Oswestry Racecourse to Chirk Bank This 8.5 mile walk along the Shropshire Way links Oswestry Racecourse, with its fabulous views over the town, and the Shropshire Plain to Chirk Bank. In one day you will experience inspiring parts of Offa’s Dyke Path, climb Selattyn Hill, be under the gaze of Chirk Castle before being awestruck by a magnificent aqueduct.
Some steep uphill sections
Old Oswestry Racecourse
Old Oswestry Racecourse
Lat/Long: 52.8642356813, -3.1056664465
The landscape dramatically throws up different vistas to the east and north and is riddled with Welsh, Roman, Saxon, Viking and Norman history – you can imagine the dust of armies and glint of sun on armour observed from the hills above the plain. The Battle of Crogan in 1165 saw an extraordinarily bloody victory for the Welsh Princes over Henry II, who had his men clear a swathe of the Ceriog Valley of trees so the Welsh bowmen would have no hiding place – all to no avail. On the other hand you can just close your eyes and bask in the clean air and tranquillity.
Pentre Wood lies between Pont Faen and Bronygarth. Woodland Trust volunteers have created a series of steps to ease your way on what can be a very slippery slope. Looking through the trees over the chattering River Ceiriog you should glimpse a view of one of Britain’s first trout hatcheries – still in business after 130 years. Just below the bottom of Well Lane it is hard to miss an ancient Black Poplar of tremendous girth. Give it a hug as you pass.
Mind the gap
The short stroll over Thomas Telford’s Chirk aqueduct and though the canal tunnel (or vice versa) is only a minor detour and you can easily reconnect with the Shropshire Way at Pont Faen or Chirk Bank as appropriate. The 70-foot high aqueduct with its 10 arches was completed in 1801.
Many towns and villages boast a former ‘racecourse’ established when horseracing was a universally common sport. Oswestry racecourse was a cut above anything else in the vicinity. Its classic two mile figure of eight configuration had to cross a turfed over road. Its leading event was the Sir Watkins William Wynn Cup – the first to finish no doubt declared to be the Wynner! Ultimately it fell on hard times as crowds became more disreputable, putting off respectable race-goers. The arrival of the railways made other courses more accessible for all concerned. You can still see the remains of the grandstand where there is a very informative interpretation panel. At the southern end there is an unusual stone sculpture of a two headed horse – a good each-way bet perhaps.
Selattyn (non-towering) Tower
All that remains of Selattyn Tower is its stone lower storey which was used as shooting lodge. Built in 1847 by a Mr Crewe it had a wooden superstructure and was part folly and part memorial for its owner’s hero Prince Gwen, a 6th century Welsh leader. The Tower was built on the site of a 4000 year old Bronze Age cairn and, more prosaically, it was used for spotting German bombers heading for Liverpool in World War II. From Craignant at the northern base of Selattyn Hill you can take a short detour into the village of Selattyn where you will find the 17th century Cross Keys Inn. (01691 650247 for opening hours).