Previously we have had Part 1 (planning).
Day 1 — Home to Sedbury to Beeches Farm (8 miles)
I’ve checked the weather forecast, all set fair for the next 10 days. Excellent, checking the forecast will be my first action every morning for the next 11 days, to save repetition I won’t mention it much. All packed and ready to go, nothing forgotten. BiL (chauffeur) arrives and we leave, dropping SWMBO first at work, then myself at Tesco to buy food for 2 days.
Short walk to station and 20 minute wait for train. When it arrives it is standing room only to Cardiff, to be expected on 1st off-peak of the day. My ticket says change at Newport so am happy to get a seat at Cardiff, until guard comes along and asks us to get off and get on the train in front as this one is terminating in Cardiff. Still get a seat on the new train, happy days. Change at Newport and a seat to Chepstow. Ticket inspector comes along just before Chepstow and my phone which holds the ticket is off, “Don’t worry he says, I’ll be back in a bit.” I waved my phone at him from the platform and he waved back cheerily.
I made my way on foot to the start of the walk at Sedbury Cliffs about 40 minutes away.
Took the obligatory photos before picking up a little stone, secreting it safely in a rucksack pocket, unzipping the lower legs of my walking trousers to make shorts and set off northward.
Getting used to the diagrams in the guidebook was going to be fun, my first wrong turnings came within the first mile trying to find a left in a housing estate, eventually I discovered you just have to keep going straight until you see a signpost, but if you have missed an overgrown signpost you could just keep going wrong. No harm done though, I went along pavements, down paths behind houses and along private roads gradually gaining height as I left Chepstow behind. The muddy old Wye permanently on my left-hand side, if not always visible.
Once the open countryside was reached my mood lightened and I positively bowled along Day 1 until a discrepancy in scale combined with a busy road led me to miss another turning, this time the GPS and mapping on my phone sorted it out. All the while I was conscious of strange sensations from my feet and toes, not painful, just different and they looked fine when I checked, so I put it down to sweat. By 3pm I had reached the Devils Pulpit and only had a couple of miles to the campsite, photo below shows the misty Wye valley the following morning.
After checking in at Beeches Farm and setting up camp, showering and checking my feet, I discovered a very large and deep blister on the inside of my left big toe which was a little concerning on Day 1. I popped it and trimmed it with nail scissors, dried it, added talc then covered it with a Compeed blister plaster which would remain on for a couple of days. I was in no state to stroll the mile and a bit downhill (250m) to Tintern to get a pub meal, then walk back up, so I made do with my Tesco pasties, pork pies, homemade flapjacks and turned in for the night.
Day 2 — Beeches Farm to Hendre (14.5 miles)
As you have probably gathered I’m not an experienced hiker, I may not even have qualified for the novice title. To make things easier on my legs, which to be fair felt OK in the morning, I had decided to take the old route along the river and miss out some climbs through woodland higher up. When the paths rejoined at Bigsweir Bridge I had made my mind up to take the Wye Valley Walk (all along the river) to Monmouth, rather than the Offas Dyke Path (ODP) which went up and down and took in the Kymin.
My goal was to get to Prestatyn not follow every twist and turn of the ODP.
At Redbrook I encountered a group of hikers and ambled on at quite a lick, chatting as one does, gleaning information as I went. On the outskirts of Monmouth I left them and headed to the Lidl to get myself a nice bottle of red wine and some stilton for my supper to celebrate.
Red wine fine. No stilton.
Lunch was taken in Monmouth in the “Spoons”, fish & chips and a couple of pints of lager (cos it was cold), with 2.5 hours walking ahead of me. A drop into Millets for another pair of short socks, a visit to Waitrose secured some Stilton and a packet of wine gums to suck on. As I left Monmouth it remained fairly flat through field at the end of Watery Lane, then I hit my first proper climb (only 100m ascent) of the trip up through the Kings Wood. I coped with it quite well for it coming at the end of a decent day, stopped plenty of times to take in the forest, nothing at all to do with shortness of breath or legs saying NO. It was soon bested and just a gentle downhill stroll to the campsite.
Checked in with the nice owners and was told to pitch anywhere.
Just set up and a queer fellow arrived who thought he had booked my pitch for a long weekend, turns out there was no booking of specific pitches, after checking with the owners he just moved up one & I helped him move a picnic bench to it. He was very amicable about everything. A little later another hiker turned up and I recognised the tent from the Beeches campsite last night. I went over and introduced myself and said I was having cheese and wine a little later, would he like to join me. His name was Pete, he didn’t really drink, but he would join me for a chat after he had cooked his pasta.
Day 3 — Hendre to Pandy (12.6 miles)
I’m awake and on the road again by 06:00.
