7 July 2012
I am sitting on the initial stone marking the path right now. I’m overlooking the Severn Estuary, which currently has no shipping on it. The bridge over the Severn, stark white in today’s gray light, is busy, however.
The Severn itself is flowing busily to the sea, a brown gray of sand and stories and history.
At the base of the hill that I am on is a bridge over a small creek. One sign says, congratulations on finishing the walk. The sign from the other direction says good luck. Such a metaphor, eh?
OK, so, it’s a cheap and cheesy song, but “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” I know I’m ending some begining right now, but I’m not sure what beginning that is. I’m crying over lost possibilities with Kate as I type this, but I’m not sure when that beginning ended. I’m not sure I’ll ever know our relationship and what happened. I’m not sure she does or will either. All I know is that I want her here right now. If we hadn’t split we would have gone to Ireland in the next year, and I would be patiently waiting while she took picture after picture after picture. I wish I were waiting on her right now. I’m only taking a few, and they aren’t in her class.
As to this beginning of a beginning, it’s fairly auspicious. The weather from my perspective is awesome. Cloudy, windy, cool, but no rain. The path so far has been terribly muddy. News reports from up the trail say that will continue for the entire walk. For now, I’m heading back to Chepstow, about 2-3 miles so I can look at their castle. Then to Gloucester to see the cathedral there.
7 July 2012
It’s about 2:30 now and I’m sitting in a suddenly busy Chepstow Castle. When I got here about an hour ago it was empty. Now there are a dozen college-aged kids. I wonder if a bus just got here 🙂
Getting to this point has been interesting. When I mentioned that the Offa’s Dyke Path is not like the Katy Trail, I really wasn’t kidding. Getting off of the hill was an adventure with as muddy as it is. I literally turned my feet sideways so I could sort of do a semi-controlled slide. I made it barely without falling down.
Parts of the path are ankle or even deeper in mud. Think of the Pennsic when Fernando turned 40 kind of mud. Oh, and in parts there’s not really a path, just a cow-pattie covered field. At one point there was a little creek where 4 rocks had been put in it to help cross it. It was challenging indeed with this mud. Worse was the next part where I had to go down a 5 yard or so little slipway that was entirely mud.
It’s amazing the sense of accomplishment just simply traversing portions like this.
After that, however, it was mostly straightforward paths, though they were often in between some high walls and hedges. You walk generally speaking upwards so you can go along the cliffs overlooking the River Wye. Then through a posh neighborhood onto a cool rock-walled path.
Then you come to a T, in which you can go up to continue the path, or back down to Chepstow. I turned back to Chepstow as I have other plans today. I doubt I’ll actually walk the other 100 yards or so that I missed tomorrow, as the only place that Josie can really drop me off is at the bottom or the top of the hill. I think I’m going to be hard-pressed enough to walk tomorrows 12plus miles without starting at the bottom of a mucking great cliff.
Making my way down the hill brought me to the small bridge over the Wye at Chepstow. Crossing this brought from Gloucestershire, England to Monmouthshire, Wales. This particular bridge was built in 1816. 18-freakin’-16. Meh, it’s a baby.
I stopped for lunch at a small pub called the Three Tuns that happens to be right next to Chepstow Castle. It was an odd meal for me, simply their cheese plate. They gave me three different large wedges of cheese, a good salad, and delicious bread and butter. Oh, and some slightly sweet chutney that I couldn’t identify but which I ate all of. I actually couldn’t eat all they brought me, even though it was delicious, but it was just too much. And that’s saying a lot from me.
Let me tell you this castle is an amazing place to visit. It’s one of the oldest stone fortifications in the UK, well, at least the original tower is. It was added on quite a bit, including by William Marshal, and I would guess it stretches about a quarter mile on a cliff overlooking the Wye. It’s in surprisingly good shape, and there are a ton of the interior places that you can visit. At the barbican you can even go up to the door of the highest tower. At that point you’re at least a hundred feet in the air on both sides (more on the river side). Yes, there’s a wall to each side, but you’re on a 3-foot wide path. I’m proud of myself that I didn’t wet myself in shear terror but it was close-run thing. Heights and wasps are my terrors. Fortunately, I’ve never flooded my house to kill a spider, but I have sprayed bunches of the wasp spray that you’re never ever supposed to spray indoors inside the house in Columbia.
