Offa’s Dyke Path, Day4 Llangollen to Trefonen

Day 4 of 14 done and today was such a pleasure. I am between mountain ranges and very much appreciated the valley time today. Do not get me wrong, there were some doozy climbs but loads of rolling slopes too and these stems can eat those kilometers right up!

After a ride back up to Dinas Bras at 930am I started my day. A couple+ hours later than my preference but that is how B&Bs roll … if you want the breaky part of the B&B that is!

The day started with a lane walk but quickly shifted into fields and a lot of forest walking too – so quiet and so soft underground in the forest! Trevor Hall Forest was perfection!

From forest to canal! I was excited to walk along the canal for a while – seeing the very long passenger boats go by was so neat. Next time I think a canal ride between towns and then walking the rest of a day would be magic.

I chose the low path along the canal to get photos of the 126 foot high aqua-duct that the canal runs across (even the boats). The walk way on the aqua-duct is an alternative Offa’s Dyke Path route for those who like heights and we have established I do not!

After my canal time, it was field to lane to rocky trail again for the rest of the afternoon. The threat of rain hung in the air all day – but only torrential rained twice for a short time (less than 30mins) and immediately followed by sunny skies! Yahoo.

I did have a run in with some very stubborn milk cows .. these little jerks would not move so I could walk through. They just looked at me and kept eating grass. When I did a little arms wide ‘move on ladies’ they all stopped eating and looked at me.

That scared me a little, so I used the barb wire fence to try to gracefully cross a cow crap / bog swamp thing and well that failed miserably when I slipped off a stone into the ick and could feel my blister burst on impact. Ugh so sanitary.

Finally made my way across the poo bog and gave all the cows a wide berth to get across the field. But then they started following me. Ugh I double timed it big time! I am not drinking milk for a week – that will learn em!

(When I did Hadrian’s Wall Path in 2008 I was literally chased by a bull so I may be a little sensitive to the whole bovine thing.)

One of my big highlights today was meeting a fantastic couple on this bridge. They retired in Australia and are on a 3 month walking holiday, they have done a few Paths here I Uk have done (like Wes Highland Way) and a few I want to (like Coast to Coast) and … believe it or not .. they will be doing the Cotswold at the same time we are! Chess and Susie – hope to see you again but maybe let’s not stand about chatting for 30mins on the Path next time 😉 Pub would be better!

I finished up my day at 21km today and caught my transport into Oswestry – another fantastic little town to check out!

That last one there is my wee home for the night and my room has a Nespresso and a milk frother in it! I have not had a coffee since I left home – I may have done a little happy dance and forgave the cow jerks from earlier.

Tomorrow I am off to Welshpool which will be a 24km walk with more time on the canal – my foot is loving the easy walking. A good ‘rest’ as the next mountain days are looming.

Brandé

Offa’s Dyke Path, Day3 Clywyd Gate to Llangollen

Day 3 of 14 complete and what a beauty – I got a bit of everything today. Quiet lane waking, some hard work up and over livestock fields, quiet and dark forest paths, and even a lengthy and amazing stone pathed bog (my favorite!)

I topped out at 26 kilometers today in just over 8 hours and honestly I felt every step. Maybe a good time for a foot update…

4 months ago in a soccer / futbol match I tore 2 ligaments in my right foot. Not ruptured but a grade 3 tear aka barely hanging on. You cannot fix ligaments except with surgery and they don’t do that until they are fully torn (ruptured). The result was months of physiotherapy to make my foot and ankle and calf and hamstring stronger so they compensate for these now wimpy ligaments.

Well as I walk farther and harder (up and down steep sections of which are around every corner or stile) my muscles get tired which then let’s those ligaments misbehave. Long story long, we are only day 3 and every step feels like fire in my heel and a punch in the arch. Once I get a good clip on it feels much better (not gone) but after any break or pause it’s a bit of torture for a while and I am pretty super sore at night. Combine that with the rocky surface or cow churned up field and holy-heck-ouch. I have pain killers (not sure they work) and topical pain killer cream (I think helps a bit) and stretches but it’s feeling pretty ick.

I may need to build in a rest day and that makes this long distance hiker’s heart break – i will think about it over the next few days and pick it strategically if I do. I don’t want to mess up the Cotswold Way Walk that I do just after Offa’s with my sister Shar and our besties Rosa and Cheryl. I do have a rest day between so that’s good this and that – so that’s good!

Back to the good stuff …

I put up a compilation video on @runningforthegate Instagram off some of the different trail bits to give you an idea of that too.

