Exploring the Copper Coast and Ireland’s earliest Christian site

Annestown Beach on the coast of County Waterford, one of many such secluded coves in this area.

Annestown Beach on the coast of County Waterford, one of many such secluded coves in this area.

Imagine a coastline similar to the Cornish coast but something is missing. This place has rugged cliffs, copper mines, quaint villages and sandy coves but the missing ingredient is that it is devoid of a coastal path however there is one spot where there is a fine cliff walk which I shall come to shortly.
The coast of County Waterford in southern Ireland is a hidden gem and on a recent visit I looked at the possibility of exploring the coast in a little more depth. My journey starts in Tramore in the east of the county and this place seems a bit out of character with the rest of the coastline. Tramore has a fine beach but in my opinion it is marred by amusement arcades and fun fairs and so the town wouldn’t look out of place somewhere along the south coast of England.
Further west the landscape changes and you could easily imagine that you are travelling along the north Cornish coast but without the crowds, traffic congestion and furthermore the car parks are free! This is known as the ‘Copper Coast Geopark’ and more in depth information can be found on the following website;- (www.coppercoastgeopark.com). My first stop is at Annestown which has a sandy beach hemmed in between rocky headlands but any attempt to get onto the cliff top is barred by either no trespassing signs or vegetation so thick that walking would be near on impossible. Just over a mile west is the almost hidden fishing cove at Boatstrand which is sheltered by Dunabrattin Head on which stands one of the finest promontory forts in Ireland.

Boatstrand Harbour, county Waterford. Hidden from view from the coast road this spot could be easily missed.

Boatstrand Harbour, County Waterford. Hidden from view from the coast road this spot could be easily missed.

No this is not Cornwall nor am I expecting to bump into Ross Poldark. This is the Copper Coast Geopark in county Waterford and the Tankardstown North Engine House.

No this is not Cornwall nor am I expecting to bump into Ross Poldark. This is the Copper Coast Geopark in County Waterford and the Tankardstown North Engine House.

The coast of County Waterford is so much like the Cronish coast but without the crowds. Sadly there is no coastal path.

The coast of County Waterford is so much like the Cornish coast but without the crowds. Sadly there is no coastal path.

Continuing west again on the coastal road and you soon come across the ruins of Tankardstown (North) Engine House used to bring up copper ore to the surface and many display boards around the well kept site depict the mining industry of the area. My next stop is at Stradbally, a most attractive village about a mile inland from the coast and here, time has stood still and the place seems deserted on this fine summer’s day.
The main town along this section of coast is Dungarven which lies at the head of Dungarven Harbour and the mud flats which are almost split in two by a sand bank are an ornithologist’s delight. The town dates from the 7th century and was once the county town of Waterford. Not far from the town square is Dungarven Castle which overlooks the harbour and dates from the 13th century. A more recent attraction in the town is that it is now at the western end of the popular Waterford Greenway, a surfaced cycle trail along the old railway line that runs all the way to Waterford. For more information see website (www.visitwaterfordgreenway.com).

A lazy summer's day at Stradbally and where is everyone. The villages along this section of the Waterford coast are so clean and tidy.

A lazy summer’s day at Stradbally and where is everyone? The villages along this section of the Waterford coast are so clean and tidy.

Dungarvan, set at the top of a large bay is a very colourful place and full of flower displays on this fine summer's day.

Dungarvan, set at the top of a large bay is a very colourful place and full of flower displays on this fine summer’s day.

Now for the walk. I am starting out from the historic village of Ardmore and again I find free parking on the seafront. A fine sandy beach stretches northwards from the village but I am heading off in the opposite direction. This short walk is full of history and the village has the honour of being the oldest Christian settlement in Ireland. St Declan lived in the area sometime between 350-450AD which predates Saint Patrick. The main village street still has some thatched cottages intermingled between more modern buildings and seaside shops.

The chapel by St Declan's Well - a secluded spot sheltered from Atlantic gales.

The chapel by St Declan’s Well at Ardmore – a secluded spot sheltered from Atlantic gales.

There is a fine coastal walk from Ardmore and the path can be seen on the top left of this picture. The crane Barge 'Samson' has been a attraction along this section of coast since coming aground here in 1987. The crane jib collapsed in 2016.

There is a fine coastal walk from Ardmore and the path can be seen on the top left of this picture. The crane barge ‘Samson’ has been a attraction along this section of coast since coming aground here in 1987. The crane jib collapsed in 2016.

Following the coast from the village the first point of interest is St Declan’s Stone, a large rock on the beach perched on two smaller stones which differs from the surrounding rocks which probably means it is an erratic and was probably brought here by an ice sheet. There are many myths connected with this rock but the best known one is that a monk Runanus travelling with Declan back from a trip to Wales, forgot to bring Declan’s sacred golden bell. The legend goes that a rock bore this sacred object back to Ardmore, miraculously floating upon the waves. During the annual feast day of the saint on July 24th, pilgrims crawl or squeeze through the small gap under the rock as a cure for arthritis. (Lets hope the tide is out when they do it).
Leaving the village I soon come to the St Declan’s Well, set in a secluded wooded spot by a ruinous chapel. The stone cross at the western end of the site has been worn away over the centuries by pilgrims. The path now becomes more open and shortly rounds Ardmore Head and soon another more recent point of interest grabs your attention. Unlike the historic sites visited so far, this event took place on the 12th December 1987. The rusting iron hulk of the crane barge ‘Samson’ lies stranded below the cliffs. The story began on the 9th of December 1987 when the crane barge was being towed from Liverpool to Malta but the tow line broke off the Welsh coast and the barge drifted to this quiet cove in Ireland where it has stayed ever since and no attempt has been made to salvage it. On the cliff top nearby is the remains of a World War II lookout station and set back a little distance is another lookout tower dating from the 1800’s. All too soon the coastal path turns inland and crosses higher ground before descending towards Ardmore and soon the round tower which stands above the village comes into view. The 30 metre high tower stands in the churchyard and alongside are the remains of Ardmore Cathedral. The west wall of the former cathedral has recesses in stone featuring Romanesque sculptures depicting scenes from the old and new testaments. Alongside is St Declan’s Oratory where it is said that St Declan was buried but no trace remains due to souvenir hunters over past centuries. In another quiet corner of the churchyard I was drawn to a large grave and an information board. In the cold winter of 1947 when there major fuel shortages, the steamship Ary was en route from Port Talbot in South Wales to Waterford with a cargo of 600 tons of coal. In gale force winds the cargo shifted and the boat listed to one side. In an effort to correct the list water was pumped into the other side and in the rough weather the ship sank with the men hurriedly taking to the two lifeboats. There was only one survivor who came ashore close to Ardmore and he was able to tell the story. Other bodies were washed ashore over the coming days and are buried in the churchyard. Post mortems showed that the men died of hypothermia rather than drowning. The location of the SS Ary has never been found on the seabed to this very day.

The round tower above Ardmore village has stood here for over 800 years.

The round tower above Ardmore village has stood here for over 800 years.