So far today has been immensely valuable for a couple of reasons. First, I knocked off some of tomorrow’s walk, only about a half-mile but still. Second, while my tablet is proving it’s worth, and it takes good pictures, I’m going to need a different camera just because it’s cumbersome. That and I want something with a strap when I’m leaning over something to take a shot. I thought that this might be the case, and Kate gave me some suggestions of what to look for. I’m going to get something this afternoon to smooth that out.
However, here I am in the cool in an opening that I think might have been an oven typing this out. The tablet is so light and convenient that I barely notice it’s presence. Plus, it has more memory than my entire music collection, meaning I’ve got everything, including stuff that I don’t know well or have listened to hardly at all. The soundtrack of this walk has been interesting. Fyrdmen on Campaign has popped up. At one point something Irish-y popped up while I was walking on one of the less developed parts of the path, and it seemed so incredibly perfect at that moment. Something from Korn came up when I was going through the portion that leads through a suburban neighborhood and that helped speed me up a bit. Judas Priest, Rush, and Heather Dale have also contributed.
Actually, for about the entire trip over Heather Dale provided the soundtrack. Specifically, I listened to the Road to Santiago about 20 times. I might just set it on repeat one of these days and learn it on the walk. Someday I’d like to walk the road to Santiago like I’m doing here, but this trip is of course a pilgrimage of its own. I guess you could say I’m seeking God, or Odin, or Zeus, or anyone of their buddies. Introspective only gets me so far right now.
OK, I suppose it’s time to check back in at the B&B, maybe change socks or even go to sandals for the Gloucester portion. Then see about a camera. Then maybe something caffeinated.
7 July 2012
I’m sitting in Mamma Mia waiting on some Italian deliciousness. I was going to eat at the Coach and Horses again, but they don’t serve tonight. Humorously, the landlady came up and apologized for not telling me last night. She’s actually been stressing on that all day.
Nevertheless, earlier I was able to upload my photos for the day. After dinner, I head back to the C&H to post this and finish captioning them.
So I bought a camera today. In fact, I bought the most expensive camera I could. Ummm, let’s just say Chepstow does not have a Wal-Mart. I found one stationary place that actually had 2, count them, 2 digital cameras in stock. I bought a Fuji with 10x zoom and a goodly number of megapixels that came with a holster and a 2gb SD card. Part of the reason that I love this tablet is that it will take SD cards, so this should work fine. It was only $160 or so, so while I would mind losing it, I’m a lot less worried about leaning over something and taking a picture with it than the tablet. In any case, I bought the most expensive camera in Chepstow 😀
Tomorrow the plan is to be on the trail by 10am. Josie will make me another huge breakfast which really suited this morning well. Eggs, bacon, sausage, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, toast, and really tasty strawberry jam and orange marmalade. Yummm. Then, she’ll give me a lift to where I start tomorrow.
The plan is something like 14 miles. I know I said 12.7, but I think I’m taking the low road. The Offa’s Dyke path has only one place where there are two choices, and I hit that tomorrow. The description of the high road is that it is shorter, but harder on essentially unmarked hills. The guide specifically mentions that it’s challenging in bad weather. So, I’ll take the low road along the Wye that is 1.6miles longer.
I’m also going to add more mileage along the way by stopping in Tintern for lunch and to see the Abbey there. I’m of two minds here. Part of me wants to walk every step of the Path. It’s possible if I do Tintern, I don’t make it all the way.
However, in doing so I’ll actually walk at least as much distance, and I kind of think that it would be stupid to pass by such a landmark simply to essentially be pedantic. We’ll see how I do. I actually pass by the lodgings along the way, so if I can’t go on, I can stop a mile or two short today.
For tonight, I’m eating some amazing Italian sausage waiting on my entree. Then it’s back to the C&H for cask ales until midnight or so. 14-15 miles in the mud. I suspect that I’ll be less coherent tomorrow night.
In any case, cheers mates.