Our trail this week is by Fiona Gale. Fiona was not born in north Wales but has lived here since 1985 and was lucky enough to work in the archaeology field locally from 1988. In 1996 she became the county archaeologist for Denbighshire. Located in the Countryside Service and working with a fantastic and committed group of people, Fiona was able to develop archaeological projects across the area. Since retiring in 2018 she have continued her involvement in archaeology as a Trustee of local, regional and national organisations as well as getting very involved in projects locally. This has meant that Fiona got to know the area really well….and Fiona still loves exploring the hills and valleys which as well as being beautiful are chock full of archaeological and historic interest.
“For more than twenty years I was lucky enough to work across Denbighshire and the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley and spend that time trying to find out about the history and archaeology of the area and hoped to share my fascination and passion with other people. During that time I walked all over the area exploring hillforts, castles, lead and slate extraction areas, prehistoric cairns and world war 2 bunkers not to mention World Heritage Sites. All are fantastic and trying to come up with a favourite ‘trail’ was almost impossible. I finally decided that a walk in the Clwydian Range, partly on the Offa’s Dyke Trail, was what I would choose. Taking in two Iron Age hillforts and trials for gold mines, the walk, gives you fascinating history, the exercise of walking up hills and wonderful views from the top.
Start at the Llangynhafal car park and walk north up the Offa’s Dyke path to the summit of Penycloddiau, an Iron Age hillfort. Here, I am always drawn to the ramparts on the eastern side where Liverpool University students over several summers excavated a small part of the site, discovering evidence of people living in houses on the lee slope of the hill and at the same time learning what it is to be a practising archaeologist. Coming back around the ramparts to the west you can return down via a forestry track through the coniferous woodland…planted at a time when the Country needed pit props. Back through the car park and on a footpath around Moel Arthur to the west you are close to small mining trials where people in more recent centuries were looking for gold. There is gold in the Clwydian Range but not enough to make it worth your while to search for as those Victorian miners found. Passing a small hut half way down the hill you soon reach the road and can walk to the Moel Arthur car park, where re-joining the Offa’s Dyke trail, you can climb up to Moel Arthur hillfort. The route to the hillfort is signed off the path with a very special slate waymarker, set up by a friend who worked in the Countryside Service and sadly died far far too young. There haven’t been excavations within the hillfort of Moel Arthur since the 19th century but a local group have been working in the slopes between the hillfort and the path in recent years and they have found that people have been in the area not only since the Iron Age about 2500 years ago but far longer ago. Once at the top you can see the views across both the Vale of Clwyd and Flintshire and much further, and also see the car park where you started.
The total trail is around 4 miles ( c 7km) long but includes hills to get your heart pumping, amazing evidence of people using these hills for thousands of years and extensive views… and perhaps my main reason for choosing this lovely walk is my 60th birthday cake. Made by my children it was an excellent replica of Penycloddiau hillfort…..they know me well.”