Offa's Dyke South - 2007

Day Four: 20th September

Weather: Rain for a good few hours, then brightened up to sun

Route: Pandy to Hay-on-Wye: 17.5 miles


Breakfast was served in the bar, and I regretted (slightly) that last bottle of Rhymney Ale. I imbibed a litre of water before setting off as I knew there was a stiff climb ahead of me for the first 2 miles. This was one of the most enjoyable days, although I didn’t see the Dyke at all as it wanders away further to the East. I think it was the change in scenery, the challenge of the terrain and the improvement in the weather from torrential rain at the start to finish in the sunshine. Gone was the rolling countryside of day 3 and welcome to the edge of the Black Mountains.

After leaving the guesthouse and saying my goodbyes, the landlord told me ‘Nobody ever waves from the top’; mind you he would have to have very good eyesight to see up there. He told me it was 1 ½ hours to the top and he was about right. I walked away up the trail which was next to the pub, and crossed the railway line before starting the long ascent of Hatterrall Hill, passing an old barn that looked quite French in style. Continuing the animal theme from yesterday I came across a sheep with a bucket on its head! I tried to get close to take it off, but it kept moving away. Obviously very wary of people creeping up behind it.

Oy…I like your hat…baaaaaaaa

As I moved further up the hill, the path took an annoying turn down the lane and I lost a couple of hundred feet and had to start up the climb again. I soon came out on open moorland marked by close cropped grass and bracken. I knew it was going to be tough going because my nose was close to the turf. The rain was teeming down so I had full waterproofs on. I was dry on the inside initially but as I became more breathless the higher I climbed the perspiration inside the waterproofs was not exactly comfortable – not a nice thought is it. But I would have been soaked for all the day if I had disrobed for comfort. I looked back from time to time as I paused for breath and saw the three amigos wandering uphill a long way back.. Eventually the gradient eased off as I came to the ridge, but the ground was still rising away from me for the next 10 miles. Once I was up on the ridge at the first trig point I had climbed from 300ft to 1740ft, a stiff climb at the best of times. The wildlife up here was a bit more docile though and I wasn’t chased or harried all day long. The rain gradually eased off and the sun came peeping through the clouds, but not before my boots were thoroughly sodden – they didn’t dry out for the rest of the walk but they were still waterproof and my feet stayed dry due to the gore-tex lining, hence no blisters.

Looking back down Hatterrall Hill – Pandy below – I didn’t wave

starting to ease off

Further up the ridge the land was reminiscent of the Pennines, with lots of Heather. The peat was thinner here than up on the Pennines (the ancient Brits must have felled the forests earlier than the Northern Monkeys did), and hence erosion was a problem in places. So walking was on a sandy/rocky base rather than the spongy peat of the North. There had been some restoration and a flag path had been laid over the worst areas. There was a narrow ridge for a mile or so that gave good views either side to Llantony and Longtown. The valley below looked very peaceful in the sunshine. A few Skylarks were flying high but not singing too much, and apart from the odd Welsh pony and sheep it was a very quiet day.

Wales to the left - England on the sunny side

How green is my valley down in Llantony

After the steep sided ridge the moorland broadened out and the views either side disappeared. I plodded onwards and upwards and had to eat on the hoof, as there was nowhere to sit and I didn’t want to get a wet bum. I was 5 miles out from Pandy with 12 ½ to go. The next 7 miles was along the ridge with little change in outlook, with the path in various stages of disarray and restoration. I had my music with me, so I tuned in and let my mind wander. Eventually I reached the final steady climb and found myself at 2306ft – no need for Oxygen. The path passed over the crest at the North of the ridge and the landscape opened up before me. A fantastic view in the sunshine, which bought a smile to my face after all the long slog. I had about 5 miles left to reach Hay-On-Wye so had a little rest and soaked up the vista.

Looking East into Herefordshire

I continued down the escarpment which was steep and hard on the knees after all the miles I had done in the last 2 days. The top of Hay Bluff is made up of Conglomerate which overlays the much softer Old Red Sandstone, hence the steepness of slope. As I descended from the moorland the vegetation once more returned to the usual Bracken and close crapped grass (no that’s not a spelling mistake). There was a big area of common grazing land that stretched out for a mile or more that had a significant amount of the brown stuff on. Did you know that the higher I got up the steeper slopes there was less sheep droppings, which only goes to show – it really does roll downhill. I couldn’t see Hay-On-Wye from the common land and when I got into Hay I couldn’t see the Hay Bluff either, until a few miles out on the next days walk. The descent into Hay was very pleasant along a few farm tracks and across fields in the late afternoon sun.

I arrived at the Seven Sisters Inn and lo and behold the pub was no longer, it was now a fancy B&B. But I forgave it as it had a sauna and swimming pool out the back. Hay-On-Wye is famous for its book festival and shops, but not so good for its restaurants. I scrubbed up and made for the Blue Boar pub and had a passable meal with a couple of pints. Then back for a rest before going for a swim and a sauna. My swimming trunks weren’t up to scratch – a smelly pair of old Y-fronts – yerghh. But who cares there was only myself in there. Needless to say I slept like a log.

A glorious day. The path descended Hay Bluff across the face of the scarp.

Barn at the start of the day near Pandy

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