The rest of Staffordshire and into the Peaks

  • Day: 40 – Friday 23rd June
  • Started at: Farm on the Hill, nr Ellastone
  • Finished at: Bank Top Farm, Fenny Bentley
  • Miles: 9.5
  • Miles from LE: 487.5
  • Duration: 7hrs (10:30-17:30)
  • Trig points visited: 0
  • Ales imbibed: 0.5x Peregrine 1x Leatherbritches Belter

I woke up to some light rain and as I only had a short day of around 6miles to get to the rendezvous that Rob and I had arranged, I turned over and went back to sleep. When I did rise I pottered about – poked the still smouldering fire (despite dousing it the previous night) – and packed up extra slowly. I eventually set off at 10:30 and decided to ring tonights campsite just to check they had space…and they were full, d’oh. I frantically searched for a nearby alternative, also full and the next one was full too. I expanded my search radius and eventually found one that could accommodate us, but could I get to it? Yes it was actually only 4 miles beyond the original site, but I had started much later and was not mentally prepared for a ‘normal’ length day. Hey ho, better get cracking.

The route out of Ellastone went through woods and it was a surprisingly pleasant jaunt and not too overgrown. Halfway along I passed by Motcarn Sprink whatever it may be? Neither the map nor guidebook can shed any light. The brief rain shower in the morning had made the grass wet and soon soaked my boots and trousers so I opted for the shorts and gaiters look – sexy!

“Today I shall mostly be wearing shorts and gaiters”.

Across a road the path deteriorated (more bashing was required) and when I popped out of the wood I approached a farm and followed the map and guidebook to a farmyard. I was looking for the correct gate when I was approached by a snooty woman who asked condescendingly “are you lost?”. I replied that I knew exactly where I was I just couldn’t see the path. She informed me that I should not have come the way I had despite following the right of way – I think they were in the process of getting the path rerouted but lacked sufficient signage in my opinion. A disagreement was side stepped and she allowed me to take the private access road to the path.

A curious 'stile'
A curious ‘stile’

After a cheeky half in the pub at Swinscoe I stopped for lunch on a bridge over the River Dove which marked my true entry in Derbyshire – whoop! The last part to the campsite was easy so I pitched up, showered, ate (as is my usual routine) and headed to the pub to await Rob’s arrival.

  • Day: 41 – Saturday 24th June
  • Started at: Bank Top Farm, Fenny Bentley
  • Finished at: Lower Greenfields, Youlgreave
  • Miles: 18
  • Miles from LE: 505.5
  • Duration: 9.75hrs (9:00-18:45)
  • Trig points visited: 0
  • Ales imbibed: 0.5x Hartington IPA, 1x 6X Ale

Rob arrived on time and at the campsite produced a bottle of wine, I could feel the effects in the morning! We retraced my steps from the previous evening to the pretty village of Thorpe and then headed to Dovedale via Thorpe Cloud. The short climb was worth it – the views were spectacular and it made me smile when I realised that I had walked from the horizon or “from as far as the eye could see”.

Atop Thorpe Cloud
Atop Thorpe Cloud

Dovedale was gorgeous and not overly busy given it was a bright Saturday in June and a local beauty spot. It strikes me when I pass through places how it only takes a couple of minutes to get away from the crowds. People tend to swarm around a specific place and not venture beyond a very small perimeter – hence ‘honeypot site’ I suppose!

Dovedale
Dovedale

Onwards through Biggin Dale which was initially quiet we got caught up on the route of a charity walk and found ourselves going the opposite way to hoards of fairly miserable people on a narrow path – they were about 25miles into their 28mile route but only a few could raise a smile.

The last few miles were a bit of a drag and not particularly interesting walking – the main excitement (for me anyway) came from a number of fields of cows. Luckily Rob was there for me to cow-er behind and to moo-ve them on when necessary, so no drama!

After setting up at the campsite we headed into the village of Youlgreave for some much needed sustenance. We found that the wells had been dressed which was a nice surprise but didn’t hang around – just took a couple of pictures and moved on. Rob was understandably bushed and although I was fatigued I’m somewhat used to it, plus I didn’t walk 18miles on my first day so fair enough!

Tent fwend!
Tent fwend!
  • Day: 42 – Sunday 25th June
  • Started at: Lower Greenfields, Youlgreave
  • Finished at: Stocking Fm, Calver
  • Miles: 11
  • Miles from LE: 516.5
  • Duration: 7.25hrs (9:45-17:00)
  • Trig points visited: 0
  • Ales imbibed: 0

Much to Rob’s relief we had a shorter day ahead of us, so the morning was more relaxed. We left via Alport and soon found a lost DofE group who were after some help so we let them them follow us until our routes diverged. Haddon Hall then came in to view and just at the right time for coffee and cake, luckily they let us into the grounds without buying a ticket. I had a delicious cream scone and tried – and I think succeeded – to eat it with dignity. The salubrious surroundings and “white glove service” were a welcome departure from a cereal bar sat in a field.

