< Offa's Dyke - a virtual walk – Mamie Martin Fund

Offa’s Dyke – a virtual walk

Carol Cuthbertson walked this virtually
Part of Offa’s Dyke from the air

Offa’s Dyke is a path that runs along the border between Wales and England. Carol Cuthbertson, MMF supporter and the wife of Mamie Martin’s nephew, Alastair, has walked Offa’s Dyke as part of Borders22. Sadly, Carol had a fall in July and that slowed her progress but she got back on her feet and completed the walk by mid September. Well done Carol!

Carol reaches the end of Offa’s Dyke. Huge achievement!

I have now reached Prestatyn, at the Northern end of Offa’s Dyke. Unlike the Southern end, which is marked by a milestone, there is a fine statue on the promenade at Prestatyn. Rather belatedly I have found a map showing which parts of the Path are in Wales, and which in England, although of course the original Dyke would have followed the border. The guidebook didn’t seem interested in such detail.

From Bwich Penbarra the Dyke path follows the Eastern edge of the Clwydian Range, passing various hill forts. It ascends Moel Faman, the summit of the range, from where there are splendid views of Snowdonia. Later it veers away from the Range and the coast comes into view. The North Hoyle wind farm lies about 5 miles off shore. It was the first offshore wind farm in the UK when it opened in 2003. The path wends its way to the outskirts of Prestatyn passing an interesting industrial archaeological site and a lovely nature reserve. The final mile or so is through the outskirts of the town, then straight along the High Street to the promenade.

My local route to reach the end of my virtual walk included our Japanese Garden.  It is not at its best but the water lilies are flowering when the sun shines and the carp are always curious to see if there is any food on offer. A magnificent red kite was in evidence over the valley. I am sure I would have seen many such birds on the actual walk.

It has been a fascinating project, trying to show the highlights from the guide book and linking them to local points of interest. How I would have loved actually to walk the path, but at least a virtual walk is not weather dependent.

26th August. Six week ago today, I was out putting in a few miles along Offa’s Dyke when I suddenly found myself flat on my face on a bridle path.  That meant that my virtual walk came to a grinding halt.  However, our retirement complex has extensive grounds, with two meadows which have paths cut in them, so after a week or two I was able to clock up the odd half mile or so and by now a mile and a half or so at a time. Before the accident I never counted walks within the grounds, but it is surprising how they add up.

I resumed the walk at the town of Chirk, near where there is a famous aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal. The path only joins the canal several miles further on and goes across the even more famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which was built to carry the canal across the valley of the River Dee. The aqueduct is the longest and highest in Britain. The canal connected the industries of north east Wales with the canal network leading south to the English midlands.( I am particularly interested in canals because the Grand Union Canal running from London to the Midlands passes through Berkhamsted).

Later the path skirts below dramatic limestone outcrops and crosses a heather moor to reach the quiet backwater of Llandegla, once on a busy droving road through North Wales. I am now about 8 miles further on at the small settlement of Bwich Penbarra, with about 17 miles to complete the walk.

10th July: Since my last post I finished the tough section through the Southern Shropshire hills. It ends at the hamlet of Brompton,  notable for the fact that it is impossible to reach only one settlement in England by road from it without first passing through Wales. The next section was much less challenging, passing through the Vale of Montgomery and then over the Long Mountain. The ascent of the mountain to its summit at 1336ft is long but comparatively gentle. We joined the River Severn at Buttington. Another gentle section followed, much of it along the Severn.  I am now in the village of Trefonen, near Oswestry, Shropshire. The name of the village reflects the close proximity to the border with Wales. Offa’s Dyke ran through the village and is still visible in places today.

19th June: I am now about 10 miles North of the border town of Knighton. The path has crossed two magnificent golf courses, both with stunning views. The Kington course is the highest in England. Our course on Berkhamsted  Common cannot compete, but is lovely in its own way. There are no bunkers, but plenty of gorse bushes. Gorse used to be a valued commodity. The commoners had the right to collect it from the Common to use for fuel. Lord Brownlow tried unsuccessfully to enclose the Common as he wanted gorse (or furze as it used to be called) to fuel his brickworks kilns.

Soon after leaving Kington the path joined the Dyke itself after about 50 miles absence. Since Knighton I have been on the most challenging section of the path. Many ups and downs, following the line of the Dyke.

24th May: I have now reached the market town of Kington. Although it is in Herefordshire it is surprisingly Welsh in character. It lay on busy droving routes out of Wales. The route from Hay has been largely in Wales. It followed the River Wye for a few miles and that will be the last we see of that river. The terrain has been undulating, the highlight being the Hergest Ridge, with extraordinary long views all round. The Chiltern views cannot compare. There are Welsh mountain ponies and sheep grazing on the Ridge. Around here, we are more likely to see a herd of fallow deer or a field of polo ponies. The deer often come into our village at night to feast on our plants. We recently found a discarded antler behind our house. We are surprised how heavy it is.

10th May: I have now reached Hay-on-Wye, the first town since Monmouth. I am too early for the Hay Festival which runs this year from 26th May to 5th June. The town has more than twenty bookshops. Linking to books locally, I came across a very small lending library tucked away above the Grand Union Canal, raising money for our local hospice.

The walk across the Black Mountains was strenuous with mile after mile of magnificent views. The alternative path over Hay Bluff, a prominent peak at the North end of the Black Mountains offers fine views over Hay-on-Wye. We last visited the Bluff in 1999. The Black Mountains are part of the Brecon Beacons National Park. They extend into Herefordshire and are the Easternmost of four ranges in the park.

30th April: I have now reached the Black Mountains on my virtual walk. I left the River Wye behind at Monmouth but have had glimpses of the River Trothy. It is a tributary of the Wye. The way has been mainly through farming land, with the occasional hamlet, so not much of interest to photograph. The Chilterns, where we live, is been alive with bluebells and the Japanese Garden in our retirement village is at its best. Earlier there were daffodils everywhere.

16th April: I have now come through Monmouth and am on my way to the Black Mountains. The best view over Monmouth was from the Naval Temple on the top of the Kymin. The Temple was constructed by the Kymin Club in 1800 to commemorate the second anniversary of the British naval victory at the Battle of the Nile in 1798. Nearer to home, I often visit the remains of WW1 training trenches on Berkhamsted Common.  Many recruits came out here for training  before being sent to the Front.

Offa’s Dyke crosses the River Monnow in Monmouth by the only remaining fortified river bridge in Great Britain with its gate tower standing on the bridge. In Berkhamsted, we have three newly renovated bridges over the Grand Union Canal.

8th April: The walk began on a bitterly cold day. I passed Berkhamsted Castle as an alternative to Chepstow, and am now just beyond Bigswear Bridge, which crosses the River Wye from England to Wales.