Day 11 Bodfari to Prestatyn

After yesterday’s tougher than expected stage I had checked the route and profile of the final stage more than once. Every time I did, it was clear that there were two reasonably challenging climbs early on and a lesser one before hitting the streets of Prestatyn for the long, straight run in to the beach and the finish point.

Pete from the (excellent) Farmer’s Arms dropped us off in Bodfari at 9.40 and the first of the three climbs was upon us straight away. With the increased heart rate came the great views. Even though we were no longer in the Clwydian range AONB the scenery was still breathtaking.

We were making good time and envisaged a finish in Prestatyn of about 14.20. That left us plenty of time for the brass band to run through their repertoire and for the Lord Mayor to say a few words….

The Irish Sea

The progress was steady and in one field we found a football and had an impromptu game of headers and volleys. Kev ‘the carthorse’ Carbery and myself weren’t on top of our game but the Mountain Goat was in great form as goalkeeper of the 5 bar gate.

At one stage Kevin and I decided that GOAT stood for Gone On Ahead Today as MG put a spurt on and left us for dead. The years quickly caught up with the old fella though and we were all soon happily reunited.

A few miles later and Prestatyn hove into view. On the final short, sharp and in my view totally unnecessary, climb up on to Prestatyn Hillside we met up with two walkers who Ian and me had first bumped into on Friday afternoon in Llandegla and nicknamed “Dad and lad”. Dad had walked the path in the 80s and was back for more with son in tow. We met them again at The Dinorben Arms in Bodfari and as we went past them today we said we’d see them on the beach.

1 mile to go

It was a long, straight, walk along the shopping street of Prestatyn to the finish line at the beach but it was a welcome sight. 177 miles later and £897 raised for Cuan Wildlife Rescue.

Me and Kev at the monument at Prestatyn
Me having got my shoes wet

Thanks to lots of people for their support…

To everyone who donated to Cuan Wildlife and will make a massive difference to countless wild animals…

To Kev and Ian who got me over the finish line….

To Col and Ang and Jan who picked my spirits up in Montgomery….

To everyone who read and commented on this blog and made it worth doing and, again, encouraged me along the way….

To Pam who picked me up and dropped me off at the railway station numerous times….

…and to all the pubs, B&Bs, fellow walkers, corner shops, quiz setters and TV presenters. If you’ve ever thought of walking one of Britain’s National Trails do this one. It will get you hooked.

Day 10 Llandegla to Bodfari or Ice Cold in Bodfari

Joy, from the Raven in Llanarmon, picked us up as arranged to take us back to Llandegla to start the penultimate leg of the journey. The pub is leased by the community and run by volunteers so it was a real pleasure to support them.

The stunning scenery as we crossed the Clwydians was with us for most of the day and the sunshine and blue skies added to the sense of natural beauty.

What looked on the map to be a similar days walking to the previous day turned out to be a really tough stage! Goldilocks had definitely left the porridge in the microwave for too long today as well which didn’t make things any easier!

I didn’t know what our newest member of the team, my old Teesside Poly mate Kev, would be fit enough but he was fine and barely seemed to break sweat. He did slow us down though… by asking us to pose for photos all the time!

Lots of fields were crossed and LOTS of metres were climbed. There were almost 1300 metres of ascent in over 17 miles. The scenery made it all worthwhile though. It seemed to get better every time we turned a corner.

A herd of cows were blocking a stile in the corner of a field at one point and there was some wariness amongst the team. Fortunately the cow whisperer was on hand to save the day!

Moel Famau was the highest point of the day in a ‘metres above sea level’ sense but it felt unfortunate to be passing through on a Saturday, especially one with beautiful weather. There were lots of families and young people there, which is good to see, but I couldn’t help but feel they hadn’t put the work in I had to get there!

Another photo from Kev aka David Bailey

Moel Arthur was the next peak and the profile on my routing app suggested it would be all downhill from there. Sadly, that wasn’t the case and there were more hills to get over before Bodfari. Ian remarked that the first pint in The Dinorben Arms would be like the famous scene with John Mills in ‘Ice Cold in Alex’

Eventually, fuelled by Kev’s sizeable bag of snacks, we conquered one final stile to arrive in Bodfari. The pub was located, Covid protocols observed and we were sat on the balcony with suitable refreshments! Never have they felt more deserved.

Pete from The Farmers Arms in St Asaph, picked us up forty minutes later and a hearty dinner and more refreshments were enjoyed.

11 miles remain tomorrow of my 177 mile trek. I am looking forward to having a paddle on the beach at Prestatyn and not having to walk anywhere the next day!

Day 9 Chirk to Llandegla

The trains, as ever, were reliable and at 8.50 I met the Mountain Goat at Chirk Station, the two trains arriving almost simultaneously.

