The 177 mile Offa’s Dyke path has been named by Lonely Planet as being among one of the worlds must-see sites for 2013. The northern part is practically on my doorstep! The other dayI walked a bit of it with my friend Julie.
‘Did you know there used to be 16 pubs around Llandegla because of all the drovers and cattle dealers passing this way? I read from the village information board as I unscrewed my walking poles. Now the Church of St. Tecla offers refreshments to passing ramblers, just go in, boil the kettle, leave a donation. We followed the yellow school bus up the lane, crossed a stile and squelched over muddy fields to Llandegla Forest.
‘Watch out for mountain bikers!’ I warned Julie. The Forest is criss-crossed with graded mountain bike and walking trails but today there was only the soft twittering of a robin waiting to inspect our footprints for grubs. We pottered up through the dark Sitka trails, past mossy rocks and fallen toad tools to the forest edge. Stepping out of the forest was like coming through a heavy curtain on to a brightly lit stage. We almost took a bow as the sun-spotlight picked us out. A roof-less, rust-coloured moor stretched into the distance.
‘What’s with the stripes in the heather?’ asked Julie.
‘They’re for the black grouse, the males need room to show off in the spring so strips are cleared. I’ve been up here at 5 am and seen the males at their Lek, flashing their frilly bloomers, sticking their chests out, acting the big ‘I Am.’ If they could just see themselves, they’d die of embarrassment.’
‘Do you think we’ll see any today?’
‘Doubt it, they’re probably hiding in the heather, watching us.’
A thoughtfully placed boardwalk took us across the boggy bits, past frost-coated pillows of moss sparkling in the watery sunshine. Then, just as we stepped off the moor at World’s End, a black grouse leapt out of the heather and flapped its short wings like crazy across the ice blue sky. I don’t know who was more startled, us or the grouse.
We crossed a ford under limestone features more reminiscent of Northern Italy or Yosemite than Wales and squelched our way towards the spectacular Eglwyseg Cliffs. We searched the crags for peregrines but were just as happy to watch the ravens tumbling above us. In places the narrow path traversed scree-covered slopes. ‘This reminds me of walking in Nepal, without the yaks or the scary bridges,’ I said as I tried to watch my feet and the ravens at the same time.
We ate our sandwiches looking up at the ruins of Castell Dinas Bran, silhouetted against the darkening sky. Julie continued on to Chirk, I dropped down into Llangollen to rendezvous with a hot chocolate and a lift home.