Day 5 Saturday 18 June Hay on Wye to Kington

It was a wet day today. Hay on Wye was nice, even in the rain.  The village centre had narrow streets with a lot of independent shops , especially (no surprise!) bookshops.

There were a lot of nice looking cafes too, but I had to walk, so,  after buying a sandwich for lunch, I donned my wet weather gear and set off. I dropped down to cross the river Wye and then turned on to a riverside path.  This rose up a bank past several wooden cabins.  To keep them level the front of the cabins were raised on stilts. There were a lot of wooden sculptures.  There was a besom with a note saying to could borrow it for flying provided you return it. After the cabins the path dropped back down to the river.

As the valley widened I veered off to the north to cross the flood plain through fields. After about a mile the path climbed up to cross an A road. On a nicer day there would be good views from here along the Wye valley. I turned left along a narrow lane that passed steeply uphill the enter the wood of Bettwys Dingle. The path stayed just inside the wood so I had some shelter from the rain.  Eventually it headed deeper into the wood and descended to cross the Cabalfa Brook. I then continued through woodland to climb up to a lane.

The route then undulated over several small hills, alternating between lanes, field paths and an old green drove road. I met an American couple from Indiana who were over here doing the Path before going to see some friends in Ireland. In the village of Newchurch, there was a sign inviting walkers to drop into the church for coffee but, as it had now stopped raining, I decided to press on.   I walked through the village, but as soon as I got to the path that ascended on to Disgwylfa Common the rain returned.

The Cicerone guide says Disgwylfa Hill is one of the highlights of the day with wonderful views.  Indeed you could see for a long distance but all the surrounding hills were covered in mist.  The walk itself was very pleasant, gently uphill over short grass where sheep were grazing and between gorse outcrops before descending into the village of Gladstry. The Royal Oak was a welcome sight and I stopped for a drink. In one corner of the pub there was an indoor quoits board and a fixure list for the local league. I had no idea this game was still played but The Quoits Pub and League web site sinformed me that there are still active leagues in the Welsh borders, the North-East and East Anglia.

The rain had stopped when I emerged but it remained heavily overcast. Hergest Ridge was the only obstacle between me and Kington. 

Hergest Ridge

I had wanted to walk on Hergest Ridge since the release of Mike Oldfield’s second album. After Tubular Bells he moved to the environs of Hergest Ridge (to a house on the edge of Bradnor Hill which I will cross tomorrow) and the second, of his first three thematically related, album bears its name.  The views were limited from the top of the hill by the low cloud but it was a fine walk.  Rather incongruously, there is a clump of monkey puzzle trees (more correctly, Chilean Pine trees) near the top.  There is also a circular racecourse around the summit.  The oval track is still visible as a path and dates from the 19th century.

There was a long descent down the hill and through woodland towards Kington.  I passed Hergest Croft which has a well known garden, which I was not tempted to visit with more rain coming in. I even managed to resist the tea shop.  The croft is reputed to be haunted by a large dog; perhaps the reason for the dog on the album cover?  I continued my decsent down the road to the Swan Inn in Kington. I had sustained a mild muscle strain in Scotland a few weeks before I started this walk.  Four days of 14-17 miles and undulating hills had aggravated it and I was now needing to take ibuprofen to help me sleep at night and was getting ice packs from the pub landlords to try to settle the swelling.

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