Mmm cream scone at Haddon Hall
Mmm cream scone at Haddon Hall

Onwards from Haddon Hall, across the River Wye (not the one down the Welsh border?) and over some rolling hills and Chatsworth House came into view as did the village of Edensor. We headed down the grassy field to find a nice little tearoom nestled amongst all the identically painted cottages – Chatsworth blue I think it is, I shall have to remember that one for the future, it’s a very earthy blue. After yet more scrummy food including more cake(!) we wandered by Chatsworth House a stunningly quintessential English country estate which I’d not set eyes on until now.

Me at Chatsworth
Me at Chatsworth

A little further on we reached the village of Baslow where Rob had arranged for some relatives to pick him up and take him back to his car. So with my companion gone, the final stretch along the River Derwent to Calver felt quiet and a bit lonely.I arrived at the campsite to find 9 deserted caravans, no answer at the farmhouse and locked facilities. I pitched up anyway, the proprietor did turn up later and showed the magic way into the block. It turns out he had been at Youlgreave to deliver a blessing at one of the wells.

Campsite at Calver
Campsite at Calver
  • Day: 43 – Tuesday 27th June
  • Started at: Stocking Fm, Calver
  • Finished at: North Lees, Hathersage
  • Miles: 10
  • Miles from LE: 526.5
  • Duration: 6.75hrs (9:45-16:30)
  • Trig points visited: Cowper Stone, 457m – SK251830
  • Ales imbibed: 0

I had a day off and took the bus into Bakewell which was exactly what I needed. I found a bustling town centre where there was a cattle market, a regular market and more dressed wells. After my brother’s recommendation I had lunch at Bakewell’s acclaimed Austrian sausage restaurant which was very tasty and left me too full for the town’s more familiar export; Bakewell Pudding. Instead I took a piece of tart to have back at the tent. I had no idea that the pudding vs tart debate could be so divisive but since I’m not particularly fond of almond nor cherry I can take it or leave it.

A well dressing in Bakewell
A well dressing in Bakewell

The following morning I accidentally slept through my alarm and didn’t get going until 9:45. I schlepped it straight up out of the village and onto Curbar Edge which was easier than expected. Once on the edge the views to the west were extensive and I stopped frequently to soak them up.

View from Curbar Edge
View from Curbar Edge

I trotted along the edges stopping off at the National Trust estate of Longshaw for a welcome coffee. There were some light showers but the rain held off for long enough for me to descend off Stanage Edge and pitch my tent at North Lees just outside Hathersage. Unfortunately the site is plagued by midges and so I spent the rest of the day in my tent behind the fly net.

  • Day: 44 – Wednesday 28th June
  • Started at: North Lees, Hathersage
  • Finished at: Strines Inn, Bradfield Dale
  • Miles: 6
  • Miles from LE: 532.5
  • Duration: 3hrs (9:00-12:00)
  • Trig points visited: 0
  • Ales imbibed: 1x Cocker Hoop

The rain commenced at around 3am and was still going strong when I packed up and left. My destination for today was a pub at Flouch about 18miles away. I retraced my steps from the previous afternoon and went straight back up onto Stanage Edge. The cloud was getting lower and on the top the wind was stronger so at a fork in the path I opted the lower one which should offer some shelter from the weather. It did, until the route turned and headed north which brought the wind and rain straight in my face and dampness started to permeate through my layers. I had only done 4miles but was getting cold and the prospect of another 14 across the desolate moorland landscape in these conditions filled me with dread.

Sad and wet Lucy
Sad and wet Lucy

I got to the A57 at Moscar and weighed up my options for getting out of the foul weather. Initially just some respite from the elements would be nice – could I knock on someone’s door? There were only a couple of houses so I approached the one that had the builders in but they wouldn’t let me stand in a dry corner to check the map and guidebook (no signal so Google was out). When I asked for some shelter one workman pointed at a tree and said “there you go”. So helpful – not! There was a bus stop and the next bus into Sheffield was in 30mins but a) I would get very cold save for doing star jumps on the side of the road and b) what would I do when I got to Sheffield? I rechecked the book and there was an inn about 1.5miles up a side road so I started to head there. I decided that if it was shut I would suck it up and continue, if it was open I’d stay for a warm drink and to dry off a touch but if they had rooms, well I would stay and try to rearrange tomorrow night’s accommodation. Well you can imagine the joy when the door opened and inside was a roaring fire – in late June! They had vacancies, and they let me use the phone to call ahead to the pub at Flouch who moved my booking with no charge. Ah the relief! I hugged a mug of hot water and sat by the fire to warm up. When I checked into the room there was a comfy four-poster bed (with chaiselong at the foot) but no shower, so alas I had to have a nice hot bubbly soak in the bath. What a difference an hour of hospitality can make!

Into Staffordshire

  • Day: 36 – Monday 19th June
  • Started at: A Farm, A5
  • Finished at: Dunston Heath Farm
  • Miles: 8
  • Miles from LE: 443
  • Duration: 5.25hrs (9:30-14:45)
  • Trig points visited: 0
  • Ales imbibed: 0

In part due to my recent decision to take it a bit easier and because of the sweltering heat I decided to split a long day into 2 shorter ones.

