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Friends of the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley - VIEW from the Friends No.9 April 2018
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Dear Friends

Welcome to the latest edition of the Newsletter. There’s plenty to tell you about this time round and once again it’s my pleasure to thank all our contributors - with a special mention for David Smith for his fascinating piece about the Dakota and Tony King’s take on the limestome legacy.

Our big news is that the AONB has been successful in its bid for HLF funding for the “Our Picturesque Landscape” project in the Dee Valley.

This was covered in detail in the last issue and will be a terrific boost to the AONB’s activities and profile in the southern part of the patch. It will also consolidate the excellent partnership the AONB enjoys with the World Heritage Site at Pontcysyllte and the canal. Grateful thanks to David Shiel, Helen Mrowiec and Fiona Gale for all their hard work in finalising what was a very complex bid – and also to Sarah Jeffery for her earlier work. A full report on the way forward will appear in the next issue

The downside is that Helen and Fiona will no longer be part of the team, Helen leaving for an exciting new challenge with Flintshire’s Countryside Service and Fiona – who we feature in this issue – taking well earned retirement. Fortunately, both will be members of Friends and Helen has already agreed to become a trustee.

She’s joined on the committee of trustees by Christine Evans, who many of you will have met. Brought up in the vicarage at Hellifield in the Yorkshire Dales, Christine qualified at Edinburgh University before embarking on a distinguished career as a surgeon in several parts of the UK as well as Africa, before finally settling in north east Wales. Now retired, she continues to volunteer in places most of us would fear to tread, including northern Iraq and parts of sub Saharan Africa well of the tourist track.  She is also one of the leaders of the Llanarmon independence movement! Welcome aboard Christine.

After a rather wet and cold winter it seems that spring might at last be emerging so it’s an ideal time to get out and about in the AONB. Hope to see you all at an event soon.        

John Roberts
john@johnandviv.plus.com

# The Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB Team have launched a campaign to look after Ruabon Moor, read more about it here http://www.clwydianrangeanddeevalleyaonb.org.uk/breaking-news/#2978 and take a look at this short video clip promoting sustainable access here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cvvt4Qf-OjA

DOG CHIP SCANNER WILL HELP RETURN LOST PETS


Lost dogs on the Moel Famau and Loggerheads Country Parks can now be quickly re-united with their owners thanks to some new equipment purchased by a local charity.

A dog chip scanner has been provided by the Friends of the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley to enable countryside wardens to help identify the pet and contact the owner.

Previously, wardens had to contact the dog warden who would then come out to check the dog’s identity with their scanner.  Now it can be done on the spot by countryside wardens, saving time and resources, and hopefully re-uniting the missing dog with its owner without delay.

A campaign by the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Denbighshire Countryside Service urged dog owners to act responsibly and use a lead when walking their dog especially on Moel Famau but also on other countryside public footpaths across the county. It is illegal for dogs to worry and attack sheep when off their lead and can result in a large fine.

Julie Masters Chair of the Friends of the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley said: “We are delighted to be able to support the excellent work of the countryside wardens by providing this new scanner." 

“We appreciate that dogs can sometimes slip the lead and go missing and hope this new equipment will help.   We see over 250,000 visitors to Moel Famau alone each year and many of them bring their dogs.  We ask everyone to enjoy the beautiful surroundings whilst respecting the fact that dogs should be kept on a lead whilst they are crossing land that is used for grazing livestock.”

FAIRWELL TO FIONA

Any Friends events that involve archaeology are always really popular with our members and Fiona Gale has been very much the star performer on these occasions. It’s with sadness then that we report that Fiona is retiring as the County Archaeologist for Denbighshire and that, in these straitened times,she will not be replaced.

The good news for Friends, however,  is that Fiona now intends to become one of us, and we hope this means that visits to places of archaeological interest will still be informed by her in that engaging and friendly way we all so enjoy.