The west wall of the former Ardmore Cathedral depicts scenes in stone from the old and new testaments. The buildings are site on the oldest religious site in Ireland.

The west wall of the former Ardmore Cathedral depicts scenes in stone from the old and new testaments. The buildings are situated on the oldest religious site in Ireland.

My walk was coming to an end as I entered the top end of Ardmore. It had only been a few miles but a walk packed with so much history. My bed and breakfast establishment was located on a lane leading up and out of the village but I shall remember this place by a rather magical sight I saw early the following morning. Peering out of the window at 3.40am with a view east over a smooth Ardmore Bay, with a few street lights in the village, a navigational aid flashing by the harbour, there was a golden glow as the day was breaking to the northeast with three planets piercing the night sky and the outline of the floodlit pencil shape round tower it all seemed rather unreal. I wonder what St Declan would have thought!

An ancient abbey and geological marvels

The ruins of Arbroath Abbey and the famous 'Round O'

The ruins of Arbroath Abbey and the famous ‘Round O’

Many years ago on a business trip to Arbroath I had taken an evening walk north from Arbroath along the coast and was impressed by an array of geological features. At the time I decided that I would come back on a fine day and walk this section of coast at my leisure.
On a family holiday last year we just so happened to be staying a few miles inland which gave me the opportunity of an afternoon walk from Arbroath along this section of coast as far as Auchmithie before I needed to head inland to follow a series of paths, lanes and tracks back to where we were staying. The walk I measured was around eleven miles which starting out after lunch would take to early evening to finish.

The Signal Tower Museum is well worth a visit and charts the history of the Bell Rock Lighthouse.

The Signal Tower Museum is well worth a visit and charts the history of the Bell Rock Lighthouse.

I had waited all week for a sunny day on the coast which had been plagued by coastal fog almost all of the time and this being the last day the sun was making a half hearted appearance. The morning had been spent in Arbroath with an interesting hour exploring the impressive ruins of Arbroath Abbey. Founded in 1178, the abbey which was constructed of local red sandstone was in its day the richest in Scotland. In 1950 the Stone of Destiny was stolen from Westminster Abbey and turned up at Arbroath Abbey in 1951. High on the south transept is a large round window which is locally known as the ‘Round O’ and this was originally lit up at night as a beacon to aid mariners. With an early lunch in the Corn Exchange Wetherspoons then a visit to the Signal Tower Museum which depicts the building and history of the Bell Rock Lighthouse, which lies some eleven miles offshore I was ready for an afternoon walk.

From Arbroath I set off along the foreshore soon passing the town football club at Gayfield Park, famous insomuch of scoring the highest number of goals against an opponent in a senior football match against Aberdeen Bon Accord in 1885 with a mind blowing score of 36-0.

The picturesque Arbroath Harbour. You can just smell those smokies and just a pity that the sun wasn't shining.

The picturesque Arbroath Harbour. You can just smell those smokies but what a pity that the sun wasn’t shining.

Next I reached the attractive harbour which would have made a good location if only the sun had been shining. The lifeboat was just leaving on a training session. The harbour area is famous for the Arbroath Smokie, a haddock, smoked over wood and the aroma was very much in the air as I passed several fishmongers. Leaving the town I followed the promenade by Victoria Park before joining the good cliff path beyond. This stretch of coast has all the geological features one could wish for and forms a Geodiversity Trail and this includes arches, stacks, wave cut platforms, blowholes, gloups and caves. I had picked up an excellent leaflet explaining each feature and I now took my time pausing at many of the formations. First of note was Needle E’e, a sandstone rock arch, which was followed by The Blowhole, Dickmont’s Den and the Deil’s Head, a rock stack. Beyond, Maiden Castle was a promontory fort from the Iron Age. I soon descended to rocky Carlingheugh Bay and explored one of the sea arches. Progress along the beach was slow due to the large pebbles and at the far end I ascended to regain the good coastal path. There were more geological features of note had I had the time to explore but it was well into the afternoon. The cliff top path was lined with a variety of wild flowers which made the walking most pleasant. I would have like to have visited Gaylet Pot, a subterranean passage, its entrance lying in a middle of a field but crops had been planted. With welcome sunshine now making an appearance I approached the picturesque coastal village of Auchmithie rounding the attractive Castlesea Bay on the way. In the village I stopped in the churchyard for a snack before venturing down to take a last look at the coast before heading inland.

Needle Ee, just the first of several fine geological features as you leave Arbroath to walk north along the coast.

Needle Ee, just the first of several fine geological features as you leave Arbroath to walk north along the coast.

A blowhole on the coastal path north of Arbroath.

A blowhole on the coastal path north of Arbroath.

Castle Gate at Carlingheaugh Bay north of Arbroath - an area of stacks and arches which can be explored.

Castle Gate at Carlingheaugh Bay north of Arbroath – an area of stacks and arches which can be explored.

Ironically I could have caught a bus into Arbroath as one turned up but I was heading inland now to Kinblethmont. Setting out along the road, a driver soon stopped to offer me a lift into Arbroath and I explained that I wasn’t going that way. Soon afterwards I came across two young ladies who were waiting for a friend to turn up. They had followed me out from Arbroath along the coast and we had passed one another several times. As I was speaking to them their lift turned up and again I was offered a lift into Arbroath which I declined.

An excellent path leads all the way from Arbroath to Auchmithie and is lined by a fine array of wild flowers. This view is on the approach to Auchmithie and the line of houses are the former coastguard cottages.

An excellent path leads all the way from Arbroath to Auchmithie and is lined with a fine array of wild flowers. This view is on the approach to Auchmithie and the line of houses are the former coastguard cottages.

Castlesea Bay near Auchmithie. One of several secluded bays in this area.

Castlesea Bay near Auchmithie. One of several secluded bays in this area.

Sunshine at last. The village street in Auchmithie and very typical of a east of Scotland coastal village.

Sunshine at last. The village street in Auchmithie and very typical of a east of Scotland coastal village. Its now time to leave the coast and head inland.

Turning right I set off along Cadgers Road, (a track), and later turned north through the West Woods of Ethie which was surprisingly busy with walkers as it was tea time. The sunshine of earlier had gone and now replaced by some threatening clouds to the north. Some lane walking took me north then northwest to cross the A92 beyond the hamlet of Brunton. My only concern was getting from the next road into the Kinblethmont Estate. A track ran southwest from a road and indeed this seemed good until I almost got to the estate boundary when it abruptly stopped and ahead what was supposed to be a track was choked by tall nettles. I had no choice but to divert to follow a field boundary with young crops planted to the edge. Scaling a low wall at the end I was immediately onto a familiar track within the Kinblethmont Estate which I had walked earlier in the week. The easiest way back was to walk via the walled garden but in doing so I met one of the owners armed with a gun. Having explained that I was staying on the estate we had a long conversation and anyway he was only out shooting grey squirrels. I was back at our self catering cottage by early evening and ahead of my intended schedule and lucky insomuch that the evening turned wet soon afterwards.

