I’m slightly ahead of target for me 1000 miles challenge having done quite a bit of walking during May. But with June being something of a damp squid so far I’ve been keeping my eye on the weather forecasts for the hills within a couple of hours drive from home. Last weekend the Lakes and Dales were looking wet, but there seemed a good chance of reasonable weather in the Clwdian Hills in North Wales. So on Saturday I set out early and drove over to Loggerheads, between Mold and Ruthin, and only just over an hour from home, providing the traffic on the M6 and M56 is moving (not usually a given!)
I arrived at Loggerheads Country Park just as it started to absolutely chuck it down. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me, so I paid my car parking fee at the pay and display machine and got into my boots and coat, locked up my car, put my rucksac (equiped with its waterproof cover) on my back and set off walking. The downpour lasted no more than half an hour and that was the last I saw of up until I arrived back home later in the day, where it had poured down all day. North Wales was definitely the place to have been!
I’d plotted a route that would take me up Moel Famau and then along the ridge before cutting across country and back to Loggerheads via the Devil’s Gorge. I’d been up Moel Famau before but took a different route upto the top. That might have been a mistake as this time the route took me through some very soggy fields and a couple of swollen streams. I knew this was a risk and had intended to wear my gaiters, but I’d forgotten to put them in the car. My boots proved they were waterproof but the bottom of my trousers got rather wet. But my walking trousers of choice these days are Rohan Stretch Bags which, being made of a soft shell type material, don’t soak up the water and dry off very quickly. Consequently, I don’t bother with waterproof over-trousers any more.
As I set off down the narrow lane from the car park the rain eased off and had soon stopped.
After less than a mile I was off the tarmac and walking down a gravel path.
Then on over a stile into a grassy field, skirting a forest, through a stream, which required a paddle as the stepping stones were covered with water,
through another wet and muddy field, through another stream, and along a track,
before turning off up a steep path through forest that would take me to the top of Moel Famau, the highest hill in the Clwydian range – modest by North Wales standards at 1821 feet, so not high enough to be called a mountain.
The top of the hill is crowned by Jubilee Tower built to commemorate the golden jubilee of George III in 1810. It was never finished due to lackof funds and after a major storm in 1862 the upper part of the structure was demolished for safety reasons so today only the base is left.
As it’s the highest point for miles around, on a clear day there are views in every direction, over the Dee and Mersey to Liverpool and beyond, to the Irish Sea in the west and over the Vale of Clwyd right over to the mountains of Snowdonia to the south. Visibility wasn’t bad as I stopped for a while for a hot coffee from my flask and a bite to eat, but it was windy.
Offa’s Dyke path goes over Moel Famau, and then on along the ridge before descending on to the coastal plain and then on to the sea at Prestatyn. After eating I followed the path west along the ridge over the next summit, Moel Dywyll (try pronouncing that!).
Great views all along. I’d have liked to have carried on and climbed the next major peak, Moel Arthur, the site of an Iron Age hill fort ( there are several on the Clywidian Hills) but that was a little too far as I needed to cut across back to Loggerheads. So reaching the bwlch (another difficult to pronounce Welsh word, equivalent to the Lakeland “hawse”) I turned off taking a path down from the ridge.
The path descended gradually and was soggy in places,
but after a while, after skirting a small reservoir, I was on firmer ground that turned into a track and, after a while, a tarmaced road.
I carried on along the quiet road a little further than I’d intended as the riverside path was a little dodgy due to the recent heavy rainfall, but I cut across fields back to the river just east of Cilcain. A short walk along the road, up a steep hill, and then I joined the Leete path that would take me high above the river along the valley on towards Devil’s Gorge and then back to Loggerheads.
This is limestone country and the cliffs above the River Alyn are riddled with disused lead mines.
The Devil’s Gorge is a 30 metre deep gorge leading to caves which were created during mining many years ago. It’s apopular spot for absailing and rock climbing. I’ll stick to walking myself, thankyou! Although you can descend down to the river for a closer look, (and I did – on foot, down a path) the main Leete path crosses a high bridge over the gorge so I had to clamber back upto rejoin the route
The Leete was an artificial watercourse which drew water from the River Alyn near the mill at Loggerheads and carried it three miles to Rhydymwyn along a much shallower gradient than the river itself, meaning that for most of it’s length the channel was well above the river bed. The water was needed to drive water wheels used to pump excess water from the lead mines that lined the valley, providing a reliable supply particularly during the in summer, when the river itself vanishes into swallowholes in the limestone riverbed. That wasn’t happening today as the river was in full spate causing some sections of riverside path to be closed.
Entering the Country Park
Loggerheads was an important lead mining area during the 18th and 19th centuries.
There was some evidence of this industrial past in the Country Park, although today, it is partially hidden within the woodland that developed once the mining had ended. Approaching the end of the trail I passed a wheel pit which had originally housed a waterwheel used to drain a mine located on the opposite side of the river.
I soon reached the Florence café and “tea gardens”. It was a pleasant afternoon so we enjoyed a pot of excellent tea and a slice of Bara Brith (a Welsh fruit cake)sitting outdoors before returning to the car for the drive home.