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Offa's Dyke Path, North Wales

World Trip Two

Tuesday, July 14 2009: Canterbury - Knighton, Wales

The Knighton clock tower.

It took six hours with a one hour stop for lunch to drive from Canterbury to Knighton, which is half in England and half in Wales. We drove mainly on highways encountering heavy traffic only in a few places. The summer weather in Canterbury was left behind and replaced by rainy skies. We zoomed past green forests on very wet roads until we left the highways for country lanes. We drove through quaint little villages and hedge lined roads where kites and other raptors escorted us to our destination, the little town of Knighton.

The very happy hikers ready for their week of walking.

We were here only 18 months ago as Knighton was our final destination when we completed the southern part of the walk. We realized that we did not spend any time looking around the town last year, as we were so happy to stop walking, and much more interested in celebrating our accomplishment in the pub. So it was nice to utilize the long day this time to take a look around the lovely little village. We spent the rest of our time preparing for the next week of walking.

The weather prediction is for rain, rain, more rain, followed by rain. I am listening to thunderclaps as I write this. It turns out there is more annual rain in July in Wales than in January; rule Britannia.

Offa's Dyke Path

Wednesday, July 15 2009: Knighton - Brompton 17 miles

The magnificent Mary and her devoted hikers.

It rained all night in Knighton and when we got up at 6:00 am it was still raining. The good news was by the time we were out walking on the path it had stopped raining and was only threatening rain.

This was the rain shower that got us.

In fact it only rained on us once the whole day; very good luck given the weather. The bad luck was Mary's pain overwhelmed her after only three miles of hiking. When we got to the road at Seiley Hall our brave and intrepid Mary decided she could go no further. Her very considerate David decided to leave the walk and go with her. Both of them gave up a walk that they had been so looking forward to; we were all terribly sad about it.

The second biggest mushroom I have ever seen.

But, at the same time Julia and I were happy that Mary had made the decision to leave because we knew she needed more time to recover from her horrible injury. And by stopping now she will soon be ready to make many more hikes with us in the future. We bid them both farewell as they sped off in the taxi back to Knighton.

It was 12:30 pm and we had only traveled three miles so Julia and I stepped on the gas and charged up hill and dale. In fact we climbed a total of 2,654 feet and descended the same before the hike was over.

Going up was hard, but coming down the steep mud covered descents was even more difficult; so much so that I fell twice into the black oozing mud. We finally arrived at our farmhouse accommodation at 7:30 pm. tired, happy, and glad of all the spectacular scenery we had seen. But we were both so very happy to know that Mary would be safe in her bed tonight, getting better and readying herself to walk with us again soon. We love you both and miss you.

Thursday, July 16 2009: Brompton - Welshpool 13 miles

The two happy hikers.

Today's walk was shorter than yesterday's only 12 miles instead of 15. Plus the path had only two steep climbs and one steep descent unlike the five or so yesterday. It did not rain until the afternoon and then it only drizzled until we arrived at Welshpool our final destination. We were in the heavy rain for just an hour, so it was not too bad.

Julia with wet trousers and the Welsh countryside in front of her.

I hurt my left knee back in January skiing and this caused my step to adjust for the pain in my knee. I started taking Glucosamine which really helped with my knee pain. But by the time I had started this treatment I had developed plantar fasciitis in my left foot. I figure this happened due to the adjustment I unknowingly made in my step to protect my knee. I bought an insert for my shoe to help relieve the pain from the plantar fasciitis, which it did. But the insert changed the geometry of my boot and caused a massive blister on my heel. This is a real case of causality if I ever saw one.

But now I am left with a nasty blister and many more miles to hike. Julia bought some Compeed plasters, which are like a second skin. They really work to protect the blistered area and I could not have walked as far as I have without them. But given the chain of causal events what will the plaster lead to; gangrene of the foot maybe?

Friday, July 17 2009: Welshpool - Llanymynech 12 miles

Let sleeping cows lie.

Once again it rained all night long. When we left in the morning it drizzled lightly on us for the first hour or so, but then it stopped. The weather prediction was for heavy rain all day. However, it did not rain on us until after lunch. It was not a heavy rain but enough to keep you honest.

