Kington to Hay on Wye, Offa’s Dyke – Day 17

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Our lovely hostess at Radnor House B&B very graciously agreed to serve breakfast early, so we could complete our final walk on the Offa’s Dyke Path. She also sent us on our way with some delicious coconut and blueberry cake.

It was a bit of a shock to find that I had to defrost my car windows. The temperature gauge read 0 degrees.

Half an hour later we were in Kington and heading for Hergest Ridge. There is a steep climb out of the town, passing St Mary’s Church. Once out on the ridge, the views across the Shropshire hills takes my breath away. The mist is hanging low in the valley. It looks like a painting.
The grass is spongy and light, gentle on the feet.

A small circle of monkey puzzle trees with a bench look a bit odd in the landscape. I spot a spiders nest with the sun shining through. Sheep nuzzle the grass between the bracken. We notice large areas of bracken is cut back and baled, it can’t be for food, we suspect it is used as animal bedding.

It is the perfect day for walking, by mid morning we are taking off layers. We remark on the many different fungi we have seen, we don’t know much about fungi, and stick to foraging common field mushrooms.

I remember that Hergest Ridge was the follow up album to Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield in the ‘70s. It made No 1 in the UK.

We are soon going downhill to Gladestry, a rider comes over the hill to our left. Rider and horse at ease and relaxed followed by a wee dog.

We visit the church in Gladestry. The woman we met in the churchyard wasn’t in the mood for a chat. The stain glass reflects brightly in the sunlight. We use the toilet round the back of the church. We are both grateful to the communities and churches who keep their buildings open and allow access to facilities.

Between here and Newchurch there are a number of stiles, and quite a few ups and downs. Three miles later we reach Newchurch. Sitting on the wall of a local chapel eating Radnor House cake.

Setting off we got into conversation with an Australian couples, a retired teacher and husband. This path seems to appeal to loads of Aussies. They suggested we pop into St Mary’s for coffee. They had been there for an hour chatting to the local volunteers.

We decided to press on as we still had a way to go. A steep old climb up Disgwylfa Hill over stiles, gradually climbing a rough track. A farmer is dragging a large tree trunk behind his tractor. More fields, an ornamental lake and we reach a road with a sign to Betty’s Chapel. Despite a mention in Kilvert’s Diaries, we didn’t take a detour, preferring to stay on the Path.

We got to a road junction, the only indicator were the Offa’s Dyke acorn pointing down the road we had just walked.
We got out our various map books, before heading towards Clyro.

Bettws Dingle when reached is enchanting, tall trees sunshine casting light and shadows through the depth of the woodland. I can imagine in winter it would feel very different. Sinister!

Reaching the A438 we cling to the grass verge as fast moving traffic flow past. Thankfully it is a short stretch of road, before we cross over into some more fields..This last mile or so down to the river Wye seems endless. Eventually we reach Clyro Bridge and before lng we were enjoying a cuppa at The Granary.

We eventually reached the final spot on my walk around Wales , a 1047 mile journey, while Esther completed her goal of completing Offa’s Dyke Path . My uncle and Aunt for years had lived on Offa’s Dyke. Sentimentally, I had wanted to end my epic journey next to the acorn sign on their garden wall.

A couple of strangers from Norwich helped to take a few pictures to record our journey’s end.

Kington to Dolley Green. Offa’s Dyke – Day 16

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Rather reluctant to get out of bed this morning, the comfy bed and the hypoallergenic bedding at the Horse and Jockey had ensured a restful night.

A leisurely breakfast and we are onto Kington, a delightful market towns.

The path goes straight up Church Street before veering off across a pretty square with Georgian houses and down towards a number of pretty cottages, crossing Back Brook reaching a lane, a pleasant amble upwards passing a cottage and onto Bradnor Green common.

On higher ground still, we come to the manicured grounds of Kington Golf Club. The direction of the sign here is a bit ambiguous, and we took the more acute angle, ending higher up the golf course than the path route..

We accosted a group of friendly golfers to try and get our bearings. They were most helpful offering conflicting advice.
One suggested we go back down towards the club house, the other suggested we could cross across the farmer’s field up to the top of the hill where the Dyke was now clearly visible.

