Hello! I am typing from the library in Knighton, which is the official half-way point of the Offa's Dyke Trail. Having a wonderful time, both time on my own, but also with others that I meet along the way.
Follow the Acorn:
The 177-mile trail is quite well marked with Acorn markers--the official logo of Offa's Dyke. Sometimes it is like a treasure hunt, trying to find the acorn on a post, fence, wall, pole. I have a map of the trail and a book as well, to guide me. I've only lost the trail 3 or so times, one being the day before yesterday in a downpour of rain & lost somewhere in the middle of a potato field. I did bring a GPS with as a back up, and I must say it was nice to have it during that storm.
How many have I seen so far? 1000s & 1000s. I baaahaaa at them as I walk by, which they barely look up from their meals of grass. On the other hand, past experience shows that goats do respond, so I either speak goat, or sheep are not so easily fooled.
The sheep are all blasted with splats of pink, blue, green, purple, red. Some might think it is the markings from the farmers. But I know better--I am sure that in the middle of the night, the sheep jump their pasture fences & have paintballfights against the sheep from other farms.
As I climbed out of the town of Kington yesterday, I crossed a golf course. Again, sheep everywhere, which means sheep droppings everywhere. I am hard pressed to imagine American golf courses in such a state. On the other hand, what a great lawn-cutting job these sheep do.
Plants & flowers:
Wild strawberries patches are the most wonderful thing to find along the route--as small as your 1/2 your pinkie nail, but so sweet to taste. Also occasional raspberries that are ripe.
Wildflowers have been the-most-purple-foxglove, campions, purple & white thistles, buttercups, scotch brush, grose (smells like butter cookies), heather, purple & white clovers, and (shake it shake it) filliery. Also seen lupine & larkspur in gardens--so strange as these grow wild in CA. I saw what I imagine is a a cousin to pine drops in a particular woods.
Live Oaks, ferns forests, stinging nettles galore (making my calves tingle every night bed), and even mugwort on the side of a hops field.
I find it takes me a few hours to get into a pace, but then walk stronger into the rest of the day. I appreciate the solo journey allowing me to go at my own pace, stop & check out the wildflowers & stunning views. And to snack on the strawberries when I find them.
The first 5 days of walking was in a heatwave. Having grown up in the Midwest & hiked many miles in the Sierras, I loved the heat, which seemed to wilt the Brits I met upon the trail. And the last several days have been more normal weather: overcast, rain, sprinkles, sun, more overcast, dumping rain, sprinkles...get the picture?
But walking feels good, no big body aches, no blisters but for the start of one because of yesterday's wet socks.
Funny thing happened on the way to a Farm B&B my 3rd night. I cut through a field and found myself on a road, not the farm I thought I would end at. I flagged down a car & a lovely Welsh man helped me figure where to go & took me there. He knew the family & had wanted to stop by to see their new barn. The next morning as I walked up the drive & not relishing the mile walk back down the road to the trail--asphalt is so tiring on the feet! I was just thinking I may flag down a car to get a ride to the trail...when my friend of the evening before pulls up next to me and with a laugh of surprise, ushers me into his & car and to the trail!
Two days ago on the trail, I met Sue, Sal & Rufus the wonder dog. They are also hiking the trail, but taking years to do it, doing 2-3 days at a time. We walked much of the day together. After a particular heavy dump, we came upon the 400+ years old Saint Mary's church in the middle of the trail. The door held a sign, welcoming in hikers to take a rest, make some tea & have a biscuit (cookies). How lovely it was to get out of the rain, have a hot drink with lunch!
Yesterday as I hiked, I wondered if I would meet them again. In early afternoon, I heard this strange heavy breathing behind me, turned around & there was Rufus wagging his tail & licking my calves. So I walked again with them until we reached this town of Knighton, where they got into their car & I on to my stay.
If you go to CouchSurfing.com, you will find an international network of folks who would like to stay with you when they are in your town & whom you can visit when you are traveling. I spend my first night in the UK with Jimmy & Mary this way, in the town of Chepstow. What a great resource, way to save money & way to meet interesting people.
Which brings me back to Knighton. So in the last 2 hours of hiking yesterday, it was dumping rain. Soaked to the bone. After I said goodbye to Sal, Sue & the dog, I phoned Edward--my Couchsurf stay in Knighton. He met me at the town clock, we walked to his home...into the room I would stay in...and out the window into a hot tub! Yes, a wood stove heated hot tub. Amazing. Just like being home. And he had champagne & blue berries (I am working on my hospitality, he said). Later, his brother, wife, daughter & her boyfriend came by to tub. A rare thing in these parts, Edward said.
I imagine that in the many hundreds of years of people hiking Offa's Dyke trail, I am likely the first one who walked off the trail and into a hot tub.
Farms...fields...mountains...forests...sheep...cows...horses...rivers...Climbing to the top of the trail& looking around is breath taking no matter where I am.
Right then, I am off! More writings later on down the line.