Friday, July 15, 2016


I started this post last summer after completing a 10-day hike of about 80% of the Offa's Dyke Path, a U.K. National Trail that weaves northward along the border that separates Wales and England, from the estuary of the River Severn in the south and the Irish Sea in the north.  I'm not sure why I never got around to completing the post and publishing it, but it may have had something to do with a few traumatic experiences along the way. Among other things, I encountered more aggressive bulls than I had in previous walking trips in the U.K, and on the second day out, I came very close to being severely injured (or worse) when I was charged by a very mean and dangerous bull.  For all of you walkers through remote agricultural country, allow me to humbly offer a simple but hard-learned lesson: Always take trekking poles; they may one day save your life.

That said, I will leave the traumatic memories now and put up some photos of what was otherwise a wonderful walk of all but the last 20% of the 177-mile Offa's Dyke Path.  I decided not to attempt the last couple of days because a significant portion of the last section was on a high ridge of the Clwydian Range, the forecasted weather conditions for that area were horrendous, and I was walking alone. Prudence dictated that I save the last section for another day.

Map of Offa's Dyke Path

Day 1:  Chepstow to Redbrook

Stone at Sedbury Cliffs (on the Severn) Marking Beginning of Offa's Dyke Path

Early Stage of Path

Early Stage of Path

Chepstow Castle,
construction of which began in 1067,
is the oldest surviving post-Roman
stone fortification in the United Kingdom.

Sunday day-walkers as I leave Chepstow

Tinturn Abbey 
(made famous by William Wordsworth's "Lines Composed a Few Miles
Above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour.  July 13, 1798,"
a portion of which is set forth below)

                                                                            . . . I have felt
                                  A presence that disturbs me with the joy
                                  Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
                                  Of something far more deeply interfused,
                                  Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
                                  And the round ocean and the living air,
                                  And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
                                  A motion and a spirit, that impels
                                  All thinking things, all objects of all thought, 
                                  And rolls through all things.  Therefore am I still
                                  A lover of the meadows and the woods
                                  And mountains; and of all that we behold
                                  From this green earth; of all the mighty world
                                  Of eye, and ear, — both what they half create,
                                  And what perceive; well pleased to recognize
                                  In nature and language of the sense
                                  The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse, 
                                  The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
                                  Of all my moral being.

Refined Section of Path Near Tinturn Abbey

Path Along River Wye

Winding Through Wildflower Meadow Along River Wye

Bigsweir Bridge Over the River Wye

Descending Into Village of Redbrook 

Accommodations for Evening in Redbrook

Day 2:  Redbrook to White Castle

Farmer's Track Bordered by Foxglove and Other Wildflowers

Thirteenth Century Gate House Over the River Monnow in Monmouth
(the town in which the future king Henry V was born in 1387)

Sometimes there's a bridge, sometimes not . . .

Sometimes the path is barely visible, such as when crossing a mowed hay field . . .

. . . or crossing a barely trodden wildflower meadow.

A wonderful old church that
always makes tea and biscuits available to walkers

Country lane with Black Mountains in distance
(will soon be walking across that ridge from left to right)

Ruins of White Castle in Monmouthshire, Wales

Day 3:  White Castle to Longtown

Passing through wildflower meadow
(path on extreme right) toward the Black Mountains

 St. Cadoc's Church (13th Century) in LLangattock-Lingoed, 
accross from Old Rectory B&B, where I spent the night

Looking back as I begin walk up toward ridge of mountains

Had lunch on top of this little knoll as I climbed up to the ridge

Note how terrain changes into moorland 
as I continue toward the upper ridges.  Also
note the remains of an ancient circular stone fort in the distance.

With more elevation, one can see the stark 
difference between rather barren vegetation of the higher elevations 
and the rich, fertile fields and pastures in the distant valley.

This view, looking backward from the direction I'm walking, 
gives a sense of how much elevation I've gained since beginning
the day near the distant horizon.

