Offa's Dyke (N) Day 7

Offa's Dyke - North
By Colin Walford
Day Seven

Route: Bodfari to Prestatyn
Date: Friday September 10th 2010
Distance: 13.5m (22km)
Elevation: 0ft (0m) to 860ft (262m)
Climbing (ascent and descent): 2,129ft (649m) and 2,375ft (724m)

See Route on ......

No taxi - no lunch, Sodom Covert, wind problem ....

It had rained overnight and clouds were still lurking about with real intent, when we got up in the morning. Breakfast was fabulous, though a little spoiled by our host. He seemed at pains to constantly reinforce to us that we would have to walk back into Bodfari and certainly wouldn’t be getting our disfavoured little arses into his nice, gleaming car. We were a bit under-chuffed by the prospect as it was; no need to hammer it home while we were trying to enjoy the lovely food put before us. Still, we were in no doubt after his clumsy hints, so quickly got ourselves ready for the off. I hadn’t pre-ordered packed lunches with our hosts, so we would also need to pop into a shop in Bodfari. We walked away from Glan Clwyd under a moody sky and retraced our steps through the high-hedged lanes. We had all enjoyed our stay here, despite the extra walking we now had to do. At one point, two dogs took it upon themselves to serenade us with a hysterical duo of yapping as we passed, until I finally lost my patience and yelled at them to shut up. This worked remarkably well and acute silence followed.
We soon made it back to The Downing Arms and found a little shop opposite, from which to buy lunch. We were served by a nice, chatty lady and then were on our way, first walking along the roadside path, but then immediately making a sharp left-turn up an extremely steep lane. So soon after a hearty breakfast this was a bit of a body blow, but we laboured upwards and in doing so, we noticed that the resident of one of the houses had been brave enough to parade an England flag outside his back window.
“I notice that he has it out the back, not the front,” said Bod.
I thought about this, briefly. “I bet he tried having it out the front.”
“Cost him too much in window replacements,” Bod responded.
Our steep climb took us past a house but the ascent continued, achingly. It had become a ridiculous angle to tackle so soon after food and we still had a way to go; up through a field, which suddenly afforded us a view and revealed how much elevation we had achieved in so few minutes of toiling. We finally reached a plateau and could rest. Jo and I silently regained our respective composures. Bod was still nowhere to be seen but I thought I could see vaporous clouds, borne of exertion, issuing in steamy wisps from amongst the vegetation below. We sat or lounged by a stile and waited for him. Woodland was rising grandly behind and once Bod had stertorously joined us, we all contoured around these woods and the hill-fort of Moel y Gaer. I could clearly see the television mast sitting atop Moel y Park, across the Wheeler Valley from which we had climbed. After a short period of walking, we passed a house and then hit a small road, where we were able to walk in close single file and relax a little from our recent labours.
The respite, however, was brief and for the next hour we found ourselves constantly encountering vigorous ascents, be they over fields, up little lanes or on hillsides scattered with Gorse. It was always about gaining altitude. We reached a place called the Sodom Covert and noticed that it had become robustly windy. This increased as we climbed up the hill of Cefn Du. It was on top of this place that we rested briefly again and could see, in the distance, the finishing line in the form of Prestatyn. I did a little filming up here, knowing that the mauling wind was whipping away my voice before it could reach the microphone. Besides, the microphone itself always seems to turn the slightest whiff of a breeze into a hollow roar, so anything I said was instantly rendered unintelligible. Happily, this isn’t so far removed from my normal mode of conversation, anyway.

The Sick Hiker, the end is nigh ....

We strode down the back of Cefn Du, mainly using a fairly wide lane; one section of which suddenly became energetic with cars and potential maiming. We were able to walk abreast of each other after the traffic had melted away and chatted easily as we went along. We could see, ahead of us, that the lane abruptly dipped and then rose sharply again further along. The coastline remained as a beckoning incentive on the horizon, slightly softened to a hazy aubergine shade by the impurities in the air.
After a while, we joined a road at the western point of the Coed Bron-fawr woods. Bod and I walked together, as Jo had lagged a little behind us, lost in his own world. A junction took us to the left and then to the right again, so that we continued in a northerly direction. It was here, just after the right turn onto another lane, that we were brought alongside the guy we had met on our first day’s walking, just after crossing the River Camlad on our way to Buttington Bridge.
He was sitting in a curiously collapsed way on the ground by the side of the lane, looking rather dishevelled and pale. He recognised us in turn and started to tell us how he wasn’t feeling too good. His voice seemed to lack any real strength and the poor guy explained that he had been walking for three days on an empty stomach, as he had been unable to keep any food down. Clearly, the man had acquired some sort of malady.
ODN Day7 Pic 1

