Offa’s Dyke Path, September 2011.

Offa’s Index.

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 2. (North)

“The variety of scenery of this stretch of the path is remarkable”.


Day 6. Knighton to Montgomery, 18miles.

The first paragraph from the guide-book for today stage is peppered with potentially worrying phrases… “toughest part of the walk”, “a long procession of short steep climbs”, “if you’re fit & lucky with the weather, you will have a good day!”. Hmmm. But it does also say “rewarding scenically”, “outstanding natural beauty” and “quite unspoilt” so as usual it’s swings and roundabouts. Here the grain of the land runs in an east-west direction so there’s no alternation but to cross lots of hills and ridges, unlike the much conveniently laid out Black Mountains. But there’s no long way round. Well, there is but it is very long! After finally finishing a most generous breakfast and breaking free of conversation at Whytcwm we set off. After a nice gentle start to the day along the Teme Valley and a scamper across the Heart of Wales line we’re then confronted by all 1150ft of Panpunton Hill, and the climbing begins! The first few hundred feet are particularly steep but at least take us back to Dyke. The rest of the ascent is a bit gentler and the views from the top of are well-worth it.

The welcoming bench (in memory of Frank Noble) and cairn (in memory of Roy Waters of Tref y Clawdd Society) made me wish it was lunch-time already – my breakfast was still settling though. Still with views like this over the Teme, and Beacon Hill on the other side, it would be a shame not to rest up for a few moments with a sausage roll to occupy my mouth while my eyes were otherwise engaged. We continue along the ridge, before dropping down and then climbing again to Cwm-sanham Hill. I wasn’t wishing for many more of these drops & climbs, but alas this was one wish that wasn’t going to be granted.

Apart from the ups & downs the walking on the open moor-land isn’t too bad, remembering to always use the stiles! We get a nice view of the Knucklas Viaduct from here too.
We’re warned at this point to watch out for buzzards and we’re not disappointed. I was too slow on the shutter to catch the one that took shelter in the wind-savaged copse above, but one its brethren wasn’t far behind possibly looking down on Lloyney. The path now stays high for a little while as it heads towards Llanfair Hill, and is actually alongside the Dyke rather than on top of it.

But this gives us a nice side-on view enabling us to appreciate our guiding border-marking ancient earthwork even more. Apparently this section gives us the best views of the Dyke, uncluttered as it is by woodland and the like and it is easy to appreciate how impressive it must have been 1200 years ago.

Above to the left we see the Dyke heading back to the south where we’d come from, heading towards a place mischievously marked in the guide’s map as “Scotland”. Just ahead of us is Lower Spoad, something I seem to have missed. Probably distracted by the handsomely-decrepit looking half-timbered 17th Century Bryndrinog. Here we drop down again in to the Clun Valley and worringly the guide-book says “Here the real climbing begins…” oh dear. But just as the real climbing begins, up from the Clun and past a handy Severn Water drinking tap we see a very welcoming sign indeed… We are officially and exactly half-way there! Half-way to Prestatyn! A very reassuring marker not mentioned in my old guide-book, but it was soon forgotten as the ups & downs seemed never-ending. As we skirt round Hergan apparently there’s a gap in the Dyke where there’s quite an east/west gap in it. Sadly I missed this “1100 year old mystery” at the time – you do tend to get Dyke-blindness after a short while. It was also around here, just after Middle Knuck, that I bumped into one of the few other people doing the walk coming the other way. We stopped for a brief chat, both seemingly surprised that we’d encountered someone with the same idea! I hinted at the pleasing sign to come (not spoiling the surprise though), we bid our farewells and I headed through Cwm Ffrydd to Churchtown.

St John’s at Churchtown is somewhat isolated, and its 12th Century font disappointingly modern! Churchtown has a Churchtown Hill, Churchtown Plantation, Churchtown Hill Plantation, Churchtown Cottage and Churchtown Wood. But there is no town – the nearest village is Mainstone. So it was with pleasing solitude that I stopped in the church grounds for boots off and lunch out. Getting going again afterwards was a struggle, specially as it took me  straight up the steepest burst of today’s numerous ups & down. 350ft in quarter of a mile. I was getting very tidy of all this now – this “switchback” as it’s called. Bloody switchback!! Thankfully though they were nearly over.

Up over Edenhope Hill and down to the Unk and Nut Wood the path and terrain continue in the same vein. We see a cow with adding to erosion of the Dyke, and a lump of stone with “1969” carved into it. The Offa’s Dyke Association was set up in that year, but why there’s this otherwise-unmarked engraved lump in the middle of nowhere I have no idea. We finally drop down for the last time today, past Crowsnest and towards Cwm. The wide open flatness of the Montgomery Plain is welcome indeed. The last couple of miles are fairly uneventful – which after the all the climbs is exactly what you want!

