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After a number of overcast, wintry days, yesterday dawned bright and sunny and no frost… Perfect for an adventure. Our neighbour loaned me his map of the Montgomery area showing various walks (yellow publications), and suggested a local walk that would take in a section of Offa’s Dyke; (Offa, the Anglo-Saxon king of Mercia from 757 until his death in July 796 – had a great dyke built between Wales and Mercia from sea to sea). This border between Wales and England was built to prevent the Welsh from infiltrating the country. Not sure why they thought it was a good idea, but on closer research it may well have been a defensive wall.

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can’t complain about that view

Kitted out with shoes and poles I set off with determination. To reach the section where I planned to walk was a fair trot from the village and my initial terrain was a good solid tarmac road. The route goes through Lymore Park and farmland. All went well, I passed the Lower Pond and a farm, crossing multiple cattle grids and eventually reached the border between Montgomeryshire and Shropshire where I encountered #4 cattle grid (urgh, they are horrible to walk across), and a field of dozy sheep. They are such silly creatures.

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dozy sheep. Offa’s Dyke path

Starting off along the path, I was sceptical as to how good an idea this was going to be…the path was a slushy, muddy morass…mostly churned up by previous walkers and a few horses, and I considered retracing my steps and leaving it for another day. But my philosophy in life is: do it while you are here, it may be the only opportunity you have.

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along the dyke….the walking was not pleasant…although the scenery was lovely

So with that in mind, I started walking along the path… Mud, mud not so glorious mud. Slushy, mushy, slimy, grimy mud. The first 3 sections were just bloody awful and I spent a lot of time trying to find stable spots to place my shoes without slipping or getting too dirty. Sloshing through craftily hidden pooled water, standing on tussocks that were not as stable as they looked, slipping and sliding as I attempted to get from one spot to another and accompanied with lots of laughter, cussing and wtf am I doing, I later forded a small rushing stream; a very tricky section that was a sheer, unadulterated quagmire. Creeping gingerly beneath overhanging branches, my poles planted firmly before advancing, I made it safely and relatively dry, albeit a tad more muddy, across the wee bridge, but after walking some distance further I realised /discovered I’d gone off course, so had to back-track and ford the stream once again. OMG!! Seriously.

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this is where I went wrong…

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going back….fording a stream…the ground on the other side of the stile was a quagmire

I didn’t escape unscathed this time around. After crossing back over the bridge and stile, I surveyed the immediate terrain and spotted what looked like a stable spot. Alas it was not so…instead, as I trod down my foot sank ankle deep into mud that sucked at my shoe, reluctant to let it go 😱😱  After a bit of a tussle, hanging onto my walking poles for dear life trying to stay upright, I won….The mud finally released my shoe with a sucky slurk. However my shoe was now completely covered in thick mucky mud.

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I won the tussle 🙂

Onwards…. I found the track once again (thank you mapmywalk), and from thereon the terrain was fairly stable and a lot less muddy albeit still churned up in places..and those hidden pools. Sigh.

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Offa’s Dyke as I thought it would be….how gorgeous is that stream

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Offa’s Dyke; now that’s more like it

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Offa’s Dyke – a long distance walk on the border between England and Wales

6.53 kms and 1.55 hours later and my shoes and walking pants were in the washing machine. 🤔🤔🤔🤔 That was a quite insane walk.

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map my walk

Well worth it though, the countryside here is astoundingly beautiful. As with most of the UK, Wales and the bordering English county of Shropshire are stunning. Much of the land here is given over to farming and raising sheep or horses. Dotted across green fields are huge trees, now bereft of their summer greenery, but nonetheless absolutely stunning. I actually prefer to see trees without their leaves; far more interesting.

And as weird and exhausting as it was, I felt it was good practice for any UK walks I have planned… It rains a lot in this country (duh!! who’d have guessed?) and there’s no way I’ll enjoy the kind of weather I had in Portugal and Spain in September 2017.

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I loved walking alongside the ocean. I stopped off in this area to rest and just enjoy the scenery

It’s given me pause for thought in terms of my shoes. I may/will have to invest in something more hardy. I was just glad I didn’t have my backpack on when my shoe got stuck in the mud… That could have caused a different outcome in my tussle for possession. and once again I had occasion to be thankful for my walking poles. Truly, I will never walk any long distances without them ever again. They have saved my ass so many times; on the Camino and certainly on the many walks I have undertaken in the UK; my Canterbury Tales & Way of St Augustine

More about Offa’s Dyke: ref wikipedia

Offa’s Dyke (Welsh: Clawdd Offa) is a large linear earthwork that roughly follows the current border between England and Wales. The structure is named after Offa, the Anglo-Saxon king of Mercia from AD 757 until 796, who is traditionally believed to have ordered its construction. Although its precise original purpose is debated, it delineated the border between Anglian Mercia and the Welsh kingdom of Powys.

The Dyke, which was up to 65 feet (20 m) wide (including its flanking ditch) and 8 feet (2.4 m) high, traversed low ground, hills and rivers. Today the earthwork is protected as a scheduled monument. Some of its route is followed by the Offa’s Dyke Path; a 176-mile (283 km) long-distance footpath that runs between Liverpool Bay in the north and the Severn Estuary in the south.

scheduled monument is a “nationally important” archaeological site or historic building, given protection against unauthorised change.

