A Journal From The Offa’s Dyke Walk
A couple of days ago I finished walking the Offa’s Dyke path, a 177 mile (285km) long distance walking trail that roughly follows the England-Wales border in the UK. It took 13 days to complete, covers all manner of terrain and goes through some rural villages and small towns. Apart from a few nights staying with friends and family I wild camped every night.
I really enjoyed the journey and learnt a few things along the way. I also met a lot of very nice people. It was a bit of an escape from technology for me so I didn’t ‘blog’ as such, but I did write a bit of a journal which I have typed up below.
04/06/14, 18km Sedbury Cliffs → Brockweir
After a 9 day delay due to sickness (and fingerprinting in London) I decided to start my walk despite still not feeling 100%. It rained pretty hard all day which meant the trail was very muddy and made things take a little longer. The trail had some interesting sections, but I felt the weight of my bag and my poor health having an affect.
Despite these factors, and starting very late (4pm!) I am very happy with my progress. I stopped at the pub in Brockweir for ham, egg and chips and a pint of Butty Bach. The locals were very friendly.
I didn’t stop at the pub for very long as I was running put of light and needed to find a camping spot. I found somewhere about 2km north of Brockweir just off the path which I am very happy with.
I feel quite tired after today.
Inquisitive cows! Had to stand my ground as was worried about getting trampled.
05/06/14, 24km Sedbury Cliffs → The Grange
After waking a few times in the night I managed to sleep till 9. I headed out at 10 and made Redbrook for lunch where I had a beer and an *amazing* burger. Chatted with a couple of girls going the other way. Met quite a few other people on the trail, probably because the weather was very nice and sunny. I stopped in Monmouth for a coffee. After a steep climb out of the town I met a guy with a dog and walked with him for a bit.
I had picked up some extra water in Monmouth and was feeling the weight of my bag as well as tiredness, so chatting helped!
I bumped in to Chloe and Fred and got lost. They are from Montreal and we walked for a couple of hours together. There weren’t any good wild camping options but the girls knocked on a farm and a nice couple at The Grange let us sleep in their field.
06/06/14, 17km The Grange → Pandy
Another glorious day. With the girls we headed off at 11, leaving the farm. The really struggled up the hills, especially Chloe as she was having some knee pain. the thought of the pub at Llangattock Lingoed kept us moving though.
The pub was really good and my burger and cider were just what the doctor ordered. I also had a chance to check the weather and lightning was due in the night. I had planned to camp on the Black Mountains but instead decided to stop Pandy with the girls.
We got to the pub in Pandy but there wasn’t an official campsite. The landlord sorted us out with something just down the road which we didn’t pay anything for.
The girls went to bed early and despite being very tired myself I headed to the pub for food and a pint. I chatted to the landlord and some people staying at the caravan site.
07/06/14, 28km Pandy → Hay-on-Wye
It was raining quite hard when I woke up and as I have no porch in my tent had to make breakfast in the rain. A guy from a caravan made us a cup of tea.
I parted ways with he girls and headed for the Black Mountains. The rain stopped just as I started up the steep section to get to the top. Once up there it was pretty flat and the views were stunning. There were also loads of wild horses. I made good progress in the sun but after a while my feet started to hurt quite badly. I think due to the weight which my hips and shoulders were getting more used to.
The top of the range was long and felt never-ending! As I descended I had to be careful in the mud not to slip on my tired, sore feet.
I eventually made it in to Hay where a good friend picked me up. Lovely evening with him and his family. Very tired!
08/06/14, 13km Hay-on-Wye → Disgwylfa Hill
Spent most of the day with my friends. My sister and her family also came over and we went to the pub for lunch. Then the kids played in the park. My nephew jumped of off the top of the climbing frame (fearless!) but fortunately was OK.
I set off around 5:30 and took it pretty easy and I was still a little tired and sore from my big day yesterday. I decided to camp right on top of the hill and the views, as well as the sunset were spectacular.
09/06/14, 24km Disgwylfa Hill → Evenjobb (ish)
Coffee in Gladestry at an odd little cafe. The lady running it was chatty and interesting. Big push over the Hergest Ridge but the thought of lunch kept me going. As well as lunch I stacked up on a few supplies in Kington.
Out of Kington was very steep but I had eyed a potential campsite so I had a goal for the day and pushed on. I was pretty tired when I arrived, though my feel are my biggest limiting factor. The site wasn’t ideal but I fell asleep almost instantly once I put the tent up.
10/06/14, 21km Evenjobb (ish) → Llanfair Hil (ish)
Quite soon after heading out I started having stomach problems, I think caused by some water I collected from a farm yesterday. It was marked as drinking water on my map and I had purified it with tablets but I had a bad feeling about it. This meant I had to walk to walk nearly 13km to Knighton in discomfort and with no water.
After a pub lunch and having collected clean water and something to calm my stomach in Knighton I decided to continue. I felt much stronger compared to the morning and made good progress.
I found a nice camping spot near the top of Llanfair Hill. Very quite and peaceful.
