North Wales weekend – Day 2

After spending a very comfortable, cosy and quiet night in the van (it wasn’t worth putting the tent up just for two nights) the morning of the second day arrived with a mixture of sunshine and showers and grey clouds similar to the previous day so I decided to stay on site for a while and wait to see if things cleared up. By lunch time it was looking a bit more promising so not wanting to waste the day completely I took myself off out, though staying fairly local.
My first stop was Rhuddlan Castle, just over two miles along the road from the camp site and the second castle in King Edward I’s ‘Iron Ring’. At the outbreak of the First War of Welsh Independence Edward had established an advance base at Flint in July 1277 and building work immediately began on the castle, but just one month later he moved his forces to Rhuddlan where construction of his second castle started. Initially under the control of Master Bertram, an engineer from Gascony in France, in 1282 the castle was handed over to master mason James of St. George who transferred from Flint and remained in charge until its completion later that year, four years before Flint Castle was completed.
Although Flint Castle was being built on the coast Rhuddlan was several miles inland so during the castle’s construction Edward conscripted hundreds of ditch diggers to divert and deepen the course of the nearby River Clwyd to enable troops and supplies to reach Rhuddlan by ship if hostile forces or a siege were to prevent overland travel. The castle itself was the first of many concentric ‘walls within walls’ castles and was built as a unique diamond-shaped inner stronghold with twin-towered gatehouses at opposite corners, set inside a ring of lower turreted walls beyond which a new plantation town was created to the north. The half-timbered walls of the inner ward contained a great hall, kitchens, private apartments and a chapel while the outer bailey had a granary, stables and a smithy, with a deep dry moat protecting three sides of the castle and the River Clwyd protecting the fourth.
Edward’s eighth daughter Elizabeth was born at the castle the same year work was completed then two years later, in 1284, the Statute of Rhuddlan was signed following the defeat of Llewellyn the Last, Prince of Wales from 1258, who had attacked the castle unsuccessfully. Ten years later, during the 1294/95 Welsh revolt, the castle was attacked for the second time but it wasn’t taken; it remained in English hands and was one of the places where Richard II stopped in 1399 on his way to Flint Castle. In 1400 the castle was attacked again, this time by the forces of Welsh leader Owain Glyndwr, and though it held firm the town was badly damaged. In the latter 15th and early 16th centuries the castle’s strategic and administrative importance waned and because of that its condition gradually began to deteriorate.
During the English Civil War of 1642/51 the castle was garrisoned by Royalist troops and remained a stronghold of King Charles I of England until it was taken by Parliamentary forces under Major General Thomas Mytton after a siege in 1646. Two years later, in accordance with Cromwell’s orders, Parliamentarians partially demolished the castle to prevent any further military use. Over the next century time and the elements took their toll and by 1781 it was mostly a ruin, but more than two centuries later and now managed and maintained by Cadw it still looks like a castle that was worth moving a river for.
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The outer ward, moat and west wall
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Inner ward, east wall and south tower
North tower and the well
East gatehouse tower
West gatehouse
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View from the north wall
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Rhuddlan Castle from the River Clwyd
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To get the shots of the castle from across the river I had to walk down to the nearby main road; the road bridge itself was very narrow with single file traffic controlled by lights but there was a footbridge/cycle way running next to it and across the far side was St. Mary’s Parish Church which I thought may be worth a look. The appropriately named Church Street took me past an attractive row of stone cottages to the church but disappointingly it wasn’t open to the public so I retraced my steps.
Round the corner and set a few feet up from the pavement was an attractive little garden with a wooden sculpture as its centre piece and a bench set in the wall. The Knight’s Sculpture by artist Mike Owens was created in an ambiguous style to represent the medieval history of Rhuddlan; it was carved from 380-year old oak from Nannerch and the larch to make the bench was grown in Rhuddlan by the artist’s own grandfather.
