Friday, August 19, 2011

Offa’s Dyke diversion: train to Chepstow

Knighton to Craven ArmsI’ve travelled on British rail services with my dogs for about 6 years on and off, and I’ve never had a bad experience with staff whether I’m on a country train or a commuter service in London, Newcastle or wherever. In fact they’ve been uniformly helpful and friendly whether we’re on a platform or in a carriage. Would that Australian railway management have a sufficiently high view of its patrons to provide this level of service.

The train arrived in Knighton on time and the conductor smiled said “oh good you made it!” and gave Munson an affectionate scratch. He printed out a ticket from his portable device, and then a second which had our connection timetable information. Munson of course travelled free.

The first leg to Craven Arms was only about 15-20 minutes so we just stood at the end of the carriage, and Munson watched the countryside go by.
Knighton to ChepstowThere was a long wait for the next train so we walked into the town to get a bite to eat and find a toilet. It was sad to say a rather bleak rail and road junction and I wished I’d just stayed on the platform. I spent 15 minutes chasing signs to the public loo only to find the building locked up like a fortress. The food options seemed rather greasy so I got something pre-packaged from the Spar and trundled back to wait for the train. Blisterzilla’s deflation made little difference to how sore my foot was, so we moved pretty slowly all morning.

The main part of the journey down to Newport took about 80 minutes. Munson somehow managed to tuck himself under the seat next to me and was content to stay there, fluttering his eyes at some kids across the aisle. Malamutes have a wondrous ability to compress themselves into tight places such as between people on a sofa, and then re-expand to take up the entire room.
Craven Arms to NewportNewport to Chepstow
We were supposed to have another half hour wait for the final train, but were lucky enough to arrive in time to cross the platform for an earlier service to Chepstow. Our carriage was nearly empty and comfort-minded Munson immediately decided that he wanted a proper seat – it was just a big car surely? I know he wasn’t supposed to be on the seats but had to get a photo before I extracted him.

We walked the 20-30 minutes to the B&B where the car had slumbered. Munson so happy to get inside and gave me this adoring / surprised look saying “you mean we don’t have to do these ridiculous walks all the time now?!”.

Welsh roads being the narrow twisting things they are, it took as much time as our train journey to get back to Knighton. The transfer service for the bags hadn’t turned up so it was just as well that I was able to collect them myself.

Our stay for tonight was at Drewin Farm B&B which was nestled in a rather difficult to reach valley near Church Stoke. I’d called ahead to let them know I’d be arriving by car and to enquire about dinner options. As they had a number of guests, my host Mrs Richards was going to be cooking for us all.

view from Drewin Farm

Not far from the farm, I found two large logging trucks needed to get past me, so I had to reverse up a hill around the hedgerows for about 400m (quarter mile) to locate a turnout allowing them to pass. When I got to my destination it seemed like no one was home. Both my car and phone GPS said I was at the right place, but it seemed the map services were wrong and after conferring with Mrs Richards (thankfully we had phone service) I found my way on to the real Drewin Farm and a welcoming cuppa.

The other guests were two men who obviously knew each other from school and their college-age sons, all walking a short section of the Dyke. We had three courses of home-cooking to get to know each other after which I withdrew to allow the party some private conversation.

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