Holt. Who goes there?

All that is left of Holt Castle on this sandstone plinth in a grassy meadow.

All that is left of Holt Castle on this sandstone plinth in a grassy meadow.

This was a walk that I had had on my list to do for a number of years. Comprising of a riverside walk between the border village of Holt and Chester I wanted to follow paths beside the River Dee and hence I needed a dryer spell when the river wasn’t high just in case the adjacent low lying fields were flooded. I drive to Chester early on a fine October morning and park south of the river and walk through to the city centre. The bus to Holt is running a few minutes late and was fairly full.

Civil War musket shot damage on the interior of St Chad's Church, Holt.

English Civil War musket shot damage on the interior of St Chad’s Church, Holt.

Look carefully about midway up on the wooden door to see where holes were cut during the Civil War so that royalists could fire out onto the Parliamentarians from within the church at Holt.

Look carefully about midway up on the wooden door to see where holes were cut during the English Civil War so that Royalists could fire out onto the Parliamentarians from within the church at Holt.

At Holt I alight and go for a wander around this interesting village before starting the walk proper. I want to see what was left of the castle and so I head off there first. For once the weather is on my side as the sun has now made an appearance to enable me to get some fine autumn photographs. The remains Holt Castle have recently been restored. It is unusual that it stands on a sandstone plinth in water meadows and I would have imagined the land around had been quarried away. The castle was built by Edward I between 1277 and 1311 and is shaped like a pentagon and once had a water filled moat fed by the River Dee. Being on the border between England and Wales it saw much action and was burned down in 1400 in the uprising by Owain Glyndwr. Again during the English Civil War there was further action and by the late 1600’s the castle had been dismantled and the stone removed for building work elsewhere. Before leaving Holt I want to visit the parish church of St Chad and here some damage was caused in the conflict during the English Civil War. Inside the church there is evidence of musket blasts on one of the walls and an ancient wooden door on the north side has blocked up holes which were cut out to fire through from within the church during the English Civil War by Royalists who were trapped inside.

The tranquil River Dee on the English Welsh border at Holt/Farndon on a fine sunny autumn morning.

The tranquil River Dee on the English Welsh border at Holt/Farndon on a fine sunny autumn morning.

Rather colourful Mongolian yurts in Cheshire not far from Farndon.

Rather colourful Mongolian yurts in Cheshire not far from Farndon.

It’s time to start my walk and I cross the River Dee into England via the ancient 14th century sandstone bridge. I make a short detour to Farndon Church but an event is taking place so I don’t venture inside.
Setting out beside the River Dee I follow the eastern bank to Iron Bridge, a distance of some five miles. Summer houses line the bank of the river but many look very dilapidated. My route continues mostly alongside field boundaries with the river nearly always immediately on my left. Just over a mile out of Farndon I come across three large Mongolian Yurts at Willows Fish Farm which are worth photographing but by now I have lost the sunshine for the day. For the next few miles I stay by the eastern bank of the River Dee following field boundaries through a succession of pastures and some short sections of very overgrown fields. In one or two spots the path runs dangerously close to the river due to ongoing erosion but worse is to come. Close to Jones Wood the path has been washed away and a wooden footbridge lies tilted at an angle of forty five degrees but I manage to get to it and cross it. (A obstruction report will be sent to West Cheshire CC when I get back). As I near Aldford I start to look for somewhere for lunch but I don’t find anywhere suitable until I have crossed the ornate Iron Bridge. This fine bridge was designed by Thomas Telford and built by William Hazledine for the 1st Marquis of Westminster in 1824 and has a single graceful cast iron arch of 50 metres. It was difficult to get a photograph of this fine structure without a trespass upstream on the western bank by the river side lodge but as the lodge seems empty I take the risk. I return to the western side of the bridge where I stop for lunch.

The ornate Iron Bridge that spans the River Dee at Aldford which dates from 1824.

The ornate Iron Bridge that spans the River Dee at Aldford which dates from 1824.

The wooded banks of the River Dee on the approach to Chester and a good path north from Iron Bridge.

The wooded banks of the River Dee on the approach to Chester and a good path north from Iron Bridge.

I now follow the western bank of the River Dee into Chester and in contrast with the morning part of the walk I was now walking through woodland and part of the large Eaton Estate. This section of the walk is proving more popular with walkers. At Eccleston I continued through river side meadows on a good path and later pass beneath the A55 on the approach into Chester. Rounding an area called Earl’s Eye I soon entered Chester where it was just a short walk back to the car.

All aboard for Tory Island!

This knife edge promontory thrusts out into the Atlantic on the north side of Tory Island.

This knife edge promontory thrusts out into the Atlantic on the north side of Tory Island.

In this week of the general election I thought I would write about a walk I undertook on Tory Island. Now if you are thinking that this is a summer retreat for the Conservative Party then you would be wrong. A small scrap of land just squeezing onto the top edge of Irish Ordnance Survey Map number one, this tiny outpost belongs more to the Atlantic than it does to Ireland and yet it has a population of 144. Measuring just three miles long by 0.6 of a mile wide who would want to eke out a living some nine off the northwest coast of Donegal.

From Google Wikipedia the ancient history of the island reads as if it could by a mythical far off land and states the following;- In the apocryphal history of Ireland, Lebor Gabala Erenn Tory Island, was the site of Conand’s Tower, the stronghold of the Fomorians before they were defeated by the Nemedians in a great battle on the island. The later Fomorian king Balor of the evil eye also lived here. Balor would imprison Ethlinnin a tower built atop Tor Mór which is the island’s highest point.

The island dips gradually from north to south with the north coast having jagged quartzite cliffs and blades of rock jutting out into the wild Atlantic. Away from the coastal fringe the land is covered in a thin layer of turf bog where islanders have made a living from for centuries using the medieval strip system of farming which has long gone in the rest of Ireland. The islanders still retain their unique Gaelic dialect and have their own customs. Getting to and from the island can leave one stranded and no guarantee of getting back the same day and often the islanders have been cut off for weeks on end. Well it was time to find out and to me this would be a challenge of getting out and back from the island in the same day.
I’ve always had a fascination in island life and why do people live on such remote scraps of land around the British Isles and yet here is an island with a reasonable population located in such a inhospitable area. It was time to find out.
On a previous trip to Ireland I had picked up a leaflet detailing trips out various islands together with timetables and so armed with this information and the prospect of a fine day I put my plan into operation.

Getting the last seat in the shelter of the wheel house turned out to be the driest outside seat.

Getting the last seat in the shelter of the wheel house turned out to be the driest outside seat on the boat.

