Offa's Dyke Path

Private Tramp

 There are several long distance walks in Britain all of which go through lovely countryside. We chose to walk the Offa's Dyke Path, a 285 km trail that roughly follows the Wales - England border. Offa was king of Mercia in the eighth century. He seems to have been a powerful ruler and he built this massive defensive dyke to keep out and watch for the warring Welsh armies. It is now thought that he may have used some pre-existing defensive mounds and joined these together to create his lengthy construction.

 Britain doesn't have a system of huts as we do in New Zealand so it is necessary to use B & B’s or other such accommodation. We found an excellent company called Celtic Trails who gave sage advice about distances to be walked each day and arranged excellent accommodation. We were warmly greeted at each hostelry with very welcome cups of tea and baking, and fed wonderful breakfasts every morning. If the accommodation was away from the path we would be picked up from a pre-arranged site and returned there next morning.The B & B hosts looked after their "walkers " very well. It was recommended we take 15 days to walk the path and have two rest days. Although we didn't really need these it was lovely to have the chance of exploring a couple of charming small towns, Hay on Wye and Llangollen.

We started the walk from Chepstow in South Wales. On the evening before we walked a couple of miles down to the very start of the path on the bank of the river Severn. A plaque there informs one that this is the start (or end) of the path. There is a good section of the dyke there too. The path does not absolutely follow the course of the dyke and stretches of it have vanished completely but where the path does meet the dyke it is an amazing sight and exciting to walk along or beside this piece of ancient history.

The scenery all along the trail was lovely and varied from grassy or ploughed fields to hills and heather covered moorland, from beautiful oak woods to scree covered slopes. Far reaching distant views from hilltops were glorious and a welcome reward after toiling up a steep hill. The terrain was also varied. Some stretches of the route crossed open fields with no discernible path. Or a well formed track ran through woods or along a stony bridle path. At times a minor road would be followed until a stile through a hedge led one off into another field or footpath. But the route was always very clear with signs bearing the acorn logo of the National Trails and "Offa's Dyke Path " or "Llwybr Clawdd Offa" indicating the direction to follow.

There were several ruined castles as well as the dyke to remind one of Britain's ancient history. Chepstow, White, Longtown, Dinas Bran and also Chirk ( which is still occupied.) And there were canals to walk beside recalling the Industrial Revolution. One of these canals crossed the superbly engineered Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the highest in Europe and still very much in use by recreational long-boaters.

Perfect weather could not be guaranteed : this was Wales after all ! We did need to use our full wet weather gear on two days and parts of some other days but we didn't renege and refuse to walk. We are Kiwis now after all and had our honour to uphold! We met a few people along the way but generally we had the path to ourselves.

The path finished in Prestatyn, a small town on the North Wales coast. We dumped our packs at our B & B and walked through the town to the sea and took celebratory photos beside the plaque announcing the end (or start!) of the trail and dabbled our boots in the sea. We felt enormously proud of ourselves!!

Offa's Dyke Path is a marvellous walk. It is one of 16 multi-day historical trails in various parts of England, Wales and Scotland. We can't wait to return to Britain and tackle another one!

Sally & Chris