Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Offa’s Dyke 12: Denbigh - Llanferres

Denbigh Castle
Denbigh was only ten minutes further on from Ruthin. Once a hilltop walled town built around a castle fortress, now the town has moved down the hill leaving fragments of castle and walls like a balding crown. The façade presents a slightly deranged face reminding me of Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumbria. It’s almost a frozen echo of the time when the town’s chief employer was “Denbigh Mental”, the North Wales Hospital /Lunatic Asylum. As I look over the notes on this place I have an uneasy  feeling that I should research its patient records in case my 3 x great grandmother Sydney Ellis appears. She disappeared from the records in the early 1850s and it’s conceivable that her documented behaviour to that time was consistent with a need for treatment thus (according to the standards of the time).

Denbigh looking north to Rhyl [Google Earth]Sir Henry Morton Stanley The castle interior is closed off at present for site development under archaeological supervision. Outside the castle was a good place for Munson to have a good run round while I looked over the hills towards Rhyl, Prestatyn and the Irish Sea.

The town square below shows this statue of local boy Henry Stanley, deliverer of the line “Dr Livingstone, I presume”. He was a very close contemporary of my great great grandfather Ellis, each born to an unmarried 19yo (Sydney Ellis in this case) and raised by the mother’s family.

Tonight we’re staying at The Druid Inn in the village of Llanferres. As its website proclaims, it’s very dog-friendly and Munson joined me in the bar for dinner. In the course of deliberating over an oversized blackboard menu, I struck a conversation with a Canadian woman visiting (and dining with) friends in the area. She was very taken by Munson and photographed him many times during the meal. I gathered she was an extremely religious woman and had an air of some more sheltered time before the modern world. When she asked me what my most memorable experiences had been whilst travelling with Munson, I began with “other than meeting you of course…”, to which she drew in her breath and murmured something about that being the most gallant or charming thing she’d ever heard. I leafed through the inn’s folder of local information, I found a brochure for local tourist agency North Wales Borderlands with a very dog-friendly cover. Their site lists an iPhone app for all the local sights and sites which I guess is helpful when phone/internet access is so wretched in this part of the world. It would be good if their accommodation directory followed up on the promise of its cover by identifying pet-friendly venues which are much harder to locate in Wales than in England (although much better than Scotland).

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