of the house and garden. It was nice seeing it so busy for the apple festival and I’m sure I’ll be back around Christmas for some Victorian Christmas inspiration.

Brymbo’s Industrial Heritage

24 years today, on 27th September 1990, the last furnace at Brymbo Steelworks had been tapped and by chance there was a Brymbo Heritage Project Open Day today that provided a good opportunity to have a look around the former site and learn more about the past of this area.

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The original No. 1 furnace built by John Wilkinson

When someone mentions Brymbo most people think of steel but you can also find 300 million year old fossilised, still upright, trees here and coal had been worked on these hills since the 1400s. But when the industrialist John Wilkinson, who owned nearby Bersham Ironworks, purchased Brymbo Hall in 1792 and founded Brymbo Ironworks, that’s when it really took off. By 1796 Wilkinson had erected the first blast furnace and ever since iron and later on steel had been produced on this site until September 1990.

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The Machine Shop dates from 1920 and is one of later steelwork buildings

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Inside the Machine Shop

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A lot of things to discover

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Heavy machinery

Today some of the buildings still stand, including the original Wilkinson No. 1 furnace, and Brymbo Heritage Group offered free Guided Walks and 4×4 Tours around the works. Some buildings have suffered severly during the heavy snow fall last March and their roofs collapsed but repair works have already started.

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Overview – you can clearly see the collapsed roofs

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The old workshop I believe. The roof has been taken off already.

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Imposing

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Agent’s House – Wilkinson turned these cottages into offices in the late 1700s.

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Not originally from here, I think, but they had some like this one as well

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You really get an idea of the size of things

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These were basically just tipped over to unload

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I really like it when you can get close to things and even touch them

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More buildings reclaimed by nature

For safety reasons we weren’t allowed in all the buildings but you could still look inside. Also some of the remaining details on the buildings are intriguing.
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My special thanks go to Colin and Keith who walked us around the site and offered some interesting facts and anecdotes. I should have taken notes really but what I remember was a comment on the D Furnace about its size and power “She was an animal. She was a beast.” I think that says it all.

For more information and how to support Brymbo Heritage Group visit
www.brymboheritage.co.uk

Weekly Photo Challenge: Relic

Generally I love living in Wales but this week’s photo challenge reminded me of a not so nice experience. It’s going to take some time to explain so bear with me.

When I had moved here I basically packed everything I couldn’t live without into my beloved 1990s BMW and drove over here. It’s really quite interesting driving a left hand drive in this country. I just say toll stations or car parks and having to run embarrassed around my car to pay or insert my ticket.
Anyway, I moved into a nice terraced house unfortunately without off road parking or even parking in front of the house. But I didn’t mind having to walk a couple of meters.

So one Wednesday evening in February 2007 I parked my car in a close by car park after work. It started snowing over night and come morning it looked like a winter wonderland. And wonder I did, as there was no car to be seen in the whole parking lot. Not a single one. Needless to say that some kids probably wanted to test drive a left hand drive BMW. Must have gotten pretty cold too because they set it on fire. My car, or what was left of it, was found weeks later. Not a pretty sight. I was devastated.

However, a couple of days after my car’s disappearance the snow started to melt and there it was. The “Wackel Elvis” (Wobbly Elvis) I had on my dashboard. Must have been too tacky for them. I’ve still got it and it’s my personal relic reminding me of that.

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St David’s Day – flags, parades and daffodils

Last Saturday marked the celebration of St David’s Day in Wales. Saint David is the patron saint of Wales and the first day of March was chosen in remembrance of his death.

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Saint David portrayed on a window

A native of Wales, Saint David (Welsh: Dewi Sant) was born towards the end of the 5th century, his date birth is still uncertain, and became a famous teacher and preacher. He founded several monastic settlements and churches including a Celtic monastic community at Glyn Rhosyn (The Vale of Roses) on the western edge of Pembrokeshire, the spot where St David’s Cathedral stands today. This foundation became an important Christian shrine and the most important centre in Wales. He most possibly died on 1st March 588. Apparently some of his last words whilst being prepared for his death were: “Brothers be ye constant. The yoke which with single mind ye have taken, bear ye to the end; and whatsoever ye have seen with me and heard, keep and fulfil.”

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The parade in Wrexham ended at Queens Square

This year I thought I’d take part in some of the festivities for a change and as the sun was shining I headed into Wrexham for the parade and Welsh market. It was really nice seeing the children in their traditional outfits and enjoying themselves. Another thing to notice as well is that almost everybody is wearing a daffodil pin (the daffodil is a national symbol of Wales). The parade ended with some music, a couple of speeches and the national anthem ‘Old Land of My Fathers (Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau)’. And to be honest, it is quite something to have a town square full of people sing the national anthem. Makes even me feel somehow patriotic about my adopted home.

