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Offa’s Dyke Path ~ Sedbury Cliffs to Prestatyn: 177 miles

Offa's Dyke Path

30th May - 10th June 2015: 12 Days

Introduction

Introduction

I knew this would be a challenging walk and was loathe to make it more so by carrying full packs for twelve days. I therefore shopped around and settled on ‘Byways Breaks’, a small business based in Liverpool and owned and run by the very helpful Carolyn. With her help I put together an itinerary, accommodation, meal requirements and taxi transfer arrangements that I hoped would relieve some of the pressure on Phil and me. As things turned out it was a very wise decision: everything worked perfectly and it all depended on our luggage labels!

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Getting there

Getting there

I am sitting in Birmingham New Street station waiting for the train to Chepstow. Offa’s Dyke has been on the drawing board for some time and my departure from ITV has afforded an excellent opportunity to attempt it. Also, Kym is heading to France for a bike ride with the ‘Bowdon Biker Chicks’, Joe is in South East Asia and Tom is spending his last month in Cambridge.

There was the usual panic to get out of the house but Kym dropped me at Stockport, where I caught the train on time, spending the journey reading the paper: the FIFA scandal being the big news! I was quite daunted by the scale of the walk but also determined to finish my fifties with a small achievement: let’s see!

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Phil got on the train at Gloucester and we picked up, as always, where we had left off. It was a quick trip to Chepstow along the picturesque Severn Valley. We alighted at the small station, got our Offa’s Dyke card stamped by the station master and were then hailed to our pre-booked taxi by the driver. He took us the short distance across the Wye and to Sedbury Cliffs.

30th May 2015 – Sedbury Cliffs to Brockweir: 8 miles

Day 19

We walked South, against the direction of our Offa’s Dyke journey, to reach the mudflats and the start of the walk. We took a few photos, shook hands and off we set!

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The start of Offa’s Dyke Path at Sedbury Cliffs, Severn Estuary

We ambled back through pleasant countryside, crossed the road and descended to a council estate where we got lost, finally finding the trail as we reached the River Wye. We followed the path, catching sight of Chepstow, its bridge and castle. We ascended a field and sat down on the grass for lunch of sandwiches. We could hear the sound check below us for a UB40 concert that was due to follow the conclusion of the Chepstow races.

We saw the old lookout tower then climbed and walked along the steep cliffs above the Wye. Climbers appeared over the edge of a deep old quarry. We chatted to a couple doing the walk as we met the road. Phil and I took the wrong route and had to retrace our steps twice, finally catching them again a little further on.

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We passed some stunning properties in the rolling hills around Broadrock but soon lost the river views as we headed into mixed woodland in which we walked for some time. We caught sight of Tintern Abbey below and across the Wye from a view point and then the aptly named ‘Devil’s Pulpit’. We met up with the couple of walkers again.

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Tintern Abbey

The path continued through woodland: the gradient not too steep. We stopped to check where we were and found ourselves close to our stopping point for the night. A couple tried to help us locate the B&B but were hopelessly lost themselves! We found our way down through the ferns and bluebells to our first night’s stop at Castle a Buff farm, Brockweir.

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Castle a Buff Farm, Brockweir

We were welcomed with a cup of tea and biscuits by Sheila and before long the couple we had met along the way arrived. They introduced themselves as Andrew and Penny: farmers from near Brecon. Phil and I moved into our twin room. I had a bath and we then walked down to Brockweir.

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We passed the pub where they had said they were full but, having asked the landlady if we could eat there, were invited in for a meal.

It was a quirky pub. I ordered faggots, which came ‘chilled’ in the middle. I sent them back and got they were hastily microwaved and returned to me. We got through five pints of local beer but seemed, judging by the bill, to have only been charged for four. We walked home in the rain. It was good to catch up with Phil.

31st May 2015 – Brockweir to Monmouth: 10.5 miles

Day20

I slept ok but woke early and listened to Phil snoring! We got up at 07:30 and packed. We ate a good breakfast, chatting to Phil, Andrew and Penny. We then had a lengthy chat about deer and wild boar with Roger, the owner of the B&B which was managed by his wife Sheila.

The weather looked dodgy but dry. We set off around 10:00 and followed the ‘high road’ up along the Dyke. It was hard going and constant climbing but very scenic.

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The Wye Valley

We eventually descended from the ridge, passing through a row of beautiful gnarly old sweet chestnut trees and down to the river and Bigsweir Bridge, another graceful Victorian iron bridge.

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Chestnut trees near Bigsweir

From there we walked up the road and then into another wood, walking, so we were informed by notice boards, along one of the best parts of Offa’s Dyke. It proved quite a climb but, once on the ridge we walked steadily along through fields and past a couple of remote farms.

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The descent to Redbrook

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We eventually dropped down a very steep hill to Lower Redbrook, where we sat outside the pub to eat our sandwiches and down a pint.

Several people engaged us in conversation about our walk: mainly saying how difficult the Pandy to Hay section would be. We walked over to the old railway bridge and wandered out over the Wye, then back across the road and up a side road for the start of a long ascent of a hill that culminated at ‘The Kymin’.

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This was a remarkable naval memorial to Lord Nelson and a  two storey round house where we stopped to take in the amazing view over Monmouth and the Black Hills.

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Monmouth from The Kymin

We descended another steep hill down to Monmouth and quickly found the Prego restaurant accommodation and checked in. We had good, single ensuites. I had a bath, repacked and had a lie down before heading out with Phil for a tour of the town.