We pass a monument and some wonderfully-ramshackle farm buildings walled in as if to stop them escaping, but I forgot to record what or where they are. The guide interestingly refers to the Dyke as a “monument” not far from here. Just semantics, but I’m not sure I agree. Near Brompton Bridge is about as useful as I can get. After Brompton Bridge it’s a long straight to Montgomery along the catchily labelled “Euro ER, Co Const, Asly ER & UA Bdy”. Montgomery is actually some little way off the Path so I have to leave the “Euro ER, Co Const, Asly ER & UA Bdy” to pass through Boardyhall Wood to get me there. But it’s still pleasant walking though Lymore Park which takes me into the town. The first pub I see is the Crown Inn, and boy it is welcome! After a couple of pints and a some light chit-chat with the locals in there I wandered through town to find the charmingly-quirky Dragon Hotel. The view from my window was splendid. But it was the welcoming refreshments that were the nicest touch – the sherry was lovely, but the crisps were a bit off I thought. They also had a painting in the corridor that I rather liked, I emailed the hotel to ask and they promptly got back to me saying it was by Jean-Baptiste Valadie – I shall be keeping my eyes open! (Rather like the young creatures in the painting.)

I dined in the hotel that evening, entertained if I remember correctly by some live lounge piano music. And each time I went back to my top-floor room I got lost in the warren of tiny corridors, landings and staircases. A Travelodge this isn’t! Splendid indeed. Top

Day 7 – Montgomery to Lanymynech, 19miles.

Today looked like it was going to be a much easier day than the constant ups & downs of yesterday. I reckon they was well over 5,000ft of ascent the previous day – that’s a complete (educated) guess mind you, but it sounds about right. Breakfast at the Dragon was quite busy, I think the first time so far I’ve not breakfasted alone – quite a shock! Then stopping to admire the Valadie one more time, we were off again. Again via the Spa across the road. Where would the rural walker be without a Spa for sustenance?? First things to do on leaving Montgomery is to visit the Robber’s Grave at St Nicholas’s.

The story of the innocent-done-wrong John Davies is here, although it does look fairly grassed over now so maybe his true guilt is coming to the fore at last. As mentioned already, Montgomery is a little way of the Path, so it’s probably a good mile to get back on Dyke-track, along the fun-filled B4386. Just as we get near the Path again there’s a little bridge – the County Boundary Bridge – over a small stream. I peered over and just below me on a branch by the top of the arch was something blue. I at first thought it was some litter, such brilliant blue being impossible in nature surely!? But no – it was of course a kingfisher, literally just a few feet below me. You could guarantee that no matter how long I stared at it, the moment my moved towards my camera he’d be off. And that’s what happened, into the brookside trees somewhere. I hung around for a bit seeing if he would come out but he didn’t. Still nice to see one, only the second kingfisher I’ve ever seen, and so close up too. Back with the Dyke now, and although it’s low and level the views are nice.

Montgomery Castle from afar on the left, and a dusty wheat-field on the right. I thought he was burning stubble at first, but nope just dust. By the looks of it. As is the way with flat lowish-level walking most of today was fairly uneventful. Never dull though!
The views were still marvellous. Although again I can’t recall what it is we’re actually viewing here. Past the Devil’s Hole, the Camlad and the motte & bailey at Nantcribba there’s plenty to keep us interested. But once past Forden there’s a couple of miles of road walking until we’re the other side of Kingswood. In to and up through Green Wood, high above Rabbit Bank and Chimney Piece. It all felt a bit deserted up here, there was the odd building and large Victorian garden walls & ponds and pheasant & foul running about everywhere – but not a soul to be seen. It turns out we’re in the Leighton Estate, now a forestry plantation. The ponds were reservoirs for the estate’s water works, and suitably called “Offa’s Pool”. I thought I’d taken more photos round here as it seemed quite eerie like a Marie Celeste of woodlands, but evidently I hadn’t!

A bit more ascent takes up to the iron age hill fort at Beacon Ring, at over 1300ft. And as you’d expect the views of the Severn Valley below are smashing.
As are the views of the distant Breidden Hills and the not so distant Phillips’s Gorse wood. It was all downhill now to Lanymynech but still quite a way so there looked to be no nasty steep descents as we passed Salvagog Dingle and the aptly named Buttington View. It’s all mainly farmland here, which itself can make for the occasional unexpected sight.
I wouldn’t have been surprised to see an overly-friendly collie – although it was a shame I didn’t. Stile poetry is not altogether unexpected either – although still nice. But I must confess I hadn’t expected to see a cow in manacles. Understandably she doesn’t look too happy about either! But as the farmland drags on this it doesn’t really make for the most exciting scenery.

