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Offa’s Dyke Walk Day 4

We set off from Llangattock Lingoed with Miss Mary’s good wishes ringing in our ears and rain threatening but not falling. This was the day we would go up a steep hill to walk Hatterall Ridge, at the eastern edge of Brecon Beacons National Park. We first walked over the fields to Pandy, the childhood home of the philosopher, critic, and novelist Raymond Williams. His house is supposedly on the Path but it’s not well marked and I didn’t see it. Oh well.

It rained on us a bit early on, but the clouds were high as we started up:

It was a steep slope, over lots of fields. Part of the way up we were greeted by an Iron Age stone circle which had been a hill fort and settlement, occupied for hundreds of years:

At the top of that ridge we encountered the southernmost Trig marker on the ridge, so we knew we were near the top:

TheH and I both thought of his late father on this Father’s Day: he would have loved to see it, having spent part of his youth surveying mountains in the Alaska Range to build the Alaska-Canada Highway.

We finally made it to the top, where it was so windy that we were shoved off the path a couple of times. But the views!

That’s England, by the way. The ridge path marks the border, so to the right of the path is England and to the left is Wales. Wales was cloudier (surprise), with a couple of the higher Brecon Beacons peaks occasionally visible through the mist.

Some people walk the whole stage from Pandy to Hay-on-Wye in one day, but that’s 17 miles and we had started two miles east of Pandy to make it a total of 19. And come on, my chances of walking 18 miles up, across, and down a steep ridge in one day were nil. So we’d planned a break at a small village, Llanthony, down the western side, which was also the location of an old priory.

It was about two miles down a steep, rocky slope carved out of the side. I picked my way verrry slowly and carefully, and at one point was overtaken by a family with a small girl and a toddler in the father’s shoulder pack, all nimbly making their way down, in Wellies.

The priory looked impossibly far away at first but eventually drew closer:

And tlllThere is a posh hotel and restaurant right at Llanthony Priory, but its six rooms were booked. So we stayed at the village pub down the road, the Half Moon Inn, where we had a comfortable bed and good food and drink. It’s an old inn and you have to be prepared to share toilets and showers. And there is no internet or wifi, which some visitors find difficult. We didn’t.

Over pints of local ale and cider we deliberated the next day”s path. The way back up to the ridge was steep and stony to the point that the path even had switchbacks, a rarity here. But it was shorter than the road, and we didn’t fancy 13 miles of pavement. We decided to wait and see what the morning brought.

In the meantime we turned our thoughts to dinner (beef casserole for TheH, cod and chips and peas for me) and then crashed for the night.

Our day’s route:

Offa’s Dyke Walk Day 2

We said goodbye to Tintern and set off for our next destination, Monmouth. The first little bit was on the road because we had to make our way back to the path. The path split at Brockweir and we took the lower path along the Wye for three miles, disturbing sheep along the way and passing the village of Llandogo.When the paths converged again we started up the road into the hills. The uphill wasn’t too bad and we passed through several woods as well as farm fields. The foliage and flowers were gorgeous, and the rain had made the undergrowth especially rich. We are seeing these flowers everywhere:We only made one wrong turn, going down when we should have gone across because the acorn sign was unclear (there are lots of marked footpaths which aren’t the Offa’s Dyke Path and they converge as well as intersect). But it was short and easy to recover.Today had some major ups and downs in the path. We went down sharply for a good mile to enter the village of Redbrook, which rewarded us with a delicious pub lunch. But then we had a two-mile ascent to the top of the ridge. There we reached the Kyrim, which overlooks Monmouth and offers spectacular views of the Wye Valley. It also features a monument to British Admirals in the Napoleonic Wars (readers of historicals will recognize several names!):And a round white house built in the Georgian era:From there it was all downhill to Monmouth for a couple of miles. The path we excellent and it would have been straightforward except for the mud. So much mud. But we went slowly and our shoes (and gaiters) could manage it. Nevertheless, we were so happy to see the end of the path, and lo and behold, our hotel was at the end of it. It was a pub with recently remodeled, very comfortable rooms.We went into Monmouth for dinner, thinking that Friday night would give us a range of options. But many of the Central City restaurants had already stopped serving. We found a Chinese restaurant down a little passageway, though, and struck gold. Everything fresh and made to order. We had a kimchi pancake for starters and then shared shredded pork with chiles and kimchi fries rice. So, so good, and a lovely couple running it.I leave you with the day’s map. Notice our wrong turn was much smaller this time!QToday’s mileage: 11.6 or 11.9, depending on whose Garmin you ask.