What I didn’t get to do today was the scree crossing – this terrified of heights gal just couldn’t make it happen. I thought it was pretty short like 100-200meters and was fully prepared to make it /happen. But, oh no my friends it is over 2 MILES or 3.2 KILOMETERS long and there is NO exit and is largely just shoulder width with nothing on the edge. You have to strategically think about how you pass people. That is just too much for me. Ugh thinking about it makes me all tummy floppy. The tipping point was honestly 3 different walkers I passed who had just come from that section encouraging me (without prompting) to take the alternative lane route – that is was awful. Lane it is!

To give you an idea of what this scree crossing is all about … here is a photo of the scree path from the nice, flat, quiet and quaint lane I was walking (it runs parallel). See that line across the mid point of the scree slide? That is the path! The second picture is the same shot just super zoomed in to show you the hikers up there that you cannot even see in my first photo it’s so high and scary and awful and no thanks!

My day near wrapped up with a break on a bench (that they call seat around these parts) admiring the ruins of the Dinas Bras Castle – or as one old gent put it when he asked where I was headed as I walked past his farm ‘that there is a real castle not like one of those pretty Edwardian things England offers’. While having my break, I ate my classic apple and a chocolate as another old guy and I exchanged stories of our long distance walks, his favorite was West Highland Way. Me too!

From there it was a 40 min lane stroll down into Llangollen where I am staying at the Squirrels B&B which is amazing! My room is so great and perfect and I enjoyed a warm tea, some cookies and a little nap with my feet up the wall as soon as I strolled in.

After that, a short stroll to check out this cute little town – and grab a pint and dinner, of course. What a cute little town!

Tomorrow is another 26km but looks pretty amazing .. and will be as I am going to wake up and my foot will be all fixed! 😉

Brandé

Offa’s Dyke Path, Day2 Bodfari to Clywyd Gate

Day 2 of 14 done and what an absolute doozy! We are talking 20 kilometers, 6 of the Moels (mountains) of the Clwydian Range, one steep sheep track (my mistake) and the highest point of the entire Offa’s Dyke Path… aka a doozy!

My day started a little later than my preference – the taxi driver, the very Peter of Peter’s Taxi, does a school kid drop of so could only get me for 845am. So my actual hike started at 930am after a 25min cab ride a short moment to post my Day 2 good mornin’ on @runningforthegate Instagram and IGTV.

Before leaving the Sarum House B&B with Peter, I was up early to grab my lunch and snacks at the co-op – including Prawn Cocktail crisps (chips) mmm. Then I enjoyed a lovely breakfast at the B&B before donning my sunnies (sun glasses) for the day! Yahoo sunshine in North Wales!

Right out of the gate, and by that I mean a kissing gate, I was heading up and up and up. I was not quite ready for the incline so my new buddy, Snaily McSlowerton was kicking my butt. In the end, my legs beat out his slime and I made my way up and over not just the first but all of the Moels today.

Some highlights of the first, Moel Pen-Y-Cloddiau at 440m or 1442 feet – those old prove to be the most gentle of all my climbs today.

From there it was my arch nemesis Moel Arthur at 456m or 1496feet. This one gave me so much trouble I am officially friends off with anyone named Arthur! Ugh the way up was ok but I could not find the descent and ended up on a very steep, there may have been tears – ok there was, on this sheep path from hell.

See that nice path that goes up out of the right of the car park .. that should have been my way down. Instead I came down that line of rocks/fence largely on my ass in prickle county! Ugh.

From there it was up and over Moel Dywyll at 472m or 1550feet which had a crazy incline up hill – like just straight up the Moel. Has anyone in Wales heard of switchbacks?

Then it was into Moel Famau with the Royal Jubilee Tower sitting on top of its 555m or 1820feet. I could see the squat building from the start of my morning calling my name and it looked SO far away! This is the highest point on the Offa’s Dyke Path and I put up a wee video on @runninforthegate Instagram that includes my attempt at capturing the amazing, panoramic scenery from atop this beauty. If you listen closely you can hear me laugh as I am almost pushed over from the wind!

From there it as down, down, down to just go back up and up to Moel Eithinen at 432m or 1425feet. Including a little spot to toss up the feet and have a wee lunch!

Once down from the last Moel, it was a nice jaunt across some pastures, and a very friendly face in my cab driver waiting for me. I had guessed a 5pm when I chatted with him that morning .. and it was 5:02! He got me to my lovely Sarum House B&B in about 10mins and I enjoyed a shower and my feet up with a tea more than I can tell ya!

