As I walked out from Cyffylliog…
The Clwydian Range of hills, an iconic wave of hills rising from the Llandegla plateau, as they march along the northernmost stretch of King Offa’s Dyke, are a sight to see. I could regularly be heard extolling their virtues, saying that if it was possible to fall in love with hills and mountains, then the Clywdian Range stole my heart well and truly! Dotted with a liberal sprinkling of Bronze and Iron-age Hillforts, bedecked in heather, trussed up in ancient paths and trackways – they are an intriguing bunch and there’s much to love.
No less the view of them from a distance. I won’t bore you with the oft-heard cry, “You can see the Jubilee Tower of Moel Famau from Chester!”, although I just, ironically, have done. The Vale of Clwyd is a long and winding, flat-bottomed boot-shaped valley, bounded on the east by the Clwyd fault line and Clwydian hills and in the West by the Denbigh Moors, Rhos hills and Clocaenog Forest. Stretching from Llanelidan in the South (well worth a visit, by the way) and to the City of St Asaph in the North (also well worth your time) with its Limestone and Sandstone Cathedral – the smallest in Britain – you could spend a year in The Vale and still not know all its secrets.
Since the Bronze age – and who knows, possibly long before that – the peoples of this area have been rolling down from the surrounding hills into the Vale lacing the land into a network of finely woven byways, roads and trackways that spawned the many hamlets and villages that make up the Community of this part of North East Wales.
And if you were to, on your way across The Vale, stop off in the, yes, almost yawningly, iconically beautiful market town of Ruthin – as you stand in the market square at the top of the town, you’ll see The Clwydians roaring up to the East of you and the Denbigh Moors, Rhos hills and hints of the Hiraethog gently rising to your West. Spend a day in any of the three Vale towns of Ruthin, Denbigh or St Asaph, taking in the many independent boutique shops, cafes, restaurants, listed buildings, Cathedral and Castles, keeping an eye on those hills lest they creep up on you unawares, and maybe you’ll see why The Vale held such appeal for the Medieval Marcher lords and all those who came here before and after.
Take the B5105 out of Ruthin heading north-west, hang a right immediately after Llanfwrog for Bontuchel and you’ll find yourself in the land of interweaving river valleys, curving this way and that, cutting their way to The Vale, where the Afon Clwyd receives its three tributaries, Afons Clwyedog, Elwy and Chwiler. Push further up the Clwyedog valley and the hamlet of Cyffylliog quietly greets you in a moomin-like embrace as the land roars up and folds around you offering river valley after river valley of peaceful walking and days of exploration, should you have the time.
From its stunning setting, Cyffylliog works hard to enchant, intrigue and inspire you, although she achieves those effortlessly. The walk I’ve chosen to lead from here starts at the Red Lion pub (we’ll come back to that later!) and takes in views along the river valleys of Nant Gladur, Afon Corris and the Afon Clwyedog itself, right round to the Afon Concwest, as our path winds easily around the feet of Moel y Fron, Foel Ganol and Foel Uchaf. As we walk, talk and meditate, unfolding before us the lace-like legacies of hunter gatherers, farmers, legionnaries, Marchers, drovers and wanderers draw us into this intimate corner of The Vale, enchanting us as the day unfolds and the rhythm of our steps and breaths settle us into our Selves and surroundings.
As we round the summit of Foel Uchaf, breath, however carefully anchored, is gasped away by the panorama unfolding before us as our eyes take in The Clwydian ramparts, down to the Eglwyseg and Llantysilio Mountains of Llangollen and beyond to the Berwyns, the Arenigau and Rhinogiau in the far distance, tracing round to Snowdonia and the Carneddau before landing on the Great Orme and back to the Hiraethog, Denbigh Moors and Clocaenog Forest.
A high point, in more ways than one, but not the last delight for this walk, by any means. The hilltop road, who knows how old, takes us past Foel Ganol and hilltop farms dotted with fluffy white creatures until we dart off enticed along an ancient track, striking out into the blue yonder, to gaze upon the Clwydians once more before we begin our descent back to Cyffylliog and the Red Lion, with their country Ales, Curry nights and welcoming bonhomie….a fitting end to our walk through history.
The next Way of Mindfulness walk from the beautiful Cyffylliog is on 1st April – click here to book!