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Llandegla to Bodfari

Thursday, August 23, 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.

Llandegla to Bodfari

Dear Readers

This proved to be our worst day yet. Overnight the weather dramatically worsened. Fortunately, the ghosts did not bother us since we don't speak Welsh. We couldn't understand them and they, being Welsh, refused to understand us and so we went back to sleep. After a substantial breakfast that Katie put together, we had to walk back to Llandegla since Tom the taxi driver could not be found. By this time, the wind and rain combined to completely drench us, but we were nonetheless able to struggle into town to replenish our lunch supplies. We met Norma at the store who suggested that we spend the day by the fire at the Hall. How prescient were her words!  She then asked if we were carrying garlic. We said no. Actually, when we were in Hay, we tried to buy garlic for cooking but none was to be found. We just assumed that the Welsh didn’t carry it in the stores. Norma burst our preconceptions. It turned out that the Welsh carry garlic on their person as a preventative. She had two cloves extra in her pocket and gave them to us. We thought this a bit strange.

Preparing for walking in the storm, we bundled up as best we could. We turned my plastic garbage bag into a rain skirt for Martin, I, once again, dressed in all my wool layers, and set out into the howling storm after Norma warned us again, "Always know where the nearest running water is and beware the wind."

This was not the most auspicious start to the day. We found the path and started up the fields to the first hill ridge. I noticed that my feet were wet, the first time that this occurred on the trip. I looked down and realized that the rain was blowing into my boots. A bit later, I noticed that I could feel water squishing around. Then later that my boots were filling up with water and my toes were covered. We saw another couple that we had met two days earlier and asked them how they were faring. They were considering options, including dropping down from the hilltops and walking around on the road. We did not then realize that there was more than one reason to do that and how close the road to Ruthin was.

We trudged onward. I, in a cheery tone, asked Martin if he thought we could make it.  Surprisingly, he said, "Perhaps. It is too early to tell.” My ankles were covered in water by this time. We made it down the hill, sliding through the mud and started up the next ridge.  "Martin, do you hear that howling?” I asked. He thought it was just the wind, but I wasn't so sure.  It seemed strange that the wind and rain were so hostile.  Perhaps that Welsh ghost last night was threatening us. It was hard to tell since he had such a thick accent and my Welsh is shaky in the best of conditions. The howling continued. The wind was lifting me up slightly when I took steps up to the ridge. I felt as if something was pulling me up.  I was actually getting frightened.  Dealing with attack sheep and handling cross bows were second nature to me, as easy as stile hopping, but I felt that this situation was different. Finally Martin said that this was dangerous. We caught up to the next couple and told them that we were turning back. They told us that when we turned around to not look back since there was something odd about the wind and asked if we had garlic. It was getting wet but we did have it.

We then fought the wind going back, making it up and down the ridges, and finally getting down to the flooded fields. I kept seeing things out of the corner of my eye but I was more concerning about Martin who started shivering at our tea stop. We ate 5 protein bars in the lee of the trees and decided we needed to find a warm pub back in Llandegla.  We kept slogging back, slipping and sliding through the mud, keeping our garlic tightly at hand. At long last, we saw the village church. I noticed that there was a sign "refreshments," but we wanted the warmth of a pub. On the way through the village, we ran into another set of hikers who told us that the pub was closed. I suggested the church. By now, we noticed that the village was ominously devoid of people and that the howling was worse. "Quick!,” I yelled, “to the church!” I ran ahead of Martin to open the door and pulled him in, slamming it closed on some pretty solid looking wind. By now, my hands were so cold that I couldn't get the packet of our dry clothes open and so the lady hiker had to help.  "What was that out there?” I asked. I don't want to know, she said. After about six cups of hot tea with sugar, and some dry clothes, we recovered and contemplated what to do. Our English cell didn't work but the iPhone came to the rescue and we called Hughie at Glyn Clywd Isa. He picked us up in the driving wind and rain and said that the flooded roads and fields were problems all over Wales. We arrived wet and still shivering to their lovely 200+ year old home. They had an Aga, a stove that is always on, so it kept the flagstone floor in their kitchen warm as we took off sodden boots and socks. We unpacked. Everything was wet except the clothes in REI compression sacks. Passports in ziplocks, money in ziplocks, camera, guidebook, food, tea (just kidding, we drank it all earlier.). We dried it all in front of the Aga, our new friend. Soon, we were ensconced in front of an oak log fire with tea and scones. I could write poems in homage to Welsh scones, by the way. Slightly hard on the outside, moist and tender on the inside, sweet only with raisins, moistened with jam and clotted cream. Yum.

