Offa's Dyke (N) Day 2

Offa's Dyke - North
By Colin Walford
Day Two

Route: Brompton Crossroads to Buttington Bridge
Date: Sunday September 5th 2010
Distance: 12.5m (20km)
Elevation: 220ft (67m) to 1,342ft (409m)
Climbing (ascent and descent): 1,555ft (474m) and 1,801ft (457m)

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See Route on ......

A local castle, a game old bird ....

My alarm summoned me from sleep at seven-thirty. Jo had been awake for a while and was tapping commands into his mobile phone. I had a dim recollection of having to get up in the small hours for a pee. Due to half-asleep disorientation in an unfamiliar environment, I had been forced to endure obligatory stumbling about in the dark whilst trying to locate the toilet. I distinctly remembered trying to climb inside the shower cubicle at one point and making a God Almighty racket as I bounced from one glass panel to another. I felt sure that this must have brought Jo to a snorting and abrupt state of wakefulness and hoped that the subject wouldn’t come up.
We washed, dressed and presented ourselves for breakfast. We were served by the husband, who chatted to us as he brought in hot coffee and warm, buttery toast. There was also fresh fruit available and I gratefully stowed away a banana, to be consumed with lunch later. I had the feeling that my Artful Dodger imitation may have been witnessed, as one of the packed lunches we were given was minus the apple that the others had. To my guilty conscience this was as clear an accusation as a pointing finger, but all was well when we settled the bill for our stay.
At last, we got changed into our familiar walking gear and then watched the taxi we had booked, as it carted our excess luggage off ahead of us to that night’s accommodation. My spare underwear was to spend the week being ferried about in comfort whilst I sweatily tackled hill and track.
We left the farmhouse at nine-fifteen. As the husband waved us off, I cast a glance about me. The sky was grey and hinting at rain, but the air was pleasantly cool. It was good weather to start walking. We initially strode off across fields of pasture, cows remonstrating with each other as we passed by. I read in my book of the walk that today we had to make our way over a flat stretch in the valleys of the Caebitra and Camlad until we reached and climbed Long Mountain, after which we descended into the Severn Valley and ended the day’s route at Buttington. For us, it would be another short walk back into Welshpool where we would be spending the night.
ODN Day2 Pic 1

Little Brompton Farmhouse

Rolls of gathered hay were dotted about the fields we passed through. Occasionally, we marched past belts of trees to our left. Bod walked a little way ahead of Jo and I. The two of us fell into conversation about our family and our respective jobs in learning disability in years gone by. Now and then a light rain pattered over us for a few minutes, but it always stopped before we had to consider putting our waterproofs on.
We were about two and a half miles into the walk when we began to cross a field and saw the battered remains of Montgomery Castle standing, ruinous but somehow enduring, over the town itself. Bod muttered something about being English and therefore duty-bound to charge the hill and ‘finish it off’. A mound four or five feet high ran the length of the field just to our right and we contemplated whether this was part of the Dyke or not. Jo thought that it looked too modern a feature, but on reading up on this day’s route since I got back, I’m pretty sure that it was Offa's Dyke. As we continued to move forward, Corndon Hill and the Kerry Hill Ridge were in constant sight.
We suddenly came off a field and swung onto a track which looped through woodland. We had entered Lymore Park and as we strolled along, little groups of birds scurried ahead of us or across the path.
“Are they Quail ?” I asked, with superb ignorance.
“They’re Partridges , aren’t they?” Bod answered, “I think Quail are a lot smaller.”
Bod reckoned they were the survivors of the recent shooting season. We became aware, as we walked around the disc of a placid pond, of the pleasant clip-clopping sound of horse’s hooves. Two ladies were catching up with us on their mounts, so we stepped to one side and let them pass. We watched them as they plodded leisurely off ahead. That is, one of the horses did. The other fellow was a little skittish and kept threatening to prance off sideways.
“If I were her, I wouldn’t want to be riding him on the outside of the track,” observed Jo, indicating the rider. He was right; Mr. Skitty-Horse was agitatedly stepping along the side of the track which gave way to a steep drop into tangled undergrowth. However, his rider didn’t seem concerned and they disappeared from view without incident.

Persistent pussy, a local lass ....

