This week, I found myself at Loggerheads Country Park, enjoying a pleasant walk in the woods and by the River Alyn. Here, on the edge of the Clwydian range, there are many wooded paths by the river and up and around the limestone cliffs. There is a visitor centre, cafe and play area at the hub of this beautiful landscape.
The archaeological remains relate to the late eighteenth and nineteenth-century mill and associated leats and ponds. There are also features and buildings that reflect the area’s rich lead mining heritage. Also, linked to my archaeodeath interests, there are some animal sculptures and many simplistic, uniform memorial benches along the paths.
Pentre Water Mill
Besides the visitor centre is the mill race, mill pond and the water mill itself. The mill is open to visitors to view the mechanisms. The clear bilingual signage on boards, together with a rich ixture of reconstructions and historic photographs and watercolours serve to tell the story of a working water mill. There are also wonderfully clear plans and section reconstruction of how the mill worked, something that is otherwise very difficult to get one’s head around unless one is well initiated in how the mill operated.
Walking along the Alyn, one encounters all manner of traces of the once heavily industrialised valley due to lead mining. We encountered ruined buildings linked to the mines.
There are also relics of the industrial past used as ‘memorials’; notably a section of track with two connected mining trucks. Here, linked to my interests in railway heritage, is an example of non-traction rail and tramways that were so essential in the industries of NE Wales from quarries to mining.
My walk only took me around a small part of the landscape and so I can only report on a small number of the sculptures present. However, there are animal sculptures that ‘commemorate’ the many special species in the distinctive habitat, including a bronze lizard and frog and – presumably new to this year since I haven’t seen them before – a series of wooden animal scupltures. The one that struck me most of these wooden beasts was a bat hanging in the space in a forked tree-trunk! I love this kind of thing and it links into a theme I have discussed before here and here regarding animal sculpture and monuments. These sculpture mediate engagements between humans and nature in country parks.
The memorial benches are simple in form and punctuate the paths. Their texts are usually abrupt and functional, but I did notice one that, as I have discussed elsewhere, creates the presence of the dead as donors of the experience of the beauty and tranquility of the landscape to be enjoyed by the living:
IN MEMORY OF RICK PRICE
RICKY HAS GONE TO A BETTER PLACE
HE LEFT THIS BENCH FOR YOU TO ENJOY THIS SPACE
A Distinctive Memorial
Yet the best memorial is one preserved within the Pentre Water Mill, a memorial to the former miller. It is odd in setting up a blessing upon the reader that almost feels like a curse. Somehow the cruel ‘and three days after’ seals your fate, albeit in a humorous way, mocking you to attempt to live beyond your mortality allows:
LIVE FOR EVER AND EVER
AND THREE DAYS AFTER