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

Monday, 14 January 2008

Pandy to Bigsweir

Last night, the girl behind the bar had warned me about this next stretch of Offa's Dyke. Apparently, someone had counted sixty-three stiles between Pandy and Monmouth and my destination lay even further away.

Rain was falling as I tucked into my breakfast, but as soon as it cleared I got down to work finding my way across the endless fields. Most of the time was spent scrutinising the map for little navigational clues, the thin blue squiggles of streams or the solid black lines of hedges or fences, then hauling my awkward pack over each newly discovered stile. I can't pretend I'll remember much of the scenery, but the green hills were pleasant enough.

At the well preserved White Castle, the path loops around the ruins and water filled moat so the traveller can appreciate them from every angle. I must be getting fond of the Offa's Dyke Path as I followed it all the way round instead of cutting across. As I continued down narrow lanes and alongside rivers of various sizes, the defining feature of the day was what was under my feet. The ground was completely saturated, resulting in huge quantities of mud where animals had roamed or large shallow lakes on any flat ground. Wet feet were inevitable.

Eventually I took a lovely path over a wooded hill and then residential roads into Monmouth. It felt like a natural place to end the day but I wanted to break out of the traditional itinerary and make sure I had time to cross the Bristol Channel tomorrow. Crossing my old companion the Wye once again, the climb out of the town was steep, long and sweaty. I rested a moment at the Kymin naval temple, looking across the landscape I had spent hours stuggling across. It was then an easy stroll downhill, on sheltered paths, to return to the riverside.

With darkness falling, and with my accommodation off the main path, I decided to follow the A road for the rest of the way. It turned out to be many more miles, while rain began to fall in greater quantities and cars forced me into the verge. The river was an angry brown, full of debris and spilling out onto the fields. The riverside route is no longer an option for tomorrow, but hopefully the flooding won't cause me any more serious problems than that.

No comments: