Day 122 Mile 122: A Castle Fit for Ozimandias

Day 122 Mile 122: A Castle Fit for Ozimandias. Today’s run satisfies a curiosity which I have had for some time. The A55 express way runs along the majority of the north Wales coastline; about halfway, set back among the trees on the side of an escarpment lies an abandoned castle.

Local history claims that the first castle at Gwrych was built by the Normans in the 12th century. It was seized by the Welsh prince Rhys ap Gruffydd (the Lord Rhys) of Deheubarth in about 1170 who then rebuilt the timber castle in stone. This castle was later destroyed by Cromwell’s army following the English Civil War of the mid-17th century.
The later castle at Gwrych was begun in 1819. The castle is a Grade 1 listed building set in a wooded hillside over looking the Irish Sea. It was the first Gothic folly to be built in Europe by a wealthy industrialist Lloyd Hesketh. Bamford Hesketh, his son, inherited the title of Gwrych in his early 20s and used his vast fortune to build the 4,000-acre Gwrych Castle Estate.

The castle once had a total of 128 rooms including the outbuildings, including twenty-eight bedrooms, an outer hall, an inner hall, two smoke rooms, a dining room, a drawing room, a billiards room, an oak study, and a range of accommodations for servants. There are nineteen embattled towers and the whole facade is over 2000 yards. Many feel the castle’s outstanding feature was the castle’s 52-step marble staircase.

In 1946 The castle was sold and then passed through subsequent owners and is now derelict. All of the windows are cast iron and the fantastic stained glass has vanished. It’s been years since the castle’s been occupied. Years ago they used to hold medieval fairs and the like on the grounds of the castle.

The castle was bought several years ago by an American businessman who planned to spend 10 million pounds to convert the castle into a top-class opera house with adjoining luxury hotel. But those plans never materialized and the building was frequently vandalized.

Unfortunately, in early 1998 Gwrych was extensively damaged following the collapse of ceilings and floors, and was later damaged by fire. The future of the castle is now uncertain although renovation plans are underfoot if the funding can be found.

There is still no official public access, and several large signs warn of the private nature of the land, however, taking to locals and players at the nearby golf club, it seems the dog walkers on the track through the grounds seem to be tolerated, or at least overlooked. So, as I happened to be working in the area and the sun was out after I had finished, I decided to take the plunge.

It was certainly worth it. The long stone track meandered up the hill between the green velvet curves of the golf course. Sparrows dust bathed in the early summer sunshine. Winding up into the trees and hedges the path finally opened out into a massive vista on the left, proclaiming a gothic folly well in excess of 200m long and reaching away up the hillside into the afternoon haze.

I stopped to take a few photos before continuing through an ivy covered archway. The track then turned a corner to meet a panorama overlooking the sea and express way as my halfway point before I turned back and ran (what I was later to find thanks to GPS) my 2nd fastest 400m this year. I can only assume this was a combination of downhill and the fact I was still not 100% sure if I should be there!

An amazing run, astounding views and a curiously itch scratched.

Obviously always make sure what access arrangements are in place before going out running and stay safe people 🙂

Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Percy Bysshe Shelly 1818

I’m running a mile each day everyday for 2017. If you feel you can sponsor me please do, as all the money raised will go to the Cleft Lip & Palate Association (CLAPA) who provide services all across the UK to support people affected by it.

Distance: 1833.0 meters recorded

(1 mile = 1609.34 m.)
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Thanks as ever for all the support!

Ed

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