The relative novelty of a business park dedicated to our Dyke makes a nice change, but shortly after that the Path takes us straight through the middle of a freshly ploughed field. Pleasant walking that wasn’t!
The next few miles are along the valley floor of the Hafren and although flat and easy walking are very tedious. Lots of search and rescue helicopters were buzzing about, which like the manacled cow broke up the monotony a bit. When we eventually got to Gornel farm we encountered the first (and indeed only) major change in the route since my elderly guide was published. My guide says go round the east of it, but these days you head round the west. The friendly farmer could see exactly what I was doing and helpfully pointed me the right way as he and his family got on with their business. Then as I got to other side of the farm I made two new friends! See, you’re bound to see a friendly collie sooner or later round these parts.

The farmer saw our immediate bond, and said I could keep them! I could take as many as I liked – obviously not wishing to be lumbered with anymore of these commonplace canines. Sadly I couldn’t have if I wanted to – which I did. Not looking back was impossible as I walked away collie-less. I hope they found good homes! By now I’m pretty tired and glad Llanymyneth is only a mile or so to go.

Realising I had no time to eat my apple I was lucky to find a willing recipient to save it going to waste. The guide-book mentions here to look for the fancy iron-work on the Golden Lion – but I’m more intrigued by the silly pub sign. The local scarecrow at (I think) Pont-y-Person marked the home-stretch into town which was all along the Ellesmere and Montgomery Canal.

This was recently re-opened just a couple of years before my guide was published and it mentions that some work was still necessary. Some work is still necessary I would say, but I am no canal expert. It was a nice change to walk along the canal, and they always make pleasant scenery – but while a waterways vista is good for the soul, at the end of a long day those tow-paths can be very tough on the soles! At last – Llanymynech! A pint in the Dolphin, food in the Bradford Arms (and a stupid argument about whether Cornwall is a country or a county…!) and more beer and then bed in the basic but decent and friendly Cross Keys. Cheers Hattie, should you ever read this! Top

Day 8 – Llanymynech – Froncysyllte, 18miles.

A fine breakfast with much personal attention from the owner of the Cross Keys, in the large empty dining, set me up nicely for the day. The climbing started almost immediately on leaving Llanymynech with Pen-y-Foel and Fron-goch waiting for us.

The views from Llanymynech Hill west towards the Berwyn Mountains were good, despite the foggy start. But the views of the herd of very nosey and very skinny cattle around Pen-y-Coed somewhere were not as nice. Looks like someone else needs a good breakfast too, I suspect they think that’s what I’ve come to see them for.

The Tanat Valley Light Railway on the way in to Porth-y-waen, built in 1904 for the quarries and mines round here didn’t last long. And is in need of a bit of trim!

Another steep clamber takes up and over Moelydd, nearly 1000ft above sea-level, and then into Trefonen – the home of the brewery no less! And indeed home to two little owls hiding from a swooping eagle. Trefonen has a lot for a little place!

The ascent up through Candy Wood to Baker Hill is long but gentle. Some forestry work fills the air the pungent and pleasant smell of Radox! The top of Baker Hill is wide and flat, and the remains of a race course are clearly visible. Unfortunately the carefully described view is obscured by trees now, so I have a play on the Janus Horse instead. I didn’t know whether I was coming or going!! Lack of access over Baker Hill forces us to walk along a road for a short while, which is a shame as the route of the Dyke looks pretty nice indeed here.

On leaving the road we start climbing again up Selattyn Hill, a healthy 1300ft. At the top a hand-operated info-sign-post points the way and tells us all about the Selattyn Tower but I dare not leave the Path, even to visit a small ruined folly.

Dropping down Selattyn Hill we hit the B4579, where the point the Dyke crosses is marked by large crenellated Victorian stone tower. Below this is the disused Craignant quarry, and lime-kilns. This is also a handy area for an al-fresco toilet break – a LDWer needs to know this kind of thing!

A point of interest here, that I might not have noticed here unless some locals who had seen me reading the information boards (and initially thought I might be intent on vandalism!!) as it’s not mention in the guide, is the Oak at the Gate of Dead. A giant oak tree, as old as the Dyke itself, and sadly recently split in two by frost damage. Well worth stopping off at for a few moments.

After passing up through Gwyningar Wood, Chirk Castle – continuously occupied since 1310 – dominates the view. The view now also includes the first glimpse of my home county – Cheshire. Always a nice sight! The open farmland here was home to many swallows too. Lovely to see, tricky to photograph. I wasted a good 20minutes here trying to get a half-decent photo, before giving up!

