Thursday, August 18, 2011

Offa’s Dyke 6: Kington-hill after bloody hill-Knighton

Blisters on the soles of my feet are actually starting to heal up, but after yesterday’s traversal of Hergest Ridge, Blisterzilla on my right heel has become further engorged with blood and now resembles half a hen’s egg.

4 useless signs and markersWhile Kington has just been accredited as a “Walkers are Welcome” town by the Offa’s Dyke trail officer, I can’t help but wonder on what basis. Apart from a couple of signs proclaiming this status on the edge of town, I saw no route markers or maps or other walkers’ resources in the town. The  guidebook was as useless as ever in directing us out of town, and the people I asked on the street sent me in directions entirely contrary to the Offa route. AFAICT none of the criteria 3-6 (which are actually useful to walkers) were in any way satisfied. It seems to be an empty marketing scheme.

Between the use of generic footpath signposts and half-missing markers, I didn’t see an unambiguous Offa trail marker until I had been walking for nearly 2 hours! At this point we were on Bradnor Hill which is home to the highest golf club in England.
Herrock Hill 1 Herrock Hill 2

From there we crossed the dome of Herrock Hill. Quite often we were walking on the Dyke itself, which is somewhat punctured with rabbit holes in many places, and you really have to watch where you put your foot.

Herrock Hill 3

Munson had the pleasure of a few swims today. It’s the warmest day so far and with each swim he gets a good chance to top up with water which takes pressure off the water supply I carry. When we did finally get low on water high atop Hawthorn Hill that rose gently but seemingly without end, I reserved the remainder for Munson. Not only does he need it more, but he doesn’t have the luxury of knowing how much farther there is too walk, so I could mentally anticipate getting a drink within an hour or two. We weren’t passing houses where we could knock on a door and ask for water – I hadn’t seen a watering station for walkers since we left Chepstow last week.
2011-08-17 OFFA 6 KnightonToday was a special torture when it came to stiles. At one point on I had to take Munson over 3 stiles in the space of 5 minutes and I think that was when I decided that we were not going to continue the walk after Knighton.

I lost count of today’s stiles after about the fifteenth, but need to specially call out the one which had barbed wire running up to one side and electrified wire on the other. Why didn’t they just put in a set of “Whoever wrote this episode should die!” chompers?
I cannot praise Munson too heavily for his helpfulness in managing today’s stiles. He would walk up and stand with his forelegs on the top step in such a way as to make it easier for me to lift him over without having to manoeuvre him into place and swing him gently over and not get his legs tangled in the opposing steps.

Dyke, swim, signs, sheep

There were some other places along the walk where you are squeezed between trees and unmarked electric fences. If it wasn’t for my time on the farm here I probably wouldn’t have noticed the electrification until it was too late. Having Munson with me meant that I had to steer him on a straight and narrow path away from the fence line.

Between the accumulation of stiles, the mess of broken or missing signs and my blisters I’d really ceased to get any pleasure out of the actual walking. Blisterzilla was not something I could walk through: every time I put my right foot down was horribly painful. In sharp contrast to my woes, Munson’s stamina was amazing – he was actually pulling me up the hills, and still had enough energy to bound around in off-leash sections.

Munson is still having fun Offa's Dyke marker

Somewhere on Hawthorn Hill we emerged onto a public road, with the Offa sign directing us straight into a long stretch of barbed wire fence, with no gate or stile crossing. I didn’t have the energy to try to decode where we should go next on the official path, so decided that we should just complete the remaining miles into Knighton along the road. I tried to hail a ride from a number of vehicles but few even slowed around us as we followed the narrow but busy road, criss-crossing it every few minutes to keep maximum visibility on the curves.

Knighton, the town on the Dyke

We reached the George and Dragon Inn at 7pm. Munson got through to the beer-garden and surrendered to a bucket of water and a blissfully cool floor. The staff told me to take care of myself and they’d watch over him. I can’t imagine anyone would have been able to drag him away.

After I’d showered and re-wrapped my wounds, I clambered back up the bar for dinner. Munson crawled under my table and slept with my head against my foot. There weren’t many people around to talk with but the inn staff were very amusing and we had a few running jokes through the evening.

Today’s pedometer tally: 38,587 steps / 28.9km – the longest of the week.

Total: 219,653 steps –> 165km (102 miles)

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