We left Lymore Park behind and soon after crossed the B4386 on the way to Rownal Farm. A little while after the road we passed Rownal Covert, a small area of woodland to our right and we then approached the farm itself. We walked along a track which brought us almost to the bottom of the front garden of the farmhouse, before we were ushered left by an O.D. sign on a stile. It was while negotiating the stile that we gained a friend in the form of an overly-curious kitten. This chap showed no fear of us at all and in fact, fairly demanded to be fussed. I obliged it indulgently as I climbed over the stile, scratching it under the chin and around the ears. Resonate purrs began to emanate from its chest and as I attempted to walk away, it jumped up and attached itself to my trouser leg, not to mention the skin beneath it. Bod and Jo hurried away and began to walk downhill across another field. I was forced to pick the kitten up in my arms, if only to stop it climbing up my leg using tiny, needle-sharp claws which were heading unerringly towards my crotch. Once in my arms, Kitty became delirious with pleasure and rumbled at me blissfully. How the hell was I going to get rid of it? I had visions of us being followed all the way to Prestatyn. I wandered vaguely back towards the farmhouse in the hope of finding an owner of some description but I remained alone in the yard, apart from my devoted furry companion. I was standing next to a Land rover, mulling over the idea of trying one of it’s doors to see if I could plop the Kitten inside, when my rescue came in a most unlikely form. A herd of sheep suddenly began to spill along the track and through the farmyard. Kitty didn’t like them and stood up in my arms, back arched and little face perturbed. I saw my chance and quickly put it on the ground where it scuttled, outraged, under the land rover to peep from behind one of the front wheels. I waded my way through a river of bleating sheep and quickly climbed back over the stile, before hot-footing it down the slope towards the figures of Bod and Jo, who had waited for me. Jo had also seen another kitten in the yard and mentioned that they would have to be careful. The size they currently were, they would make an excellent meal for any opportunist Buzzard.
ODN Day2 Pic 2

Bod descending from Long Mountain

We walked on, through a brief tunnel of trees and from there between some houses. We crossed more fields to take a footbridge over the River Camlad. We had just climbed a small rise and were once more swishing through grass when we came across another walker sitting sprawled out on a grass bank near the verge of the track we were on. We stopped for a brief natter. He had been walking the route since the Monday before (six days ago) where he had started out from Chepstow. He didn’t seem to be in a hurry to move on, so we wished him well and moved forwards once more. We were to meet him again on the very last day of the walk.
We crossed another B-road (B4388) and were then faced with a steep bank dressed with thick ferns. We had reached the flank of the Upper Hem Quarry and began to climb it straight away. This task quickly became a grind as the gradient was a hard one. I felt my breath being sucked away as I laboured. Jo and I had pulled ahead of Bod, who was taking this obstacle slowly. Jo commented to me that he could hear his own joints cracking.
“I feel like a Transformer, ” he said.
Rigor-Mortis!” I cried, by way of a name for him. We tried to laugh, but rapidly discovered that we didn’t have the oxygen reserves required.
Bod continued to slowly pull himself uphill after Jo and I had made the top. I filmed the view we had earned ourselves as he approached. He informed me that he was experiencing abdominal pain and finding the going hard. The descent on the other side of the disused quarry was a gentler affair and pretty soon, we took off across more fields. Before long, a lane took us sharp left and onto the B4388 again at a more northerly point in its length. This time, we walked along it for a time rather than crossing it. After a few hundred metres we hooked a right onto the A490 and then almost immediately off it, turning left and crossing yet more fields.
We approached the outer limits of Kingswood village with its scatter of small houses, walking at the end of their gardens and passing a variety of domesticated animals such as hens and goats. We went through a metal gate. Bod held it open for me, swinging it back and forth on its hinge as I approached and commenting that it had a smoother action than his knees. Bod reckoned at this point that we were already over halfway through today’s walk, so I checked my watch and saw that it was eleven-twenty. We walked by a farmyard. In its garden was a small caravan, next to which stood a strange effigy with stick arms, large eyes, a grass skirt and what looked like the bottoms of plastic bowls for breasts. Jo said something about meeting a local girl and I peered at her through my camera lens.
“She’s alright, actually,” I murmured.
“She might have some land,” said Jo.

Beacon ring, fowl conditions, a local Buddha ....