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The children definitely had fun

Next stop was Chirk Castle where there was free entry and a free performance by the Fron Choir, so not to be missed.

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Next stop – Chirk Castle. I’ve never seen the car park that full.

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Chirk Castle was built in 1295 by Roger Mortimer de Chirk as part of King Edward I’s chain of fortresses across the north of Wales.

Unfortunately there was a bit of rain and hail while I was driving there what meant that the first set of the choir took place in the castle’s chapel which was way too small for all people to fit in there. So unfortunately I missed the first set but luckily the second one took place in the courtyard as the weather had improved. The choir was impressive as ever and the setting just perfect.

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People are gathering for the Fron Choir performance.

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I’m a big fan of the Welsh male choirs, especially the Fron Choir.

What a way to celebrate a nation and its patron saint.

A walk through industrial history – Minera Country Park

One day, I had just moved to Wrexham, I picked up this leaflet from the Tourist Information called “Healthy Walks in and around Wrexham’s Country Parks” which sounded like a good idea for me to get to know the area. And though I had explored these walks quite early on, there was still one left. The Minera Country Park Lead Mines Walk. I had been to Minera Lead Mines several times but had never managed to walk beyond that point. So as it was a sunny day I decided it was time to do so. And what a surprise it had in store for me.

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The large engine house at Minera Lead Mines.

Although it mentioned in the leaflet that the “walk is packed with geological and historical interest” and that there is Minera Quarry at the end, I had no idea that there would be so many ruins along the way and that Minera Limestone Quarry was once the largest lime workings in the north of Wales and were only closed in 1972. I had to find this out afterwards when I was back at home.
As the leaflet gives a good description of the walk itself but unfortunately not of the ruins along the way I won’t be able to tell you exactly what you see on the following pictures. I’ll try my best though.

The name Minera has its source in Latin meaning “ore” or “mine”. The lead mining in this area dates back to the Middle Ages and had become very productive and prifitable by the mid 19th Century.

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Quite a few things lying around. They explain everything on open days.

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Wheel at the top of the engine house.

The most prominent remnant of that era is the large engine house at Meadow Shaft, which housed a steam engine which powered pumps as the mines were prone to flooding.

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Looking back at the engine house

Passing the engine house I headed for the old railway line when I came across this ruin. No idea what it once was. My guess would be it had something to do with mining?! It definitely looks industrial.

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Maybe the remains of a chimney?

Time to move on but not far away I spotted this derelict building on some farmland.

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It was fenced off (and if there is a proper fence, a sign private property or danger – I won’t go). There wasn’t too much left anyway even the sheep on the field weren’t interested.

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Nice idea

You can really tell that you are walking along a disused railway line as the way is just too straight to be natural. The railway was built to transport lead and limestone from the quarries and mines to Wrexham and distribute them further from there on, I believe. On some parts of the way some of the old stone sleepers are still visible.

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You have to look closely to see the sleepers

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I had no idea there were public toilet facilities provided along the way…

Another ruin near the old Minera goods station. Maybe another kiln? I don’t know…

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Next to the goods station you can see lime kilns behind the trees. Lots of them, just like a long wall that goes on and on.

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You can just make out the openings behind the trees

I believe there were two banks of kilns like this, plus one of the spectacular Hoffman kilns which I didn’t manage to find. I probably just turned around too early, didn’t recognise it at the time or went into the wrong direction in the end, not even knowing there was one. Never mind.

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More close up

I think these are draw kilns. Again, everything was fenced off. And very angry dogs nearby…

Getting closer to the quarry I spotted these ruins in between the woods. As there was no fence this time just a small stream to cross I took a closer look.

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It looked like there were several buildings once.

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Must have been quite big ones too

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I guess it was once part of something bigger…

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More ruins further into the woods

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Looks like another kiln. I didn´t want to venture too far.

Getting closer to my destination…

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It already looks more like a quarry.

Finally the quarry. Or at least as close as you are allowed to venture into it. Did I mention fences already?

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It´s much bigger than what you see on this picture.

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I really wanted to have a closer look and maybe get some good views across the region as well, so decided to venture along one of the public footpaths.

Some other ruin on the way.

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No idea what it was

I was getting conscious of the time as well so I just walked up to the top and had a quick look.

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Maybe this gives you a better idea of the scale

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Looking back. I got the views too.

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Finally some company

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The horse probably had the best view of all

Then it was back again as I wanted to reach my car back at the Minera Lead Mines visitor centre before dark.

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Interesting sky

There was just one other thing I had spotted earlier on and as I knew I was almost back at my car made a slight detour. This was probably just an old barn or something. But it still intrigued me.

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Back at the visitor centre I was rewarded with a beautiful sunset.

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There is much more to see so it´s well worth a visit.