They told us that walkers go astray all the time, that we were not the first by any means. This made us feel better.

We told them we were going to go through the fields, a long conversation about whether the bull was in the field or just cattle and sheep.

We were undeterred, we’d encountered loads of bulls, bullocks and cattle on our walk. Getting across the fields was relatively easy until we spotted a sign way off in the distance on Herrock Hill. We decided to descend to a valley of bracken and fight our way across until we reached the path. Just as well we are both country girls at heart!

More bracken on the way down the hill until we ended up skirting around the hill overlooking a lush, green valley.

At Lower Harpton Farm we stopped to admire two working dogs atop a quad bike. They loved our attention, but did not bark and did not leave their position. We chatted to the farmer who was glad to have seen the back of Storm Bronagh. We left him to finish rounding up the sheep, while we walked down the B4362 with a couple of nasty bends,as quickly as possible.

Bearing left at the old Ditchyeld Bridge, up the lane to Burfa forestry, reaching Old Burfa, lovely half timbered house with atmospheric barns.

Reaching the Dyke by a series of steps, we take care not to trip over tree stumps, but stopping to take in the views through the trees.

Flights of steps lead through Granner Woods – Woodland Trust. Beyond here a pretty uneventful walk passing the Hilltop Plantation. The Dyke gradually becoming fainter, down to the River Lugg. Through grazing land to the road, and the baptist church at Dolley Green. My car had been parked there overnight. There is a water tap in the grounds to replenish your water bottle and a toilet.

We decided that was enough walking for one day, and spent our afternoon in Presteigne, and the evening at Radnor House B & B. Where our lovely hostess Julia, greeted us with offer of cake and tea.

This was our final night before completing Offa’s Dyke Path and we celebrated with dinner at the tapas bar. Yummie.

Springfield to Dolley Green, Offa’s Dyke -Day 15

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Part 1 – Springhill Farm to Knighton
Part 2 – Dolley Green to Knighton

Frustration! The day started badly. Crawling out of bed at 6am I could hear the rain beating down against the bedroom window.

I threw my walking gear into the car. Two hours up the road it was still raining and the tyre check alarm on my car starts flashing. Nearest lay-by, I climb out to check if I had a flat, but all seemed OK. At the nearest garage, I get change for the air machine and get very wet. The light continues as does the rain. Another garage, another air stop, another dousing and I grumble obscenely! Hey, the light thing goes off, the sky clears and I arrive in Knighton two minutes behind schedule.

Esther is waiting for me, we scoff some strawberry tarts bought from my local Portuguese bakery . We have coffee and a wander in the Offa’s Dyke Centre before heading off to Springhill to start our walk.

We head down the track and onwards to Llanfair Hill. The Dyke stands proud and looks magnificent in the landscape.

We walk along the track beside the Dyke. The sky is a brilliant blue, reminding me of a poem by A E Housman – “How clear, how lovely bright…..” I always found his poetry depressing, so much death or dying, but I am revisiting and listening to an audio of The Shropshire Lad, a tokenism to the
English side of Offa’s masterpiece.

We meet a couple of Australians, they were cheerful enough, but warned us of the slippery slopes ahead. I didn’t have the heart to tell them of the switchbacks ahead of them travelling north.

Another couple came by, American this time, and made the same comments. By now, we were at the highest point of the Dyke at 430mtrs/ 1408 ft.

The landscape is dotted with sheep grazing, a few pines, we head down through the dingle over a footbridge, and up the slope, quite slippery following the rain, steep but not too taxing.

Contented looking sheep and cattle grazing, superb views across from Cwm Sanaham Hill. We stopped for lunch at a memorial cairn and seat looking down on the river Teme and Knighton, before descending into the valley below, crossing the railway line into Knighton, planting our feet on the dividing line between England and Wales and back to the Offa’s Dyke Centre – Part 1 of the walk complete.

You are probably wondering why we split the walk into separate halves. The weather was a key factor. Storm Bronagh was still bringing downpours, and uncertain weather. If we had to abandon then the shorter the distance between us and our cars the better.

