Day 93 - Walking a switchback wonderland
Trip Start Jun 12, 2010
147Trip End Nov 18, 2010
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Where I stayed
New Mills Cottage with Mary and Lance
It's 8.50 when we make our start today. Leaving the backpack and its contents scattered around our bedroom, we simply hop into the back of Mary & Lance's car, ready to be driven to our starting destination at Kingswood. It takes 40 mins to return to the place we were picked up on Saturday afternoon. Needless to say, Keith the stickler for exactitude (known as Keith 'touch him' Badger after the Taupo relay team incident, back home with the Icebergers), spends time locating the exact footprint from which the mornings walk should begin
The walking starts on relatively flat farmland and we are quickly out walking on the dyke itself. After all we are walking Offa's Dyke Path and for the time being apparently are now known as 'dykers'. Keith wonders if he will now be considered a 'dyke-berger' back in Melbourne. Gradually the heavy misty rain abates and we now begin to appreciate the views around us. Walking along easy open farmland, with only the odd river crossing, like the River Camlad, to inject a little excitement into our morning, our eyes are drawn to features further afield. We see the old town of Montgomery crowned by its castle ruins, another feature of seemingly incessant fascination the Endlish had with ruling the Welsh. This castle having been started by Henry III in 1233, may well be a ruin today but it looks impressive from our perspective.
Now the rain has stopped we are warming to our task today and feeling good. We are fairly rattling along and do 9 1/2 kms in the first two hours. The dyke comes and goes from under our feet leading us out onto a brief crossing of the busy A489 road at Brompton crossroads. Today we keep seeing signs welcoming us to Shropshire, the English County which borders Wales in this part of the country
We walk through an impressive arched Gate Lodge seemingly directly into someone's property, but of course such are the liberties of the long distance walker following long established rights of way. We are briefly back on the dyke before descending in a dank woodland dell, some treacherously slippery sodden wooden steps. It's noon and we've held off morning tea awaiting the opportunity to trudge down through the thick mud that lines a secluded lane off to our left away from the official path. We've set our sights on what we're told is the impressive Mellington Hall for a cup of coffee and a fruit scone perhaps. When we get there the house and gardens are typical of the grand constructions that British moneyed gentry have built over the centuries.
We are now embarking upon a series of steep hills known as the switchbacks. We start off walking along the dyke which gradually rises upwards and then we follow a country lane which steeply inclines toward the ridge we can see above. The final ascent sees us back on the dyke, rising with double arrow steepness until we attain the first peak where somebody has built a house called the Crows Nest. A lonely traffic free back road runs right along the ridge here which is known as the Kerry Ridgeway (380m)
We are hungry but do not tarry as we've set out sights on tackling the next descent and another hill before lunching at the bottom of a valley in the peaceful church yard of the tiny St. John the Baptist Church which we know awaits for rest and contemplation. And so we descent once more on the dyke and right thry Nut Wood, where we cross the River Unk which defines the bottom of this hidden valley. Up up we go again, this time its Edenhope Hill that tests our quads and calf muscles. What starts as a walk up through a forestry plantation opens out into clear country with lovely views. We can simply reflect on the effort it took these men 1200 years ago to dig the ditch and construct this dyke some 60 miles long. We're in buzzard contry now and see large birds circling effortlessly overhead, but by now we are crying out for food and we have one final descent to complete
Debby's first thoughts are to remove her shoes and socks and let the bracing air work its magic to cool her hot toes. She is now regularly suffering shooting pain in her feet when they are kept enclosed and overworked. WE have found two hour periods of walking are about the limit before a short break is required to ease the pressure. We are so relaxed and joyful as we sit in this peaceful place. It would be easy to pass the afternoon here curled up with book in hand. However, there's a journey to be completed and another hill awaits. Surprisingly in this remote spot three other walkes have arrived. Walking in the opposite direction to us they tell us of the steep challenges that await us. We say nothing of what we have encountered but simply thank them and move off.
Out of the churchyard we cross a small tributary to the River Unk and find ourselves back in woodland immediately on a track rising us steeply
'Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright!
The bridle of the earth and sky -
the dew shall weep thy fall tonight;
for thou must die.'
The trusty support team are there waiting for us and as Lance drives us the hour and a half journey back to our cottage we regale them with storeis of the things we've seen
By the time Lance pulled in to the Talbot Hotel in Berriew we were ready for a couple of pints and gin and tonics to set us up for another culinery delight - Lance's chicken salad and pasta matriciana. We think we have chosen our support team wisely.