Medieval ruins in Flintshire with a big history
A good friend moved out to Hawarden recently, just across the Welsh border in Flintshire. While Hawarden New Castle is the impressive Gothic style former home of British Prime Minister William Gladsone (1809 – 1898), there is much more to this pretty village.
I could be talking about footballer Michael Owen who grew up in the village – but actually it was a walk in the parkland around Hawarden Old Castle which was such an unexpected treat.
A easy 40 minutes along the M56 from South Manchester, Hawarden is definitely one for our Day Tripper portfolio!
Please note that the paths on our walk were a bit muddy, so wellies and walking boots are advised if you’re visiting after it’s rained. If you follow our circular route then it’s not suitable for buggies, but our path from the castle back up to the village was absolutely fine.
The woodland and old castle belong to the Hawarden estate, so there are some areas where you need to be a permit holder (available to locals), so just keep an eye on where you walk.
Our walk (approx 1.5 miles) started in the centre of Hawarden, parking in the car park just along the A550 from the junction with the monument to William Gladstone.
We followed the path from the bottom of the car park, dropping down into the valley. Immediately we stumbled across an old overgrown derelict watermill – the huge brick chimney slowly being reclaimed by ivy, while a gash in the wall exposed the old water wheel.
Rusty cogs and gears lay discarded along with the massive millstone, complete with channels where the flour once escaped after being crushed from it’s husks.
In the Spring sunshine, it was secret, mysterious and awash with wild garlic.
*A note of caution – please be careful when exploring. Watch your feet, don’t climb on loose bricks etc.*
We carried on back up the valley and were treated to a fantastic view right across the low lying Cheshire Plain towards the Mersey Valley. You can clearly see Hawarden New Castle in the distance, keeping a watchful eye over it’s estate.
This part of the country isn’t without a castle or two – built to defend the English / Welsh border. The oldest fortification on the Hawarden Old Castle site dates back to the Iron Age. Later being replaced by a Norman Motte-and-bailey castle. The current castle dates back to the 13th century, built by Welsh Noblemen appointed by the King of England.
This magnificent ruin played an important part in the Welsh struggle for independence. At Easter 1282 Dafydd ap Gruffudd, Prince of Wales and the last independent ruler of Wales led an unsuccessful attack on Hawarden Old Castle against the English. For which Edward I ordered him to become the first person of note to be hung, drawn and quartered.
With Dafydd, daughter Gwladys and niece Gwenllian who were exiled to convents in Lincolnshire, the Welsh royal line came to an end.
The old castle was finally ruined in the 17th century during the English Civil War.
It does apparently open to the public on some Sundays, typically the second and fourth Sundays in summertime. However, we weren’t so lucky and the gates – reminiscent of Bilbo Baggins’ home in Hobbiton, stayed firmly shut.
We were left to admire the ruins on a daffodil clad pedestal as Easter bunnies hopped in and out of their burrows between the flowers. And to imagine Dafydd ap Gruffudd making his unsuccessful attempt to capture the castle 732 years earlier, almost to the day.
I like to think that the proud Welsh daffodils covering the banks remember him.
As the last of the sunshine captured our shadows, we acted out various scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, before the ghosts of our medieval selves faded and then were gone.
We followed the well made path back up from the castle, watching the buzzards circling over the trees, before re-emerging into the centre of Hawarden village through the impressive castle gates.
Hawarden is a really pretty village – you won’t be stuck for a pub and the church is as cute as Gladstone’s Library is impressive (check out their equally impressive looking afternoon teas).
I love the fact that a Sunday afternoon trip to catch up with a friend in her new home can open the door to a key moment in our country’s history. Well worth a visit!
For more information about Hawarden visit virtualtourist.com/Hawarden
Alison x (your 4Manchester Women Editor)
Photographs: Alison Staples
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