Part 2 – car juggling -drive to Springhill, my sat nav found what seemed to be the narrowest road in Wales for the return journey to Knighton. The sky darkens and it pours. It is 3.30 in the afternoon. We leave one car at Knighton and head for Dolley Green (it would make such a great stage name). We ask a chap mowing a grass verge where best to leave the car, he suggest Ackhill Baptist Church parking area.

We soon set up the hill heading north back to Knighton. The late afternoon light casts long shadows – Esther talked to our friends, we were meant to be staying overnight, but as the weather was holding we knew it would be late when we came off the hills. It was agreed that to travel north after our walk didn’t make sense, we decided to look for somewhere to stay either at Knighton or further south!

We still had a spring in our step as we ventured up Furrow Hill, when the Dyke is clear again. Surrounded by amazing views of the Black mountains to the south, westward to Radnor Forest and north to the Kerry Hills.

Skirting a small forest to Hawthorn Hill, along farmland on either side of the Dyke. Passing the ostentatious monument to Sir Richard Green-Price who influenced the railway coming through these towns, until we reach the B4355 where sits a commemorative stone for the construction of the Dyke. Sadly, it has the wrong date on it!
Crossing the road, a few stiles and gates and we are back on the road again, quite fast moving traffic, we were pleased to reach the phone box and head down the lane to Rhos y meirch before going through a hodge Padgett of fields and woodland, before eventually coming out onto a housing estate in Knighton, making our way to the Offa’s Dyke Centre.

After phoning around a couple of B&Bs we eventually popped into the Horse and Jockey pub, where the staff were wonderful, the rooms cosy, the most amazing bed linen and comfortable beds with good hearty food. I can whole heartedly recommend. Ideal for tired, ailing walkers.

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….

Buttington to Mellington Hall , Offa’s Dyke – Day 13

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We seem to be continuously heading uphill for over an hour until we reach Beacons Ring, site of an Iron Age fort, covered with trees, and an unsightly mast… It is a golden September day.

Looking back during the uphill walk, we can’t help noticing the scar on the landscape made by the large life-stock market near Welshpool and the business park at Buttington. Not the prettiest viewed from up high.

The hedgerows still carry the last of the summer blackberries, elderberry hang heavy on the trees, the slopes are ripening, and we stop to pick a bag full of field mushrooms.

A very pleasant forest walk through the Leighton estate follows, marred only by some fly tipping at one corner of the forest. The sky is reflected in Offa’s Pond, and a bit further on we meet a sprightly lady walking her dog, she would have loved to walk with us, but for her two “tin” knees.

She proceeded to fill us in on the birds, the feeders and the commercial shooting. A very enlightened conversation.

Skirting the villages of Kingswood and Forden, we feast on fallen apples, washed with some drinking water.

We soon walk across fields and regain the Dyke clearly visible as we cross the plain. The walking is easy, and we make good time across the plain, chatting as we go.

We cross the B4386 and decide against walking into Montgomery and continue over the style and cross a number of fields, with views of the town and castle in the distance.
Fields of maize, swedes and stubbles of straw…on and on we go, until we eventually reach the road and through Brompton Cross with the rusty petrol pumps, reaching the gate at Mellington Hall until eventually beyond the woods we reach the hotel.

Our only regret was that we didn’t have containers for all the foraging we could have done on the walk. We just had to be happy with our bag full of mushrooms…

Hay on Wye to Pandy, Offa’s Dyke – Day 12

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Walked over 2 lovely September days. The sun casting an autumn amber glow, but warm enough to have burnt my scalp!

The walk starts off gently enough, we stopped to admire the house where my uncle had lived for a number of years, and even before we had walked through the first field we were in conversation with a couple from the USA and their great niece who were walking the path.

The first of many encounters with international visitors from Sweden, Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands.

The first couple of fields lull me into a false sense of ease, but the path gets progressively steep . We loose sight of our American friends when we stop to pick field mushrooms, carefully avoiding the “magic” mushrooms.

Crossing a minor road the path gets even steeper, my breathing ragged, I was glad to reach a farmyard, catching up with the US walkers, chatting to the owners, who happily showed us the new born chicks, and reassured us that we would be out in open ground soon enough.