Heading back to the castle car park I came across a rather unexpected surprise. A detached cottage with an ivy covered end wall adjacent to the street, and nestling among the red and green leaves was a name plaque – The Mouse House. It may seem silly but it was such an unexpected find that I felt childishly thrilled that there was a house named after this blog, although in reality the house was probably called that long before I thought of the blog name. I’d love to know who gave the cottage its name and why but unfortunately there was no-one I could ask so it may forever remain a mystery.
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From Rhuddlan I drove the few miles down to Abergele and after a quick visit to the local Original Factory Shop – where I didn’t find what I was looking for – I crossed the railway line and parked up overlooking the  promenade and beach with the intention of having coffee and a snack in the nearby cafe. Unfortunately the cafe was only serving stuff to take away so I scrapped the snack idea and just got the coffee which I drank in the van while watching the world go by.
While I’d been up at the castle the sky had alternated between patches of bright blue with white clouds and grey clouds all over but down on the coast it was much clearer and getting better by the minute, however while I was having my coffee a sudden brief rain shower arrived and with the sun still shining a lovely, if rather pale, rainbow appeared over the sea.
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Coffee finished and takeaway cup duly disposed of in a nearby bin I headed three miles along the coast road, past the many huge static caravan holiday parks of Towyn to the harbour car park near the mouth of the River Clwyd and close to the Harbour Hub cafe and bike shop. A walk back along the road took me past the local yacht club premises to the main road where a left turn led me across the Blue Bridge over the river and another left turn took me towards the new pedestrian/cycle bridge.
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The Pont y Ddraig bridge (Dragon’s Bridge) is part of the 15-mile traffic-free cycle route across the counties of Conwy and Denbighshire and was opened on October 22nd 2013 by Welsh cyclist and London 2012 Paralympic Champion Mark Colbourne MBE, with the name having been suggested by a local pupil in a schools’ competition. Technically a modern version of a medieval drawbridge, the central mast is 45 metres high while the bridge deck is 32 metres long and made of polymers reinforced with glass fibre. The underside is illuminated at night by lights which change colour and both sections are designed to be raised from the central tower with the mechanism being controlled from the nearby harbour office.
Just to the right of the bridge entrance was a bench and three not-quite-life-size local figures. Chosen for their individual contributions to the life of the community were Sir John Houghton, the Nobel prize winning climate scientist, musician Mike Peters, lead singer of rock band The Alarm and founder of the Love Hope Strength cancer charity, and Rhyl FC’s Don Spendlove, who achieved a record of 629 goals during the 1940s and 50s; all have been immortalised in the metal artwork but I have to admit I’ve never heard of any of them.
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Across the bridge and a right turn took me almost immediately onto the oddly-named Horton’s Nose nature reserve, a small area of sand dunes and beach on the spit of land between the river mouth and the sea. The tide had gone out quite a distance, leaving a fascinating expanse of ridged and patterned sand interspersed with shallow pools, and out near the water’s edge were literally hundreds of seagulls, far too many to count – I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many seagulls on a beach before. Through the dunes a boardwalk took me onto a tarmac path running past the back of a caravan park and a boatyard and a few minutes later I was back at the harbour car park.
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The weather had turned out so nice that while I was doing this circular walk I contemplated doing a second one, a circuit of the nearby Marine Lake, but at gone 5pm I was already losing the best of the sunshine so I put that one on hold for another time and headed back to the camp site – and being the only person there I was certainly guaranteed another very quiet night.

