Offa's Dyke Path.

30.03.99 - 12.04.99

Left home at 08:15 and walked to the National Express bus stop in Windermere to catch the 09:00 bus to Birmingham. Arrived in plenty of time to catch the 15:00 connection to Cardiff. The first journey was uneventful but the second had its moments. We passed the Haverfordwest coach stationary on the hard shoulder of the M50. Our driver stopped also on the hard shoulder to see what had happened. He walked back to the stopped bus, had a conversation with the driver, walked back, counted our empty seats, returned to the other bus and AFTER REVERSING proceeded to transfer the passengers to our bus along with their luggage. It is quite nerve racking sitting on a bus on the hard shoulder while the rest of the traffic races past at 70mph (or more). This, of course, had delayed us and we arrived in Cardiff just in time to catch the next connection, at 18:00, to Chepstow. We then realised that we could have waited in Newport for that connection! Heavy traffic ment we arrived in Chepstow at 19:00 instead of 18:50. It was now raining so we were pleased to find our B&B (which we had pre-booked) quite quickly. Knocked on the door, rang the doorbell, banged on the door, rang the doorbell but no answer. Undaunted - we HAD booked remember - we dumped our sacs and went to a phone box. Left a message on the answering machine to say we had arrived and were going for a meal and we would be back at the house about 20:30. Found a pub cum wine bar cum restaurant "The Grape Experience" which was very good. Alan had a starter followed by sole stuffed with prawns and smoked salmon, boiled potatoes and carrots and peas. I think that this was completed by a portion of baked cheesecake. I had a more modest deep fried Camembert with a side salad. We also had a glass of wine each and the bill came to £27. It was at this point that I had an inkling that this was not to be a cheap walk Phoned the B&B, left another message on the answering machine, stating the time and that we would be collecting our sacs in about 20 minutes. If there was still no reply to the door we would have to look elsewhere for a B&B. We knocked, rang, etc. but still no answer, so we went to look for some where else. Passed two B&Bs both full. By now it was passed 21:00, dark and still raining, so we strode into "The George". On enquiring about a double room for the night, yes there was one available at £80 but they would let us have it for £60. As I don't eat breakfast I tried to get a further reduction but no luck. It was a very nice room with en suite facilities but....... Plastic money is wonderful.

Left the hotel at 08:30 in a taxi, to take us to a point as near Sedbury Cliffs as possible, where the walk officially starts. It was warm and sunny so we soon walked the necessary 400m to dip our boots (Scapa M4s, overkill no doubt for the road bits but very good for the peat and boggy farm land) into the Severn and then back up the cliffs to the plaque at the official beginning of the walk After taking photos and generally admiring the scenery we made our official start at 09:00. We skirted a new housing scheme where an elderly man, well older than us, said that we looked like serious walkers, and were we doing the Dyke? On our affirming this he wished us well. We soon left the houses and entered muddy farm lanes and the woods overlooking Tintern Abbey. We had quite good views as the leaves on the trees were only just in bud and so did not obscure the view. We met some day walkers at Plumweir Cliffs and again at Devil's Pulpit. This was a tree growing out of a stone but we did not stop to look as there were children climbing over it. Lunch stop at 13:15 when we were about half way. We soon got into the habit of stopping for a drink and a Mars bar (Alan) about 11:15, lunch about 13:15, drink and possibly chocolate at 13:15 and hopefully arriving before 17:15!

The lanes across St. Briavels Common were a bit fiddly but the map in the book was very good. We were impressed by the numbers of wild flowers in the lanes. Mainly violets, both blue and white, daffodils and primroses at this stage. We saw a heron, a few buzzards and smelt foxes. Terraces above the Wye were interesting and on entering Quicken Tree Wood we saw a notice addressed to Alan White and/or Lesley Williams - Us , pinned to one of the sign posts. It was from a ranger who subscribes to uk.rec.walking, wishing us luck and commenting on the good weather we were having for our first day. On the map Redbrook village had a shop, so we were looking forward to an ice cream but no shop existed. It did have a real ale pub but we are ice cream people not real ale people. Despite the temptation of the low route i.e. The Wye Valley Walk we stuck to the official path and went up to the Naval Temple and Kymen Tower. From here we could overlook Monmouth, our goal. We entered at 18:00 and had found the B&B by 18:20. Showers and cups of tea and coffee, brought up to our room by the landlord, made new people of us. Well, new enough to put our boots back on and hunt for somewhere to eat. Quickly found Misbah Tandoori which was excellent. After spiced aubergine slices, king prawn korma, rice, nan and lychees for Alan and spinach panier with chapatti then kurma for me with pints of soda and lime between us, we felt better. We decided that we would write the Gourmet's guide to Offa's Dyke when we returned home.

