Treasures and Tours at Chirk Castle

Arriving at Chirk Castle

Started in 1295, Chirk Castle was one of several medieval Marcher fortresses sited on the Welsh-English border to keep the Welsh under English rule. Last Thursday was a glorious spring day and ideal for a visit to this beautiful location. There’s a longish approach to the Castle from the village of Chirk. You pass the wrought iron gates commissioned  by Sir Richard Myddleton and built between 1712 and 1719. They were originally at the Castle but moved to their present location in 1888.

From the Reception Courtyard, where we booked for the first house tour at 11.15, we climbed up a short hill to the Castle itself. We took note of the gardens, admired the view and explored the Castle Courtyard whilst we waited for the Tour to begin. At 11.15 a small group of us assembled in the Cromwellian Hall where David gave us a brief history of the castle and changes brought about by various owners and architects probably the most famous being Augustus Pugin. Yes, he’s been mentioned here by Milady several times. His Neo Gothic style is particularly suited to this former fortress and it would seem that he had virtually free run with his designs at Chirk.

David in the Cromwellian Room

Picture in the Cromwellian Room made of bog oak inlaid with bone. It shows the Castle in 1735 and shows the Davies Gates in their original position.

Chirk Castle (circa 1720), from the north, by Peter Tillemans (1684-1734) also shows the gates made by Robert and John Davies

The State Dining Room was at one time decorated by Pugin but was redecorated in the neo-classical manner as it had been for Richard Myddelton, MP, in the late 1770s by Lady Margaret Myddleton

The 17th Century Saloon

The Pugin Corridor

… and a selection of his fireplaces complete with his trademark tiles :

… plus a couple of his chairs :

After our House Tour we it was time for a cup of tea and then we joined another enthusiastic volunteer, Nick, for his afternoon tour of the exterior of the Castle and an explanation of the architecture within Castle Courtyard. For example – Why are there Battlements facing into the Courtyard? Answer : Because Pugin decided it would be a good idea.

Chirk Castle Courtyard

Nick’s Architectural Tour

Chirk Castle Entrance

After another Tea Room visit it was time to see the Gardens …

Walking a Fine Line : Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

On Saturday I did something that I had long hoped to do and that was to walk along the narrow path beside the Llangollen Canal over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. I first heard about this huge feat of Georgian construction (1795-1805) on a school Geography field trip to North Wales exactly 50 years ago. We were travelling from Norwich to Snowdonia and as we passed along the Dee Valley on the A5 through Llangollen Mr Powell told us about the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.

The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal World Heritage Site is an 11 mile linear corridor from Horseshoe Falls in Llangollen to Gledrid in Shropshire. The Aqueduct was the first great masterpiece of the civil engineer Thomas Telford and formed the basis of his outstanding international reputation. It is the tallest navigable aqueduct in the world at 126 feet 8 inches in height and stands on 18 tapering stone piers and has 19 arches which carry a narrow trough of iron plates for 1,007 feet. The trough holds 1.5 million litres of water and its name is pronounced Pont-ker-sulth-tay which  means “the bridge that joins”.

We parked at Trevor Basin where there’s a Visitor Centre, Boat Hire and Boat Trip businesses, and the starting point for pedestrians to walk over the Aqueduct. My views of Trevor Basin :

And so we set off over the Aqueduct and here are my views of it from all directions :

 

 

Coed Y Bleiddiau : a halt on the Blaenau Ffestiniog Railway

smart new roof

High in the breathtaking scenery of the Snowdonia National Park, this charming little cottage was built in 1863 for Henry Hovendon, Superintendent of the Ffestiniog Railway. Today, it is decaying; the lathe and plaster ceilings have collapsed from water penetration, and the floors and joinery are rotten. Abandoned for nearly a decade and recently listed Grade II, Coed y Bleiddiau’s remote setting has left it impractical for modern daily life.”

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Ffestiniog Railway : A Magical Combination of Spectacular Landscape and Historic Railway

Ffestiniog Railway poster

Last Saturday dawned bright and sunny and the day stayed perfect in every way throughout. I crept quietly out of Gladstone’s Library at 10 past 6 in the morning and arrived at Porthmadog Harbour Station Car Park at about 20 to 8. This was a day to remember! I was invited by two friends who are patrons of The Landmark Trust to ride the Ffestiniog Railway and view the ruined property which the Trust are about set to restore in partnership with the Railway.

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In the Steps of the Saints : A Trail of Gower Churches

On a previous visit to South Wales I picked up an older edition of this leaflet. My original copy has no date and listed only 15 churches. The new leaflet now includes 17 the additional 2 being Wernffrwd, St David’s and Penclawdd, St Gwynour. Both in north Gower and neither of which we visited. Quotations, in italics, are taken from my Churches Trail leaflet.

Gower Church Trail

 

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Gower Peninsula Walks : Llanmadoc

We found Saturday afternoon’s walk in a leaflet “Walking By Bus“. It’s one of a series issued by the City and County of Swansea. The bus service was infrequent so we drove from Rhosili to Llanmadoc car park (£1 honesty box). The north Gower coast is different in character from the south and is estuarine rather than the open sea of Swansea Bay. This area of North Gower is owned and managed by the National Trust. The map below shows the extent of Whiteford Burrows Nature Reserve.

Nature reserve

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