We can see Llangollen approaching now, and perhaps the upside down Path sign-posts are a warning of the relative urban shock that is to come! But it’s odd how even some chemical works can look picturesque from a distance, in sunshine, surrounded by greenery!
But more sad than thinking chemical works look nice is this…

This is the last bit of the Dyke we shall see. There will be no more Dyke for the next two days, and after over a week with it being an almost constant companion and guide it will be odd to be without it. Especially as we will still be on the Dyke Path. But onwards we must go, fare thee well ancient old earth work of Offa!

As usual at this time of day my feet are getting sore and the tow-path of the Llangollen Canal is hard, but my night’s rest – Glencoed – is not far away. But worringly I realise that Glencoed is on the other side of the cut. And my map shows no bridges any time soon. How many more miles is this going to add?! But just as I was getting a bit annoyed at the prospect of extra distance I come across a tunnel underneath the canal, seemingly only used for a riding school there – and it comes out right at the end of the Glencoed’s driveway. Perfect!
Glencoed is one the nicest places I stayed, and I had half the house to myself. Froncysyllte though is no place to be on a Saturday night. The one pub was deserted and wasn’t doing food, and it’s boast of views of the aqueduct aren’t much good in the dark. Still I managed to enjoy a couple of pints before returning back to the B&B via the local chippy. My hosts insisted on providing me with a plate and cutlery as I went to dine in my private lounge – and turned on the telly for the first time since leaving home.

In my room there was huge old teak or mahogany clock on a mantlepiece. Curiosity got the better of me and I dragged it forward to see if I could see the workings from the back. I couldn’t, so I pushed it back and was to horrified to find there was a huge scratch on the surface where I’d moved the heavy timepiece!! Oops!! What shall I do!?

After waking to the tune of a blue tit right outside my window, I shamefully owned up to the scratch over breakfast, but to say I was relieved when they told me that it was already there from someone else doing the same thing some time before is an understatement!! See – honesty is always the best policy, sometimes. Glencoed is a lovely lovely place. Top

Day 9 – Froncysyllte to Llandegla, 11miles.

A nice short day today, but one filled with some real treats. The first one just down the road. Or just down the canal, I should say – the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. I’d seen this on telly a million times, or there-abouts, and I was thrilled to be seeing it in its stone & iron flesh.

You can go two ways; the official route drops down to Dee enabling you to look up at the aqueduct or the alternative is take the high road and look down from the aqueduct – and indeed see it up close.  What a choice!! So I did both. Choosing to do more is always easier first thing in the morning! (I’ll also add at this point that it was not a windy day!) I’m sure most are you familiar with the aqueduct already, so won’t bore you with it too much. But the photos do speak for themselves – it is a marvelous sight!

I’d much rather cross it by foot than by narrowboat!

And it really is worth investigating the high & low options, if you’re a fan of Georgian canal engineering. And who isn’t?

The Dee too makes for some picturesque vistas.

The bridge that takes the “proper” route, and B5434, over the Dee is pretty fine itself too.

After all the bridge excitement we carry along the canal where it branches off west for a short while. Well, it should be a short while but I just assumed that two people ahead of me with the rucksacks were also on the Path so inexplicably just followed them. It was probably a good half mile or so before I realised that the bridge crossing the canal “with the sloping stone slabs for the horses” was actually about half a mile back. Damn. But as I was heading roughly in the right direction I just carried on along the canal until I got to the next bridge, near Bron Heulog, and crossed there and headed north back to the path. And it turned out that I hadn’t really added an awful lot of extra time or distance. This is the right sort of going the wrong way!

It also enabled me to catch a convoy of vintage lorries chugging along the Trevor Road, presumably off to a rally somewhere – unless there’s a particularly thrifty haulier based in these parts. And the path back up to the Path took me past a rather quaint little cottage, with nothing but trees for neighbours. Very nice.

It’s a steep clamber up to Trevor Rocks but the views from the top are magnificent, especially Castell Dinas Bran.

The Dee Valley is still pretty nice too.

The Path is now on a long but quiet road as it passes under the limestone crags of Creig iau Eglwyseg, and as road-walking goes it’s not too bad – the crags providing impressive surroundings. (The second fine sight of the day, after the morning’s bridges).

And there’s a friendly horse at Dinbren-uchal or Bryn Cottage or at some point along the way (I forget exactly where) who’s desperate to help me out with the more healthy parts of my packed-lunch. What could I do?!

