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RW@60: Offa’s Dyke

By Dave Snowden  ·  February 17, 2014  ·  Walks & Bike rides

Last month I had to alter my long standing plan to walk around Wales this year to accommodate the storm damage on the Anglesey Coast.  It means I will now head down the border on the Offa's Dyke path (red on the map) before taking a clockwise route around the coast finishing by following the River Dee from its mouth to source (yellow).

The year is significant for several reasons.  It is my 60th Birthday and the tenth anniversary of my leaving IBM to create Cognitive Edge.  It also the tenth anniversary of the deal of parents.  Today in New Zealand I remember the relatively peaceful death of my father, on the 1st March my mothers struggle against fast onset lung cancer and premature death in the early hours of St David's Day.  I'm also celebrating my own reversal of diabetes and regained fitness and body shape, something I would have loved them to see.

My original plan had been to start today, but business has taken me to Australia and New Zealand so instead I will start next week.   I've finished the detailed planning for the first section today and booked with one of those companies who manage accommodation and baggage transportation.   It will be 12 days of continuous walking, working in the early morning and evenings; running your own company makes dedicated holiday problematic.  I'm staying in various bed and breakfast houses or inns and eating in local pubs.  The map below shows the overall route and some people are already planning to join for sections.  All are open bar the two red ones which have high emotional significance and I want to do those solo.

I will post to this blog every day with reflections and experiences and will load photographs to Flickr as bandwidth and connectivity permits.  Those who enjoy my posts that combine travel with memories will enjoy the period, those who want more hard context on complexity, narrative or whatever, well take a break!   I'm putting up a fair number of posts that I accumulated in Australia and New Zealand when I did not have enough band width so there should be enough to keep you going.

The overall plan

So the plan is to do Offa's Dyke in one section, then pick up the South Wales Coast to Amroth in a series of day and two days walks over the following weeks.   I will then take a solid block of time to complete the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, then a break followed by the Ceridigian and the Lynn Peninsular in another.  That leaves the Anglesey and North Wales Coast and the River Dee to be scheduled.   I'm giving myself and elapsed year to complete this, so the clock starts a week Friday.

The First Section - Offa's Dyke

The map shows the various sections and dates, signified by the end point of the day.  To give some idea of what is entailed in each one:

  1. Walking from the Coast through the streets of Prestatyn before ascending the low hills that are the northern Clwyds.  This is a fairly easy section finishing in Bodfari scene of many a family meal when I was growing up in Mold a short distance away,
  2. The first private section walking the length of the Clwyds along paths that I know so well from my youth.  This was our playground as children and my mother took most of the responsibility of bring us here by bus, with friends in the long holidays.  It will be her tenth anniversary so this is a day of reflection.
  3. That continues the following day which will remember a walk she and I famously did together in deep snow.  It finishes in one of the iconic welsh castles just outside Llangollen.
  4. The next few days involve in the main lowland walking with some minor hills.  This one starts with the famous Telford viaduct at Pontcysyllte before concluding within site of the ancient hill fort outside Oswestry.
  5. Day five involves mainly low level walking and the potential of flooding involving diversions.  It parallels the main driving routes I took home over the years and I may get to revisit some of the fossil hunting sites of my youth.
  6. A theme which continues on day six with the River Severn encountered for the first time.  Flat and easy walking with the possibility of a diversion to the ancient town of Montgomery, home of one of the great marcher lordships with multiple interactions both hostile and marital with the welsh princes.
  7. The route now starts to get a little wilder reaching the hills to the west of Church and the wonderfully desolate castle in Clun.  The moors around here have their own wild beauty and I used, if I had time and could get the family to agree, divert from the A roads to pass through this area on many a drive.  
  8. The seventh day completes the northern section of walk ending in Knighton and a chance to choose between pubs rather than depend on one in the village which will be the case for the majority of the route.  Indeed for all the remaining stages bar one, the end point is a town of architectural and historical significance which adds to the overall value of the walk.
  9. Nearing the end now, and a walk that finishes in Hay 0n Wye scene of the annual book fair that also HowTheLightGetsIn a festival of Philosophy and Music which is a part of my annual rhythm these days.  So to visit outside of the festival will be interesting.
  10. Now we are back in the Black Mountains and a steep climb before a long glorious ridge that follows the border with England.  This is a long and high section and is going to represent a considerable issue for me as we play England at home in the Six nations that day.   I may be able to set off very early and make the pub in Pandy for the match or I may just relay on the iPhone for updates!
  11. Pandy to Monmouth, the penultimate stage is a low level route through some of the most beautiful countryside, but better suited for summer than current weather conditions.  But it ends in one of the great mediaeval towns with a diverse history.
  12. The last day and one that parallels the first stage of the Wye Valley Walk which I completed last year, but in the main on the other side of the valley.  Steep climbs and great views over the River culminate on the great gateway castle of Chepstow where my car will be waiting for me.  A short diversion to the River Severn to complete the full path, and Offa's Dyke is now complete.  I will have been criss crossing the border between England and Wales for the previous days, but from now on I will in Wales until I reach Chester many months later.

So for those who have asked, that is the plan.