Sunday, 3 March 2013

Offa's Dyke Path - Day 7: Mellington Hall Campsite to Knighton

Sunday 3rd March 2013

An early start for a tough day's walking crossing the many switchbacks in the Shropshire Hills

Distance: 24.5km; Ascent: 1250m; Overcast, cold with a bitter wind; Solo

I woke up at 4am this morning due to the cold and looking in the porch, my thermometer read -1°C.  After opening the porch for an abortive attempt to make a cup of tea (I'd pretty much run out of gas!), the temperature in the porch dropped to -5°C!  Whilst I had planned to have an early start today due to the very limited choice of trains home from Knighton, 4am was somewhat earlier than I had planned!  Therefore after donning an extra layer, and spending 15 minutes or so by the warm heater in the toilet block, I went back to sleep for a little bit!

I packed my tent up just before dawn and set off walking around 6:40am. It was still bitterly cold with a hard frost on the ground as I continued southwards along Offa's Dyke. A short section of road walking followed before I returned to the fields for the first of many ascents today; this time up to the old drovers' road of the Kerry Ridgeway, which also marked the return to England and Shropshire (and the vast majority of today's lay on the English side of the border).

A frosty Offa's Dyke just south of Mellington Hall
Crossing the border back into England and Shropshire
After a descent, another ascent and a further descent I reached the small hamlet of Churchtown, which was very quiet at this early hour of the morning! On the south side of the valley I joined the Shropshire Way, which ran concurrently with the Offa's Dyke Path for a couple of kilometres. It was still quite cold, with frost still on the ground, due to the sun not having broken through the clouds; however despite occassional glimpses of blue sky it remained cold and overcast all day.

Junction with the Shropshire Way
After a further descent followed quickly by a re-ascent I reached a signpost that informed me I was now half-way along the Offa's Dyke Path :-) It had taken me 6.5 days walking to reach here from Prestatyn (over three seperate trips) and I was intending to take a further 6.5 days to reach Chepstow from here (although I don't currently know when I'm going to walk these sections!) Shortly after passing this signpost, I came to a handy water tap by the side of the path, provided by Severn Trent Water, so I stopped here for a bit of a rest.

The half-way point of the Offa's Dyke Path :-)
A handy water tap provided by Severn Trent Water
By now it had begun to warm up ever so slightly as most of the frost had melted, although it remained cold. I crossed the Clun valley before beginning the longest ascent of the day up Llanfair Hill to the south. The first kilometre or so was the steepest and, after passing some very excitable dogs at Springhill Farm, I then had a gentle road walk for the next kilometre with good views of the dyke.

Offa's Dyke on Llanfair Hill
I turned off the road onto a pleasant byway, and it made a nice change to be walking on a decent track for once (and it would certainly help with my aim of making it to Knighton by 2pm!) Following the dyke this track took me over Llanfair Hill, and I had a quick detour to visit the trigpoint nearby. On the exposed high ground, the wind chill was quite noticeable and, whilst the views were good, I was glad to drop down into more sheltered terrain!

Trigpoint on Llanfair Hill
Clearly this was sheep farming country as all the fields were full of them as I descended down towards Selley Cross. Just one more ascent lay before me, and after ascending some very steep ground I reached the trigpoint on the summit of Cwm-sanaham Hill, from where there were good views.

Trigpoint on Cwm-sanaham Hill
Looking SE from Cwm-sanaham Hill
After stopping for a quick lunch a short distance to the east of the trigpoint, I followed Offa's Dyke ESE towards Panpunton Hill with good views down to Knighton and the Teme valley.

Viewpoint over Knighton
A shortish steep descent brought me to the road, railway and the River Teme. The riverside walk into Knighton was pleasant and this time upon crossing the border there was actually a sign welcoming me to Wales!

Crossing the border into Wales on the way into Knighton
On the way into town I passed the Offa's Dyke Centre, which would have been nice to visit but unfortunately it is closed on Sundays at this time of year and anyway I didn't have long until my train. I walked through the centre of Knighton past the clock tower to arrive at the station around quarter past two, i.e. in plenty of time for my train at 14:22, which was just as well as the next one wasn't for 4 hours! It had been a good couple of days of walking and it was nice to be out backpacking again :-)

Knighton Clock Tower
N.B. 02/06/13 - Post date updated to actual date of walk, i.e. 03/03/13 (from 08/03/13).  Links to trigpoints visited have also been added.

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