Chirk, Clwyd, Wales Sunday 29th March 2015

Today’s Walks

Strenuous Leader: Carole Rankin   Distance: approx. 11.5 miles

From CP we make our way to the Llangollen branch of the Shropshire Union Canal. After stopping to take in Thomas Telford’s Chirk Aqueduct we pass through the 420m long Chirk Tunnel (the “Darkie”- a torch would be helpful here). After taking a detour to see the Pretty Gates of Chirk Castle we take the towpath along the canal to pass through a smaller tunnel then turn W to join Offa’s Dyke Path by Wern Woods. At Castle Mill we take the path N to have a look at the castle. Then along the Llwybr Ceiriog Trail, the Llwybr Maelor Way through Chirk Bank and back to Chirk via Chirk Bridge.

Moderate Leaders: Hazel Anderton & Philomomena Walker   Distance : 8 miles

After leaving the town centre we walk northwards, avoiding tunnels, as far as Cefn-y-Wern where we turn westwards, and after passing through the edge of Wern Woods we come to the Offa’s Dyke path. After a while we do a circuit of Warren Wood before starting our return to Chirk. We mainly walk along a mixture of fields and quiet country lanes. The highlight of the walk was meant to be a visit to the castle but the footpath we had intended taking is closed until April 1st. Carole (above) thinks that another path is open so we might change the route. It will depend on how the day pans out. However, we will be going past the impressive main gates and still get a view of the castle from across the fields.

Leisurely Leader: Sue Daniels   Distance :7 miles

From the coach we make our way to the canal footpath (missing out the tunnel). We walk through trees above the canal and follow field footpaths with also a bit of road walking. With Chirk Castle to the left of us we make our way to Caeaugwynion and join the Offa’s Dyke Path. We slowly make our way over pleasant pasture with some very good views of the surrounding countryside. We follow the stony track and carry on down to Castle Mill (the Battle of Crogen took place here in 1165). From here we step over into Shropshire and continue along the Maelor Way until ahead of us in the distance we can see the railway viaduct and the canal aqueduct. We pass under these magnificent structures and carry on along the road and footpaths back into Chirk.

Easy Leader: Derek Lee   Distance: 4.5 or 5.5 miles

We set off along the edge of Reservoir Wood then turn north along the edge of Chirk Castle grounds on a minor road, followed by field paths, carrying on northwards as far as Bryn Yr Eos, just across the A5. From here we turn south to return to Chirk on the canal towpath, immediately encountering a 200 yard tunnel which we can’t avoid. Just before Chirk there is another 400 yard tunnel which we can avoid by using a minor road. We can end the walk here (4.5 miles) or carry on across the viaduct and return via Chirk Bank. There is little climbing on the walk except for the 100 foot ascent between Chirk Bank and Chirk.

Notes On The Area

The border town of Chirk stands on the escarpment above the point at which the rivers Ceiriog and Dee meet and today is a small town situated between Wrexham and Oswestry. The name Chirk is thought to be an English corruption of the name ‘Ceiriog’, but it possibly comes from the word ‘Church’ as the original Welsh name for the town was ‘Eglwys-y-Waun’ or ‘Church on the Moor’ (now shortened to Y Waun (The Moor)).

In the 19th century vital road, rail and canal links were developed and the town was a centre of communication. Chirk became a staging post on the A5 London to Holyhead mail road, which was originally one of the famous Roman roads, whilst the Llangollen branch of the Shropshire Union Canal reached Chirk in 1801. The Llangollen canal is perhaps Britain’s most popular cruising canal and Chirk Marina is well situated between Thomas Telford’s two magnificent aqueducts at Chirk and at Pontcysyllte. It is possible to walk across both aqueducts if you have a head for heights. Chirk Aqueduct built between 1796 and 1801 by Telford and William Jessop, is 70 feet high with 10 arches. At the northern end of the aqueduct, the canal enters Darkie Tunnel which is wide enough for a single barge and walkway. Using the walkway it is possible to walk through the quarter mile long tunnel.

The River Ceiriog rises in the Berwyn Mountains at 1,800 feet and then swiftly, impetuously, descends eastwards for some 18 miles to confluence with the more sedate River Dee. During its length, the Ceiriog Valley provides a myriad of different landscapes and every turn in the valley’s meandering road brings something new and unexpected.

The area’s main visitor attraction is Chirk Castle, a magnificient 700 year old motte and bailey marcher fortress built by King Edward I. Now owned by the National Trust, the castle is open to the public and has a shop and licenced tea room. Two families are associated with the town and its castle, the Trevor family of Brynkinallt and the Myddletons. The Hughes of Gwerclas, a family descended from the ancient kings of Powys, also dwelt in the area for many years.

Another attraction in the area is a section of Offa’s Dyke. Some of us will be walking on a part of the path.

The Parish Church of St Mary’s is a Grade I listed building. The current church building was begun during the 11th Century by the Normans, although it is believed that an older llan, dedicated to St Tysilio, had existed on the site. Indeed, the current church was known by the dedication of St Tysilio until the late 15th or early 16th century, after which it was re-dedicated to St Mary.

Chirk’s industry was in coal mining with coal being worked since the 17th century. The largest of these collieries were Black Park (one of the oldest in the north of Wales) and Brynkinallt (Welsh: Bryncunallt). But these coal mines are now closed, although there is a street called Colliery Road.