Borderlands

Here’s one of my home made maps. This one is not one of my best efforts, but hopefully it gives an idea.

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The past few days walking have seen me head up Offa’s Dyke Path as far as Knighton, and I then headed north east to Clun. I’m now having a little rest break so that I can be ready to set off rejuvenated on Tuesday.

When I set out again I’ll be leaving the Wales-England border countryside behind, and veering northeast through the West Midlands, aiming for Derbyshire and the start of the Penine Way in about 10 days time. Route finding will probably be a bit trickier during this period, and it’ll be flatter walking as I cross Staffordshire.

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Offa’s Dyke Path and the border country has been superb. A real delight. Probably my second favourite bit after the SW Coast Path (Cornwall). Offa’s Dyke Path (ODP) does not religiously follow the dyke itself, but it takes a marvellously scenic route through quiet countryside, market towns, crossing clear little rivers, and climbing up and over many little hills that give fabulous views. I think that to enjoy this particular National Trail one has to not mind going up and down over the hills. Luckily I like rolling terrain. The SWCP got me into shape in that regard.
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Here’s a photo of a peaceful treasure that I passed whilst on the ODP. It’s a 5,000 year old Yew tree, located in the churchyard at Discoed in Powys.

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The actual leaves and branches you see in my photo is not 5,000 years old, but it germinated from a seed 5,000 years ago, and has since regenerated and kept growing and growing from that same seed in the same spot. That’s what yews do. It is one of the oldest living organisms in Europe. Five thousand years. That’s quite something.

Offa’s Dyke itself is a bit of a mystery. It’s our longest ancient monument in Britain. It is 1,200 years old. It runs for miles – intermittently there are bits of dyke left running 80 miles from Wrexham to Chepstow. Nowadays it looks like a bank of earth with a ditch on one side. Offa was a king from 757 to 796. He was a Saxon – much of what is now England had been populated at that time by people coming over from what is now northern Germany and Denmark. He pulled together a large chunk of country that was called Mercia. Essentially most of what we now would call the West Midlands. To his west, in what is now Wales, were bands of British – more indigenous people than the Saxons. Confusing huh! So the Welsh are the British. Anyway, Offa’s lot needed to protect their territory from the pesky Brits and vice versa. So the Dyke has something to do with this, but from what I can see there is no definitive answer as yet. Alternative theories are:

-It was a defended border fortification
-It was a border marker
-It was a show of strength
-It was a method of stopping cattle rustling

Take your pick.

I have left ODP now: to walk the full thing all the way to the north Wales coast is 177 miles, and I think it’d be a super walk.

Another reason I’ve enjoyed the last week so much is that I stayed a couple of nights with friends who I’d not seen for several years, and it was brilliant to catch up. Plus, I was delighted to have my father join me for a day. In a biting cold wind we walked from Knighton to Clun, inspected the Dyke, saw a Yellowhammer and a Red Kite, and had a great time. What a treat. And now, for my rest break, my husband is here – we’ve not seen each other since before Easter. So it’s all good.

20130429-072020.jpgA big dog and a small elephant

20130429-072114.jpgA VIP walking companion

14 thoughts on “Borderlands

  1. Hi Flora,

    I have just been reading Simon Armitage’s Walking Home, which is his account of walking the Pennine Way, but from north to south, and giving poetry readings every night. I’ll keep it for you to read, if you would like? and you can compare experience of place. Great to hear about Offa’s Dyke, something I have always meant to do but not got around to. Loce Alex

    • Thanks for the link. Yes, we’re all a right mix of Welsh, Danish, German, French (Norman) etc. And we would be speaking French right now if it weren’t for a king who thought it would be fun to get the court speaking English for a bit v

  2. I’m really enjoying your trip, Flora. I loved the Offas Dyke path too – the bird life, little tucked-away churches at the bottom of steep sided valleys and the tucked away pubs were a delight.
    By the way – you have two “Mendips” on your map – and the Quantocks have gone AWOL
    🙂
    Keep up the good work!

  3. Ooh! Not too long till you land in Derbyshire. Tremendous that your Dad joined you for a day! You are having so many experiences and your senses are in ‘full bloom’.

  4. Another fab post miss flora. Glad you and your Pa had a good time together and even better Mr C is with you. Enjoy your time together x

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