Tomorrow is a longer day about 24km but I do finish off the mountain range with just a couple more and then a nice stroll (she laughs) into Dinas Bras where I stay next!

Brandé

Offa’s Dyke Path, Day 1 Prestatyn to Bodfari

Well that’s day 1 of 14 done and what a start! Looking at my notes from the guidebook all the things I jotted down came true: 21km; I wouldn’t have a spot to stop for for, snacks or toilet. was able to get let my break; steep sections especially right out of Prestatyn; and lots of livestock fields. Yup! Check, check, check and check.

I started out just before 8am from the official starting point of the Path marked with a cool monument thing right on the beach. I also posted a short Instagram TV video with an intro to the day over @runningforthegate.

I had hoped to stop and grab some food for the next couple days but it was an early Sunday morning so that was a bust! I did get a packed lunch from the hotel and knew the soggy tomato and shredded cheese sandwich, some crisps (chips) and an apple would hold me today so that’s all right. It’s the next couple days I am worried about but I will fix that in Ruthin where I am staying with a 6am run to the market… I hope.

The walk started through the quant, quiet little town of Prestatyn and then up up and up to fantastic views back to the coast where I started. You can see the hill that is guilt as the up, up and up behind the clock in the distance.

From there is was steep up, flattish through livestock and farm fields (which are total ankle breakers by the way), and some serious downhill stretches. Also a nice amount of laneway (like a wee baby paved road with no traffic) where these legs get a chance to really stretch out.

The path was pretty fantastic as far as being cut back and well maintained, and the way finding was epic. The little acorn – my bestie for this 14 day journey – was epic. I was confused for maybe a minute and maybe twice.

I also loved all the stiles. While getting my leg up and over these suckers was pretty entertaining by end of day – I do love them. They are a symbol of hope (maybe the next bit is flat), fear (maybe the next bit has a stupid bull that wants to smash me), or maybe they are just a stile and I should just pop my leg over and keep on going. Right then.

The spirit of hiking weather heard me tell Instagram this morning that I was prepared for the rain – so it barely happened. Yahoo! It did a little mist thing a few times but mostly just cloud cover and even a touch of sun or two. It only really rained for less than an hour. Yahoo!

The winds were brutal – I posted a video on Instagram @runningforthegate with a few seconds of different parts of the trail and you can hear the wind blowing hard! You can see in one it gusted me a bit and another it didn’t cover up my mouth breathing from the uphill slog.

I had thought I would wrap up between 4 and 5pm but I got to my destination at 2pm. I will admit I had thought I was going to way behind my estimate finish time so when it was flat these stems were going flat out! It was nice to finish early, I had me a Beachcomber Blonde Ale local from these parts and served just chilled from a hand pump not a pressurized keg and a broccoli blue cheese soup. Yum! (The mountain or Moel range you can see in the background is the ridge I walk for tomorrow)

From there I called for transport to the town of Ruth’s (pronounced like rushin’) for my stay at the Saram House B&B. I get to stay here for 2 nights and it’s amazing!

To try and keep myself awake till atleast 7pm – the time change is hitting me like a bag of broken clocks and I need to get adjusted fast – I went for a walk about this little town.

They have a castle! Rushin Castle to be exact and it is so super cool. Literally 3 flats from my little place which is amazing!

Ok that’s me back at my cozy room with my misbehaving foot up, in a compression sock, with topical painkillers on it .. having a wee tea before I hit the horizontal. I made it to 7pm, party animal!

Tomorrow, rain expected and higher winds – perfect for my ridge walk! Maybe the winds will gentle push behind me and make the day so easy … 😉

Brandé

Adventure Officially in Progress

Well that took way to long but also just as long as expected!

I left my front door at noon on Friday June 24 in Vancouver BC to arrive at my first night away (Beaches Hotel) at 9pm in Prestatyn Wales. Just 25 hours – not to bad considering it involved a taxi (45mins), a plane (1hr), another plan (8hrs), a very long bus ride (6hrs), and one final taxi(1.5hrs).

But crazy enough – and I still can’t believe it – everything went exactly as planned. I love when that happens! Customs was long but efficient, my bag arrived, it took about 3mins to switch my over to UK, and I got a window front seat on the bus. A good omen for the rest of the trip, for sure!

The day/night travel and time change are messing with my brain mind you. To quote the last taxi driver who kindly said ‘you look right knackered dear’. Yup that is exactly how I feel – but smiling!