We finally leave the road, and I stop for a rest at a little brook near Bryn Goleu. A very pleasant spot for a break before carrying on along a pretty percarious little path amongst the scree. Still, a slight improvement on the road though. The scree-ey path continues on crossing the occasional little gully in what is a attractively-desolate area. It looks like it could’ve been used a Doctor Who location. After a small wood we come out on to a road at a tight hairpin at a spot called “World’s End”, the guide-book says that this spot attracts many artists and picnickers but I thought it was a bit dark and dank. I stopped here by the Eglwyseg for lunch here where it fords across the road. It would have been nicer if it wasn’t near the road!

After lunch I set off up the road, and walked along with a couple who said something along lines of that they like just to drive off to the middle of nowhere on the spur of the moment, go out walking and not talk to each all day. Sounds good to me!
After a pretty dull stretch of road we turn off NW and through an area of extremely marshy moorland, apparently akin to the Pennine Way (one for the future!). Thank goodness for the numerous duck-boards that someone had thoughtfully put down.
Having survived the bogs we enter a conifer plantation. After a few miles of exposure it’s nice to be in woodland, although it is also a favourite of the local mountain bikers.

And the myriad mushrooms along the made me late (stopping to take photos) – and hungry (although I didn’t stop to pick any!)
Just after the woods we’re in Llandegla, and my B&B is on the far-side up a hill. Head-down and on auto-pilot I walk someway right past the turning for it. But eventually make it back to Bryn Dwr by the River Alun. And very nice situation, and very friendly hosts with a very big dog. It’s one of those B&Bs where are you right in their living space. But it’s all very nice. The chap drove me down to the Plough Inn for fodder and (coloured) water but I think I walked back. My room was right near the lounge & front-door though, so my night wasn’t as early as I’d fancied. Maybe I’ll take one of their pods next time! Top

Day 10 – Llandegla to Bodfari, 18miles.

A misty start to a long day, but the penultimate day. The whiff of Prestatyn is not far away now, hmmm… but it looked to be a nice walk over the Clwydian Mountains would surely make for a nice day. If the mist ever lifts.

Once up in the hills though above Llandegla, the mist does as least make for striking views.

And the local flora and fauna seem well adapted to it.

The mushrooms don’t object to the dampness either!

The mist kept coming and going for the first part of the Clwydians, past Moel y Gelli, Moel y Plas and Moel Llanfair so as we were at best above and at worst in it, the views were not great and everywhere – and everything was very damp. Staring at rocks and heather as we went up & down wasn’t the most exciting walking.

All the way along there are lots of signs and notices explaining that some footpaths – well, bridlepaths I assume, are closed or have been diverted because of a quad-bike race that’s taking place later in the day. Not an exciting prospect!
Round about Moel Gyw somewhere I see a sheep lying on its side at the side of the track, breathing heavily and foaming and bloodied at the mouth it’s obviously not too well. But James Herriot I am not, so there’s little I can do. A little later I come across one of the marshalls getting ready for the impending quad-bike race and tell her about the poorly sheep. Reassuringly she said she knew the farmer and would let him know, so fingers crossed the sheep is alive & well and still bounding about nibbling Clwydian grass to this day. I doubt it though. Some good news though – looks like my timing was good so I never had to encounter the quad-bikes!

It is clearing up a bit by the time we get in to Llanbedr and the views are super.

I think we’re looking over Ruthin in the photo on the left, and to the right is Foel Fammau – with a curious rendition of Munch’s The Scream in the heather.

From Foel Fenlli I look down to Bwlch Penbarraa and see a horrible sight – a busy car-park!! Of course, this is Sunday lunch-time and all the day-trippers are out in force now the skies have cleared and the sun is out. My solitude won’t be lasting much longer. The descent down to the car-park was very steep, but seeing a poor sheep that had found herself at Loggerheads lifted the spirits a little.

The path heading up away from Bwlch Penbarra was wide and busy. Families with lively kids running about in shorts and trainers mithering for an ice-cream as I carrying on slogging away with hot heaving boots and bulging rucksack was a little irritating. I would’ve loved an ice-cream too mind. They soon slowed down as we continued on up to Moel Fammau though.

The views were cracking, but surely all these local Sunday drivers couldn’t have just been out to see the views could they?

No, they’re all climbing up to the Jubilee Tower. A tower not for our present Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, but ‘Mad’ King George’s Golden one. All very nice at the top, but we can’t dilly dally and pleasingly as we head-off all the afternoon strollers head off the other way back to their cars, and peace and quiet is restored.

But I wonder how long the peace and quiet would last for as I spy 1000s and 1000s of mountain bikers crawling up the hills at speeds so slow you wonder why they bother. They stay away – for now, and I’m left to enjoy the view of Moel Arthur and the television transmitter at Moel y Parc beyond. I pass some of the mountain bikers in a layby at the bottom of Moel Arthur noisily exchanging tales of their day, and pass more carrying their bikes down the hill, clearly having given up on cycling and realising walking is a much better option.