I took a long hot bath at their insistence. Linda and Hughie thought I still looked cold and other storm refugees were expected.  When they turned up, we found that they had been in front of us on the trail by only a couple of hundred feet. They went on to a road into Ruthin, sought refuge in a coffee shop, took a bus to Denbeigh, used a laundromat to dry their clothes and walked to the b and b. Very resourceful, I thought.

So we now knew from personal experience why it is hard to find garlic in Wales (used to repel werewolves in the wind), we found storms worse than Alaska, and we were left in a quandary regarding completing our hike. Should we reschedule the rest of the trip or go on to finish the last day? Would the barometer turn from foul to fair on the morrow?

Finally, Hughie had us read a published tale of their property on the sightings of the "grim eleves" and photographic evidence of unexplained activity of the grim elf sighting. Oh well, that is another tale. We are warm and dry and safe, tucking into a dinner of lasagna, garlic bread, spinach salad and cobbler with custard sauce.

Deborah Hansen

Chirk Castle or Castle Mill to Llandegla

Thursday, August 16, 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.

Chirk Castle or Castle Mill to Llandegla

Next: will the barometer turn from foul to fair as we make our way to Llandegla and stay in Wales for the rest of the trip?

Dear loyal Readers:

We have just safely arrived at Bodidris Hall, Llandegla (about 450 years old) after another harrowing day on the trail: 15.5 miles of close calls and ugly scrapes. In reverse chronological order, we finished a delicious dinner of wild onion soup, lamb, mushroom velouté and apple and cream tart followed by tea in the great hall. When we checked in, there were Welsh cakes, tea and sherry in our room. This, of course, compensates for the dangers in reaching this destination. While the weather was finally pleasant, we narrowly escaped with our lives.

Early in the evening, when we arrived in the village, we headed over to the store and post office. Norma, the postmistress, made us comfortable since we were tired, but not wet. It is hard to evade the trail hazards, something that I didn't expect in Wales. Fortunately, my mother warned me when I called to say goodbye, so we had the entire flight over to England to plan what to do.  Our guidebook did address the issues of borrowing weapons, but I felt that Martin was very creative with the weapons wagon. It was too bad that we had to abandon it. Again, the Welsh were very welcoming- they totally understood that we were not able to bring our own weapons over for the hike. I can understand why people train so long for this event since it is just not hiking but defending oneself. It is a good thing that my brothers taught me so many defensive moves and that The Hockaday School taught me archery. Martin is great in tight situations since he is handy with so many different weapons and improvising shelters.

Norma asked where we were headed. When I said Bodidris Hall, she said that she would take us since a taxi would cost so much. She said that would be her good tourist deed of the day. Bodidris Hall was splendid, but a bit run down although the room we had is close to the same size as our house. We had a lovely view of the gardens. The rate we had included dinner and breakfast. We arranged for dinner and relaxed in our room, drinking tea, sherry and eating Welsh cakes and taking a hot bath.  

But I digress. We left Castle Mill in good time since we knew it would be a long day. We climbed up towards Chirk and resolved to come back to visit. It is the oldest continuously lived in castle in Wales. It is quite impressive, a looming gray bulk on the top of a hill.  We knew that we were safe since armed castle guards patrolled the grounds. The sheep looked friendly. We were making good time in the sun. We spied peregrine falcons and various and sundry bird life. There were no golf courses. The day was going well.

