Day 1 – Chepstow to Monmouth, 18miles.
Day 2 – Monmouth to Pandy, 17miles.
Day 3 – Pandy to Hay-on-Wye, 18miles.
Day 4 – Hay-on-Wye to Kington, 15miles.
Day 5 – Kington to Knighton, 14miles.
Day 6 – Knighton to Montgomery, 18miles.
Day 7 – Montgomery to Lanymynech, 19miles.
Day 8 – Llanymynech – Froncysyllte, 18miles.
Day 9 – Froncysyllte to Llandegla, 11miles.
Day 10 – Llandegla to Bodfari, 18miles.
Day 11 – Bodfari to Prestatyn, 12miles.
Part 1. (South)
Having crossed England coast to coast, west to east, from sea to shining sea, I was wondering where to go next. The idea of crossing England still appealed to me, from a coast to a coast again – from a sea to another shining sea. And by twisting as many definitions of this as I could, I decided that walking south to north along the English / Welsh border would do just fine. And by English / Welsh border I do of course mean the border according that great old Mercian king Offa who eponymous marked it with his eponymous dyke, so hopefully it would be easy to follow the route. And then those nice National Trails people have gone and made it even easier to follow some 1200 years later, so what’s not to love?
First off I had to procure myself a couple of guide-books (north & south sections). I decided on the official National Trails guides, having had a good experience of them from my Thames Path jaunt. As is my way I managed to find them both on eBay for a quid each, saving me a good £20. They were the 1994 editions but I was sure that over the past 1200 years, the last 17 wouldn’t have made much difference. But just to be sure I checked with National Trail people themselves, and they said they’d be fine – there had been just a few minor changes in that time but nothing to cause any problems, and it was well way-marked anyways. See – I told they were nice!
Accommodation was booked with the help of a popular search engine with little problem – no Coast-to-Coast type popularity issues here!
I’d read the walk is not the most spectacular nor the most demanding, and with lots of stiles. Still, “unspectacular” in terms of British walks can often mean “still very nice indeed”.
Right, so that’s 177 miles in 10 days – as the Lemmings say – “Let’s go!”
Day 1 – Chepstow to Monmouth, 18miles.
Day 1 actually started the day before with a very leisurely train journey from Paddington to Chepstow, stopping off in the lovely Cotswold village of Bisley for a fine pie & ale lunch with my good friends the Merrys. What better way to start any holiday?
Having got to Chepstow and a quick pint in town I found my over to Upper Sedbury, a couple of miles back towards the Severn and nearer the start of the Path. After some time I found my B&B and after some more time finally managed to get in – much knocking, ringing of the bell and ringing of the telephone was required to stir meine hosts from their evening telly. I dined out in a nearby pub that was still being built by the looks of it, but slept well.
I was off and away at a decent enough time in the morning, but I was bit annoyed at having to walk along the Dyke to get to the start of it. At least I’d not be getting lost for the first mile or so of the walk proper! So I metaphorically closed my eyes and ignored anything resembling an earthwork until I got my a glimpse of my source sea, well the Severn Estuary but it’s big enough to be a sea.
Once you first see the Dyke itself you can’t fail to impressed by how, well, impressive it still is after more than 1200 years. I wonder how long Offa wondered it would last for…? I couldn’t work out if walking along the top of it is respectful or disrespectful. I’ll go for respectful. Certainly more respectful than driving a farm track through it! But I suppose life must go on, and so must house building! This Dyke-top modern estate shows how substantial parts of it still are:
Tutshill offers us a fine view of Chepstow Castle and the Wye below. Tantalisingly ye olde guide-book says of this point “As a whimsy, on a stone wall just beneath the Path is a stone model of the Severn Bridge with a menagerie of stone animals processing across”. Well, I looked and looked and even asked a bemused passer-by (noteworthy in itself as there were to be very few passers-by on the this walk) but I couldn’t find it anywhere. If anyone does find it let me know! Finally passing along the medieval “Donkey Lane” we leave suburbia behind us – it’s just us and the Dyke.
