I’ve been visiting the English side of the Dee Marshes for longer than I can remember. It’s what you do when you’re brought up on the Wirral Peninsula. Ice creams at Parkgate, gazing across the no-longer-there river towards Wales. A pint at the Harp in Neston, taking in the same view. Bird-spotting strolls along the edge of the marshes at Burton.
Even though I no longer live on the Wirral, I return there most weeks to visit my dad. When I do, I usually make time for a visit to the marshes: often for a stroll; sometimes simply to sit in the car and admire the view; occasionally (like I’m doing right now) to write.
Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt. After so many years, the view across the Dee Marshes has become very dear to me: the backdrop of the Clwydian Hills, dominated by Moel Famau, the hill I’ve climbed every Christmas Eve for the last 29 years; Flint Castle, squatting low on the edge of the marshes beneath ugly blocks of flats; the retired British Rail ferry near Mostyn, which lived an unsuccessful second life as a ‘Fun Ship’; the distant vertical smudge of the lighthouse at Talacre near Point of Ayr way over to the far right.
Only recently did it occur to me that, in all my years visiting the Dee Marshes, I had never looked across them from the Welsh side, back towards my native Wirral. So, a couple of weeks ago, I made a detour over there to take some photographs:
Although the approach by car was most inauspicious, Flint Castle turned out to be rather wonderful. Situated right on the edge of the marshes, the castle once used the River Dee as a moat. The oldest of Wales’s medieval castles, protecting a former causeway over the Dee, it was here in 1399 that Richard II was captured by Henry Bolingbroke. Henry subsequently deposed Richard to become Henry IV.
I couldn’t believe my luck to have the castle all to myself. The views across the marshes were misty and atmospheric. I could only just make out the Wirral on the far side.
Talacre Beach and Lighthouse
I came in search of the lighthouse, but was surprised to find a wonderful beach backed by extensive sand-dunes. How could I have lived so close, for so many years, without even knowing it was there?
The Fun Ship
The former Fun Ship (née Duke of Lancaster) has clearly seen better days, but makes quite an impression up close. It would be nice to see her put to some good use—assuming it’s appropriate to refer to a duke as ‘her’.
I very much enjoyed my brief excursion to the Welsh side of my beloved Dee Marshes. The weather wasn’t exactly fantastic, but what did I expect in the middle of February? That said, the overcast, misty views across the marshes from Flint Castle lent a satisfyingly desolate air.
I hope to return to the Welsh side later in the year, when the views are clearer, and when I might actually be able to see the Wirral.
“…wonderfully droll, witty and entertaining… At their best Carter’s moorland walks and his meandering intellectual talk are part of a single, deeply coherent enterprise: a restless inquiry into the meaning of place and the nature of self.”
—Mark Cocker, author and naturalist
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