Born and brought up where London meets Essex, Fiona recalls developing an interest in archaeology when she was still at school. This led, inevitably, to a degree in geography and archaeology at Southampton University and the start of a lifelong commitment to the discipline. Her early work was laboratory based in Winchester but she was involved with excavations throughout the UK – major work in St Albans was one project which stood out. Fiona says that this period confirmed her interest in the prehistoric and particularly the iron age. She puts this down to a greater interest in people rather than politics, and the opportunity to try to intelligently reconstruct what life was really like in those far off days.

By now married to Andrew and with a growing family - son Alexander and daughters Emily and Megan -Fiona’s preoccupations were understandably elsewhere in the early eighties, but in 1985 Andrew was offered a post in north east Wales when Sharp established a factory in Llay. Fiona confesses she had no real knowledge of the area and her main focus was finding somewhere with a good school for the children. Coincidence or not, the family was  soon settled into  a new home at the foot of an iron age hillfort - Moel y Gaer in Rhosesmor, where she and Andrew still live.

It was in 1988 that Fiona returned to work, joining John Manley’s team in Clwyd County Council at a time when local government had the resources to make a real difference in areas outside its mainstream services. Then, in 1990, came a new opportunity when she became involved with a  locally based spin off company providing expert led archaeologically themed holidays. Fiona’s role was meant to be office based but this didn’t stop her leading a number of expeditions to places like the Orkneys and the Isle of Man. Highlight was a short notice and rather hectic trip to Peru which was a great success.

In 1994, Fiona returned to local government when she took up a role at Bersham Heritage Centre. With its more recent archaeological roots planted in the local coal industry, this gave Fiona the chance to develop her skills in a different aspect of the subject and one she has enjoyed. She then became involved in the archaeology Upland Survey work in the Clwydian Range with Clwyd Archaeology Service. This led, on local government reorganisation in 1996, to a post with the newly reformed Denbighshire County Council, where she has remained ever since. 

With the then Clwydian Range AONB already an established entity it was natural that Fiona would be very much involved in shaping its progress. The Heather and Hillforts project has been one of Fiona’s major challenges in all that time. She was there in the very early stages of its planning starting in 2000 and heavily involved in its implementation – from final HLF grant approval in 2007 to its highly successful completion in 2012. By a happy coincidence, she leaves at the moment of a second successful lottery bid – the major “Our Picturesque Landscape” project in the Dee Valley which she has done so much to promote.

 Other highlights have included working with Liverpool and Oxford Universities on important seasonal digs on Moel Arthur and Pen y Cloddiau and fostering close working relationships with volunteer groups who have greatly valued her expertise and friendly encouragement. 

Fiona is the first to admit that archaeology is by no means an exact science and there is no certainty in telling what things were like so many thousands of years ago. That though, is what makes it so interesting to her and the challenge of trying to put the picture together based on the fragmentary clues available to us. Her particular favourite excavation is one that involves bodies! – “bodies tell us a lot” she says.

Fiona will maintain a keen interest in all this in retirement, but with four grandchildren and family in Sweden and London as well as locally, she will have plenty of other things to keep her occupied – including her sewing and walking, when a troublesome hip is sorted. She will be greatly missed by the AONB team but, as we said earlier, will be keeping in touch as a member of Friends and through her continuing professional links.

When I asked her what her favourite spot in the AONB was the answer was a familiar one – Pen y Cloddiau. Where else? - given Fiona’s interests and life’s work!  Best wishes Fiona from all your   friends in Friends.

# Friends welcome the announcement by Environment Minister Hannah Blythyn of 3.4 million pounds from the Welsh Government towards National Parks and AONBs, read more here http://gov.wales/newsroom/environmentandcountryside/2018/180331-over-3m-for-improvements-to-designated-landscapes/?l

OFFA’S  DYKE  COLLABORATORY


Quite a few of our members have already volunteered to measure the darkness of our sky, although we have not been called on to do anything yet!  Here may be another opportunity to do something interesting and useful, although again its early days. 
Collaboratory?  What a strange word.....it doesn’t appear in the Oxford English Dictionary, but I guess it means ‘a group of people who have decided to collaborate on some project.’
 
That is certainly the meaning here. In 2016 Keith Ray and Ian Bapty            published an academic book called “Offa’s Dyke – Landscape and Hegemony in Eighth-Century Britain,”  which sounds a bit intimidating but turns out to be a good (but solid)  read, with some of the most beautiful illustrations I have ever seen in a book. 
 
