Day 2 Monmouth to Pandy or There’s something about Mary

After an excellent breakfast in The Punch House I headed off for day two, a little.later than usual. I hurried past the Robin Hood, just to be on the safe side.

After an hour or so road walking then flat edge of field stuff the path headed up into the woods. At the end of one climb there was a bench and I sat there for about ten minutes in complete silence – it was amazing.

An hour or so later I spotted a walker who was clearly doing the path in the opposite direction (he was carrying a guide book).

‘Enjoying the path?’ I asked

‘Yes, thanks’ he replied

‘Off to Monmouth then?’

‘Yes’…

I wandered on, thinking to myself, he should have his own chat show that fella.

After rounding a corner shortly afterwards, tomorrow’s challenge of the Black Mountains hove into view.

The path then headed through a cider orchard, growing apples for Thatchers. Talk about key workers!

The White Castle was one of the few notable sights on todays section. Built in the early 13th century to keep the Welsh in check.

After more, pretty uninteresting walking to be honest, I had a decision to make. The Hunters Moon Inn for a quick pint or carry on and finish the last 4km…

The landlord was concerned at the recent rise in Covid cases and suggested we might see pubs shut again soon – let’s hope not.

Refreshed, I carried on for Pandy. I must have climbed into one particular field at sheep feeding time as they all raced over to me.

Ten minutes easy strolling downhill led me to Pandy where Mary, my B&B host, had offered to pick me up.

What an amazing lady. She’s 83 and doesn’t advertise anymore and I only found her through the OD association. She barely took a breath from picking me up to dropping me off at the pub!

She told me a great story about two young ladies, one of whom was a vegan, who stayed with her last year and who she also dropped down to the Skyrryd Inn for dinner.

As I found out, Mary doesn’t drop you off outside the pub. She likes to take you in and introduce you!

Well, on this occasion Mary takes the two ladies into the bar and loudly announced; ‘This is Sam, and she’s a virgin!”

They were still laughing about it this evening…

Ask me anything about geraniums….

Or Mary’s Grandkids….

15 miles to Hay on Wye tomorrow. Climb up to 600 metres and then a ridge walk for 8 miles before dropping down to Hay. Should be great!

Offa’s Dyke Day 1

As first days go, that wasn’t too bad to be honest. As is traditional, they had saved a decent climb until right at the end (when your legs have had enough) but other than that it was OK.

Vegan whinge warning, I will be charitable and describe the breakfast as ‘underwhelming’. 2 hash browns, 2 vegan sausages, a thimble of baked beans and a fried tomato. ¬£8 added to the bill. I asked about toast but they said they didn’t have any vegan bread. I’d requested a vegan breakfast three weeks earlier and there was a massive Tesco 100 yards away…

Roll out was just before 9 am and it was a perfect walking day. No rain, no wind, not too hot. I spoke to an elderly lady on the Common just above Chepstow who was coming the other way. She advised me to be careful for the next couple of miles as it was quite tricky. I have to say, I felt she had under estimated my way-finding and navigational skills.

It was only a minor diversion and didn’t cost me much time or energy to get back on track but it did make me laugh.

What seems to have happened is that I walked down a field edge, where I noticed a man training his dog. As I approached the gate I hadn’t taken notice of the waymarker arrow and after a quick glance at the map it looked like a left turn was required. I therefore turned left and quickly arrived at a familiar looking gate….

It would appear I had walked down a field on one side of a hedge and then gone through a gate and walked back up the field on the other side of the hedge. Fortunately, the man with the dog didn’t seem to notice so I think I got away with it.

About an hour of woodland walking followed which brought me to one of the highlights of the first day – the Devil’s Pulpit overlooking Tintern Abbey.

Legend has it that the devil stood on the spot and tried to talk the monks into leaving the service of God. Henry VIII took a more direct approach and shut the place down.

Jays and a Green Woodpecker added some welcome avian interest after leaving the woods. I couldn’t believe how quiet they had been.

A decision had to be made shortly afterwards as there was a River Wye option or a ‘more fields’ option. Thinking I might spot a Kingfisher or two I went for the river option.

