Nature Wins

Today the mines underneath the town of Northwich have been made safe. Concrete has been pumped into the caverns so that the rock above is once again supported. Solution mining at Middlewich is carefully controlled. The landscape is again stable.

The past remains very much in evidence.


The area is still criss-crossed by pipes…


…and there are bits of industrial junk.


The flashes, which were once a dumping ground for industrial waste from nearby factories, are now being reclaimed by nature.

The vast lakes attract birds…


…and the birds attract bird watchers.


Marshall’s Wood is growing on top of a lime waste pit.


The lime enriched soils provide a unique environment and attract species that are otherwise scarce in Cheshire.

All of this can be accessed via a network of routes.


There is access for cyclists and horse riders as well as on foot.

There’s art to admire…


…and rest on…


…as well as puzzle over.


And it is put to practical use to keep the area safe.


So that wraps up our look at this part of Cheshire. Today’s landscape tells quite a story…

The Final Wonders

We have been looking at the places mentioned in the 18th century anonymous poem that was probably written to attract tourists to north-east Wales.

Pistyll Rhaeadr and Wrexham steeple,
Snowdon’s mountain without its people,
Overton yew trees, St Winifred’s Well,
Llangollen’s Bridge and Gresford’s bells.”

The links on the poem will take you to the other posts in the series.

For the sake of completeness here are the final two locations.

Wrexham steeple refers to St Giles church, Wrexham, another Grade 1 listed building and a notable landmark visible from afar. The 135ft tower dates from 1506 and is richly decorated with medieval carvings.

Gresford’s bells are located within the tower of All Saints, Gresford, a few miles north of Wrexham.

Included for their purity and tone, you can hear for yourself via this link.

To round off this series, I have prepared a map of the locations of the original seven wonders of Wales, which I will be emailing out to those of you who have signed up. Take another look at the candidates from the updated seven wonders survey and add your favourites to the map. Or maybe you know of a gem that no one else has thought of. Do comment below.

Scilly Tourism

Scilly’s tourist industry handily compliments its flower farming.  Just as the picking and packing of flowers is coming to an end, the boat tour operators, holiday home cleaners, ice cream sellers etc. are back in work again.

The main season kicks off in April with a popular walking festival.  Momentum is then maintained with a series of events through the summer involving art, food and folk music, as well as a regatta and the Otillo swimrun world championship qualifying race.

Scilly is also a fantastic location for wildlife tourism, particularly bird watching and as a place from which to take a boat to spot some of our bigger marine animals.

The massive influx of tourists is an important source of income to the islands though it also creates problems.  The issue of water supply has had to be addressed and waste must be dealt with, by shipping it out to the mainland.

Also, not all tourist income stays on the islands.  Holiday lets are often owned by mainlanders, as second homes.  Consequently, house prices are very expensive and local people can’t afford to buy.

However, with tourism providing about 85% of the income of the Scilly Isles, it is important to maintain their popularity as a destination and to extend the season for as long as possible.  Without tourists the islands would die.

Snowdon

Pistyll Rhaeadr and Wrexham steeple,
Snowdon’s mountain without its people,
Overton yew trees, St Winifred’s Well,
Llangollen’s Bridge and Gresford’s bells.”

At 1085 metres, Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales and it is also higher than any peak in England. Not surprisingly it attracts many visitors: around ½ million a year.

There’s the promise of extensive views, with Ireland, Scotland, England and the Isle of Man visible on a good day. But you need to time it right. 5100mm of rain falls on Snowdon’s slopes each year, so it is often covered in cloud.

There are many routes to the summit, approaching from all directions.


The lake side Miner’s Track stays low for as long as possible. The ridge walk over Crib Goch does much of its climbing early on. The middle route here is the Pyg Track.


Another route is over Y Lliwedd, here seen from the Pyg Track.

But the easiest route is this one!


The railway to the summit of Snowdon opened in 1896.


The same route, from Llanberis, was previously used to carry tourists to the summit by pony but now you could just catch the train. Visitors increased and as an extra incentive the railway company built a new café on the summit, alongside the existing building, put up by an enterprising miner in 1838. A brand new summit building was opened in 2009.

So you are very unlikely to find Snowdon without people at the top but it is still a wonderful mountain. We will be returning here in a future series to take a closer look at some of its shapely landforms.

St Winefried’s Well

St Winefried’s well is located at Treffynnon. Tref = settlement; ffynnon = well or spring, so that makes sense. However, the town’s English name, Holywell, shows the reason for its inclusion as one of the seven wonders of Wales.

The spring is said to have risen where St Beuno restored to life his niece, St Winefried, after she was beheaded by a rejected suitor. As such it became a site of pilgrimage, for healing, with many notable visitors, including royalty.

The 15th century building straddles the spring. The lower, open crypt contains the well.

Above is a chapel, which from the other side is at ground level, because of the way it is built against the hillside.

Originally the spring flowed out and away down the valley. The statue stands where the stream once flowed.

Today the water is directed into a bathing pool.

The outflow was measured in the 18th century to be 7.6 million gallons of water per day. So not only was there a tourist industry, based on the pilgrimage site, but there was also thriving manufacturing industry in the short 1½ mile valley from the spring to the sea, with the stream being dammed several times to control its flow.

Close to the fresh spring, St Winefried’s brewery operated until 1930, and further downstream there were up to 19 factories. Metalworking and textiles were the main industries. There was so much activity that a railway branch line was opened in 1869.

The flow of visitors grew through the 19th century. Perhaps the poem was an effective tourist advert. However, at the same time the flow of the stream started to decrease and in 1917 it dried up completely.

This happened because mining, in the hills above the town, had changed the route of the underground stream, directing it away from the spring. Of course it couldn’t be left dry – Holywell’s thriving tourist industry would have vanished too. So another underground stream was channeled in to restore the flow.

Today you can visit the pilgrimage site in Holywell, and further down the valley the industrial site is now a 70 acre country park, the Greenfield Valley Heritage Park.