The general idea of this major work was to review what we know about Offa’s Dyke, and to highlight the fact that compared with other earthworks like Hadrian’s Wall, we know precious little!
 
So a group of archaeologists got together to encourage further study on the Dyke by individuals and groups.......and this is where ‘Friends’ may be able to take a part, because there is a very important part of the Dyke that is completely missing. It seems most probable that King Offa would  have wanted to seal his Kingdom of Mercia from coast to coast, but it has been identified (heading north) only as far as Treuddyn.
 
Perhaps there are still banks and ditches undiscovered on farms; perhaps Wat’s Dyke may turn out to be part of Offa’s Dyke; perhaps Offa never got further than Treuddyn anyway.
 
We have joined this “Collaboratory” because we felt that it would interest some of our members, who might like to get a bit more involved. As I said, early days yet, but if you would like to know more, google “Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory”; and then email me, and I will keep you in touch with developments.
 
Mike Skuse .....................................................  michael.skuse@btinternet.com
 
MEET THE TEAM -

VICKY KNIGHT - RANGER 


My subject this issue is Vicky Knight, one of the newer members of the AONB team and who works out of Loggerheads Country Park as a Ranger, but with special responsibility for Prestatyn Hillside and Coed Bell above Gronant.

I met Vicky at Loggerheads on a fine winter’s morning. She immediately suggested a walk along the Leete rather than a session in the café. We set off towards Devil’s Gorge and I was able to see for myself the great work that’s been going on to make the path more accessible and user friendly. It’s hoped that it will be possible for Trampers (all terrain mobility scooters) to go all the way to the Gorge. We quickly got into our stride and she was soon pointing out a tree creeper as the sun filtered down through the leafless canopy – a marvellous day for the time of year.

Brought up as part of a family of four children in Mynydd Isa, Vicky went to Argoed High School and initially went on to study electrical engineering. Always committed to environmental issues she quickly came to the conclusion that it was not for her and, between various adventures, embarked on an environmental science degree course at Glyndwr University. Since graduating, her path has led her to more exciting opportunities far and wide. Here’s how she answered my questions:-

I believe you’ve had quite an exciting variety of assignments before you came to work for the AONB
Yes, you could say that! I’ve worked in a number of places both overseas and in the UK. 

Tell me a little bit about your overseas work.
One of my most memorable experiences was working in Madagascar where we were supporting local communities to try and stem the fragmentation of the natural forest. I particularly liked the work we did with amphibians there – and also lemurs which are such a precious part of that fragile eco system. It was a time I’ll never forget.

What about elsewhere in the world?
I had a great time in the Caribbean with projects in the Grenadines, in Grenada and in Barbados. Turtles were my main focus – Leatherbacks in Grenada and Hawksbill and Green in Barbados. It was a great experience.

You’ve also had previous experience here in the AONB too?
 I had the chance to take up a 12 month traineeship here in the AONB in 2013. It was my first formally paid job and was a terrific opportunity for me to gain a proper insight into the kind of work I wanted to remain involved with. I think I was able to make a good impression which led me to come back as a permanent member of the team.

What about elsewhere in the UK
Yes, I’ve worked in the number of other great places too. The Hatfield Forest in Hertfordshire for instance, the best example of a still intact Medieval forest in the UK. I also worked as an Assistant Ranger at both Longshaw Estate and Edale in the Peak District with a focus on badgers and hen harriers.

Goodness, you have been around! Anywhere else?
Well I recently had a stint in Northumberland where we had responsibility for looking after colonies of both little and common terns – a connection there to the important work we do at the little tern colony in Gronant.

How does the landscape here compare with all you’ve experienced elsewhere?
Very favourably! I was brought up here and, coming back, I realise what a very special place this is and how fortunate I am to have the chance to contribute to safeguarding such a wonderful landscape. I love being part of the great team here.

Is Loggerheads the main focus of your work?
No, my base is here but I have special responsibility for Prestatyn hillside with its wonderful views and I’ve now got a real affection for that part of the AONB.