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Monmouth

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Phil outside Prego, Monmouth

Monmouth was quite impressive: a little faded but seemingly on the bounce. A great variety of varied and interesting buildings, pubs and restaurants, all set in beautiful countryside. We saw the Gate House on the bridge and the remains of the castle. Returning to the restaurant we read The Sunday Times before eating a very nice meal (I had beetroot and goat’s cheese salad, then pork, beautifully cooked).

We chatted then adjourned to our rooms by 21:00. I wrote my diary and watched some moronic dog act win ‘Britain’s Got Talent’..eugh!

1st June 2015 – Monmouth to Pandy: 16.8 miles

Day 21

Woke very early, then lay in bed for a while before repacking and listening to the Today programme. I showered then went down to meet Phil for breakfast. It was very nice: cereal, juice and the ‘Full Welsh’ with good sausage, all cooked by the chef from last night. He kindly advised us not to pay him £9 for a packed lunch so, at his suggestion, we headed into town and bought OS maps and some sandwiches.

We managed to get just to the edge of town before the rain started so we donned jackets for the first time today. We headed uphill through King’s Wood, perspiring heavily! When we reached the top we were wet through so took off our coats and started the descent on a very well maintained path to Lower Hendre. There we met a chap who had done the Offa’s Dyke Path taking a month, but who today was just ambling a small section.

The rest of the morning was a pleasant walk through rolling fields of grass, wheat and barley. Nothing too steep. We met a lad walking the trail North to South with a full pack: impressive! The distinctive whale back outlines of Skirrid and Sugar Loaf appeared on the horizon and we kept these in sight for the rest of the day. We passed through a Bulmers cider orchard and through the village of LLantilio Crossenny with its small group of attractive houses.

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The climbs through the fields started getting steeper and we were pleased when we arrived at the ‘Hogshead’, which was billed in the guide book as a pub. It looked anything but from the drive but, at Phil’s suggestion, we walked up and found a converted set of farm buildings. The sign said ‘closed’ but a lady offered to get the owner to open up, which we accepted. He was a jolly, rotund, chap who served us a couple of pints, which we drank whilst eating our sandwiches and crisps. He showed us his drone and videos he had shot with it of a vintage tractor rally. He then proudly showed us his wedding function room.

We left and headed out into the rain and after returning briefly to get my walking stick, started the ascent to White Castle. This was a very imposing, presumably Edward I castle.

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The White Castle near Treadham

The castle was closed so we walked on by before descending through further lush pastures to a small road where we took the path heading Northwest. We walked a muddy stretch past an attractive, derelict farm and then past ‘Old Court’, a fine hall in a small hamlet of the same name by a stream. We crossed then dodged a bull in the steep field that we climbed through to reach the tiny village of Llangattock Lingoed. We looked around its 750 year old white church which contained an interesting rood screen carving and wall paintings of St George.

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Llangattock Church

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St George in Llangattock Church

We left the village and followed the river before catching our first view of Pandy in the valley below. We struggled to find the path but eventually reached the main road only to find that our pub accommodation was half a mile out of the small town.

We trudged down the main road and reached the Rising Sun pub, which was shut! I rang the bell and the landlady opened up and informed us that not only was there no food, but no drink either! Notwithstanding this, the rooms were stunning. I looked out over the campsite to the rear of the pub: empty save for the lone walker we had met at Lower Redwood.

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Dismal camping ground outside the Rising Sun, Pandy

After a great shower we donned wet weather gear to walk the mile down the busy main road to the Old Pandy Inn where we were warmly welcomed by the landlord, who served us excellent Wye Brewery beer. Andrew and Penny were there and we had a chat whilst choosing from the very good menu. We sat next to a couple of cyclists from New Zealand who were doing Lands End to John o’Groats, with trailers behind their bikes and with whom we had a great conversation.

Phil and I both had huge pork and apple sausages and chips: I then had sticky toffee pudding. After eating, we joined Andrew and Penny for an interesting chat. Andrew bought us a fifth pint each..aagh! The landlord then offered us a lift back to the Rising Sun where we turned in for the night.

2nd June 2015 – Pandy to Hay-on-Wye: 17.5 miles

Day 22

I woke early and it was already blowing a gale. I dozed until the start of the Today programme that had the breaking news of the death of Charles Kennedy at the age of 55. We breakfasted at 08:00: it wasn’t bad but we broke off to pack our main rucksacks as the taxi driver, employed for this leg as part of our transportation service, had arrived. We paid for our packed lunches then did a final pack of our ‘day sacks’ before setting off at 09:30.

It was breezy with drizzly rain as we got a lift with the landlady down to the other pub as I had left my wallet in the other landlord’s car. The first landlady dropped us off at the start of the walk and we set off, a little trepidatiously. After crossing the railway line we started the ascent of Hatterall Hill, passing some attractive cottages and several garishly painted trees.

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The trees on Hatterall Hill

Eventually we broke out onto the moors, which would be our constant companion for the next twelve miles or so. Also to be our companion was the strongest, most constant, wind I have ever walked in. We estimated it to be in excess of 40 mph, gusting to 50 mph. It was very difficult to keep ones feet, particularly as we negotiated the large rock slabs that had been laid through the peat bogs. Although they were about three feet wide it was like walking a tight-rope to avoid falling into the deep water.

We kept encountering a couple of Scots lads, after passing their companion who had decided to turn back. It is hard to describe just how difficult the going was. Every step, an effort for mile after mile. The view, particularly off to the right, was fantastic, but we rarely had a chance to look at it.

