The Afon Alun rises from hidden springs
on the peaty Llandegla moors, and courses
through ruined mill races to this valley
of ash woodland and wych elm, hazel, oak,
of vast limestone cliffs, of redundant lead mines –
a place named for a dispute between two landlords.
Here the river waltzes, tripping over stones,
and its tawny shallows ripple and gurgle.
My mother and her two sisters, often
at loggerheads, rhapsodized about this place.
Crosville buses would bring day trippers
to enjoy the gardens, the bandstand
and the Crosville Tea House. In spring, folk
would walk the woods blooming with wild garlic,
bluebells, white wood anemones, celandine.
In summer, they would follow the river,
– dry in places where the flow
goes into sink holes and empty shafts –
to cross the bridge over the Devil’s Gorge.
The valley would be full of sounds – voices
calling, murmuring, distant music
echoing from the ancient, climactic cliffs
almost high enough for eagles to soar.
Downstream from the gorge, the Alun turns south east.
It meanders above abandoned coalfields,
and bones of men and boys left where they died.
In landscape shaped by Romans and Normans
it whirls into the Dee.