River Clwyd…my old stamping ground


This is a very nostalgic five minutes of drone footage from Philip Dodd along the River Clwyd at Rhyl.

The railway bridge once carried four tracks and I used to climb onto one of the middle towers to trainspot and birdwatch. The Vale of Clwyd line to Rhuddlan, St Asaph, Denbigh, Ruthin and Corwen branched off just to the left of the river and paralleled the river to St Asaph. There were semaphore signals all round to herald the arrival of trains and proclaim their chosen path. In the summer months, when the excursion trains were at their height, there would be a signal lifting ever couple of seconds and a lazy mist of smoke in the distance would herald the arrival of another steam hauled train.

Underneath the railway bridge was a rope swing which swung out over the river when in full tide and a deadly assortment of rocks and shells when the tide was out.

Between the railway bridge and the blue Foryd Bridge was an embankment with a tree lined bank leading down to the rails of the Rhyl Marine Lake railway. My mum always warned me not to linger near those tress as “naughty people” used to hang around there. She never chose to be more specific!

Closer to the bridge was the old Cadet hut, where it was rumoured that there were rifles and hand grenades underneath the building.

I remember on the little spit of beach here the fisherman had once dumped the body of a tope. It was amazing to see such a large shark close up, if you could withstand the hideous smell of decomposing fish in the middle of high summer. You could also go treading for flat fish – dabs – under the bridge. I used to wince as I trod on rocks and sharp edges in the hope of finding a fish. I eventually caught one and was amazed at the little creature gasping for breath. It seemed cruel to hang on to him as he was too small to eat and I wasn’t a great fan of fish anyway. I let him go and he was away and out of view under some sand within a couple of seconds.

I never really took to fishing, which was a big thing with many of my mates. I lost a 4s6d plastic fishing rod from Woolworths at this point having spent an hour trying to cast, only to become snagged. I ended up tossing the rod into the water in frustration. Previously I’d only been fishing with my mum at Rhuddlan Bridge before – using a hand-line. She insisted on showing me how to do it, and snagged the hook in rocks on her first cast. She used her manicure nail scissors from her black leather handbag to cut the line and we went home fishless.

On another occasion my dad took me to Horton’s Nose at the mouth of the Estuary to show me the correct way to fish with a hand-line. It resembled a Western really, with the old brave teaching the young-blood how to provide for the family.  He skillfully cast the hand-line having explained how much weight was needed and the slow, well aimed arc that was needed to get the hook into the centre of the river.

Having shown me three times, he passed the line to me with great moment. I set my feet, took a deep breath and got the weight swinging in a circle before casting it out into the depths. The hook, baited with a worm, a trail of orange line and the circular weight followed the arc of my dad’s previous throws. I watched it’s unerring progress to the very centre of the river where my dad had assured me the fish were gathered. I was now admiring the trajectory of my cast anticipating praise from my dad, when the large weight yanked the hand-line from my hands and it sailed doggedly after the rest of the equipment into the fast flowing part of the river where we could not retrieve it.

My dad was silent for a second and then said “You daft bugger.” We made our way silently home and he never took me fishing again.


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