20 thoughts on “North Wales weekend – Day 2

  1. This post feels a bit like Deja vu as I followed somebody else’s blog who walked around this part of the coast visiting all the castles. Another informative blog with some cracking pictures, especially of Rhuddlan Castle – and who would have thought that you would come across a Mouse House?

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    1. I wonder what the chances are of finding a Mouse House near a castle I just happen to be visiting? πŸ™‚ I think my camping days are over now for this year but I’m on an internet mission now to find some castles I can possibly visit next year. If you want to read about an Irish castle with a lot of history and several ghosts then Leap Castle (listed in the categories) is a good one πŸ™‚

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  2. One of your best Eunice, what a fabulous day you had.

    Impossible to select a favourite photo although I am very impressed with the warning bollard – I always like watching Saving Lives at Sea and never fail to be so impressed with what the RNLI volunteers do. Bollards like that should be on every single beach in the country, might save a few more lives.

    I bet you and the girls were tired after all that walking πŸΎπŸ’š

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    1. It was a great afternoon Jayne, especially when the weather decided to play ball. While Flint Castle is free to look round I had to pay to get into Rhuddlan but it was less than Β£5 and worth it to be able to look round properly.

      I’ve seen one of those warning bollards before but can’t think where it was – possibly on Dublin’s riverside. The writing certainly makes you stop and think.

      I don’t think we really did that much walking – the castle was more of a mooch and the dogs couldn’t go anyway, the harbour circular would have been less than a mile. It would take a hike up Everest (or even Latrigg!) to tire Snowy out πŸ™‚

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  3. Fabulous photos of the castle Eunice. and so interesting to read about the history of the castle. I was as thrilled as you were when you told me there was a Mouse House in Rhuddlan. So much so I will try to find out why they gave the house that name as it’s not too far from where I live. Lovely photos of the harbour and bridge. One of the sculptures is Mike Peters and I have seen him and his wife Jules at the harbour a few times although I admit to not ever having listened to his music. I thought you might be interested to read Jules” story and why they both do so much for their cancer charity.
    http://thealarm.com/jules-and-mike-peters-on-coping-with-their-life-changing-cancer-fight/

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    1. Thanks for the link Eileen, I’ve just read the story – Jules certainly went through a tough time and I suppose much of it resonates with you.

      I doubt you would ever be able to find out about the Mouse House, the chances of you seeing someone to ask at any time you happen to be there must be millions to one. Incidentally, I had a look on Google maps and it looks like the only way in is through that gate at the side – no letterbox though so I wonder how they get their post, unless the postman has permission to go through the gate.

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      1. I’m glad you read the story Eunice. I watched the documentary must have been about three years ago. Who would have thought I’d have such a similar diagnosis, exact same treatment and at the same hospital. Their home is near where you stayed for the weekend, it showed it in the film, very posh as you would expect for rock stars,.
        As you know I went to see The Mouse House for myself and there didn’t seem to be a front door and I wouldn’t open the gate. I did wonder how they had their post delivered.

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  4. Thank you for your comment, I’m pleased you like the photos. I had a really lovely afternoon, and I hope my blog posts help in your trip planning πŸ™‚

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  5. Like you, I’d never heard of the three gentlemen immortalised in the sculptures, but I did think that it was a lovely way to celebrate their contributions. The heavy yellow ‘one tonne of water’ is a thing of genius – there should be more around – make folk aware how dangerous the tides are!
    Looks like you had a lovely visit 😊

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    1. The cynic in me has to wonder if that heavy yellow thing really is full of water – it could quite easily be cement or something but I doubt anyone would try to find out πŸ™‚ It’s a great idea though and if it makes some people stop and think then it’s doing its job.

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  6. It would be interesting to know if whoever lives in this one actually does like mice πŸ™‚ Weather-wise the day turned out really lovely and the harbour and beach photos came out better than I expected.

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  7. The castles are amazing. imagine living in them back then and being born in a castle in the 1200s. I wonder what life was like for them.
    The mouse house is also a cool find! You live in a beautiful area!

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  8. Unless there was a roaring fire in every room I should think living in a castle would be a very cold experience. They must have been a very hardy breed of people back then πŸ™‚

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  9. Ignoring the initial grey cloud I had a lovely weekend. The main purpose was to visit my friend, anything else was a bonus πŸ™‚ Camping days are probably over now for this year so yes, it’ll be cosy times in for a while now.

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