I was hoping for a nice meal and a pint to wind down but the food is a bust (they stopped serving at 8:45 no surprise there). Although the pint is in progress and yummy. Made even more amazing with this view …

I took a little stroll to stretch the taxi, plane, bus legs and wow so beautiful. Tomorrow morning, I start my day’s walk on this beachside promenade right outside my hotel.

A few observations of the day …

  • Sitting beside a 10yr old on the plane Calgary to London gives you fantastic shoulder room but may not be worth it when you end up with the piping hot coffee all over your lap when he randomly kicks out in his sleep.
  • I am reminded a highway in Canada is very different than most highways in UK …ours do not include a small, vintage towns every few kilometers that have at least one traffic circle. Green in the gills!
  • West Jet offers complimentary alcoholic beverages on long haul flights, and a pillow and a blanket. Yes please!
  • Also did you know a cucumber and cream cheese sandwich is a thing? It is, and yummy as all heck. I was skeptical but now sold.

Ok enough tired rambling! I am off to my room to get organized for tomorrow’s hike … 21km, Prestatyn to Bodfari tomorrow with 70% rain in the morning. Sounds great!

Hmm wonder if should eat the complimentary shortbread cookies in my room and have a tea for my super. Why wouldn’t ya?!

Brandé

Offa’s Dyke Path – the Deets

Just 25 sleeps until I depart for Wales and kick off my next adventure, the Offa’s Dyke Path. So excited! Thought it would be a good time to share a few details about the Path and my hike.

What is this Offa’s Dyke Path?

  • 177 mile / 285 kilometer national walking trail in mostly Wales – considered strenuous and undulates (my favourite hiking word) continuously.
  • The path runs the length of the English and Welsh border, crossing over the border many times (I walked the English and Scottish border – Hadrian’s Wall – in 2008. Once I complete this path I will have walked the entire land border of England! Cool)
  • Lonely Planet ranks this Path as one of the world’s greatest walks. (I will decide that for myself but it does bode well for my adventure)
  • The Offa Dyke is the longest and most ancient monument in Britain.
  • The Saxon Monarch, aka King Offa, is due credit for building the Dyke as a natural border rampart between Wales and England.
  • The Offa’s Dyke Path runs beside or on top of the rampart and was declared an official Path in 1971.
  • There are many intact or ruins of castles and abbeys along the route.
  • Offa’s Dyke Association advises the Path passes through one Natioanl Park, three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and at least two Environmentally Sensitive Areas.

What is my hiking plan for this Path?

  • Walking North (Prestatyn on the coast, literally on the beach) to South (Chepstow) – this way I am closer to the start of Cotswold Way the hike in England I am doing a couple days after I finish this one.
  • Average walking distance a day is 19km – longest day is 26.5km and shortest is 13km. Hoping that shortest day gives me opportunity to laundry of my stinky, sweaty hiking gear – that will depend on what town I staying in that night of course.
  • A few sections are giving me some chest pain and I have not even started … specifically wide open, thin trails on the side of steep scree (aka hill of broken rock and gravel). The fear of heights is strong in this one but I am sure if I could to Pembrokeshire Coastal Path on the edge of 70 foot cliffs in gale force winds for 16days I can do some short scary bursts on this Path. Insert hopeful face here.
  • Except for a few nights, I walk from accommodation to the next accommodation and most are just a few km off the actual Path. This adds to the length of my walk each day but it’s pretty exciting to just walk ‘home’. On the days I don’t walk ‘home’ I just call the place I am staying for transport – hopefully from a pub 😉
  • The Path can be tackled in 5 days if running (an annual running competition proves this) but walking it is usually tackled in 12 – 14 or more days. I am going for 14 days short enough to keep some pep in my step but long enough that I am not racing to the finish line each day to arrive before the pub stops serving food. A long hoof followed by only a cold granola bar and an apple at night is a sad end to a day, lived experience!
  • I am doing the Path on my own … sorta! Eeek this is the really exciting part. After Offa’s Dyke Path, I am meeting my long distance hiking crew Shar (sister) and Cheryl and Rosa (our besties) in England to walk the Cotswold Way – more on that later. Cheryl, trail name Impossible Turtle, is so excited to get her boots on a path, and see castles, she is joining me early and is going to do the last 6 days of Offa’s Dyke Path with me! Doctor Boots (me) and Impossible Turtle getting it done.
  • This amazing company called Anglessey and Wales Walking Holidays have done ALL the work for this one y’all! They have booked all of my accommodations (including making a big change when we added Cheryl – yahoo!) and arranged my transports and luggage service and everything. Wow!

