Offa's Dyke South - 2007

Day One: 17th September

Weather: Sunshine all day ..hooray…

Route: Sedbury Cliffs to Tintern Abbey - 11 miles with detours!


Except it was in the daytime, and I hardly broke into a gallop, or even a trot. I puffed like a train though from time to time. My walk started off at Chepstow, Tescos in fact. After buying some sarnies and an apple to munch, I got back into the car. But I got kicked out again close to the start at Sedbury Cliffs, a few miles from Chepstow.
It was a strange start to the walk as I had to walk back along the path to the start. There was a slight wind at my back, but that could have been the Baked Beans from yesterday. Not wanting to spoil the day ahead I closed my eyes a bit and squinted through my eyelids, but that didn’t last as I slid through a couple of nice Cow Pats down the hill. The Dyke was surprisingly well preserved at the start showing an impressive bank and ditch. It must have taken some shovelling when they built the dyke, a lifetime work for some I would think.

A view back to the bridge over the River Severn from the start

I reached the start fairly quickly and kicked the marker stone for luck. That hurt my big toe a bit, so I hobbled off to begin the ‘easy’ 10 mile first day. Most people do 18 miles the first day, because that is the distance shown in the guide book. But I decided to cheat a bit and only go to Tinterne Abbey in the Wye valley. I was soon happily wandering along in the countryside until I reached the housing estate, but this only lasted for a mile or so. The Norman castle came into view through the trees along with an old 1816 bridge, and the housing fell away behind me as I climbed higher up to the cliffs above the Wye. The river meanders around some tight bends, but a lot of today was spent peering through trees to get a view of the Wye and beyond. The path was a bit precarious alongside the old Limestone quarries. Some 3 miles into the walk some friendly local had messed about with the way mark and I took a wrong turn down a small road to Lancout. It was a nice mistake as the road wandered through some pleasant woodland. I ended up on a spur of land looking over the river on both sides..doh. Lucky for me the farmer’s wife was on her way out in the car. So I quickly lay down in the road and refused to move until she gave me a lift back to the path. My cunning plan worked, even though she swerved around me shouting “get orf my land”.

The Dyke at the start looking North – well worn in places

I was grateful for the lift as it saved my legs from a mile detour. I was soon back on track, this time paying a bit more attention to the National Trail Guide book. Most of the path was very well way marked, and you could walk the whole length of the path without a guide, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

The path quickly went away from any roads and the last few miles were very peaceful and all that could be heard was the whistling in my ears, and my wheezing along as I ploughed on uphill. I took it easy the first day and rambled along about 2mph. Not fast enough to get too tired, although the steeper stretches reminded me how unfit I have become over the years. That and the fact that my feet seem to have shrunk as I can only see half of them when I look down nowadays. I was now high above the Wye valley with glimpses of the river through the dense tree cover. There were some very old broad leaved trees along the path, a pleasant change from forestry plantation. I met a photographer who was busy detailing the path before it got repaired and resurfaced to prevent too much erosion. Not great for photography as the woods were very dark, but no big bad wolf was seen. I felt a tad sorry for him as he had to find small nails that had been driven into trees when the path was surveyed, so he had to use ranging poles and a long tape A long drawn out process to take a few pictures.

A small shower started up as I was approaching the Devils pulpit, which was quite apt, and I was slowing down a bit. The pulpit is a limestone perch, about 10ft above the ground which looks down on Tinterne Abbey. Legend has it that Old Nick tried to corrupt the monks of the Abbey…yeah right. More like some old lush shouting the odds on a dark night. I left the forest behind and started the long descent into Brocksweir. Dropping down from 200m to 10m was not as good for the old knees as it was quite steep in places. As I reached Brocksweir I passed the HAPPA farm (Horse and Pony protection association) which looked after old racehorses. Sure enough I recognised a few that I had backed over the years.

The Devils Pulpit – Tinterne Abbey below

All attempts at raising my chauffeuse failed as the phone hasn’t been invented in the Welsh borders and the reception on the mobile was non existent. This of course gave me an extra two miles to walk back to Tinterne…marvellous. But it was pleasant enough wandering along by the river, with plenty of wildlife to be seen. The sun was shining and the meadows soft and very peaceful. The end of the first day gratefully finished at The Abbey Hotel, a pleasant enough place to rest my feet and not a blister in site. A nice meal and a few drafts of wine before retiring for a well earned rest.

The end of the day at Brockweir bridge

Where now:                                                Home        :        Long Walks Menu        :        Day Two >>