Today we head for one of my favourite places – Big Wood, Erddig.
We walk down Sontley Road and pass the car park on our right. We follow the road over the bridge up the hill. At the end of the brick wall on our right there is a wooden kissing gate. If you want to follow this path too then this is the way to go.
We are in the Big Wood which previously used to be the Pleasure Grounds. This area underwent developments and planting until the 1850s, when the grounds were subsumed into woodland. The grounds are accurately depicted in an engraving by Badeslade and Toms of 1739, showing formal tree plantings, horse or deer grazing paddocks, and a spiral path to the summit of Castell-y-Glyn.
We walk to the end of the path and turn left. A few metres down this path and we can see the east front of Erddig. The gates were made by Davies Bros of Wrexham in the early 1700s. They cost £150 11s 6d and weighed 56 tons. The pond in front is called a ha-ha, used in landscaping to keep stock out but allow unimpeded views. Two coots are in the ha-ha going about their business.
We carry on, turn right and walk past the dovecote. This dates from 1739. If you look through the window on the side you will see that the interior walls are lined with nest holes.
We follow the buildings to the end and the coachman’s cottage. The tea rooms are open and the thought of a latte and a slice of cake are too strong to resist. The outer area of the gardens is open for walkers – dogs too – and you don’t have to be a member to enjoy what’s on offer. Barney and Digby appreciate the bowl of cold water, and I enjoy a slice of Victoria sponge and a latte. It’s a lovely place to sit and while away a few minutes. A blackbird is nearby looking for worms while a song thrush serenades us from the trees.
Time to move on. We follow the boundary of the hall gardens and drop down the hill following Erddig Road with the hall now high up on our right.
We carry on through the next kissing gate until we reach a small wooden bridge on our left.
Just over the bridge is the hydraulic ram which was installed in 1899 and used the power of Black Brook to work a pump drawing pure spring water. It worked at a rate of 10,000 gallons per day pumping water up to storage cisterns in the roof of the house. Today it is used to power the fountains in the garden.
Just beyond this is the cylindrical cascade known as the 'Cup and Saucer'. This was constucted under the guidance of the landscape architect William Emes in 1775. Black Brook gathers in the circular basin, falls over the central weir and then exits through a tunnel a few yards away. The design caused the brook to be lowered quickly with the aim of preventing erosion. Black Brook was so named because of its origins in the coal mines.
We backtrack over the bridge back onto Erddig Road and turn left. I briefly stop to look at the white entrance gates to my right - this was a second entrance to the house. There is so much history in this place!
We carry on down Erddig Road, crossing two stone bridges. Barney and Digby appreciate dipping in the river to cool down.
Just after the second bridge there is a metal kissing gate on our right. We go though and follow the path down to the river. We follow the river Clywedog along past the weir, then bear left and we are back at the car park and Sontley Road.
The walk and tea garden stop took us about an hour and a half so is probably about four miles. If you know this walk or decide to go on it do leave a comment on what you think of it and what you see!