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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.

Deb