Day 87 - A big day full of great walking & emotion

Trip Start Jun 12, 2010
Trip End Nov 18, 2010

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Flag of United Kingdom  , Wales,
Tuesday, September 14, 2010

This turned out to be a really big day quite unexpectedly. We awoke after a fair night's sleep to hear the fond beeping of the mobile phone message alert. Our dear son Matt has notified us that he is ready to leave behind Australia to experience a week of walking with us next month. We are delighted and despite the fact it's 5.30 am, Debby is now completely awake. We breakfast at our traditional 8 am timing and find Marilyn and David to have laid on a fine spread. Fresh fruit has been prepared, there's yoghurt, a choice of muesli, and then home made wholemeal grain bread to toast to our own level of perfection to accompany the free range eggs and in Keith's case a really sublime sausage that originated from Jones (who else?) the local butcher. Of course the cooking of the sausage was also vitally important and plentiful praise was heaped upon David. Not to be forgotten, David and Marilyn's homemade preserves, (all four of which Debby tried!!) were a delectable addition to this sumptuous meal.  In all we felt completely set up for whatever the Welsh weather could throw at us.  Do we even need to say that it was already raining at breakfast!!?

Breakfast was enhanced at Plas Efenechtyd by the serious banter which was entered into by both hosts and guests.  Accompanying us at the breakfast was a fine young man called Steve, who appeared to be crazy enough to have the potential to be a fellow long distance walker.  When we arrived back at the B&B last night, in the pitch black of a remote country village, Steve was labouring up the sharp hill on his bike.  It must also be said at this point Steve lacked a front headlight and so appeared to be making his way along by touch rather than vision!  Completing the package of attraction we felt to Steve was the acknowledgment that he didn’t only grow up in Tottenham but he also supported that fine, if frustrating, soccer team as Keith does.  Steve, if you ever feel you’d like to exchange your bike to experience some long distance walking be sure to contact us. 

Breakfast went on longer than planned because Marilyn kindly produced a laptop, giving us the chance to email Matt about his travel plans.  Looking at the emails as we do about twice a month, produced another emotional surprise.  Sue Osborn, mother of Matt’s late girlfriend,   Kathy, has set off to visit her family in the UK and we now have a chance to catch up with her early next week.  This is an opportunity we relish given all that has happened since we left Australia three months ago.  Marilyn kindly printed the email for us to take with us and we finally packed up and left this welcoming couple and their wonderful B&B when David dropped us back at Clwyd Gate ready to tackle the next instalment of Offa’s Dyke Path.  It must now be recognised that the quality of service, friendliness and comfort offered over the past two nights in the Vale of Clwyd easily rates in the top 10 of our B&B experiences on our adventure so far. 
Once again we are setting off in a heavy misty rain and we walk straight up one of the remaining Clwyd hills.  We skirt Moel Llanfair (447m) and Moel Y Plas (440m).  The wind is raging as we gain height and we are in full wet weather gear to keep the wind and rain out.  There’s no way we are getting cold though, with all that wonderful breakfast inside us.  So, this day of great and unexpected variety started with distant misty views as we walked up through fern laden hillsides.  By late morning we were walking down out of the Clwyd Hills with some regret, although just as we had no knowledge of how good they would be, we now can only anticipate what other unknown delights lay ahead to enliven our senses.  We finish the morning walking through farmland down into Llandegla crossing many stiles including some which cross a farm where clearly the farmer is not a supporter of ramblers!  Is it really necessary to put up signs saying 'no stopping’ 'no picnicking’ along the path?

Llandegla turns out to be a disappointment.  We had planned to buy and eat our lunch here.  It is 1 pm and we are just about ready to eat something to put back the energy expended this morning.  Our first and favoured option was the General Store.  No luck here, they close from noon till 2.30 for lunch!!  So we move on to the pub.  No joy here either, as its closed but will be re-opening soon under new management.  Somehow we are not fazed and are happy to find some tables and chairs have been left out by the old owners of the pub.  So we sit down, take off our backpacks and survey the meagre offerings which we happen to have knocking around in our packs. A couple of old Welsh cakes, a Snickers bar, one apple, and the Kendall Mint Cake which Debby was given in the Prestatyn Walking Shop because it was nearly out of date.  Hardly a feast fit for a king but somehow we enjoyed it and reflected on the fact that George Mallory had walked up Everest on Kendall Mint Cake in 1924. 

Before lunch was over another joyful communication came in from Australia announcing that Jack and Mary are still on track to join us next month in Cornwall.  It will be a delight to walk with them again as they were part of our walking preparation before we left home.  In fact, each time we walk up a set of steps on a hillside, Keith reflects that this is no more than the 300 steps we climbed from the beach back up to Moonlight Head in the Otways with Mary and Jack.  So we set off after lunch with a spring in our stride and soon had immersed ourselves back into the surrounding farmland.  Immediately, nature offers us the dessert to follow our lunch and we gorge ourselves on the most perfect display of blackberries we have discovered.  Once again we marvel at the peace and tranquillity we experience walking through farmland.  There is something so quietening and meditative about watching sheep grazing or standing and staring us in surprise.  And the sheep here are so well groomed and clean.  They really could teach their wild cousins over on the Pennine Way a few things about sheep cleanliness. 