I arrive in good time at Magheroarty on the Donegal coast only to find no activity around the pier. I am early and decide on a short walk along the nearby beach and dunes. On my return, things are happening and on enquiring at a portacabin, a rival company are offering trips out to Tory Island on a fast launch. Time is tight now as I quickly don walking boots and hurry down to the end of the pier to catch this earlier boat. I get one of the last seats which as it turns out is outside but in the shelter of the wheelhouse. This is a blessing in disguise because as soon as we are out of the harbour we pick up speed. The full force of the Atlantic swell is felt as we repeatedly thump the waves as we head out into Tory Sound and most people soon head indoors having got two or three soakings of icy spray. We soon clear the nearby island of Inishbofin and are soon into open seas with the odd wave sending spray over me. After a good half hour of being on a roller coaster of a ride we are coming into the shelter of Tory Island and as we entered Camusmore Bay, dolphins swim alongside the boat. This is truly a magical moment and under the deep blue skies I thought this type of thing only happened on the ‘Television Holiday Programmes’. Stepping ashore we are all greeted by the ‘Tory King’ a village elder before strolling up into West Town and the main village on the island. This small settlement is dominated by a tall round tower which is the last remnant of St Columcille’s Monastery that was founded in the sixth century. At least I have plenty of time to explore the island in full and decide to head east first and set off under brilliant sunny skies out of the village along the quiet road. What surprises me that there are street lights along the village street and plenty of building schemes going on which I can only imagine are summer retreats. Today there is no agriculture as the soil looks so thin and acidic. On the way to East Town I pass a lone rusty torpedo, stood on end and half buried in the ground. East Town is no more than a collection of whitewashed cottages plus one or two more modern dwellings huddled together on the barren and treeless landscape. I am witnessing it on a splendid day but I imagine what it must be like in a winter storm. Continuing east, I head to Port Doon, a tiny bay with a pebble beach. I cross a neck of land to head for the highest point on the island, a modest 83 metres, but on the way, I want to take a look at the rock formations at Tormore. Crossing the barren landscape I am soon confronted by an awesome view as the Atlantic had eaten into the rock face forming a fantastic spine of narrow rock almost 80 metres high with pinnacles and jutting out north a good quarter of a mile into the ocean. I stop and stare at this spectacle and take several photographs. With drops on all sides I walked carefully to a vantage point before retracing my steps to the main summit. Dun Balair is a promontory fort and what a sight. With the weather being so good, I stop nearby to have a leisurely lunch.

the main village street on tory Island dominated by the round tower of the former

The main village street on Tory Island dominated by the round tower of the former St Columcille Monastery.

The sheltered south side of the island.

The sheltered south side of the island and harbour.

The island road running east out of West Town.

The island road running east out of West Town. A treeless landscape.

Now who left this here! A rusting torpedo upended by the island road.

Now who left this here! A rusting torpedo upended between West Town and East Town.

This picture shows just how thin the soil is on the island. The coast of Donegal can be seen in the distance.

This picture shows just how thin the soil is on the island. The coast of Donegal can be seen in the distance.

For the afternoon I will work my way along the very indented north coast with its fantastic weathered cliffs with many opportunities to stop for photographs. Stopping at each headland I am rewarded by more fantastic views. At one point there is a blow hole, not that anything is happening today. The only downside along this stretch of coast is a spot where the islands’ discarded rubbish has been dumped over the cliffs including a couple of rusting cars. I carry on west passing to the north of West Town and here the cliffs became less dramatic. I am heading for the lighthouse next set on the exposed western headland and facing the full force of the Atlantic. There is very little soil and vegetation here and just a sea of broken rock thrown up from the cliffs by massive waves. The lighthouse on the other hand is surrounded by a high wall and notices saying to keep out and it is clear that visitors are not welcome. With still time to spare, I head back along the lonely road to West Town. Most of the dwellings are summer houses but there were a good number of permanent residents on this lonely outpost. There was one farm eking a meagre living but very few animals. I pause here and there as I walk through the village. The pub is open but I decide press on to buy an ice cream at the village store then sit on a seat just to soak up the atmosphere and to take in what it must be like to live here. Despite its size, there are a number of cars on the island many minus wings and bumpers and some residents seem to pass the time of day driving up and down the same piece of road, – well there is only two and a half miles of road on the island. From my observations I think that none of the vehicles would get through a M.O.T. After sitting quietly for forty minutes and with the skies beginning to cloud up, it is time to return to the pier and catch the launch back to the Irish mainland and on reflection it’s been such a magical day in such a lonely outpost.

The highest point on the island is marked by this cairn and looks west along the length of the island.

The highest point on the island is marked by this cairn and looks west along the length of the island.

the rocky north coast with the view towards the lighthouse.

The rocky north coast with the view towards the lighthouse.

There’s Scawtite in them there hills

I’m on a journey from Portrush to Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland and the last full walking day before catching a flight back from Belfast City Airport so it’s a good opportunity to get another walk in the Antrim Hills. I want to get to Glenarm on the Antrim coast road where I can catch the morning bus into Larne but on the way there I want to make a diversion to visit one of Northern Ireland’s most photographed locations. It may be only a country lane I’m heading for but this lane is no ordinary country lane and I am keen to get some photographs before the tourists arrive. Dark Hedges is a fine avenue of beech trees featured in the television series ‘Game of Thrones’. I am not disappointed as on this early Monday morning I have the place to myself with just the occasional commuter passing by. The main approach to Gracehill House which itself was built in 1775 was planted with an avenue of beech trees which have become a main tourist attraction in Northern Ireland. Visit this place in the right atmospheric conditions you could imagine that it is straight out of a scene in the Lord of the Rings. This half mile long section of road is lined with mature beech trees with massive limbs forming a fascinating tree tunnel.

The mysterious Dark Hedges in a rural part of County Antrim.

The mysterious Dark Hedges in a rural part of County Antrim.

I reach Glenarm at 09.30am giving me twenty minutes to don boots and to catch the bus to Larne. Alighting from the bus in the town I soon bump into a couple of people from Canada that I had spoken with at length on the previous day not far from the Giants Causeway. Larne is well known as a terminal for car ferries from Stranraer and Carinryan on the Scottish coast but in my opinion the town has little else to offer so I walk through the town centre and take a break at a seat before heading west through the outskirts on several residential roads including Mill Brae and Ballyhampton Road to reach the open countryside. It is now a rather long uphill walk on the straight Mullaghsandall Road to gain the Antrim Hills Way which runs concurrently with the Ulster Way. This proves to be the least interest part of the walk as there are no buses which come anywhere near this part of the world. The Antrim Hills Way is very well way-marked with regular posts displaying the Antrim Hills Way in name and a white fern symbol on a purple background so there is no excuse to wander off the trail.

Sallagh Braes where the basalt plateau gives way to a massive semi circular valley (In appearance its looks very similar to Cown Edge).

Sallagh Braes where the basalt plateau gives way to a massive semi circular valley (In appearance its looks very similar to Cown Edge).

I am glad to be walking across fields on this well signed path but the first stretch proves to be a bit boggy underfoot. Within a half mile I am at Sallagh Braes at the edge of a massive semi-circular basalt escarpment that was created when glaciers cut into unstable slopes and caused a massive landslip. (In appearance it’s very similar to Cown Edge). I soon pass two other walkers heading south and now the terrain is turning more pleasant with firm ground and short cropped grass. I make good progress for several miles over Robins Young Hill then down to cross the Feystown Road. With a picnic site symbol marked on the map, I had hoped to stop here for lunch but there are no picnic benches and it is a rather cold spot. I chose a sheltered location just on the northern side of the road with a view east towards Scotland on what has turned out to be a rather grey day.