We diverted left along a narrow track arched with trees and climbed gently, gaining only a little height. From here, we joined the course of a Roman road and this began to take us uphill with more determination, progressing on to obsession as the road became ever steeper. We were boxed in on both sides by high banks and Bod and I mused about which one was Offa’s Dyke. In actual fact, my book informed me that the Dyke was first on the left bank and then on the right bank as the road went on, climbing acutely all the while as it guided us towards Long Mountain in what was now spitting rain. A guy on a racing bike shot downhill and whizzed by me, followed by two more. One of these guys had the audacity to shake his head at Jo as he flew past, indicating that Jo was in the way. What a moron – he was the one flying around blind corners at breakneck speed; we were walking along the side of the lane.
We stopped for a breather and a drink at a wooden lodge and reconciled ourselves that there was only one big climb ahead towards Beacon Ring on Long Mountain and then it was all descent. We carried on and entered the Leighton Estate and mixed woodland, still climbing steadily. There was a spate of Blackberry picking amongst us as we climbed this earthen track between stands of Conifers, Silver Birch and Larch. Bod and I were the main culprits. Jo had a brief graze and then walked on. As the track levelled out, we passed some very large Monkey Puzzle trees – I had no idea they could grow so tall. We descended again, steeply, passing by Phillip’s Gorse and then immediately beginning a fresh climb up towards Beacon Ring itself. Jo and I strode upwards alongside field edges as we climbed towards what is a pre-Roman Iron Age fort, built around 700 BC. Bod fell behind and was clearly struggling.
“If it was anyone else, I’d be worried,” said Jo. Bod is something of a tough customer.
I was finding the climb exerting, but manageable as we turned towards the wooded top of Beacon Ring and started to go round it in a clockwise direction. It had become very windy up here, so we continued around until the wooded interior of the fort began to protect us. Here, we stopped for lunch. The woods were planted here to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and the fort itself was occupied until AD 60. Jo celebrated these facts by walking into the woods to find a tree to wet.
The views were misty over the Severn Valley, but gave us a great look at Welshpool below us. We sat and munched through our packed lunches and I then had to find my own tree to baptise. It was very quiet and dense once you were actually inside the wood. It would be an eerie place at night.
ODN Day2 Pic 2

Jo descending from Long Mountain

After forty minutes or so, we packed up and got moving again, completing the circuit of the fort and starting our descent. We walked past a large and prominent television mast and then down, until we ambled by the valley of Cwm Dingle with its Conifer plantation. I glanced straight down this valley, a fissure that cut down onto the Severn valley itself, which was opening up to us splendidly as we moved away from Long Mountain. We continued our descent through fields, both Bod and Jo being on their mobile phones at various points of this section. Our continued descent through fields once more led us over a stile and down towards a duck pond past a place called Stonehouse Farm.
“I think these ducks need a bigger pond,” observed Bod and I could see what he meant. There were scores of mainly Mallards and they all seemed to be crammed into a body of water about the size of a tennis court. Typical of the species, the Mallards were all producing their distinctive quacking laugh. With them all doing it in succession, it made the area sound like a lunatic asylum. We continued past them and started up a path onto a B-road but Bod suddenly stopped, suspicious at the lack of an OD acorn signpost. It seemed we were a little lost. We doubled back and got another volley of merriment from the ducks as we passed them again. Bod walked on ahead and discovered that a marker signpost had been pulled out of the ground and was resting against a hedge. This was decidedly unhelpful.
“That’s why they were laughing,” stated Bod, as he referred to his map.
Jo and I wandered about and Bod suddenly looked up and spied a gate across the other side of a paddock. He reckoned that was the way and suggested we go have a look.
“Give us a shout when you get down there,” Jo called as Bod started down the paddock.
Bod had guessed correctly and we were back on track, following the course of a small brook and crossing it before reaching the B4388 yet again. This led us to Buttington from where we had to move on to our place of rest in Welshpool. We followed the B4388 for a short while and then left it to cross two fields with footbridges. We also had cause to cross our first railway track, after which we climbed a short but steep bank and came onto the A458 at the east-end of Buttington Bridge over the River Severn. The traffic was roaring past us as we moved along this very busy road. Pneumatically hissing lorries and blatting engines were a bit of a shock after the leafy calm of Beacon Hill. We negotiated a roundabout and then, thankfully, left the hubbub behind and strode along a lane which took us to the Shropshire Union canal.
I approached last, as I’d stopped to do some filming. Jo was lounging against a metal side rail and he told me that he could see the statue of something, back along the canal bank in what looked like a small picnic area. He was peering beneath the arch of the canal bridge to see it, so I went under the concrete dome and zoomed in with my video camera.
“Bald, fat man.” I said, after a few seconds of deliberation. This didn’t seem quite adequate, so I thought some more.
“It’s like a standing Buddha.” I added. Jo lost interest and walked away.
I followed him, noting that it was still a little cloudy but that the sun was breaking through valiantly. We walked along the canal in this sunshine for a while and then joined the road which took us into town. We were once more engulfed in the hum of busy traffic as we plodded along. We stopped at a crossing of a minor road.
“Is it along this road?” Bod asked me and as I started to reply, a sign caught my attention.
“There it is.” We had stopped right beside The Westwood House and our stopping point for the night. It was three-thirty.

