Monday, 20 June 2016

Offa's Dyke day 10:When I Get To The Border.

It wasn't the fault of The Royal Oak hotel in Welshpool. I slept well in their big comfy bed. They popped a copy of The Guardian under my door at 7am as requested and the buffet breakfast was bounteous.

No, the problem was all mine. After breakfast I returned to bed and listened to the cars hiss by my window. I felt lethargic and demotivated, a little sad even. You're not supposed to feel like that on the first day of your holiday. Then it hit me. I was massively dehydrated. I'd taken beer the night before and had a cuppa with breakfast but no water for about 18hrs. That's not like me. I normally guzzle the stuff.

So I got my pack on and headed out. It was raining. It was pissing down. Almost immediately I took a wrong turn out of Welshpool. Through a housing estate and to a dead end.

Returning to the very busy A483, no pavements and lorries speeding by, I saw a sign saying I was 16 miles from Oswestry - and I was taking the scenic route.

Finally I picked up the path proper. Good to catch up, Offa. It followed a particularly meandering and picturesque stretch of the Severn with occasional detours along the Montgomery canal.

I saw rabbits, a speedy hare, lots of sheep as usual, and nearly as many cows. Lambs micturated in tribute as I passed them. I witnessed both bovine and ovine excrement. One cow, clearly the GG Allin of the livestock world, stood right in front of me as if to afford me a medical view of shit coming out of her arse.

There was shit everywhere - and flies feasting on it. I don't think I stood in any. The view from above was better. The sun had come out.

Cows appear to have two different approaches to intruders on their patch. Most slowly amble out of your way. Some of them stand in your path and stare you down. Make you change your path. That gives you the willies. They're big fuckers. I don't think there were any bulls but I removed my red jacket just in case. One snorted at me. I had a quick check. I've never been so relieved to see an udder.

The wildlife highlight of the day wasn't the cows or sheep. Nor even the hare. The unidentified green insect was good but, for cuteness alone, the pen, cob, and eight cygnets chilling out canalside take the plaudits. Awww.

Kissing gate followed kissing gate followed kissing gate. The Powis Arms, walkers and dogs welcome, looked enticing but it was 11:45 and it's not a 'Spoons.

I walked a few miles in the shadow of the imposing Breidden Hill. Topped by Rodney's Pillar.

Just before 2 I reached Four Crosses. A small village but the biggest place I'd seen since Welshpool - and it had a pub. The Golden Lion. Ale it said. Food it said. CLOSED it said. Bloody typical.

A sign said 4 miles to Llanymynech, a place I knew nothing of, so I took it. Back on the Montgomery canal I crossed a stunning aqueduct over a wide Severn tributary. It was awesome.

I arrived in Llanymynech about 3, mums were on the school run, and with my squelchy wet socks starting to blister my tootsies I thought it'd do for an overnight stop.

Oswestry was another 2-3 hours on foot and off route to boot. I grabbed a pint of Stonehouse brewery Station bitter (2013 National Beer competition award winner) in The Cross Keys and enquired about a room. They had one. I took it.

In the bar I chatted to a lady who'd done Offa's Dyke twice, once in each direction, with her six year old son. It made me realise how doable it is and what a wuss I can be.

Llanymynech straddles the English/Welsh border. In fact one side of the high street is in England and the other in Wales. Back when Montgomeryshire was dry, we're talking booze of course, on Sundays thirsty Welsh drinkers simply crossed the road to wet their whistles.

Lions to the east. Dragons to the west. It seemed an apt spot to hole up and watch the England and Wales Euro games. The tasty pint of Three Tuns pale ale in The Dolphin confirmed it.

Tomorrow it's back on the Dyke.  For now it's supporting the country I live in and the one that gave me my name. C'mon England. C'mon Wales.


  1. Nice post Dave - this should become a BBC4 series.

  2. Oswestry was more than 3 hrs away. More like 6.