Monday, August 10, 2015

Day Trippin' in Hawarden

I was trawling through Twitter on Friday night (as I do from time to time) and happened upon a tweet about William Gladstone.  Please don’t ask me what I was looking for, as I really don’t know.  Honestly, I don’t usually spend my Friday nights researching ex-Prime Ministers.  I’m way too much fun for that*   

Anyway, I found the tweet and Googled the good man only to realise that he lived in North East Wales.   I live in North West Wales and, well…. it’s not really that far, is it?   I checked out the local area and found that it had several attractions that interested me, so I signed up LT and we headed off bright and early (well, early) the next morning. 

Hawarden is a small town, located in Deeside, and is only a short drive from the English city of Chester.  It lies on the Wales/England border and has a population of just fewer than 2,000 people.     

We arrived by way of some convoluted route because we got lost (we ALWAYS get lost), and made a beeline for Hawarden Estate Farm Shop.  I’d had a look at their website the night before and knew they sold alcohol.   That’s always a winner for me.   And they had a great selection of Welsh ales and English cider, so I really had to go.  It’s my duty as a newcomer.  

Hawarden Farm Shop is well signed with brown tourism posts in place from the town centre, which make it easy to locate.  Even for us.  You can pick your own fruit from their land, enjoy browsing the range of quality produce in the farm shop, and kick back and relax with some locally produced food in the Cafe.   We opted for the latter two options and headed for the Cafe.  I had coffee and LT decided he would try a hot dog.  I’ve never seen anything quite so big in my life.  Also:  it was incredibly tasty.   

hawarden hot dog
Seriously good food.  This kept LT going for at least an hour.
hawarden farm shop
Oh, ok, then, I'll try a few.  
hawarden farm shop
Hawarden Farm Shop: full of goodies. 
After filling his boots (and stomach), we snapped up some local ale and cider and bumped into Bim.   Bim is the owner of Bim's Kitchen, an East Wales business (via London and Nigeria) that produces high quality African inspired pastes, sauces and jams.   He kindly let us taste his wares and I had bought some African Coconut and Chilli Paste.  It was seriously good stuff and I do love something spicy.   I also love discovering local businesses and Bim was so pleasant and chatty, telling us about his business, which he is clearly very passionate about.  I'll be cooking up a storm with my newest ingredient shortly.   

We headed out of the Farm Shop and off to find Gladstone's Library, which is located pretty much in the centre of the town.   William Gladstone, as well as being Prime Minister 4 times, (4 times!! That's dedication for you) was also Chancellor and held various other governmental roles.  He was born in Liverpool, but spent many years living in Hawarden and the town now has a gorgeous old Library in his name.  

Gladstone's Library
Gladstone's Library
William Gladstone.   Pretty nice, huh?
As well as the Library itself, the site boasts a quite massive statue of the man, a beautiful Chapel and Restaurant, gardens, cemetery, and accommodation.   As it's a Library, entry is free of charge, but they do prefer you not to annoy people who are local and are actually using the library, you know, for library stuff.   We, on the other hand, just wanted to have a peek. The Library does suggest that you join an informal tour at times states on the chalkboard outside, but we flagrantly ignored the sign and crept inside.   There was a single person inside and I promise we were really quiet for the five minutes we spent there.  I imagine the tours are far more informative than creeping around on your own, but, then again, sneaking around was probably more fun as the floorboards are quite noisy and I felt a bit like a burglar.   I'm not, though...just so we're clear.

Library Gardens 
You can find several Gladstone family members in the Library cemetery.
After leaving the library so that I could finally make some noise again, we took a walk to  The Highway.   This is the name of the main street running through the town.  It sounds so much better than Main Street, doesn't it?   Anyhoo, it's such a pretty walk, with the street adorned with colourful flowers and hanging baskets, as well as some beautiful little independent stores for me to nose through the windows of.  The pubs looked especially well maintained and we had a relaxing wander in the sunshine before pushing on to see if we could find neighbouring Ewloe Caste.

fox and grapes
The Fox and Grapes
I have no idea what this is, but I like it. 
Hawarden's Highway 

Ewloe (I don't even know where to start with my pronunciation of this), is part of the larger conurbation of Hawarden, but we drove out of the village and parked in a lay-by at the side of the road that was labelled as access to Wepre Country Park.   It might seem a little odd, but you abandon the car and take a short walk through a field so that you can access the park.  I'm almost certain there are other entrances, but it just so happens that this was the closest one for us.   Don't worry, I didn't see any Bulls or anything, so the field was perfectly safe.   

There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of information available about the ruin of Ewloe Castle and it is very much a ruin, which lies in the country park.  It seems to comprise of two main 'buildings' and you can ascend a set of stairs that take you beyond, what I can only assume was a moat, to the level of the castle itself.   You can then ascend even more stairs and make your way to the top of the ruin, which is helpfully armed with metal bars to stop you falling to your death on the ground below as you try to attract the attention of the people below.   Although there isn't a great deal of the structure remaining, it's a good walk on a sunny day and, after you've climbed to the top and proclaimed yourself Queen Of The Castle (and why wouldn't you?), you can then enjoy a leisurely walk through the country park.   Muy bien! 

ewloe castle
The ruins of Ewloe Castle
ewloe castle
Even more ruined ruins
Once you've exhausted yourself wandering around the town and outlying areas, you can head home and test out all those ales and ciders you picked up at the Farm Shop.  What could be better?  

* And by ‘fun’ I mean I’m usually horizontal on the sofa watching telly and drinking wine.   

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