Distance 28k, height climbed 1040m.

Stopped at Woolworths to replenish supplies of lunches and fizzy water, left at 08:45. Again the sun was shining and quite warm, short sleeves for both of us. The walking was mainly through fields and along the River Trothy valley. It became quite hot and it was a welcome relief to take off our socks and boots for a short time at our mid morning stop. We intended to do the same at lunchtime but succumbed to the lure of soda and lime and packets of salt and vinegar crisps at the pub at Llantilio Crossenny. Some of the fields were very muddy so we had to keep the gaiters on else we may have been tempted to don shorts. We saw a dead fox on the side of the track when we were in Hendre Wood, this was the only fox we saw but we smelt many. We also saw a few deer. The balance of flowers seen today changed, with pink and white campion topping the list, with a scattering of wild strawberry flowers. Heavily flowered Blackthorn was the main hedge grove but we did also see some apple blossom. To our minds this part of the walk was a bit boring with far too many stiles. There are apparently 700 stiles over the whole walk but we soon gave up counting them. Mid afternoon we were looking around the ruins of White Castle which is mainly 12th century and now part of The Three Castles Walk. Nowhere today was the dyke in evidence. We continued past Pandy to Brynhonddu and decided that it was a cruel trick of fate to place the house at the end of a long long steep drive. We arrived at 17:20. The welcome by Keith and later Linda made up for this tho'. Tea , coffee and digestive biscuits were soon produced and quickly vanished. I'm very glad that McVities have changed their recipe and they are now suitable for vegetarians! It was a beautiful house with lots of history and we had the loft room which ment that we also had a little sitting room of our own. For our evening meal Linda ran us back down to the village to the Pandy Arms where the food again deserved an entry in the guide (to be known as TGGTODP). Alan had a huge plate of whitebait on salad for his starter and then gigot of Welsh lamb with new potatoes, leeks and courgettes. I had a more modest leek and courgette bake with a side salad. We then had to face the walk back and the steep drive again. It wasn't so bad this time!

Distance 28k, height climbed 690m

After the breakfast of cereal, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes and egg followed by toast, to which Alan has now become accustomed, we departed. It was 08:45 and sunny but we could see the mist was down on the hills. We took a short cut up the fields at the back of the house and soon rejoined the path. A little way of road walking and then up onto the open moorland of Hatterrall Ridge. We stayed in the mist until about 12:00 when it cleared but the views were still hazy. This was a pity as it was supposed to be one of the best days of the walk Lots of skylarks and a few grouse and of course plenty of heather. Only 8 stiles today, which made for a faster day despite the climbing. The ridge was quite boggy with wet peat in places. We saw a lad with only one boot on, the other in the bog. His father did not seem unduly worried and when we met them again he had two. We took the path over Hay Buff, where we put cagoules on as it rained slightly. Then down onto the common and entered Hay at 16:00 when the sun came out and indeed it turned into a beautiful evening. Slight difficulty in finding the B&B as we only had a house name and the grid reference but that sufficed. Tea, coffee and digestive biscuits with Mr Gwynne on arrival. After baths, the boots back on to discover the delights of Hay. Another entry for TGGTODP from "The Mallard" adjcent to "The Swan Hotel" . Baked avocado in cheese sauce followed by turkey and mushroom pie with new potatoes and vegetables for Alan and I had lentil, apricot and spinach loaf with salad.

Distance 28k, height climbed 703m

We left Hay at 09:15 after getting water and rolls at Spar. It was misty again and remained so most of the day. This was a pity as the views from both Disgwylfa Hill and Hergest Ridge on similar common ground should have been good. There is actually a disused race track on Hergest Ridge. Alan thought today was the best so far but I preferred yesterday. We phoned ahead from Gladestry for directions as we did not have a grid reference or our B&B. We arrive at 16:00 and found the house easily. It was an interesting old black and white cottage conversion, in fact Mrs Morgan said that it had been 5 cottages which they had gradually bought and converted. Mr Morgan was a builder who specialised in this. Tea, coffee and sponge cake in front of a log fire this time. The bathroom was tucked away in a corner with a corner bath, fine for me but a bit short for Alan. We did notice that all the windows and the French doors were open and remained open all night. It was quite chilly. The food scene looked a bit grim but we decided on "The Burton" the restaurant part. We did offer to remove our muddy boots but on hearing that we would be in our socks we were told to keep them on. The socks were clean as were the feet inside them! We now have a difference of opinion; Alan's food should go into TGGTODP but the less said about mine the better. Alan's - half a melon with melon and orange sorbet, then Shogon half duck in sweet and sour sauce with vegetables and potatoes followed by fresh fruit and ice-cream. Mine was spicy lentil soup, which was mainly pepper then banana pilaff, the subtle spices had been drowned by banana.. That was the vegetarian choice.

