Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Offa’s Dyke 5: Hay-on-Wye–Hergest Ridge–Kington

Out of Hay-on-Wye
With my blisters all wrapped up, Munson’s leash in one hand and a walking pole in the other I strode weakly out of Hay around 9.15am. I’d bought two poles so I’d have a balanced pair but slid one of them into my bags for transport to tonight’s accommodation in Kington. I was also paring down what I was carrying in my day-bag, stripping away every unnecessary gram that was getting a scenic ride from town to town. On the first couple of days I was happy to have a small box of ibuprofin in the bag, but after that I tore off a couple of pill pouches and put the rest into my overnight bag. By today I was ready to throw away the slivers of foil that encased the pills as more dead-weight. I was most thankful that the capsaicin cream had worked on my leg muscles and it was only my feet causing any bother. Only my feet! Owwwww.
We crossed over the river Wye and followed it for a short while, and I let Munson have an early dip. I may have missed out on the opportunity to swim at the B&B, but that didn’t mean he shouldn’t have some fun. Plus it was better he swam early in the day so he’d be dry by the time we got to our destination.
Forest pauseThe first hour and a half of the walk was a return to the terrain  of our first few days, just with a sprinkling of stiles and executed at half the speed. I let Munson run on ahead on a winding path through some woodland. He would come back to check on me as I lumbered along and then race back to smell something new.

I heard a crackling of twigs under feet and a “well hello!” signalling that Munson had made a friend. It was an American school-teacher on vacation who couldn’t resist a daily breakneck “jog” through the countryside. When I explained that we were walking across country he was intensely interested, envious of our opportunity. I told of him of some of the other walks I’d done with Bondi, which left him with a lot of food for thought.
Sheep and stiles
I met several other parties of walkers today, joining them for brief periods and sometimes meeting up later depending on our respective energy levels. Despite the pain in my feet I was a bit of a walking machine and just kept going without stopping for more than 5 minutes a time – usually catching my breath after helping Munson over yet another stile.
The joy of climbing
Approaching Hergest Ridge
The scenery was becoming very postcard pretty, and then there was an almost abrupt change to the
more rugged upland terrain of mountain sheep, ponies and furze: we were on Hergest Ridge.

The place name is familiar to many as the name of Mike Oldfield’s 1974  follow-up album to Tubular Bells. That’s an Irish Wolfhound on the cover.


Oldfield was living near the Ridge when he wrote this album and the next Ommadawn (probably my favourite of his), although only the latter was actually recorded here. Famous Australian artist Sidney Nolan lived on a farm to the north for the last ten years of his life.
Hergest RidgeHergest sheep

Near the summit – 160m or ~500 ft above the surrounding countryside, we were buzzed a few times by military aircraft. As they rolled above you could almost hear them on their cockpit radio: “did you see the size of that dog!”

Approaching Kington  Church House B&B Kington
You go up 160m, and then you come down 160m – I was so grateful for the pole on the descents today. Only once did it fail me, on a particularly steep and muddy section before Hergest Ridge I slid several metres landing hard on my backside, which at least took my mind off my feet for a few minutes – that and Munson attentively leaning down to lick my face while I lay in a patch of heather.

We found our way to the Church House B&B on the edge of Kington before 5pm. Our hosts Lis and Andrew Darwin had a pot of tea for us in short order and served in their gorgeous back garden. Munson liked it so much out there that he ended up sleeping outside again that night. I really enjoyed talking with the Darwins, who as their website says, “treat our paying guests as we might treat distant cousins paying a rare but welcome visit”.  When I wasn’t treating aching my aching feet in the bath, I spent quite a bit of time sitting in the garden or a corner of the kitchen reading and chatting amiably.

In the early evening we walked down the hill to find a dog-friendly pub for dinner.  Most places were closed that evening but we found The Oxford Arms on the high street and opened the door to find a small dog at a water bowl inside which was a very good omen. Through another door into the bar and I was instantly greeted by a table of all the other walkers I’d met that day plus a few more. They called us over to eat with them – one of the newbies said “I’ve been hearing about this dog all evening!”. I asked them for recommendations from the menu – and then to spoil it all, the pub owner cleared his throat and said loudly “I’ve got a problem with your dog – you can’t have him in here”.  So I said “well then I’ve got a problem with giving you twenty quid for dinner and drinks so we’ll be off.” I don’t know what my fellow walkers said to him – I grabbed some fish and chips from a chippy we’d passed earlier and shared our elegant repast on a street bench.

Pedometer tally: 35,320 steps / 26.5 km

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