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Battling the elements on Hatterall Hill

We climbed false peak after false peak before eventually finding ourselves descending a steep slope, taking a path to the right and finally gaining relief from the wind. We found a sheltered patch of heather and sat down to eat our sandwiches and catch our breath – literally!

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Lunch at last (note wind on stick handle)

We gazed down the beautiful valley at the sheep below. It was cold and I had lost the use of my fingers having not brought any gloves.

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Hatterall Hill looking south

Attempts at having a pee were hilarious: a total lack of dexterity in the fingers and everything blowing all over the place. I tried to wash my pants off with drinking water. We left our lunch spot and picked our way down a steep grassy slope to a small road alongside which we walked. We saw two beautiful wild horse foals (we had seen two herds of wild horses up on the hill).

We missed the Offa’s Dyke path so followed the road, which was surprisingly busy, until the path joined it. We managed to miss the next path also, but were re-directed onto the trail by a very friendly farmer. Having found the path we then followed it down to the main car park where we checked the location of our B&B. It turned out to be a fairly uninspiring council house where we were given a small twin, rather than the promised two singles. I had a bath but was unable to stretch out as it was so small.

We then watched ‘Pointless’ – Phil’s favourite show before wandering into Hay. Everywhere was closed, with the exception of an Indian and the Blue Boar pub, which we entered.

We had a beer then selected lamb crawl from a less than extensive menu. It was tasty, but more like a lamb soup than a hearty meal. I followed it with a very small serving of pear and almond tart with ice cream. We had a couple more pints each then chatted to the barmaid about the Hay festival before heading back. I jumped into bed and Phil watched TV for a few more minutes.

This was possibly one of the most difficult days walking I have done.

3rd June 2015 – Hay-on-Wye to  Kington: 14.7 miles

Day 23

I woke early, before 05:00 again and snoozed until the start of the Today programme, to which I listed using headphones. We got up at 07:00 and packed before going downstairs to the twin dining rooms to find two German couples we had met last night and a couple of Canadian women who were also walking Offa’s Dyke Path. We had a brief chat and discovered that they had taken the valley route yesterday on account of the wind. Breakfast was ok. We finished packing, donned our gear and said goodbye.

We stopped at Londis in Hay for sandwiches. Phil had a heated argument with the shop proprieteress about debit card charges! We bumped into the three Scots lads on the main street then walked across the road bridge and turned right along the River Wye.

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The route north from Hay-on-Wye

The first stretch of today’s walk was a relatively flat section along the river bank. We saw a chap doing his morning stretches as he walked his dog. We climbed away from the river towards the road, which we crossed before making an ascent up to Bettws Dingle. The unattractive cleared area had at least been replanted with oak trees. We met the road at the top of the valley and followed it on and off for a mile and a half. We were treated to some great views back to the Black Mountains, which looked an awful lot calmer today!

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View back to The Black Mountains from Bettws

The hedgerows were spectacularly lush with red campion, cow parsley, bluebells, nettles and a variety of hedge trees. We stopped for a cereal bar at a high point looking down at the Wye and met the Scotsmen again as we set off. The bridleway took us down to a lane that led into Newchurch, a hamlet comprising little more than the old church itself. It looked impressive, though small, perched above the lane and surrounded by old graves. A sign outside advised that it was offering teas and coffees so we went in and met the two Canadian ladies. We had a cup of tea sitting in the sun on a tombstone. I took my detachable lower trouser legs off to give my lower limbs their first sight of the sun this year!

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St Marys, Newchurch

We walked up the hill out of the village and eventually came to the summit of Disgwylfa Hill and a tremendous 360 degree view of the surrounding countryside.

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Disgwylfa Hill

We could see back to the ridge we had walked yesterday and forward to Hergest Ridge. We walked on admiring the constantly amazing views, eventually arriving at Gladestry, where the Scots lads were at the front of the pub. We bought beers but the miserable landlord wouldn’t allow us to eat our sandwiches on his premises. It was pleasant in the garden so we had a second beer and some crisps.

Leaving Gladestry we started the long climb up Hergest Ridge. We broke onto the moorland and made  for the North side of the ridge. We kept climbing until we reached the monkey puzzle trees, where we stopped for lunch.

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On Hergest Ridge

There were plenty of walkers up from Kington. The views were great but we hastened over the old racecourse and down the hill. We reached the trees, passed Hergest Croft Gardens and made our way, painfully in my case, down to the T-junction just above town where we followed directions to Geoff and Patsy’s B&B.

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They were friendly and offered tea and a flapjack, which we ate in their map festooned guest lounge.

I showered then we walked into a pretty run-down Kington where we wandered around before going into the busiest looking pub. Geoff and Patsy were in there along with a load of local drunks and some visiting ‘car crashers’.  St John’s Ambulance arrived to cart away some girl so we decided to transfer our custome and adjourned to the Swan across the road. We formed the second and third of their three customers. I ordered ‘Piggies three ways’ and was presented with a wooden board containing three varieties of pig fat. It was truly revolting. I ate what I could then we retired to the bar to chat with the Scots lads who had gravitated to us, the barmaid and the owner/chef.

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'Piggies three ways'

Phil and I left, walking back through the churchyard so as to ensure that we would have done the entire Offa’s Dyke walk when we re-started tomorrow. We arrived back at the B&B and went straight to sleep.

4th June 2015 – Kington to Knighton: 13.5 miles

Day 24

I woke early to the noise of the traffic on the man road below. I showered, packed and joined Phil downstairs for breakfast. Geoff and Patsy seemed a little frosty but thawed as the meal progressed. It was a good breakfast after which I mended my waterpack clip with elastic bands. We paid for our packed lunch and headed off.