Because it was a set price for the meal I also had the dessert of fresh fruit salad. Even the coffee was weak!

Distance 23k, height climbed 700m

Having done the three long days we opted for a late breakfast at 08:30. Mrs Morgan started the day off well by bringing us coffee & tea in bed! At least Alan was still in bed and fortunately did not get out to greet her else she may have had a shock! I expect she had seen it all before though. I was safely in the bathroom. It was Easter Sunday and Mrs Morgan had another surprise for us - a Cadburys cream egg. She was very worried about me only having coffee but I was getting used to this. We were on our way by 09:30. It was a pleasant and pretty day today and it was much clearer so we could see the rolling hills. We met the couple with the two dogs that we had met yesterday and leap frogged them a couple of times. They were only doing the two days and were on their way home tonight. They had walked the first three days of the path last year and hope to do some more next year. Perhaps that is the way to do it.

There was a scarcity of flowers today. As we approached Knighton we met a few people who were out for their Sunday afternoon stroll, as usual we felt overdressed and overloaded in comparison. I feel that I ought to be carrying a banner saying "We are walking the whole way". The church clock was chiming 16:00 (4 o'clock actually) as we reached the edge of the town. We found the B&B easily, a large modern house, coffee and tea in our room here. After the clean up process we sallied forth to taste the delights of the recommended pub, The Horse and Jockey. It didn't look much but in my opinion the food was vastly superior to that of the previous night. Alan had fresh salmon on a bed of wild mushrooms, 3 vegetables, potatoes and rice. I had mushroom stroganoff. I refused potatoes and chips! The servings were very generous i.e. too much for me. It was pouring with rain on our way back to the B&B but the forcast was to clear by morning. We shall see.

Distance 21.5k, height climbed 765m

Even later this morning as we chatted to the other guests and then had to buy more supplies. We were on our way by 09:45, cagoules on because despite clearing in the night it had started to rain in the 10 minutes it took us to reach the river bank. Straight up to Panpunton Hill, which was not as bad as it looked. In fact although today is termed a "switchback" and thought to be the toughest part we did not find it too hard. I think we find the flat days harder as the are not so interesting! The weather improved and by the time we arrived at 16:50 in Cwm it was quite warm and sunny. It was windy on the higher ground, where we spent most of the day. We were now back to walking the dyke itself, which of course is the point of this walk! We did see the sad sight of a dead badger. It was mainly drier underfoot except for one never to be forgotten farm, which shall remain nameless. The ground by the gate to cross the field was the usual quagmire where the cows had trampled water, mud and dung to a lovely squelchy mess. I over balanced when I tried to lift one of my legs to take another step. I didn't fall flat, just up to my elbows on both arms. I did lift them out, only to fall again, in the same position. Help was at hand, Alan pulled me up by my rucksac while I lifted my arms and he steadied me so I could get the legs moving. I staggered onto firm ground and then posed for a photo. It was kind of him not to take it in my original position. I did smell rather high. I wiped off as much muck as possible on grass and leaves and we continued on our way. At Lower Spoad, which was the next named point, there was a stream, so I washed myself and the sleeves of my shirt.

We made our first acquaintance with Gerry later as we were climbing up from Churchtown. We were to see him many times over the next few days. Over the Kerry Ridgeway and then down to Cwm. A beautiful old farm house run by Ceinwen Richards. We were not only greeted with coffee and tea but Welshcakes fresh and warm from the bakestone. B&B at its best. The room was great with en-suite shower and plenty of books. In fact most places had books for me to read. Lovely evening meal, cooked by Ceinwen, a candidate for TGGTODP. Grapefruit and orange starter, then chicken and leak bake with potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, peas and broad beans for Alan and vegetable lasagne with salad for me. Ice cream for me and gooseberry pie with ice cream for Alan.

Gerry was camping in the garden.

Distance 21.5k, height climbed 1120m

Despite Alan having a huge breakfast Ceinwen reduced the bill, as I did not eat much!