Recovery: The Westwood House, spicy eggs and a home movie ....

A couple of drinks seemed in order and we hastened inside. There were half a dozen or so people in the bar, each of whom gave us the cursory once-over reserved for strangers who enter a local pub, but there was no hostility in the air and the bar man was a friendly guy who gave us free Scotch Eggs with our pints. These, by the way, were fabulous. Made on the premises and given an extra kick with the addition of chilli powder, they went down a storm with Bod and I. The chatter in the bar was lively and friendly; there was a wall-mounted flat screen TV in front of us showing the day’s sports results and the ale went down in a velvety flow and a rhythmic bobbing of Adam’s apples.
ODN Day2 Pic 3

On Long Mountain

Sated, we were shown to our rooms. Jo had his own space for the night; Bod and I were sharing (room no. 6). Given the dimensions of the room we were in, there wasn’t much to share. We dumped our gear, thus halving the floor space available to us and Bod showered while I took a wander around, video camera on standby. I went downstairs at one point and entered the bar as I was filming. There was an immediate uproar, as people realised that they were film stars for the next few minutes. Banter flew about and good-natured ribaldry was tossed in my general direction. Everybody took it in good spirits. There was some loud discussion that I had been sent along by these lad’s girlfriends to keep an eye on them, or else by some more legally structured authority. As this last was mentioned, several people began pointing at a figure sat on a bar stool. By his friend’s enthusiastic shouts, I gathered that his name was, “Oz” and that he may have reason to want to remain anonymous. He certainly wasn’t keen to have my camera trained on him and swung away from me on his stool, hiding his face and waving me away. Everybody else found it raucously funny, but I took the hint and moved on. I briefly filmed outside and then returned to our room.
Bod had showered and then evidently begun to read a book, but had turned on his side and was now snoring peacefully, reading glasses askew on his face. I also took a shower and then rested for a while on my bed.
Presently, we all felt recovered enough for a walk into town. I think food, rather than culture, was the chief thing on our minds and to this end we mooched around a succession of quiet and shut-down-for-the-night parades. We were discovering that some small towns still carried the mostly extinct British tradition circa 1970’s of being closed after six pm on Sundays. During the course of this discovery, I managed to walk into a concrete and obviously visible bollard, giving my knee a meaty whack. Bod laughed in a concerned manner and walked away, whilst I flexed my knee joint experimentally. It was okay, but I was aware of a bruised feeling for the rest of the walking week and a lovely crescent-shaped mark soon displayed itself above my kneecap.
In the end, we had to resort to an over-bright cafĂ© adorned with the sort of fluorescent lighting that would have done justice to a football stadium. My eyes began to throb within minutes of sitting down and the nastiness of the burger and chips I’d ordered was pitilessly revealed in a harsh glare. I felt marginally better about the expedition when discovering that the place sold Magnum ice creams and I contentedly chuffed one during the walk back to The Westwood.
We turned in. Bod and I both attempted to read for a while, but Bod was making glottal noises within minutes again and I found the sound too distracting, so I also settled down. To my untold joy, Bod continued to have resolute outbreaks of snoring throughout the night.

Daily Tweets

Twitter from @BabbleRouser (Jo)
Woken by Foghorn Leghorn this morning. On border of England/Wales.
12 mile yomp to Montgomory today
Sep 5th via mobile web

Twitter from @BabbleRouser (Jo)
For Monty, read Welshpool. Wishful thinking!
Sep 5th via mobile web

Twitter from @Corriepaw (Colin)
First signal since I arrived. Eating lunch on an Iron Age hill fort called Beacon Ring. Only another 3 to 4 miles to walk. Terrain; easy.
Sep 5th via txt

Twitter from @Corriepaw (Colin)
Pasture, woods & a couple of B roads. Only Long Mountain has presented anything like a challenge. Bod's not feeling well, mind. Gut ache.
Sep 5th via txt

Twitter from @Corriepaw (Colin)
We are reposing at Westwood House. A friendly crowd & the landlord does wicked Scotch Eggs impregnated with chilli powder. Ingenious.
Sep 5th via txt

Twitter from @Corriepaw (Colin)
Just back from a wild Sunday night in Welshpool. Managed to whack my knee into a concrete bollard on return to The Weston. This was unwise.
Sep 5th via txt

Twitter from @Corriepaw (Colin)
I'm tired and looking forward to a good kip. The chances of this happening are slim, given that our room is situated above the beer garden.
Sep 5th via txt

See Route on ......

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