Here at North East Wales we are so proud of The Clwydian Range and Llantysilio Mountain which form most of the Area of Outstanding National Beauty. Heather and hillforts are two of the most striking features of this landscape, both found in abundance if you know where to look.
The distinct beauty of purple heather moorland that carpets the Clwydian uplands is a valuable habitat for wildlife as well as providing grazing for sheep. The upland moorland contains a patchwork of heather, bilberry, gorse and bracken, depending on the time of year which provides a habitat that is of European importance. Providing a home for a special upland bird community such as the rare black grouse, the red grouse, hen harrier, ring ouzel, whinchat and wheatear. Since the late 1990s the Black Grouse population has increased from only 10 males, to recent counts of 40 male black grouse. Very early on spring mornings the male black grouse gather together to display and compete for the females. This “lekking” is an extraordinary spectacle.
As well as providing a living habitat in the present day this landscape holds the footprint of past communities and cultures. Dominating the skyline is the exceptional chain of 2,500 year old Iron Age Hillforts, and is one of the largest groups in Europe. The landscape formed the basis of a major heritage project in the area ten years ago which aimed to conserve and restore the natural and historic heritage of the area whilst encouraging greater understanding and enjoyment of these uplands amongst residents and visitors alike.
Among the Hillforts in the Clwydian Range is Penycloddiau where sites of the round houses are still visible. Moel Arthur is one of Wales’ finest Hillforts who’s well preserved ramparts form the boundary between Denbighshire and Flintshire. The small circular hillfort crowning a very prominent hill overlooking the Vale of Clwyd to the south of Penycloddiau covers only two hectare but it boasts some of the largest banks and ditches of all our hillforts. Activity on Moel Arthur wasn’t limited to the Iron Age. There is a possible Bronze Age burial mound in the centre of the hillfort and evidence of quarrying on the southern edge of the hill. In 1962, following a severe rainstorm, a hoard of three copper Bronze Age flat axes was found within the defences. Moel Fenlli also has the ramparts and ditches still visible and can be climbed from the Moel Famau car park. Moel y Gaer near Llangollen occupies a prominent summit on Llantysilio Mountain. Caer Drewyn is an impressive Hillfort with stone ramparts and excellent views over the Dee Valley. Details of how to get to all these and other hills in the range can be found here.
You may well notice strange shapes cut into the heather while you’re walking in the park. This is part of the ongoing management that’s taken place in the uplands for generations – a combination of burning and cutting encourages new heather to grow and provides fresh grazing for sheep.
This blog is written as part of the Denbighshire County Council Destination Management Plan 2021.