We left quite reluctantly at 09:40, Alan said he could have stayed there a few days. Gerry was away long before us and it was lunch time before we passed him. The way was level all the morning which ment that we did not get fully into our stride into late in the day! The view behind us was the best as we could see the Kerry Ridgeway nearly all day. We arrived at Buttington at 16:00 and then had a very dangerous walk up the road to Hendre. Mrs Broxton passed us just before we arrived, she had hope to catch us at the church, and give us a lift! The B&B was just ordinary, a slight disappointment after some of our previous ones. There was a sign on the toilet door saying 50p for a shower or a bath! It was not asked for so we ignored it. Mre Broxton seemed quite put out when Alan offered to have a vegetarian meal to make things easier for her. He was told that he was to have beef, the same as her while I was to have quiche. Perhaps there was only one slice of quiche? In the evening we all watched television together.

Distance 24k, height climbed 500m

Mrs Broxton gave us a lift into Buttington, to save us the walk down the road. It was much appreciated, especially as we passed a dead badger on the side of the road and decided that it could have been us. As today was a short day we tried to go slower than usual but that seemed to made it harder. Again good views back to the Kerry Ridgeway and Long Mountain. We passed the Breiddens on our right but it was flat lands for us along the bank of the Severn. We did see some canoeists on the river and waved. We stopped at a pub in Four Crosses to have some crisps and lime and sodas for lunch, mainly to kill time. We did not stay long as it turned colder and it even started to rain slightly, so we put our cagoules on. We were now walking along the Montgomery Canal and the stone aqueduct over Afon Efrnwy (River Vyrnwy). This was a very pretty part and it had warmed enough to make dawdling more pleasant especially as there were some interesting bridges and locks. We also saw two swans on their nests. Despite our dragging the time out we arrived at the B&B at 14:40! Mrs Fahey said that we were not too early and soon gave us coffee, tea and toasted teacakes with home-made damson jam in the residents lounge.The bedroom was large, with plenty of books and a private (not en-suite) shower and toilet. There was another couple staying and a walker who was arriving later. We thought it might be Jerry, whom we had not seen all day, but it wasn't. We had dinner with the other couple who were quite chatty and keen cyclists, although this was not a cycling holiday. The dinner was another entry for TGGTODP. A starter of salad with garlic and cream mushrooms, then courgette, leek and onion bake with baked potatoes, roast parsnips and broccoli, then Bakewell tart and cream and then cheese and biscuits. Alan managed to eat some of everything as far as the cheese and buscuits but I gave up with a small selection of the main course. Mrs Fahey offered us a glass of wine as the other couple had known to bring their own! Tea and coffee followed in the lounge and we managed to chatter till 22:15, which was good for us, especially as I wanted to read one of the books I had found!

Distance 17k, height climbed 85m

The male of the couple had a heavy cold this morning and we couldn't wait to get away as he seemed to be spreading his germs quite indiscriminately. We bought some lemonade in the village shop and filled our water bottles and were on our way by 09:30. It was sunny and we were soon able to stretch our legs by going up Llanymynerch Hill. We saw 3 men by the golf course with only one small sac between them so decided that they were not path walkers. How wrong we were as we met them later and discovered that they were walking the second part of the Path from Knighton to Prestatyn. They were staying with friends and being ferried to and from various points who were also taking the rucsacs. We met them again today at Nantmawr and Moelydd. Met Gerry also, just after Tyn-y-coed at 12:30. He later camped in the garden of our B&B, The School House. We arrived at 16:10 and had tea and coffee in the garden with Mr & Mrs Bampfield. Another beautiful house and garden overlooking Chirk castle. Mrs Bampfield drove Jerry and us to the pub in Portfadod for our evening meal and collected us when we had finished. Alan had deep fried mushrooms, chicken curry, rice, peas, carrots and then ice cream and I had mushroom and nut fettichini with salad. We chatted with Gerry and discovered that he was Dutch and had walked quite extensively in the U.K. and Europe. He left us feeling quite inadequate. After doing Offa's Dyke he intended to walk from Prestatyn to Edale on the Cestrian Link and then the Pennine Way!

