Yesterday we visited Chirk, we were in Border country. Marches is a term used to denote the area on the border of England and Wales. Along the border there are several motte-and-bailey castles such as Chirk.
For thousands of years disputes occurred all along the border and the Romans established forts at Chester, Gloucester and Caerleon in an attempt to restrain the rebellious Welsh.
In the 8th century the Anglo-Saxons under the leadership of King Offa of Mercia built an earthwork barricade along the border known as Offa’s Dyke.
Edward I built the castle here at Chirk in 1310 and in 1595 the Myddleton family bought the castle as a residence. The castle is now owned by the National Trust.
Signs of Spring were all around as we set off from the car park at Chirk Castle to walk back along the drive towards the entrance gate and join the Offa’s Dyke Path. We crossed fields and a busy road roughly following the line of Offa’s Dyke before dropping down to join the Shropshire Union Canal.
In the 18th century all goods had to be moved by cart. This was slow and only small loads could be taken. With the increase in demand due to the Industrial Revolution a more efficient means of transport was required and the Shropshire Union canal was built. Thomas Telford, the greatest of all canal builders, designed the Chirk Aqueduct to carry the canal over the Ceiriog valley. It is 70 foot high and built of masonry and stone. it has 10 spans each of 40 feet. After crossing the valley the canal enters the Chirk Tunnel. This 460 yard long tunnel was constructed because the owners of Chirk Castle did not want their view obstructed by the canal embankment.
The section of the canal from Hurleston Junction to Llangollen has been rebranded as the Llangollen canal and is now the most popular cruising canal in the country. We walked along the canal towpath passing first through the 180 yard Whitehurst Tunnel. It would have been very peaceful except for the incessant road from the wood panel factory nearby. After passing the Chirk marina and a wooded cutting we came to the Chirk Tunnel, known locally as the Darkie Tunnel. Our torches came in handy.
Emerging from the tunnel we found some benches where we could stop for lunch and watch the traffic on the canal.
We now had to cross the Chirk Aqueduct. Immediately to out right was the impressive railway viaduct. It stands some 30 feet above the aqueduct and was built between 1846 and 1848. The 100foot high stone structure has 10 spans with round arches and was built by the Scottish engineer, Henry Robertson.
On reaching a road we left the towpath to follow the road downhill passing the Bridge Inn and crossed the river to join the riverside path. We now walked under the twin viaducts which looked even more impressive.
After crossing a road we walked uphill trough Reservoir Wood to the gates at the castle exit drive. The final mile was along the castle drive passing though the wooded deer park.
It had been a very varied walk with plenty of interest. We saw a freshly killed rabbit with its gut torn open. Nearby sitting on a tree branch was a buzzard looking very satisfied.
Back at the car park we headed for the tea room for a well earned cup of tea. For our £1.50 all we got was a cardboard cup with a tea bag floating in it, help yourself to milk. It was supposed to be ‘Eco friendly’ but a decent cup of tea can only be drank from a proper cup. Marie, out tea and cake connoisseur did not rate it and only awarded one cupcake.