The walk followed the old canal and then it paralleled the river Severn. We met a farmer while walking on his property and he told us the river would likely flood today, but it didn"t while we could see it. The hike wandered through a valley so there was no climbing for us; wonderful! The only horror was being bitten by a pony. This was even worse than yesterday's horror of being chased through a paddock by a herd of raging bullocks. You have to love the Offa's Dyke.

We found out that Mary has a broken rib which is why she could not complete the walk. Get well soon Mary.

Saturday, July 18 2009: Llanymynech to Bronygarth/Chirk 15 miles

Young Jeff with Julia.

As we left the hotel this morning I saw another hiker in the distance behind us. We kept walking and noticed the man was walking directly behind us.

A magnificent view from the Offa's Dyke.

I thought perhaps there was something odd going on and so I quickened our pace. He stayed right up with us so I stopped to let him pass. He then asked if we were hiking the Offa's Dyke, we told him we were and talked about each other's destination. I got a good look at him and could see he really was a hiker and not a problem. We introduced ourselves and found out his name was Jeff, that he was 70 years young, a local walker, and that he was hiking the Offa's Dyke bit by bit over many years. Jeff joined us and walked with us all day.

High on a Welsh hill.

From Julia: We"ve already had two days of wet boots. This morning we pulled on our damp boots before setting off and felt happy that although the boots were wet, they were warm from the attempt we"d made to dry them overnight. However, we were lucky as we didn"t get rained on at all today. Even the soaking wet grass seemed to have dried off overnight, so our damp boots gradually dried out as the day progressed. We are hoping for our boots to stay dry for the rest of the walk, but every time we ask a local about the weather they say It's going to rain.

It was good to have Jeff's companionship on the walk. Today's section was less well marked so we took two or three wrong turns. But a combination of sign-spotting and Jeff's handheld GPS technology helped us to find our way. We saw gorgeous views of mountains, castles, villages and valleys. We went past the site of an old racecourse that closed in 1848, according to the information sign because the lower classes were winning the races and it was becoming too boisterous. The grandstand was then occupied by a family of mole-catchers, and now it is in ruins. Jeff was walking on a couple of miles further than us. At our turning point, we bid him goodbye and arrived at our B&B after 14 miles, 3,000 feet of uphill, and 7 hours walking. We recuperated in hot baths and then feasted at the local very friendly pub and collapsed into bed. We had been counting sheep on the dyke all day, so we fell asleep immediately our heads hit the pillows.

Sunday, July 19 2009: Bronygarth/Chirk to Llangollen 10 miles

The Chirk Castle.

We climbed a small hill first thing to reach Chirk Castle. This castle was built during the reign of Edward I to assert his authority over Wales. It was then purchased by Sir Thomas Myddleton in 1595 and has been in his family for four hundred years.

A very happy Julia after a sit down lunch.

We made the second major navigational error of the hike while exiting the castle and ended up adding a mile or two to our walk. The weather was overcast and threatening rain all day but it drizzled only two or three times on us. Most of the rain fell while we were eating roast Sunday lunch at the Telford Inn in the little town of Trevor. Do you think there many people named Trevor that live in Trevor?

Our hike was only 10 miles or so. This enabled us to take a more leisurely approach to the walking. We stopped at the castle, we got a bit lost, we stopped and ate a sit down meal, then we followed the scenic canal path to our destination of Llangollen.

Monday, July 20 2009: Llangollen - Clwyd Gate 14.5 miles

A ruined hill fort with a rocky escarpment behind it.

It was our second really long and really hard day today. The good news was the weather, it was the best we have had so far with mainly blue skies in the morning and no rain.

The first part of the walk was a 1,000 foot climb up to the ruined Castell Dinas Bran a 13th century hill fort. Then we dropped down to a road that took us to a walk along an escarpment called Eglwyseg Mountain. The hike went past the hamlet of Worlds End then wandered up to a marshy heather covered moorland, and then through a lush pine tree forest. From here the walk had us climb up another 1,000 feet to the top of the Clwydian Range. We had our first glimpse of the Irish Sea our final destination on this saga. We were very tired after this walk and glad to reach our bed and breakfast.

Tuesday, July 21 2009: Clwyd Gate to Bodfari 12 miles

Just before the weather really got bad.