The stone marker at the end/beginning of the Offa’s Dyke walk

“I’ve been living on jellied sweets,” he whispered, indistinctly.
We were making the correct, clucking noises of sympathy and commiseration when Jo finally caught up with us and came striding around the corner. He immediately noticed the wan figure on the grass verge.
“Every time I see you, you’re sitting down!” he boomed accusingly.
The docile heap before us seemed to shrink a little more, earning Jo the coveted award of King of Tact for the day. We left this sad figure to muster what strength he had left in him and walked on, continuing along the road as it began another hearty uphill drive and took us past a caravan site. We climbed over stile number 108 of the week and then went up the slope of Moel Maenefa. Here, we were able to stop for a while and consider what we could see ahead and what was looking to be the last leg of our journey.
The end was in obvious sight and creeping closer all the time. The buildings and infrastructure of a well-developed town lay scattered in front of the sea behind it. I think, at this point, that we confused what was actually Rhyll with our destination of Prestatyn, which was still hidden behind higher ground in front of us and to our right. Bod stated that the A55 was just ahead of us, a road we had to cross.
“Are there any more hills?” I asked.
“I’m not…saying…a word,” Bod replied, “Though they’re probably building sand hills on the beach for us to climb, as we speak.”
I murmured that we would soon be done with it all; adding that distances viewed could be deceptive, however.
“Well, there’s a pub we pass just about halfway through today’s walk and we haven’t reached it yet,” Bod reasoned.
Just then, the ailing walker appeared over the brow of the hill behind us. I began to film his lurching approach and then remembered something and swung the camera away from him.
“I’m off again; filming people’s misery and suffering.”
The lone walker approached us and I saw him gaze fixedly at the distant view of the sea with something approaching rapture. He began muttering the same phrase to himself several times in a distracted and quietly hysterical way.
“My God, what a beautiful sight.”
I watched him, expecting him to suddenly break down in tears. It was evident that his two week adventure; planned at home and yearned for while he was stuck in a little office somewhere, had betrayed him brutally.

The final gradients, golden showers, the edge of Prestatyn ....

While he gathered himself a little, the three of us began to descend the South-Western slope of Moel Maenefa, using a narrow path through tracts of Gorse.
We were walking down another lane when our sick friend joined us once more. I noticed as he proceeded downhill, that he had a very floppy, undisciplined gait. His arms didn’t so much swing as he walked, but flapped bonelessly. He looked as if he were being controlled by an extremely bad puppeteer. I was filming and doing some commentary and he overheard me saying that shortly we would have to start the climb up and around Coed Cwm hill, visible just ahead of us. Almost immediately, he stopped and sat down in the field we had just entered, muttering something dispirited which contained the phrase, ‘rest time’. Jo later told me that I had broken him when I started talking about further climbs. I must admit, at this point he had had a wild, rolling look to his eye; like a man being dragged underwater by fierce currents.
The three of us still upright passed on through the field and what looked like a disused, or chaotically managed, farm. We then continued through further fields, which began to take us downwards and eventually led us to a large and splendidly ugly concrete footbridge which spanned the A55 road. I crossed this with the others, glancing down at the speeding traffic below. On the other side, we passed by a couple of guys heating something unidentifiable on little hexy burners. We continued down a lane and walked by a tethered goat, busily attempting to eat its way through a tree. I spoke to it in a friendly, beseeching way and was answered by plaintive bleats and a wary disposition. The road took us down into Rhuallt and the pub that Bod had spoken about, which was named The Smithy Arms.
ODN Day7 Pic 2

