Bridging the gap on historic Welsh walk

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Staff reporter

WALKERS no longer face a leap of faith to complete an historic walk.

Thanks to a brand new £4,000 footbridge a major obstacle has been overcome along the 61-mile long Wat’s Dyke Way heritage trail.

For much of the year the section of the walk near Padeswood, Buckley, was impassable because of a stream which feeds into the River Alyn.

Even during sunnier days, fitter walkers faced leaping over the stream unless they wanted to make a detour.

But thanks to rural regeneration agency Cadwyn Clwyd, and some match funding from Flintshire Council, Lawsons Construction has just completed a new footbridge over the stream at Dyke Farm, Padeswood, along with some remedial work, ditching and new signage.

Cadwyn Clwyd’s funding was received through the Rural Development Plan for Wales 2007-2013 which is financed by the Welsh Assembly Government and European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

Ron Williams, of the Ramblers’ Association and chairman of the Wat’s Dyke Way Association, said: “The bridge is adjacent to the line of the Dyke. It means that in Flintshire, thanks to Cadwyn Clwyd which has supported us right through, there are no problems along the trail.

“Before you had to jump over the stream, if you were fit enough, which was OK in the summer but not possible in winter.

“We’re quite pleased with the usage of the trail. We did not know what to expect, but it featured in a couple of national newspapers as one of the ‘top things to do’ and it appears to have caught on. There’s even a tour company in discussions with a local hotel promoting it for walking holidays.

“We never saw this footpath as a straightforward walk between two points, but more of a heritage trail. With the guide book we have produced you can get the most out of the rich history you can find along the trail.”

Sarah Jane Jones, Cadwyn’s Flintshire footpaths officer, said: “During the majority of the year this section of the route was quite impassable and only now can visitors to one of the best sections of the Wat’s Dyke Way walk without diversion.

“It really was a stopping point on the walk. There are still a few other issues which need addressing but which are outside our immediate funding area and this is something we should look at in the next round of funding to see if development agencies can work together to tackle them.

“The total cost of the project was just under £7,000, with £2,000 match funding from Flintshire Council highways and the rest being from Cadwyn Clwyd.”

Wat’s Dyke was probably built by King Offa’s predecessor, King Ethelbald who lived 716-757AD, from Basingwerk Abbey in Greenfield, Flintshire – often parallel to the more famous Offa’s Dyke which runs the length of Wales – and ends in Llanymynech in Powys.

It had a ditch averaging 2m deep and 5.7m wide on the Welsh side and a mound or rampart averaging 2m in height and about 8.1m wide on the Mercian side acting as both defensive works and a boundary demarcation.

Although 60 per cent of the earthwork is listed as a scheduled monument – making it one of the largest archaeological monuments in Britain – sections of the dyke have been damaged or even built on.

The  127-page Wat’s Dyke Way Heritage Trail, written by keen walker and historian Pete Lewis, is published by Alyn Books and is available from most local bookshops. You can also order the book or get more information at www.watsdykeway.org or through the Ramblers’ Association.

- Anyone interested in signing up for Cadwyn Clwyd’s Flintshire Footpaths Project can contact Sarah Jones on 01824 705802 or email sarah.jones@cadwynclwyd. co.uk.

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