Offa’s Dyke walk Day 1

Our short walk last evening helped us get a sense of what the path would be like and how it was marked. But setting out for a 7+ mile day wearing backpacks which carry all our stuff is different. We had a lovely Full English breakfast food for sustenance and set out at 9:30 in a misty drizzle. As soon as we crossed the Chepstow bridge we started up a steepish lane to join the path at the same place where we had turned off the night before. I was panting in no time, which made me wonder about the rest of the journey. But I slowly adjusted and my backpack was comfortable.

The path does not always parallell Offa’s Dyke, despite the name, but in this opening section we spent a lot of time walking along it. It rises up to close to 20 feet in some places. We walked through fields and woods as well, and saw some spectacular scenery despite the rain:

We made one huge wrong turn in a field, which meant retracing our steps for about a mile out and back. And as the day progressed the rain became steadier and more penetrating. Even our waterproofs weren’t completely effective. But we kept going, squelching through the mulch and mud. When we arrived at the lookout just before the Devil’s Pulpit, though, the rain began pouring down and we could barely see Tintern Abbey through the mist and rain.

We were lucky to be under the canopy of a huge old tree, so we waited out the worst of it and went on to the Devil’s Pulpit.

We missed our turnoff to the path that would take us to the village of Tintern, but realized our error more quickly this time and doubled back. The footpath down hadn’t been described as particularly difficult, but it was rocky and occasionally quite steep, and the torrential rains of the last week had turned the upper parts into a creek. Thank goodness for gaiters over waterproof hiking shoes. And did I mention it was still raining?

After a somewhat grisly 45 minutes or so we made it down to the Tintern bridge and walked the remaining half mile to our night’s lodging, where we were welcomed with tea and cake. We rested, cleaned up, and walked backed to the Abbey for a closer look:

The Parva Farmhouse, where we stayed, is famous for its restaurant. We had booked dinner and were rewarded with a splendid meal. Needless to say, we slept well. Miles of hiking seemed to vanquish any jet lag.

Tomorrow, on to Monmouth. I’m holding up well but we have 6 days to go. The scenery and sense of being in a timeless place are well worth the effort. Here’s the map of our day, complete with the morning’s wrong-turn detour:

Offa’s Dyke walk Day 0.5

Wednesday afternoon we made it into Chepstow, Wales on a National Express bus from Heathrow. Carrying only backpacks meant we could speed through the airport and catch the 1:10pm by the skin of our teeth. We arrived on time at 3:25 and checked into our inn. Chepstow is the town nearest the start of the path at Sedbury Cliffs, which look out over the Severn.

We tackled the first two miles of the path after demolishing a delicious cream tea. The rain had subsided and we did the 2 miles and back carrying only small bags. It gave us a sense of the trail and some spectacular views.

The path was very well marked with both the acorn signs of the National Trail routes and specific Offa’s Dyke signs.

Day 1 promises rain, but we planned a shortish day to start out. It’s lovely to be here, beautiful and green and uncrowded.

Weeknote 10

Things are starting to heat up, what with getting ready to go on vacation, doing California house stuff, and herding cats I mean colleagues for work.

Work

I could just cut and paste from last week: admin, advising, etc.

I did get a book chapter sent off, though, so I can add something to the “my own damn work” side of the ledger.

Reading/Watching/Making

The biggest Reading/Watching event was the Champions League final between Tottenham and Liverpool, which Liverpool won comfortably. The score was 2-0 and Tottenham did press them, but a penalty to Liverpool 22 seconds in (inadvertent handball, but still a handball) meant the game took on a set cast very early. It wasn’t a pretty or exciting game, but I’ll take it, thank you very much. The team was fantastic this year and they deserved to come out with a major trophy at the end of it. Somewhere between 250k and 500k people jammed the streets of Liverpool for the victory parade, which is pretty impressive given the city population is 550k, and I’m pretty sure there are some Everton fans living there.

What does this have to do with reading, you might ask? Well, I’ve been reading David Peace’s wonderful novel about legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly, Red or Dead, since it was published in 2013. I start it, get 100-300 pages in, put it down, come back to it, rinse and repeat. It’s a book for literary footie fans, which can’t be a huge demographic. But I find it wonderful and fascinating and I don’t want it to end. I picked it up again this spring and I’m more than halfway through (it’s over 700 pages of minute details about Shankly and the football seasons). The repetition makes it hypnotic and almost zen-like, and Shankly is the hero we wish we had these days. Far from perfect but utterly admirable. I think I’ve been unable to finish because I don’t want it to end, but now that we’ve won a trophy again and look like the team Shankly created, it might be time to finally read the whole thing. And I can always start over when I’m done, right?

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