Rain was the word for today; rain, rain, wind, then more rain. We also did a lot of climbing; from Clwyd Gate we climbed back onto the Clwydian Range. Our first stop was the Jubilee Tower built to celebrate the 50th year of the reign of King George III.

Jubilee Tower.

This was the king that arguably lost the Americas to the American revolutionaries. Why the Welsh wanted to celebrate this king I do not know. To get to the tower we climbed 1,662 feet and this put us firmly into the rainy cloud deck. So our view of the celebratory tower was shrouded in fog. From here we walked on to Moel Arthur a 2,000 year old hill top fort. It was about then Julia drew my attention to a cloud formation hanging over the mountains to the west of us. This turned out to be a funnel cloud or a low intensity tornado! We thought we might be seeing things but later that day our accommodation hostess confirmed that they do indeed get funnel clouds in Wales.

I have fallen over four times on the hike so far due mainly to mud or wet rocks but Julia had been spared, until today. The poor darling stood on a wet rock and went down like a sack of potatoes. It really shook her up but fortunately she did not get hurt. We finally made it back to our accommodation and were able to get dry for the first time all day.

Wednesday, July 22 2009: Bodfari to Prestatyn 12 miles

Rain was with us all day, it drizzled, it showered, it poured, it came down in buckets, the heavens opened, etc, etc. We encountered several more frisky bullocks and a full sized bull which Julia dispatched with a wave of her arms. I asked her how could you be so brave with those beasts and she said: "if they gave me trouble I would have punched them because I am just sick of it"; I believe she would have too. Soon we had close up views of the Irish Sea filled with wind electricity generators. Then we were rained on again. Only the British could love summer in Britain.

A very sore, but relieved Julia.

Eventually, after many more hills, we made it to our final destination, the little seaside town of Prestatyn. This ended our 182 mile walk on the Offa's Dyke Path. It took us 14 days to complete it and many a blistered toe. Julia was hobbling as we walked the last mile from our accommodation to the beach.

But we had a drink to celebrate followed by fish and chips with mushy peas and a pickled onion; what a way to end it. We are both very glad the walking is now over, but also sad to leave this wonderful place; this Wales.



Goodbye Offa's Dyke

This was a song Julia and I composed while walking this week. It is sung to the tune of Hockey Pokey.

You see a nettle here,

You see a nettle there,

If you touch the little bastards,

They make you want to swear!

You do the Offa's Dyke-key,

You can't turn around,

That's what It's all about.

Do the Offa's Dyke-key,

Oh I need a bike-key,

Do the Offa's Dyke-key,

I need a new pair of Nikes.

You put your rain jacket on,

You take your rain jacket off,

You get a little wet,

But you shake it all off,

You do the Offa's Dyke-key,

You can't turn around,

That's what It's all about.

Do the Offa's Dyke-key,

Oh I need a bike-key,

Do the Offa's Dyke-key,

I need a new pair of Nikes.

You step in mud over here,

You step in mud over there,

You can't get it off,

And you don"t really care,

You do the Offa's Dyke-key,

You can't turn around,

That's what It's all about.

Do the Offa's Dyke-key,

Oh I need a bike-key,

Do the Offa's Dyke-key,

I need a new pair of Nikes.

You see a cow pat here,

You see a sheep turd there,

You hold your nose,

And you can't breathe the air,

You do the Offa's Dyke-key,

You can't turn around,

That's what It's all about.

Do the Offa's Dyke-key,

Oh I need a bike-key,

Do the Offa's Dyke-key,

I need a new pair of Nikes.

You walk a leafy lane here,

You cross a highway there,

The cars speed along,

And they never care,

You do the Offa's Dyke-key,

You can't turn around,

That's what It's all about.

Do the Offa's Dyke-key,

Oh I need a bike-key,

Do the Offa's Dyke-key,

I need a new pair of Nikes.

You hear a moo moo here,

You hear a baa baa there,

You think you see a badger,

But you really saw a hare,

You do the Offa's Dyke-key,

You can't turn around,

That's what It's all about.

Do the Offa's Dyke-key,

Oh I need a bike-key,

Do the Offa's Dyke-key,

I need a new pair of Nikes.

Offa's Dyke-key the Song

Trip stats

Miles Flown: 22,236

Miles Hiked: 366

Miles Skied: 2

Miles Driven: 6,001

Miles Sailed: 110


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