Day 14 Monday 27 June Bodfari to Prestatyn

The final day! I stayed at LLetyr Eos Ucha, a small B & B outside Bodfari.  Very nice stay, half way up the hill out of Bodfari, there were good views from my beroom window to the south.

The weather forecast was not good and it was raining when I woke up. By the time I set off the cloud was breaking up and the sun was trying to shine through. I thought that today would be an anticlimax after the moorland ridge I walked along yesterday. I was reassured by the couple staying at the B & B that it was an interesting days walk and indeed it was.  I was mainly walking through farmland but there were still some hills to cross with good views.

I set off steeply up a field to reach a lane at the halmet of Sodom. There were good views of Snowdonia to the west and, further north, I could see the sea.   I followed a road uphill past the wood of Sodom Culvert before turning off to a path through fields that crossed the shoulder of Cefyn Du.  Here I could see the limestone spire of the marble church at Boddelwyddan  glinting in the sunlight. 

There were workers on the path with strimmers trimming back the bracken. The cloud continued to lift and I could soon see Prestatyn in the distance as well at wind farms out in the Irish Sea.

The path continued to undulate and I could hear traffic on the A55, the main road between Merseyside and Anglesey well before I could see it. The cloud lifted a bit as I crossed the shoulder of Moel Maenfa and I could see the Snowdon range to the West. I crossed the road on a footbridge and followed a lane to the village of Rualt.

Snowdonia from above Rualt

After walking through the village I took a path that climbed steeply alongside a wood and then across fields over the shoulder of Mynydd y Cwm.  As the path started to descend there was a father and son dismantling their tent.  They were walking Offa’s Dyke and then, after a short rest, were heading on the coast path around west Wales back to Chepstow, an extra 1000 miles.  They had minimal kit.  It looked like they were sleeping in a festival tent that was held together by safety pins.  They were the complete opposite to me, no planning, they would just walk until they were tired and then pitch the tent.  If they passed somewhere that sold food they would have a hot meal otherwise dinner was cereal bars.

I left them to pack up and continued to a road.  I crossed more fields and then ascended over the shoulder of Marian Ffrith. Here I could clearly see the sea and the offshore wind farms.

The path continued through farmland and over another low hill.  I descended into the  Fyddion valley at the site of the Felin Fawr flour mill, the old axle of the waterwheel still visible..

A mill was recorded here in the Domesday book. In the 19th century there were seven mills in this valley using water power for the production of flour or cloth.

As I crossed a road to head towards Craig Fawr, the most northerly hill of the Clywdian range Jonathan caught up with me. We walked for a short distance before he went ahead at the start of the final, steep, climb up on to the Prestatyn cliffs. There were good views over the Irish sea and Snowdonia and the Great Orme could be seen to the west.

Looking west towards Rhyll. The Great Orme and Anglesey can be seen in the distance

Prestatyn is a modern town and the sight of a Tesco superstore and an M & S were perhaps a mundane end to the walk.  I descended from the cliffs into a residential part of Prestatyn before heading down the main street to the monument marking the end of the walk and a celebratory raspberry ripple and white chocolate ice cream.

End of trail marker, Prestatyn

This was a good, enjoyable, walk.  There were some really good ridge walks over high ground with spectacular views.  The paths were not busy so I never felt I was on a route march.  I enjoyed the woodland sections as, usually, they were natural forests with a good diversity of plant life rather than the sterile conifer plantations.  There was quite a lot of farmland.  This made life difficult for me as my knee got more painful and difficult to bend as I went along so stiles became a bit of an ordeal.  Sales of ibuprofen soared!  The B and B and pubs I stayed in were very nice.  There was usually somewhere to buy food at the start of each day’s walk but the borders are sparsely populated and places to get lunch en route were the exception rather than the rule.

I did the walk because I had never visited the Welsh borders and I was not disappointed. Part of the reason was as a training exercise before tackling the Haute Route later in the summer, I had already been to Scotland in May and was planning another short trip in July.  However, just before I started Offa’s Dyke I twisted my knee and walking 177 miles on an injury was not a good idea.  Investigations showed OA and a PCL strain which has taken about 6 weeks to settle down and, as yet, I have not tested the knee on the hill since I returned from Prestatyn.

Day 13 Sunday 26 June Ruthin to Bodfari

I returned to ODP along the lanes and the farm track that I descended yesterday and continued up the path to Clywd Gate, the site of an old tollgate. I followed the road for a short distance and then climbed across farmland to pass around Moel Eithinen and reach the main ridge of the Clwydian mountains. There were good views back along the ridge that I had followed yesterday.

