Tag Archives: Offa’s Dyke Path

No sheep jokes please!

Before I turn the page on the adventure in Wales, I need to display this photo taken by hiking pal Susie McNeely (triple crowner, i.e. CDT, PCT and AT). We had just climbed through morning mist out of the town of Knighton where the Offa’s Dyke Path HQ is located. It was a steep, relatively short climb to the grassy ridge where we came to the spot in the photo which had a sort of Mediterranean look to it. The inquisitive sheep added whimsy to the moment.

My friend Jay Dement who will soon be prez of the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club observed that the Welsh word for Richard is “BAAAAAAA.” Clearly, I command little respect among my companions, nor do I give a sheep’s butt if I do. Jay and I spent several days swapping sheep jokes before we exhausted our repertoire. Wandering along the Wales/England border certainly provides a sheep jokester with plenty of inspiration.

I am moved to note that the agricultural element of the British Isles is a big part of the joy of the experience. We hiked through fields of corn, sugar beets and all manner of other cultivated vegetation. At other times we hiked through dark forests and across windswept moors covered in purple blooming heather. In other words, there was variety of experience. Each day stood out as an individual memory.

At the end of each daily hike, we bent over — testing our aging, aching vertebrae — and scraped mud and sheep/cow/goat excrement from our boots and trail runners. It’s just what you do there, and it isn’t as bad as it sounds. I’ve experienced the same thing in Ireland, the Balkans, South Africa, Nepal and myriad other adventure venues. Sheep and other livestock — even yaks — are part of the deal. You enjoy their curious countenances and live in the moment. Stay vertical, you all, read THRU: An Appalachian Trail Love Story, and keep walkin’!

 

 

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The End of the World in Wales

This photo taken one recent morning was in a part of Wales known as The End of the World. The path we followed tracked along cliffs and escarpments with views of sheep grazing in pastures, hedgerows, forests, streams and ancient dwellings.

My trip lasted three weeks starting in Chepstow in Wales and hiking north about 180 miles to Prestatyn on the Irish Sea. We followed long ridges topped with blooming heather cloud-walking with beautiful pastoral tableaus on either side of us. At times we dropped into the heart of the countryside traversing hardwood forests, across grazing land, past castle ruins and centuries-old houses, up incredibly steep ascents and down the inevitable precipitous descents. We kept score on falls, and I was tied on the last day with one of my companions with a total of three. She managed one last fall on the final downhill to Prestatyn, so I was spared the ignominy of being championship stumbler.

We followed an established trail known as Offa’s Dyke, a large berm and moat construction thought to date back to the eighth century A.D. A ruler named Offa required landowners under his domain to build the dyke as a way to establish a boundary and perhaps to fortify the territory. No one seems to know for sure. Regardless, at times, we actually followed a path directly on top of or beside the dyke.

Each night we dropped into a valley to a village, town or settlement and stayed in a local hotel or B&B. We feasted on pub food or whatever was considered best in the area for supper. At least three times I opted for fish and chips accompanied by a local lager. For breakfast we had a choice of any combination of the so-called full English breakfast which can include cereal, toast, coffee, tea, juice, black pudding, baked beans, stewed tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, two eggs any style, sausage and bacon. Obviously, the full monte was a bit much, so we picked what we wanted and were never disappointed.

Along the way we chuckled at the Welsh use of multiple consonants and minimal vowels in city names. We thrilled to the beauty of Welsh and English accents and wit as we meandered along the England/Wales border. We scraped all manner of mud and assorted livestock turds from our shoes at the end of each day. And we reveled at the shimmering beauty, clear sky, magnificent pastoral scenery and delightful culture we encountered — seemingly at every turn of the trail. Each day had its individual charms.

Setting up the trip for us was Will Ainsley of Discovery Travel. I don’t do plugs in this blog, but this guy became a friend for sure, and I would recommend him to anyone who wants to enjoy a trip thoroughly. Email them at info@discoverytravel.co.uk

Wales is not a wilderness. Still, the trip did provide a magical feeling of remoteness. At other times, we had the feeling of walking back in time, exploring ancient sites and wondering if much had changed since laborers more than a millennium ago toiled at building the earthen mound we followed for weeks. If you’re thinking of doing this, don’t let me discourage you. I still can’t quit thinking about it.