Now, the path takes on a completely new aura as we leave behind the gentle bucolic scenery and enter the dark mystical forest. Everything is quiet as we look out into thick forest on all sides with a heavy carpet of fallen pine needles covering the ground.  There has been much rain through here and our path is muddy but none of this matters, nothing can daunt our spirits today.  Not content with having gorged blackberries, Debby’s eagle eye identified a large patch of bilberries and soon we are both feverishly picking handfuls of this tiny blueberry tasting fruit.  What a day of forest delights this is.  By now we are thinking that this has been a splendid day.  Our walk through the woods has continued to take us higher up and when we reach the edge of the forest we are now at 480 mtrs above sea level and the next treat is in store for us.  As we walk out of the dark forest we are blinking our eyes in the magnificent sunny day which confronts us.  Can this really be Wales, Keith wonders?  With the forest behind us we now have uninterrupted views in all directions of fine open moorland.  We may be a long way from the Pennine Way, but one thing this moor has in common with its Yorkshire compatriot is mud and mire.  Our shoes are already wet and muddy from our morning exploits, so it doesn’t worry us to slosh through water and mud in the sun this afternoon.  We leave the moor by walking out onto a remote minor road which we then follow for over a kilometre.  Once again the landscape begins to change quite dramatically.  Now on our left hand side the land rises as on our right hand side the land falls away into a valley.  We are now entering an area defined by the River Eglwyseg.  This tiny river running through the bottom of this narrow valley has left rearing up on our left the hugely impressive Eglwyseg Crags which tower some 200 mtrs or more above us.  Somewhere up ahead in the absolute depths of the wooded valley below us is a farm known so prosaically as World’s End Farm.  Now the vertiginous track we are following has narrowed and we are walking through the very heart of steep scree slopes.  Up above we see huge birds of prey circling high.  This area is famous for buzzards and ravens and although we can’t be certain, we feel these birds are buzzards looking down at us.  As the rough shaley track requires careful attention, Keith finds he is able to control his vertigo, but does not take time to look down into the depths of the valley just beside his right foot. 

Gradually our path leads down the hillside and in to the wooded valley.  Another complete change of environment just to round out our day.  Although this day has been a longer one and we are beginning to feel tired, it is with a mixture of satisfaction and disappointment that we tumble out of the little woodland on the valley floor and onto a road which will lead us to tonight’s destination of Llangollen.  We walk along the little used country lanes for about 30 minutes and find ourselves at 5.15 entering what is clearly a significant tourist haunt.  After such a splendid and varied day of idyllic countryside of all types and a complete absence of humanity, we find our senses assaulted by such profligate tourism.  At least as we cross the  Llangollen canal at the Wharf, we are then offered a splendid view of the raging River Dee, on which this town has been built and which despite the clamour of humanity, has yet to be tamed.

We seek out and quickly find our B&B which actually turns out to be the Gales Hotel, a restaurant and wine bar with accommodation.  While Debby soaks in a bath, Keith lays on the bed.  He finds it unsatisfying now to rest at the end of the day without a good book.  He needs desperately, Clifford’s advice and the Grumpy Swimmer to provide something meaty to read.  His current book, David Mitchell’s Ghostwriter is just not doing it for him.  When one is feeling exhausted, as Keith was at the end of today, a good book can be just as good a remedy as a hot bath or a healing massage for driving out weariness.  Debby simply plugs in the Ipod to some relaxing music and closes her eyes.

By 7.30 we walk back out into the street to consider the eating establishments of Llangollen.  Within 2 minutes the fierce cold wind has driven us straight back in to the Wine Bar accompanying our accommodation.  Now is not the time to be walking about to add to the 28 kms we’ve already completed today.  Enough is enough!  We settle for a tuna salad for Debby and pork steaks with a huge serving of leek infused mash for Keith.  The Barman wisely advises us on some good wine and so we return finally to our room sated, very tired but full of the anticipation of the Vale of Llangollen which will be our partner for the next two days.

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Morag on

How wonderful it will be to have Matt join you.My computer is completely dead but now I am using an old lap top of Eddie's so I have freedom again to read the blog slowly.

Morag on

I have recently had a good read of a new author to me. German young woman Juli Zeh "Dark Matters" a puzzle, a thriller, a murder but not a mystery, manipulation, theory of time, relationships .... an engrossing read and her first novel won lots of European awards -this is her second -might be worth giving it a try Keith.

Margaret Roger Skerman on

Glad Debbie rebelled against the miserable farmer. leaflets should be with your friend now

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