Distance 22.5k, height climbed 795m

We left at 09:15 and took the permissive path up through Chirk Castle and regained the path later. Again it was mostly agricultural land for a while and some roads. We joined the tow path for the Llangollen Canal for a while and took the alternate path over the aqueduct at Pont Cysyllte, built by Telford. This was to be a good choice as there was an ice-cream shop at the far end. Two Magnums later, we were on our way! We saw a few narrow boats giving tourists rides but we were not tempted. Quite a steep climb up through a wood to a tarmac path/road. This was beautiful and underneath the towering cliffs of Creigiau Eglwyseg. We would have liked to go over them but were apprehensive that we would not find a way off. We passed Gerry having an early lunch and sunbathing. We gave him our phone number in case he would like a break or had problems somewhere along his walks. He passed us again when we were having our lunch stop and we returned the favour as we were walking along an escarpment. Again great walking. In Llandaegla at 16:30, found the B&B easily, knocked but no answer, was this to be Chepstow again? Thankfully not, the village P.O. took me through a close to ring a bell and the owners appeared. Another old cottage or two which had been converted into a single house. The "man in black", another walker appeared and Mrs Bryns phoned various farms to find him a B&B and Gerry appeared to camp on the village green. Quite a gathering. We all had coffee, tea and digestive biscuits together. We later walked to "The Crown" for a meal where we met "the man in black" again. We never did ask him his name! Two welsh lamb chops, chips, peas and salad followed by apple with toffee sauce tart and ice cream for Alan and broccoli with cream cheese bake and salad for me. Possible for TGGTODP. Walk back to the B&B for bed.

Distance 26k, height climbed 765m

Slight problem here as the shop had no rolls left at 08:45. The one we had remaining was mouldy so it will have to be Ryvita today. It was cooler and I was soon wearing my gloves and thin red wind breaker. It was farm land to start for about 5 km. and at some places we were near the River Alyn. It then became more interesting as we walked along the Clwydian Range. Unfortunately the weather also became more interesting, the wind increased, the rain came down and for a short time we even had hail. The weather improved but it was still very windy on the top of Moel Fammeu. We saw quite a few walkers and strollers as we were now in a country park and it was Saturday. Rivitas and crumbly cheese were not a good idea in the wind. I quite enjoy walking in the wind (as long as it is not too strong) but Alan doesn't. He decided that he was fed up of walking at my pace and walked much slower. I thought that there was something wrong and was rather worried about him! Later in the afternoon the sun came out and it became very pleasant again. The footpath had been diverted to go around Moel Arthur rather than over the top so I could not see if the large "W" that the children had built years ago was still there. The last part from Penycleddiau to Bodfari was downhill all the way. Of course, to get to Mrs Edward's farm at Sodom we had to go up hill again out of Bodfari! Still that ment that we would not have to do it tomorrow. We were greeted with tea, coffee, scones and Welsh cakes. It looked as if we could have come directly from Penycleddiau to the farm but Mrs Edwards said no. She was fully booked with wedding guests so we had our own private caravan in the farm grounds. We had our dinner in the farmhouse and had the dining room all to ourselves. Vegetable soup, chicken or vegetable pie, leeks, carrots, peas and potatoes. The soup was lovely and would have been enough for me but I didn't like to refuse the rest as she had made it specially. Alan then had sponge pudding and cream.

Distance 28k, height climbed 1265m

Cool but sunny to start the day. We saw some of the other guests at breakfast but avoided a conversation. Despite taking our time we were leaving the caravan by 09:15. The way was mainly through farmland today with a little climbing and then the over coastal cliffs. It was clear enough to see the Snowdon range in the distance. We finally saw some cowslips, the book kept promising them but we had not seen any. We also saw a beautiful purple orchid. We walked the last part of the way into Prestatyn behind Gerry, we parted from him with good wishes for the rest of his walk and he went to a cafe for his lunch and we continued to the sea front to complete the walk. We took photos by the sign post and went into the information centre where Alan signed the official Offa's Dyke walkers book. We also met the "man in black" who was killing time before his train left. We found our B&B, cleaned up and felt a bit flat as it was all over. I even watched some of the Wales England rugby match. Wales won by 1 point, which gave Scotland the last ever 5 nations championship. We had our evening meal at the B&B, the landlady was very talkative and a good cook! Entry for TGGTODP. Asparagus soup with home made rolls, kebabs pork/vegetable, pilau rice, carrots, cabbage and sugarsnap peas. Ice cream with cream and fruit salad to follow. I ate much too much and no chance of walking it off tomorrow.

Distance 18.5k, height climbed 580m

Bus at 09:40 to Manchester, arriving about 12:30. We had a 5 hour wait for the connecting bus so went to the railway station and found a train for Windermere leaving at 13:13. We were on it. Arrived Windermere station at 15:30 and were home by 16:00.