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B&B Kington

We climbed the steep hill up to Kington Golf Club: apparently the highest in England, from where there were great views back to town and across the hills.

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Kington Golf Course

As we skirted Bradnor and Rushock Hills the views opened up and were spectacular.

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Skirting Bradnor and Rushock Hills

We rejoined The Dyke that we had left on day 2 and it was quite apparent where it ran. By-passing Herrock Hill we descended to the road, pausing to exchange pleasantries with a couple sunning themselves on their farmhouse porch. We stopped for a cereal bar on the old Ditchyeld Bridge before heading up the hill into Burfa Bank Wood. We jumped aside to avoid being run over by B16 WEN, a 4WD driven, presumably, by a Wendy, who parked up at a farm from which came the loud shouts of a very angry farmer.

We came across an elderly couple who, we found out later, were butterflying. There then followed a tricky section of Offa’s Dyke with low hanging hawthorn trees and nettles. We caught the two Canadian ladies then stopped for a break and they passed us again. A couple passed going the other way. There was more climbing through woods before a very long and quite painful descent to the road.

After crossing the road we saw the Canadians having lunch in a field. We crossed the field looking for a stone bridge by which to cross the river but couldn’t find it. Phil wandered off but I took my shoes and socks off and waded across the river, which was cool and refreshing. I sat in an idyllic spot on the other side to dry my feet and saw fish jumping.

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Looking for Dolly Old Bridge

I tried to encourage Phil to join me but he became quite concerned about finding the bridge, which he eventually did. I reluctantly replaced my socks and boots and walked on to join him. We joined the road and walked towards the Methodist Chapel which promised, but failed, to deliver refreshments. We doubled back and on up a dusty track to climb Furrow Hill. We stopped on the track to eat lunch and were passed by both the Canadians and the Scots!

Lunch over, we moved on up the hill with the views becoming more spectacular than ever. We continued to be able to pick out the monkey puzzle trees on Hergest Ridge and the distant Black Mountains.

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Views back to Hergest Ridge and The Black Mountains

We took a very worthwhile detour to Hawthorn Hill from where we had the most amazing 360 degree view. As two dog walkers approached, with their dogs loose off their leads, we left.

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An obvious section of The Dyke

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We caught up with the Canadian ladies again then stopped to view an obelisk in memory of Sir Richard Green Price!

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Offa's Dyke made in the year AD 757

We rejoined the well defined dyke, crossed the road and after a while, joined it for a dangerous few hundred yards before rejoining the path for a short ascent to Knighton Golf Club. This was followed by a long steep descent down to town. The path ran under an arch in the Knighton Hotel, where we were staying but we spotted the Scots lads so wandered down to the pub to have a beer with them. We were soon joined by our Canadian friends so enjoyed a couple more beers before we checked in at the hotel.

We walked up the oldest free standing wooden staircase in Europe and I checked into my single room.

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The staircase in the Knighton Hotel

The TV wouldn’t work so reception kindly upgraded me to an adjacent double where I showered. I joined Phil for a wander around the very steep town, then to the pub for a quick drink and a meal. We chatted to the Canadian ladies who seemed to gravitate towards us at every opportunity! They were sisters and we got very interesting but contrasting stories from each of them. One was very gung ho about her husband’s imminent retirement: the other was widowed but very happy with her life as a U3A lecturer living in Bournemouth.

Phil and I headed back to the hotel where I went to bed whilst Phil managed a final glass of wine.

5th June 2015 – Knighton to Brompton Cross: 15.22 miles

Day 25

It was very warm in my room so I woke dripping with sweat having slept fitfully. I showered early and sorted things out for the day. Breakfast was good: I chose the smoke salmon and scrambled egg for a change. We asked the waitress if she could fill our water bottles: she asked if tap water would be ok! We then picked up our packed lunches that included glass bottles of spring water!

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We left at 09:20 and it was fine outside as we walked up the steep main street. We turned off at the Offa’s Dyke Centre and crossed the river after taking photos on the Wales/England border. Phil got soaked by a dog that had just emerged from the river.

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We crossed the river and then the railway line before the first of many steep climbs: 120 metres up Panpunton Hill. From the top we had great views back across Knighton and forward to the railway viaduct at Knucklas.

The railway viaduct at Knucklas

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Knighton from Panpunton Hill

We could also see again, Hergest Ridge and the Black Mountain ridge from two and three days ago respectively. We followed the ridge and were joined by a different group of three Canadians, one of whom had emigrated from Bramhall in 1963. We chatted and walked with them for a while before they dropped back. Shortly thereafter we caught up with our original Canadian friends with whom we walked for a while.

We saw lots of kites and buzzards as we descended the long hill of Cwm-sanaham. We came to Garbett Hall expecting to fill up with water but there was none available so we started another climb uo to the Jack Mytton Way and headed for Llanfair Hill.

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We ploughed through a pen of sheep waiting to be dosed and then walked along the Dyke, which could clearly be seen following the ridge.

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Approaching Spoad Hill

We lost our way a little on the descent but then found the right road and bumped into a Brummie who had visited his Mum and then started the walk a little farther North. He was sleeping under hedges in a bivvie bag and aiming for Chepstow.

We got to Springhill Farm where we descended a really long stretch, meeting a Swiss guy: a little overweight and sweating profusely, coming up the hill. We got to the bottom and to a very old farmhouse, crossed the valley to another old farmhouse and the started another long ascent.

