For many years I have been walking parts of the Offa’s Dyke Path with the aim one day of finishing it. I have now got to the stage where it is no longer feasible to use buses to make each trek into a linear walk. (ie bus out and walk back) One such section is the stretch of the Offa’s Dyke Path between Montgomery and Knighton and my research had showed that over most of this area there are no buses. I set to work planning out several circular walks in this very rural part of the Powys/Shropshire border and so last spring I set out to plug this gap and the following account covers just the first day.
My plan is to follow paths south from Montgomery to reach the high ground along which runs the Kerry Ridgeway which I will follow east to reach the Offa’s Dyke path and here I will then follow this path back to almost Montgomery. I am expecting a few path problems on the outward trek but once I reach the Offa’s Dyke Path I hope that it will be all straightforward walking.
I’m parking in Montgomery for this walk where there is a free car park on the southern edge of the town. Montgomery, despite its size with a population of less than thirteen hundred is generally referred to as a town although there are many larger settlements in Britain which would be classified as a village.
The early bright sunshine of earlier has gone except to the east and as I don walking gear soft hail begins to fall but thankfully there is very little in it.
I wander into Montgomery first to have a look at its architecture. It is a fascinating place and was once the county town of the historic county of Montgomeryshire.
There are many old buildings in the centre around the town square which include the town hall but it never really made what I would call a town. It is unfortunate that it is now too dull for photographs so I’m setting off by walking uphill towards the castle passing many old cottages on the way. The castle sits on a rocky spur and was a very strong fortress in its time and guarded a strategic position in the area. Built by Henry III in the 1220’s the castle was often attacked by the Welsh and was successful in defending off many Welsh raids until the English Civil War when it was taken by Parliamentarian forces who destroyed the castle so that it was no longer a military threat. The town on the other hand didn’t fare so well.
Leaving the castle ruins I’m next making for Town Hill which is crowned by a tall war memorial built in 1923. On today’s visit there are good views from the summit stretching to Cader Idris, the Arans and the Berwyn ranges to the west and the Stiperstones to the east.
Where is that elusive sunshine? It seems now that I am in for a cloudy and cold day. To get to the Kerry Ridgeway I now trek across country and I know that being in Powys I will have some path problems. Initially the path south from Town Hill is good but in one field there is a large herd of cows together with a bull and thankfully they just ignore me. A sign on the gate beyond, and facing in the opposite direction states that the bull is good natured. At the lane junction beyond Lower Mount Farm I opt to take a field track which is not a right of way with a plan of connecting with a dead end path which ends at a parish boundary. The field track which is not a right of way turns out to be easy but where the field path joins the next minor lane there is simply no way through. It appears that this is a path totally forgotten about and as a result I have to scale a fence and force my way through a hedge to gain the lane. Soft hail falls for awhile as I make my way towards Perthbyu but the direct field path seems to disappear as I reach a woodland block. I decide to ascent to the better bridleway higher up the hillside and then take a private ‘no right of way’ track down to near Perthbyu. From here I join a lane to reach the A489.
To reach Lower House I am expecting path problems and I am right. Firstly, I have to force my way through a gate which is surrounded with brambles before crossing diagonally a field. At the far side I can see a new bard wire fence. There is the remains of a stile which I manage to cross but beyond a stream presents a bigger problem which is just too deep and wide to leap over. A slight diversion is called to find a farm bridge a little further east. I cross another pasture and find a gate at the far end which is encouraging but a ditch beyond and a substandard stile creates a minor obstacle to get over. At Lower House, a field path is signed which leads to the farm at Binwilkin and for once presents no problem except for an awkward stream to cross embedded in a hedge after the first field. I now make my way to Pentrenat Hall, and shortly afterwards take a hill track with a very long ascent. I now search for somewhere to have a late lunch. The track is good to Upper Hatfield but beyond, the woodland section is quite poor and has been churned up by four wheel drive vehicles. In the end, I decide to walk further east up through the woodlands but this is not the course I want to take. At the top of the wood I find a spot for lunch where another path crosses and here I stop at a spot out of the cold breeze to eat my sandwiches.
A further easier ascent leads up to Hopton Bank where the views open out. I now head east on a quiet lane along the ridge with good views all round. I stop at gates to admire these views and over the next two miles only one vehicle passes me.
At Crowsnest it is time to join the Offa’s Dyke Path which I now follow back almost all the way to Montgomery. There now follows a very long descent where there is evidence of Offa’s Dyke running down the hillside. A lane is joined briefly through the hamlet of Cwm. In a little over a mile I have descended around one thousand feet. I continue through a woodland section with the caravan park at Millington Hall on my right. A road is joined at Brompton passing its attractive mill. The sunshine has returned for the end of the day and now I have a few miles of pleasant field walking much of which is along the English Welsh border. The Offa’s Dyke is clearly defined along this section running as an embankment along field boundaries with copious displays of wild flowers. This sunshine makes all the difference and so it is time to pause for a few photographs. I later turn left and take a good track through Lymore Park before joining a field path back to Montgomery.