My plan is to do a short good morning video on the Running for the Gate Instagram account from the Path each morning before I start out, and then wrap the day up with a blog post and some photos at night. So loads of details coming your way about this amazing Path! Stay tuned.

Brandé

Finally, A New Adventure

Well after way, way, way too long since my last adventure …

I am excited to announce a new adventure is finally in the works!

What adventure do I have up my sleeve you ask? Oh sit down, grab that coffee or wine or pint or the hand of someone you love cause this is about to get exciting. Well, exciting for me at least, the one heading out on an adventure. Not sure how exciting this will be for you exactly but I will do my level best to make it at least entertaining.

Crazy. Fun. Here we go!

Offa’s Dyke Path, Wales

In 2008, I walked the Hadrian’s Wall Path which runs the length of the border of England and Scotland. So really it only makes sense that I would also walk England’s other border, the one with Wales. I cannot have borders getting all jelly if they are not included. They are quite dramatic like that …

Intro the Offa’s Dyke Path! The Path literally and mostly follows the Dyke that borders the two countries and was built by, you guessed it, a guy .. ok a King .. named Offa in the eighth century as a border (well there is a little debate on the purpose but it feels sorta border-ish so I am going with that). It is said to be the longest ancient monument in Britain and was opened as an official national trail in 1971. You had me at official national trail. Let’s go!

The official Offa’s Dyke Path trail runs the length of the dyke and walkers toggle between England and Wales a few times but mostly walk in Wales. The length? Just a short little jaunt of 283 kilometers (176 miles) marked by the classic acorn way finding signs of the UK national paths. I have read a few books and many are saying the elevation gain and loss combined is the same as claiming to the top of Mount Everest but the tail itself is clearly marked and the views are amazing … when it’s not raining. That is a little daunting and amazing.

I am walking this bad boy this summer, June 25 to July 9, and I cannot wait! The accommodations I will hike to each day all the way along the path have been booked and I have already started to explore torrential and constant Welsh rain strategies. I am also researching local folklore, legends and ghost stories – more on that later.

Want to know the icing on this trails’ cake? My friend Cheryl is joining me for the last week on the trail. What? No jokes! So excited.

After I give the Offa’s Dyke Path (or the OPD to us cool long distance hikers like me and Cheryl lol) a run for its money, we are off to …

Cotswold Way, England

The Cotswolds is the most picturesque region in England they say. You know that image of England with its rolling, beautiful green hills and crisp blue skies and there are a few air balloons dotted in the sky during the most beautiful sunrise that ever happened, ever. That is the Cotswolds! I am that little hiker off in the distance with the bright purple pack. Heyo!

The Cotsowld Way, a wee skip and a jump of 164 kilometers (102 miles), is another national trail in the UK and has been on the must do list for about a decade. Shar, my sister, and I started talking about this one when we did the Great Glen Way in Scotland in 2013. The intention to get this one under my boots was ‘thwarted’ first by the Camino de Santiago (wow), then the Arran Coastal Way (amazing) and finally the COVID-19 pandemic (not cool). While we might be doing the Way a few years later than planned, the wait almost makes it more exciting.

For this one, the band-o-four that conquered the Arran Way in Scotland in 2018 are making a comeback. Shar, and our closest friends Cheryl and Rosa are hitting the hills – the band is back together again folks and I cannot wait. We start walking on July 11th and wrap up July 20th. A couple nights in Bath, then a few nights in London (the queen has asked if I could swing by for a wee spot o tea and I would hate to let her down), and we head our happy selves home.

But before I go I need to recover …

Just the day before I was to start my fail-proof 20week training plan – I heard a pop, felt a hot but yet cold rip in my foot during a soccer match and I am now working through a 9-12 week recovery before I can even train. No damn way! Are you kidding me? Can the MRI be wrong?

I am reminding myself as I sit on a bike in a gym training instead of in my boots on a trail, that it could be worse. It could have been a full rupture and I could be heading to surgery. As it is, its just a couple of tears. Just. Ugh! I have a substantial longitudinal tear in my Peroneous Brevis Tendon, the one that runs from the pinkie toe to the heel (that little piggy is not running home anytime soon) and another Grade 2 (Moderate) tear of the medial Plantar Fascia. It hurts, I am frustrated, I could cry, I have cried, I could smash things, I might still, and I will overcome!

I will recover from this little pesky foot injury, train like a rock star in half the time I usually prefer and then voila .. 5 weeks doing what I love most and with my most favourite trail peeps. Stay tuned for how this one shapes up before we go and as we ramble!

Brande