Tŷ Mawr country park in Wrexham County Borough is a superb place for family day-out and has many features of natural and historic interest. Set on the south-facing slopes of the River Dee at the entrance to the Vale of Llangollen, it is framed to two icons of industrial archaeology. At the east is the mighty Cefn viaduct which carries the railway line from Wrexham to Ruabon and on into Shropshire. To the west is the majestic Pontcysyllte Aqueduct which bears the Llangollen canal over the Dee. I wish to discussion three aspects of the memoryscape of this country park.
The landscape of the country park is readily comprehensible through its many maps that visualise the historic buildings of the adjacent community of Cefn Mawr and the constituent heritage components of the park itself including the viaduct and aquaduct. Hence, the industrial archaeology of the landscape – including the canal and railways – provide the foundation for visitor navigation and projecting a sense of community identity. On one, architect Henry Robinson is remembered, the man who designed the viaduct. On the same board, absent features are discussed: the fate of the Acrefair viaduct that carried the Llangollen railway to Acrefair station demolished in the 1970s. Yet also, the maps serve to promote the wildlife of the park; the river, its woodlands, paddocks for various animals and activities for children. In this regard, the country park’s maps are an auto-commemorative temporal kaleidoscope – providing a medium for imagining past landscapes and navigating the contemporary landscape.
Animals form an integral part of the memoryscape of the country park. There is a small animal farm and paddocks containing numerous animals including sheep, pigs, goats, horses, llamas and the very friendly Winston the donkey.
However, there are also a range of animal sculptures that are as much for engagement by visitors as the living animals themselves. Around the menagerie, there are wooden animal sculptures, life-size, that attract the attention of children as much as the live animals within the enclosures. There is also a woodland walk with giant mini-beasts created through sculpture, including worms, woodlice and ladybirds. In these ways, animals form a key part of the visitor experience.
Commemorating the dead
As with many country parks, they are also spaces for the commemoration of the dead. Park benches with memorial plaques are to be found along the paths, especially at locations affording views over the landscape. What was surprising for me was to note that even picnic benches had memorials added to them, something I haven’t really noticed before. Perhaps these are ubiquitous and I have never noticed.
A notable historic and animal theme for one memorial deserves particular note. The dovecote in the parkland landscape has a memorial upon it, remembering a solider of the Royal Welch who died in Bosnia in 1993.
Now the precise inspiration for this dovecote memorial is unclear. However, I have noticed that birdbaths and dovecotes can form a part of the memorial landscapes of crematoria. Indeed, the nearby Pentrebychan crematorium, because it took over an historic country house, inherited within its landscape a number of historic features including a dovecote. The nearby country house of Erddig, now run by the National Trust, has a prominent dovecote in a similar style. Hence the choice of a dovecote as a memorial space has clear local inspirations. I hope to learn more about this dovecote.
- Railway living, railway commemoration (howardwilliamsblog.wordpress.com)
- Death, Memory and the Re-animation of Industrial Landscapes: Alyn Waters, Wrexham (howardwilliamsblog.wordpress.com)
- In the Welsh Landscape with Katy the Bone-Blog Legend (howardwilliamsblog.wordpress.com)
- Moss Valley Explorations (howardwilliamsblog.wordpress.com)