A number of local people have commented favourably on the new Carreg Gwalch publication of Resurrection River by local author Pete Evans. I was delighted to see this book about the River Alyn for sale at Theatre Clwyd and took the opportunity to purchase a copy. Apparently Pete is a first-time author whose book is the product of a Creative Writing class run at Wrexham Library. It is written in a highly original, almost poetical style which many readers will find very appealing. It is also laced with good humour and a rare candour which gives an insight into the personable nature of the author. The book was called Resurrection River because the River Alyn actually disappears underground for part of its course – an occurrence which adds to the intrigue of the journey.
I know the expression has lost its potency but it has to be said: once I started to read the book it had me gripped and it was difficult to put it down. The book is an absolute mine of information. The author takes us on his adventure to trace the source of the river. In the course of this adventure we encounter the extremely rich heritage that lies beside this captivating feature of our landscape. I personally learned a great deal from the book.I had a brief encounter with Pete in Hope Community Library before the book became available and he told me that it was due to appear. He has subsequently told me that he found the material in the Local Heritage Archive, which is stored at the Library, to be of great assistance in the task of researching material for the publication. It is particularly heartening to see that the Archive, which is one of the outcomes of the HLF-funded Caergwrle Sense of Place Project, has contributed towards this achievement.
In email correspondence with Pete he told me that:
“The book is a result of my chief hobbies of walking, natural history, history and daydreaming. It evolved considerably as it was being committed to paper, I originally intended it to be a Robert Macfarlane style celebration of the joy of walking through the glorious countryside on our doorstep, interspersed with some historical notes.”
“Whenever I looked for information on some point of interest I had come across, I found myself being drawn on wonderful tangents. The draining of the lead mines in the Loggerheads area took me to St. Winefride’s Well, St. Mary’s Church in Mold led me to the amazing Margaret Beaufort. Every time I picked up a book there seemed to be a connection with the Alyn, I’m a great fan of our Victorian engineers, while reading a biography of Thomas Telford, I discovered there was a plan, sadly not followed through, to build a canal from Pontcysyllte to Chester, which would have flowed through the Alyn valley past Gresford, this would I’m sure have complemented his masterpiece aqueducts on the Llangollen canal and the Menai Suspension Bridge. All Saints church in Gresford took me on a medieval pilgrimage, while numerous historical routes took me across the packhorse bridge. The book just kept expanding, I spent many happy hours in all seasons walking her banks and researching her secrets.”
The book is lavishly illustrated with a total of 91 photographs and a map. Many of the photographs are the work of Pete’s wife, Sophia, and include the cover photograph of the lake at the former Fagl Lane Quarry site. Again it is heartening to see this local feature receiving a prominent position in the publication.
It is clear that Pete pursued the course of the river in all weathers but his stories of explorations during blizzard like conditions, with deep snow on the ground are a tribute to his stamina in achieving his mission as are his episodes of falling head-over-heels down icy banks.Pete continues:
“The Jewel of the Alyn must be the Mold Cape, (not wishing to take anything away from the Burton Hoard and Caergwrle Bowl which are exceptional finds). The Mold Cape is the largest piece of prehistoric goldwork to be found in Britain – it is internationally significant. Its tale is a fascinating one, unearthed from its burial mound after millennia, its fragments were almost immediately lost save for the efforts of a curious vicar and painstakingly reconstructed over decades to transform it from what was initially thought to be a horse peytrel or breasplate into the magnificent cape we see today – it truly is unique and a testament to the goldworking skills found on these Isles from antiquity to the modern day.”
“The quest for the elusive otter delivered many glorious sunrises on the river, whenever my legs tired or the going got tough, a kingfisher or dipper would magically appear to lift the spirit.”
Does the author eventually achieve his goals? Where is the actual source of the River Alyn? And does he actually achieve a sighting of an otter? Those are just a couple of reasons for reading this very worthwhile publication.
Adding a concluding comment to his email Pete said:
“I’m incredibly lucky to live in Hope (In both senses of the word). From my front door, I am gifted a walk for every mood. The Wat’s Dyke path can be followed North or South – the latter following the Alyn with a convenient resting point at the Holly Bush Inn. I can select walks which take in Caer Estyn for trees/hill fort, Caergwrle Castle for history, Fagl Lane for lake life, Hope Mountain for uplands and I have 2, 3 and 4 bridge variations on walks along the Alyn. I am very much looking forward to walking the length of the new Wales Link Path (Llwybr Cyswllt Cymru) which links the Wales Coastal Path at Saltney Ferry with the Offa’s Dyke Path, and runs across the fantastic path-magnet that is the Packhorse Bridge. I’ve so far got to Dodleston (twice) before being tempted away from those green and red chain-link markers. So many paths…so little time!
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.