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Bryndrinog Farmhouse

We found a tap and filled up with water before continuing uphill to arrive at the half way marker for the walk: 88.5 miles done and 88.5 miles to go. We sat down by the marker and had our decent lunch c/o the Knighton Hotel: ham sandwich, crisps, a beautiful cake and an apple. We sent some Whatsapps and I replied to a timely text from Mark Pickup.

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Half way: 88.5 miles

We continued on up the hill as the weather deteriorated. I hadn’t packed any more clothes so could only put my back pack cover on and tuck my shirt into my shorts! After another long descent and ascent, or maybe two, we stopped at Churchtown to explore the little church in which three people were tracing an ancestor.

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The steep slopes of Edenhope Hill

There followed a 400 metre, 1 in 4, ascent and then walks along The Dyke, a descent/ascent and then across the Kerry Ridgeway where we stopped to finish cake and check where we were. It turned out we were just above Cwm Chapel, so we followed The Dyke down to the crossroads at the chapel.

I rang Lynne at the B7B and she agreed to pick us up from Brompton Cross, which allowed us to add a further 1.5 miles to today’s distance.

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The Shropshire Hills

The route passed Mellington Hall and its large static caravan site. We emerged from the estate through the gate house. A quick walk along a busy lane and past a corn mill brought us to Brompton Cross and the Blue Bell Pub, which was closed!!

I called Lynne again and she drove out to pick us up. She was lively and friendly and delivered us back to her well positioned house.

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The views across to the Shropshire Hills were stunning. We had tea and cake before changing for dinner, which she served in the dining room looking out over the view.

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Dinner at 'Oakley'

Phil and I planned our next five days then retired to the lounge to watch TV and write my journal.

6th June 2015 – Brompton Cross to Pool Quay: 11.8 miles

Day 26

Woke early again but dozed off until Judith sent a Whatsapp at 05:55! I showered and applied Ibuprofen gel, sun cream and toe protection. Breakfast, which was very good, was served in the dining room with a splendid view of the Shropshire Hills. We finished packing, had a final chat with and paid Lynne and then Ian took us back to the Blue Bell where we resumed our walk.

It was a very straight, totally flat and comparatively boring first few miles, following The Dyke. We caught the Canadian ladies and were surprised that they had found yesterday quite reasonable (were they on the same route?). We walked and chatted with them for a while but then walked on without really saying goodbye.

With the exception of the odd kink, there was nothing of note in the Vale of Montgomery until we got to a hill prior to Forden where we saw beer kegs in a field, a chap cutting his hedge, a farmer raking grass and some stock sheds with gas heaters. We walked past a motte and bailey castle without seeing it and onto the busy road and to Forden where we started the main ascent of the day. The Roman road followed The Dyke and we gained height steadily.

We left the metalled road at a lodge house and joined a forest trail that gave way to a track that ran alongside The Dyke through pine trees. Eventually the track petered out and with no signs we were stumped as to which way to go. We consulted the guide book and the map but couldn’t see where we were or should be. Phil followed a rough path that turned back on ourselves. After walking a few hudred yards in the wrong direction the path turned again. We followed it gradually uphill towards the light at the top of the tree line and finally came to a gate that led onto a minor road.

Still unsure of where we were, we turned left and before long saw Welshpool below us and to the left. We carried on and spotted the Beacon Ring communications tower and then came to a road junction where a signpost confirmed our location. We debated which way to rejoin the Offa’s Dyke path and settled on the road up towards the mast. When we got there we again debated at length which path to take to join the Dyke Path, finally opting to walk through a field of grass and climb a fence to join the path where it left the forest.

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Beacon Ring

I was famished but Phil said he needed ‘the bathroom’ (very Canadian) urgently, so we made the very long and uncomfortable descent to Buttington. The descent was 1000 feet in 2.5 miles.

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Descent to the Severn Valley

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The crooked stile at Hope View above Welshpool

The views showed that tomorrow’s walk would start relatively flat. We reached Buttington and saw that the pub was on the main road. Phil’s ‘bathroom’ requirements had abated somewhat, so we continued along the path, crossed the railway line and then the River Severn on a busy road bridge. We joined the Severn Path and tried to find a lunch spot, finally opting for an eroded bank which, to Phil’s disgust, was covered in sheep shit!

Lunch was great as we watched the Severn slide by. The bank afforded a little shelter from the very strong wind that had been blowing most of the day and was now quite cold. We then followed the path away from the river and towards the busy A483, which we crossed to gain access to the Montgomery Canal along whose towpath ran the Severn Valley Way and Offa’s Dyke Path. The canal was part of the impassable section: overgrown with weed and waterlillies, but very attractive. Before long we left the path to arrive at the road again and have a drink in the sun and wind in the garden of the Powys Arms pub.

I called the B&B and david soon arrived in his 4WD to collect us. He was a friendly chap who stopped off at the garage so I could buy the paper, but they wouldn’t accept my ‘Times voucher’. The B&B, Tynllwyn Farm, was a stunning farmhouse in which we enjoyed a cup of tea and a scone and cream.

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A welcome cream tea!

 Our rooms were in a converted outbuilding: a lovely room each, shared bathroom and large kitchen and sitting room with great views across the Severn Valley.

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View from Tynllwyn Farm

I changed and bathed and then we went into the farmhouse where David served us a lovely chicken and vegetable dish followed by an equally delicious pudding washed down with a glass of Shiraz. David introduced us to another guest, also called Richard Green, who was organizing the CNN team that was participating in the Welsh Castles Race.