The view from Wintour’s Leap is a fine view indeed. After here the Dyke takes us away from the river, leaving the Lancaut peninsula to the Welsh and we find ourselves on the roads again for a short while.
Although it’s a cloudy day it’s quite warm and very humid. Close, you might say. And we’ve been heading steadily up all the way since we started. So what a relief it was – and indeed a lovely gesture – to happen across the water left out for us by the good people at Little Chase, in the vicinity of Dennel Hill. I fairly took my fill and sadly there was no-one about to thank – so take this a thank you Little Chasers! Your refreshing thoughtfulness (or maybe they were just fed up of people knocking at their door with water bottles prematurely emptied!?) spurred me on to get to the spectacular vista of Tintern Abbey from the Devil’s Pulpit.
The woodland here in Casswell Wood is thick and verdant, and it was about that I got lost. Or rather not lost, but went the wrong way. And through no fault of my own. Let me explain. I caught up with a group of other walkers, all quite elderly but sprightly and clearly game for a stroll – although naturally not quite as quickly as my slightly younger legs were capable of (“quickly” here is strictly relative I must stress!). After a couple of hellos I established that they were walking the Dyke too, and I followed along not wishing to push past on the narrow path through the trees. The path started to descend quite steeply, and was a bit slippy over tree roots and stones and some of the besticked-ladies were struggling, so they did stand aside and let me pass as the somewhat mouthy and not so nearly as amiable gentlemen at the front forged on. There were probably 12 or 15 of them in total and they were doing the Path in bits & pieces. I asked what time they’d left Chepstow this morning… “Nooo! – we’re going to Chepstow!!” they replied. I couldn’t quite work it out – how had I managed to catch up with them when we were going in opposite directions!? I tried pointing out that I had come from where they were going to, so if we were now both going the same way on some path that I hadn’t been on yet, either I had gone very very wrong and come right again or they were wrong. One of us must have gone wrong, and the loud & proud men made it quite clear as to whom it was. “Hohoho got it wrong there lad!”, “Oh dear… you’re gonna have go all the way back up thurrrrr oh dear oh dear!” etc. Which, working out that something was clearly wrong here, I did, leaving them smug but still with their still steep descent, presumably down to the river, trying to work out where I had got it wrong. When I got back to the point where we’d met I realised what had happened.
Imagine a sort of T-shape junction of paths, where I was heading up the bottom bit and they were heading across the top-right bit. (Is there a term for sections of characters?) The men at the front of their group must have just blithely carried on across the top of the T, instead of coming down my bit. We met just as the back of the group was at the junction point, and were following the rest of them along the top-left bit. Are you following?? So they’d already gone wrong, but assuming we were on the same route I just followed them. Then I wondered why it didn’t occur to them how we’d both ended up walking together – as the easiest way for such a thing is by us both going wrong. I wish I could have seen the men’s faces when they did eventually realise that they were way, way, off the right path. Oh dear, oh dear oh dear. I’m sure the ladies gave them some stern fed-up looks as they made their way back a pretty steep climb.
Anyways, I was back on the Dyke now – now becoming a familiar sight.
We’re given a choice now at this point, like Radio 4 going on to LW. The high route which actually still follows the route of the Dyke, or the riverside route which is slightly longer but avoids going up. As I was going to be seeing plenty of the Dyke over the next 10 days (well, apart from the next 3 as we will see!) I went for the easier-going riverside path. And very nice it was too, the valley floor having more mint in it than a Wrigley’s warehouse! The Wye is unhurried, gentle and very relaxing – a wise choice of routes I think!
The steep walk down to Monmouth is jarring but it’s nice to know that we’re nearly at the end of the day, and it was getting dusk by the time I’d stopped for a pint or two at the first pub I saw – not realising that I still had a fair walk through Monmouth to my B&B, which although was on a main road was very “well hidden”, ie. had no signage, for reasons best kept to the eccentric but charming landlady. Although it is on the internet… hmmm curious. This also shows that recording the OS grid references for accommodations that are in towns isn’t quite so useful as the actual address!