I left the campsite across fields and frequently looked back to make sure I didn’t a surprise hand on the shoulder with an accusation of fee-dodging. I made a bee-line for the pretty village of Wheaton Aston to stock up on some food and the pub by the canal would have made a perfect afternoon stop but as it was only 10:30, it was closed so I had to continue.
I bashed my way through more overgrown paths and was taking a break in a field when a couple in their 70s came along the path. When the man approached he saw my ‘End to End’ guidebook and said; “we’re doing that!”. They spend 1 week each year doing a 100mile section of the LEJOG route, so it will take them 12 years to complete. I set off with them for the next mile but I was diverting to a campsite so I wished them well and headed to the village of Dunston. I had a great view over Cannock Chase (my route for tomorrow) until a bus sized motorhome blocked it entirely!

The mega bus that blocked my view
The mega bus that blocked my view

But what made the campsite more memorable were two food donations; firstly the campsite manager gave me an ice cream to cool down, and in the evening a couple gave me their surplus takeaway chips. Yummy!

  • Day: 37 – Tuesday 20th June
  • Started at: Dunston Heath Farm
  • Finished at: Carney Pools, nr Colwich
  • Miles: 12
  • Miles from LE: 455
  • Duration: 6.5hrs (9:30-16:00)
  • Trig points visited: Adjacent to a glacial boulder, 194m – SJ890181
  • Ales imbibed: 1.5x Wainwright

From the campsite I headed south which felt very wrong, but it was brief and I was soon walking eastwards towards Cannock Chase. It was another hot morning but luckily it was easy walking and once I had passed under the M6 I came to the village of Bednall. The route was going to bypass the village on footpaths ‘you’re not missing much’ was how the guidebook put it. But I decided to stick to the road and was surprised and delighted as I was treated to a community who were desperate to win ‘Best Kept Village 2017’. It was immaculate and very pretty – it served as a reminder not to take the words of the guidebook as gospel. “You can go you’re own way” – as Fleetwood Mac put it!

Beautiful Bednall
Beautiful Bednall

Cannock Chase was a welcome relief from walking across private farmland and I enjoyed it so much that I appeared to speed up which only served to bring it to an end sooner – d’oh . At times it feels as if the not so good bits drag on and the good bits are over in a flash but I’m hoping that the Peak District will redress the balance.

Cannock Chase
Cannock Chase

More or less reached my destination at 4pm so spent the afternoon in a pub garden before pootling to the campsite which was nothing to write home about.

  • Day: 38 – Wednesday 21st June
  • Started at: Carney Pools, nr Colwich
  • Finished at: Toot Hill B&B, Uttoxeter
  • Miles: 13.5
  • Miles from LE: 468.5
  • Duration: 8.5hrs (9:30-18:00)
  • Trig points visited: 0
  • Ales imbibed: 0

More warm weather which although is a bit energy sapping I much prefer over rain and/or wind. Initially I set off along the Trent and Mersey canal which was novel. Canal towpaths make great walking – for short periods. They’re flat, unobstructed, there are people, wildlife and generally always something to look at.

Canal boats
Canal boats

Abbotts Bromley was a lovely find and I indulged in a delicious pub lunch whilst hiding from the midday sun. Whilst having lunch I received the devastating news that Ronnie and Julie (the couple I met in Cornwall who were about a week ahead now) have had to pack up and go home due to an illness in the family.  If you’re reading, thanks for all the tips guys, best wishes and I’m sure you’ll come back and pick up where you left off one day. I’m going to have to brave it alone now – argh!

The afternoon was dominated by huge prairie-type fields which seem to go on and on and on, but I eventually popped out in the outskirts of a very humid Uttoxeter with a storm threatening. I arrived at my B&B rather hot and sweaty and was delighted to be offered a glass of water with ice which I downed in one.

Abbotts Bromley
Abbotts Bromley
  • Day: 39 – Thursday 22nd June
  • Started at: Toot Hill B&B, Uttoxeter
  • Finished at: Farm on the Hill, nr Ellastone
  • Miles: 8.5
  • Miles from LE: 478
  • Duration: 6.5hrs (9:30-16:00)
  • Trig points visited: 0
  • Ales imbibed: 0

After the obligatory full English breakfast I headed into Uttoxeter and happened to pass a Waitrose. Regretting a few weighty purchases and now heavily laden I set out past the racecourse, under the bypass and caught a glimpse of the Derbyshire border – although I would only be skirting it and not entering properly for another day or so.

Almost in 'erbyshire!
Almost in ‘erbyshire!

The path rose up to a wood but the became so impassable that I scrabbled through the undergrowth and over a precarious barb wire fence only to land in a wheat field. Through the other side the route passed through a Clay Pigeon Shooting Club – 11am on a Thursday morning appears to be ‘shooting o’clock’ as frequent shots were fired either side of me which was a little daunting so I didn’t hang about.

I passed through Rocester which could be called JCB town. It is home to the JCB factory, JCB academy, JCB fishing lakes/club, JCB gift shop, JCB farm and more! After lunch the paths became ridiculously overgrown – the worst so far and despite launching attacks with my poles they hit back and I still got stung and scratched, grrr. Eventually got into fields and then took a lane into Prestwood and Farm on the Hill. It is a gorgeous campsite consisting of a large mature wild meadow with small mown areas which form almost separate rooms with narrow mown pathways betweeen them.  The facilities are basic; a pair of longdrop toilets (with a stunning view!) and 1 solar shower but what more do you need? I was the only occupant but even if I weren’t it would still have been very private and cosy. It was a civilised evening as I cooked and ate at a table and lit a campfire. It took a shameful amount of time and effort to get the fire going but once I did it captured my attention and kept  me mesmerised for hours. I was so still a wood mouse even came and joined me briefly by the fireside – a magical moment. Best night of the trip so far!