Phil and I went back to our lounge, dodging the low beam and watched Barcelona beat Juventus 3-1 in the Champions League final. I fell asleep before the last goal so retired to bed!

7th June 2015 – Pool Quay to Oswestry: 20.78 miles

Day 27

Woke after a good sleep and showered before a lovely breakfast, again served by David. We bade him farewell, picked up the hefty lunch packs he had prepared for us and finished packing. An elderly chap, with firm views on lots of things, gave us a lift back to Pool Quay where we chatted to the landlord of the pub where we finished yesterday. Rejoining the path where it crossed the main road we headed across fields to the banks of the Severn.

We followed the levees beside the Severn for several miles, across a sluice gate and some fairly flat farmland. We followed the Dyke itself to the town of Four Crosses. We followed the main street down to an over-engineered underpass and into Parsons Lane, where we saw a wren singing loudly from a telephone wire: so small it looked like a knot in the wire. We rejoined the disused, but beautiful, canal, chatting to a couple heading South on the Path.

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Montgomery Canal

Crossing the River Vyrnwy on an aqueduct we saw swans and cygnets.

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Montgomery Canal crossing the River Vyrnwy

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We walked on past the renovated Carreghofa Locks and a lovely house with a beautiful garden.

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Carreghofa Locks

Further along the canal we passed a bungalow whose owners had built a revolting breeze block wall that completely obscured the lovely view it had across the canal. Eventually we arrived at the small, tatty, town of LLanymynech, which appeared to be the point from which the canal became navigable. We tried in vain to find an ATM then started the long haul up Llanymnech Hill. We stopped for lunch at the summit where a superb viewpoint afforded us views back where we’d come from and across to the Shropshire Hills. I took a photo for a couple of mums with babies.

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View from Llanymnech Hill

We walked on round the golf course, through a wood and across the B4396 before a steady climb up to Cefn Farm. There then followed a sharp descent to Nantmawr and a steep climb up Moelydd. Approaching the top we encountered yet another Canadian who had travelled from Korea, via Russia, to the UK and was walking Offa’s Dyke Path North to South with full pack to spend on beer the money he would save on B&Bs! There were great views from the top of Moelydd including, apparently, of Alderley Edge near home.

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View from Moelydd

The descent from Moelydd was long and brought us to Trefonen: a bit of a nothing town but where we sat in the back garden of the Barley Mow pub to drink a pint of their home brewed beer.

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The Barley Mow, Trefonen

We pressed on, rejoining Offa’s Dyke itself and walked down a steep road to Tyn-y-Coed, where I was sure there was a great pub – no such luck. So we just walked on through and started the interminable ascent, following The Dyke through trees, up onto Racecourse Common.

We were both very tired but pressed on across the common before taking the minor road thatascended Baker’s Hill. As we passed the summit we saw our destination, Carreg-y-Big, in the valley.

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Carreg-y-Big

Ian welcomed us, showed us to our two rooms, bathroom, shower room and sitting room then served us a beer. We changed before dinner, which was a huge and welcome pan of chicken and chorizo pesto, pasta and salad with garlic bread: excellent with a couple of glasses of shiraz. We chatted, watched TV but went to bed once I started nodding off.

 

Another tough day.

8th June 2015 – Oswestry to Llandegla: 19.26 miles

Day 28

I had a reasonable sleep but woke at 04:45 so tried to doze whilst listening to the radio. Breakfast was very good and we chatted with the proprietor Ian afterwards. He was an engineer who had spent twenty years in the army. He concerned us by saying he only knew of two people who had tried to do the distance of Offa’s Dyke that we were about to attempt today!

Phil phoned Nancy for her birthday and then we loaded up with Ian’s packed lunch, paid and set off up the hill. We followed The Dyke up across fields to Selattyn Hill which afforded decent views to the East. We saw Frodsham Escarpment and the ICI chemical plant beyond.

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The Dyke heading north from Carreg-y-Big

We descended through a small valley to Craignant and then followed The Dyke up a gradual climb before the steep, knee hurting, descent to Castle Mill.

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Descent to Castle Mill

We passed a plaque celebrating an England v Wales battle featuring Henry II.

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The climb up through Gwyningar and Mars Woods was long and hard, punctuated by the obligatory ‘get out of my way!’ lady 4WD driver. We expected to emerge at Chirk Castle, which we had seen from the other side of the valley. When we did see the castle however, it was a long way below us and to the right.

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View east over Chirk

 We crossed the field and joined the road but we missed the path so walked back along the road before heading downhill towards the busy main road. This we crossed then zig-zagged onto the canal towpath.

Phil stopped to take photos of the aqueduct, we passed a bright yellow pub and then stopped again to take more photos of the aqueduct close up.

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Pont-Cysylite Aqueduct

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I held my breath and walked swiftly across, holding tight to the balustrade. Phil took his time, savouring the views. We sat on benches at the far side to eat our packed lunches. I let out an expletive when I spotted my bag in a pool of liquid, assuming it had been deposited by a passing mangy looking poodle: it had, in fact, come from my waterpack drinking tube.

We walked across to the, still dreadful, Telford Arms for a quick beer in the sun, then followed the canal towards Llangollen, turning right over an old bridge and then up and across the main road to join the lane towards Trevor Hall Woods. The path wove up through the woods for some time and we passed many fallen trees. After a short climb we came out onto the ‘Panorama Walk’, where we chatted with a council workman who was picking up the litter that was strewn around the view point.