Monmouth and its 13th Century bridge are very pretty, but the relative hustle of the evening “rush-hour” was a shock after a day of relative peace. I filled up for tomorrow at a Spa, ate well and slept likewise. Top
Day 2 – Monmouth to Pandy, 17miles.
The day began with me retracing my steps past the Spa which I wandered to while looking for the B&B last night for today’s lunch. I could have popped in this morning! But after a bowl of porridge that had been prepared in a very, very, Scottish way indeed I was in no mood for corner shop pleasantries. Surely you ask whether a diner requires copious amounts of salt when on this side of the border? Or does being on this side of the Welsh border mean similarly foul porridge preparations??
The second shock of the morning was the news from the guide-book that just as I was getting used to it, we weren’t going to see anything of the Dyke today. Or tomorrow… or the day after! What kind of Dyke path is this!? But it does promise other joys.
The first obstacle of the day is the apparently once treacherous Bailey’s Pits, now improved by fine and welcome bridging work. This bit would have been a bit of a muddy scramble in the old days. But then immediately after we came across the second obstacle…
… the way into the King’s Wood had been blocked by a gargantuan fallen tree. With a Herculean effort I managed to get over it, and my correct path was confirmed by the 1859 boundary marker.
The woods are not an unpleasant place, passing through Whitehill Wood, Great Garrow Wood, Calling Wood, Limekiln Wood, Hendre Great Wood, Dingle Wood and – my favourite – Telltale Wood. Although to be honest they all looked very much the same to me.
Crossing the Abbey Bridge (the Grace Dieu Abbey is long gone) over the Trothy eventually takes us to Llanvihangel-Ystern-Llewern and its wonderfully named medieval church of St. Michael’s of the Fiery Meteor. Shortly after here at Pen-pwll-y-calch we’re rewarded with fine views of Sugar Loaf and Skirrid to the north.
I’d never been in an orchard before, the nearest I came were a few scrawny apple trees in our garden growing up. Scrumping was never the thing in Cheshire. But that was to change at Penrhos Farm (not the scrumping bit I hasten to add – you’ll see tomorrow what I prefer to do with apples!). It was quite surreal – the neat rows of relatively small trees struggling – and often failing – to bear the weight of so much fruit. There’s a warning to keep dogs on leads for obvious reasons, but it turns out the orchard is for Bulmers so I’m not sure it would make much difference if Fido was to cock his leg.
The neat geometry of the trees is a little off-putting so I’m glad when we’re out of it. And into Llantilio Crossenny, where the sadly the 1459 village inn is now closed and presumably a rich man’s house.
The site of the Hen Cwrt, a 12th century manor belonging to the bishops of Llandaff, is just down the road so I went for a little wander. Only the moat now remains, and to me looks rather better than an 800-year pond might have looked.
Llantilio Crossenny is soon dealt with and we leave through a field that has the most numerous and most sizable mushrooms I’ve ever seen! I must have had a sheltered fungi life though, as many many more and much much bigger mycologica were yet to come.
The path now goes through some farm-land, and the good thing about walking through corn-fields is that it’s hard to get lost. And thankfully today the crow-scarers didn’t mistake the casual rambler for the farmer’s dreaded foe. After all the peace and quiet of late BIG BANGS!!!! would have been somewhat startling.
Some nice stone-work treats are in store now. Firstly is Old Treadam House, dating from 1600. It’s tucked just behind a pub that would more suited to one of the more modern suburbs of Milton Keynes rather than rural Welsh Wales. Not long after this is the very impressive White Castle, one of three Norman shows of might in the area. It was a lovely day and I pretty much had the place to myself, so it was well worth spending half an hour exploring and boots-off sandwich eating.
My guide says “It was a happy thought to route the Path on the track round the castle since it gives a splendid chance to appreciate it from a range of aspects” and indeed it does – I couldn’t be happier at such a thought!
There are lovely views to be had around here, but shamefully I can’t remember which way this looking nor what the hills are in the distance. I think I took it from the hill where the White Castle is, but I can’t be sure. The perils of writing up a walk 18 months after the event! It is rather nice view though, I think you’ll agree.