Concrete pillars like this one are called "trig points."  
They were used historically for measurement and navigational 
purposes, and are frequently seen by walkers in the British countryside.

Path Through Moorland on Top Ridge of the Black Mountains

This image shows the variety of terrain in the Black Mountains of Wales — moorland in the foreground, a valley of fertile fields below, and a colorless rocky moonscape in the distance.

In the late afternoon of my first day in the Black Mountains, I took the only 
available path down (left foreground) to search for my pub accommodations in the valley below.

My accommodations in Longtown — The Crown pub and b&b

Day 4:  Longtown to Hay-on-Wye

Climbing back up to the ridge path the next 
morning, I encountered some other fellwalkers out for the day.

After soon reconnecting with the Offa's Dyke Path, 
I came upon this cairn which has been constructed stone by stone by walkers 
passing this way.  The tiny stone on top was my contribution for the day.

A few portions of the ridge path have been reinforced
with stones to protect walkers from sinking in the bogs that permeate these moors.

The higher elevations of the ridge suggest a lunar landscape.

Finally, I begin the long descent from the ridge . . .

. . . encountering wild Welsh ponies along the way . . .

. . . passing through welcoming meadows and woodlands . . . 

 . . . to the charming village of Hay-on-Wye, renowned for it fine small bookshops.

Stay tuned.  More to come on the Offa's Dyke walk.


  1. So much of this is familiar to me George. I haven't walked Offa's Dyke Path but have visited many of the places you mention. I've been many times to Tintern Abbey and also love Wordsworth's Poem about it. Hay on Wye is another favourite place - they have a marvellous book festival each year.
    What a super photographic record you have of your visit.

    1. Thanks so much for your lovely comments, Pat. Yes, it's a magnificent area with wonderful, varied landscapes, as well as many charming villages. Stay tuned. I should be putting up another installment in the coming days.

  2. Hello George, I've enjoyed hiking with you and taking in the awesome scenery. The bull encounters I can do without! It looks lonely there on the ridge. Were you glad to descend to the villages for the night?

    1. Yes, Barb, I could have done without the bull encounters as well. That said, it was a lovely 10-day hike. It wasn't all that lonely on the ridge, although I think I passed only two or three people over a 15-18 mile stretch. I took solace in the fact that the weather was reasonably good, at least in the Black Mountains. All of the guidebooks caution against being in the high ridges during bad weather, especially if one is walking alone. It's very easy to get disoriented at those elevations, where there is no shelter whatsoever.

  3. Good to see this at last! The moorland sections remind me of parts of the Pennine Way. Those bulls sound bad though, such is human nature, that's what we're agog to hear about. Remember that herd of cows on Hadrian's Wall?

    1. Thanks, Robert. Some of the moorland on the high ridges seemed almost otherworldly, and, frankly, I didn't expect to see bogs at those elevations, though they were not that wet when I was there. Hope to do the Pennine Way, or some portion of it, one of these days.

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Laura. Delighted you enjoyed this post.

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  6. I enjoyed this quick tag-along tour with you, George. The stones, ruins, bridges, villages, patchwork meadows, churches in your photographs are beautiful. And my heart is really kindled by Wordsworth and the memory of Tinturn Abbey as read by Prof. William Graddy many paths ago. It is special to see it there lying below. Truly sublime. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, Ruth. Glad you enjoyed this little tag-alone tour. Yes, this walk provided opportunities from time to time to enjoy my passions for walking and poetry simultaneously. First, there was Tinturn Abbey and Wordsworth. Later on, I passed through the Shropshire Hills and was reminded throughout that section of A.E. Houseman's "A Shropshire Lad" (more on that to come in the next posting).

  7. What a wonderful walk to have taken and a beautiful photographic journey you've shared with us ... such a variety of landscapes and it looks like you had very interesting places to stay, as well.

    1. Thanks, Teresa. Glad you liked this little photographic journal. More to come in my next posting.