Returning from Nice last Tuesday, we feared that after enjoying three days with the temperature in the upper 70s F, we’d be in for a shock when we got back to Liverpool. But, since our return the days have been warm and sunny in the way that September days often are. So yesterday, with early high cloud clearing to skies of deepest blue, we knew we had to get out of the city and walk.
By chance, returning from Anglesey recently, we’d stumbled upon an old haunt, familiar to most Liverpool school children. Searching for lunch we’d taken a turning that brought us to the village of Cilcain, deep in the Flintshire countryside beneath the Clwydian hills. Following a road that led out of the village and through a beautiful wooded valley, we came to Loggerheads Country Park. When our daughter was a child, we’d come here often to walk, and, like any number of Liverpool kids, she came here many times with her school – to stay at the Colomendy outdoor activities centre.
So yesterday we didn’t take long deciding where to walk: it would be a return to Loggerheads to walk the Leete path up the valley of the river Alyn to Cilcain.
The Leete path follows the leete, a deep water channel which was built to divert water from the river at Loggerheads in order to service the pumps and machines of the local lead mining industry. It was originally 2 metres wide and 1.5 metres deep, and still forms a distinctive raised stone bed – as seen in these photos.
The leete was built in 1823 for the Mold Mines company. Its purpose was to divert water from the river at Loggerheads past swallow holes in the limestone bed, into which the river disappears part of the year, to service waterwheels that powered mining machinery and water pumps lower in the valley. These photos show how, for much of the river’s length on this walk, the river disappears beneath the ground at this time of year.
The leete ceased to operate in 1845. It was the limestone geology of this valley that drew industry to the area. The rich mineral veins in the rock were extensively mined for lead during the 18th and 19th centuries and evidence that Loggerheads was an important lead mining area in the past still remains partially hidden within this beautiful woodland. Apart from the path following the line of the old water course built to carry water for the mining operation, you also occasionally come across the shafts dug out by the miners.
At one sheer rock wall marking a shaft entrance, we came across a rock climber practising his holds.
The path forms a beautiful walk, following the whole length of the Alyn Valley. It rises slowly from river level at Loggerheads to something like a hundred feet above it as you approach Cilcain. On Saturday, the late September sun slanted through the foliage of the old wildwood, casting splashes of light across the path.
The path follows the foot of dramatic limestone cliffs, with occasional breaks in the tree cover that afforded glimpses across the Alyn valley towards Moel Famau.
It’s about six miles to Cilcain and back. On our return we sat in the sunshine in the Tea Gardens that form the focal point of Loggerheads County Park, drinking tea and eating delicious bara brith from Caffi Florence that caters to the visitors here.
Crosville buses once brought thousands of visitors here from Merseyside. The bus company owned the park until the 1970s before the county council turned it into a country park. I remember the lumbering green and cream Crosville buses from when I first came to Liverpool in the 1960s. It was a local company – formed in 1906 by George Crosland Taylor and his French business partner Georges de Ville, the company name being a combination of their two names. After de-regulation, Crosville struggled to be profitable and in the 1980s further cuts were made and the Crosville name disappeared altogether.