It was pleasant enough and offered up a nice spot to stop for lunch. No interesting bird life to report though. I was, however, taken aback by how much Himalayan Balsam had taken hold – it was everywhere. People probably (and understandably) think it looks pretty!

After reaching Bigsweir the paths rejoined and there was some more pleasant woodland walking and then a sharp climb uphill. While leaning on a gate to regain my breath, I saw something move out of the corner of my eye and there was a beautiful Treecreeper about 4 foot away. Thank God for profiterole vision!

Which reminds me, they’re looking to replace the fella who makes the giant √©clairs at the local bakery. They’re big chouxs to fill though.

The track then dropped down to Redbrook and shortly afterwards began the cruel, final climb. At the top, Kymin, was an impressive naval memorial.

It was then just a case of dropping down into Monmouth. After checking in and having a shower I ventured out to find a pub Dave, one of my golf (and local quiz scene) buddies had recommended. Unfortunately, they hadn’t re-opened post lockdown so I went in a pub over the road…. the pub in Star Wars (and the Rock and Fountain in Shrewsbury) were brought to mind!

About the same distance to Pandy tomorrow but with less climbing. The Skirrid Inn, Wales’s oldest pub, has my reservation for dinner!

Offa’s Dyke Path – 2km done!

Well, so far so good. No major issues with the trains down and, after being given the code for the door that was definitely texted to me (it wasn’t), I checked in and headed out to walk the first part of the path.

The Cicerone guidebook advised walking to the start via roads and a quiet footpath to avoid walking the same part of the path twice. This was sound advice and I was at the Sedbury Cliffs marker stone in under an hour.

With this part of the path being basically in the outskirts of Chepstow you’re effectively walking behind houses and on roads for the most part. The route planners have clearly tried to send you off on ‘proper’ footpaths where they can but it was obviously no easy task.

I did notice this masterful bit of planning on the walk back. What could possibly go wrong?

Just before arriving back in Chepstow Town centre you do briefly get a nice view of the old bridge ….

… and the castle…

I was ready for a pint after all my exertions (!) and The Three Tuns was really welcoming and Covid secure (I was reassured to read).

The Queens Head had stood out as the pub to visit on my pre-arrival research. It was very good too. The locals were very friendly and the Farmhouse Scrumpy was superb.

17 miles to Monmouth tomorrow with the Devil’s Pulpit, Tintern Abbey and The Monnow Bridge to look forward to. I hope they don’t have to send me a text to get my breakfast.

Amended ODP Schedule

DayStartFinishDistance (Km)Distance (Miles)Ascent (m)
  Chepstow   
1ChepstowMonmouth2817.401089.7
2MonmouthPandy26.116.22585.1
3PandyHay on Wye26.116.22850
4Hay on WyeKington23.814.79698.8
5KingtonKnighton20.712.86728.5
6KnightonMontgomery30.2518.801146.7
7MontgomeryLlanymynech31.3719.49502.9
8LlanymynechChirk23.814.79826.1
9ChirkLlanarmon Yn Lal35.822.251141.3
10Llanarmon Yn LalBodfari23.714.73969.2
11BodfariPrestatyn18.711.62725.1

All Systems Go….

Finally, at the third attempt, I should start walking Offa’s Dyke Path next week! That’s assuming we aren’t placed in lockdown again, the pubs aren’t shut or some other unforeseen event scuppers my elaborate plans.

I plan to walk the first mile or so, from Sedbury Cliffs to Chepstow, next Wednesday afternoon when I arrive. This will save having to faff about on Thursday morning and I head straight off towards Monmouth 17 miles away.

I’ll post my (slightly amended) itinerary later this week and also announce the special guests who are joining me for certain sections of the walk. The rumours about Scarlett Johanssen are, sadly, untrue. She couldn’t get the time off work.

If at first

I’m going to try and walk ODP again in September. Hopefully things will be getting a bit nearer to normal by then. Most of the accommodation providers are taking bookings so let’s see what happens…

Offa’s Dyke Path – Take 2 – Spring 2020

A quick update to let my avid followers (all three of you) know that I will be commencing the Offa’s Dyke Path (ODP) at the end of April. As with Glyndwr’s Way two years ago, I’m going to walk it all in one trip. I’ll set out Northwards from Chepstow on Thursday 30th April and, if all goes to plan, I should arrive at Prestatyn ten days ( and 177 miles) later.