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As mentioned in yesterday’s post I didn’t get out till 3rd January to start my #walk1000miles challenge for 2018. Mostly due to the mooky weather. I’ve been in North East Wales since the evening of the 3rd and yesterday was only the 2nd day I’ve managed to get a decent walk in.

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a mooky day

The day dawned bright, clear and stunningly beautiful. We have the most amazing view from the barn across the fields and valleys to the Berwyns and as usual I was enchanted by the colours of the sunrise. We had a thick covering of frost in the morning and because the village is in a groove between the mountain and the hill the sun doesn’t really make much of an impact as how it’s so far back on it’s winter trajectory.

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a frosty day

I started out at 2pm during my break time and initially I had planned to walk up to the castle but at the point where the road curves up the hill and becomes really steep, I had barely made 6 steps up the road when I started to slide back downhill. Thankfully I had my walking poles or I would have fallen over for sure. I then decided to go downhill along a more traffic frequented road and made my way across the fields using a shortcut utilised by horse riders, joggers and walkers alike and to my delight I happened upon the lake; Lower Pool, that I had seen from the castle so many times.  I initially thought it was the River Severn but on closer inspection using Google maps I saw it was merely a lake, albeit a rather large one.

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Lower Pool, Montgomery

It was truly beautiful and a bevy of swans have made their home on a wee island in the middle…..too far for photos but I could see them quite easily.

The ground was totally sodden and before long my feet started to get wet so I headed back to the road where I met a lovely lady by the name of Suzanne. We chatted all the way back to the village and swapped walking stories. I told her about my 3 pilgrimages and she was inspired to learn more about the Camino 🙂

I slipped a fair number of times heading back through the village. I had wanted to reach the crest of the hill on the other side of the village I had seen from the castle.

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view from the Kerry Road – in the distance is Corndon Hill

Again I slipped and slid most alarmingly and again my poles saved the day. I can assure you that I will never walk any distances again without them. I was though really puzzled as to why I was slipping about so much. When I got home I checked the bottom of my walking shoes and noticed that the treads  have worn down substantially, so it was no wonder I spent a lot of time slipping and sliding on the roads…thankfully I had my walking poles which averted any tumbles, but it was most unpleasant…although the weather was wonderful.

I have another 2.5 weeks here in Wales so I must try to get to the river at least once. The other walk I mentioned was the day after I arrived….the morning was muggy and dismal but by 2pm it had cleared up quite a lot so I set off for my favourite place; Montgomery Castle. The view from there is quite sumptuous; right across the valley of the River Camlad (forms part of the border between Wales and England in places) and Montgomery Ford, a vital crossing of the River Severn towards the Berwyn Mountains. Known as the ‘The Key to the Kingdom’, a Norman castle, Montgomery Castle was built at the order of Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury, sometime between 1071 and 1074.

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Key to the Kingdom; Montgomery, Wales

As with most castles in Britain it underwent a number of changes and changed hands a number of times and was substantially developed during the reign of Henry III. In 1227 Montgomery was granted a Royal Charter by the king, making it the oldest borough in Wales. I love to sit on the walls and visualise the deer hunting that must have taken place in the surrounding forests and the sight of soldiers marching across the valley.

It was very windy that day and I was hard put to remain stead on my feet whilst positing myself on the walls to take photos. I’m surprised they weren’t all blurred. I eventually gave up and staggered downhill with a blustery wind at my back. Reminded me a bit of my walk along the beaches on the Isle of Thanet the day before.

On the way back to the house I called in at the Dragon Hotel (must stay there sometime) and enquired about the swimming pool. It seems we can book an hour for £3.50. Hmmm. Glad I brought my swimsuit. I just loved the wee cottages leaning up against the hotel.

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the Dragon Hotel, Montgomery, Wales

As I meandered through the graveyard I spotted a gorgeous rainbow emanating from within the castle walls and touching ground in the valley below….

if I could just get there in time I may have found that pot of gold they’re always talking about!!! LOL

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oh to be free to walk and walk and walk

Walked 01.01.2018 – 07.01.2018 : 12.88 kms / Miles 8.05 – 991.95 miles to go ….hmmm.

I’ve been told that the Offa’s Dyke walk is accessible from the road I had walked along earlier so as soon as the weather warms up enough to not be leaving frosty roads I shall head along and try walk as much of it as I can. However I believe that it’s 177 miles /285 kms; a tad more than I can fit into a 2 hour break.  I’d love to walk the whole route though, but that will have to wait for another year…if I am ever up this way in 2019 I’ll try add it to the ever growing list of walks I want to undertake.

One of my walking plans for 2018 is along the cliffs from Broadstairs to Sandwich, Deal, Walmer, Dover and onto Folkestone as well as the Pilgrim’s Way from Winchester to Canterbury and the Camino Inglés from Ferrol to Santiago. I hope I can squeeze them all in. Not that I’m complaining or anything, but work does rather get in the way of my walking dreams LOL.

 

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