I contoured round the hill fort on Foel Fenli with good views down to Ruthin.

Ruthin from Foel Fenli

Ruthin would dominate the valley for several miles. The weather forecast was not good and I could see showers all around but fortunately they all missed me. I descended steeply to a car park at Bwlch Penbarra and suddenly there were a lot of people! This was a shock to the system after walking in virtual solitude for the best part of two weeks.  Moel Farnau and its Jubilee Tower are a popular day walk and, despite the inclement weather and high winds, day walkers were out in force.  I followed them, up to the summit of Moel Farnau.

descending to Bwlch Penbarra with Moel Farnau in the background
Jubilee Tower, Moel Farnau

The Tower was built in 1810 to commemorate the jubilee of George III. It was never completed and, after it was damaged by a storm in 1862, it was reduced to the base as it is today.

It was extremely windy on the top of the mountain which is the highest peak in the Clywdian range. I sheltered in the lee of the tower to have lunch. The view was limited by the low cloud.  Liverpool could be seen to the east and I thought I could see the South Peninnes in the distance. It was cold stopping in the high wind so I soon set off, descending to the west, before turning north again to follow the ridge over several lower tops. Ahead of me was Moel Arthur with its bronze age hill fort on top.

I saw no point in climbing to the summit today so contoured round the upper slopes. I should have had a good view of Snowdonia but it was shrouded in mist.

There was now a steep descent to another road and carpark before a further steep ascent on the edge of woodland up to the summit of Penycloddiau. On top of this hill is one of the largest hillforts in Wales. It dates from the iron age and the ramparts and ditches are clearly visible. (The article about the fort on the Clywdian web site depicts an extended iron age family enjoying a picnic; I think this is a very idealised picture of what life must have been like then).

I had my first view of the sea.  The Great Orm of Llandudno could be seen in the distance. I am nearly there. 

Bodfari and the Irish sea from Pennyclodiau

There was now a long descent to Bodfari.  The path dropped steeply to the hamlet of Aifft. It then climbed over the shoulder of another hill before descending to a road.  I had not bothered to look at the map for a bit and I thought I was nearly here.  The only building at the road was Grove Hall, which used to be a residential home and I still had another mile to go.  Finally I reached the main road at Bodfari where there was the sad sight of another closed pub.  It was by now about 6:30 pm and my B and B was about half a mile further uphill along the path towards Prestatyn.  I telephoned them to say I would be late and headed into the village centre and the Dinorben Arms where I had a really good roast dinner and beer.

Day 12 Saturday 25 June Llangollen to Ruthin

This was a long day as I had extra mileage to rejoin the ODP and a long detour at the end to get to my B and B in Ruthin.  The day started fairly brightly.  I bought some lunch and crossed the river Dee and climbed uphill back to the Path.

River Dee Llangollen

I circled uphill around to the north of the Castell Dinas Bran to get back to the Panorama walk. I followed the road for about two miles. Thre were good views across the Dee valley and the cliffs of Eglwyseg mountain ahead and to the right.  The road followed the coutour to keep below the scree slops.  Eventually I took a narrow stony path that continued below the scree and subsequent cliffs. 

Leaving the road on the Panorama Walk

After a further couple of miles it dropped down through a wood to rejoin the road at World’s End. I have been unable to find out how the valley got its name.

World’s End

I climbed steeply out of the valley along the road and followed it for about a mile and a half across open moorland.  There was thick cloud overhead but the rain held off and, as I turned on to a path consisting of stone slabs to cross the moorland, the sun came out. As I arrived at Llandegla forest I could see the Clydian mountains to the North, the final barrier between me and the Irish sea.

Unlike most of the woodland I have walked through this trip, the Llandegla forest consists of conifers arranged close together.  The trees are farmed for the paper industry and there had been some harvesting of the wood so there were quite a lot of clearings with some views.  I passed two girls and their teacher.  The girls had huge packs and were doing a D of E expedition, I am not sure how much they were enjoying it!  A little further on I met another teacher on her way up the hill looking for the group. The forest is an extremely popular site for mountain biking. The trails are well organised, the walking and biking trails have been kept separate as much as possible and there are warning signs for walkers when you are about to cross a bike trail.