I’ll add some more detail in a few weeks time….

 

OFF a’s Dyke path – starting next week CANCELLED

The path is somewhere under the River Severn for the most part so will be rescheduling.

A quick ‘heads up’ for those of you who take an interest in my walking exploits. I’ve just finalised the plans for starting walking Offa’s Dyke path, commencing next Friday.

Accommodation was a bit of an issue, due to the secluded nature of this section of the route but it’s now in place for the first weekend!

Regular readers will be unsurprised to learn that I’m not starting at the beginning. I’m not even starting at the end. Given the restriction of only having a long weekend and being keen to start making some progress, I’ve had to plan it around railway stations.

To that end, I’m getting the train to Knighton next Friday morning and walking the 16 miles to Buttington, where I’ll be camping for the first night on any of my long distance walks.

The Bluebell in the village is meant to be a cracking old pub so I’ll hopefully be able to pay a visit on Friday evening – after I’ve recovered from the hilliest section of the entire walk!

On Saturday, basically down to a lack of camping availability, I’ll be walking about 20 miles to Four Crosses and staying in The Golden Lion. A bit further than I wanted to walk but very flat for most of the way as it follows the Severn.

On Sunday, I’m hoping to make Chirk station to catch the 16:00 train back to Shrewsbury. It’s about 16 miles again so should be achievable.

My long term plan for completing the trail is to take a week off, probably in autumn, and get a train to Chepstow. This is where the walk officially starts and in a week I can walk from there to Knighton, where I started. That will mean I can then, at a later date, finish the walk to Prestatyn ‘properly’ in a long weekend, via Llandegla and Bodfari. This will hopefully be next spring.

Sorry if this is a bit confusing – the bottom line is, I’ll be posting next Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings.

If anyone is wondering whether the Mountain Goat will be joining me on Offa’s Dyke, unfortunately not initially, though he may put in an appearance in the ‘special guest’ slot.

Plans, however, are taking shape for a joint assault on the next challenge : ‘The Mountain Connoisseur’s Walk’ The Cambrian Way.

All comments welcomed – check back next Friday.

Coast to Coast Stage 12 – Littlebeck to Robin Hood’s Bay

Intake Farm had won the warmest welcome award on Thursday evening on our arrival and Judith, our host, even had Sainsbury’s Rooibos teabags available (my favourite).

Having been shown to our room, and settled in, they also had a contender for the best shower on the entire route.

I had misgivings when Ian told me we were booked to stay on a working farm, especially with me having asked for a vegan meal but Judith, our host, could not have been more friendly. The evening meal on the Thursday and breakfast on Friday morning were spot on.

The personal service we received throughout was also second to none and entirely genuine.As a relatively new, but committed, vegan I obviously experienced some personal contradictions but, when it all comes down, nice people are nice people.

On a glorious Friday morning, boasting a cloudless sky, Judith led us to the farm gate and pointed us in the right direction.We descended into Littlebeck village and then into the wood which was idyllic with rays of early morning sun breaking through the trees. The first way point on the map was the hermitage :

… Quickly followed by Falling Foss waterfall…

A short climb on a stretch of road led us to the first stretch of moorland. There were patches labelled as “boggy” in the guidebook and we had to pick our way over the last bit. Socks were kept dry up to this point but there was a sense of trepidation as the next section of moorland was labeled “very boggy”. They weren’t wrong but by taking our time and picking our foot placements (the white ‘straw’ bits are usually your friend) we were able to get through the last moorland stretch relatively unscathed.

There had been skylark and (the sound of) lapwing up to this point and the distant call of curlew but just at the end of the section a curlew took flight just in front of us.

Leaving the moors behind, the authors of the guide book promised the first Robin Hood’s Bay sign and they did not deceive:

A short road section and a walk through a caravan site then led us to the coastal path!

We quickened our pace here, almost involuntarily, as the finish line beckoned. The scenery was amazing and the going easy underfoot.

The coastal cinder path eventually gave way to the B&B heartland of Upper Bay which, a minute’s walk further on, led to the tumble down lane leading to Robin Hood’s Bay.