We met a southbound party. Not only had they paid to ship their luggage ahead, they had paid for an armed guard to escort them from station to station, medieval and modern: crossbows and quarter-staves with kevlar vests and pants, goretex helmets.  We chatted with them, eager to learn of the perils ahead. Their tour operator, in addition to shipping luggage and making hotel bookings, had arranged for a shift of armed escorts for each stage, assuring them that the escorts knew the trail in that area. I had no idea tour operators did that kind of thing.

They warned of wolverine attacks, although their day had been relatively uneventful, with only the nuisance of a minor badger attack. They had seen signs of wolverines massing in the woods and perhaps making an unholy alliance with the badgers and warned us to take extra caution.

Martin kept his morning star on the advice of the escorts and gathered wood staves and sharpened and fire hardened them.  I kept my bow at the ready as we cautiously walked forward.  Within an hour, the unexpected occurred. I was in walking in front and the ground surrounding me began to sink. The badgers had undermined the trail! As I sank into the earth, the wolverines charged from the woods. An ugly situation indeed.  

I caught myself with my arms on the edge of the pit and Martin dragged me back up to safety. Horrors! We could

hear the badgers digging underneath us. We thrust our sharpened stakes into the ground to discourage them. We can’t stay on the path with the gibbering hoard below. Martin holds back the wolverines with a sharpened stake as I prepare the bow and begin firing. Between our spirited defense and leaving the path, we had broken the back of their devious plot. Before they could regroup, we surged onward to the next hill. We were now searching for a cow pasture, knowing the cow/wolverines antipathy. (Such a cow is to the left, keeping a keen lookout for any of its numerous animal foes.)

I couldn't help but think of previous vacations, sipping tea at the Deux Magots in Paris while contemplating St. Germaine de Pres or getting a pedicure at the edge of the Indian Ocean. Instead, I am fighting in armed combat in the rain with badgers and wolverines while climbing hill after hill. We have learned the code now in the guidebook: decline versus steep decline, climb versus steep climb. "Ridge" always means windswept, usually with hail. The views have been splendid and our fellow travelers quite interesting. I have become much more skilled in reading contour maps and packing and unpacking. I should note that unlike Martin, I have not lost anything yet.

Finally, we stagger into Llandegla, with all our gear and no other incidents. However, storm clouds were looming and I think that Norma, the kindly storekeeper, wants to give us some advice.  As she drives us to the Hall, she finally says, "it is said that specters are seen there at night. Take caution and keep your garlic close by."

I hope that we survive to travel onwards to the second to the last day of hiking to Prestatyn.

Yours apprehensively,


Catherine's Alaskan Adventures

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Catherine, the Pike's Marketing Summer Intern, has an excellent blog, L'Americaine Gourmande that details her gastronomic adventures while traveling or at home. Since she has been living in Alaska this summer, she has detailed several of her adventures, including her first time dipnetting, along with delicious recipes for food she has cooked. Catherine started the blog to detail the differences in cooking in America and France, where she studied abroad, as well as post recipes of tasty things she has made. To read her great blog entry about dipnetting on the Kenai, just click HERE and make sure to read through for her delicious salmon recipe. One of the side projects she is working on as marketing intern is designing and making holiday costumes for the Pike's Waterfront Lodge Lucky Ducks. If you are not familiar with them, I'm talking about three different stuffed ducks modeled after the real ducks that live on the hotel grounds.

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

Welshpool to Four Crosses/Domgay

Thursday, August 02, 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.

Welshpool to Four Crosses/Domgay

Dear readers,

We set off with a heavy heart, knowing we would not see Angela and David along with the comfort of their wolfhounds. However, Julie, who was a very helpful front desk manager at the Royal Oak, learned of our problem and consulted with the bartender. He produced a loaner brace of morning stars that he felt I could use with a bit of practice. That evening after dinner, Martin and I made use of the bricked-in area next to the hotel. I passed muster.