FIRE!!!
FIRE!!!

Shropshire

  • Day: 33 – Friday 16th June
  • Started at: B&B in Craven Arms
  • Finished at: Lower Hill Farm, nr Much Wenlock
  • Miles: 15.5
  • Miles from LE: 410.5
  • Duration: 10hrs (8:30-18:30)
  • Trig points visited: 0
  • Ales imbibed: 0

Full of a breakfast of orange juice, coffee, cereal, a croissant and a fry up I headed for the supermarket(!). Needless to say I didn’t buy a lot. On the way out of Craven Arms I passed this obscure place – unfortunately it wasn’t open.

Land of Lost Content Museum
Land of Lost Content Museum

The day started like any other and I headed up on to Wenlock Edge – a straight 18mile escarpment heading NE, perfect. Plus with the weather starting to heat up it was nice to be in the shade of trees for the vast majority of the time. Around 1pm I came to a clearing with a picnic bench and view so I thought I’d take a break although I wasn’t yet hungry. I stared at the view and began to contemplate when all of sudden a mix of emotions stirred up from within and I burst into tears. Firstly, having just completed my 400th mile (1/3rd down) I wasn’t celebrating, instead I was getting daunted about what was to come; ‘you mean I have to do what I’ve just done again, and then again?’, plus what I’d done was the ‘easy bit’, up ahead are the Peaks, the Pennines and then there’s Scotland. Am I going to be able to cope? Secondly, I noticed that it didn’t feel like a holiday anymore, over the last week or so I’d been pushing myself to go further or rush faster to my destination of the day, which I had just realised was sucking all the fun out of it and making it more painful physically. So I pledged to:
a) be kinder to myself – I messaged a good friend at the time saying ‘this is hard’ and in a kinder way she said ‘yep duuur of course it’s hard, what did you expect?!’. So I won’t be hard on myself just because I’m not the well-oiled walking machine that I thought I would be by now,
b) take each day as it comes and not worry about what lies ahead (I certainly had this attitude to begin with, I just needed to regain it), and
c) allow time to stop and smell the roses (or whatever else might be on route e.g. a view, a point of historical significance or general interest).

The rest of the day passed without much to speak of. Despite being on an escarpment the trees blocked most of the views and I would be stopping at a campsite on the Edge so the terrain stayed the same all day. I was however rewarded with a good sunset.

Sunset from Lower Hill Farm
Sunset from Lower Hill Farm
  • Day: 34 – Saturday 17th June
  • Started at: Lower Hill Farm, nr Much Wenlock
  • Finished at: Coalport YHA, nr Ironbridge
  • Miles: 10
  • Miles from LE: 420.5
  • Duration: 6hrs (10:00-16:00)
  • Trig points visited: 0
  • Ales imbibed: 1x Moretti Lager, 1x Guest Ale

With 10miles to do today, my new mindset and the prospect of the hottest day of the year so far, I ambled along the rest of the Edge and down into Much Wenlock (home of Dr Brookes creator of the modern Olympics). It was a bustling Saturday morning and I soaked up the atmosphere (including some live jazz trumpeting) whilst enjoying elevenses.

Much Wenlock Guildhall
Much Wenlock Guildhall

Wedding bells played me out of Much Wenlock and on the outskirts of town 2 young teenagers came past on bikes, I leapt out of the way apologising for taking up most of the narrow lane and they slowed down for a brief chat. Our interaction went something like this:

Teenager 1: “Do you need help with directions? Are you just touring the area? Coz I think there’s a path through there that takes you back.”
Me: “No I’m fine thanks.”
Teenager 1: “Where are you walking to?”
Me: “Over to Ironbridge.”
Teenager 2: “Woah.”
Teenager 1: “Wow, ok. I cycled to Briesley(sp?) once.”
Me: “Right, ok. (Trying to sound impressed – having no idea where this place is or how far it is.) I’m actually walking the length of Britain.”
Teenager 1: Various exclamations.
Teenager 2: “WOOAAAHH, no way?! So where did you start?”
Me: “At Land’s End, in Cornwall.”
Teenager 2: “What? Cornwall? And you’ve walked to here? Woah!”
Me: “Yep and I’m going up through Scotland.”
Teenager 1: “So are you doing this for charity or summink?”
Me: “Nope, just because.”
Teenager 1: “Ok, alright, well good luck.”
Teenager 2: “Yeah good luck!”
Me: “Thanks!”

And off they went. They were very polite and intrigued teenagers and I like to think that they rushed off home to tell their parents excitedly that they just met someone walking LEJOG. Who knows? Perhaps they just grunted when their parents asked what they’d done that day, but just maybe I’ve inspired them to go a little bit further than Broseley next time (which is about 4miles from Much Wenlock).

I then took minor roads to Ironbridge to avoid fighting through overgrown field edges which I find very energy sapping when it’s this hot. The iron bridge was stood in all its glory over the Severn Gorge, and as the guidebook accurately puts it; ‘the motorway bridge over the Severn estuary seems a world away’.

