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Tag Archives Dee


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.



When I reach the half landing I will always

pause and at least glance through the long window

that frames garden, high wall, terraced roofs

and sky. I saw, one time, against roseate clouds

lit by the setting sun and billowing

in an easterly wind, dark like a line

of dancing letters, flock after flock

of black-headed gulls, crossing the compass

south east from the drowned meadows of the Dee

to the Mersey’s low tide mud flats north west.




Walking on the towpath of Telford’s canal,
admiring the engineer’s genius,
from the horseshoe shaped weir on the Dee,
which siphons off the mountains’ waters
to fill the channels from here to Hurleston;
remarking the current that combs the grasses
that lie on the bed like Ophelia’s hair;
breathing in the smell of the wild garlic –
a favourite of brown bear and wild boar;
marvelling at its white starbursts, like snow
on the wooded banks below the canal;
passing the holiday narrow boats –
with their tvs and showers and toilets;



As we walk on the path by the Dee, glad
a low wall keeps us from the river in spate,
its white waters covering the flat rocks
that stretch half across the river’s breadth,
waters whose unvarying roar fills the town,
we see, coming downstream from Chain Bridge,
bounced erratically by the relentless
torrent, a child’s ball, plastic, red, bright as new.

Later, as we cross the bridge to climb the hill
to the Llangollen Wharf Tea Room for
a welsh rarebit with smoky bacon,
having assumed the ball would already
have left Wales,



Before the fell doctor took his axe to it,

there was a line from Paddington via

Ruabon up the valley to Lake Bala

and so to Barmouth on Cardigan Bay.

What is left is Llangollen to Carrog,

a heritage line run by volunteers.


They have Thomas the Tank Engine days.

The smoke boxes are covered by plastic

faces – Edward, Gordon, Thomas himself.

We go en famille and our grandchild,

predictably, is enchanted but not




Turn one way and scores of Little Egrets

are roosting with complaining Carrion Crows

in aged ash trees. Turn half a circle and,

beyond the marsh, in Wales, Tata Steel thrums.

(Ironically, most of this is a built

environment. Canalising the Dee

silted the estuary, created marshland.

The RSPB has re-engineered

the wetlands, constructing pathways and hides

so we can see and preserve). Earlier

there was excitement – a solitary Jack Snipe

was twitched and a Glossy Ibis south west winds

had blown from southern Spain.



Chester, View from a Balloon, John McGahey, 1855


Rome’s legionnaires quarried its sandstone cliffs

and Ptolemy put the Dee on the map.

William the Conqueror, in winter,

force-marched his army over the Pennines

to reach the river and waste the town – the last

to submit.  For eighteen years, Prince Gryfyd

ap Cynan, shut in the keep, heard only

the river’s voice, dyfrdwy, dyfrdwy.

Parliament’s forces sent fire rafts downstream

to purge besieged citizens.