Offa’s Dyke Path – Day 8

May 25, 1987: Beggar’s Bush to Knighton

Near Yew Tree Farm

Near Yew Tree Farm

On May 25, l987 (Bank Holiday Monday) we rose early and packed quickly. Mrs. Heggs had agreed to give us our breakfast at 7:30. This was an excellent meal; Tosh had to order our hostess to stop bringing more food. Mrs. Heggs then started making packed lunches for us, bustling about the kitchen in her trousers, Toby at her feet. Harold had predicted that we would not get off at 8:00 (as I had wanted) and he was right. It was 8:20 before we were able to say our goodbyes. I can’t think of a farmhouse b&b more satisfactory than Beggar’s Bush. Dorothy was charmed; it took away the bad taste of other experiences – about which we continued to grumble long after the event.

We marched up the hill and turned north along the dyke. There was some ambiguity about which side of a fence we were supposed to be on, and Harold actually climbed over the barbed wire at one point to have a look. In the end it didn’t matter as both routes met at the crest of the hill in order to begin a descent to Yew Tree Farm and the Lugg Valley. Dorothy predicted that the sun would soon be out and she was right. We followed a field path next to a stream across the flat valley bottom and crossed the River Lugg on Dolley Old Bridge. Ahead was the hamlet of Dolley Green, with Methodist and Baptist chapels facing each other warily across the street – but we turned off slightly before this religious confrontation and began climbing a steep track that lead up to Furrow Hill.

Surely this was one of our steepest ascents and we paused several times for breath-taking – once even having a sit-down. Dorothy, seeing me take a distant shot of the back of packs struggling ahead, accused me of never taking shots of people’s faces. But I had trouble in those days focusing on close-ups and by the time I was reasonably satisfied the subject had gone to sleep or off in a rage. On this trip, anyway, Dorothy was taking snap shots with an American College camera. Many turned out wonderfully; others were thoughtful studies of her fingers.

After coming up to a wood we reached the line of the dyke and continued on grassland for close to a mile, with wonderful views of Welsh farming country to our left. At a barn we made a sharp turn to the right and did a dog leg to the top of Hawthorn Hill. We were at 1300 feet. We had another rest here, having reached our high point for the day. Toby would eat an apple only if it were thrown so that he could chase it first.

We continued forward, amid puns (“Let’s be offa”). I stumbled once when I stepped into an animal burrow and twisted my right knee just a jot. My greatest problem was my right boot, whose tongue was jabbing me without consideration until I loosened the top a bit. Dorothy was also complaining of being a bit footsore today. On the whole, we concluded, the feet like it best in the wet.

Offa’s Dyke plinth near “mile 78”

Offa’s Dyke plinth near “mile 78”

Near Cwm-Whitton Hill we passed the monument to Sir Richard Green Price, the man who brought the railway to Radnorshire. The path, paralleling a much easier farm road that we soon used, reached the B4355 and a nineteenth century Offa’s Dyke plinth that dated the Dyke at 757, the first year of Offa’s reign – and therefore extremely unlikely. We walked on top of the Dyke, coming in and out of a bright, warm sunshine that was beginning to eat into our energy. “You have a Schnauzer,” a man accompanying a school group commented when our paths crossed, “my sister has two.”

Once again we reached the B4355; some road walking was needed as far as the B4537, where we turned left. At a telephone kiosk we escaped the traffic, first on a lane, and then along the dyke again. We were climbing gradually to the crest of Ffridd hill, our last ascent. There were other walkers about but no animals and Toby was enjoying the last of his freedom. The sun was taking it out of him too, and the strain of scrambling through the stiles was beginning to show. Over the crest of the hill there was a steep descent to Knighton along the edge of the town golf course. Woods, on our left, impeded views of the town for quite a while but eventually we reached the bottom of the path and had a peek through the last of the foliage at the town. It looked quite Scandinavian, with its wooden church towers, and a huge woodland rising on the hillsides opposite. Against a darker pattern of fir trees the yellow green of another species had been planted to spell out a huge ER.

Knighton

Knighton

Dorothy, cautious on steep descents, made her way down the path and joined us as we left the comforts of nature for the tarmac and pavement of town life. It was quite warm and sunny, very pleasant. We made our way forward with a few inquiries and headed straight for the train station. It was only 12:10 and we had covered eight miles. Opposite the train station we left the girls and the dog at the Kinsley pub. Harold and I checked out train times in this unmanned station but no special hours had been posted for bank holidays and we were still relying on times given over the telephone.

The kind publican confirmed 12:54 as a departure time when I went in to get drinks for Harold and myself. A local, holding up one end of the bar, asked why I wanted to go to London anyway. He had just been there and it was too busy.

My party was in the garden, surrounded by kids at play. I took a seat at a nearby shady table and enjoyed a leisurely pint of Castlemaine’s, a bonus for having arrived so early. Everyone went inside to use the loo and wash up and at 12:45 we made our way to the station. Many passengers were waiting for the Shrewsbury train. This connection had seemingly escaped the notice of the ticket sellers at Paddington station, who had booked Harold via Swansea, a six-hour journey! I was quite certain, from my study of the timetable and a call to Shrewsbury BR, that we could make much faster progress heading in the opposite direction, and so it proved.

We ate our sandwiches on the crowded little train; its two cars were so busy that people were forced to stand. Naturally BR wanted to shut this line down. While he was munching I presented Harold with a congratulatory summary of all of his long-distance walking to this point, for he had just reached his 500th mile. In less than an hour we were at Shrewsbury and we had about a twenty-minute wait for a train to Birmingham. Toby had some pees against pylons as we walked him the length of the platform.

We changed again at Birmingham New Street. A guard told me platform two for Euston but as we were heading there a p.a. announcement directed us to platform four. Here a fast train was ready to take us with only two stops back to London. There was plenty of room too. We arrived at 5:04. Dorothy saved the best remark of the trip for our exit. Having heard so much about the problems of the Lee children over the last few days she said to the troubled parents, “With all due respect to Tim and Amy, don’t you think two goldfish would have been better?”

We said goodbye before Tosh rushed into a loo. But a few minutes later the Lees arrived on our platform for a ride on the Circle Line. Finally we parted at Paddington, where we continued on the Bakerloo Line. The last shot shows Dorothy going into the Lokanta for Turkish take-out after a most successful trip. This had been the first overnight expedition for the four of us in almost two years and Toby’s first overnight sortie. I was quite pleased with the outcome and already at work planning the next outing.

To continue with the next stage of our walk you need:

Day 9: Knighton to Newcastle