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© Copyright ~ 2020

Packhorse Bridge

There has been some debate, it seems as to whether this beautiful little bridge on the Cymau Road in Ffrith is in actual fact a packhorse bridge.  There are definitions to be met, you see, and dissenting voices would suggest that there is doubt as to whether it was built as a ‘horse bridge’, that the eminently fordable causeway across the River Cegidog a few feet to the south meant that a packhorse bridge was unnecessary.  Twaddle.  It’s a packhorse bridge, of that you can be sure.

 

There is no doubt, after all, that this bridge was used as a packhorse bridge, and that it was built as such.  It is on a recognised packhorse route, traceable from the Caergwrle packhorse bridge on Fellows Lane past Bryn Iorcyn, the owner of which, Squire Ellis Yonge was responsible for the Caergwrle bridge in the 17th century.  It traces the southern base of Hope Mountain and continues on past what was Cymau Hall (now Cymau Hall Farm) into Ffrith and the River Cegidog before joining to various routeways to parts further distant.

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The causeway across the Cegidog would have been preferred by the the packhorse trains in order to take the opportunity to water the ponies, but in flood the bridge would have been used. Notice the projecting ring of slabs above the arch - a peculiarity of packhorse bridges of the 18th century.

But what of the causeway - the shallow depths of which would have been no hindrance to ponies and their handlers?  Well, the river well met on a summer's day is mere inches in depth, but the waters run deep and fast in the winter months, and probably in the heavy rains of spring and fall.  Crossing then would have been difficult, and a bridge much needed.  Still, it’s likely that the causeway was preferred when it was safe to cross, since the ponies would have watered there.

 

Compared to the Caergwrle packhorse bridge, a few miles to the east, the Ffrith bridge is much smaller.  And whereas in Caergwrle the bridge is still very much in use as a means of walking to Hope, this fabulous Ffrith affair is hidden away down the Cymau Road, a little set back from a road which becomes very much a path and ends as a bridle way.  It is quiet and calm and serene and quite beautiful.  Though there are houses and a park closeby, it’s quite a simple thing to disappear into the quiet there.

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The bridge is about 20 feet in length and about seven feet in width (which is wide as packhorse bridges go), and has an inner ring of flat slabs which project out over the arch.  This ring is, according to George Lloyd, a particular facet of 18th century packhorse bridges, which would make it somewhat later than the Fellows Lane crossing, and so raises the possibility that it was raised because of ongoing issues of a flooding Cegidog, or indeed that it replaced an earlier version.  We have absolutely no records contemporary to its raising to be clear enough to do anything other than speculate.

 

It’s a pretty thing, in a pretty spot in a pretty village.  What’s not to like?