Me at the stone marker

A round of soft drinks accompanied a sit-down rest. Bod and I ordered sandwiches and he trapped an investigative wasp beneath his empty, overturned glass, where it circled endlessly until Jo released it as we departed again, bless his pious heart. As we made off, I watched a couple of older walkers in the car park prepare themselves for a stride out somewhere or other.
On we travelled, up a narrow road just as our sickly walker appeared once more. With a pallid resolve, he joined us as we were turning right to go up a very steep path through a light patch of woodland. As the gradient increased, our afflicted friend quickly lagged behind and had to stop once more. My last sight of him was of him wilting against a tree. We left him behind and never saw him again. He may well still be sat on his own in that wooded copse, attempting to muster the resolve to tackle the next hill in front of him. This incline was part of Mynydd y cwm and I was also compelled to rest at the top of it, sitting astride a stone wall next to a stile. I also wanted to do some filming. I was gasping for breath and felt my body deliberating, briefly, over the benefits of bringing back up my recently eaten sandwiches. Again, I reflected that the last three days of the Offa’s Dyke trail are not soft walking. At least, they weren’t for me. From where I was, I could see the A55 that we had crossed not long before, including the bridge that we had used. It was below me and some way distant already. When my pulse had slowed enough so that I could detect individual beats, I continued on a dirt track curving through Gorse and ferns. Bod and Jo had moved on when I began to film and I rejoined them when I reached a road. Overhead, it was still cloudy but for us on top of Mynydd y cwm it was humid and oppressive amongst the thick flora. We went down the long, leafy lane with the Ffrith Fawr woods to our left. At one point, we could again see the sea and the wind turbines in Liverpool Bay.
Before long, we were required to go down two fields of harvested crops; the remnants left behind were of shin height and made a harsh rustling and crackling noise against our boots as we walked. Bod and I were ahead; Jo was often a couple of hundred metres behind us around this time. Yet another field was encountered and traversed and we continued on up a narrow track, situated between residential gardens and onto a road with houses and a post-box at Marian cwm. Here, Bod and I stopped for a drink and to wait for Jo. I asked Bod to fetch my Lucozade bottle from my rucksack. When I opened this, it erupted all over my hands and left them drenched and uncomfortably sticky.
“I didn’t shake it up, honest,” Bod smirked.
We rested for only a couple of minutes and then walked on; up the rocky slopes of Marian Ffrith, which were dotted with hardy shrubs. The whole day had seemed to be a series of ‘up and over’ manoeuvres. Once at the top we had the first real, touchable it seemed, glimpse of the sea and the 30 or so wind turbines of the North Holyle offshore wind farm. It was breezy up here and we dubiously eyed another hill before us; Moel Hiraddug. However, Bod’s map revealed that we didn’t have to ‘do it’, as he eloquently put it but, instead, had to skirt around to the east of it. Jo had walked ahead of us by several meters on this occasion and Bod called out to him to give him the good news. Jo walked on, apparently oblivious.
“He’s ignoring us,” said Bod
“He’s had enough of us, is what,” I replied. I then reconsidered.
“Come to think of it – I’ve had enough of us.”
We descended the north gradient of Marian Ffrith and then traipsed across another field of harvested crops and then through another farm that looked in poor shape. Some buildings, I saw, had collapsed roofs although they still looked occupied. Jo was still a little way ahead of us and he nodded amiably at two women, who were approaching through a gate. We had to cross a couple of stone stiles. They were curious constructions, like hard tables of slate and hard work to get over, given our travel-weary legs. We grumbled in a good-natured way before descending down another set of cropped fields, heading towards a finger of trees. These appeared to be the remainder of an ancient hedge and this, in turn, led us to a bridleway and a track which then took us down to a canalised waterway, waterfalls and an old wreck of a water-wheel with an iron-railing fence around it. I saw a sign and had a bit of a shock. We had, suddenly, reached the outskirts of Prestatyn.

Jo's anger, seaside rendezvous, another stone - another walk, touching the waves ....

After a brief pause for consideration, we walked along a track which then joined a road and then went up, inevitably, through another field, after crossing the A5151. At this point, we joined a caravan trail of walkers who were marching along in an obedient single file. It turned out that two of their numbers were the very people I had seen leaving the car park of The Smithy Arms, earlier on. We continued up this open field and passed the Ty Newydd farm, before climbing over another stile and turning left, to go down a track and yet another bloody field. If I’d have been a Hare, I tell you, I’d have been happy at this juncture. I noticed, as I trudged along, that rain showers were angling down all around us in the middle-distance, yet we escaped any of the precipitation. We crossed another field and walked beneath a line of sonorously humming pylons, overtaking The Older Walkers in silence. After a further series of fields, we crossed a small road and took a path which skirted a house and dumped us, suddenly, on Prestatyn hillsides. It was here that we realised where Prestatyn lay, in relation to Rhyll.
ODN Day7 Pic 3