Where do you see yourself in the future?
I’m not really sure, except to say that I want to carry on working in this field which is so interesting and rewarding. The challenges are new and different every day.

By this time we had retired to the café, me for coffee and Vicky for a herbal tea. It had been another rewarding chance to meet one of our ever inspiring team of dedicated officers and my last question, as usual, was where was Vicky’s favourite spot in the AONB. Her answer, unsurprisingly, was a little different –

I must put a word in for Coed Bell above Gronant. It’s a special place and will be more so soon when the bluebells are out. My real favourite though is Moel Findeg, which is one of the very best places locally for amphibians and lizards.

SNOWDROP WALK led by Hazel Bloomfield

 
The group comprised 6 members of FoCRDV, 13 from Walkabout Flintshire and 9 from Walkabout Wrexham. (That’s 28 people isn’t it? No, it’s 22, because some belong to more than 1 organisation)

They set off along the Llangollen Canal towpath towards Llangollen Wharf with the International Eisteddfod Pavilion on their right. At the wharf they went down Wharf Hill and crossed the historic Llangollen Bridge over the River Dee, one of the Seven Wonders of Wales. Then it was Dee Lane to the riverside path.

From the riverside it was up to the A5 London to Holyhead Trunk but for only a little of its 275 miles of length, passing the White Waters Hotel and on to Berwyn Station. Crossing the Chain Bridge, restored some 3 years ago, it was on to the Horseshoe Falls where the canal takes its water from the River Dee.

A short distance then to the goal of the days walk, the churchyard of St. Tysilio’s church at Llantysilio.

Hazel had already told the group that there were 20 different species of snowdrops, but it is not certain how many of them were present in the churchyard. What was certain was that there were far too many flowers to count.

A welcome seat on the churchyard wall with a hot drink from a flask and a snack enabled the group to appreciate the spectacle, especially enjoyable in the winter sunshine. The return was back to the Horseshoe Falls and along the canal to the start point.

Hazel was thanked for arranging the walk and in particular for arranging a bright sunny invigorating day.

Neville Howell

# Remember your Friends membership entitles you to a discount at Loggerheads Country Park Visitor Centre, the Army and the Army and Navy Store, Ruthin - ideal for Christmas shopping.

ANORAK'S CORNER

First of all, I know you’re all itching to know the answer to the quiz question AC asked in the last edition of the newsletter – “Over which hill does the sun set when viewed from Moel Famau on the shortest day of the year?” There again, maybe not, as we only had one competition entry! At least Dr Peter Stevenson of Holywell came up with the right answer -Arenig Fawr– and he wins a copy of Ron Williams’ book 24 Walks in the AONB. Well done Peter.

We stay with what can be seen from Moel Famau in this latest contribution from the Corner. There are many iconic viewpoints in the British Isles but not many can be as accessible as the highest point in the Clwydian Range and the view is breath taking on most days. If you ever get up there on one of those all too rare days when it’s crystal clear though, then it really is something very special. 

First of all there’s the splendid local aspect – with large parts of the AONB, the rest of the Clwydian Range, the Vale, the Llantisilo hills and most of Flintshire and Denbighshire before you. Then to the west is Yr Wyddfa – 35 miles away as the crow flies – and almost every other major peak in Snowdonia too, from Carnedd Llewellyn in the north to Cader Idris in the south. Moving round via Arenig and the Berwyn we’re now looking south and east as our gaze enters England.

We can see the Wrekin and then the Roaches and Kinder Scout in the southern Pennines – sixty miles away. Then, continuing round, our nearer view takes in  the Dee Estuary, Runcorn Bridge, the Wirral and Liverpool. Beyond we can see Winter Hill, Pendle Hill and the Forest of Bowland. 

As we look north across the Irish sea and to a distant Blackpool Tower, whilst off shore wind power draws our attention, more prominent is the sweep of Black Combe near Barrow and, if it’s very clear, Coniston Old Man and Scafell Pike itself are there, a mere 90 miles distant.

Finally, I’m always delighted to see our Celtic cousin, Ellan Vannin – the Isle of Man - far away in the north west with Snaefell and the Barrules rising up on the horizon. 