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Panorama Walk, Llangollen

We walked along the ridge, dodging the cars. We saw climbers on the limestone rocks above. Castell Dinas was impressive but blocked what would have been a good view over Llangollen. The road continued for quite some distance with the limestone cliffs looming above and the green valley below. After some time we encountered a young girl doing the Offa’s Dyke Path North to South. She was very enthusiastic but seemed a little naïve about how far it was.

The road gave way to a track and then to a small, narrow, path that cut into the fields of scree that had fallen from the crags. The gradients were steep and I tried not to look down!

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Creigiau Eglwyseg

We rounded bluff after bluff of Creigiau Eglwyseg until finally descending passed a magnificent Jacobean hall to a bend in the lane at World’s End. We sat with our boots in the ford contemplating the 3.5 miles that, we were informed by the signpost, lay between us and Llandegla.

The first mile was a steady climb onto a lane. We passed the odd car and a couple of cyclists with whom we chatted. We turned off the road and headed across the breezy open moorland for another mile. The path had been improved, with planks to raise it above the boggy ground. The distant forest continued to be distant, but eventually we reached it and plunged into the relative darkness.

Fortunately the path was well way-marked and we walked on for some time before descending and emerging at Hafod Bilston, only to discover that we had another 1.5 miles to go: very dispiriting. We wandered through a large field of sheep, crossed a stream by a footbridge and reached the main road. Crossing the road we squeezed through a narrow gap between houses to arrive at the outskirts of Llandegla.

I called Michelle to alert her to our arrival and we waited for her, as arranged, outside the Post Office. She turned up after ten minutes and was very friendly. She drove us the twenty minutes back to Eyarth Station House B&B. It was a very attractive former station house and we were shown to our enormous double rooms (ensuite) overlooking the swimming pool and some great countryside.

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We showered and I caught up on my journal before Michelle gave us a lift to nearby Ruthin. I got cash out of an ATM then we wandered round looking in vain for a pub or restaurant that was open. In desperation we ended up in Weatherspoons, which occupied the aptly named former Grand Hotel. We drank cheap Ruddles bitter and I ate pasta and apple crumble. Not wishing to stay longer we caught ‘Daveys Taxi’ back to the B&B and to bed.

9th June 2015 – Llandegla to Bodfari: 18.1 miles

Day 29

Slept well but woke at 05:30 despite the blinds and curtains. I listened to the Today programme on the radio once I gave up trying to get the wifi code to work on my phone. I had a tiny shower but it did the job so dressed and threw back the curtains to reveal a beautiful day and stunning views from my window. I did the various packing jobs, applied liberal amounts of Ibuprofen gel and then my toe plasters. Finally slapped on sun cream and went in for a fine breakfast: yet another ‘Full English’!

We were handed our packed lunches, paid Michelle and she drove us along the scenic road back to Llandegla Post Office. Phil hadn’t yet applied his sun cream so we didn’t actually set off until 09:20. We then headed down to the church and carefully followed the book until we were stopped in a field by the sight of a dead calf hanging out of the back of its mother.

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We walked over to the nearest farm and enquired of the cheroot smoking old chap if he was the owner of said cow, to which he replied ‘yes’. Thanks were given for reporting the dilemma and he walked off in the direction of his farm leaving us to head back to the poor cow. After some time he appeared on a quad bike with three other chaps who all waved at us in thanks then set about clearing away the other cattle and trying to corral the poor beast.

We walked on, taking the wrong stile and circumnavigating a entire field before spotting a couple of walkers on the right track and following them. We caught up with them and discovered that they were doing the northern half of the Offa’s Dyke Path but were taking considerably longer than us! Leaving them, we headed across fields in which we were requested ‘not to picnic or stop!’ then climbed to meet a road that took us onwards towards Nurse Fawr and a radio mast.

Passing this we began the first big climb of the day, up Moel-y-Plas and then down the other side. We passed some ancient burial mounds then started the second ascent around Moel Llanfair from where we caught our first, but certainly not our last, glimpse of Ruthin far below.

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Ruthin from Moel Llanfair

We passed a few people out for day walks who commented on our t-shirt attire in the cold wind: we donned another layer each. Another climb around Moel Gyw and then we descended to the A494. We walked along the busy road for a couple of hundred yards before heading uphill again around Gyrn and then skirting the ancient hill fort of Foel Fenlli. The path had been diverted because of severe erosion. We rounded a bluff and saw a car park below so retraced our steps and had lunch sitting in the heather and admiring the tremendous views.

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Lunch stop at Fort Fenlli

We pressed on down to the car park where some volunteers were building a small wall. The heavily eroded path rose from the car park for a long ascent up to Moel Fannau and its Jubilee Tower memorial to George III. Several people were making the trip to the top and when we got there and climbed to the viewing area we saw why: the views in every direction were superb. Snowdon, Irish Sea, Liverpool, Runcorn Bridge, the Cheshire Plain and Cader Idris 45 miles away.

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We chatted to a group of three walkers sat by the tower then started the long knee jarring descent via Moel Dywyll to another car park. From here we climbed the steep slopes of Moel Arthur Fort then descended to a third car park where I called Linda, our B&B host for the evening.

Linda said that we still had a fair way to go but offered us a lift from the trail to her farmhouse. We trudged wearily up the long hill to Penycloddiau, along its summit and then down and round a couple of bluffs before finally catching sight of Bodfari and its white church.