As the Bodfari buzzard soaring above us the end of the day can’t be far away.

The Path takes us right through the middle of a huge old hill fort which, as often happens, I omitted to take any photos of and to be honest have no recollection of. I did however take a photo of what looks like a memorial cairn, but have no recollection of that either. The views from the Clwydians though are unforgettable!

We pass a nice DIY project for someone with some time and plaster on their hands, which reminds me of one of Private Fraser’s best war-time stories, and then we are soon high above Bodfari itself.

The descent is long and the end marked by Grove Hall, and there then follows a long and rather boring walk along roads and the odd field to actually get into Bodfari. The Bodfari buzzard is back to welcome us.

When I got as far as the Downing Arms, I slipped my boots off and settled down to several refreshing refreshments as I was warned by the landlady at my B&B for the night that there’d be nowhere to get food in Bodfari on a Sunday night. “Where will I eat?” I asked her, “Don’t worry” she said “I’ll see you alright.”
So let’s get rehydrated here and then eat back at the B&B and retire for the evening – I wasn’t coming back out as it was a good a mile up hill to Fron Haul and my bed.

Amusingly in the pub there was a group of fellows who were walking the Path in the opposite direction, and were all full of glee and high of spirits – if only they’d asked to hear my tales of what the Path had in store for them! Anyways, I drank up put my boots back on and continued the hike up the hill and out of Bodfari.

The early evening views of the distant mountains – possibly Snowdonia – were grand.

The sad state of an old penned-in Land Rover and Austin 35 were not quite as easy on the eye though. Soon I was at Fron Haul – and what grand looking place it was!

I knocked on the door, and knocked again. Eventually a lady opened it and peering through the gap – “Hello?”
“Hello!” I said “Tim Matthews!”
“Am I expecting you?” said the lady.
“Yes… this is Fron Haul right?”
“Yes, but I’m not expecting anyone.”
“Oh are you sure?”
“Yes, definitely no reservations tonight.”
“Are you Gladys?”
“I spoke to you just the other week to double-check. You even told me there’d be no food available on a Sunday night in Bodfari, and you’d ‘see me right’.”
“Hmmm… well, that does sound like me… you’d better come in.”

Anyways, it turned out what had happened was that there was a Canadian family who were a day ahead of me (I heard of them in Kington at the Church House) and unfortunately they’d lost their passports along the route at some point and sadly had to cancel the rest of the walk so they could get on to the Embassy and sort all that nonsense out. When Gladys had cancelled their booking at Fron Haul she got a bit carried away and thought everyone for that night had cancelled – including me. But it was all ok in the end, I was here now.
And if the Canadians should ever read this – I hope everything worked out ok for you! And you’ll be back to finish the Dyke soon!

But what an amazing place Fron Haul is. Huge and quirky, bursting with character, knick-knacks, ornaments, objets d’art, stuff, bits & peices and odds & ends, rooms on rooms on rooms! She showed me up to my room, the bathroom across the landing and the television lounge next door. Needless to say I was the only person there. The place like a huge old haunted mansion, except it was quite lovely. And up for sale too like Glencoed. Oh which shall I buy?! Fron Haul’s 25acres sure beats Bryn Dwr’s measily 7! I expect bankers have both by now.

After a very tasty tea of steak, mushroom, mash, cauliflower and goodness knows what else, Gladys asked if I’d enjoyed.
“Yes, thank you Gladys – very tasty!” I said, dabbing my lips with a heavy cotton napkin.
“Good” she said “because before you walked in, apart from the steak everything on that plate was still out in the garden!”

What a fantastic place!

The view from window was idyllic, and the Fron Haul sunset was lovely. I think my final Dyke resting place was my favourite. Good old Fron Haul! Top

Day 11. Bodfari to Prestatyn, 12miles.

A nice shortish day for the nice last day was made even shorter by Fron Haul being maybe half a mile out of Bodfari, so today would only be more like 11½miles, which is nice as I can’t see this leg being the most thrilling walking – despite the attempts of the guide to reassure the Dyker to the opposite, and I have a luncheon date in Prestatyn with my old fella.

It’s a good steady climb away from Bodfari up past Sodom (no, I didn’t look back…) but once we’re up high again the views are again lovely.

The Vale of Clwyd opens up ot the west, and although the views don’t really change much all the way over Cefn Du that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The photo on the right is what I thought was St Asaph’s – that of Britain’s smallest cathedral city – but it actually turns out to St Margaret’s of Bodelwyddan which just beyond St Asaph. And is a more striking church, from a distance at least.