As I emerged from the wood it began to rain, heavily at first. I descended across fields to the village of Llandegla. There is a holy well, St Tegla’s well, in the village whose waters are said to cure epilepsy. I had my head down in the rain and I missed the turn to it.  There was a village shop with tables outside, I decided not to stop as I had lunch with me.  Big mistake! Apparently there were tables inside and they served excellent home-made mushroom soup.

The path now entered farmland.  There were odd bumps in the fields that I understand are due to limestone outcrops. Two women passed me (who told me about the soup) who were running(!) the ODP. 

The rain stopped but it remained overcast. The path crossed a stream and climbed uphill to join the Clydian Mountains. I followed a road for half a mile and the joined a service track that led to a radio mast  on the side of Moel y Waun. 

Looking north along ODP from Moel y Gelli

The track became a delightful path that went over the shoulders of Moel y Plas, Moel Llanfair and Moel Gyw. I could see Ruthin in the valley to my left. After Moel Gyw the path descended to a farmhouse at Pen-yr-allt where I left the ODP for a rather tedious 3 miles descent along farm tracks and lanes into Ruthin where I stayed at Sarum House. This was a lovely Georgian townhouse in the centre of Ruthin, well worth the detour.  The owners, John and Helen, were perfect hosts. Helen is a keen cyclist and told me that before she settled down she cycled to Istanbul with a friend of hers. Quite an adventure!

Ruthin is an attractive medieval town. I was staying in the centre, near St Peter’s Square.

St Peter’s square Ruthin

Day 11 Friday 24 June Chirk to Llangollen

This was a short day today. There were some sunny intervals this morning but rain came in during the afternoon.  I rejoined the ODP by following a road to the Chirk Castle estate.  The 18th century gates are rather ornate.

The castle was commissioned by Edward I to defend the land he gained by defeating Llewellyn the Last.  He granted it to Roger Mortimer who was made Justiciar of Wales by Edward II.  Edward II  became very unpopular with his Court when, it was claimed, Hugh Despenser (his favourite) had too much influence over him and his policies. Despenser also got involverd in several disputes over land with other Marcher lords. Mortimer, leading the Marcher lords, took up arms against the King but was eventually defeated and thrown into the Tower of London. Aided by a guard, Mortimer and his nephew, Mortimer of Wigmore, escaped and fled to France. The nephew Mortimer eventually had an affair with Edward’s wife, Isabella. A story worthy of Game of Thrones, although the murder of Edward II by a red hot poker inserted into a delicate part of his anatomy is probably a myth (possibly propagated by homophobic contemporaries in response to Edwards relationship with Despenser) . This turbulent part of British history is well covered in “The Plantagenets” by Dan Jones. Where is the miniseries? Come on BBC, Netflix. Lena Headley to reprise her Cersei role as Isabella. Charles Dance for one of the nobles, Peter Dinklage to wield the poker.

Mortimer was restored to his lands by Edward III. The castle was eventually bought by the Myddleton family in 1595 (for £5 000!) and their descendants still live in part of the castle today, although the castle and land has been donated to the National trust.

Chirk castle

I walked through the deer park and rejoined the ODP at a lane to the north-east of the estate. There was a long slightly downhill walk along lanes and through fields until I reached the A5. Crossing the A5 was a bit of a challenge as the footpath emerges on to the kerb and the road is busy.  I crossed it without incident and entered a field.  Here I walked alongside the Dyke for the last time. The line of the Dyke heads north-east towards Wrexham but the ODP goes north-west to cross the Clwydian mountains.

I joined the towpath of the Llangollen canal.  This was built in the early 1800s and ran from the Shropshire Union canal to Llantysilio just outside Llangollen. It was used to carry coal but it was also a major water supple of the Shropshire Union Canal, the Horseshoe Falls on the River Dee were built to supply the canal system with water. I followed the towpath for a couple of miles passing a large lime kiln at Froncysyllte.

I passed a couple of locks. The path turned north and I arrived at the highlight of the day, the Pontcysyllte aqueduct.  This was built by Tomas Telford and Williams Jessop. It spans the river Dee, at a height of about 125 feet. The path is narrow with a narrow trough of water to one side and the metal fence to the other.  As people are walking in both directions along the aqueduct you need to take care to avoid an early bath.

Across the aqueduct, I arrived at the Trevor basin which was packed with boats. 

