Thursday, 23 June 2016

Offa's Dyke day 12:Into The Valley.

I slept surprisingly well in the ramshackle Railway in Oswestry. Apart from being woken at 5.30am by someone listening to their telly at full volume in another room. I banged my knee pretty hard jumping out of bed.

I wonder if it was one of the very pissed punters who were in there when I'd got back from my Oswestry evening. The guy singing Wet Wet Wet's Goodnight Girl maybe. Perhaps the man who told me Rooney was past it about 15 times in a row, each slurrier. They were having a good old fashioned lock in. I had to tap on the window several times to gain access.

I'd been enjoying Indian food in Simla. The host was asking his other customers how they intended to vote in the referendum.  He, worryingly, favoured Out but, even more worryingly, said he'd probably wait until he got to the polling booth before deciding!

The Railway didn't go in for such luxuries as breakfast and it was too early for disco dancing. But not for a pint in 'Spoons. If you wanted one. I had a cup of tea and a veggie breakfast in The Wilfred Owen, Oswestry's own Wetherspoons.

Then I walked to the quaint churchy village of Setellyn. They had a phone box converted into a 'library'. A book exchange really but a nice idea and, apparently, one imported from Prague.

I carried on to Craignant where I finally picked up Offa's Dyke path again. It had been quite a yomp just to get there. The path immediately took me up a steep hill through a field of slightly menacing cows. It started to rain a little. The sensation of cooling raindrops on my sunburnt neck was oddly pleasant.

After 3 hours of almost solid uphill walking I reached some kind of peak and saw in front of me, though still some distance away, the impressive Chirk Castle. I descended quickly. Past a field of lovely long haired horses.

Not so lovely were the flies that were constantly getting in my face. Some of the path was very overgrown and the beautiful purple flowers were attracting plenty of bees.

At the bottom I crossed the Cieriog river. David Lloyd George had described the Cieriog valley as a little piece of heaven on Earth.  It was certainly very pretty but having to walk along a busy road with no pavement put check to any lyrical flights of fancy of my own.

As I approached Chirk both a viaduct and an aqueduct came into view. The aqueduct was built by Industrial Revolution engineering genius Thomas Telford, who will crop up again in this story, and the viaduct some years later by one Henry Robertson. Its superior height intended to emphasise and celebrate the railway's dominance over the canals.

In Chirk itself I grabbed a pint of Darwin's Origin and a room in The Hand Hotel. Far superior to my Oswestrian digs. Alas, I'd missed curry night and it was grill night. The bar man was very keen to boast about his chef credentials. His signature dish was nachos which didn't sound very cordon bleu but I tried them nevertheless. There were loads of 'em. Too many for one man. Even a hungry one like me.

As I watched the Euro games in the saloon bar some local youths listened to dreadful Europop at ear splitting levels in the next room. It was the most convincing argument I'd heard for Brexit yet.

They branched into other terrible music later. Gina G. Sex on Fire (I must be up north). More palatable were Baggy Trousers and, er, Jimmy Eat World.

I chatted to a Canadian guy who now lived in Stockholm and was on a walking holiday. Having initially dismissed him as a hipster I realised he actually was a woodsman. He was even on his way to a festival of wood to see various wood crafts and axe work. Makes a change from Glastonbury.

I'd intentionally given myself a comparatively easy day to try and rest my blistered feet. Still over 5 hours with a sweaty rucksacked back though. Tomorrow it'll be on to Llangollen and then probably home.

Ruthin, Prestatyn, and, most ominously the Clwydian range can wait. 

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Offa's Dyke day 11:Blister In The Sun.

I never thought I'd be so relieved to reach Oswestry. It wasn't the gorilla made of spoons in a tribute to famous fraud Uri Geller. It was the chance to rest my poor blistered feet and my aching back that was feeling the strain of lugging a rucksack up and down so many hills.

A persuasive barman had convinced an easily persuaded customer to have one pint too many last night in Llanymynech's Cross Keys. They brought chips out for free so at least it got soaked up. There were warnings, too, of the hills ahead.

They weren't lying. I soon began a steep ascent of Llanymynech hill where Darwin once carried out geological studies. The summit gave great views both sides of the border.

The rock formation was like nothing I'd seen. The later golf course less exciting. I bumped into two North American girls walking the other way. Their pronunciations of Llangollen and Prestatyn were amusingly wide of the mark. Their assertion that I was approaching a flat stretch a blatant untruth worthy of Michael Gove.

I crossed a disused railroad. Twice. Apparently it's in the process of being restored. I met a man from Nantmawr walking his dog. We walked to his home village, no pub/no shop, together chatting. Friendly folk round these parts.

I passed through Jones' Rough and squeamish readers may want to look away now. It's about to get TMI.

I'd had both beans and eggs for breakfast and they were working their way through me quicker than was ideal. There was nothing else I could do. I took a shit on a hillside. It wasn't fun but needs must.

After a big crap I don't normally crave gelato but there was an advert for ice creams. All I had to do was ring a bell and someone would bring me a Magnum! Odd. As was the peacock relaxing in the garden.

I walked up, up, up, and up again. Finally I descended into Trefonen. The lovely looking Barley Mow pub served beers from the Offa's Dyke brewery. Needless to say it was closed. So I had a can of Coke and a pack of Frazzles on the bench near the war memorial. Kids nearby were competing in a sack race. I looked a sad sack.

From Trefonen I walked an uneventful road into Oswestry. The blistering was kicking in. My back hurt. I felt old. A pint of Salopian Oracle in The Oak Inn refreshed me. Friendly Oswestrians assisted me in finding a room.

I tried three B&Bs. No dice. The Griffin said try The Red Lion. The Red Lion said try The Greyhound. The Greyhound suggested The Railway but sniggered as they did it.

The Greyhound had a room though. £20. TV but no bog. The guy who checked me in asked no details and said 'fucking' about five times during this procedure.

Who knows what awaits me tonight. Or, indeed, tomorrow. I'm not sure my sore feet have much walking left in them. There's an internal argument raging. Tomorrow morning I will decide whether to continue or not. My body is failing me.