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  In a Victorian Poets Footsteps

Hills and vales at the heart of North Wales

“Lovely the woods, waters, meadows, coombes, vales, All the air things that build this world of Wales ”. So wrote the renowned Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, who spent much time in this area and dedicated a poem “In the Valley of the Elwy” to the river. The Afon Elwy is one of the most beautiful small rivers in the whole of Wales ; its valley a paradise of tranquil meadows, ancient woods and craggy hills.

This walk encounters all of these aspects and starts from the peaceful settlement of Llanfair Talhaiarn, huddled beside an ancient bridge over the river. There's an interesting interpretation board in the car park here; remains of the local lead mines are hard to find. Along the way you may encounter some of Britain 's most elusive wildlife, including red buzzards are a constant companion.

The walk commences from the village car park next to the old bridge over the Afon Elwy. Cross this and take the path immediately right, walking through to the A544 road near the garage. Cross straight over to pick up the way marked footpath, following this downstream along the riverbank. Passing by a weir, you'll soon reach a footbridge over the river. Cross this and climb through wildflower-rich woodlands to find a country lane, along which turn left. This winds past cottages before narrowing to a green lane, then a path beyond a gateway .

The route of the public footpath is beside the wall on your left, but it's easier, particularly when the bracken is high, to use the upper path. Either way, both of these trace a route high above the Elwy, initially across the rough slopes of Mynydd Bodran then long the edge of pastures. Ahead, the higher hills of the Clwydian range peek above the horizon. Several gates, some awkward, take you past ruined farms, the path developing into an old field road. Eventually you'll pass through a gateway to find a junction of farm lanes. Fork left here, dropping gently towards a distant, very smart corrugated-iron fishing lodge. As the roadway starts to bend left, take a path to the right, with a fence on your left. This occasionally muddy old track brings you to a footbridge, once across which turn right. In a short distance take the uppermost path, soon coming to a hairpin bend left above a pink-painted house. Turn left here and rise to the lane. Turn right along this .

A long stretch of peaceful country lane now follows. The banks are particularly rich in wildflowers during early summer, a veritable artist's palette of blues, yellows, pinks, whites and creams. The river below is the Afon Aled, your companion for the next 3 miles. Little traffic uses these lanes, so you're free to indulge in the views ahead to the distant moors and enjoy to the full the myriad wild birds of this tranquil countryside. At the junction keep right for Llanfair Talhaiarn, shortly crossing a narrow old bridge. Turn left at the next junction to continue south above the river.

Just before the next bridge you'll see to your right a bridle path fingerpost indicating the route through two gates and then along a well-defined riverside track. This is muddy in places. Simply remain on the bridle way, which becomes a rough lane passing by isolated cottages. It eventually reaches a lane immediately before a bridge over a side stream. Turn sharp-right here (not the road for Mostyn) to commence a long, winding and occasionally steep climb up this lane onto the ridge. Allow plenty of time to take breathers and drink in the massive views, particularly to the south and the high moors of Mynydd Hiraethog. On reaching the main road, cross straight over and then immediately keep right, climbing the last short incline to a junction at the top. Turn right here, from where it's all downhill back to Llanfair Talhaiarn. Ignore any side roads to find yourself back in the village; here turn left and then sweep right, passing the Swan Inn and post office to return to the car park opposite the Black Lion Inn.

Map - click to enlarge

DISTANCE : 7 miles (12.5 km)
TIME: Allow 4 hours
TERRAIN: riverside, farm paths, mostly back lanes. One long climb.
PARKING: Car park in the village
REFRESHMENTS: pubs, garage and shop in the village.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Infrequent buses from Abergele.
O.S. DETAILS: Explorer 264, vale of Clwyd. Start at the village car park in Llanfair Talhaiarn
GRID REF: SH 927703

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