Published in Offa’s Dyke Association Newsletter 2013 – Part 1
“The distance is nothing – it is only the first step that is difficult” – I thought to myself as I made my first step onto Glyndwr’s Way at Knighton after walking from Chepstow on Offa’s Dyke earlier in the week. Why not complete a quick loop through mid-Wales, how would it be different?
The immediate impression was similar to Offa’s Dyke, and yet I had travelled back in time by 100 years. The field patterns and farm buildings seemed much older and you had a distinct feeling you were treading on ancient pathways. I only met one other walker on the path into Machynlleth and no one from there into Welshpool, such is the wonderful remote isolation of this beautiful countryside brought into wonderful relief by ‘rainbow’ weather and accompanied by the whistling buzzards.
I had decided to bring my tent and sleeping bag and spent my first night at Felindre, greeted by a large slice of fruitcake and big mug of tea and an unprompted offer of a lift to the local pub for a meal. It was easy to strike up conversation with everyone I met, people with the time to talk to you who share a passion for this landscape.
Next stop was Abbey-Cwm-Hir and a chance to sleep in the Abbey next to the Prince of Wales, plenty of space in what could have been the largest Cistercian Abbey in Wales had it been completed. A welcome pint or two at the appropriately named Happy Union Inn.
The farmers sheepdog woke me early, rounding me up and telling me to get back on the path. No need to delay, and quite right too, as the benefit of camping are the early morning starts that get you up into the hills when the texture of the light really flatters the landscape. It also means you reach your destination earlier and Llanidloes was worth spending time to explore, lovely timber framed buildings and buzzing local commerce and a great camp site too, next to the River Severn, a welcome afternoon nap.
The next day brought a wonderful bonus, the first Osprey I have even seen in Wales on Llyn Clywedog, unmistakable with it robber’s mask as it steals a fish right in front of luckless fishermen. I stay until it wings its way into the hills and then progress through the forest to Dylife, to camp that night next to the Star Inn. Early start given an appalling weather forecast so I marched into Machynlleth and decide after 9 nights under canvas from Chepstow to bale out, a decision proven to be wise given the severe flooding North Wales was to experience that coming week in late September 2012.
But don’t give up, after all I have taken the first step so after a grim winter the first sign of decent weather brings me back to Wales, firstly to complete a section on Offa’s Dyke between Knighton to Welshpool and then by train to Machnylleth to be back on Glyndwr’s again, this time using B&B’s. Luxury. First day to Llanbrynmair is fantastic, misty, sunny, hail, rain, snow all in one day, but trail signs are good and the map stays in the pack.
Comfy B&B/Shop and early start to Llanwddyn and Llyn Vrynwy. Glorious early section onto Cerrig Y Tan for some of the best views so far. Rainbow weather returns as I approach Llangadfan and a chance encounter with the Trail Officer putting up new marker posts, again plenty of time for a chat as there is no rushing in this part of the world.
Apart from handing out awards for the cutest lamb of the year, several decide to adopt and follow me, rather like the cat at Talbontdrain and the sheepdog at Buttington. It seems the local animals want to join you on the trail too and why should they miss out? A very welcoming arrival at the B&B in Llanwddyn, for pleasant conversation and quite possibly the best Welsh breakfast I have ever enjoyed.
Next day and on to Meifod, introducing me to the Ann Griffiths Walk near Dolanog, a worthy taster to the Glyndwr Way landscape that follows the same route for a while. The local pub served a welcome meal and pint before a very pleasant stay at a B&B just down the road whose patron was only too happy to give me a lift to the start of the path the next day. Only 11 miles now into Welshpool and what a finale, Y Golfa delivers wonderful views back into central Wales, with Cadair Idris marking the furthest westerly extent of the walk, a real sense of achievement and perspective of the 133 miles you have just traveled on Glyndwr’s Way.
It remains a mystery to me why this route is not as popular as it should be. Of all the National Trails I have done to date, it remains one of the most rewarding. I can thoroughly recommend the excursion from Offa’s Dyke and into the heart of Owain Glyndwr’s domain. Now just another 70 miles to Prestatyn.