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Knighton to Cym Chapel

Thursday, July 19, 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.

Knighton to Cym Chapel

Dear Readers:

This is reputed to be the most challenging part of the trail since the valleys run east to west and the trail runs almost due north. The previous night, we had a lovely dinner with our English hiker friends at the Horse and Jockey Inn. Martin had steak and ale pie and I had a chicken curry with cider. The bar host gave me samples of three different types of cider to try. It was quite interesting. The dry cider is so dry that it tastes almost like a wine. Martin's pie was so delicious that I talked him into trading meals.

After our friends left for their lodging, Martin and I continued talking to the sheep drover, bar host and a sheep farmer who came in. We were in the "snug", a small room with a wood stove so it was actually warm enough that I was down to just three layers of clothing.  When the group heard that we were leaving Knighton so late in the morning, they first mocked us for being lazy then expressed their deep concern about a late arrival into Cym Chapel, finishing the walk after dusk.  Martin told them about abandoning the weapon wagon due to the stiles. They expressed grave weapon reservations about traveling only with the slingshots, double bladed ax and the broadsword. They knew that I could not effectively wield the heavy weapons and that Martin would have to face the perils without someone at his back.

They conferred among themselves and with the innkeeper. Finally, the innkeeper, when learning that I was proficient at archery- learned in my high school years at the The Hockaday School in Dallas- decided the best option was to send us with the traveling crossbow. I tried a few shots in the snug. On my second shot, I managed to pin the potato that they set up over the bar. Don, the bar host, said it would be simple to send the bow back and that he felt it would be better for tourism if we made it safely to Cym Chapel. (To the left, one of the many perils of the trail: a flock of ravenous sheep!)

The next day, we visited the Offa's Dyke Center and had a good chat with Jim, a volunteer who was very familiar with the trail. He too expressed concern about being on the trail after dark and in the wind and rain. It was raining again. We pulled out of Knighton at 10:50 am, very late but we felt very strong and quite optimistic since we are from Alaska and have trained on tough trails. The rain let up by the time we climbed to the top of the first ridge and we had fine views of the countryside.

By the top of the second ridge, we were in an unfortunate weather pattern involving headwinds, mist and hail. By the top of the fourth ridge, we were quite concerned about being able to keep the pace up and Martin decided it was time for the orange rain jacket that David had scavenged from the William’s alum reunion. We found a sheltered spot in a hollow ringed by gorse, also easily defensible. Martin laid the jacket down, handed me the thermos of Good Earth tea and I started to drink it. Suddenly, a wild mountain welsh pony appeared from the mist as the wind howled. The pony seized an orange sleeve. As I dropped my tea to grab for the crossbow, he ran off into the fog. This was not good. The rain jacket was gone and we couldn't split up so Martin could run back to Knighton for a new one. As we discussed the situation over tea and ginger cookies, we realized that Mark's jacket that I brought at the last minute fit Martin. I had my long raincoat so we could manage to press on.  

We made it past the Hergan and Middle Knuck Farm, skirted Churchtown Hill, a lovely view down the valley, finally seeing the Drewin, a farm. It was getting dark and was almost 8:15pm, when we spotted the welcome wrought iron sign: Cym Chapel. We made it down off the mountain and were able to call for a pickup for a ride to our b&b. Our dinner featured a tender beef brisket, vegetable, onion soup and tea and chocolate.  When we first arrived, Lynne, our host, took one look at Martin and offered to wash his clothes and brought a laundry basket with a tea trolley featuring hot cross buns to our spacious room.

The next day: will we make it to Welshpool? Will we every see David and Angela again? Will we need the crossbow?

Deborah Hansen