I was reminded of childhood summer holidays in Polperro in Cornwall and a more recent visit to Clovelly in Devon.

At the bottom of the hill lay the harbour and the accepted end of Wainwright’s unofficial Coast to Coast walk, The Bay Hotel.

We resisted the temptation to head straight to the bar of the Bay and instead took the few steps further to the water’s edge to deposit our pebbles, as required by the accepted traditions.

These pebbles were acquired on St Bees beach in June 2017, when we started our Coast to Coast adventure. I must point out however that Ian had to drop a ‘Ronnie Wood’ (a replacement Stone), as he had left his original one at home.

We were expecting to be treated with bemusement by the RHB tourists milling round but quite a few seemed familiar with the traditions and spoke to us after seeing us drop our pebbles at the waterfront. The barman in the Bay Hotel (excellent veggie curry) also enquired as to how long the walk had taken us.

Another visitor asked is if we’d like him to take our picture in front of the finish line plaque:

And that was the Coast to Coast. Thanks for following my blog – I hope you found it interesting and somewhat amusing. The walk was something I’ve wanted to do for years and I’d recommend it to anyone. We were incredibly lucky with the weather – I think we had an hour of rain over the entire 192 mile walk! I’d probably make a few adjustments to the route and itinerary if I was to walk it again however – I’d certainly break up the Richmond to The Lion Inn stretch differently. The walk from The Lion Inn onwards however is fantastic.

I can’t finish without a word for IW (the mountain goat), my companion for the 192 miles. Having walked Glyndwr’s Way on my own last summer it was great to have someone to walk with, have a laugh with and generally be able to pick each other up when it got to be a bit of a slog. We’ll reminisce for the rest of our lives over the trek from St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay – hats off sir, hats off!

Coast to Coast Stage 11 – The Lion Inn to Intake Farm, Littlebeck

That’s more like it!

A real return to form from AW with today’s stage. One of the best day’s walking for a long time.

Breakfast at The Lion didn’t quite live up to the vegan burger of the night before but it was filling and set us up for the day. We were looking to get a relatively early start anyway so didn’t linger too long.

A little bit of road walking to start the day but there were curlew and lapwing flying in the moorland either side of the road so I was more than happy.

Fat Betty, an old stone cross (as seen above), was the first target of the day. The weather was perfect and there were lots of birds around, including skylarks and also an interesting caterpillar that I’m hopeful one of the naturalists can identify?

After another mile or so we left the road behind to take a fantastic Morland path through Great Fryup Dale!

More beautiful moorland paths for the next hour or so, leading us towards Glaisdale where there was a post office, shop and toilets!

We stopped for ten minutes or so before heading on with a change of terrain as we headed into woodland with a short, sharp climb taking us away from the River Esk. After leaving the woods a short road section took us to a set of stepping stones.

This was now Egton Bridge and we knew we had plenty of time in hand (for a change). We popped into St Hedda’s Church which had an unusual stained glass window commemorating Nicholas Postgate, a Catholic martyr in the C17th.

After leaving the church we were heading past Egton Manor when we said hello to a lady walking a doberman. After walking past, she turned round and asked us if we were walking the Coast to Coast. At this stage I wondered if we had taken the wrong path and were on private property. I was also wondering if I could outrun either the doberman or Ian (either would suffice but neither seemed likely).

It transpired however that she was thinking of setting up some camping pods in the grounds of the Manor House for walkers and asked if we thought they would be popular. We gave it a big thumbs up and said it sounded like a great plan. I can picture us walking past in a couple of years with her nailing up a For Sale sign and mumbling something about “Bloody Scousers”.

The road through the estate took us to the outskirts of Grosmont. We thought we deserved a pint at The Station Tavern as they were getting the North Yorks Moors Railway ready next to the pub.

After leaving Grosmont you are met by a nasty climb of about 250 metres before a mile or so of more beautiful moorland – lots more lapwings displaying and calling here.

A walk down the farm track brought us to Intake Farm where we were given a warm welcome and made to feel at home. They can also boast of the best shower on the route so far!

Only 11 miles to the finish at Robin Hood’s Bay tomorrow.

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