Offa’s Dyke walk Day 6

by Sunita

I’m so behind! But I want to finish out my posts on this, both for my own sake and so that people looking for information on the route can find it in case it’s helpful.

This stage was going to be one of the long days, about 14.5 miles, and we were really starting to feel the aches and pains of daily walking. TheH had developed a pressure blister which made the last few miles into Hay-on-Wye yesterday pretty uncomfortable, and we had a day with plenty of up-and-down walking ahead of us. The lack of bus services in Wales really hit home here, because despite the route being popular, there was no direct bus service from Hay to Kington, our destination, so we couldn’t decide to abandon the walk partway. Unless there was Uber or something, which, just, no.

However, in addition to its famous bookstores (which were closed when we arrived and hadn’t opened by the time we left), Hay is blessed with an excellent pharmacy which was a 5-minute walk from our B&B and the start of the path, so we decided to go there and seek advice. If they had something that would alleviate the discomfort, then we could start off and just hope for the best. TheH went in to talk to the pharmacist while I waited outside (in excellent weather, our first such morning) with the packs. I was joined by a walker who was also waiting for his partner. They were doing a top-to-bottom, nearly 1000-mile walk from Land’s End to John o’Groats to raise money for prostate cancer research. They were about our age and doing magnificently despite experiencing even worse weather than we had.

TheH was successful in his quest, so he bandaged himself up and we started on our way. The first mile or two of the path took us along the Wye River again, and it was a much less demanding way to begin the day. Eventually, though, we were back crossing farms, complete with famous Hereford cattle in large pastures. A photo for Ros:

Today’s stage is not considered particularly demanding according to the guidebooks and other people’s accounts, but it had plenty of verticality: the total ascent is 2230 feet, almost as much as we did yesterday in climbing to Hatterall Ridge. We could see back to Hay’s Bluff, where we’d been yesterday:

We broke for lunch at a welcoming church in Newchurch, which puts out drinks and biscuits for walkers. There we met a young woman who was walking the full path, more or less on the same schedule as us, and we walked much of the rest of the day with her. She was in her 20s, walking alone and camping or staying in hostels, while taking a break between jobs.

I’ve learned to decode British understatement when it comes to these descriptions, though: Americans tend to call anything off-road a hike, whereas Brits will call strenuous exertions (by American standards) a walk. This stage had two healthy ascents, the second taking us to Hergest Ridge, which offers gorgeous views of the surrounding counties and back to the Brecon Beacons. It began to rain when we were on the ridge, so we didn’t see as far as we might have on a clear day, but we did get to see the big Brecon peaks before the clouds came down. And there were more cows. These seemed to find us more interesting:

We also walked through fields which were full of these grasses, making the landscape look pink/red from a distance. I don’t know what they are, but they were beautiful:

Part of Hergest Ridge lies within Hergest Common land, which is privately owned but made available to walkers and local residents. You will be completely unsurprised to know it is also utilized by sheep:

There is also a lovely garden, which we bypassed on our way down into Kingston. We found our inn, which was located close to the huge church that looks over the town, and checked in. Our hosts were a lovely young couple who had spent years renovating the property into a gracious and welcoming retreat.

We went down to one of the local pubs for dinner and, as usual, had excellent food: a Hereford steak salad for me and cod with summer tomatoes for TheH, with a shared strawberry trifle for dessert. We chose to eat in the bar, where regulars were having their usual get-together, and were made very welcome (especially when we agreed that turning on the footie was an excellent idea).

Fortified, we made our way back to the inn and turned in early. Only one more day to go, and it would take us back to Offa’s Dyke itself. I leave you with our day according to our Garmins: