This was a long day. Firstly, this was a day of steep ups and downs. Although the path does not climb above about 1200 feet, there was a total of more that 5500 feet of combined ascent and descent. Secondly, to find accommodation at the end of the day I had a long diversion into Montgomery.
I set off early, which meant I was unable to look round the Offa’s Dyke Centre in Knighton. I walked down to the river through a small park. A cat walked past me with its breakfast (a mouse) in its mouth. The Welsh/English border runs through Knighton and there was an invitation to stand with one foot in Wales and one in England. I imagined it must have been interesting during lockdown when the rules were different in Wales and England.
I followed the pretty River Teme for a few hundred yards before crossing a footbridge and starting the first, steep, climb of the day up to the shoulder of Panpunton Hill. There were good views back to Knighton and the Black Mountains could be seen in the distance.
Once I was on top of the escarpment the walking was easy, over short grassland with flocks of grazing sheep to keep me company. I had a good view of the Knucklas railway viaduct. The village of Knucklas has the dubious honour of being one of the Rotten Boroughs of the late 18th Century. These were boroughs that were entitled to send two members to the House of Commons, despite most of the population having moved away (Old Sarum was another, it had a population of 7 who elected its 2 MPs). This led to corruption as either the land owner would coerce or bribe the electorate to vote for him (there was no secret ballot then) or sell the seats to others for money. Eventually, these seats were abolished by reforming the electoral system in 1832.
A further climb took me to the top of Cwn-sanaham Hill from where there was an excellent panorama. Here I was joined by another ODP walker (no suprise if you have followed my blogs, I forgot to write down his name). We walked together for a few miles and I would see him several times over the next two days.
I was accompanied by the Dyke for most of today. Like elsewhere, it varied from being a small mound, easily mistaken for an old field boundary, to a 12 foot high earthwork with a ditch.
We now descended steeply to a road passing the attractive Byrnorgan Cotttage, crossing a small hill before climbing steeply again to a plateau culminating on Llanfair hill. On the way a farmer had rounded up his sheep in a pen on the path the dip them. His dogs were happy to let us through without shepherding us into the bath!
Here, the ODP joined the Jack Mytton Way. The Way is a 100 mile walk that crosses Shropshire (today’s walk was in Shropshire apart for the start and finish). “Mad Jack” Mytton was around in the early 19th Century. He inherited an estate from his father that brought him an annual income equivalent to nearly £1 000 000 today. He squandered his wealth on gambling, horseracing and hunting, eventually dying in a debtors prison at the age of 38. There are several stories on the internet of his outrageous behavior which include taking 2000 bottles of port with him when he went to study at Cambridge, allowing his favourite horse to sleep in his living room and riding a bear at a dinner party at his ancestral home, Halston Hall (the bear bit him!).
My companion went on ahead as I am rather slow.
At one point another Lejogger passed me heading south on Day 60 of his quest. The path then descended from Llanfair hill to reach a quiet lane with a further descent into the Clun valley. After crossing the river, with the village of Newcastle to my left I started to climb again. I crossed a minor road and passed a sign telling me I was halfway. Near the sign was a water tap and, as it was another hot day, I was grateful to be able to fill my waterbottles.
There was now a tiring but beautiful walk over several hills, mainly passing through farmland with some light woodland, accompanied by the Dyke. After the hill of Hergan I descended to walk through Churchtown, which consisted of a church and a house.
I was now tired but there were three more steep hills to cross. At the top of the first one, Edenhope Hill, there was a fine prospect across Shropshire with Stiperstones and the Long Mynd visible in the distance.
Eventually I descended into the Vale of Montgomery. The path initially followed the Dyke across grazing land until it reached a lane at Drewins Farm. It then followed the lane before entering more farmland, eventually running through Mellington Wood, adjacent to a caravan site. After more open land I emerges on a road adjacent to the old Lodge of Mellington Hall.
At the Bromptom Bridge crossroads there was the sad sight of the closed Blue Bell Inn. This was especially sad as it used to be the recommended stopping place for ODP walkers. Instead I had to walk down the B 4385 into Montgomery.It was getting late and I was concerned would not get to the Dragon Hotel before it stopped doing food. I set off at a good pace and walking fast on the hard surface aggravated the pain I had been getting in my calf. I arrived in time for both food and beer.