Miles of easy walking on short cropped grassland and marvellous views stretching to Scotland. This view looks south from just north of the Feystown Road.

Miles of easy walking on short cropped grassland and marvellous views stretching to Scotland. This view looks south from just north of the Feystown Road.

Despite the day being very dull and cloudy, the next part of the walk proves very interesting with easy walking over Ballycoos, Scawt Hill to reach Black Hill on short cropped grass. The route is frequented with many way-markers and really there was no need for a map on this section. Several way-markers have fold out information panels which gave an insight to the rich geology of the area. Scawt Hill is the location where several rare minerals have been found including Larnite, Rankinite and Scawtite. These minerals were discovered within the last century and occur as a result of magna being thrust up through the ground and heating the limestone. (Look at Google Wikipedia to get more information about these rare minerals and their chemical element).

Frequent waymarkers keeps you on the right route for several miles of hill top walking. Scawt Hill is in the distance. the rare mineral Scawtite takes its name from this hill where it was first found.

Frequent waymarkers keeps you on the right route for several miles of hill top walking. Scawt Hill is in the distance. The rare mineral Scawtite takes its name from this hill where it was first found.

Several way-markers have fold out information panels many of which explain the complex geology of the area.

Several way-markers have fold out information panels many of which explain the complex geology of the area.

A little further beyond is Black Hill, which is crowned with a trig point and at 381 metres is the highest point of the day. The visibility is excellent with views to Islay, Jura, Kintyre, Arran, Ailsa Craig, the Ayrshire coast and even the Isle of Man. Below me the Maidens Lighthouse out in the North Channel which winks three times every twenty seconds. From the summit, a well way-marked path leads northwest to reach the quiet road leading down towards Glenarm. Later I take a minor lane called Town Brae down to the village.

Glenarm claims to be ulster's oldest town and has little changed over the centuries and an ideal spot for period film drams.

Glenarm claims to be Ulster’s oldest town and has little changed over the centuries and an ideal spot for period film drams.

Glenarm is claimed to be the oldest town in Ulster and Altmore Street is lined with Georgian houses. Running off it, Castle Street leads to the barbican gatehouse which leads into Glenarm Castle and the seat of the Earls of Antrim. These streets lie just off the main Antrim coast road and are prone to be missed by most tourists and the locality makes a good period film set. (Some scenes from the recent BBC 1Television period drama ‘My mother and other Strangers’ were set in the village). I take a wander around the village before heading back to the car after a most enjoyable walk.

It’s now time to drive the Antrim coast road to Carrickfergus which is an interesting town on the northwest shore of Belfast Lough and dominated by its fine Norman castle built by John long man de Courcy in 1177. The castle was once almost surrounded by water but land reclamation and the construction of the harbour means that only one side overlooks the water.

Evening sunlight on Carrickfergus Castle. A perfect way to end the day with a wander along the seafront and around the harbour.

Evening sunlight on Carrickfergus Castle. A perfect way to end the day with a wander along the seafront and around the harbour.

A Gorgeous Week In Crete

Descending to Sweetwater Beach on the E4

Last Saturday eighteen long walkers returned safely from Crete on the annual continental walking holiday.

Based in Loutro on the south coast, we set off westwards on the 1st day to Marmara Bay from where we commenced the 800m ascent of Aradena Gorge.This entailed plenty of scrambling over pretty rough terrain.If people were expecting easier days to come they were somewhat disappointed, as all the walks were what could be described as challenging . Still, all survived ,with only a few tumbles and grazes.

The following day we descended the Imbros Gorge, following the route of the British Army retreat to the waiting warships in 1941.The 1st World War slogan “Lions led by Donkeys” could equally have applied to the campaign on Crete. In fact I’m sure I heard muttering to that effect over the week as I led the group over the difficult terrain.From the bottom of the gorge we walked westwards on the E4 back to Loutro via Sweetwater Beach.Instead of completing the walk with the rest of us Graham Bothwell chickened out at Sweetwater Beach, and caught a boat back. His lame excuse was that we weren’t going fast enough for him.What he failed to mention was that Sweetwater Beach is a nudist beach !

The 3rd day proved pretty gruelling ,involving a water taxi,a 3 hour coach journey,a 5 hour/1200m descent of the spectacular Samaria Gorge,followed by a 1 hour ferry journey back to base.

A shock to the system for some! Westwards on the E4

The following day we took a water taxi back to the base of the Samaria Gorge , and walked back along the E4 ,trudging through soft sand 20/60m above the shoreline for the first few miles.We enjoyed beautiful views of the coast and clear blue sea.

Graham was delighted to be given the opportunity of returning to Sweetwater Beach for a bit of rest and recuperation on the 5th day.

The steep 600m ascent behind Loutro on the final day in mid/high 20 degree temperatures was perhaps the most gruelling of the week, but rewarded with spectacular views of Loutro.It was worth the effort though to descend the narrow ravine that took us down into Chora Sfakion and a well earned lunch (and cold Beer!) in a waterside tavern.

Brian Griffiths

The alternative,and slightly easier way up the Aradena Gorge

Snowbound in the Brecon Beacons

Heading out towards Pen y Fan on a bitterly cold morning

Heading out towards Pen y Fan on a bitterly cold morning. The ground is frozen solid. One or those days where the walk was abandoned higher up as conditions were simply too bad.

So, the East Cheshire Ramblers are off to the Brecon Beacons this month and this area was an area of many excursions in my youth when I was an active member of the Bristol Youth Hostel Social Group. Come rain or shine our band of happy youthful walkers would head off once a fortnight to one of many youth hostels in England or Wales but often the group would spend a weekend at one of the ‘simple’ grade Welsh hostels in the middle of winter. I recall numerous occasions of turning up to a bleak cold lonely youth hostel on a Friday night to spend a couple of days walking with friends of a similar age, cooking meals, organising walks and transport and looking forward to a warm bed when we got home on a Sunday night. Regardless to the weather, the weekends were always planned well in advance but one such weekend does stand out as one to remember.
Llwyn-y-Celyn Youth Hostel lies just off the A470 between Brecon and Merthyr Tydfil and was a favourite and much frequented youth hostel by the group but the events of a weekend in February 1978 shall remain in my mind for the rest of my life.
Like most weekends, the Friday evening would be a drive to some remote youth hostel somewhere down a dark lane in the middle of nowhere and on this Friday evening the drive was no different to most other trips away except it was cold, dam cold!
From a warm car it was the usual walk in pitch darkness loaded with rucksacks and boxes of provisions and guided only by a feeble torch to the lights of the youth hostel down some grassy uneven path. Now in 1978, Llwyn-y-Celyn Youth Hostel had no heating except for an open fire which we took in turns to stand by. With hands grasping the warmth from mugs of tea all round we would retire to a cold dormitory and fall asleep after much banter. Ah, those were the days!