Bod at the stone marker

There was a drop to our left here which was impressive, as at this point we were still 500 feet above sea level, yet with the coastline on our doorstep ahead of us.
The end of the Offa’s Dyke walk was now, clearly, imminent.
I had stopped to film and The Two Older Walkers, who had caught up, pointed out to me where they thought the stone marker, depicting the completion of the walk, lay. As we walked on, I became mildly disturbed that the track expected us to go upwards again, along an earthen track through sprawled woodland. Yet upwards we went, then levelling out to find a metal wire fence guarding our left. I was gifted an impressive view of craggy rock formations below me and part of the sprawl of Prestatyn. We found ourselves skirting the top of an old quarry and then, outrageously, a feral climb lay before us. I felt personally outraged at the scramble we now had to face, so near to the completion of the walk. It was a ridge that really took the biscuit, so far in the game. Bod and I could only stop for a moment and laugh. We climbed onwards, above the woods of Coed y Es gob and along the ridge. Jo had suddenly sped off ahead of us and was nowhere in sight.
Bod and I plodded on and at the highest point of this ridge, just below 700 feet; I reverently put down the stone that I had carried since the Sedbury Cliffs in the Bristol Channel. That is, apart from a year it had spent on my bathroom shelf back in Bridstow. With this action, another walking tradition had been completed that my brother and I always try to make good.
I strode on. A couple and their teenage son greeted me, somewhat warily, as I walked sweatily by and negotiated a stile. I realised why later, when Jo told me that he had stormed past them in a quiet rage. That last incline had exhausted Jo’s store of patience and he had forged ahead, determined that he would not stop power-walking until he had completed the last ascent. He had met them, crimson-faced and abruptly greeted them; “ALRIGHT!” before marching on with a degree of resolution. I had come across them when they were still in shock.
There was an equally steep descent down a track, on and on through trees and towards a small road where I found Jo, sitting quietly. It was then that he revealed to me that he had become incensed when faced with that last big climb and had just torn off, determined to get off the ridge as quickly as possible. He hadn’t slowed down until he had come down to the road on which we rested. Jo told me that he wouldn’t have stopped, but would have kept up the same, angry pace if the uphill bit had continued all the way to the finishing line. Quite simply, he had had enough of the whole affair. He had greeted the family of three that I came across, in a very terse and abrupt manner and reckoned that they thought we had been arguing, causing Jo to storm off in a high altitude sulk.
Bod joined us and we all walked off together down a by-road, which led us to a long and straight main road, which eventually became the High Street of Prestatyn. We were bewildered to suddenly find ourselves walking amongst shoppers and trendy-looking folk in their late summer best. At once, we bumped into The Four Walkers. They made a great show of asking us what had taken us so long, as they had already been to the end-of-walk marker on the sea-front.
We continued on. It was a longer jaunt than I’d anticipated; something over a mile, brushing past many people on the busy street. I kept turning the camera on to film the finishing point, then realising that we weren’t there yet, but had another noisy arcade to cross. We finally went by the scaffold-clad train station and then onto the final stretch of road, which led us all the way to the stone marker near the sea front. I was filming as I approached and got the actual moment Bod and Jo…….stopped walking.
That was it, really, all those miles over two years and it came down to reaching a large rock and stopping walking. Still, we had completed the Offa’s Dyke trail and that was a pleasurable enough thought.
A signpost at the end, suggested that we had walked more miles than we had thought since those past days at Chepstow last year.
“I’m sorry!” said Bod, “But if you had told me that it was a hundred and eighty-two miles to Prestatyn, I would never have agreed to it!”
“There is a five mile discrepancy,” I allowed, “I want my five miles back.”
“They’re in my legs,” said Bod.
“In that case, you can keep them.”
The stone marker had a plaque on it, quoting how long the walk was in miles and it managed to disagree both with the signpost nearby and the figure in my book. It would seem that nobody can actually agree on how long it is.
Bod and I walked onto the beach at Prestatyn and went forward, to greet the sea by paddling our hands in it. This was another tradition; this time one from the Offa’s Dyke walk itself.
Jo didn’t join us. He went off, looking for a toilet, which was a further tradition we had become familiar with.

Celebration: The Halcyon Quest Hotel ....