I had spotted a path through the grounds of Chirk Castle that got us back to pretty much the place on the path I left it at yesterday. So we were making great progress.

Chirk Castle

A combination of fields and quiet country lanes followed for the next hour or so and we then had the pleasant task of walking along the towpath of the Llangollen canal to, and over, the Pontcyssyllte aqueduct.

A climb through Trevor Halls Wood, who we thought sounded like a middle ranking official at the home office, brought us to the stunning Panorama Walk.

This was great scenic walking along a pretty quiet mountain road. We stopped to chat to a couple of ladies who were heading North to South. They must have got a bit distracted as they promptly headed off along the wrong path!

The next section of the path was like a cross between Mount Rushmore and the John Wayne film The Searchers. The path cut across the mountainside with scree above and below.

The terrain then changed again to more heathland. The path had been laid with slabs and duck boards and we made good progress and were by then only a mile or so from journey’s end at Llandegla.

The forest had been cleared here but as can be seen, they had left a thin sliver of trees either side of the path at the start, like an arboreal ceremonial guard!

The sign in Llandegla spells good news. Only 29 miles to go now to the end at Prestatyn.

It was great to have someone to walk with for a change on this walk. Like the Magnificent 7, we’re picking up new members as we go. Kev has now joined us and we set out in the morning for the last full, challenging day of the walk, an up and down 16 miles to Bodfari. Sunday, by comparison, is only 11 miles, mostly on the level, and ends with a paddle on the beach at Prestatyn!

Day 8 Llanymynech to Chirk

A nice day’s walking with proper Goldilocks weather – not too hot, not too cold – just right!

I headed off from the Bradford Arms, who had welcomed me as a regular, just before 8.45. By 9.20 I had managed to put Llanymynech golf club a well struck 5 iron behind me.

I was looking out for the drainage with steps above as I was walking the dogs along the path eighteen months ago when they were installing it. They have done a cracking job.

The first real climb of the day was to the top of Moelydd with splendid views. I bumped into two walkers who were heading in the same direction as me. They headed off just before me and I spent the next hour to Trefonen basically 200 yards behind them with them doing all the navigation. It was ‘undulating’ from this point on without any real ascents.

Trefonen had installed a rather smart piece of public art showing where you were on the walk. They also had a post office but it was too early for the pub to be open so I pushed on.

If the Llanymynech Hill and golf course part of the walk had been familiar then most of the rest of the walk to Chirk was well known to me from previous walks and dog walks. The horses head sculpture from Oswestry Racecourse will be familiar to many Salopians.

I walked for the next hour with a veterinary nurse from Hay on Wye. She was good company and walked at a similar pace. She mentioned a helicopter that had flown over her the previous day and we agreed it was probably part of the filming I had bumped into earlier in the week.

We went our separate ways at Bronygarth where I headed for Chirk Station and the train home. Back there tomorrow morning to join up with the Mountain Goat to walk to Llanarmon, where we will be joined by Kev, who will be walking with us for the last two days.

Day 7 Montgomery to Llanymynech

The Dragon Hotel didn’t disappoint. The food was great, as was the company! I have wanted to stay there ever since first visiting Montgomery 12 years ago or so, so that’s one off the list.

The Dragon

I had a job getting back to the trail though. I spotted a network of footpaths that would allow me to avoid walking along the main road at Montgomery’s version of rush hour. They had been blocked off however and try as I might, I could find no way through and had to go the long way round. I can see a strongly worded email winging its way to Powys Council!

Suffice to say, having set off at 9:00 from the hotel it was just before 10:00 when I got back to where I left off the path the previous evening.

Another ‘long day in the field’ today, as Mountain Goat would say. Nowhere near as much climbing though and what there was was all over within a couple of hours.

After a (very misty) hour of Field – Stile – Field – Stile, and the amazing covered lane above, the path headed up into the Leighton Estate, which seems wholly dedicated to the rearing of grouse. After an initial climb it levelled off nicely and then kicked up again to the high point of the day, Beacon Ring.

I spotted a bright red rucksack heading up the hill about 200 yards ahead of me. Me and it’s weary porter arrived at the top together and there was already another ODP’er there who was heading North to South. We compared notes for about ten minutes and then I started the descent.

An oak blocking the path on the dyke.

After reaching Buttington and taking my life in my hands crossing the bridge, it was a return to fields again for half an hour or so. The farmer here obviously felt that the sheep and cows weren’t doing a good enough job coating the path with ‘debris’ (WRONG) and had decided that he would muck spread the entire field, including the gates at either end. I tried to pick my way through but it quickly became apparent that there was no avoiding it. I spent about 5 minutes cleaning my shoes after leaving the field.