Saturday dawned a cold day and already there was snow on frozen ground and after
breakfast our leader for the day, Richard led our party for two miles down the deserted A470 before turning right and taking a path to cross the Afon Tarrell. We continued north east on a sheltered lane to a cross roads where we turned right. Soon we were on the flanks of the Brecon Beacons and aiming for Corn Du but the ferocious and biting wind often bowled us over and we were blasted by ice particles in our faces. Progress was extremely slow and never before had I experienced weather as bad as this. We made painfully for Pen Milan and reaching about 600 metres the way ahead was often obscured with blinding blowing snow. It was here we decided to abandon our attempt on the Brecon Beacons summits. The ground at this height was frozen solid and we opted to make for the Storey Arms to find food and shelter. It proved a slow struggle across the open moorland of Y Gyrn but we were glad when the Storey Arms came into view only to find that it was not a pub. (Well you live and learn). By now it was lunchtime and we took shelter in a conifer plantation to eat ice cold sandwiches and drink frozen squash. With the weather deteriorating we decided to head back to Llwyn-y-Celyn via the main road. A short drive in the afternoon was spent at the Brecon Beacons Mountain Centre trying to warm up with mugs of tea and coffee.

With the hostel being extremely cold, we ventured into Brecon during the evening in search of a warm pub. The pub we found was full of entertainment as the landlord’s daughter had got married that day and many of the drinkers were already drunk or merry. We returned by car to Llwyn-y-Celyn Youth Hostel with a bag of chips just as the snow started to fall heavily. The story doesn’t end here however as to go to bed, we dressed up in all the gear we had with balaclavas, bobble hats, coats, scarves etc. By now the hostel temperature was down to minus ten centigrade. We fell into an uneasy sleep with the wind and snow blowing outside. By the morning, the dormitories were covered in snow even inside the building with fine snow penetrating every nook and cranny in the building to give a covering from 2 to 18 inches on the floor and most of the beds were covered in snow. Beards and moustaches were frozen from our breath. On investigating outside it was soon apparent that we were totally cut off with the cars buried, some almost completely in snow and the snow drifts everywhere of three to four feet deep.

The driveway up from Llwyn Celyn Youth Hostel. A mammoth task ahead of clearing the driveway.

The driveway up from Llwyn Celyn Youth Hostel. A mammoth task ahead of clearing the driveway.

All hands to the pump. Trying to push a car up a slippery slope.

All hands to the pump. Trying to push a car up a slippery slope.

Help arrives. A farmer with his tractor to pull each car up the driveway to the A470.

Help arrives. A farmer with his tractor to pulls each car up the driveway to the A470.

Time to get the cars started on the A470. There is no one else about.

Time to get the cars started on the A470. There is no one else about.

The A470 between Brecon and Merthyr. This view looks south towards the Storey Arms from aboveLlwyn Celyn Youth Hostel

The A470 between Brecon and Merthyr. This view looks south towards the Storey Arms from above the Llwyn Celyn Youth Hostel.

After breakfast we started to organise a major dig. Along with our group there was a party of scouts from Reading and together we started to clear the drive from the hostel up to the main road even using spare slates off the roof. As the wind was blowing so strong, the snow was blowing back and we were fighting a losing battle. Starting the car engines was another problem as under each car bonnet the snow had filled every nook and cranny. No traffic was using the Brecon to Merthyr road. By late morning a local farmer had reached us with his tractor and one by one the cars were winched up the hostel drive to the A470 but not without some damage. Later in the afternoon a snowplough reached us and with much bump starting of the cars we eventually got them all going. The snowplough then escorted us to Brecon and after a journey with a detour via Newport, we eventually arrived back in Bristol tired and exhausted.

Now I’m not expecting you to have any such bad weather like this; after all it will be late May but when you are on the bus on Roger’s walk on Saturday heading up to the Storey Arms, spare a thought of those walkers in those pioneering days of the late seventies.

Discovering a quiet corner in the old county of Radnorshire

The quiet village of New Radnor in a almost forgotten corner of Powys.

The quiet village of New Radnor in a almost forgotten corner of Powys.

Lying midway Llandrindod Wells and Presteigne the Radnor Forest is one of those overlooked areas of Powys and yet for many miles around it is the highest area with three summits over 2000 feet above sea level. Its northern slopes are cloaked in forestry whilst on the southern side there is a firing range but having said that the area makes for some fine walking where you will meet few people.
I had walked in this area in my youth hostelling days and with nearly forty years since my last visit I thought it was about time to explore the area again. With an early start from Bristol en route to Macclesfield this is a big detour and so I am pleased the day is dawning clear and sunny.

The sleepy village of New Radnor is my starting point but the weather forecast is set to change and even before I start my walk, high cloud is apparent in the west.

Parking in New Radnor presents no problems with a wide street through the village and the place is now bypassed by the A44. It is only 9.15am when I set out through the quiet village before heading up passing the church onto a field path. A right turn takes me onto a minor road before continuing with another field path contouring around to Harley Dingle. For once it feels quite warm but the air is cool on this spring morning and the odd gust of cold wind is just a sign of things to come. The army range in Harley Dingle, which forms a deep valley into the hills on the southern side is quiet and no red flags are flying.

A footbridge over the stream at the foot of Harley Dingle. The valley beyond is an active firing range.

A footbridge over the stream at the foot of Harley Dingle. The valley beyond is an active firing range. On this walk I take the path the hillside to the left.

The view you get whilst ascending Fron Hill. Harley Dingle which forms the valley area is unfortunately out of bounds as it is a firing range.

The view you get whilst ascending Fron Hill. Harley Dingle which forms the valley area is unfortunately out of bounds as it is a firing range. Today I skirt the skyline from left to right.

Looking across Harley Dingle to the shapely summit of Whimble but a firing range lies in the valley below.

Looking across Harley Dingle to the shapely summit of Whimble but a firing range lies in the valley below.

I’m taking the pleasant hill path to the left of the range ascending the shoulder of Fron Hill. It is a delight to be out on such a glorious morning and an opportunity for photographs. High cloud from the west is edging in but for now I still have the sunshine. Further up on the crest of the ridge I have a view south to the snow-capped Brecon Beacons but the high cloud is silently edging in and it won’t be long before I lose the sun. Veering right I come to a flagpole around which is a red flag tied near the base. I check the path ahead and decide that my route is just outside the army range. Further on, with a cold wind blowing I reach a lone danger sign. It is here I am leaving the track to make for the summit of Great Rhos which at 660 metres is the highest point in the old county of Radnorshire. Despite it being only a short distance to the trig point, it is across very rough tussocky ground potted with watery holes and so I have to tread carefully. The summit itself which is crowned by a lonely trig point is a bleak location and in this cold wind not a place to linger. To the northwest, snow-capped hills are just visible. A peaty path runs north which I follow to join a track which continues northeast towards a forest. This track however has suffered the unfortunate effects of scrambling bikes which had churned up the ground. Once in the forest, I stop out of the wind for my morning break. Shortly afterwards I make a right turn on another churned up track and soon leave the forest. I am now making for the second summit named Black Mixen and this takes me along a good path but I am now walking into an icy headwind which makes my eyes water. Black Mixen is 650 metres and is topped by an aerial mast and today a team of engineers were working at the summit. After a brief pause at the trig point I head east on a good track. By now the sun has gone and it its turning into a cold windy and cloudy day. Reaching the forest I am glad of some shelter as I turned right and head south. A little lying snow fills the hollows and shady places. My next objective is Bache Hill, 610 metres, but with an out of date map I am not sure if this is still open access despite it being moorland. I spot a hill farmer working his dogs so I varied my route slightly to be out of sight of him. I skirt along the bottom end of a field just out of sight before entering a heathery path. Still out of sight of the farmer I turn right uphill to make my way to the summit and the third trig point of the day. (Later research does show Bache Hill as open access).

