Walking from John O'Groats to Land's End in the winter of 07/08.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Bigsweir to Severn View

While I tucked into another full English breakfast this morning, a week's worth of rain was falling. Putting off leaving my warm and dry accommodation for as long as possible, I ventured onto the Hotel's exclusive path, which led back to the main trail. Luckily, after slogging along the dark wet road last night, it would be a relatively relaxed day.

After clambering out of the valley on steep slippery zigzags through the trees, I was soon following thin lanes and heading down small enclosed paths. Rainwater tumbled down these alleyways as they wound their way between dozens of small fields. There was no alternative but to splash along these streams and get wet.

A steep climb followed, due to crossing a small tributary, and then everything improved as I entered a large ditch. Archaeological experts (or people who can read labels on the map) will tell you these are the remains of King Offa's Dyke. Despite this ancient boundary lending its name to the long distance trail I have been following, the ditch had been absent since my first day on the path.

The rain began to clear as the Dyke took a commanding position at the top of the heavily wooded slopes of the Wye. Through the trees, there were expansive views along this steep valley that holds the ever widening and now tidal river. The striking jagged ruins of Tintern Abbey slowly emerged from the mists in a beautiful and mysterious way. Every now and again there were glimpses of the tall limestone cliffs beneath me. The path sensibly cut across the neck of a huge meander and then wandered behind people's back gardens, as the surroundings became increasingly urban into Chepstow.

A large Tesco was a good excuse to stock up on cakes, before a long walk through an endless estate to reach the motorway and the old Severn Bridge. Compared with my memories of the Forth Road Bridge, it seemed like a poor and rusty imitation, but both represent significant milestones. This is the end of the Welsh adventure, five memorable days of both real challenge and captivating beauty. It feels like a lifetime. I have reached the south west peninsula, the beginning of the final chapter of the walk.

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