Mellington Hall to Springhill Farm, Offa’s Dyke – Day 14

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Walk to Knighton aborted due to Storm Ali. Cross winds battered us as we walked, possibly the toughest walk to date, we called it a day at Springhill Farm and took the road to Clun.

It started off as a bright day, three hour drive got me to Mellington Hall by 9.15am. The general manager at the hotel was friendliness personified as I changed into my boots in front of a roaring fire.

She was surprised that we were intent on walking in the gale force winds. She even gave her card, with strict instructions to call if we got into difficulty. The staff here have been super, even though we have not stayed at the hotel.

Esther and Alex arrived and we set off sharply, heading through Mellington Woods, the wind howling through the trees.
We met a lone walker, who expressed surprise that we were going to attempt to get as far as Knighton. “Toughest stretch, worst of weathers” was his cryptic comment.

I did wonder at this stage whether we had made a wise decision.

Out of the woods and onto a roadway, gradually heading upwards towards the Kerry Ridgeway, before we were out on the series of steep ascents and descents called The Switchback, noted in most blogs and guidebooks as the toughest challenge on the path!

Most of the walk is through undulating fields, frequently on the Dyke, I spare a thought for the workforce who had toiled away at this earthwork, still here some 1200 years later.

We come across a dying sheep, Esther and Alex dash back to the nearest house, only to find that a walker has already called in, and the farmer had been informed. I stayed talking quietly to the sheep, it tried to lift its head, looking at me piteously.

We moved on hoping the farmer would come along soon, and put the poor animal out of its misery. Some miles later we saw another sheep carcass, the birds and other animals had fed well on the poor beast.

Having huffed and puffed my way up several ups and downs, I was glad to get to Churchtown and the pretty setting of St John the Baptist. We popped inside to get a respite from the wind. A simple church, with a number of religious tracts on the walls, a quiet interlude before another tussle with the elements.

On our way, a steep climb awaits and it is raining. Heads bowed, we eventually reach Hergan at 408m/1340 ft.
We follow a line of trees, then down some 120 steps. A short “dog leg” turn on a road near a cottage, crossing a footbridge over a stream, we head up hill.

The path narrows above Bridge Farm and Pond – we stop for lunch. All were glad of a break. As well as highs and lows, we had also clambered over loads of styles.

We met a group of women walkers who had come from Knighton, and to,d us it had taken them six hours to get to this point. The three of us looked at each other and we all knew at that stage we wouldn’t get to Knighton today.

They told us that the half way point wasn’t far ahead, but there was a very steep descent ahead. I groaned loudly…..

A quick con-flab after the ladies had departed and we decided to get onto the road at Springhill Farm and then walk to Clun. A quick call by Alex to her husband to pick us up in Clun rather than Knighton and we scrambled down another hill.

We stopped to take a picture of the half way marker, although from our point of view having walked from Sedbury to Hay on Wye already, the sign was meaningless in terms of our journey.

Storm Ali you defeated us….

The beginning of the great Welsh Coast Walk

Ever had an urge to walk …. a large redundancy payment made it possible for me. I really wanted to walk and walk and walk. After some research, I decided on a route across northern Spain possibly recalling a night with my mother’s whose choice of film was The Way; a feel good, find yourself film set on the walking route in northern Spain. Martin Sheen finds challenges and meaning following in the footsteps of his dead son by completing a stretch of the Way that his son had started.

Planned and executed with a good friend, Rhonda Power, we flew to Madrid, took a train to Leon (Spain) and followed the pilgrimage route to Santiago De Compostela on foot, bike and a short taxi ride when the challenge over rode the meaning! It was a great experience but crowded, dirty and for at least 3 days we walked what should have been called the M4 leg. There was no profound sign as to what was next for me and what there was is all for another tale.

I had done some training on the Wales Coast Path and Brecon Beacons with keen photographer, and long time friend, Eirlys Thomas, before setting off for Spain. On reflection, there was nothing to be found in northern Spain that challenged or gave meaning in quite the same breathtaking, incredible, brutish, familiar, shocking and unexpected way as the Welsh landscape complete with the crazy banter and pitstops to be found along the way.

Feeling very humble and forgiving about any small problem I previously thought that Wales may have and spurred on by a couple of bottles of wine, our plan to walk the Wales Coast Path was hatched..