On the descent from Whimble. fine walking country. The ridge in the distance was on my outward route on what started out as a fine sunny day.

On the descent from Whimble in fine walking country. The ridge in the distance was on my outward route on what started out as a fine sunny day.

I now search for the farmer in case I am trespassing and as I can’t see him and descend on the southern side of the hill. The last hill of the day is Whimble and for much of the way to this last summit I follow a good track along the windy hillside. Now Whimble is open access not that I know that on this walk and there seems to be only one recognised path up to this shapely summit which fails to make the 600 metre mark by one metre. First I have to pass a large shed and beyond I take the direct path to the summit of Whimble. Close to the exposed summit I find several quarried out hollows and ironically a good spot to have lunch out of the bitter wind. It is quite grey now and so lunch is a hurried affair. A steep but defined path leads down the western side before I cross a fence onto the edge of heathery moorland. In the meantime red flags have been hoisted but no sign of any army activity. There now follows a long descent towards New Radnor firstly alongside a forest and here I pass the only other walkers of the day. Eventually I join a steep lane which leads down to the centre of the village and the end of an enjoyable walk. On reflection I feel that this is an undiscovered part of Wales. Take away the firing range the area has the potential to be a first class walking area if a bit of money and facilities were pumped in like a few small car parks, signing, and additional paths.

Journey’s end – Completing the Jurassic Way

A warm summer's evening looking towards Barrowden Church, the starting point for todays walk. (picture taken in 2006 as weather bad on this occasion).

A warm summer’s evening looking towards Barrowden Church, the starting point for today’s walk. (this picture was taken in 2006 as weather bad on the occasion of this walk).

It’s my last day walking the Jurassic Way, long distance path that I had started to walk several years ago and the plan today is to walk from Barrowden to Stamford and catch the mid afternoon bus back to the start. With over fifteen miles to cover I am making an early start and I park in the same spot as on the previous day in the village. After a few days of fine weather, my luck is running out as I set off on this gloomy dull morning with the possibility of rain not too far away. I head down through Barrowden then set off across the water meadows of the River Welland to reach the nearby village of Wakerley. A field path is followed up around and behind the village church before joining a road. Next I continue through Wakerley Great Wood in the morning gloom and beyond I cross fields to reach the A43. On the far side there is an area rough grazing as I skirt around Fineshade Abbey. In medieval times Fineshade Abbey, an Augustinian priory, was established on the site of a Norman motte-and-bailey castle known as Castle Hymel. The priory came to an end with the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1545 and a fine country house known as Fineshade Abbey survived until it was demolished in 1956. Only the stable block now remains and was more recently converted into private housing which is still retains the name of Fineshade Abbey.

The path now runs through tall grass but soon I am back on a better field path to reach a lane. This leads to Top Lodge Visitor Centre which I briefly visit. The centre depicts the history of the local area. To get to the next village of Duddington I have a fair bit of woodland walking ahead of me and now the rain starts which seemed to be setting in. It gradually gets heavier so I stop by a seat to don full wet weather gear. This woodland forms part of the area known as Rockingham Forest. The forest once covered around two hundred square miles and stretched from Northampton all the way to Stamford. Created by King William I not long after the Norman Conquest, the area was an important hunting area for several centuries but by the time of King Charles II much of the forest had been sold or given away. Deforestation continued over past centuries to leave only small fragments of this once extensive forest. Today there are only a few forested areas and most of these lie southwest of Stamford and to the south of Corby. Checking the map in the shelter of a sawmills I now turn north but this path proves quite overgrown but thankfully I soon join a better forestry track. The A43 is crossed once more as I enter the attractive village of Duddington where I make for the village church by which time the rain has stopped so it’s time to get out of my wet weather gear in the church porch. It’s also a good time to stop for elevenses.

Duddington is an pleasant village with many old cottages and today the place is fairly peaceful but this has not always been the case. Being at the junction of the busy A43 and A47 trunk roads the village is now by-passed. Its just a pity that the day is so dull and not worthy of any photographs.

Picturesque cottages line the village street in Duddington. (this picutre taken in 2006 as weather was wet when i walked through the village on this occasion).

Picturesque cottages line the village street in Duddington. (this picture was taken in 2006 as weather was wet when I walked through the village on this occasion).

Duddington Mill on the River Welland (as seen on a visit in 2005).

Duddington Mill on the River Welland (as seen on a visit in 2005).

A old parish boundary sign on the border of Duddington, Northamptonshire and Tixover in Rutland (picture from 2005).

A old parish boundary sign on the border of Duddington, Northamptonshire and Tixover in Rutland (picture from 2005).

I leave the village via Mill Street and cross the River Welland once more via the historic fifteenth century bridge. I join a field path to reach Tixover Grange and cut across another ploughed field by which time my boots are clogged with mud. A better field path leads to the edge of Geeston and here I make a right turn along a road and once more cross the River Welland. This river forms the country boundary between Rutland and Northamptonshire and today I will cross it several times. I now have an ascent across fields to Easton on the Hill but most of these fields have been recently ploughed and un-walked. Progress is slow as I pick up so much sticky mud and I have to stop several times to remove a large accumulation of mud off my boots.

Easton on the Hill is a large village with the older more attractive part close to the church. Its claim to fame was that Lancelot Skynner came from the village. His name will probably not be familiar to you but he was the captain of the HMS Lutine which foundered in a storm on the West Frisian Islands off the coast of the Netherlands in 1799. The ship was carrying shipment of gold and the bell from the ship was salvaged. Today the Lutine Bell is housed in Lloyd’s of London and is used for ceremonial purposes at their headquarters.

Before stopping for lunch, I make a small detour to visit the 15th century Priest’s House, a National Trust property which as it turns out is closed. Well its time I’d stopped for lunch so I head for the village church to find a seat. It proves a cold spot on this cloudy damp day and so I am keen to move on. A good path descends northeast from the village and at the foot crosses the railway line then passes beneath the busy A1. Nearby and unmarked is a feature unique in England insomuch it is the meeting point of four counties – Rutland, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire and the City of Peterborough, the latter being a unitary authority. A walk through Town Meadows leads me into Stamford where I have plenty of time to explore the place at leisure.

