We knew today was generally accepted to be most difficult section of the Offa’s Dyke Path and we thought we were ready for it. Dear reader, we were not. It did not fuck about, the minute we left our campsite we were faced with the first utterly brutal ascent of the day. Oh my poor calf muscles! They’ve not had to deal with this manner of gradient for a while.
We had a bit more dyke to walk along today too, at least we’re assuming anything long and lumpy is the dyke these days. It’s just crazy how obvious it is even after 1200 years, give or take. They think King Offa started building it in the 8th Century but it’s also feasible he joined up sections of older dykes too.
This was one of those days where you felt like you were making very little progress on account of the fact you were either walking up or down a hill. Okay I exaggerate for effect, there were a few flat stretches where you could try and recover, but mostly you were on some manner of incline. Some of them were so steep I checked the map to make sure we hadn’t accidentally wandered off the trail into a random death trap. We hadn’t. Sad times.
In classic Offa’s Dyke fashion there were very few benches to collapse on and vocally die. Like, maybe two plus the churches. We veered off the trail to a church to have some lunch and a much needed nap. I haven’t had to nap since the South West Coast Path, this section was ruining me. The trouble with napping though, it’s very difficult to get going again and now we’re humans who frequent campsites we actually had somewhere to aim for and couldn’t slob around outside a church.
Immediately after lunch there was another horrific hill but at the top of this hill was a fingerpost advising us that we were officially halfway along the trail. I’d have done a little celebratory dance if there wasn’t a group of blokes having their lunch there, or if I wasn’t so fucking knackered already.
We hobbled through Churchtown which has a church but no town. We had an insane up, a knee breaking down, another insane up then a looooong brutal descent into Brompton Crossroads. We could do this. I didn’t fucking want to but I really didn’t have a choice in the matter. It was that or remain in a graveyard outside a church with no town and hope someone took pity on me and brought me some tea.
We dragged out the last few miles taking tiny steps up and down the hills. One foot in front of the other. Plod on. The fucking flies though! They’d been hounding us all day. We’d both been attacked by horse flies over the last few days, the savage little buggers, and even the non-bitey flies were all over us, trying to get in all of our head holes. Not ideal when you’re trying to gasp in lung fulls of air on particularly violent hills. Eventually it does flatten out for the final approach, as if it’s throwing a bit of mercy in there so you don’t have a complete nervous breakdown before you get to your campsite.
As if to add insult to injury, a mere mile and a half from our destination my bowels turned to knives. Oh dear god no. I hate having to shit in a hole and there should be really no need for it given that we have full and unfettered access to a toilet every morning and evening. I’d dropped the kids off this morning, and their mates. How did I have anything left? I did have to dive off into a ditch for a danger poo which was pretty much the perfect end to a crap day.
We eventually rocked up to Miller’s Rest Campsite, dropped our bags and I reached for my long sleeve. Wait… where the fuck was my long sleeve? Oh you’re shitting me! It was around my waist and I’d taken it off and chucked it to the side when I had my emergency poo. It must still be there in the ditch. I had to go back and retrieve it whilst Tarrant set up camp thus adding three miles onto a day that I could really have done without adding three miles onto.
I’m not going to lie, guys. I didn’t enjoy today at all. I feel like it was a lot of hard work for, and this is just my opinion, very little reward. I’m really not enjoying walking at the moment and we’ve had some proper chats about whether we’re going to finish our LEJOG attempt. I’ve not been feeling it since Minehead if I’m honest, and Tarrant’s ankles are pretty fucked too. She needs some proper rest. So I do think we’re going to finish in Prestatyn, call it a day and reevaluate our lives.
Tref-y-clawdd (Knighton), Powys, Wales to Brompton Crossroads, Shropshire, England
Stayed at: Miller’s Rest Campsite, Powys, Wales
Useful shit to know…
- There is, apparently, a pub in Newcastle but we didn’t go looking for it and I don’t think it opens every day, and then not until the evening.
- There’s a random water tap at the bottom of the hill just after Newcastle, roughly at 52.437333, -3.095436.
- Mellington Hall has a sign up saying they welcome walkers, I think they have a café and also a campsite but I’m not sure when the former is open. We were so close to our campsite, we just wanted to get going.
- Apart from that there are no shops or other amenities along this section.