Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Offa’s Dyke 12: Ruthin

Llangollen - Ruthin - Denbigh - LlanferresWe’re getting close to the end of our tour of the Welsh border country with still a lot of territory to cover. There’s a whole band of country between Snowdonia and Wrexham that I’ve only passed through quickly en route to Dolgellau on numerous visits.

First we drove through the deep Dee valley west of Llangollen and up around Horseshoe Pass and then emerged onto some high moorland. In around twenty minutes we reached the market town of Ruthin. It’s got quite an ancient provenance with pre-Norman settlements and then from the thirteenth century a castle and further building established the old part of the town. There are many half-timbered buildings still remaining that are 500-600 years old, amongst the oldest standing in Wales. However, one shouldn’t be fooled by modern reproductions like the Barclays Bank shown below.

Old Ruthin town, St Peter's Square

I found myself in a well-run little bookshop on Upper Clwyd Street with a mix of new and used books. I was talking to the proprietor about some range of re-released titles she was was sorting and got sidetracked onto many other book topics. I mentioned the kids running around in the bookstore in Oswestry a few days earlier, and she said she’d had some kids climbing up the shelves in the children’s section. When she asked the mother to take control of them, the frosty response was “why have children’s books if you don’t want that to happen.” I said you should have reminded her that you don’t allow arson, burglary or murder in the crime section either.

Ruthin Craft Centre

As I was driving out of town I saw there was a big craft centre and turned in to investigate. I was in luck: it was exactly the sort of place that I’d hoped I’d find a few days earlier, showing what artists and craftsmen were doing now in Wales, rather than the hideous melange of  imagined national symbols (dragons, fairies and women in stovepipe hats) that suck out your soul as soon as you view them. The centre includes a large exhibition space, some private studios and workshop areas which seemed to be being used to educate groups of school-children. There’s a cafe right in the middle that opens out into the central courtyard.

Ruth Craft Centre -1
The gallery had quite a wide range of works on display, and I’ve photographed a few of the more whimsical pieces. Outside of there I really liked the designs of Cefyn Burgess on sale in his textile studio. I bought one of the woven blankets displayed on the counter below. Maybe one day I’ll send a box of two of Munsonwool© to make a more permanent piece of textile art than can be seen currently exhibited under all my furniture.
Ruth Craft Centre -2

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