Sure enough, we were soon onto Crasswell Common heading for Hay Bluff. The path is well trodden, and further on, flagstones have been laid to stop more erosion. The Yellow brick road from the Wizard of Oz came to mind.

The steady climb “up the Bluff” was not too difficult, stopping to chat with a number of walkers.

The path evens out, we met a Scotsman trying to ring his wife, his biggest regret it seemed, that she was not well enough to join him on the Hatterall ridge walk.

I enjoyed the first mile or so of the moorland that followed, several chats with riders, mountain bikers and walkers.
The ponies that graze here were very disinterested in our presence, but they broke the monotony of the moorland. I was becoming bored, not an emotion I associate with walking.

We ran into a group of young lads, sitting around chatting and enjoying their lunch. We were later to speak to their leader who was concerned they hadn’t made it back to the rendezvous point. Words would have been spoken!

The Olchon Valley on our left was the setting for Owen Sheers’s Resistance. A little further on we were taking the route signposted to Llanthony on the right. A very steep, rutted path, but great views of Llanthony Priory.

We gave our friends from the US a lift back to Hay on Wye.

If you choose to break your journey in Llanthony you need to be aware of the descent and ascent. It could be easier to stick to the ridge.

We headed up to Hatterall Ridge from Llanthony, and loved the walk south, with stunning views of the Vale of Ewyas. The Skirrid stands out in the distance. The walk eases as we travel the ridge with stunning views down to Oldcastle

As we headed down off the ridge, We reach a house and a barn with a poem on the side, the words struck a chord.

The path descends gently, we were surprised to see autumn crocuses growing in the wild. Some more field mushrooms to be picked before eventually reaching a railway line, keeping ears and eyes open for oncoming trains, we knew we were now within a short distance from Pandy and our car.

Llanymynech to Buttington, Offa’s Dyke – Day 11

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One if the great joys of walking for me, is when the walk is so challenging that your monkey mind doesn’t chatter, and all your attention is on the walk ahead, stretching you mentally and physically.

I can’t say that for this stretch. 10.5 miles of mainly flat terrain.

A pleasant day starting with breakfast in the cafe by the redundant car wash in Llanymynech. Lovely staff, and a tasty breakfast.

We were soon out on the Montgomery canal, and a pretty stretch with swans sitting on their nests or gliding along with their babies. The canal looked as if it could do with a bit of dredging, but pretty none the less, we stopped to admire a lovely house and garden en route.

Two miles in and we liked the underpass at Four Crosses, where the local social history in the form of photographs had been built into the tiling.

The Dyke itself is prominent in parts, our four legged friends both sheep and cows had decided to cluster around the gateways we needed to pass through!

We had walked in a steady drizzle for a few miles so w had scant views of the Breidden Hills on the left with Rodney’s Pillar standing proud. Built by the landowners who supplied oak trees to Admiral Rodney’s fleet. The trees would be carried down to Bristol on the river Severn.

A short but nasty stretch on the busy A483 with lorries hurtling passed, before we were back on the calm stretches of the canal.

Crossing back over the A483 we followed the meandering Severn down to the roadway and over Buttington Bridge, another busy narrow walkway.

We finally reached our car park, through a couple of meadows. We laughed as the donkey or was it a mule took a more than friendly interest in Esther!

Pandy to Monmouth, Offa’s Dyke – Day 10

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A walk of two halves – caught in several downpours between Pandy and Llantilio Crossenny, with fine weather from Llantilio through to Monmouth. Esther and I were joined by my walking pal from the Wales Coast Path experience, Lucy and Rhonda who was keen to fit in as much of Offa’s Dyke as possible, fitting it into her busy NHS schedule.

From the village of Pandy we crossed over the A465 into the fields beyond. Much of this walk is through gently undulating fields, lanes and road. Easy walking, and as the weather had been dry until now, none of the flooded fields and muddy lanes mentioned by some winter walkers.

At Llangattock Lingoed we stopped to admire the Medieval church of St Cadoc. The painting of St George and the Dragon dating from 15th century. We noted the nearby pub called Hunters Moon, too early for a drink we hurried onwards, to be caught in a downpour half way across the meadow.