A glimpse of the iron bridge through trees
A glimpse of the iron bridge through trees

The last mile or so was along a disused railway and I met a couple of ladies who were training for their Coast to Coast walk which they’re doing in July. They only had tiny packs, so I offered to swap if they wanted to do some ‘real’ training. Sadly they declined but the ensuing conversation did make the last bit go quickly. So quickly infact that I overshot the bridge to my youth hostel my half a mile! I crossed the river and trudged back gasping for a nice cold shower and beer.

  • Day: 35 – Sunday 18th June
  • Started at: Coalport YHA, nr Ironbridge
  • Finished at: A Farm
  • Miles: 14.5
  • Miles from LE: 435
  • Duration: 10hrs (9:00-19:00)
  • Trig points visited: 0
  • Ales imbibed: 0.5x HPA
Coalport YHA
Coalport YHA

After a very sultry night – the big old industrial hostel building has no air con and only tiny windows – I set off to walk up alongside the Hay Inclined Plane; used to move boats and materials from the Severn to the Shropshire canal where 27 locks would otherwise have been required. I wasn’t concentrating and the first half an hour was frustrating as I got immediately hot and sweaty traipsing around fields with cows trying to find my way. Back on track I again opted for minor roads in favour of getting my legs stung and scratched up along overgrown paths.

Typical overgrown path
Typical overgrown path

To cope with the 30’C + heat I took a few extra long shaded breaks in the middle part of the day. I was in no rush as I’d been warned by Ronnie and Julie that the next campsite was not great – being right on the A5 – so I took my time. I also carried extra water and discovered that the simple method of dousing my clothes really worked in cooling me down. The highlight of the afternoon was that during one break I was treated to a free air acrobatics display at a nearby air show:

Corkscrew contrails
Corkscrew contrails

I arrived at the campsite thinking that it wasn’t as bad as they had made out but once I’d showered in the ramshackle facilities and gone to bed with my head about 5m from the busy carriageway, I decided they were right and it was crap. I got up in the morning and walked out without paying – gasp!

I cannot wait to the get into proper walking country and away from this flat and rather dull walking. I’m sure there are some lovely parts of Shropshire to explore, but these are definitely connecting days.

Off Offa’s Dyke and onwards

  • Day: 31 – Wednesday 14th June
  • Started at: Kington YHA
  • Finished at: Panpunton Farm, Knighton
  • Miles: 14
  • Miles from LE: 382
  • Duration: 9hrs (9:00-18:00)
  • Trig points visited: 0
  • Ales imbibed: ??? it was either quite forgettable or really really good!

On my rest day in Kington I picked up the next batch of maps from the Post Office courtesy of mum & dad and spent much of the day plotting out the route and researching campsites etc. I did manage to head to the high street for a wander and sought out a delicious hot chocolate.

After a slightly disturbed night – someone at the hostel had lost the doorcode and so was banging the door down at 11pm, and then my dorm companion who’d I’d not yet met came in at gone midnight. Ah the joys of hosteling! Though neither of these have ever happened before and I’ve stayed in quite a few hostels, so don’t let this put you off – I think they’re great.

Today was going to be my last day on the Offa’s Dyke Path, I’m going to miss the well trodden paths and copious waymarkers. It took me from Kington (King’s town) to Knighton (Knight’s town) past nearby Presteigne (Preist’s town). It was a warm morning and a stiff climb out of Kington and I was soon walking alongside the actual wall & dyke.

Offa's Dyke marker stone
Offa’s Dyke marker stone

Either side of lunch I met some interesting people. Firstly; Dave, who knew who I was before I’d opened my mouth – it’s funny how news travels along the trail! He is walking JOGLE and set off on 30th April. After I’d picked my jaw up off the floor, I saw he had a very small pack and then I found out he has a support crew – his wife is following along with a camper van the vast majority of the way. We compared notes, Dave gave me one of his JOGLE-based business cards – used to try and boost his fundraising (how organised!) – and then we wished each other well for the rest of our respective trips. After lunch I met a couple who were out with some members of BBC crew who were doing a recce for an episode of ‘Weatherman walking’, in which this couple’s son would feature after he had published a book of his 1,100mile walk around Wales. (As an aside, the book came about after the success of his WordPress blog he kept whilst walking…just saying!)

It was a lovely day’s walking in undulating hills with gentle ups and downs and great views all round.

One of the many views
One of the many views

 

I passed quickly through Knighton and to the campsite on the other side of town. On approaching the campsite was this sign so I obliged, as it was one of the last times I’d cross the border – cheerio Cymru, it’s been a blast!

Crossing the border again!
Crossing the border again!
  • Day: 32 – Thursday 15th June
  • Started at: Panpunton Farm, Knighton
  • Finished at: B&B in Craven Arms
  • Miles: 13
  • Miles from LE: 395
  • Duration: 8.5hrs (9:30-18:00)
  • Trig points visited: close to Stow Hill, 434m – SO317745
  • Ales imbibed: 1x HPA

Left Knighton later than planned due to a brief spell of drizzle at the moment I wanted to pack up, I waited a few minutes for it pass but there was just enough rain to soak everything so I packed up a wet tent – having awoken to a bone dry one!