We managed to find our digs for the night, The Halcyon Quest Hotel, fairly easily after walking back into town. Our apartment had two rooms and a bathroom and Bod got the single room for the night. The place was perfectly acceptable without being wonderful, but was fine for our purpose since it had a bar downstairs.
I was actually glad that the walking was done with, because I had developed a very sharp pain behind my right shoulder which actually stayed with me for a number of days. I think it had come on over the week whilst carrying my rucksack and this is something I’ll have to look out for during future walks. I may need to invest in some new kit.
We were relaxing when one of The Four Walkers called and announced that they were all in the bar downstairs. We needed no further encouragement and all freshened up quickly before joining them. It was an enjoyable evening and the pints, jokes and laughter flowed. Chatting to them, I was recommended a walk two of them had done called The Two Moors Way which takes place in Devon, going over Dartmoor and Exmoor and being 102 miles in length. They had really enjoyed that one and had plenty of good things to say about it.
We eventually wound the evening down and said our farewells to The Four Walkers; wishing them luck with future excursions. Bod and I went out in what was now steady rainfall and hunted down some food in the shape of enormous pizzas. Mine was full of garlic and I was to spend the next day reeking mightily whilst travelling home on the train.
As we turned in, I didn’t really spend much time going over the achievement of the past twelve months on Offa’s Dyke. I was too tired and was soon asleep. However, I can say that it was probably my favourite walk so far, but there again memory can fade a little over time. It has been five years since my brother and I walked The West Highland Way and that was also a fabulous walk to do. Perhaps if I walked that one again, it would again become my favourite.
It was a few months after we had completed Offa’s Dyke that I drove past a prominent part of it, whilst on some errand which was taking me into Hereford. Part of the journey there revealed the distant Hatterrall Ridge, looking purplish against the late afternoon skyline.
I’d never considered myself one for wanting to redo a walk. There are so many left to still do and I can’t see myself investing the time to do one twice. However, the sight of the ridge as I drove by made me want to do Offa’s Dyke again. It is so varied and splendid and I was remembering the day the four of us climbed and crossed Hatterrall, with a fair degree of wistfulness. I’ll probably have that feeling every time I drive that way and I like that; the fact that I have a connection with a part of the landscape that will evoke such feelings and memories. It can only be that, as the years slide by and I get more walks under my belt, I’ll have a growing store of such associations with the beautiful parts of the UK. I look forward to building that store with pleasure.

Daily Tweets

Twitter from @BabbleRouser (Jo)
Bodfari? Very fari!
Sep 10th via mobile web

Twitter from @BabbleRouser (Jo)
Passed through Sodom today. Don't believe the hype!
Sep 10th via mobile web

Twitter from @BabbleRouser (Jo)
Sun is in the sky, oh why oh why would I want to be anywhere else?
Sep 10th via mobile web

Twitter from @BabbleRouser (Jo)
Arrived at the pearl that is Prestatyn. Maybe packing my England rugby cap wasn't such a good idea?
about 1 hour ago via mobile web
Sep 10th via mobile web

Twitter from @BabbleRouser (Jo)
Walking boots worn out and left in hotel room bin. Will shop for a new pair. If only replacing knees was as easy!
Sep 11th via mobile web

Twitter from @Corriepaw (Colin)
Last night's digs was a good experience, marred slightly by not been offered a lift back into Bodfari this morning. It meant an extra mile & a half onto today's tally of 12 miles. Moreover, we immediately had to throw ourselves up some steep hills on leaden legs. We all suffered and conversation was sporadic. However, Prestatyn is now tantalisingly close. The pub in Rhuallt was closer, which is where we're now sat.
Sep 10th via txt

Twitter from @Corriepaw (Colin)
Have just finished the Offa's Dyke walk and we're sitting in the sun on the Prestatyn sea front. The last 3 days have been tough walking.
Sep 10th via txt

Twitter from @Corriepaw (Colin)
I ache, I stink & I've been wearing the same underwear for 3 days, but I feel peculiarly self~satisfied.
Sep 10th via txt

Twitter from @Corriepaw (Colin)
All sharing a room of standard, but ok quality. I seem to have developed a raging ache in my right shoulder. Repetative Rucksack Fatigue.
Sep 10th via txt

Twitter from @Corriepaw (Colin)
On train back to Ledbury. Jo left at ten & Bod, Denise & I took a look at a waterfall in Prestatyn & had a quick peek at Rhyll. Very quick.
Sep 11th via txt

Twitter from @Corriepaw (Colin)
We also saw Seals bobbing about in the sea just off shore in Prestatyn. They seemed as curious about us as we were about them. Cute.
Sep 11th via txt

Twitter from @Corriepaw (Colin)
Feel scruffy but in fine fettle. Could definitely walk a lot more miles yet. However, home & a hot bath awaits. Might even consider shaving.
Sep 11th via txt

See Route on ......


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