Offa’s Dyke Walk Day 5

by Sunita

When we awoke in Llanthony it was raining lightly and the mist was low in the valley. But by the time we finished breakfast and checked out the mist had partially lifted and the rain had stopped. We couldn’t face the road so we headed off across the fields, past Llanthony Priory and up Hatterall Hill.

Our host at the inn had warned us it was a bit of an uphill, and it was. First the fields, then the rockier terrain. TheH admired the views while I clutched his hand and concentrated on my footing. I did not admire the view, knowing I was better off not looking down. There were a few flatter places where we could rest a bit before going on, and I was able to look out then. The higher we went the steeper it got, until very near the top where it was boggier and the footing was better.

An hour and twenty minutes and nearly two miles later we were at the top. I had made it (not that retreating was an option)! There was mist but no rain, and we could see patches where the clouds were higher. It was windy, but not quite as bad as the day before. And we were the only humans around. There were sheep and ponies but that was it.

We began walking north across the ridge on a relatively wide trail. It was beautiful. Once again we could see England better than Wales, but the nearest mountains were visible.The bilberry was just starting to have some tiny fruit. And partway we met a group of ponies with a frisky, adorable foal:It seemed interested in us and we even had an apple! But we kept our distance and it turned its attention back to its mother, who was having none of it:We had been a bit apprehensive about the footing, because one of the guidebooks described the path as wet and boggy even apart from all the rain that had fallen recently. But the path had been reinforced with large stones and it was quite straightforward to traverse.Which, given the large pools of water, was a blessing.Six miles or so later we were near the crest of the ridge and Hay’s Bluff, which purportedly offers spectacular views of Hay-on-Wye. But the descent from there was hair-raisingly steep and rapid, so we stuck to the official path, which slowly followed the ridge downward on one side. It was challenging enough for me, since the trail was completely exposed, occasionally windy, and narrow. But as usual, the views were spectacular when I had the guts to look out.We made it down and set off across the fields to Hay. We saw the smallest lamb of the trip near the base of the bluff:We crossed huge common pastures filled with sheep and horses and eventually made it to Hay and our lovely B&B on the river. 13 miles with a big ascent and non-trivial descent, and we had only two days and about 30 miles to go.