Date: 25 May 2014
Walked from: Bodfari, Wales
Walked to: Clwyd Gate, Wales
Walked with: Annette and ‘Compeed’ Andrew
Distance: 11 bumpy miles
Stayed: Hand Hotel, Llangollen
Weather: Sunny, then dull but dry. Bit of rain at the end
What a day of walking! My book described it as 11 challenging miles, and there were a fair few steep ups and downs to conquer as we crossed the first part of the Clwydian Hills, but I do take a sadistic pleasure in walking uphill, whereas cycling uphill always just makes me grumpy. We started in sunshine and had great visibility all day, so the patchwork of different hued green fields below us was framed by the wind-turbine filled water of Liverpool Bay to the north and the mountains of Snowdonia to our west.
Annette and I walked with Compeed Andrew (so named due to the unfortunate amount of angry looking blisters he has on his feet), who had stayed at the same B&B the night before. Andrew was a great walking companion who was able to answer the questions I can normally only pose about what a bird might be (the answer was often skylark – those dudes can carry a tune), what a tree is (I can now identify Hawthorne, when it’s in blossom anyway) and why on earth a number of the hills near Jubilee Tower were striped: turns out young grouse are fussy eaters so the hillside vegetation has to be cut back for them.
We started early (8.15am) as we knew the rain was due to arrive around 2pm and intended to spend as little amount of time as possible stuck in it. Our strategy worked as we only had about 45 minutes of the wet stuff – not so for Andrew and the four French guys we kept bumping into though, who still had another six miles to go.
Our walk took us over a fair few stiles, although I’m pleased to report that there are often gates you can open instead, and along what are often well maintained and, so far, well signed routes. We skirted around the shoulder of the transmitter mast topped Moel-y-Parc, over the Pen-y-Cloddiau hill fort, and up and up to the highest part of the northern section of the walk – Moel Famau, which at 555m is topped by a stone tower built in 1810 to mark the occasion of George III’s coronation. From the tower it was a longish but easy descent to a car park (which helps explain why that bit of the path was so very popular!) at Bwlch Penbarra and then it was a steep up again, skirting the side of the 511m high Foel Fenlli. We met the rain shortly after, and the final part of our walk past sheep filled fields and old Hawthorn trees – all gloriously in flower at the moment – led us to the site of what had been the Clwyd Gate restaurant, and which is now yet another location in rural Britain which ‘used to be’ a pub/shop/restaurant/hotel. Now it’s just a place we called a taxi from, to take us to Llangollen, our home for the next two nights – getting accommodation actually on the route has proved tough on this particular national trail.
Today’s section of the Offa’s Dyke path was considerably more popular than the first day, but it wasn’t hard to see why: tall stuff with great views on a clear day? At the weekend? In Wales? It’s got to be done. Which is how we met a man walking a utterly adorable ‘Andrex’ puppy called Albert that I desperately wanted to dog-nap, passed various groups of teenagers who, by the hideous size of their packs HAD to have been doing their Duke of Edinburgh awards and lots of couples with small children who all seem to be able to climb hills as long as they have their favourite cuddles toy clamped under their arm… perhaps I should try that!
Llangollen is a pretty town in a beautiful setting on the River Dee, and is clearly a popular base for lots of good stuff you can get to from around here. It is also home to the excellent Corn Mill bar and restaurant, which has a fantastic location right on the riverfront. The food and service was so very good that we’ve booked again for tomorrow night! Nom nom…