It was a long and excruciatingly slow journey to Wales, with speed restrictions/engineering work doubling the journey time to Crewe. This was also my first train travel of any kind since You Know What. So, it was a relief all round to complete the last leg of the journey and step down onto the platform at Knighton.
I strode along a quiet lane to the campsite, and with no one around simply pitched up, calling the owner later. A warm evening then made for a pleasant stroll into town alongside the River Teme and the Offa’s Dyke path. Indeed, the whole town is very much about the Dyke, and there’s very little attention given to Glyndŵr’s Way, one of whose trailheads is actually in the centre of town.
In walking into town I crossed the heavily defended border between England and Wales, and spent a few moments in “border ceremonies”, and in helping another couple record the same for them.
Dinner was fish and chips, which I could have taken next door to eat in Watson’s Ale House, but I opted for a seat by the river instead, where I watched a guy try to coax his aged, poor-sighted dog into the shallow and gently flowing waters to fetch enormous sticks.
Back at the campsite, I met Kay and Steven, who are walking Offa’s Dyke and we chatted a while. Then it was back to the tent for some tea and a bit of a chill out.
Day 1: Knighton to Black Mountain – 21.22km, 778m ascent / 478m descent
A gunshot at 2:40am effectively ended my night’s sleep, my mind now alert to the slightest sound. This should have then translated into an early start, but with a short first day planned, and a desire to grab breakfast in town, I lazed around in the tent until just before 9am before packing up and heading in.
Breakfast was taken at the Black Sheep Cafe, before retracing my steps a short way to the clocktower where the path starts. A finger post pointing to Llangunllo, and my lunchtime target. A short way further up the street, a large standing slate thingy marked the trail, forming a more fitting start. Here a couple I’d seen lurking around town asked me to take their picture, which I did, before getting them to reciprocate.
A few twists and turns in Knighton and then I was climbing up a nasty passage overgrown with bracken and nettles – a fitting beginning to the trail and a sign of what was to come.
The path contoured around Garth Hill and provided a lovely shady walk to start with. A lane then turned into a relentless uphill slog before descending through a field to Downe’s Dingle.
I took my first proper rest in the shade of some trees in the next field, and the couple from Knighton passed me then. I was already suffering from lack of form and the hot day. The path had the upper hand already!
After I restarted, there was a lot of slogging through fields of long grass and my legs were like jelly as I descended through more bracken and more long grass into Llangunllo.
Here, when I went to check the pub was definitely shut (it’s a Monday, so bound to be), I found the couple from Knighton in the beer garden, with drinks!!!!!
The landlord popped up soon, and after an initial “not another one” look, was happy to furnish me with refreshments, as long as I could pay cash, as nothing was on in the pub to pay another way. He also filled my water up.
As I left the pub, another walker (Dave) was emerging from the Knighton direction, and we quite naturally fell in step with each other and headed up the road together.
Much of the path, and the climb up through fields passed in a bit of a blur, with someone to talk to. When we reached the Pool Hill/Beacon Hill plateau, we took a few minutes pause. Dave was keen to bank more miles so pushed on. I’d be unlikely to see him again, as he was talking about doing 30 miles tomorrow, and when he meets the Cambrian Way he would be turning north to head that way.
Alone again, with two thoughts only: water and camp. I wasn’t expecting to find much water until the other side of Pool Hill, and it was easy to decide to defer camp another mile or two.
The only real water I could find turned out to be a stagnant pool to the right of the path, which I still went to look at. Probably the most disgusting water I’ve ever considered taking. I left it well alone, and decided to simply make do.
I climbed up a little way further, veered off the path and found a reasonably non-heathery patch to pitch up.
The first day had really taken it out of me, and in the tent it was a struggle to do much more than just lie there for a while. It took well over an hour to start dinner, and I broke into one of the meals earmarked for a “hard day” – pure comfort food in the form of minced beef, mash and veg. Even this early, I needed a morale boost.