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Penycloddiau Ridge

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Descent from Penycloddiau

Our final descent was to Grove Hall where we phoned Linda who met us in a very mucky Mercedes estate to drive the mile or so back to her place.

We were shown into our superb barn conversion overlooking a lovely pond and very rustic. I checked out the rooms, of which there were two: a large double and a small twin. I offered to toss for it and Phil won, taking the master suite! I made a cup of tea which I enjoyed with the cake that had been left in the fridge. I drank my tea in a nice hot bath then changed for dinner and started writing up my journal.

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The view from our rooms, Glan Clwyd

Linda’s husband, Hugh, called to run us to the pub. He was a large 70 year old gent on two crutches, which I had to squeeze into the back seat with me. We were dropped off at the Downing Arms on the main road near Bodfari. I had a t-bone steak, which was huge and we chatted about our trip as we ate and drank. We also discussed personal matters, such as shared interests with spouses, pensions and the future! We thought about other walks we might try but came to no conclusions.

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My T-bone at the Downing Arms

The landlord gave us a welcome lift back to the farm where we relaxed in front of the TV before falling into bed for a final night away from home.

10th June 2015 – Bodfari to Prestatyn: 12.43 miles

Day 30

I woke very early and did the usual mix of dozing and listening to the radio before showering and applying various medicinal creams! Hugh shouted up from the garden that breakfast was ready so we wandered over to the old farmhouse where we were joined by Linda, Hugh, a party of two women and one man around an old pine farmhouse table.

Breakfast was excellent and we chatted with our hosts and all our fellow guests. The two ladies were doing the Offa’s Dyke Path, supported by the chap who was their designated driver! They had done the first mile out of Prestatyn last night and were heading back to start their first day proper: they sounded unprepared!!

We finished packing and Linda gave us a lift back to where she’d picked us up from. Phil did his obligatory sun cream application before we set off. We passed last night’s pub, crossed the main road and started ascending. An old couple told us that it went up for a long way and they weren’t wrong.

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Looking back across the Clwydian Mountains

Although we didn’t go to the very top of Moel y Caer the ascent was a toughie that early in the morning. We descended to a road that then climbed past ‘Sodum’ and via some trees out onto the moorlands to cross Cefn Du.

We passed a static caravan cluster with great views then skirted Moel Maenefa and wended our way through horses to the very busy A55, which we crossed via a bridge. We walked up a small road to Brynllithrig Hall where we took a breather before the next steep ascent through trees, across fields and finally to a road. We looked for the path right after the forest and encountered the first of several stone stiles, which were hard to step over, particularly after 170 miles!

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The sea is sighted!

We stopped at Marian Cwm where I took my inner socks off to try, unsuccessfully, to ease my very sore feet. For the next few miles I looked forward to uphill stretches that afforded a little relief to my toes. We walked down to a mill complex where the owners of a hideous modern chalet had hung revolting balls of fake plastic foliage outside: a contrast with the beauty of the chalet’s surroundings. Litter was becoming more prevalent, as were poorly maintained stiles. It was amazing when compared to how well maintained those in more remote areas were.

I turned the page in our guide book expecting it to be the last but found a extra page…bonus! We had passed a couple from Alaska: bright and enthusiastic on the first morning of their Offa’s Dyke walk and also the two ladies from last night’s B&B. They were applying sun cream and relaxing with very unrealistic expectations of where they would get to today.

Phil and I headed towards the sea and picked up the path up the Prestatyn cliffs: a real sting in the tail as we climbed ever higher whilst passing over Prestatyn from East to West. The drop was formidable and I progressed trepidaciously.

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Prestatyn from the cliffs

We took photos of the finish and eventually started to descend through the gorse on a well made path. We came to a car park and a road and we were back in ‘civilisation’. We walked straight towards the sea front and came across the station where we stopped to check train times. I bought a £22 ticket to Hale but Phil exploded when told that the cheapest train to Ascot was £94. He left, cursing as we continued our walk to the sea front.

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We took photos of the new Start/Finish memorial then descended to the sand and took off our shoes and socks to walk down the beach and paddle in the foamy and refreshing sea.

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We took a few photos then walked back to the prom, dried our feet and put our shoes and socks back on. I went to the coffee shop that seemed to mark the end of the Path and the girl signed our record card: not very official! We then walked back to Roberts Taxis to check that our bags were there before walking over to the pub for a fish and chips and beer lunch in the sun.

A group of students pitched up next to us: they were playing ‘pub crawl golf’. We ate and chatted a little then wandered over to the station platform where we were joined by a chap in a Welsh RU shirt. He claimed to be ex army, walking round the coast of the UK but there were several flaws in his story. He also claimed to have played rugby for a Wales youth side at Cardiff Arms Park.

Thankfully the train arrived and Phil and I jumped on and relaxed on our short journey to Chester. We got off the train and I said farewell to Phil who went to catch his London train. I sat on the platform and wrote this journal whilst waiting half an hour for the Hale train, which departed on time. It was a pleasant ride back to Hale where Kym was waiting for me on the platform and to drive me back to the house. Home at last!

Afterward

Afterward
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Musings

Musings

For me, Offa’s Dyke Path will forever be remembered for:

  • Hills and more hills

  • Larks, Buzzards and Kites

  • Buttercups

  • Hedgerows

  • Stiles

  • Goof B&Bs

  • Closed pubs!

  • Packed lunches

  • Sore feet, knees and hips

  • Wind and cold

  • Wind and warm

  • Friendly people

  • Canadians!

  • Great views

..and the opportunity to spend twelve days with a great mate.

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