The open farmland now gives way to tarmac for a short while on the way to Llangattock-lingoed. It’s worth turning eyes-left for a glimpse of the Jacobean Old Court farmhouse, and then eyes-right for the medieval church of St Cadoc’s – confusingly white-washed since my guide-book had photographed it. Apparently inside there is a lovely old 15th Century mural of St George doing what St George does with dragons. An odd choice for Wales you’d think but apparently the experts say it refers to the bopping that Owain Glyndwr got back then, so we’ll say no more of it as there’s plenty more border-hopping to come yet.
More fine views were to be had as we approached Pandy, but it was quite a drop down to my destination and horror of horrors – a main road!! I could see where my B&B was, but couldn’t quite see the path. So just made a bee-line for it, which kinda worked. I got there!
The Lancaster Arms was a fine choice of accommodation. It was a pub until recently, and although now closed inside it is still exactly like a big old country pub. So in I went, muddy and tired, and perched myself on a barstool while landlady Sandra poured me a tin of beer. I was the only guest. Landlord Keith turned up and with their lively but friendly dogs we all had another drink or two. I later walked to a pub perhaps 1/2 mile down the road, getting absolutely drenched in the process but a bloody excellent pie made up for it. Please note that as you can see the Lancaster Arms does not provide Gideon’s Bibles in the bedside cabinets!
For a place with nothing except an open pub, a closed pub and a main road I had a very pleasant stay in Pandy. Top
Day 3 – Pandy to Hay-on-Wye. 18miles
So far the walking had been gentle but pleasant, and the weather also had been gentle but pleasant. I could get used to this! What could the Tolkienesque-sounding Black Mountains possibly have in store I wonder…? But ridge walking is always more fun than being down low, so bring it on Hay Bluff!
After passing Groes-lwyd it is a long steep steady ascent up on to Hatterall Ridge, but the weather is fine and the only company is equine so it’s a nice walk upwards. The photo at the top of this page was taken here, round about Upper Pentwyn somewhere, although I seemed to miss the Iron Age hill fort that I apparently walked through the middle of.
At Three Wells farm the farmer has provided a nice touch with some barn-gable poetry. At the time the bright sunshine rendered it hard to read, but it turns out that it’s The Lofty Sky by World War One era poet Edward Thomas, killed at Aras. A rather apt verse for this neck of the woods, and especially as soon I was going to be getting plenty of sky!
But eventually we’re up on top of the ridge, where we’ll be for most of the day. And where better to be than all alone on top of a high Welsh ridge?! I don’t know.
As you’d expect the views are magnificent from up here – and also give warnings of the incoming weather. You could see the weather blackening the Black mountains, coming in from the west a good 10 or 15 minutes before waterproofs were required. And boy, were they required! When the weather hit, it HIT. From sunshine, still air and blue skies to dark low cloud, lively high wind and lots of rain in which ever direction it fancied. And then after a 15 or 20 minutes, the blue skies would return – prompting me to take my waterproofs off. But as this pattern repeated probably 5 or 6 times along the top I soon decided it was better just to leave them on.
The guidebook says of this stretch that “walkers wanting to keep dry feet play an interesting game of ‘diversions’, competing to see how little extra distance they can to add to avoid the wet patches”. And it’s quite right. Although my boots were decent enough to keep the worst out, the strong winds meant my waterproof trousers were flapping around like a high-seas ensign enabling much water to trickle down into my boots, saving it the effort of having to soak through. (I would later remedy this with underpant-elastic boot-straps. Always keep bits of elastic my Nan taught me!).
The dampness in the socks caused by this lead to an amusing little diversion. I had some minor blisters on my favourite blistering spots on the backs of my heels, which had been plastered so weren’t causing problems. But the plasters had got wet, so during one of the sunny spells I decided to sit down and enjoy a mini-pork pie and renew the plasters. As I applied the Elastoplast I accidentally dropped the peel-off backing which instantly caught on the breeze and fluttered away from me. “Bugger!” I thought, not wishing to contribute even the smallest amount of litter, so with one foot booted and one foot bare I pacily semi-tip-toed after it. But predictably every time I got near the pesky little thing the wind would catch it again and off it would fly – teasing me so! It did this in a circular route all the way round back to where I was originally sitting, and settled down more or less where I’d dropped it in the first place, and there it waited patiently for me to hobble back and claim it. I may as well just sat there and waited for it to boomerang back to me! The Welsh wind Gods were in mischievous mood!