The morning was dominated by two stiff ups and downs one straight after the other. In between them was a field of half a dozen young bullocks. Experience has taught me that either the Devon and Somerset livestock are on uppers or the Welsh livestock are on downers because around here the cows are much more relaxed.  Given this, I felt able to tackle this small herd and entered the field where they had already begun to migrate from lazing under a tree to gathering around the exact gate I was heading for – typical! I approached with confidence, but not looking to split the herd I headed to one side to encourage them away from the gate. When I got to within a walking pole’s length and they hadn’t shifted I began to jesticulate and shout incoherent farmer type noises. Lo-behold they started to back away, still staring, but moving off enough for me to reach the gate.  Heart pounding and repeatedly glancing over my shoulder caused me to fumble the latch but then all of sudden I was through and they were still on the other side of the gate. Yippee! Phew! I did a celebratory touchdown-esque song and dance and then went on my way. The score is now level: Cows 2 – Lucy 2!

After some food, I came to the village of  Hopton Castle, which actually has the remains of a castle – although never technically a castle but more of a stately home-cum-tower. I love finding unexpected and understated historical sites like this – they definitely add colour to the trip.

Hopton Castle
Hopton Castle

By mid afternoon I was starting to get excited about the prospect of a tearoom which the guidebook purported to be ‘the best tearoom between Land’s End and John O’Groats’. I was dreaming of the cake selection and of propping my feet up for half an hour. I was absolutely devastated when I rounded the corner and the sign read ‘Sorry we are closed’. I could’ve cried! I pulled myself together and carried on to where I found a gateway where I could hang out my tent to dry and ate some sugar snaps. Not quite what I had in mind, but it’ll do!

Tent drying
Tent drying

I took minor roads to Craven Arms and the B&B was a pleasant surprise – I wasn’t expecting much for £35.

Continuing along Offa’s Dyke Path

  • Day: 28 – Saturday 10th June
  • Started at: Monmouth
  • Finished at: Hunters Moon Inn, Llangattock Lingoed
  • Miles: 13.5
  • Miles from LE: 334
  • Duration: 7.75hrs (8:30-16:15)
  • Trig points visited: 0
  • Ales imbibed: 2x ‘Very local ale’: Skirrid bitter

Started the day with a trip to Waitrose for coffee and a croissant for breakfast and to pick up a few supplies – I wanted to buy the whole shop but was fairly restrained. Headed out of Monmouth and the whole day today was going to be on the Offa’s Dyke Path with my destination being Pandy.

It was forest tracks initially and then fields for the rest of the day. Nothing of any note happened for the first half of the day. Not long after my fresh quiche and salad courtesy of Waitrose the cloud rolled in and just kept coming. On the route in the afternoon was the massive White Castle; built to defend Wales in the 12th and 13th centuries. It is mightily impressive but remarkably low-key i.e. no entry fee, cafe, compulsory gift shop or medieval reenactment – just a few information boards. I visited briefly but due to the rain I didn’t hang about.

White Castle
White Castle

Soon after, I met a couple of guys who had almost completed the Offa’s Dyke Path from the north and were fellow campers. It turned out they had stayed where I was headed for, but they were very disparaging and warned me off. Instead they recommended the Hunters Moon Inn in Llangattock Lingoed and they implied that camping was offered (free of charge!). Even if the free camping turned out to be non-existent I thought it would be rude not to stop for a cheeky pint – any excuse for a rest out of the rain. I stumbled in dripping wet and bright red from legging it up a steep hill in a field of cows with calves just moments before. I was greeted by a cacophonous crowd of 8+ local farmers. They were naturally inquisitive and kind at heart but a little intimidating on mass with their accompanying (slightly incoherent) banter. I was soon accepted in and was bought a pint of the tasty local Skirrid ale – named after a local hill. Also, the free camping was not apocryphal and I was offered a spot on the lawn in amongst the picnic benches and umbrellas. They say good things come in threes: free beer, free camping and finally fantastic food. I had (very) local lamb chops and bread and butter pudding – scrummy! Rest assured I gave them a good tip.

Tent pitched in the pub garden
Tent pitched in the pub garden

At 9 I bid goodnight to the staff, the farmers and an American couple; Elizabeth and Steve who were doing a 2-week tour of the Welsh borders, including walking about 80miles of Offa’s Dyke and seemed unperturbed by the wet weather. (Hello if you’re reading, hope you enjoyed the rest of your trip!).

  • Day: 29 – Sunday 11th June
  • Started at: Hunters Moon Inn, Llangattock Lingoed
  • Finished at: Raquety Farm, Hay-on-Wye
  • Miles: 19
  • Miles from LE: 353
  • Duration: 10hrs (7:30-17:30)
  • Trig points visited: Hatterrall Ridge 1, 464m – SO513241, Hatterrall Ridge 2, 552m – SO304278, Hatterrall Ridge 3, 610m – SO281307
  • Ales imbibed: 1x Oracle Ale – Salopian Brewery, 1x Butty Bach

I rose early after a slightly unsettled night and knew that I had a long day ahead of me so off I trotted. It was a dry morning – a relief after the previous dank afternoon/evening – as I headed down to Pandy. From there it was up on to the Hatterrall Ridge – a 10mile ridge at 450-700m, where I would be spending the majority of my day. Despite the climb (probably the biggest single ascent of the trip so far, although not huge), I was really looking forward to being on the high ground for a prolonged period to enjoy the views. The route up turned out to be much gentler than I expected and so I merrily started the march along the top. And it was then that the wind picked up, and kept up all day. It was a strong crosswind from west to east (gusting at 40-50mph was the forecast) and it buffetted me about, in part due to it catching my big pack. Then it threw in the occasional short but heavy shower. The wind was relentless and I was starting to get weary of its persistence – there was no danger, this was a very wide grassy ridge – it was just frustrating. At one point I think I shouted “will you just stop?!”. So it didn’t turn out to be the slightly whimsical and awe inspiring walk I expected, instead, it was a head down and crack on walk but I did my best to take in the  views as they were stunning!

