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Domgay to Chirk Castle/Castle Mill

Thursday, August 09, 2012

These blog entries detail the adventures, perils, and inclement weather that befell Deborah, our Director of Marketing here at Pike’s Waterfront Lodge, and her husband Martin along Offa’s Dyke, a 182-mile long trek along the border of England and Wales. For the full introduction and to start at the beginning to read the stories in order, see the June 28th, 2010 blog entry.

Domgay to Chirk Castle/Castle Mill

Dear Favored Readers:

We spent a pleasant night in the tiny hamlet of Domgay in a late 18th century house. Today was quite a long day with over 18 miles of canal, mountain, hill and dale. We survived it with quick attention to the dangers lurking in the seemingly bucolic countryside.

Mark drove us into Four Crosses, pointing out the continuation of our path. He was able to loan us a regular archery kit since I was still uncomfortable with the morningstar and the implications of close in combat. I should have mentioned that Mark ran, among other things, a horseback archery school and weekend events on his property.

We made it into Llanymynech, the town distinguished by the Welsh/English border running down its main street.  Trouble started after we reached the golf course. I may have mentioned the trouble with golf courses in Wales. They are always on top of a mountain, reached after a steep climb out of a town. None of them have featured tea and cookies overlooking a glorious view. We did see a "Welcome Hikers" sign at one, but we were too early to partake.

After, we climbed up to the golf course (I was panting); Martin called for a break and opened his pack. "Cheese!" He exclaimed! "Deb, did you buy cheese?" "No," I trilled. "Yuck and how heavy". He rummaged around further and found the following note:

“Hello hikers! You have honest faces and we can help each other. Have dinner at the Poachers Pocket in Chirk after your arrival in Castle Mill. Give the bartender the cheese and your dinner and ale will be free. Since England has imposed tax and extra duties on Welsh cheese and due to EU restrictions, the finest Welsh cheeses can no longer be purchased in England so we have organized an alternative distribution system, a tradition honored since the time of the Conqueror.”  

They knew our destination; we felt it best to cooperate.

We packed up and climbed on but were wary since we knew we had the contraband cheese and others probably knew as well.

Later that morning, we took a tea break with our favorite tea and the delicious English ginger biscuits. (To the left, a typical lunch break complete with checking the book for the correct trail.) We were perched on both sides of a stile and it wasn't rainy, a welcome change.  Suddenly, without warning, as if out of the blue, an aggressive horse galloped over. I was about to scramble to Martin's side of the stile when I saw that he had two horses to contend with. Fortunately, we had only unpacked the thermos and ginger cookies.  Martin leapt over to my side since that was the direction we were headed. We needed a distraction- the only other alternative was to brain them with the morningstars. Alas, we opted for the less bloody alternative of tossing ginger cookies at them as we raced across the field. Concerned about our dwindling supply, I tried breaking them into pieces, but I couldn't throw them as far. To get any distance, we had to skim them like small, delicious frisbees.

Finally we escaped from the horses and discussed, as we walked, how we would evade British border patrols when we crossed the river to Castle Mill. It then hailed and rained and hailed. We thought we would never make it. Finally, we saw Chirk Castle in the distance, a great gray fortress. We tried to walk faster and look innocent in case there were security cameras. We saw signs, "Smuggling is a crime!" and "Beware the friendly stranger!" What to do!?

Finally, we approached the bridge. Fortunately, we were running late and it was after 5:00 pm. The customs post was closed. We breathed a huge sigh of relief and started over. Then we heard a muffled bark from inside the watch house. The curtain twitched. We melted back into the woods.

I, of course, was worried since I was wet and cold and did not want to swim that river. Martin was more confident. He motioned to me that we would hang from the bridge edge and cross it by hand over hand. I wasn't sure that I could do it but Martin felt sure that I could. So we started across. "Holy cow, what a drop," I whispered to Martin, "Let's hurry!" so we did. When we finally reached our b and b our hosts asked us where we wanted to go for dinner. We said that we heard that the Poachers Pocket was good. They looked at each other knowingly and said that they could take us. We enjoyed a delicious dinner and lost the unwanted 20 pounds of cheese.  That is our story of how we made it to Castle Mill and Chirk Castel. Next: will the weather get any better as we make our way to Llandegla and stay in Wales for the rest of the trip?

Deborah Hansen