I stopped for coffee, crossed the canal and continued to a pretty little footbridge. I left the canal and climbed steeply uphill into the Trevor wood.  I emerged from the wood to a road called the Panorama Walk.  Llangollen became a tourist centre for Victorian England after the coming of the railway and this was a popular walk. 

Llangollen from the Panorama Walk

There were good views over Llangollen and the hills to the west.  The road was unfenced so I was able to walk along the short grass verge, although there were no cars. The road passes below an impressive limestone scree slope. I approached the Castell Dinas Bran. This was built in the 1260s by the Princes of Powys but within 20 years it was destroyed by Edward I army. It is thought that an iron age fort preceded the castle on the hill.

My leg was sore and I could see rainclouds gathering but I decided to climb up to the ruins.  It was a spectacular spot but, as I arrived the rain started and I was grateful for a wall to shelter behind while I donned my wet weather gear.

I left the castle and the ODP to descend to a farm track and then into Llangollen for my night’s stop.

Day 10 Thursday 23 June Llanymynech to Chirk

A lovely start to the day but thunderstorms had been forecast for the afternoon so I set off early. I crossed the road bridge over the canal which looked peaceful in the early morning.

I was standing on the Welsh border. On the north side of the bridge I turned on to a side road.  The road climbed steeply, past a sign telling me that Charles Darwin, on a geology field trip, visited Llanymynech and was taught to make measurements with a clinometer to measure the angle of slope.

I continued up the hill to the Border Viewpoint which overlooks the Vyrmwy valley and Breiddon Hills. Behind me was the Llanymynech quarry and its brake drum house.  The drum house housed a winch to lower rocks to the Welsh side of the border but this was superseded when a tunnel was cut through to the English side making it much easier to move the rock.  An information board tells the story of a Thomas Savin who decided to make extra money by using enough explosive to extract a month’s worth of rock in a day. His profit was lost as he had to spend it on repairing the roofs of local householders damaged by the explosion.

Llanymynech quarry, now a nature reserve
LLanymynech and the Vyrnwy valley

I left Wales and spent most of today in Shropshire. The path contoured around Llanymynech Hill, passing through woodland to emerge at a golf course. It ducked back into woodland alongside the fairway before turning steeply downhill. I crossed a disused railway line that had been laid to transprt stone from a nearby quarry, unusually the rails were still in place. I joined a road at the village of Porth-y-waen and followed this for about a mile before crossing a field to enter the village of Nantmawr. Now it was time to climb steeply up a lane to a footpath that entered the woodland nature reserve of Jones Rough. I have no idea how it got its name. In the wood there was a cottage that almost exactly looked like my idea of Granny Weatherwax’s cottage in the Discworld books. 

No-one home. Out borrowing?

The path emerged from the wood as the slope eased and I soon arrived at the top of Moelydd.  This was a superb viewpoint.  I could see the Snowdonia mountains in the West and Alderley Edge to the East, I felt as if I was nearly home.

looking west from Moelydd

I met up with another ODP walker who I have seen several times over the last few days, I have forgotten to record his name.

There was now a long but easy descent across farmland to Trefonen. The pub has a microbrewery but, sadly, is only open in the evenings.  On the other hand, it meant I didn’t get lost in the afternoon.  Instead I bought a pasty and a soft drink from the village shop and, suitably refreshed, re-entered farmland to the north of the village.  I rejoined the Dyke which I would follow for several miles. 

The Dyke north of Trefonen

I entered Candy wood and, after a short but steep climb I followed the Dyke through light woodland. According to the Cicerone Guide it is said a black panther was sighted here in 2013. No big cats were present today. In the wood there was a stone seat apparently built by quarrymen or miners.

stone seat in Candy Wood

At the top of the hill I emerged into a clearing at the old Oswestry Racecourse. There was a statue of  two horses heads and a saddle at the entrance to the clearing.

The old racecourse was in use in the late 18th and early 19th enturies.  It was a 3Km figure of eight course and the track can still be seen (and followed) today.  An information board says that Jack Mytton used to race his horse here and named his son after one of his winners, Euphrates. There was a grandstand here  In the 1840s the course became less popular, partly due to “rowdy behaviour” and partly because as rail and road transport became better established it became easier for the local owners to try their luck at larger racecourses, e.g. Chester. Now only the footings of the grandstand remain.