The first part of the walk in a driving rain followed by a hailstorm was uneventful. The first intimations of trouble came when we met a southbound party mending their chain mail by the side of the trail. They quickly relayed news of unusual trouble. Scottish border wolves have been moving south. Since farmers had been successfully defending their flocks, the wolves had taken to foraging among Offa's Dyke travelers.  They had heard of this new danger and thus had worn chain mail over their hiking gear. It added to the weight, but they felt surviving the trail was most important.

We were quite concerned since we would be walking in a relatively exposed section of the trail, on the embankment to contain the flood from the Severn. When in a difficult spot, we felt that it was always important to eat so we found a lovely tree stump and set up our simple lunch of cheese, fresh bread, tea and ginger cookies and green apples.  It was now sunny and warm enough to require only three light layers of wool. Martin and I were talking quietly of strategies should a wolf pack attack occur. I was nervous given my limited morningstar experience and wished that I had not turned in the crossbow.

As I turned, scanning for trouble, I saw the wolves, creeping under the hedge, slinking in a very unusual pattern. Martin and I were stymied for a moment since we didn't have our missile weapons. But we realized since they were creeping under the fence, they were at a disadvantage we could exploit. Brisk work with the morningstars sent the survivors howling off to the river. We finished lunch and continued on with the hike.

When we reached Four Crosses without further incident, we heaved a sigh of relief and then hiked to our B and B for the night, a five star historic hall in the hamlet of Domgay.  Fortunately, it was easy to find and our host, Mark, was waiting for us. He escorted us to our luxurious lodging on the second floor. It not only featured a jacuzzi bath but also a heated floor, delicious cookies, and tea. We immediately availed ourselves of these luxuries since it had been a trying day despite our success with the wolves. We also washed our clothes and laid them on the bathroom floor to dry.  That night, over a delectable dinner of meat pie and salad finished with sticky toffee pudding, we discussed the next day's perils with Mark since we needed his insight. (Above, a beautiful bed and breakfast complete with training grounds, stables, and barracks around back.)

Tomorrow - on to Castle Mill at Chirk Castle.

Deborah Hansen

Cym Chapel to Welshpool

Thursday, July 26, 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.

Cym Chapel to Welshpool

Dear Gentle Readers:

The day started with delicious homemade bread for breakfast along with eggs, cereal, ham, jam, mushrooms and yogurt. Lynne sent us off with the best lunch of the trip: two ham sandwiches each on homemade bread with lettuce, apples, kitkat bars and orange juice.  She was so happy to see that we had the crossbow because she said while we should make it through the Mellington Hall estate safely, she had heard reports of black sheep attacks on small groups near Brompton Crossing.

Unfortunately, today started with a huge storm and hail again as we worked our way north. We were relaxed as we knew we were safe for the first five miles. We passed Brompton Crossing and happily espied David and Angela. We walked with them for an hour for safety and conversation. We found that we were all bound for Welshpool and agreed to meet for dinner at the Royal Oak. They travel without weapons, relying instead on their six Irish Wolfhounds. The dogs were very friendly to Americans. Finally, we had to part ways as foot cramps necessitated a stop for me. I laid down my cross bow to unlace my boot. Martin undid his backpack to get out the comfrey cream the South Africans gave us in Hay. Suddenly, without warning, a brace of badgers darted from the heretofore undetected badger hole and bore off with Martin's rain pants. Oh disaster! Oh horror! Oh poor Martin in the rainy, cold Welsh countryside without rain gear. We consoled ourselves with a delicious ham sandwich and thought what to do.

We continued hiking and renewed our vigilance to the dangers surrounding us. Martin decided that he could wear the garbage bag around his waist, cutting out the bottom and using the ties to hold it on, a rain kilt.

