With everyone eager these days to complete the journey to their destination as quickly as possible, the countryside is full of small towns whose treasures are being by-passed by travellers as well as by major roads.
Chirk is one such town whose hidden glories are often overlooked in the dash to the North Wales coast, yet it seems this has done nothing to dampen its infinite success.
While Chirk Castle is famous, the superlative interiors of Brynkinalt Hall are less well known, and the parish church carries its Grade 1 listing quietly. The hard fighting wild brown trout of the River Ceiriog and the “high bird” pheasants that erupt from the steep hill sides are for a favoured few. The amazing aqueduct has led to Chirk being part of a World Heritage Site. But it is Chirk’s transition into a thriving economic community that is the modern miracle.
Chirk’s old timers recall when the train stopped at Chirk Castle and took locally harvested blackberries and game to the markets in London.
Then came the closure of the local mines, the last one closing in 1967, and the town was dealt what could have been a completely crippling blow.
Yet in the face of adversity the charming town of Chirk managed to attract inward investment. The hewing of coal was replaced by modern factories and wood product specialist Kronospan became a major employer, with about 600 staff today. In addition to this, many small businesses have sprung up.
Patrick Stevens, a solicitor with GHP Legal in Holyhead Road, said: “It’s quite amazing – in the years I’ve been here, nine new businesses have opened within 100 yards of my office, varying from food outlets to professional services.
“As solicitors we have expanded massively, from me being very much on my own to now having four lawyers based in Chirk and offering access to a full range of services and expertise through our other three offices.”
Chirk’s tradition of quality continues with local butcher Mark McArdle winning the prestigious Welsh Butcher of the Year competition at this year’s Royal Welsh Show. The level of civic pride is shown by the long list of “best kept” awards.
Patrick Stevens adds: “In an age when many communities still show the scars of their lost industrial heritage, Chirk serves as an example of what can be done by local enterprise and determination.”