View from Hatterrall Ridge
View from Hatterrall Ridge

(This photo is a bit misleading as you can’t see how quickly those clouds were moving across the sky and there were no grey ones at that point. But it’s a great photo so had to include it!)

Coming down on the sheltered side of the ridge, I thought I would get some peace and quiet, I found a sweet spot where I could finally hear myself think, but it only lasted a couple of minutes. The rain started again but I found a number of companions to chat to for the 3mile descent into Hay-on-Wye which helped pass the time.

Me with each trig point
Me with each trig point

(Looking equally daft in each photo with my hat and hood combo. Did I mention it was windy?! Note to self: no more photos with hat and hood.)

At the campsite the proprietor and I were looking for a spot (with morning sun to dry the dew) within a lovely natural orchard area when we went past a glamping-type wagon. Reading my weary face she said “would you like to stay in there? I’ll give it to you for just a couple of quid extra”. For a moment I thought, I’m a camper not a ‘glamper’. But that thought soon evaporated once I’d seen inside…sold!

My cosy wagon
My cosy wagon

Being Sunday evening, there was nowhere to pick up dinner supplies so I dined in the Three Tuns that evening (recommended) and I bumped into 2 chaps (John and Richard) who I’d met earlier coming off the ridge. John had walked JOGLE (LEJOG the other way round) before he retired and Richard had grown up in East Sussex so we had plenty to chat about. They invited me to dinner but they were meeting friends and I was writing my blog so I politely declined and messily munched my way through a delicious mackerel and anchovy pizza – probably best I didn’t have company!

  • Day: 30 – Monday 12th June
  • Started at: Raquety Farm, Hay-on-Wye
  • Finished at: YHA Kington
  • Miles: 15
  • Miles from LE: 370
  • Duration: 8hrs (9:30-17:30)
  • Trig points visited: Hergest Ridge, 423m – SO256562
  • Ales imbibed: 1x Clogwyn Gold

After a long day and being gifted an extra comfy bed, I couldn’t resist a little lie in! After which I set off in a buoyant mood, quite chatty (to myself – standard), and enjoyed being by the river. The path rose away from the busy A road and river and gifted nice views looking back over yesterday’s walk.

Looking back at Hatterrall Ridge
Looking back at Hatterrall Ridge

The walk was hillier than expected but I just kept going – one foot in front of the other. I think that yesterday’s effort was starting to catch up on me and by lunchtime I was quite foot sore. I knew that the next set of maps were waiting for me at the Post Office in Kington and that it closed at 5:30 so if I wanted to use them in the evening to plan ahead I would have to start getting a move on. However as the afternoon wore on my feet got more sore and I was taking more little breaks to try and relive the pressure, so it was at this point I decided I would stay in Kington an extra night. With the time pressure alleviated I ambled my way through the fields and over Hergest Ridge. Hergest Ridge is a curious place; an area of open moorland with the highest point of 426m (although the trig is at 423m), a small clutch of monkey puzzle trees, a whetstone that is claimed to have ‘wandered’ over from a neighbouring hill and finally the visible indentation of an old racecourse. I’m not sure which of these features inspired Mike Oldfield when he settled on the name for his follow up album to Tubular Bells. Having just listened to the 20minute title track, his inspiration could have had something to do with a substance he took and not just the moor.

Monkey puzzle trees
Monkey puzzle trees

I virtually hobbled into the YHA and was greeted by a lovely couple and first time volunteer wardens. I did some washing, cooked a normal meal(!), ate said meal, went for an evening walk to stretch the legs and went to bed. At about 7pm John and Richard walked in and we compared notes on the day’s walking which they thought had been tough too, so I felt a bit better. Before he left, John suggested we could meet up again in the Peak District and he could put me up for a night in Sheffield should I need it!

One more day on Offa’s Dyke and the last day of section 2!

Day 27

  • Day: 27 – Friday 9th June
  • Started at: Beeches Farm, nr Tidenham Chase
  • Finished at: Monmouth Campsite
  • Miles: 12
  • Miles from LE: 320.5
  • Duration: 7hrs (9:30-16:30)
  • Trig points visited: 0
  • Ales imbibed: 1x Thatchers Gold Cider, 1x HPA

I had a rest day yesterday and mostly spent it tucked up in my tent listening to the rain pounding against the roof, feeling smug that I wasn’t out in it. During the only prolonged dry spell from midday ’til 4 I crossed the river to Tintern to enjoy a scrumptious lunch of; Welsh lamb and mint pie and carrot cake! I also took a peek at the Abbey, but since it’s a ruin I didn’t pay the £6 to get wet if it started raining again. It was very reminiscent of the aimless wander around Tintern back in November on the Rockhopper Annual Dinner trip but with poorer weather – go figure!