Stamford is an interesting town with a history dating back to Roman times. Ermine Street passes through the town and in its early history served as an inland port. Very little is visible today of the town walls but centre of the town has a plethora of historic churches which I shall have to visit another day when the weather is better and I have more time. Stamford was used as the setting for the television adaptation for the George Eliot novel Middlemarch.

This is the end of my walk along the Jurassic Way and all I need to do now is to catch the bus back to Barrowden on this dreary afternoon before the drive home. I arrive in good time at the bus station and the solitary bus parked at one of the stands is the service I want. I settle down to a good read of the free Metro newspaper before moving off and I am satisfied that I have achieved the completion of yet another long distant path.

The end of the Jurassic Way in Stamford and signs that the weather is improving after a wet and gloomy day. This is the river Welland which flows through the town.

The end of the Jurassic Way in Stamford and signs that the weather is improving after a wet and gloomy day. This is the River Welland which flows through the town.

Filling a gap on the Offa’s Dyke Path

On the Offa's Dyke Path after leaving Knighton one gets a panoramic view along the Teme Valley

On the Offa’s Dyke Path after leaving Knighton one gets a panoramic view along the Teme Valley.

I have a long term ambition to walk the complete length of the Offa’s Dyke Path and over the years I have nibbled away by walking odd sections which now leaves several gaps in the path to complete. One problem is that buses are a bit thin on the ground to say the least and so many walks have to be done as’ circulars’ unless you are back packing. One big gap which still remains to be walked is the section between Knighton and Welshpool which will take around four circular walks and one ‘bus’ walk to complete this section and so on a fine sunny day last September I opted to do a circular walk north from Knighton.

I’m en-route from Portishead to Macclesfield and so it’s an early start for my journey north to Knighton so it was well into the morning before I start out walking. The car park at the Offa’s Dyke Visitor Centre is virtually full and I set off on a fine sunny morning to follow the Offa’s Dyke Path north. The path crosses from Powys into Shropshire shortly after I start and a marker indicates the boundary between England and Wales on a little bridge. Here you can stand with a foot in both countries and get your picture taken if you wish. After crossing the railway then a minor lane I am faced with a steep ascent. A few other people are out walking on this most pleasant day. At the top of the ascent I next follow the path along the ridge with good views over the Teme Valley and beyond. Having passed another group of walkers I decide to stop on the summit of Cwm-sanahan Hill for lunch. It’s a glorious spot to while away the day but it is still early in my walk.

A lunch stop on the summit of Cwm-sanaham Hill with a wonderful view all round.

A lunch stop on the summit of Cwm-sanaham Hill with a wonderful view all round.

Setting off once more, a descent soon follows to the isolated house at Brynorgan and shortly beyond I reach a lane where today I will leave the Offa’s Dyke Path. It is a case now of cutting across country to reach the Glyndwr’s Way so I am half expecting a few path problems on this next section of the walk.

Descending along the Offa's Dyke path towards the isolated house at Brynorgan.

Descending along the Offa’s Dyke path towards the isolated house at Brynorgan.

For nearly a mile, I follow a quiet lane then opt to take a path south as it is signed. After crossing a few fields I reach Lower Trebert which I am expecting to be a deserted farmstead but I am wrong. Loose barking dogs are in the yard of this farm and initially I look for a way to avoid the farm. The farmhouse door is open so I decide to shout to see if anyone is at home. A woman comes out and says that the dogs are alright so I cautiously crossed the yard and exit through a high gate on the far side. Luckily I have my walking pole with me. I am soon at another large farm complex at Graig and despite lanes passing through this farm they look more like tracks. Joining one such lane I descend to the village of Lloyney entering Wales as I reach the settlement. Now being in rural Powys I am now expecting path problems and I have plenty of time and feel that I might be venturous and tackle a few paths.

Walking towards the castellated Knucklas Railway Viaduct.

Walking towards the castellated Knucklas Railway Viaduct.

A green patchwork of fields is so typical of this area around the Teme Valley northwest of Knucklas.

A green patchwork of fields is so typical of this area around the Teme Valley northwest of Knucklas.

Leaving Lloyney my plan is to get over to Heyop and I set off up a minor lane before taking an unsigned path on the left crossing fields which will cut off a corner before returning to the same lane. The path exists to a degree but on both field boundaries the stiles have all but gone and remains of one such stile is well hidden in a hedge. Back on the lane I reach a point above Vineyard Farm and this is where I am expecting problems. I just happen to see a farmer so ask him if the path still exists through the farm and he tells me that it had gone but he wasn’t the owner of the land and I detected that he was sympathetic that I couldn’t go that way. It meant altering my route for the next few miles but as it turned out it would be very pleasant. I set off along a green lane before it drops down towards Knucklas passing on the way the slight remains of Cnwclas Castle on a steep mound. Built around 1220AD by the Mortimers, little remains of this castle other than a few mounds. There were numerous battles in the area and the castle soon fell into a ruinous state not long after it was built. Just below is the impressive castellated Knucklas Viaduct built in 1865. The owner of the land over which it ran had a say in its construction and hence ornate towers were built at either end. I drop down into the sleepy village of Knucklas before taking an uphill lane to the south. On the ascent I decide on taking the path towards Bailey Hill and this path affords some good views. I later join a quiet
road briefly before taking a track to the south and this enables me to take a small detour to reach the trig point on Bailey Hill. I sit awhile on the summit admiring the views on this fine September afternoon. It is so peaceful insomuch I could have sat there for hours. In the end I do draw myself away and set off east now with the Glyndwr’s Way which passes the top end of Downes’s Dingle. It is so nice to be out walking in the late afternoon on this perfect September day with lengthening shadows and no one else is around in this peaceful countryside. A long descent now follows with the grassy track becoming stony and later becoming a narrow lane as I drop down to Little Cwm-gilla. Crossing a lane I leave the Glyndwr’s Way and take a signed path below Garth Hill as my route back into Knighton. Despite it being a bit overgrown, it is a good route to enter the town. The tea shop at the visitor centre is just closing when I got back but time enough to buy an ice cream before making the journey home.

A section of the Glyndwrs Way with the view towards Bailey Hill.

A section of the Glyndwrs Way with the view towards Bailey Hill.

The long track descending towards Knighton on a fine September afternoon.

The long track descending towards Knighton on a fine September afternoon.

A satisfying end to the day with a walk across pastures into Knighton and just in time to get an ice cream at the end of my walk.

A satisfying end to the day with a walk across pastures into Knighton and just in time to get an ice cream at the end of my walk.

On the 29th of April this month I will be leading this walk again for our group but in the opposite direction. Of the couple of path issues, (two stiles) these were reported to Powys County Council and the RA after the walk so hopefully these have been resolved. The start out time will be earlier than when I walked it and so we should be back in good time for those who wish to use the cafe at the Offa’s Dyke Visitor Centre, so lets hope for good weather!