The route then crossed the A483 and took up the towpath of the Montgomery Canal, which, thankfully, quickly veered away from the road and it was pleasant walking.

At Pool Quay I decided to support the Powis Arms as they had gone to the trouble of opening on a Wednesday afternoon. It’s a quirky pub I hadn’t been in before but I enjoyed it and was glad of the rest.

The next hour or so was all along the top of the dyke alongside the River Severn. It allowed good progress but got a bit monotonous to be honest.

The dyke snaking alongside The Severn

After Four Crosses, it was all on the towpath of the Montgomery Canal until Llanymynech, the day’s end point after 18 miles. This was enlivened by watching a Kingfisher fly over the River Vyrnwy where the canal passes over it.

The Bradford Arms in Llanymynech doesn’t look much from the outside to be honest. It’s a really well run, welcoming pub however. They couldn’t do enough to help.

By my calculations I have now completed 115 of the 177 miles of the path so the end is in sight. I also get to sleep in my own bed tomorrow and on returning to Chirk on Friday I will be walking with the Goat!

Day 6 Knighton to Montgomery

I come late to this evening’s blog as, as mentioned yesterday, three friends from Shrewsbury’s finest mixed voice choir had travelled out to Montgomery to keep me company.

After completing the Coast to Coast and Glyndwr’s Way, I can say, without fear of contraception, that today was the toughest day’s walking of the lot. It was unrelenting up and down for the first six and a half hours. I kept telling myself that the last 9 km was all downhill but I couldn’t seem to get to them!

The initial climb up from Knighton to the top of Pampisford hill wasn’t as bad as I had envisaged but the climbs just kept coming. The Knucklas viaduct was a familiar sight:

Turning the corner after a fairly short but nonetheless sharp climb, I noticed what appeared to be a film crew about 100 yards ahead. I carried on and when I next looked up I couldn’t help but notice they were filming me walking up the track.

As I got closer, the presenter, who turned out to be Sean Fletcher, asked me questions about the walk. It turns out they are making a programme for ITV on the ODP. I caught a couple of episodes of the one they did last year on the Coastal Path. They seemed to like what I said and made me walk up the track three times so who knows? Any enquiries through my agent.

It was only when I was about a mile further on that I thought of what I should have said when he asked me about my walking;

My Dad got me into walking and I’d like to think he’s looking down on me now.

He’s not dead, he’s a keen hang glider.

Well I liked it…

Some really tricky sections today as well, way marking not as good as earlier on the trail and badgers and rabbits ensuring every step had to be watched. If ITV didn’t provide my big break I didn’t want one to the lower limb.

This old plough was an interesting diversion on a day when I didn’t stop to take a lot of photos:

After finally conquering the final summit, at about 4pm, having set out from Knighton at 8.30, I was finally able to make some proper progress.

The last hour or so, crossing between Powys and Shropshire, was quick going. Well maintained stiles and footpaths. I was still late for meeting Col, Ang and Jan. Col was kind enough to come and pick me up where the main road met the path.

It was a real pleasure to have a few pints with friends after being on my own for the last week or so. It was also great that Col and Ang had brought my smaller rucksack so I won’t have to carry as much for the next two days! Here’s a picture Ang took of me after a really tough day…

I shall be in Llanymynech tomorrow evening. If any of the Shrewsbury set are at a loose end I shall be in The Bradford Arms.

After catching the train home from Chirk on Thursday I’ll be joined by the Mountain Goat on my return to Chirk on Friday morning and my fellow Teesside Poly alumni Kev will join us that evening to walk the last two days. That should be fun!

Day 5 Kington to Knighton

Lou at the Royal Oak in Kington showed them all how to present a Vegan breakfast. Outstanding!

They’re sliced field mushrooms top left. Delicious

I was gutted when I re-read the Cicerone guidebook this morning and I noticed for the first time a line saying “don’t miss the Olde Tavern in Kington, a classic old world inn”. I googled it and it looked even better than I feared. I had literally got to about thirty yards away before turning back. Oh well, The Swan was OK and had the footie on… he said, unconvincingly.

The day basically consisted of three climbs and three descents, covering 21km over the ground. I had to put my fleece on before leaving Knighton as it was really misty.

I was reminded of when we ran the ski chalets. If it was misty in the morning people were often reticent to leave to go skiing. We basically wanted them gone so we could clean their rooms and get out skiing ourselves. My standard two lines of encouragement were “it’ll be clear up top” and if that didn’t work… “it’ll all burn off in an hour”. Both of these half-truths turned out to actually be true today.

