This was another lovely day. The walking was much easier with only one significant climb, over the aptly named Long Mountain. I stayed in the Dragon Hotel which is an old coaching Inn dating back to the mid 17th century. The ruins of Montgomery castle sit on a hill above the town. The castle was sacked by Cromwell during the civil war and the owners of the hotel believe that some of the beams and stone used to build the Inn come from the castle. The hotel and the main street of Montgomery were pretty.
My calf was now getting fairly sore, especially towards the end of the day’s walk and it was keeping me awake at night but I decided to keep going. I cut back to the ODP by walking through the Lymore Park estate. The house was demolished in 1931 and only two ornamental ponds remain, both were dry today. I walked past the Montgomery Cricket Club, what a delightful setting in which to play the game. The Club dates its origin to the 1847 when “eleven gentlemen of Montgomery” played Newtown. There is a history page on the club website. This explains that wealthy landowners would often set up a cricket ground and get their tenants to play, sometimes also employing professionals. They would challenge other landowners to matches, both for the sporting challenge and to bet on the outcome.
After the cricket ground I entered woodland to rejoin the dyke. The Dyke and the ODP ran northwards for a considerable distance but I was daydreaming. Solo walking does bring about a mental state somewhere between meditating and just letting your mind wander. Anyway, instead of following the acorn signs along a faint field path I joined a more obvious path heading back to Montgomery. This did afford me a good view of the castle. This was built by Henry III in the mid 1220s in response to the uprising by Llewellyn the Great and survived several attacks by both Llewellyn and his son, Daffyd. It was a Royalist stronghold in the Civil War but fell to Cromwell in 1649.
I got almost as far as Montgomery before I looked at the map and realised my mistake. I returned to the ODP and continues northwards. I can see why Henry decided to build a castle here, it dominated the landscape to the west for several miles to come.
The path and Dyke crisscrossed the Welsh border, each time I crossed into Shropshire there was a “Welcome to Shropshire” sign. There was also a sign commemorating the battle of Montgomery which took place during the Civil War which was a crushing victory for the Parliamentarians. As I have remarked elsewhere, the quality of the Dyke remnants varied throughout the day.
At Rownall farm I was briefly held up by a sheepdog who was rounding up the sheep and driving them across the path into the farmyard. I then walked past Devils Hole, a not very impressive dip in the ground, but it is the site where the earliest known freshwater fish fossils to be discovered in the UK were unearthed.
I met up with Johnathan, a teacher living in Sherborne. It’s a small world, he used to work I Kingsbury, not far from where I was brought up in North London. I reminisced about swimming in the Lido which shut around the time I went to university. The swimming pool is no more but Johnathan told me the site had re-opened as a sports centre. We decided to walk together for a while. The walk was through gently undulating hills, mainly sheep grazing land. Just before Forden we followed a road and got out first view of Long Mountain. We were looking at the southern end of a ridge that stretches northerly, away from us.
The path passes to the south east of Forden along an old Roman Road which ran from Wroxeter to a Roman fort near Forden. It is thought that this was built on an even older trackway. The path joined a minor road and we started the steep climb up Long Mountain. We me another Jogler heading south. The path left the road to enter woodland, still climbing. I decided to stop for lunch and we parted company.
The path ran alongside an impressive portion of the Dyke. The woodland forms part of the Leighton Estate. This was owned by John Naylor. As part of the development he introduced a hydroelectric scheme (in the mid 1800s) and I walked past two of the ponds used to store water to drive the system. It was covered in duckweed.
After a brief descent the path stated to climb again up to Beacon Ring. The prehistoric hillfort is hidden by a grove of trees planted to celebrate the coronation of Elizaabeth II. When first planted they spelled the initials E II R. It is thought that Henry Tudor mustered his army here on the way from Pembrokeshire to engage Richard III at Bosworth. A beacon was built on the hill in the 17th century. Now the wooded hillfort is accompanied by two radio mast stations.
I now started my descent to the Severn valley by walking through a woodland plantation before descending steeply through farmland and along lanes to Welshpool, my stopping place for the night.