For visitors wishing to enjoy the pleasures of walks around the City, the River Elwy forms the focus of a number of interesting routes which offer both the peace and tranquillity of the countryside and a wealth of interest for the botanist, birdwatcher or general nature lover. Here is one romantically called The Poacher’s Trail
The Poacher’s Trail
Click on picture for full map
Starting from the car park next to the Bowling Green just across the road from the Parish Church of St. Asaph & St. Kentigern, our first recommended walk proceeds along the tree lined Common footpath which runs between the children’s playground and the rear of The Gamekeeper Inn and joins Mill Street at the sheltered accommodation for elderly residents at Llys y Felin.
This walk begins by following the bed of the old Mill Stream and, on the grassed area opposite the Children’s Playground, a piece of the old water control mechanism has been preserved. A map of the old stream can be seen in the Library.
Follow the road straight ahead (it appears to be a dead-end) until, well hidden on the right hand side, you discover a narrow pathway which leads under the trees and onto a flight of very old stone steps. These are known locally as 'the forty steps' but years of use have buried some of the bottom steps and there are now only 36. Just before turning to climb the steps you will pass a house called Bryn Afon, situated not far from what was once the site of the Lower Mill on the old Mill Stream. Bryn Afon dates back to 1780 when it was a single storey building which housed the Grammar School which, in 1880 moved to the Upper Denbigh Road on the site which later became Ysgol Glan Clwyd, the first Welsh Secondary School in Wales. At the top of the steps turn left onto Red Hill and climb to the junction. On this short but steep section of the walk it pays to stop and look back at the view over the lower part of the city - it also gives those who need it time to get their breath back!
On reaching the junction with Mount Road the walker should bear left and follow the road around the perimeter of Fairholme School. Shortly afterwards the lane crosses over the busy A55 Expressway and the views from the bridge are quite extensive. To the West, on a clear day the panoramic view from the bridge takes in many points of interest including the beautiful St. Margaret's Church at Bodelwyddan, known as "The Marble Church" and Bodelwyddan Castle which houses a Hotel, a Museum and Art Gallery and is well worth a visit. Beyond are the hills which bound the Conwy Valley and, in the far distance, the mountains of Snowdonia. On the coast are the resort towns from Rhyl to Colwyn Bay with the Little Orme forming the easterly boundary of the hidden bay on which Llandudno is situated.
To the east the view from the bridge gives some idea of the extensive work which was carried out to create a cutting in the Clwydian hills to accommodate the A55 Expressway. Looking to the right, when the trees are not in leaf, it is possible to see St. Beuno's College nestling among the trees on the hillside at Tremeirchion. St Beuno's has strong associations with the poet and writer, Gerard Manley Hopkins and regularly provides a retreat for visitors from all over the world. Immediately over the bridge their is a public footpath on the left which runs down to the river. This can be used as a shorter walk either by turning left at the river and following the footpath along the bank back to the starting point on The Common, or by turning right and following the footpath along the river as far as the footbridge which can be crossed to follow the footpath back to St. Asaph along the opposite bank. But, for the longer route continue to follow the lane which eventually dips steeply and continues to a public footpath and style on the left which leads onto a footbridge and crosses the river. From here the walker can simply follow the public footpath along the floodbank back to St. Asaph. There is another alternative route which can be taken from the lane before it dips down steeply. On the right there is a public footpath sign and, as the map shows, this follows a route around the back of the property at the bottom of the hill and eventually rejoins the lane at the point of the river crossing.
Very often during the summer months mallard can be seen on the river with their flotilla of young ducklings happily feeding and heron are regular visitors. The antics of the dippers as they feed under water are fascinating to watch and, overhead there are birds of prey including the sparrow hawk and impressive buzzard which always keep a keen eye on the resident rabbit population and other small mammals. Coots, Moorhen, and Grey Wagtails also make the riverside their home.
Although they used to be more numerous, the lucky walker may be fortunate to see the flash of brilliant colour which is the kingfisher and even more fortunate to see the elusive and mainly nocturnal otter which has returned to local waters after many years
In the summer months increasing areas of the river bank are invaded by tall stands of Hymalayan Balsam which are easily recognised by their purple/pink helmet shaped flowers which later form seedheads which, on warm dry days, explode with considerable force spreading their progeny far and wide. Efforts are being made to control this plant but unless eradication is undertaken at the headwaters the plants simply continue to thrive and spread as their seeds are carried downstream by the current.
Because the Vale of Clwyd enjoys a relatively mild climate, spring flowers are early in country lanes and along the river banks. Snowdrops, Primroses, Lesser Celandine, Coltsfoot and Wood Anemones are followed quickly by Ramsons, the strong smelling white garlic plant which favours damp shady places, and its cousin the bluebell, both members of the lily family. Lords and Ladies, Lady's Smock and Speedwell also put in an early appearance while June heralds the honeysuckle and wild rose which add perfume and colour to the hedgerows. The white flowering Parsley family come into flower in sequence beginning with Cowparsley and Pignut and followed by Chervil, Hedge Parsley, Hogweed, Wild Carrot, Angelica and Pepper Saxifrage. It pays to beware of some members of this family, particularly the Hogweed, which, if it comes into contact with bare arms and legs, can cause a nasty allergic reaction.
Mimulus, Yellow Flag, Meadowsweet, Marsh Marigold and Figwort can be found growing on the banks of the river Elwy while in the water Branched Bur-reed and Water Plantain give cover to small fish and the Water Crowfoot coats the surface with its white flowers. The shingle banks support Willow seedlings, Burdock, Butterbur and Silverweed while the wetter areas are home to Golden Saxifrage, Fool's Parsley and the purple spikes of Loostrife.
Whichever option of this riverside walk fulfils your needs there is no doubt that, on a pleasant summer day, it offers much for the walker to enjoy and the route has the benefit of good stiles and easy access. On the banks of the river close to the bridge which carries the main road through the city and a hundred yards or so downstream, the Town Council have erected two signboards providing information about the history of the ancient bridge and the floral and fauna of the river. There are also picnic tables and seats on the riverbank in the area of The Common and, close by, local Inns offers visitors welcome hospitality.