Through fields of maize we walked, eventually looking backwards to enjoy the views across to the Skirrid.

We reached the B4521 passing a chapel conversion, it made a change to the “barn conversion envy” we’d experienced on the path from Pandy.

We spot White Castle ahead, dating from 12/13th Century. Yet more road walking down to Llantilio Crossenny and the Church of St Teilo.

Then there were four and a dog, walking at a fast pace across fields, roads and lanes.

Through the cider apple orchard eventually reaching Llanfihangel Ystern Llewelyn, we approached the 15th century church of St Michael and All Angels with its wagon roof and timbered belfry.

When we reached Hendre Farm we knew we were nearing our goal, with some three miles to go. Hendre had been recommended to us, as offering a range of accommodation facilities from camping to B& B.

We reached some woodland and once clear we were into some fields with farmers busy harvesting, before reaching Rockfield and eventually Monmouth, with the medieval bridge, said to be the only surviving example in Britain.
It is worth noting that the nearby car park offers free parkin

Trefonen to Llanymynech, Offa’s Dyke – Day 9

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A short walk today, as I have the long drive home.

It is hard to believe that Trefonen was once known for its coal mining and brickmaking. The miners used to be paid at the Barley Mow, the local pub and home of Offa’s Dyke Brewery.

We stop for coffee at the Post Office and collect some snacks for the walk. Heading out of the village,( we are conveniently parked by the signpost). A gradual climb up to y Moelydd, where we are rewarded with a 360 degree view. A toposcope identifies each vista.

What goes up must come down – we head down the hill, reaching a sign for ice cream at a farmhouse, then a small ruin.

The nature reserve at Jones Rough is dark and over grown, a bit uneven underfoot. We quickly head down the pleasant village of Nantmawr, along Cefn Lane we stop for a picnic lunch and are soon joined by our friend from Nantes and partner.

Traces of the Tenant Light railway can be seen, before a flic flack of road crossing and crossing a large field we come to the track in front of a style guarded by the prettiest of Jersey cows. With a bit of shooing we manage to get off the style and are then followed across the field by some 30 nosey cows.
Through a copse and beyond we eventually skirt the golf course at Llanymynech and beyond to Llanymynech Rocks, a nature reserve straddling the Wales/England border.

Some confusion with the signs here, but we are soon heading out of the reserve and soon heading down into Llanymynech

Trevor to Trefonen, Offa’s Dyke – Day 8

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No community cafe today, but a lovely cuppa at the Chapel Cafe in Trefor. If you are a customer your £2 parking fee is returned.

While we could have walked across Pontcysyllte Aquaduct, a UNESCO World Heritage site, we decided to take the lower route. Canal tarmac and road seem to be a large part of this leg of the Dyke.

Very picturesque stretch of the canal opened up ahead and for the first time we get to a sign indicating that this is the start of an 88 mile stretch of Offa’s Dyke, built in the 8th century to keep the warring factions of Welsh and Anglo Saxons apart.

At Irish Bridge we start to climb subtly at first, quite a few ups and downs on the route.

Along the road we catch sight of Chirk Castle, built in 1295 and now run by the National Trust. The path takes you down to the castle following the permissive route, open April to October. A steep downhill follows, before reaching the oak tree at the so called Gate of the Dead – where Henry II’s troops were ambushed by the Men of Owain Gwynedd. Further along there are panels recounting the Battle of Crogen, and a plaque on the bridge at Castle Mill. We are now in the Ceiriog Valley and it gets steeper.

We can now understand the chap in the cafe who said “Don’t underestimate the Shropshire Hills”. Coupled with the gnarled roots along the Dyke, it slows us down somewhat.

At Oswestry Equestrian Centre we ran into a young lady from Nantes, walking the Dyke with her partner, they had already settled into their campsite for the night.

Quite a bit of road walking took us to Oswestry Race course and the remains of the grand stand. We let our imagination run away with us to the golden days of racing, to the point where Esther mounted the statue of a horse.

It was a welcome relief to enter into the cool of Candy Wood knowing we were fast approaching Trefonen.

The post office serves coffee, while the pub is the home of Offa’s Dyke Brewery. We just wanted home and showers!