My feet hurt much less today, I think because they stayed pretty dry all day.
The weather has been mostly sunny with a few spots of rain. I missed some very heavy rain when I was in the pub!
11/06/14, 20km Llanfair Hill (ish) → Montgomery
A very very hilly start to the day. Up and down followed by more up and down. Pretty tough going and I was feeling pretty tired so I developed a bit of a pre-lunch grump.
Stopping and eating something did wonders for my mood and the going got a lot easier. The weather was very good and knowing I had a hot meal and a roof waiting for me at my Gran’s house in Montgomery meant I made the town in good time.
I stopped off for a pint of cold cider before knocking on Gran’s door and she took me for dinner at the Dragon where I had another. The pub was great, as was the food.
Gran had also acquired some local cider, weighing in at 7.5%. Needless to say I was more than ready for my bed when the time came!
12/06/14, 16km Montgomery → Buttington
Scorching hot day, but knowing I had a short once ahead of me I put on a good pace. Fairly flat across open fields before the climb up through leighton Park. The forest reminded me of Canada which I enjoyed and then the climb up to Beacon Ring revealed a stunning view over Welshpool I had not experienced before, despite having lived in the area for years previously.
Near to the top I met another hiker who was also camping, only the third I had met, and like the others was also Canadian. We shared some stories of hiking in Canada and it left me with a feeling that applying for residency in Canada was the right thing to do. These are my kind of people!
This got me excited, and combined with the excellent weather, the views, feeling fit and the promise of a cool cider at the bottom I bounded down the hill with a spring in my step.
Dad picked me up from the pub in Buttington to take me to their house for a much deserved day off.
14/06/14, 28km Buttington → Candy Hill
Fairly easy terrain, just a few hills and good weather made for good progress, despite cramp in my right calf for the first few hours.
Had a pint in Llanymynech with a fellow hiker Jeramie after finding both pubs in Four Crosses closed.
Had a scary encounter with a large group of cows in a narrow field. Far too interested in me and came very close, following my every step.
Went for food in a microbrew pub in Trefonen but had to wait, so after three pints and a very nice gammon steak I moved on to find a spot to camp.
Found a nice place tucked away in the forest. Sleep couldn’t come soon enough!
15/06/14, 26km Candy Hill → Castell Dinas Bran (ish)
Filled up water and had a ginger beer at a stables with a services room. Looking at the map there aren’t many shops left so I started to be a little concerned about food. I had heard a lot of pubs on the north part of the trail were closed, and I had seen closed shops too.
I took a detour and had lunch at Chirk Castle, right in the courtyard. I also spoke to an assistant there who told me about the castle, about the surrounding area and where to find a shop in Trevor. Unfortunately I came down off of Chirk Castle hill on the wrong side which added 3km on the road. My first navigational error.
In Trevor I bought enough food to last me for the rest of the hike and had a pub dinner next to the canal and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.
I pushed on through some woodland and on to the scree slopes overlooking Castell Dinas Bran, the low sun of the evening was a real sight.
I found a camping spot despite the slope but was soon surrounded by tiny biting flies. I didn’t need more of an excuse to go straight to bed.
16/06/14, 26km Castell Dinas Bran → Jubilee Tower
I packed up the tent in a hurry do to the flies and made breakfast on a bench down the road. I met a group of three guys who I had been leapfrogging for a few days. I walked with them for a while.
In Llandegla the shop and two pubs were closed so I had lunch at a picnic site by a stream in the village. I asked a lady who owned the house next door for water and it turns out she rented out two little wooden ‘pods’ which I had coincidentally looked at online for Carly’s trip later this month. She showed me around and we chatted.
I started the mountain section with it’s ups and downs. As the sun was getting low the views were beautiful. I climbed up to the jubilee Tower and chatted with a mother and son. I camped near the top on some flat, open moorland.
I went to sleep excited that I should finish tomorrow, much faster than anticipated.
17/06/14, 26km Jubilee Tower → Prestatyn
After a good night’s sleep it was back to the hills. Hills hills hills, far more than I had anticipated. I knew this was a fairly substantial push to the end but the ups and downs were draining what energy I had left quickly.
Adding to the tiring day was that fact that no shops or pubs were open (or no longer existent!) so I was lacking refreshment of a warm meal. I also had to ask for water from a caravan site. With the end in sight all I could do was push on.
Coming down off of the the hill in to Rhault I could see Prestatyn and it looked flat all the way. The trail had other ideas though with more steep climbs.
With around two hours to go my feet really started to hurt. Stopping was of little help so I just had to keep moving. The trail has been beautiful and enjoyable but this made me appreciate all of the grumbles I had heard from other hikers about it’s difficulty.
The final stretch takes you through the town of Prestatyn to the coast and the end of the trail. I enjoyed looking out to sea and contemplating my 13 day journey.
I didn’t managed to find any suitable accommodation so decided to take the train back to Cardiff, covering a similar route in 4 hours instead of the 13 days it had taken me to walk.
I had never walked anything like this before and I am certain it will not be my last long distance trail.