About two thirds of the way along Racecourse Common the path came to a B road. I crossed the road and continues along a lane for about a mile. A footpath led off across fields accompanied by the Dyke. I skirted the slopes of Selattyn Hill and the path joined the Welsh/English border. I descended to a road at Craignant. The path then continued through farmland until it started to descend steeply to Bronygarth. I could see Chirk castle across the valley.

descending into Bronygarth and the Ceiriog valley

At Bronygarth I left the ODP to head down lanes into Wales, Chirk and the Hand hotel. There was a small diversion because of a collapsed path and I entered Pentre Wood to descend to the river Ceriog. I crossed to the left bank to enter Wales (the border runs along the river) and continued to the aqueduct and rail bridge across the river. The aqueduct was designed by Thomas Telford, as were so many bridges at that time. It is navigable and a narrowboat crossed the aqueduct as I walked underneath.

I then climbed steeply uphill to the road bridge and turned left to Chirk and the Hand Hotel.

There was a short delay at reception as the previous occupant of my room had left with the key and it took a short while to procure a spare.  While I was waiting the OPD walker I had seen on and off for a few days arrived.  I cannot believe I did not write down his name in my notes! Especially as we decided to eat dinner together which made a very pleasant evening. Good home cooked food. I remember he lives in Befordshire, is ex-army and has two sons in the military, one in the navy and the other in the army. If he reads this many apologies, my social ineptness knows no bounds.

Day 9 Wednesday 22 June Montgomery to Llanmynech

This was an easy flat day along the Severn valley.  It was sunny and hot. I rejoined the ODP by walking down to the Montgomery canal. This used to connect the Llangollen canal to Welshpool and was originally planned to form part of a canal that would extend the network up to Ellesmere Port.   Only part of it is navigable now.  There are said to be otters in the section near Welshpool but I didn’t see any. The first part of the towpath was through Welshpool, passing the backs of houses and then an industrial estate, hidden by a high fence. Once outside Welshpool there were fields of sheep on the left bank.  I walked under trees which gave some shade from the sun that was hot even though it was only 10am.  A man in a small boat passed me, stopping to clear reeds from the side of the canal.  He told me he was able to sail as far as the lock at Pool Quay but was then impeded by a low bridge. I watched him navigate a swing bridge.

After about 3 miles I arrived at the hamlet of Pool Quay. I left the canal here, crossing farmland to find a path built on a modern flood defence embankment built above the river Severn.  The flow was very slow, it will get a shock when it gets to Gloucester and meets a Bore coming the other way (see Lejog day 31)!

Lock at Pool Quay
River Severn near Pool Quay

To the South I could see along Long Mountain and I could now appreciate the appropriateness on its name.  To the North-east were the Breidden Hills, an old volcano.  There is an iron age hillfort on the northernmost summit, partially destroyed by a quarry. On the summit I could just make out Rodney’s pillar, commemorating Admiral Rodney’s victory over the French in 1782.  It was built by Montgomery Landowners who supplied oak for the fleet.

Breidden Hills

I followed the embankment for several miles.  Most of the fields had cows grazing.  Many of them were standing on the embankment but they let me pass without showing any interest in me. I walked past the village of Rhyd-esgyn where a cottage owner had placed a table and chairs in the shade of a clump of trees and there was homemade cake for sale.  I sat in the shade and enjoyed a slice of light fruit cake. Delicious.

Not long after the village I turned off the river by a sluice gate to walk along the side of the New Cut to Derwas Bridge.  There was no water in the cut so I assume it is there to protect the village in times of flood. In the next field farmers were herding cattle and driving them into an adjacent using 4 wheel drive vehicles.  Not as romantic as the horses used in wild west movies but very effective.

Modern Day Cowboys

The way forward lay across fields and, for the first time today, I was accompanied by the Dyke.  The path led to the village of Four Crosses. The village is said to get its name from the Roman Roads that used to cross the area.  There is a legend that when the local saint (St Tysilo) died, there was an eclipse of the sun and the shadow of a cross fell on the four sides of the church. Sadly, like several that I passed on the ODP, the village pub is now closed but I was able to get a cold soft drink and an ice cream from the garage.

I left the village to the north, crossed under the A road and rejoined the Montgomery canal which took a 2 mile loop to get to Llanynynech.  This was very pleasant.  To the west, the hill of Bryn Mawr appeared, the hill fort on the top hidden by trees. I passed an old salt mill; now a private home, I think, with the old crane posts still intact.

The canal and towpath crossed the Vyrnwy acqueduct.  Just after the acqueduct the canal appeared to come to an abrupt halt as it crossed the B 4398, only to re-appear on the other side of the road. It then continued past the locks at Carreghofa, the lock gate can be seen through the bridge.

