There are many points of interest on all three walks and it’s always useful to know in advance what you will see.
WAT’S DYKE (short walk)
Wat’s Dyke is generally said to be older than its more famous neighbour Offa’s Dyke. This forty mile long embankment and ditch ran from Basingwerk Abbey on the River Dee Estuary to the village of Maesbury in Shropshire. Today, little remains of this earthwork but a bank and ditch are discernable once our walk leaves the Llangollen Canal Towpath.
LLANGOLLEN CANAL (short walk)
The Llangollen Canal was built during a period of canal mania when a small group of industrialists put forward a plan to link the River Mersey with the River Severn. With the money raised in a short period, work on constructing the canal was almost completed by 1795 when the first boats used the canal. The canals’ main purpose was to serve the iron, coal and limestone industries which were thriving at this time in the area. Today, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most scenic waterways in the country. The short walk follows the attractive towpath for just over two miles.
CHIRK AQUEDUCT (Short walk & long walk)
Whereas the short walk crosses this impressive aqueduct, the long walkers will pass beneath it. For the short walkers, the walk kicks off by crossing the aqueduct on the towpath which is 70 feet above the Ceiriog Valley and is 710 feet long and passes from Wales into England. The aqueduct was designed by Thomas Telford and took five years to build. The water is contained within a cast iron trough encased in stonework. The structure has ten arches, each with a span of forty feet. For a brief while it was the tallest navigable waterway ever built and was a forerunner to the nearby Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.
For the short walk, on reaching the start of the aqueduct, pause and look back to view the Chirk Canal Tunnel which runs north from the northern end of the aqueduct.
Overshadowing the aqueduct on the western side is the railway viaduct which was built much higher than the aqueduct and this was constructed purposely to emphasise the superiority of rail transportation over water modes.
OFFA’S DYKE (Long walk & medium walk)
The defensive system known as Offa’s Dyke runs from Prestatyn down to near Chepstow and consists of a bank on the eastern side and ditch on the western side and was likely built between AD757-796. It is generally accepted that it was built as a boundary between the Kingdom of Mercia and the Kingdom of Powys and generally followed high ground with a view into Powys. Today, the dyke is well defined in places especially on the ascent from the Ceiriog Valley. Both long and medium walks will follow sections of the dyke where the structure is visible.
CHIRK CASTLE (Long walk)
Although the long walk doesn’t visit Chirk Castle, the group will pause to view it from a distance on the ascent out of the Ceiriog Valley. The castle which is now owned by the National Trust was built in 1295 by Roger Mortimer de Chirk and was one of the chain of Edward 1’s castles. The castle commands a strategic position overlooking the Ceiriog Valley.
SELATTYN (Medium walk)
This the village where the medium walk starts from. Of interest is the fine church of St Mary’s which is noted for its collection of ancient yew trees. The church dates from around 1291 and has a interesting 13th century barrel roof and Christian worship has been offered here for over 1000 years. Selattyn is unique insomuch that is was only confirmed in the sixteen hundreds that it was in Shropshire and not in Wales and was one of the few places in England where Welsh was the dominant language.
From Selattyn, the medium walk will ascend via the Shropshire Way to Selattyn Hill which has an ancient Bronze Age ring cairn (Not now visible due to forestry). The summit has the remains of a small tower built in the 19th century which was built as a look out and used by the Home Guard during World War II. The best view east across the plains of Shropshire and Cheshire is obtained prior to entering the forested area. (The path passing the tower was rather overgrown on the reconnoitre and an alternative nearby route may be taken if this is the case on the day).
OSWESTRY RACECOURSE (Long walk & medium walk)
There was a racecourse on Oswestry Racecourse Common for seventy years. The former course which lies at around 1000 feet above sea level formed a figure of eight and was around two miles long. In its heyday, the race meeting was a big event and usually lasted three days with festivities not only on and around the racecourse but also down in Oswestry. The racecourse was frequented by the infamous ‘Mad Jack’ Mytton who owned a stable of forty horses. During the race days, chains were slung across the nearby road and turf was laid across the road surface to prevent traffic passing through. Over the years, the event had a reputation for being unruly with much hard gambling and heavy drinking insomuch that outsiders stopped coming to the event. With the coming of the railways, race goers were attracted elsewhere and the racecourse closed in 1848. The long and medium walks will visit what is left of the grandstand. (A leaflet entitled ‘Oswestry Racecourse Common’ is available from the Oswestry Tourist Information Centre).
LLANFORDA HOUSE & GROUNDS (Long walk & medium walk)
Descending from the high ground, the long and medium walkers will pass through some attractive parkland which once formed part of Llanforda Park. Originally Llanforda Hall’s gardens were the most remarkable in Shropshire. Built in 1634 Llanforda Hall was originally owned by the Lloyd family. Edward Lloyd together with his son developed the gardens to become one of the finest in the country. Later, with a change of ownership of the estate, the original hall was demolished and a new house built but this burnt down before it was finished. A smaller mansion was built on the site but this was demolished in 1949. The adjacent 18th century stables survived a little longer. Today we will walk between the two former buildings but still visible is the remains of the walled garden.
Both long and medium walks leave along the main tree line estate road en route towards Oswestry.
OLD OSWESTRY FORT (Short walk)
Dominating the view ahead as the short walkers enter Oswestry is Old Oswestry Hill Fort. It is one of the most spectacular Iron Age Hill Forts in the Welsh Marches and has been described as ‘The Stonehenge of the Iron Age Period’. There are impressive views from its ramparts and walkers on the short walk should have time to explore it. The fort was heavily defended during the Iron Age and occupied by the Cornovii or Ordivice tribe.
OSWESTRY (Finish point for all walks)
Oswestry is a fascinating town with plenty of interest and is one of the UK’s oldest border settlements. Settlement really began at Old Oswestry Hill Fort just outside the town but the town began to develop during Saxon times. The long and medium walkers will pass St Oswald’s Well entering the town and water from the well is believed to have healing properties for eye trouble. Oswald was killed in this battle and was dismembered. According to legend, one of his arms was carried to an ash tree by a raven, and miracles were subsequently attributed to the tree (as Oswald was considered a saint). Note the statue above the well when passing. The name of Oswestry derives from the saint and the ash tree and anglicised, means Oswald’s tree.
Over the centuries the town have seen many conflicts between the English and the Welsh and the town suffered much damage during the English Civil War. A market has been held in the town on a Wednesday from 1190 until the outbreak of the foot and mouth disease in the 1990’s and brought in many Welsh farmers to trade their animals.
St Oswald’s Church which is adjacent to the Tourist Information Centre is worth a visit and other places of note within the town is the half timbered Llwyd Mansion which dates from the 15th century, the Castle which dates from 1086 of which little remains and the impressive building which is now the headquarters of the Cambrian Railway Museum.
All walks will finish at the Tourist Information Centre where there is a tea room alongside. There are other tea rooms in the town together with the usual range of shops. The coach will be parked in the coach bay by the bus station (which in turn is opposite Morrisons.) There are signs in the town pointing towards the Bus Station.