Thursday 21st March 2013.
It’s freezing. The temperature is 2 degrees but with a strong easterly wind it feels a lot colder. The weather forecast is for snow on the way, so it’s tide to wrap up warm and go for a walk.
Our destination today is Holywell in Flintshire, Wales. The market town of Holywell takes its name from St Winefride’s Well. According to legend, in 660 AD Prince Caradoc decapitated the beautiful Saint Winefride because she rejected his advances. Her Uncle, St Beuno, reunited her head and body. Water gushed from the ground where her head had fallen and this spot became the Holy Well. The well is believed to have healing powers and became a place of pilgrimage.
We parked at the Greenfield Valley Heritage Park where there are the remains of 18th century mills for spinning cotton, drawing wire and rolling copper.
At the start of our walk we visited the ruins of Basingwerk Abbey.The Abbey was founded in 1132 by Ranulph de Gernon, 2nd Earl of Chester, who brought Benedictine Monks from Savigny Abbey in Southern Normandy. In 1147 the abbey became part of the Cistercian Order and therefore a daughter house of Buildwas Abbey in Shropshire. In the 13th century, the abbey was under the patronage of Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Gwynedd,and his son Dafydd ap Llywelyn gave St Winefride’s Well to the Abbey. In 1536, abbey life came to an end with the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
Leaving the Abbey we walked up the valley past the old cotton Mill with its waterwheel and ruins of other mills. It was very peaceful by the mill ponds and these were also a haven for water birds.
We paused near St Winefride’s Halt. This small station was built for the benefit of visitors to the Holy Well and workers at the nearby mills. It consisted of one platform and two gas lamps. The sidings served the needs of the Holywell Textile mills. They had previously been part of the tramway built in the 1840’s to connect the Grange limestone quarries and the Holywell lead mines with the Greenfield Wharfe.
After bypassing the centre of Holywell we descended to a wooden valley and followed the stream along some very moist paths. A climb out of the valley led us to The Wat’s Dyke Way. This is a new long distance footpath running from Llanymynech in Powys to Holywell. There is no agreement as to who Wat was. Some people believe he was a King of Mercia whilst others do not think he existed at all. We followed the path across fields to the edge of Bagillt where we joined the coast.
The final section of our walk was along the Wales Coast Path. A lot of reconstruction work was being done along the coast as some of the footpaths were eroded and had become unstable. Diversion signs led us along a safe route. There were good views across to the Wirral and Hilbre Island although visibility by now was falling. We stopped by a couple of creeks to take photographs of some old boats stuck in the mud.
At the head of one creek we came to the Milwr Tunnel where the flap valve had been replaced. The tunnel was constructed in the early 1900’s to drain the mine works in Halkyn mountain near Holywell.
At Greenfield Dock we turned to head inland back to the car. A pleasant 8 mile walk full of interest.