offa’s dyke path

06/04/2016

for a full album of photos, check out my flickr

having booked a train down to the start in Chepstow back in January, followed by warnings of some kind of ‘Arctic weatherbomb’ on its way bringing snow + rain + all manner of horrific weather, come mid-March the skies had turned blue + the forecast looked hopeful.

so early in the morning, i met Jay on the train down, + we made our way to start of the path.

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getting off the train it was admittedly a bit of a faff trying to find the start, with even the locals not able to help, until we met a kid at a set of traffic lights who apparently lived on the path itself + could set us on the right road. ends up the start is no where near Chepstow train station, + involves walking through an estate.

having done a kit list check, grabbed a coffee, done a little bit of food shopping for the next couple of days, + then eventually found the start point overlooking the Severn Estuary, the time was around 1pm.

walking along the Wye Valley, we took in the spectacular views, including Wintour’s Leap, Tintern Abbey, the Devil’s Pulpit, + a section of the Forest of Dean, where we were fortunate enough to catch a herd of deer running across the path as dusk settled. unfortunately we didn’t have our cameras ready.

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there were some really lovely woodland sections either side of Monmouth, + more than few fields, which, though pleasant, were a little plain. we were very surprised + impressed by the views from the Naval Temple, + by White Castle, which we honestly expected to be a small village rather than an actual castle. another surprise was that (other than in populated areas) we had seen not a single person. the path + all its sights were empty but for us.

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passing through more fields without sight of the Dyke, we treated ourselves to a pub Sunday Carvery before beginning the ascent up onto the Black Mountains, where we saw the first people out + about, + a lot of them. getting up onto the first ridge we came across what looked like a festival of paragliders, floating above + along the ridge in a medley of colours, effortlessly drifting through the expansive views.

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+ what views they were. with the green fields of England to our East, + the desolate, featureless Black Mountains of Wales to our West, we were treated to one hell of a sunset.

we were also treated to a cold night, + a snowy morning walk along to Hay Bluff + down off the range into the beautiful Hay-on-Wye.

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over some more climbs + views, we made our way ever closer towards Knighton, passing the halfway post not too far before. by this point our spirits were high; the scenery had been increasingly beautiful, the path was empty, + without rushing at all we were making good progress. in fact at a handful of points we had actually walked out beyond the path to really make the most of the panoramic views on offer.

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in Knighton we stopped at the Offa’s Dyke Centre, where we spent a good part of the day reading up on the history + importance of the Dyke, purchasing souvenirs + enjoying a bit of break off our feet. we’d reached the halfway point, + looking at the maps for the path ahead, we decided that as it flattened out quite a bit across mid-Wales, we could push on to get to Llangollen in time for the weekend. there we could rest up for a couple of days, re-evaluate our kit + really enjoy the last part from Llangollen to the end.

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out of Knighton it was apparent that the path in fact hadn’t flattened out, + though we travelled some lovely sections, it was hard going, with lots of steep climbs + scrambles. near Montgomery we started making better progress, + Jay made a push for distance as the scenery fell away to open farmland for a while. unfortunately he picked up an injury towards the end of the day, + the pace hadn’t done either of us any good feet-wise.

a couple of peaks + a fantastic tree filled misty Iron Age Hillfort later, we dropped down to Welshpool, where we joined the Montgomery Canal + focused on covering the many flat miles as quickly + painlessly as we could. beginning to really feel the distance, we clambered up Llanymynech Rocks for a real treat of views from the cliff-like top.

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from then on we left behind the flatter regions of the path + started to get a feeling of familiarity, which quickly turned into recognition of the landscape as we got closer to Llangollen. not wanting to miss the views we knew all to well, we pushed on + followed the path up to the Panorama Road, before descending into Llangollen + meeting friends for beers + some live music.

here we would take a couple of days off, allowing Jay’s injury to recover a little + both of our feet to rest-up. we also re-evaluated our kit; Jay unloading a lot of clothing, me packing my alcohol stove + cook kit so that we could enjoy hot drinks in the mornings.

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leaving Llangollen we found ourselves in a familiar area, but on unfamiliar + staggeringly beautiful paths. we climbed up to + through Llandegla Forest, + into a really beautiful lowland valley along to the start of the Clwydian Range, which from a distance looked imposing + massive in the surrounding landscape.

we climbed up + over each + every peak, unable to really see the scale of the range ahead or behind us (a scale that came into impressive perspective during our drive home). stopping for a hot chocolate at the top of Moel Famau, we began to feel the end was near.

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the weather was beginning to get hazy, + checking the forecast ahead it was predicted that our luck with the weather would come to an end for the last day walking. Jay’s injury hadn’t had the proper time to heal + it was becoming a real challenge for him to scramble down the steeper parts of the path, but we pushed on + got the ocean in sight.

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the final day came, but the rain did not. we packed up with the whole day ahead of us + very little distance to walk, though it did have a lot of up + down making it difficult none-the-less.

we got Prestatyn in our sights, + eagerly made our way along the final ridge + down into the town itself, where we pushed through to the beach.

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sitting in a cafe on the coast, overlooking the ocean as the weather finally began to look like it would turn, we treated ourselves to a midday meal + a sit down, impressed with the beauty we had witnessed + the experience as a whole.

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