As I curved round to the east the Llanmynech rocks appeared, I will go up here tomorrow. As I approached the village the chimney of the Hoffman Kiln came into view.  Three are only 3 Hoffman Kilns left in the UK.  These were huge chambers with multiple furnaces used for firing bricks. I continued along the canal to the village and the Dolphin Inn.

Approaching Llanynymech with the chimney of the Hoffman kiln

Day 8 Tuesday 21 June Montgomery to Welshpool

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.

Dragon Hotel

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.

Montgomery with the castle on the hill above the town

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.

The Dyke near Rownal. Not much more than a field boundary

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.

Approaching Forden and Long Mountain

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.

Path alongside the Dyke in Leighton woods

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.

Beacon Ring fort

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.

Welshpool from Beacon Hill

Day 7 Monday 20 June Knighton to Montgomery

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.

River Teme
Knighton from Panpunton Hill

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.

Looking west from Panpunton Hill towards Knuklas

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!

Byrnorgan Cotttage

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.

Looking north along the Trail

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.

Looking east from Edenhope Hill

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.

Mellington Hall Lodge

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. 

Day 6 Sunday 19 June Kington to Knighton

Kington is an old droving town, now a small market town.  The Swan, where I stayed last night, is next to the old market square.  The market was moved to a Victorian market all in the late 18th Century. 

The Swan Inn and old market cross Kington
Victorian market hall Kington

I saw the Americans when I went to but my lunch and we would continue to see each other intermittently over the course of the day. Dry weather had returned and I set off down a no through road by the pub to reach a path that dropped down to cross Back Brook .  I then climbed up across common land with sheep grazing between clumps of ferns to cross the shoulder of  Bradnor Hill. Here there were good views back to Hergest Ridge.

Looking back to Hergest Ridge.

I crossed a golf course to re-enter common land with more sheep. I would pass many flocks of sheep over the next few days.

There had been no sign of the Dyke since before Pandy but it re-appeared near the top of Rushock Hill. At first the earthwork was not very impressive, it could have been mistaken from a field boundary, but the ditch was obvious. The Dyke would be my companion for most of the day.  Its height varied from being a low mound to a high bank.

Waking on the Dyke, only a mound at this point. The low ditch can be seen to the West (left) side

As the Dyke got higher the path went along the top. I remarked to two dog walkers that I felt guilty that I was helping to erode the dyke by walking along it. At several places along the whole walk the main problem appeared to be badgers burrowing into it. There were excellent views across the hills and valleys to the west.

The path left the Dyke temporarily to wind round the eastern side of Herrock Hill and then dropped down to join a road and cross a bridge over Hindwell Brook.

Approaching Burfa Bank

I left the road to enter Burfa wood and passed Old Burfa Farm with its 15th century manor hall although this was much restored in the 1970s. Within the wood the Dyke was particularly impressive with a high bank, carrying the path, and a deep ditch to the west. The map shows a large hillfort at the top of Burfa Hill but this was obscured by trees.

A more impressive section of the Dyke in Burfa wood

The Dyke and path climbed up through Granmer wood to pass over the shoulder of Evenjobb Hill where there were good views to the west over the Radnorshire Hills with Rhos Fawr being conspicuous. To the east I could see Prestaigne and the Malvern Hills a long way off.

After a short descent I began to climb again passing through Hilltop plantation before starting a long descent to the Lugg valley. As I approached the river I passed a walker with a full rucksack heading south.  He was one of three Lejoggers I saw on the southern half of ODP, all had started in John O’Groats and were heading south. This man said it was his first multiday trek, a challenging one to start with!

River Lugg

After crossing the river, the undulating nature of the path continued. I crossed Furrow hill, still with excellent views to both west and east.  I then climbed Hawthorn Hill which has a long fairly flat top.  Towards the northern end of the hill there is a monument dedicated to Sir Richard Price who was a 19th century MP. The monument commemorated his role in bringing the railway to Knighton.

Richard Price monument

I descended from Hawthorn hill by passing through some scrubby woodland to cross a road.  Here there was a commemorative stone which didactically stated the Dyke was made in 757AD, the exact date of construction is not known.

The remainder of today’s walk involved a long descent across fields, accompanied by the Dyke, leading eventually to woodland, where it became very steep, and then into Knighton, almost half way along the Trail.

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.