I live in the country, but the birds just cannot sing through the double glazing, they certainly can sing through a thin sheet of nylon. Good job my cat gets me up to be fed at 6 each morning, but without a watch she tries anytime between 4 and 5. I like starting early, the sun has been burning through by 10 and it’s getting very warm by 2 and I’m usually finished between 3 and 4. Today was beautiful, farmland pretty much all the way with a few steep climbs.
The most prominent feature on the route is White Castle (£3 entry via honesty card machine).
It was here I chose to check on Day 1’s blister and peeled of the Compeed dreading what lay below. It was still damp, nay moist, but didn’t look infected, so I trimmed away more dead skin and cut a bit of non-stick sterile dressing from my first aid kit, dropped it on the floor, then covered the sorest bit with it and stuck another Compeed on top with a mental note to look again after the end of Day 4.
By this time Pete had caught me up and we tried walking together for a bit. You would think that walking at the same pace is easy, but one or both have to compromise their stride making it very tricky, waving walking poles about doesn’t help, nor do stiles/kissing gates, so after a bit it was decided I would go in front as I seemed to be fractionally faster, but stopped more often.
Anyway Pete beat me to the next campsite as I was distracted at the top of a particularly steep climb to a church by a sign saying, “Well done, pub 200yds on left.” Two pints later and considerably lighter in my wallet, but thoroughly enthralled by the patrons and the conversation I left the Hunters Moon and LLangattock Lingoed behind and wobbled my way across the fields noting the challenge for tomorrow to the “Rising Sun” in Pandy, my campsite for the night.
The campsite was sound enough, facilities nice and clean, a 12” pizza is really too big for one person, but I wanted the carbs. We met a guy who was day 20 into Lands End to John O’Groats, he looked like a wild eyed tramp, but obviously knew his onions. The noisy cnuts being kicked off at 23:30 (it was a Friday) and returning an hour later were not welcome, but I was so tired I managed to grab enough sleep.
Day 4 — Pandy to Hay-on-Wye (17 miles)
This was the day I had been dreading, a steady climb (450m ascent) almost as soon as I hit the path again and a gradual (almost false flat) climb for 8 miles up to the highest point of the ODP at 703m. It was bright, clear the sun beating down with a very stiff breeze. At the top of the first climb I put on my top layer (windproof & waterproof) and yomped along with the tailwind.
There was nobody to talk to, there was no birdsong, just views to either side.
I put on my very cheap radio, plugged the earphones in and found out how useless it was. One minute Classic FM which was delightful with the scenery, the next Radio 1, the next just hiss which was better than R1. I found BBC Shropshire discussing Telford FCs chances for a decent period before giving up with the radio and just getting a move on. At the highest point I noticed just how high I was and the puffy clouds didn’t seem much higher, I could almost reach out and touch them. You really needed to be there to appreciate it.
The Hatterrall ridge walk is about 8 miles long once you are up there, then follows a 5.5 mile long descent (sometimes very steep) to Hay-on-Wye, my campsite was 10 minutes uphill the other side.
I had beasted it. About 7 hours for what should have taken 9, legs feeling good still, confidence was at an all-time high. After setting up camp I was happy to walk back to HoW to find some food and buy munchies for tomorrow. The Co-op was actually across the border in England, HoW doesn’t like big shops, but I managed to get another bottle of red and some more Stilton, added to the cod & chips form the chippy (eaten by the bridge) made for a great day. It further improved when I checked my blister, no sign of infection, another Compeed for protection….. I might actually get to Prestatyn. No sign of Pete today though.
Day 5 — Hay-on-Wye to Kington (15 miles)
Started early as usual and just kept strolling along, the rolling countryside was delightful, Newchurch at 6.5 miles had a nice bench to sit on, the church does honesty tea & biscuits but I didn’t want to impose on a Sunday morning. The cloud level was very low from the start making photos a bit uninteresting. At 10 miles I had another choice, head up the big hill (Hergest Ridge) to a questionable view or skirt it on the road below? Not a difficult choice as I had already skirted a section of the ODP. The road to Kington called.
This was a questionable campsite, the first 4 I had booked before leaving as I was confident of arriving. Fleece Meadows campsite however was owned by a bus company and you had to walk through the depot to get to it. When I had called the previous day there was no reply. Stood at the gate about to phone the number to book in I was hailed from inside. I walked towards the chap and was greeted enthusiastically; it was one of the “Wardens” and a thoroughly nice chap. I was offered, nay forced a cup of coffee and a camp chair, advised where to pitch and asked to pay when I was settled. Never before have I received such a warm welcome, Paul and Sue are fantastic ambassadors for the campsite/caravan park which in itself is stunning.
To top off the day Pete turned up, having found a different campsite in HoW.
The short stroll to town in the evening assured me of a Chinese beef curry and chips and the Spar shop of some munchies (including wine gums), I gave the cheese and wine a rest.
To Be Continued.
© Spa on the hill 2022