Tintern Abbey - in November and in June
Tintern Abbey – in November and in June

 

I reluctantly left the lovely Beeches Farm campsite – if only more campsites were like this one. There wasn’t one particular special feature, just a nicely kept and interesting field with a nice view, clean and tidy facilities and chilled out owners who make you feel welcome. I don’t ask for much, but I’m amazed at the number of sites that fall below my expectations.

My spot at Beeches Farm
My spot at Beeches Farm

Today was spent entirely on the Offa’s Dyke national trail which made wayfinding extremely easy – a relief after traipsing around the Levels last week trying to find rights of way that aren’t maintained. The route was either riverside which was novel or in woodland where in recent days a number of trees have fallen across the paths. I even heard one go down – it was a really loud and slow ripping sound and then crunch.

I got to Lower Redbrook for lunch and there was a perfectly positioned bench on the village green that had my name on it (metaphorically not literally – I think it was in memory of Jim Pearson – thanks Jim!). The sun was shining and so I took the opportunity to spread out various parts of my very wet tent on the grass to dry out – it felt a bit ‘trampy’ and I think I got a couple of looks, but needs must!

About a mile out of Monmouth I met Ian – another LEJOG-er! He’s a man on a mission, he left Land’s End on May 20th(!) and was planning to do the whole jolly lot in 10weeks, I’m pretty certain I’ll never see him again.

The highest point of the day was on top of the Kymin (Wikipedia page) which gave stunning views over the river valley below and the hills beyond.

View from the Kymin
View from the Kymin

 

I walked all day in England but am spending the night in Wales, so it just leaves me to say: hwyl fawr a nos da.

Somerset and South Glos.

  • Day: 21 – Friday 2nd June
  • Started at: Quantock Orchard, Flaxpool
  • Finished at: Fairview Campsite, Bawdrip
  • Miles: 17
  • Miles from LE: 245.5
  • Duration: 10.5hrs (8:30-19:00)
  • Trig points visited: Wills Neck, 386m – ST165351
  • Ales imbibed: 0
On top of Wills Neck
On top of Wills Neck
  • Day: 22 – Saturday 3rd June
  • Started at: Fairview Campsite, Bawdrip
  • Finished at: Castle Farm, Blackford
  • Miles: 10
  • Miles from LE: 255.5
  • Duration: 5hrs (9:00-14:00)
  • Trig points visited: 0
  • Ales imbibed: 1x Butcombe Ale, 1x Doombar
Me in a Sea Harrier Jump Jet - as you do!
Me in a Sea Harrier Jump Jet – as you do!
  • Day: 23 – Sunday 4th June
  • Started at: Castle Farm, Blackford
  • Finished at: Oak Farm, Congresbury
  • Miles: 13.5
  • Miles from LE: 269
  • Duration: 8hrs (8:45-16:45)
  • Trig points visited: 0
  • Ales imbibed: 1x Doombar
A tunnel on the Strawberry Line
A tunnel on the Strawberry Line
  • Day: 24 – Monday 5th June
  • Started at: Oak Farm, Congresbury
  • Finished at: Star Inn, Tickenham
  • Miles: 9.5
  • Miles from LE: 278.5
  • Duration: 4.25hrs (9:00-13:15)
  • Trig points visited: 0
  • Ales imbibed: 1x Butcombe Ale
Looking sad in the rain!
Looking sad in the rain!
  • Day: 25 – Tuesday 6th June
  • Started at: Star Inn, Tickenham
  • Finished at: Travelodge, M48 Severn View Services(!)
  • Miles: 19
  • Miles from LE: 297.5
  • Duration: 10.75hrs (7:15-18:00)
  • Trig points visited: Shirehampton, 67m – ST533774
  • Ales imbibed: 0.5x Wadworth IPA & 1x Pedigree
A jolly folly, nr Henbury
A jolly folly, nr Henbury
  • Day: 26 – Wednesday 7th June
  • Started at: Travelodge, M48 Severn View Services(!)
  • Finished at: Beeches Farm, nr Tidenham Chase
  • Miles: 11
  • Miles from LE: 308.5
  • Duration: 7.5hrs (8:30-16:00)
  • Trig points visited: 0
  • Ales imbibed: 0
Over I go
Over I go

The keen – and not so keen – eyed amongst you may have noticed that this post is scant on commentary and extra photos. I had a power issue (my plug socket broke) and so I was unable to charge anything for a few days, this meant I had to conserve my phone battery and hence blogging fell by the wayside. Even though I had a day off yesterday the thought of trying to catchup was, I admit, a bit daunting and so I’ve decided to leave it at this and start again from today. I can always come back and update it – I have a written diary and so the memories will not be lost.
In summary; Quantocks great, Somerset Levels not so fun, a visit from more lovely people who cheered me up, some nice sun, some nasty rain, many motorways (M5 walkway over the Avon, a couple of footbridges, then M48 walkway over the Severn and Wye), Welsh borders green and pleasant, and 300th mile completed!