When the sun was out the views were splendid, but unfortunately my camera didn’t want to focus, so quite a few photos up there didn’t come out. Definitely having absolutely nothing to do with operator error whatsoever it was odd when it strangely fixed itself a little later…
Just after Red Daren we get to a high point of the walk, literally the highest point. The guide says 2,306ft, my GPS says 2,310ft so assuming I was holding it 4ft above the ground we were both exactly right. So it’s all downhill from here. Very very downhill indeed in a short while as it happens. The descent from Hay Bluff down to the Gospel Pass road drops 600ft in half a mile. And was made no easier by the another stormy blast, the last – but the biggest and angriest – gale of the day.
This photo doesn’t really do it justice, it was gusting and raining all over the place. Usually directly in my face, and even knocking me over at one point. It turns out that all this weather was the back-end of Hurricane Irene that we’d heard so much about a couple of weeks before. If I had to be either end of it, I’d much prefer this end.
The way down Hay Bluff was as jarring and joyless as all steep descents, and resting in the stone circle at the bottom gave us a good view of where we’d come from. I think the sign-post to Pandy is indicating the vertical direction to take rather than a compass bearing.
The views down to Hay-on-Wye still looked fine, but even though it was only two miles to go it was going to be very unpleasant walking. It was still a good 300ft descent down to Hay, and although not particularly steep it seemed to drag on forever. And with all the rain dumped on the long grass that covers the path here it was very slippy. I ended up falling back on my arse at least 5 or 6 times. It was a very long two miles and was thoroughly fed up of it by the time I got to Hay. A very boring end to a great day – the worst bit of the walk. The evening was going to get worst though, but not for any walking reasons.
As we finally approached Hay, the cheery farm-life provided some more company to an otherwise day of almost complete solitude. And a big nosy pig insisted on an apply-treat before letting me pass. What else could I do?! (Proof of why you’re unlikely to see me scrumping!)
I got in to Hay, had a couple of pints in Kilverts and went off to find my B&B – the suitable monikered Rest for the Tired. A fine old Tudor looking book-shop-cum-B&B, although sadly I was housed in the very modern bit round the back. I went to eat at another pub, The Old Black Lion, and the pie & pint were both very nice but about half-way through the meal I was suddenly struck by terrible awful stomach-cramp, cramp like I’d never felt before. God knows what it was, but it felt I like I’d had Mike Tyson wallop me right in the belly-button. It was very very uncomfortable. I limped back to the B&B bent up, holding my stomach and crawled straight into bed.
It hurt a lot! I took painkillers and was a regular visitor to the loo for evacuations top & bottom – caused by the pain rather than “digestive” problems. I was seriously convinced that I would not be able to continue the walk, and tomorrow would have pack it all in and go home. I was at least thankful I was in a relative hub of civilisation that I could find some homeward transport from. Top
I slept not a jot…
Day 4 – Hay-on-Wye to Kington, 15miles.
That I didn’t feel too great this morning is somewhat of an understatement, very tired, very fed up and stomach still very painful. Although slightly better than it was the previous evening admittedly – and promisingly. I didn’t eat much for breakfast as it felt like there was nowhere for it go. I’m no medical man, and I just couldn’t understand what it was… I’d never had food poisoning but it didn’t feel like how I’d imagine that would feel. A medical mystery!
Anyways I set off to Kington, relieved that it was a slightly shorter day and also that the guidebook promised a “pleasant day’s walk”, hopefully meaning fairly easy going. Like I said I was feeling a bit better, so I would see how I got on. So on my way I went, although still feeling like an abdominal punch bag. But would you believe it… within a few miles and an hour or so it the stomach cramps had faded! Just gone. Gone back to where-ever they’d come from. I was mightily relieved of course, but still have no idea what had caused them. All very bizarre – unpleasant and damned annoying!