We walked and hopped stiles: 30 total today and one long, long climb up to an Iron Age hill fort. Fortunately, we made it to the top without incident. As we circled it, we heard an ominous baaing- the sound of black sheep massing for an attack. Martin shouted "run for cover!" We retreated to the hill fort. I loaded the crossbow; Martin readied ammo pile for slingshots. We were ready when the feral black sheep came into view, their yellow eyes gleaming as they charged. I fired bolt after bolt while Martin plied the slingshot to great effect. They faltered at our strong resistance. My final shot took the leader and they fled. We recovered the bolts but left the rocks as we made our way down the steep decline towards Buttington Bridge. We hastened to find our way as the sun was flirting with the distant hills as dark clouds gathered as we crossed the bridge, running since there was no pedestrian way on this late Victorian designed bridge. We took our life in our hands with no wildlife in sight as we crossed the roundabout to get to the Montgomery canal, finishing our 18-mile day as we limped into the Royal Oak. A hot bath restored us and we found David and Angela in the snug. We chatted and left for a delicious dinner in the restaurant. I had a lamb shank, Martin a rib eye, followed by apple and custard. Angela and David treated us to this fine dinner because, they said, they realized that we would part ways after this night since they were not lingering in Welshpool as we were.  We were sorry at our parting as we had learned much of the ways of the long distance walking lore from them. They are planning to walk the Camino next fall and we eagerly look forward to hearing their stories.

 We had a pleasant but uneventful day in Welshpool, visiting the foot reflexologist, replenishing our supply of ibuprofen and seeing the rather magnificent Powis Castle. We just missed seeing the Earl who toured it 30 minutes before us with some friends of his. The garden is astounding with topiary yews over 300 years old. We had the best dinner of the trip at Corn Shop. Martin has sea bass and I goat cheese tart with onions. The parsnips with peanuts, beets and potatoes lyonnaise, all fabulous, followed by a berry and hazelnut roulade. To the right we see Martin, in between being attacked by the wildlife, checking for the correct trail.

We left the crossbow at the Royal Oak for return to the Horse and Jockey. Tomorrow is a safe and flat walk to Four Crosses and our stay at Rhandregynwen Hall. Then onto Chirk Castle. We hope to find out more about the trail from our host Mark.

Deborah Hansen

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

Kington to Knighton

Thursday, July 12, 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.

Kington to Knighton

Dear Readers:

Please excuse grammatical and other errors since I am usually typing this after a harrowing day of hiking and dodging the wild animals in Wales. I had no idea of the horrors that awaited us in the trek between English Kington to Welsh Knighton. We felt pressured as we wanted to visit the Offa's Dyke visitor center in Knighton before it closed at 5 pm, so we hustled out of Kington at 8:45 after eating a protein heavy English breakfast and stopping for a package of biscuits and bread to go with our last remaining cheese and last tin of tuna for lunch on the trail.

Unfortunately, heavy fog and rain enveloped the area overnight so as we left town, we ascended into the thick fog as we traversed yet another golf course. Fortunately, the cows and sheep couldn't see us any better than we could see them. Alas, lost in the featureless wasteland, we lost the trail. It started raining. Staying calm, we retraced out steps and tried crossing the field at the top of the mountain again. Through sheer luck, we stumbled into Offa's Dyke. As we were trying to figure out where we were, two walkers going from north to south loomed out of the mist so we then knew what direction to take.

We marched on with our wagon of weapons. This was difficult because this section of trail specialized in numerous styles rather than gates. Up till now, the sheep have scattered or at least moved aside as we passed on the trail. We noticed what we thought were heavier patches of fog at ground level were moving towards us. The fog had hooves. We walked faster. The fog sheep began to trot. We made it to the next style and wrestled the wagon over.  We decided to carry the weapons because Martin was concerned that we would be separated at a style and an attack would occur when we were defenseless.

The sheep mist thickened. Martin shouted, “Let's get to the roman hill fort” that we had noticed the map indicated lay ahead. We noticed earlier that the sheep baaed from field to field to signal ahead. We were quite alarmed now. Racing, we made it to the fort’s stonewall. Martin felt slingshots would work the best since the pack was so dense, we couldn't miss. We repeatedly fired into the mass, yelling Celtic war cries. We were reinforced by a larger party of hikers wearing chain mail. United, we drove a wedge into the sheep mass, escaped down the hill, leaving the demoralized sheep behind in their bovine fury.

As they hikers parted ways, they advised us to be careful around the hill top mounds (ancient pre-Roman burial sites).