There are many reasons why the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley is such a very special place – this is one of them. If you want to have a look at what it is possible to see from Moel Famau in more detail google up Viewfinder Panoramas – you’ll find all you need to know on that excellent website.

#Walkers amongst our members will be aware of the forthcoming Prestatyn and Clwydian Range Walking Festival which takes place this year on 18,19 and 20
May. Prestatyn is a "Walkers are Welcome" town, and as usual they have laid on a wide range of walks, from a gentle amble to a day's trek on the Offa's Dyke National Trail.  Details at www.prestatynwalkingfestival.com or phone
01745 857185

A CHALLENGE TOO FAR?


Every year in September the Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA) runs an event called “Open to Offas”.   This year it is on SATURDAY 22 SEPTEMBER.

There are three separate walks: the shortest is 14 miles and the longest is 30 miles; and  the most popular one is 21 miles long. The longer ones start at 0830 hrs; the shortest one at 0930 hrs.  And the challenge is to get back to the start within 11.5 hours.

The start is at Cilcain Village Hall, where you get tea and toast before the walks and a meal after them. There is plenty of parking, arranged in an adjacent field. 

After the thrilling sight of about 200 walkers and runners setting off up the road together, with you in the middle somewhere, you are on your own – your responsibility to be wearing the right clothes, your responsibility to read the route description, your responsibility to be sensible about your own capability to walk a long way. But there are several checkpoints, where a marshal will hand out refreshments and a drink, and where you can rest for a little while. In practice you are unlikely to be entirely on your own – there will always be people behind you and people in front of you!  And finally “sweepers” will walk the routes and ensure that everyone is safely gathered in.

The routes all ascend the hills from Cilcain to Yr Aifft, which is just north of Penycloddiau, and then you will walk the Offas Dyke National Trail for varying lengths depending on which walk you have entered. The last bit is the Leete Path from Loggerheads back to Cilcain

It costs a bit to enter - £7 or £5 if you are a member of the LDWA. You can enter online at www.sientries.co.uk (£8.20 or £6.20 resp.) or you can write to Diane & Les Hall, 157 Hoole Lane, Chester CH2 3EQ for an entry form, enclosing a stamped addressed envelope. Or download an entry form at www.ldwa.org.uk/merseystride 

So why not have a go? If you can walk 7 miles, enter the 14 mile walk. If you can walk 10 miles, enter the 21 mile walk. And if you are OK with 15 miles, go for the 30 mile walk and surprise yourself!

A warning however. This activity is very good fun but it is addictive. Do a long distance walk once and you will be back for more!

Michael Skuse

Moel y Gaer, Llantysilio Mountain
C-47 Crash Site
 

Close to the path which follows the switchback ridgeline is a scarred area of broken stones along with small fragments of metal. It marks the crash site of a US Army Air Force Douglas C-47 Skytrain transport, perhaps more familiar under its RAF name - the Dakota.
 
Preswick C-47
Serial number 41-7803 rolled off the production line at Long Beach, California in April 1942 and was allocated to the 64th Troop Carrier Group at Westover, Massachusetts. During August 1942, the 75 aircraft of this unit were flown in groups to the UK via the Northern Ferry Route, staging from Goose Bay in Labrador, Narssarssuak on the west coast of Greenland, then Iceland and on to Prestwick in SW Scotland.
 
Among the passengers were 60 servicing personnel who belonged to the 14th Fighter Group which had recently ferried its P-38 Lightnings into RAF Atcham, near Shrewsbury. Six of those men were on board the Moel y Gaer aircraft when it departed from Prestwick on 23 August 1943, the plan being to drop them off at Atcham before the aircraft continued to its new base at Ramsbury in Wiltshire.
 
To avoid the barrage balloons defending Merseyside, the route took them overhead Rhyl and up the Vale of Clwyd where a weather front was encountered. An accompanying C-47 promptly climbed into the cloud but sadly the pilot of 41-7803 seems to have tried to maintain visual contact with the ground. The C-47 struck the rampart of the hill fort and crashed just beyond it, one of the engines breaking away and ending up close to Bwlch-y-Garnedd Farm.
 
