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Phil Parsons

Crumpled Crown of the Clwydian Range.


Whenever one looks eastwards from the summit of any of the major peaks of Snowdonia the eye inevitably rests on the Clwydian Range which bounds the view. Beyond, lies the land of the Saxon.


Conversely from the Cheshire side no trace of the giants of Snowdonia is seen for yet again the Clwydians block the view. They form - the undulating skyline which alerts the traveller that he is approaching Wales.


This lengthy chain which stretches from Prestatyn to Llandegla has several fine tops. The perky Moel Arthur, and the prominent Foel Fenlli, each with its circlet of earthworks, (for the ancients were busy around here), are noble peaks, but it is to Moel Fammau (Mothers' Mountain) lying between them that the eye is first drawn.

W. H. Auden was aware of this when he wrote :

"As children in Chester look to Moel Fammau to decide

On picnics, by the clearness or withdrawal of her treeless crown".

She is, beyond all question, the Queen, and queen like she wears her crown — the most massive manmade cairn on any British peak, unchallenged  for over 150 years. Few of the many who daily see it as they motor down the Vale of Clwyd, or along the A483 which links Chester with Swansea, realise that they are viewing the crumbling ruins of a once fantastic structure, roughly pyramidal in shape, some 115 feet high, erected to commemorate the Jubilee of George III.


The story of its erection and subsequent collapse is an entertaining one. On October 25th, 1810 before an assemblage of from 3,000 to 5,000 people, Lord Kenyon laid the foundation stone of the edifice, subscribed for by the inhabitants of Denbighshire and Flintshire, which was to take several years in the building.


A contemporary account has it that "the committees and gentlemen of the two counties met about noon at the Bwlch Penbarras, between Ruthin and Mold, where a detachment of the Flintshire and Denbighshire Loyal Militias, under the respected colonels, headed a procession of the principal gentlemen of the counties to the tap of the mountain, a distance of nearly two miles, most of them on horseback."


It must have been an impressive sight, for the well used track from the Bwlch is plainly visible from the Clwyd Valley for almost its entire lengthy much  of which is on the actual crest of the ridge. That they could be so seen is evident for the story continues "the sun shone upon the undertaking, and the thousands who attended seemed all animated with sympathetic joy on the occasion".

Joy was indeed the order of the day.

Speeches and poems abounded: and before the throng descended to their respective local celebrations with the attendant ox-roasting, the proceedings were concluded with "God save the King" with which three additional stanzas, composed for the day, were sung with gusto. The last of these added verses is worth repeating:


"And as this joyous.day

The grateful Pile we lay

To Britain's King;

By love, by freedom led,

Well rear its towering head,

Firm as its rocky bed,

To George our King".


The author's heart was obviously in the right place, - but the monstrosity to which he refers was, most fortunately, not so firm, as its rocky bed, for in 1862 the tower collapsed in a, storm:, and we can be grateful indeed that it is but a pile of rubble.


The Carnarvon Herald of  November 1st, 1862 records: "On Tuesday last, about half past one o'clock an the afternoon, about two thirds of the obelisk on Moel Fammau or 40 yards of the upper Portion, fell to the ground, probably from the effects of the severe storm of wind and rain which has visited us lately. The Vale of Clwyd Harriers in full cry, followed by a numerous field had just passed"


It-seems that anything to to .with the Jubilee Tower involved crowds, and even today the remnants .of the once dominating landmark are visited by thousands, for at 1,800 feet the view from this highest summit of the Clwydians is most extensive. It looks down on the Dee and Mersey estuaries, across Liverpool land,  up the coast of Lancashire to Blackpool's yet more famous tower. The Vale of Clwyd lies serenely beautiful to the west.


There can be no denying that the view from Moel Fammau is as good as ever whilst, thank Heaven, the view of this noble mountain is no longer despoiled by man's handiwork, for the rubble of the collapsed tower has become, through a century of weathering and the press of countless feet, a solid cairn which distinguishes, but no longer disfigures the peak.


Many of those who climb this lovely hill enjoy a lofty picnic here, and it is a great pity that some are careless or wanton, for twice within the last few years I have been one of a party which has spent half an hour or so collecting and burying  the broken glass littering summit.


The Forestry Commission is active in the area, out access is unaffected and it might well be argued that woodlands have introduced a little variety to these heather clad hills.


Offa's Way, that challenging distance footpath which follows dyke from Prestatyn to Chepstow here forsakes the line laid down the Mercian king many centuries ago; instead it wisely lead's over these fascinating hills a section of the route sufficient in itself justify the years of work, survey, land, legal, that have gone into creation.


Arthur Clarke.

Jubilee Tower by Arthur Clarke.

February 2013 - Restoration work under way.

Work is under way to restore the Jubilee Tower. Repairs were carried out in 1969, but since then little has been done. The work will use the last of a £2m Heritage Lottery Fund grant awarded to the Clwydian Range's Heather and Hillforts Project which started in 2004.

The base of the structure, which was designed by Thomas Harrison, became covered after the tower collapsed. It is now hoped one of the corner bastions can be revealed for the first time in more than a century.