14 July 2012
First, Happy Birthday Olga, oh and Happy The Peasants Are Revolting Day to all the Frenchies out there.
Second, Remember when I was anxious to get back to walking along the Dyke itself?
Yeah, I was wrong.
Really, really wrong.
The day started off well, despite an initial 200 meter plus climb from Kington in the first mile. Picture a mile long Cardiac Hill. However, by now, that’s not that big of a deal. It takes a while, I’m certainly not racing up that hill, but it holds no fear.
At the end of that climb I’m at 377 meters at the top of Rushock Hill where the path finally can meet the Dyke again. From here, the Dyke heads westward before heading northward and for a while the path is the Dyke and the uphill ditch.
The top of the Dyke is rough going, full of ankle-twisting mounds and with the promise of dropping off. From Rushock Hill the drop is only 2-3 meters, so not a big deal.
However, you have to get from that 377 meter mark down to 172 meters in another mile, and going down is farrrrr worse. It was tricky, but not overly difficult getting from Rushock to the pass before Herrick Hill, but getting down from Herrick was a mess. It was a wider path than coming down from the Black Mountains to Longtown, but not by a huge amount and it was muddy and chewed up. In other words, it was really really slick. I slipped on my butt twice, once about a foot away from a 500 foot dropoff. It was not as steep as the one to Longtown, nor was I really in danger of falling to it, but….
I pressed on, going slower and finally made it down to Lower Harpton. I missed a turn and went an extra couple of hundred yards but made it. I’d say I made it without difficulty, but that’s only true if you accept that focusing carefully on *every* step and taking an hour to go three quarters of a mile is “without difficulty.”
From Lower Harpton the path leads past Burfa, a really cool Iron Age fort. I have a great picture of it from elevation. This part of the path was great, mildly slick, but broad and only slightly muddy. However, the second half-mile was actually on the Dyke.
Picture if you will a mound that is about 20-25 feet up. Picture that there is a path on the top that is less than a foot wide, and a fence about 2-3 feet on the other side of the top. In other words, there’s nothing really to catch you if you start to slip down to the brook to the left. Picture that the trail is really really muddy and really really slippery. Picture that the trail also generally slopes downward to the ditch. Picture that the fence, which might just be the only thing that’s keeping you at the top of the Dyke is old, loose, and the top part is barbed wire. Now, picture all of that for three quarters to a half of a mile.
That was exhausting and slow. I did much of it sideways, holding on with both hands. No, this was not life-threatening, but it was tiresome and frightening nonetheless.
Oh, and one of the weird things that has happened in the last couple of days is the vast number of flies that have suddenly appeared. Clouds swarming about your face. And they’re aggressive. It is a major annoyance. So, picture the above picture, and then realize that flies are buzzing like mad, and you can’t really do anything about it while both hands are holding onto a fence.
And I gave up and didn’t walk the next two mile stretch that promised to be much like that. By that point I was done as done could be of walking muddy and slippery trails. I walked to Presteigne, which was another 3-4 miles, meaning I had a total of 8-9 miles. I’m not sure exactly.
In Presteigne, I went into the first pub, which happened to be a gay bar, and hung out and dried off. I had been told there was a bus from Presteigne to Knighton at 5:28, but while at that bar being eyed by the guys and laughed at by the dykes, who loved that I was a Dyker, I got informed that the buses don’t run on Saturday often.
But I got lucky, and it turned out that a regular routinely gets a taxi from Presteigne to Whitton, and from there to Knighton was no big deal. Best 10 pounds I’ve *ever* spent.
So now I’m at the Horse and Jockey, showered and ready for a relaxing evening.
15 July 2012
Knighton is sort of the halfway point on the trip. It’s not actually in the middle, being about 80 miles from the south and 100 from the north. However, its Welsh name is Tref-y-Clawdd, which mean Town of the Dyke. This is where they put the Offa’s Dyke Centre and this is where they separate the guidebooks. This then, was the first I’ve really looked at the northern portion of the path, having been focused on the parts I was walking and the southern book and map.
So just about the first thing that is said on the portion from Knighton to Cwm is: “This is the hardest part of the path because of all the short steep ups and downs and it can be hard in wet weather.”
Have I mentioned mud yet?
So screw it, I’m going to roam around Knighton. I may only walk a few miles around the town, but I’m tired of sliding on my butt, especially if this whole day is like that. Besides, there’s actually quite a bit in Knighton. I have a taxi arranged to get me from here to Cwm.
As a bonus, from Cwm at least for a bit, the terrain broadens, the grain of the hills is more north-south instead of the current east-west stretch, and there’s the vanishingly small possibility it might dry some. I can dream, right? It’s not going to rain *every* day I’m here right? It has so far.
On a better note, last night was a blast. Last Saturday the weather was so bad that literally I was the only one in the Coach and Horses in Chepstow. Last night was pleasant, and the Horse and Jockey was hopping. I met and hung out with a lot of cool people, and then moved on to George and Dragon, and then on to an afterparty. Got back to my room at 3:30am. Tonight is a traditional B&B and I suspect I may pass out early.
So, for now, I’m checking out and roaming the town, I really really need to buy some bug spray.