Snowdon in the distance somewhere doesn’t seem to be moving much as approach Rhuallt and cross over the bypass.

There isn’t really an awful lot to keep us hugely excited here, although the walking is still very nice. The occasional pheasant can be seen around Mynydd y Cwm looking a bit edgy with the season approaching fast. And from Marian Ffrith we get a first good look at the sea we’re heading towards, although this is Colwyn Bay – a little way down the coast from our destination.

Not long after here we pass the remains of the old Marian Mills, and then in no time we’re on top of the cliffs some 700ft above Prestatyn. And boy does this bit drag on… ups & downs and most of time shrouded in gorse and hawthorn so you can’t even enjoy the view. Every descent you hope it’s going to be the one that keeps going down, but no – it’s goes back up again. The opposite of “false summits”!

But after a good couple of miles – which seems much longer – we’re at the end of the cliffs. Spying the mythical floating wind-farm we finally start to drop. First through a suburban housing estate and then into Prestatyn town centre. Both are pretty much as you’d expect and are at worst unremarkable. Despite all the bad press there’s certainly worst places than Prestatyn really. Although an apostrophe for the pub wouldn’t go a miss.

It’s a long straight road past the football club and seaside souvenir shops to the end of the walk, its explanatory plaque and symbolic piece of public art, representing I can’t remember what. A couple of snaps, a quick look in the visitor centre, and then another quarter of mile and I’m in the pub for fish & chips and a pint with my Dad a good 5 minutes early.

It’s not a bad old walk really! Top

Flickr album with all 617 photos, for you delight and delectation.

Accommodation :

Chepstow – Upper Sedbury Guest House, NP16 7HN. 01291 927173
Monmouth – Drybridge B&B, NP25 5AD. 01600 715495
Pandy – The Lancaster Arms, NP7 8DW. 01873 890699
Hay-on-Wye – Rest for the Tired, HR3 5DB. 01497 820550.
Kington – The Church House, HR5 4AG. 01544 230534.
Knighton – Whtcwm Cottage, LD7 1HF. 07904 971866.
Montgomery – The Dragon Hotel, SY15 6PA. 01686 668359.
Llanymynech – The Cross Keys, SY22 6EA. 01691 831585.
Froncysyllte – Glencoed, LL14 5AN. 01691 778148.
Llandegla – Bryn Dwr, LL11 3AW. 01978 790612.
Bodfari – Fron Haul, LL16 4Dy. 01745 710301.



25 thoughts on “Offa’s Dyke Path, September 2011.

  1. Jules

    Really enjoyed reading your account – reminds me of our walk on the southern half a few years back. We must go and finish it off one day!

    1. Tim Post author

      Thanks Jules – you should really get in done, the Clwydians are lovely! Ps. some nice ideas on your blog! Must get some of them done… one day!

  2. marialette

    Happened upon this account at an ungodly hour, and thoroughly enjoyed reading it – as I walked Offa’s Dyke myself in 1988. It took us 2 days longer as we had a rest-day in Hay-on-Wye and somewhere else. Can’t say I recognised a lot in the pictures or the description, apart from the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct of course. Still remember the green-faced lads with their fancy captain’s hats, desperately trying not to look to either side. Schadenfreude. :-)
    It remains my one and only LDW, and am still damn proud of it.
    Thanks for bring back some good (and some painful) memories. If any newby reads this: buy Compeed/Second Skin. Your feet will be very grateful indeed.

    1. Tim Post author

      Thanks Maria – hope my words help you get back to sleep! hehe

      Try some more LDWs! The Coast to Coast is fantastic, and the West Highland Way (coming to this blog soon!) is wonderful and only 100miles.

      One thing though, Compeeds and the like never really worked for me. Luckily blisters weren’t a huge problem – but I have my own tried & tested way of dealing with them. I say to newbies do lots of practice walks and see what suits you best.

  3. Rob

    Hi Tim
    Really enjoyed this trip report, I’m working my way slowly around the coast path but Offas Dyke sounds like an intriguing distraction.

    1. Tim Post author

      Thanks Rob! It’s worth a look if you fancy a break from those sea breezes! Quite fancy the coast path myself one day – but doubt I’ll ever have time!

  4. Rob Ainsley

    Nice work, Tim! Just what I was after – an overview of the walk by someone who’s actually done it. I’m planning on doing OD with a pal in summer, and I suspect our priorities in terms of a pint or two each evening will be very similar to yours!