I’m guessing such distractions account for the fact that I have few photos from the first half of the morning’s walk, despite there seemingly being some fine views to be had both the Wye and the wider landscape from Cae-Higgin. The one above is just after starting off in Hay, and pretty much sums up my mood at the time: blurry and grey! Although by the time I’d got to Bettws Dingle I was feeling better enough to be charmed by a hobbit house in a tree, and the trickle of the Cabalfa Brook.
After a pleasant-as-promised walk along Red Lane, past the aptly named Little Mountain we get to Newchurch.
The church at Newchurch may well be new, well relatively new – built in 1856 – but the font certainly isn’t. Dating from the 10th Century it’s one of the oldest things along the Path. Apart from all the stone circles, hill forts – and the Dyke itself of course. Compared to these the font is quite young I suppose!
I’m no church-goer, but I do like going in to churches. St Mary’s is nothing spectacular but cool and welcoming, with tea & biscuits provided. They were very well received! Of course the parish of Gladestry received a humble offering in return for their Christian kindnesses.
Climbing up & down Disgwylfa Hill, and then up & down again, gets everything pumping. I liked the poetic plea against littering (surely they mean “dumper” rather than “dumpee”…?) and the views and high open land are very nice. And so it goes on for next mile or so, getting us ready for Hergest Ridge to come.
Hergest Ridge is a steep climb up but the open moorland at the top feels very big and open, it’s over 1,300ft and 3 miles long. The guidebook warns it might be breezy, and indeed it is certainly that. I can’t think why the race-course here is no longer in use…!
It had been quite warm today, but up here the wind took all that away which made a nice change. Being on high ground for a few miles is very nice, and especially on Hergest Ridge – a mysterious but familiar name from my childhood thanks to Mike Oldfield. Now I know what his fine Tubular Bells follow-up is all about!
But the bad thing about being up is coming down. The way down to into Kington and very long and very tedious, much of it along a road. I was half-tempted to ask the odd driver who passed for a lift! My feet were sore, and I was in a devil-may-care mood when I saw a bossy “do not touch” sign! Sadly I felt no more isolated though.
Finally into Kington, and what a charming place. Although slightly annoyingly my B&B – the Chruch House – was on the way in to town, and the nearest pub was much further along the road. I usually like a pint to wind down straight after the end of the day’s walking, but not if it means a lot of extra walking! So I checked straight in, and would go for refreshments later. But what a lovely B&B! Run by the Darwins – yes, related to the Darwin! – made me feel more like a guest in their beautiful home. And once in the bathroom I didn’t want to leave! The finest lavatory library I’ve seen yet in a long time.
But off to sample the night-life of Kington. Kington seemed to have everything you could need. Shops, restaurants, take-aways, some beautiful old buildings…
Be sure to check out the Olde Tavern, it was right on the other side of town from my B&B but if you like your pubs unchanged, as I do, this is a must see. I wish I could’ve stayed out later, but after last night’s fitful rest I need a good night tonight. Top
Day 5 – Kington to Knighton, 14miles.
After a perfect night’s sleep, followed by another luxurious bath (why not?), followed by perfect porridge, handmade by Mr Darwin in his perfect kitchen, I was all ready for what guide-book says is “the most enjoyable day’s walk of the whole Path”. A big claim indeed. But today we welcome the return of an old friend… the Dyke! We haven’t seen it for so long we’ve almost forgot what it looks like.
When I was a young ‘un an elderly relative lived near Knighton, (her memorable address was “The Nuek, Dog Kennel Lane…”) and she’d send us Christmas presents along the lines of key-rings emblazoned with “Knighton – the town on the Dyke”. Back then I had no idea what it meant, so I was looking forward to finally finding out.
