Skip to main content

Offa's Dyke - Days 7, 8 and 9:

Since we are supposed to be on a walking holiday, Mary and I decided to try out a shorter walk, and one with which we were familiar, on day 7. We were in Mary's part of the world (the beautiful Shropshire hills) and so we found ourselves driving to Stiperstones.

The two of us walking along the ridge at Stiperstones.
The two of us on the ridge at Stiperstones.

We arrived relatively early in the morning and easily found a parking space, gingerly put on our boots and started to make our ascent. Given we were both injured in some sense (me with my blisters and Mary with her knee) we went at a slow and steady pace.

An outcrop at Stiperstones.
An outcrop at Stiperstones.

Once at the top of the ridge (one of the highest points in Shropshire), the outcrops of quartzite rock make obvious waypoints for hiking. We found several folks bouldering on the rock formations and paused to watch them and take in the glorious views and drink in the fresh clear air.

Conditions underfoot at Stiperstones.
Very poor conditions under foot at Stiperstones.

Conditions underfoot on many parts of the ridge are not good, and it's easy to go over on one's ankle or painfully stub a toe.

Our slowness was thus more compounded by both the injuries and rough-shod rocks strewn all over the paths. Yet we made progress and walked the full extent of the ridge in glorious sunshine and accompanied by larks chirruping away:

He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake,
All intervolv’d and spreading wide,
Like water-dimples down a tide
Where ripple ripple overcurls
And eddy into eddy whirls;

The Lark Ascending ~ George Meredith

All told we walked almost five miles:

In the afternoon we visited the small town of Bishop's Castle, having heard the high street contained a number of book shops and a Poetry Pharmacy, which sounded like it was just what we needed.

Bishop's Castle high street.
The high street at Bishop's Castle - including a poetry pharmacy.

In the end we spent most of our time in the wonderful House on Crutches Museum where I was able to examine some of the old brass instruments from the former town band (not in a good state), and learn all about local Morris dancing troupes.

The poetry pharmacy was another highlight, although I was unable to find anything to read that suited my mood. Perhaps, given that I usually have my nose in a book, this holiday is also a holiday from reading.

In the evening we stayed near Welshpool and found evidence of the local knitting circle's guerilla Easter decoration operation:

Easter knitting in Welshpool.
Easter knitting in Welshpool.

The next day started with a drive to lake Vyrnwy (you pronounce it, "ver-in-wee"). The lake is man-made and to reach the car park involves crossing this rather imposing dam.

The dam at Lake Vyrnwy.
The imposing dam at Lake Vyrnwy.

We timed our arrival perfectly since the car park was empty and hardly anyone appeared to be around.

We decided to walk around the lake until we found a quiet beach on which we could sit, relax and simply ponder the world. It can't have taken more than 20 minutes to find such an isolated spot, and we spent over two hours just chatting, relaxing or throwing skimmers into the lake.

Over the course of the morning we were joined by various passers-by: a young family, a Polish couple with their daughter, a group of students. Everyone was friendly and happy to be by the lakeside and the opportunity for moments of reflection that it offered.

Lake Vyrnwy.
Lake Vyrnwy.

On our walk back to the car we appeared to meet a bank holiday weekend tour for the "young fellers with souped-up cars" motoring club. The sound of noisy exhausts, the look of go-faster stripes and the thinness of sports tyres (clearly, for country roads) were much in evidence. A massive traffic jam was also in evidence as the posse (what is the correct plural noun?) of young men in souped up cars, took on the overweight hairy bikers and caravan owners in a three way battle for the junction leading to the dam. It wasn't a pretty sight as helpful bikers attempted to direct the traffic, only to be ignored by one of the other tribes (in the end, the old fellers just stood in the way of the traffic to control the flow). Well, done to the hairy bikers for their public service!

We took our time getting back to the car, not wishing to be involved in the traffic chaos, but in the end the blockages had been cleared and the route to the dam was clear.

We ended up driving to our overnight rest stop at Llanymynech and spent some time exploring the remains of the lime industry in the area. This included a lovely walk in some woods reclaiming the area used for processing and delivering treated lime into barges on the Shropshire Union canal. Among the thickets we found a huge abandoned lime kiln.

Lime kilns in Llanymynech.
Lime kilns in Llanymynech.

Today started with a trip to Chirk Castle.

As members of the National Trust we got in for free and spent the morning wandering the amazing gardens and grounds.

Chirk Castle.
Chirk Castle.

The gardens ranged from managed woodland to formal gardens with statues and topiary.

Chirk gardens.
Chirk gardens.

Inside the castle were displays depicting different aspects of the castle's history, including the dungeon, the clockwork for the clock tower, the servant's hall and a collection of knight's helmets. These final items made me smile, as each helmet appears to bear a different expression, much like a medieval metal emoji.

A selection of knight's helmets.
A selection of knight's helmets.

In the afternoon we visited the town of Llangollen. It being bank holiday Monday, the small town was heaving with visitors (like us) and the tourist traps were doing a swift trade.

A highlight was watching canoeists tackle the Dee river running through the town (they had hung slalom gates over the river). This led us to the railway station, run by volunteer enthusiasts, and we ended up escaping the scrum of tourists by taking a trip up the valley in an open train to the village of Berwyn.

The river Dee at Llangollen.
The river Dee at Llangollen.

As we enter the final stretch of our holiday, we're both starting to feel like all this relaxing and touring is quite tiring. It means our holiday has done its job: we're looking forward to throwing ourselves back into our usual day to day routines.