Shepherd Harry Roberts heard the impact and made his way up the mountain. On the way he met dazed and badly injured survivor Technical Sergeant George A Lesikar. Sitting him down beside the path, Mr Roberts carried on to the crash scene. Here he found two other men still alive and moved them further away from the still burning wreckage.
 
Having led Lesikar down to the farm, he ran the two miles to The Conquering Hero Inn at Rhewl - today the village community centre - where there was a rare telephone. Help was summoned but one of the survivors died on the way to hospital in Wrexham and the other only lasted the night. Sergeant Lesikar spent months recovering in hospital and was eventually discharged from the army. Including the four aircrew, there were 11 fatalities.
 
Coincidentally, the same number of men had been lost on a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress which had crashed on Cadair Berwyn not far from our AONB on the 11th of the same month. It had wandered off course in poor weather while flying from a base in Northamptonshire to Burtonwood, near Warrington.
 
It has been suggested that a stone be sited on Moel y Gaer to commemorate those so tragically lost in the C-47 before they could even join the war effort.
Their names are:
First Lieutenant Charles E Williams (Pilot)
First Lieutenant Richard Pazder (Navigator)
Second Lieutenant Theodore F Furness Jr
Second Lieutenant Morris B Penner
Private First Class Harry R Adams
Technical Sergeant Jonathan B Akers
Technical Sergeant Robert E Anderson
Technical Sergeant Israel Gross
Technical Sergeant Herman A Hermes
Technical Sergeant Raymond S Nash
Technical Sergeant Jesse L Patterson
David Smith

LIMESTONE LEGACY - PRESTATYN HILLSIDE

 

This project involves a partnership between the NRW, Prestatyn Town Council and Burbo Bank. The AONB Partnership visited the area in early February to view the recent work done at Prestatyn Hillside Gardens Shelter and in Bishopswood.

The Hillside Gardens Shelter is situated part way up the steep hill leading from Prestatyn to Gwaenysgor. It is a grade II Listed Building because of its unusual and innovative use of concrete (ie it is made entirely from concrete). It was built in 1929 at the expense of a local benefactor - Mr. J F King. The terraced garden behind the shelter was formed from quarry land in the 1930s in order to provide employment for the local unemployed.

After formal speeches and lunch, the Partnership Group toured Bishopswood to view the ongoing access and environmental improvements being carried out by AONB staff and Countryside Volunteers. The route taken was southwards along the path at the bottom of Bishopswood, then upwards to join Offa's Dyke Path in a northerly direction. A short visit was made to the stabilized ruins of the old cottage known as Pant y fachen. Then downhill via a short section of very slippery and uneven path, yet to be improved, past the entrance of the well-known Fish Mine to the starting point.

Certainly an interesting trip, but we could have done without the biting cold wind.

Tony King

FUTURE EVENTS
Friends have a varied programme of events  over the next few months, for a full list please click here.
Up an coming events include a demonstration by the Welsh Search And Rescue Dog Association, SARDA on Saturday, 21st April 11:00am Loggerheads. On Saturday 28th April, 2:00pm start, there's a talk at Loggerheads by George Jones, Public Relations Officer of the Llangollen Railway entitled "Llangollen Railway, Onward to Corwen". On Tuesday 8th May at 2:00pm, a visit to Rhug Chapel near Corwen, and on Tuesday 15th May, 10:00am start, Neville  will lead a walk from Llanarmon-yn-Ial village centre.

Further details are available at www.crdvevents.weebly.com  

We hope you can joins us
# Have you got any striking images of the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley that you are happy for the friends to use in future editions of the Newsletter, please send them to Helen at talwrn.glas@btinternet.com
Registered Charity Number 1163812
Recommend a Friend to Discover, Enjoy and Protect the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley
www.friends.cymru
Friends would like to thank the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Sustainable Development Fund for their support.
Our mailing address is:
hello@friends.cymru
C/o Loggerheads Country Park, Loggerheads CH7 5LH
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Friends of the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley · Loggerheads Country Park · Loggerheads · Ruthin, Den CH7 5LH · United Kingdom

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