Above the mist at 350 metres
Last of the mist

The path soon rejoined the dyke for the first time in 50 miles of walking. It was really impressive in parts too, with lots of Wheatear and Meadow Pippet.

The return of the dyke

After the second ascent of the three, which was mostly through forest with lots of steps to help, I decided to make a detour to Discoed to see the 12th Century Church and the 5000 year old Yew tree!

18ths, 21sts, Weddings. Call Ed to discuss your requirements

The final climb of the three had the most brutal start but then levelled off (a little) and revealed some great views from the top

There were also some really well preserved sections of the dyke on Hawthorn Hill, the last of the day.

The descent down into Knighton passed a memorial stone which, apparently, has the wrong date.

It was a tougher, and longer, day than I thought it would be, probably due to the heat. Tomorrow’s, to Montgomery, is 10km longer and with more ascent. The draw of being joined by friends at Montgomery will help though!

Day 4, Hay on Wye to Kington

I hadn’t really found a pub in Hay that I liked so I took two bottles of Glamorgan beer back to my room and watched The Proms.

Howard, a fellow bass member of the choir and walking / drinking buddy, was extolling the virtues of Nicola Benedetti on our recent walk up and down the Long Mynd and I could certainly see the appeal. The Lark Ascending was poignant as I’d watched several such instances on my walk earlier.

Sunday morning and another great breakfast, after a nice chat with the waitress, and I was ready to settle up and head out.

The first part of the walk was alongside, but above, the Ribet Wye. About five minutes in I started talking to a couple who, it turned out, had both walked the Coast to Coast and he had walked Offa’s Dyke Path in the 70s, so much reminiscing and comparing of notes!

A bit of sheep field walking, followed by a mile or so of country roads and a nice wooded climb up Bettws Dingle led to the first real climb of the day up Disgwylga Hill. This was quite steep so was taken in bite sized chunks!

More fieldwork followed which led to Gladestry and The Royal Oak. I faced something of a dilemma here, carry on for the final 7km or stop for a pint?

The Track and Trace register will tell no lies. You will find my name listed there and I make no apologies. A really friemdly country pub that seemed well supported by its small population.

The Trail Blazers guide book, which I’m a massive fan of after first using it on the Coast to Coast walk, described the last 7km of today’s walk (on Hergest Ridge) as the finest stretch of the entire path – I’d struggle to disagree.

Incongruous Monkey Puzzle Trees
More wild ponies
On Hergest Ridge

Kington seems like every other Marches market town, struggling on having lost half of it’s pubs. Still nice to visit though. The Swan had the Everton game on as well. I would love to have visited 40 years ago though!

To Knighton tomorrow, with three decent climbs en route. This is the last of the ‘easy’ days until the last day into Prestatyn.

Birds update

For some reason, I haven’t remembered to mention the bids spotted each day so I’ll give a synopsis here and try to mention any highlights each day.

Day 1, Chepstow to Monmouth, Jays, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers stood out.

Day 2, Monmouth to Pandy, nothing remarkable really. Red Kite and a sublime Grey Heron, lifting out of a hidden brook 20 yards ahead of me, stick in the memory. A few Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch as well.

Day 3, Pandy to Hay on Wye, a really good look at a Wheatear (see below) and a couple of nice Stonechat.

Wheatear

Day 3 Pandy to Hay on Wye or ‘Take me to the ridge’

Me and Mary

Get on up was very much the objective of today’s walk. The first hour was a hard climb up to 450 metres. The gradient then eased up and it was fantastic walking along the top.

This was made easier by the fact that I had the best cooked breakfast of the week. Mary talked me into cooking it… well, I thought it was the least I could do after she dropped me off and picked me up from the pub the previous evening.

I also had the best night’s sleep I had had in ages. No light pollution and deathly silent. The beauty of the middle of nowhere!

After gaining the first level, the gradient eased and for the next three hours it was a ridge walk, eventually topping out at just over 700.

I thought of a poem extolling the virtues of the region:

The Lakes, I wouldn’t give two shakes

Snowdonia, don’t want to know you

But Black Mountains …

I couldn’t think of anything to rhyme with that though.

As it was a bit ‘one dimensional’ today I’ll let the pictures do more of the talking.

Wild ponies
Tryg point

A couple of miles outside of Hay on Wye I stopped to chat to a couple who were coming up the track as I was going down it. They told me they were trying to get back to their campsite before tea time. I explained that I was hoping to make Hay while the sun shined.

Well I liked it.

Hay itself seems to be a victim of its reputation. I have spotted about six obviously recent pubs that have now changed purpose. The result being that there are only about three proper pubs left.

Tomorrow promises to be an easier day. Not as far as the last three days and less ascent. Back to fields and stiles and woods after the excitement of the ridge walk today!

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