The day got to off to a fine start, and in the cool morning air walking up to Bradnor Green, around Rhue Ville somewhere I saw a small furry thing dart across the path right in front of me, through a hedge and into the adjacent field and puff! he was gone. Far too fast for me to grab my camera, dangling around my neck inches from my hand, but I’m sure it was a stoat … or a weasel. No idea which, but it was quite a thrill.
Then steadily up past Bradnor Hill and its golf course, there’s more climbing up and round Rushok Hill – but afterwards the reward is return of the Dyke! The path has been well west of it for the couple of days, mainly because I think there’s not much of it left there. But now it is back with a vengeance – and looking fine!
Shortly after here, near Herrock Hill, I saw the biggest mushrooms I’d ever seen. This one…
… was easily 18inches high and a foot across. It would’ve made a good sombero, never mind a week’s worth of omelettes. I hope someone found a good use for it! The views were lovely as we continued past Ditchyeld Bridge and Burfa Bank – I could see why the guide-book was getting so excited now. And the sheep here were the most attentive yet; I assume they’d not had their breakfast yet.
The other photo is Old Burfa, which is medieval and I’m sure I read somewhere lay derelict for many years until an architect moved in and sorted it all out, and a good job he seems to have done.
Unfortunately I can’t remember where or what the church is above. I thought it might have been Knill but it isn’t. It was taken between Lower Harpton and Burfa, and it was some way off… to the east I think although I can’t be sure now. It certainly makes a fine photo, so if anyone knows please let me know.
Along Barland Bank the Dyke is extremely impressive, aided by the (occasional) stream below cutting out a gully. Wooden steps take us up to the top of it, quite some climb, on to duck-boarding to protect it against modern and many boots. The fine views are still with us, although unhelpfully again I can’t remember what the above photo is a view of now. Furrow Hill perhaps…?
Approaching Yew Tree Farm we get a rare glimpse of our old King. Along with a rare spelling of his name. And then we reach the relaxing cooling waters of the River Lugg, crossed courtesy of Dolly Old Bridge. The book says dippers and otters may be seen here so I loitered for a while but see nothing. Maybe they’ve moved on since my aged publications were current!
Some wildlife is out to greet us though – just a sunbathing tortoise-shell bur still very nice. My mind however was soon occupied trying to mentally reconstruct some ancient farm machinery, which alas time did not allow me to achieve.
Lots more fields to cross and lots more views to see, and plenty more Dyke to guide us now for the next couple of miles. All attractive enough of course, but to break things up there’s the odd distraction thrown in along the way. Firstly we pass a monument to an old railway pioneer, cutting a very lonely obelisky-figure in the middle of a field. I did take a not-inconsiderable detour to have a closer look, but can’t find any photos of it, if indeed I even took any. This is it though, for the curious.
Then shortly after that, just across the B4355, is a 19th Century marker stone bearing the inscription “Offa’s Dyke, made in the year AD 757”, a claim which doesn’t impress the guide-book much, but still worth peering through a fence for.
We then at long last spy Knighton and start another long steep end-of-day descent.
Knighton is a very nice little place, full of hustle, bustle and funny cars. But heart-sinkingly not many pubs that are open. I had a wander about, and bumped into another couple of walkers who were troubled by the same dilemma. As the tea-time rain began they decided to head to their evening’s accommodation but I wasn’t so easily beaten. I took a look around the Offa museum, and very interesting it was too, before heading back into town and stumbling across The Horse & Jockey which was not only open, it was dark, warm, quiet and had jocular lavatory door signs! Perfect.
Then back up the other side of the valley that I’d come earlier to find my B&B – Whytcwm Cottage – where the charming and very eccentric smocked landlady welcomed me in like a long-lost old friend. This was the only place on the Path that offered me boot-polishing materials. A chance I didn’t turn down. After a tasty tea in the George & Dragon I had a couple more pints in the Golden Lion and got chatting to a couple who were also walking it and were from “up north” too somewhere, I forget where. With each risque joke the Mr told he received a sharp elbow and stern glare from the Mrs. He was in high spirits but was soon not allowed to stay for another. I don’t think he was let out much at home!
Back to Whytcwm and soon to sleep. Half way there! (Almost). Top