Patrick & James McAuliffe

Entered the Hall of Fame:18th July 2017
Trail Completed:7th July 2017

Offa's Dyke (south to north) trek Tuesday 27th June to Friday 7th July 2017.

Eleven days of walking and a lifetime of memories.

To do the dyke in one go was a longstanding ambition of mine (James) since having started it about thirty years ago and only getting as far as Monmouth, it was always on my to do a year or so later list.  With me being 50 later this year it seemed a good year to be the 'or so later year'.  Patrick (my son 16) decided that he would do the dyke to celebrate the end of his GCSE exams which he finished on June 26th and he was also worried I would get completely lost, so he did the navigating.  

To help inspire us on our way we also did it as a sponsored trek raising money for a local charity called 'Redditch Catholic Fellowship' which puts on free or subsidised social events for anyone with any form of disability, we have raised to date £640.  If you are looking at doing the walk all in one go I would recommend you do it as a sponsored event, as at times when the hills feel high or the path feels long, knowing you are also doing it for a cause can really inspire you on.

The route is well sign posted on the whole, though I would say that you need to have some knowledge of how to use a map and in a couple of places only we found a compass useful as well to help guide us on our way as the posts are not always there.

We were camping on our walk (bar one night in a B&B in Castle Mill) and carrying all our equipment. If you are walking to a fixed time frame as we were, we would recommend planning and booking where you are going to stay in advance, as it gives you an end point to reach each day, and in some parts the campsites were not obvious to find, and no shops in many parts  Quite a lot of the northern part of route does not have any shops on  it (such as Knighton to Llanymynech post office circa 39 miles) so make sure you know when you can buy your next lot of food.  Though most places we stayed at did have pubs near by which you could get food in the evening.

The walk itself takes you through some spectacular scenery from town, to meadow, to mountain side and top and the views are at times literally breathtaking.  It was great to walk at times on the dyke itself, and really if this was the work of one king's men it is an engineering feat and a half to behold.  Walking up the Brecon's we got fabulous views in the sunshine of the morning, and then reached the clouds and saw next to nothing for the next couple of hours, so just a lesson to respect the hills even in the Summer as whilst we did not need jumpers, we did put on a couple of tee shirts under our water proofs to keep warm.

We camped on route and were so lucky to meet the people we did, at Monmouth we arrived very late at the Monmo Bridge campsite as we had started are walk a bit to late on our first day, but the lady of the site made us feel so welcome, as did others who were staying there and were interested in our walk, the same happened elsewhere at Kington we were offered so many hot drinks, at Lower Papunton (Knighton) campsite, June saved the walk for me by talking me to get my feet sorted out (my old faithful boots should have been retired before the walk), thank you so much.  

The Offa's Dyke centre in Knighton was a welcome break, and you can get gifts, caps, tee-shirts etc as souvenirs.

We met people from  Seattle and Washington DC in the USA, Australia, Holland & Germany as well as people from the UK who had come just to do the trail.  It really is a worldwide gem in our own backyard.  As well as meeting those who were doing it in one go, including a man we met who had just started out in Prestatyn going to Sedbury Cliffs with all his camping gear and his guitar, we meet numerous people who were doing a bit of it over a day or two every few months to a couple of guys doing a couple of days each year. Everyone with their own stories which were good to hear and share our own.  

On several of the days we were walking the days were hot and we knocked several doors of houses on routes to ask for water, everyone was welcoming and interested in how we were getting on, and some even gave us advice on the next bit of the route.

From a sheer change of scenery types we think our walk from Castle Mill to Llandegla was spectacular from walking past Chirk Castle, to Pontscysytlle Aqueduct, along Panorama Walk, the side of Eglwyseg mountain across the scree, up into the heath where we saw (and almost stood on) our first Adder and finally down through the cathedral like forestry of Llangdelgla forest to Llandegla for the night.  Though in so many places the views were amazing.

The little information plaques that were in a few places were very interesting and we learnt things from them such as by the quiet pleasant fields of Montgomery, which we found out was the scene of the bloodiest battle of the civil war in 1644 and made us stop for a moment

The Foxglove was a welcome sight on our walk popping up every so often and if the dyke does not have an official flower we propose the Foxglove is adopted as it.

As I huffed and puffed, Patrick sang songs going up the inclines, we laughed and joked, met some great people, saw some fabulous sites and made some fantastic memories.  

I am so glad that I did not complete the walk 30 years ago, as it was an absolute privilege to do Offa's Dyke Path with my son Patrick, and to him I am eternally grateful.

To anyone thinking about doing the dyke, we would recommend planing your walk, work out where you are going to stay (and book in advance) and get food and drink from, know how to read a map and have basic compass skills, then go and do it.

Best wishes,

James & Patrick McAuliffe

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