During the rest of the day, we had over 15 separate storms pass by, usually when we were on ridges. We have had hail every day but two. We made it into Knighton at 5:12, just missing the visitors’ center. We resolved to wait for it to open the next morning, unknowingly setting us up for the travails of Knighton to Cym Chapel. We stayed in the best room of the trip so far in the 700 year old Horse and Jockey Inn and had a delicious dinner with our English friends in the snug.

We have used everything that we brought except the alarm clock and clothespins. It has been so cold that I have worn my short sleeve wool shirt, long sleeve wool shirt, the L.L.bean wool jacket, raincoat, specialized tights, skirt, gloves, buff, wool hat and rain hat AT THE SAME TIME. (To the left, the brave adventurers getting ready for a day on the trail.)

Despite the weather, the animals, long days and getting lost, we are having a wonderful time seeing such an interesting part of the world.

Deborah Hansen

Hay-on-Wye to Kington

Friday, July 06, 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.

Hay-on-Wye to Kington

 Hello all,

 We had heard reports of belligerent badger harassment on the Hergest ridge on the way into Knighton but we were taken by surprise by the domineering cows in the fields approaching the ridge. Martin had taken to pulling a cart of weapons after the bad incident with the rabbits. It was fortunate he had planned ahead as subsequent events proved his forethought providential.

We had just entered a field by the Wye, high about the river with splendid views of Hay and beyond when a meek almost timorous cow ambled over to us. Martin remained alert as I photographed this mild bovine specimen. Just as fog oozes through the Golden Gate, other cows silently ringed us, eyeing my camera and walking stick. They sensed the iPad within.
They moved closer, crowding us away from the Offa Dyke path toward the red mucky clay pasture where we knew we could not escape. Martin shouted to me to drop back behind his pack as he whipped out the double-edged, two handed axe. He whirled it about him; it whistled through the air as the cows dropped back. "Run,” he shouted "toward the acorn”, a sign marking Offas Dyke and the path to safety. He fought his way to me as we leapt over the stile, leaving the killer cows behind.

We then rested in the vestibule of the Romanesque church of St. Michael of the Fiery Comet (this is the real name). We had a delicious lunch of roast beef on a whole grain roll followed by tea from our flask and Welsh cakes make with sultanas and currants. Yum. Storm after storm blew through as we experienced sleet and hail with the wind blowing so hard that we couldn't use our umbrellas. We finally made it to Gladestry where there was a public house. I was fantasizing about a hot pot of tea. Alas. The whole town was at a funeral so the public house was closed and we drank our cold water and ate our cold protein bars in the bus stop. The bus comes by weekly. We met up with some hikers that we had been seeing, David and Angela from Leeds, and chatted while it poured.
We then climbed up the Hergest Ridge for gorgeous views into Wales. There were still storms passing through but the wind was at our backs and the sun came out. A glorious day. After we found our b and b, we had a fine dinner at the Oxford Arms and met our new friends again.

Tomorrow onto Knighton and what perils lurk on the trail.



Intro to Offa's Dyke- the 182-mile Adventure

Thursday, June 28, 2012


The following weekly blog entries are accounts written up by Deborah, Pike’s Waterfront Lodge Marketing Director, detailing her exploits hiking along Offa’s Dyke with her husband, Martin. Offa’s Dyke is a 15-day, 182-mile walk that took the brave Deborah and Martin through a gauntlet of perils as they walked, hiked, and slogged along the border of England and Wales. Each day they hiked a considerable distance through all manner of geography, encountering both mundane and fabulous beasts, some benign, but most dangerous as they attempted to safely make it to their next bed and breakfast each night. Faced with the perils of the road, these fearless travelers soon took up arms to insure that their walk would not result in their certain doom. Edited for clarity as most of these stories were composed while soaked to the bone and pursued by ravenous wildlife, I have nonetheless endeavored to retain the spark and spirit that animates Deborah’s original manuscript. Read on to discover the thrills and chills of Offa’s Dyke!