  5. Frankie

    Just completed this myself with husband only we did it in the opposite direction. The weather was dreadful for most of the walk which made it especially difficult over the ups and downs with rain and gusts of wind reaching 50/60 mph (yes, really). Towards the end of the walk the winds eased and the sun came out and our spirits lifted. We’ve done quite a few LDP’s now and no matter how hard it gets and you wonder why you’re doing it, you always come away with amazing memories and start planning the next one ! Great to read your blog and see some familiar sights in your photos. Many Thanks.

    1. Tim Post author

      Hi Frankie, sounds like you had an “interesting” time! But you’re exactly right, at the time when the feet are stinging and the legs are aching you never ever want to walk anywhere again – but as soon as you’re finished you just want to start the next one! Where you off to next? Thanks for the kind words.

      1. Tim Post author

        Hi Dave,

        I booked in advance. Places like Knighton or Hay you’ll be probably able to find somewhere on the day, but further north it gets a bit sparse so I’d say it’s best to have some peace of mind after a long day. Mind you, I still nearly came a cropper in Bodfari! hehe

        Good luck – let me know how you get on.


      2. davebo99

        Did you take a tent? I can’t decide whether to go this September or wait until May. Was the weather still good when you went?

      3. Tim Post author

        I did pre-book. A couple of places further north, like Bodfari, are quite small and spread out so you might have trouble if you just try on the day. Larger places towards the start like Hay or Knighton you’ll probably have no problem with on the day, but I’d just rather not have to worry about it and get it all done before I set off. Good luck – let me know how you get on.

  6. Tim Post author

    Nah, B&Bs all the way. I don’t fancy lugging a tent and all the extras on a LDW, although some people do. I enjoy a comfy bed & a nice bath at the end of a long day. The weather was fine when I went except that one day in the Black Mountains. But May or September – you’re never guaranteed good weather any time!

      1. Tim Post author

        Hi Dave, Yup – always! I like the solitude and being able to go at my own pace, stop & start and wander off as I please. But I know some people who can’t walk more than 10 paces unless they’ve got company. It’s horses for courses!

  7. Helen Lloyd

    Hello Tim – just read your blog whilst waiting for my husband to wake up and join me for breakfast before we walk from Clwyd Gate to Bodfari then on to Prestatyn tomorrow .We have done several LDW including C to C but even before it’s finished this is by far our most enjoyable , Fab views , totally changing terrain and paths and best of all , Sunny and dry ! Except for a few drizzly hours when we headed north from Knighton it has been dry and sunny and warm – it makes all the difference ! My husband and I tend to walk for hours in companionable silence and then discuss the walk and highlights in the pub in the evening !
    Our main theme is how different it could have been in challenging weather which I can see is backed up by some of your account and photos !
    Advice to anyone considering walk and so you should be after reading Tim’s blog is May is a good time as soon paths will be full of nettles and trail is quiet – we hardly see other walkers all day – also great for kissing gates and stiles – we have counted over 700 and have had a quick kiss at each – not bad for a pair of pensioners!
    I am really sad that we will soon finish – back on the train to flat old Norfolk – but will produce a album of thoughts and photos for my husband as a reminder of this wonderful trip – 21 degrees expected today ! Thanks again Tim for taking the time to record your experiences

    1. Tim Post author

      Hi Helen – thanks for the comment, glad you’re having a good time. It’s a lovely walk isn’t? Especially as an excuse for stealing a few(hundred) kisses along the way!
      I like your day-quiet evening-chatty walking style. If I can ever convince someone to join me I think I’ll do the same!
      Enjoy the rest of the walk – I never thought I’d be quite so moved in Prestatyn! :-)

      1. Helen Lloyd

        Thanks Tim – mission accomplished at 530 pm yesterday in glorious sunshine a glass of rose wine has never tasted so good ! The short steep path up the side of the cliffs at the end was a bit of a reminder from Offa that he was in charge but it was a joyous decent into Prestatyn with its green acorn signs on the lampposts and the glistening end of walk pillar at the end !
        Next walk agreed in the pub last night – South Downs way !

      2. Tim Post author

        Well done! I like Offa’s final reminder – even though his Dyke had long gone by then.
        The silvery end post in the afternoon sunshine is a lovely sight indeed!
        Enjoy the South Downs, I’ve only spent a day there but would love to go back. (The things we do to earn a drink! ;-) ) Cheers, Tim

  8. maryvallancefranco

    Thank you for writing your blog! I am setting out to do this walk in a couple of weeks and really enjoyed your account of it. I found it informative and helpful in what to anticipate. I will keep my own blog on wordpress once we get started. It looks every bit as challenging as the Coast to Coast which I did two years ago. LOTS of up and down! If you have not done the C2C, i recommend it (my blog is also on WordPress). Thanks and happy trails!


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