Offa’s Dyke Path Days 1 and 2

Offa’s Dyke Path is a walking trail that roughly follows the full length of the border between Wales and England for 285 km from the Severn Estuary in the South to the Irish Sea in the North. The dyke is an earthen wall along parts of the border, built about 1000 years ago by the Saxons to keep out the Welsh and other invaders. Offa was a Saxon king of that period and construction of the dyke is attributed to him, but no one really knows. It is one of Britain’s National Trails and is popular.

The route is hilly and traverses farmland as well as some low mountains. I’m doing the walk over 12 days staying at small hotels and B&Bs.

Arriving from Scotland was going from winter to summer. The weather is wonderful. Spring here was cold and unusually wet; everyone is rejoicing that warm sunny weather has finally arrived. Unfortunately the trail is still wet and muddy in places, but it should dry in the next few days.

The first two days have been a mix of some forest and a lot of farmland. Both days have been long, close to 30 km each day, with quite a bit of climbing. But the rewards are good views, the intense green of new leaves and fresh grass, and wildflowers.

A few photos:

The Severn Estuary, South end of Wales

Start of the walk

Castle in Chepstow ( where I stayed before starting the walk).

Tintern Abbey seen from above the River Wye

Sheep

Wildflowers carpeting the forest

Fortified gate over the river at Monmouth

Walker on a country road with hedges on both sides

Horses grazing on a hill

Offa’s Dyke Path Days 3 to 6

In some ways the last few days have been alike: walking through the countryside, sheep, hills, views from the hill tops, villages in the valleys. Good weather.

But each day was different. Day three was a climb to a long ridge walk in the Black Mountains, well away from roads and fields, into heather and high grazing land, with wild ponies and panoramic views of the farms below.

Days four and five were hills and sheep. And also the first chance to clearly see and follow Offa’s Dyke.

Today is rated as the toughest day of the walk, following the dyke northward as it crosses east-west hills for a cumulative ascent today of 980m (3215ft) with some extremely steep climbs. A tiring day, but rewarding.

At the end of today’s walk I was standing at a crossroads in the rain waiting for a bus to take me off route to a nearby hotel. I decided to try hitchhiking. Ten minutes later I had a ride to the hotel door.

Some photos:

Cows trying to follow me

Border marker on the ridge

Wild pony

Wild pony

The endless 14 km ridge trail

Farm fields

When the official signs go missing…

Weathered sign post

Village street

Hiker on the dyke

Lamb peeking over the dyke

Half way point

Offa’s Dyke Path Days 7 to 12

Yesterday I finished the walk, arriving at Prestatyn, a holiday town on the Irish Sea.

The weather during the second half of the walk was wonderful—no rain, warm, every day a mix of sun and cloud. Ironically, this morning walking to the station for the train to Manchester the weather was cold with low cloud and drizzle. Perhaps the gods wanted to make sure I understood how generous they had been.

Like the first half, the days were varied. A large part was walking in fields with endless gates to open and shut, stiles to climb and farm animals who always listened to whatever I had to say. I was growing a bored with the fields by the end of the first half of the walk, but in the second half I discovered that I enjoyed the open space and the simple routine of entering each new field, trying to discover where the gate to the next field was located and seeing how this new flock of sheep or herd of cows would respond to me.

It wasn’t all fields. There were days high in heather hills, forests (actually tree farms, all the old growth has been cut), canals, and a day with a long stretch across a scree slope beneath rocky cliffs.

A couple of days I walked with Rob, an English hiker, but he was doing the walk in a day less than me; we eventually parted when he had a longer stage. I missed his company but I also enjoyed solitude.

The walk went by quickly. It is different from the alpine and pilgrimage walks I’ve done, and took a few days to appreciate, but it is one of the best.

Photo gallery, no photos featuring cows or sheep…