Monday, 20 May 2013

BEAUTIFUL WALES......part one

When I was a teenager my only experience of Wales was the Snowdonia National Park and in particular the area around Bettws y Coed. As one of 6 siblings with only mum to keep us, holidays were not on the agenda but due to the generosity of the parents of my best friend (and who still is my oldest friend) I got to visit this stunning part of the British Isles and it will always hold a special place in my memory. So my BIL was a little reticent at suggesting Wales for our annual holiday together.
He needn't have worried as I would gladly return, but as it happened he found a converted barn in Mid Wales which looked just our kind of thing and so I got to visit another part of this beautiful country.
This however is where I have to confess my slight surprise as he had told us it was 'not far from the Snowdonia National Park' so when we arrived at Gilfach Barn literally a stones throw from Hereford and only just up and over Offas Dyke we concluded that geography was not his strong point. That aside the boy did well. Great base, plenty of opportunity to walk and near to loads of other delights.

But I rush on 'cos as you can see the above picture is definitely not Wales.
 I had never been to Iron Bridge, and since we couldn't get into our accommodation until 3pm we did a slight detour on our way. What a delightful little town ( is it a town?). The river looked stunning in the sunshine,

between the sudden sharp showers of rain! And to add to our delight the main street has several quaint shops and we also found a small antique emporium which produced my first purchases of the holiday.
I'll have to do a separate post on these or we'll be here all week!
We finally arrived having travelled down a long farm drive to the barn situated right in the actual farm yard. Our closest neighbours being the sheep with their newborn lambs!
The barn itself was lovely. Large dining kitchen and one double en suite bedroom on the ground floor with the sitting room, 2 further bedrooms, one en suite and another bathroom on the first floor. The views from the floor to ceiling windows in the sitting room were stunning,

We were greeted by the key holders and their daughter and had a very useful and charming conversation about the area the local walks and local amenities (ie supermarket for when the wine ran out) and were offered their personal books on these walks, including one taking you across Offas Dyke.

The History Bit....King Offa of Mercia reigned from about 758AD to his death in 796. He was often in conflict with the Welsh and the majority of  Offas Dyke, a large earth mound which stretches for about 176 miles, was probably built under his instruction. It stretches north to south from the Severn Estuary at Sedbury near Chepstow to Prestatyn on the north coast. It is now one of the most popular National Trails and on average it takes a walker 12 days to do the whole thing.(Thank goodness we only had a weeks holiday booked!)

After settling in with a good homemade meal (and a glass or two of wine) we started to plan our weeks itinerary
On the Sunday we did a recci of the area, coming by chance across a couple of car boots. The smallest produced some goodies whilst the very much larger of the two was sadly disappointing. But at least we were able to see a bit of the area, and we decided that we would do our first walk on the Monday and make this the Offas Dyke walk starting from the lane behind our barn to the town of Knighton, 51/2 miles away which is roughly the half way point of the Dyke and the location of the visitor centre.

I thoroughly enjoyed this, it was cold windy and at times hard going but it remained dry and the views were amazing. The final part of the walk into Knighton was along side a wood and descended so steeply you had to walk crab like for parts of it. But none of this mattered as we were far too interested in watching the tree creepers, woodpeckers and nuthatch, a first for me! We also think we saw a redstart.

A well deserved stop in a local cafe and a healthy snack

and we were soon discussing our return. I am ashamed to say there were treacherous murmurings of taxis! but finally we just sort of started walking back, and so after 11 miles we stumbled back down our track to a welcome sit down and a cuppa. Apart from burning feet (someone didn't put on their walking socks!) and it wasn't me!! we were all fairly unscathed, despite the fact that I decided to kiss the ground about 500 yards from home. Thank goodness the past months of rain had dried up. My companions smiles would no doubt have been much broader if I had been covered in mud!
The following day we became simple tourists to give our ageing bodies time to recover before we donned those walking boots again...but more of that next time......

If you have managed to keep up, well done, this has been a bit epic. I will leave you now to go to your beds as must I......

Jenny xx