Hay on Wye to Knighton

Burfa House

Erica walks the Dyke

Tuesday 2nd June

no miles, no additional calories used but plenty consumed, only walking to the shops

A day off, a day to read the papers, eat a sizeable breakfast, laze in the garden, half asleep in the sun. A day to wander the shops of Hay, to fantasise about buying unusual and beautiful clothes to wear with green shoes and huge earrings, as opposed to the usual tatty jeans and white t shirts. A day to resist the lure of bookshops and antique shops and anything weighing more than a plaster.

Wednesday 3rd June

Newchurch churchyard, welcoming walkers

Hay on Wye to Kington

15 miles, 9.00 to 4.50, calories used 1215.

There is nothing like a day off to make you ready to walk again.

It was another hot but hazy day as we set off from Hay in the direction of Clyro. This was the parish of the Reverend Francis Kilvert who wrote a diary of his time as a vicar in this area of the Welsh borders in the 1840s. He was a passionate and kindly man with an eye for beauty: of the landscape, in architecture and of young girls. Read his diaries and muse about our current obsession with the sexual abuse of children and how our fears fit with a society like Kilvert's. Perhaps a less sexualised society has its benefits, one of which may be a restraint on behaviour which which we have lost. I don't mean to minimise the hyprocrisy which underlay much of Victorian society in relation to sex but read Kilvert and there is an odd innocence in his love of beautiful children which is inconceivable in our responses now.

It is an odd reminder of the role of a church as a sanctuary to find that some of the churches on the way welcome walkers and thoughtfully provide seats, water, biscuits and words of encouragement. Here is the churchyard at Newchurch which has all of this, with a handwritten sign by the gate which makes you turn in gratefully, pratical Christianity.

And for much of the day we walked the Dyke too, sometimes large and tree covered and mysterious, sometimes a long low ridge, punctuated by gaps which may be trading gates, to police the traffic between Wales and England. I find I move between taking it utterly for granted and simply trudging along, and suddenly having goosebumps at the breath of the past on the back of my neck.

Up from the dyke we ascend another ridge, the Hergest Ridge, and walk springy grass with mountain ponies wheeling away from us with their foals. There is a breeze up here although it is sunny and clear and Erica pulls out a snood she has purchased with promises that this is the perfect all purpose head gear. She transforms instantly from her cheery, elegant self to my grandma, headscarved up for the day she cleaned the front step with a donkey stone. I chortle, she grins and bounds on.

Coming down we pass Burfa House, the oldest building we will see, beautifully restored in the 1990s.

And coming into Kington we have the perfect moment as we walk past the church looking at some beautiful double fronted stone houses as we scan for our B and B.

"I hope it's that one" I say and it is, Church House, Kington. Its owners are somehow related to Charles Darwin. It has the biggest bathroom and the best bedlinen in the world.

The photos won't behave today and it is a quarter to twelve so I am giving up! I hope you can make sense of them.


  1. Those little churches do seem an ideal places to rest and gather yourself up for the next leg of the journey!
    I would like to know how do you know how many calories that you have used up?

    Blogger has been playing up lately but glad you could get your pictures in.
    Lovely post, as usual.

  2. Hi Maggie. My friend has a pedometer which she turned on religiously every day and which showed steps taken and calories expended. We still managed to take in more additional calories than we used I think! amazing what you can do with chips and fried breakfasts.

  3. A lovely account of a wonderful walk! You are doing marvels! And that is a gorgeous shot of the dyke, with Erica walking along. How many man-hours did it take to build, I wonder? I don't suppose for a moment that Offa himself got down with his antler horn pick and leather bucket!

    I enjoyed Kilvert's Diaries too, and was struck by the innocence of his enjoyment of children. Oh that we could live in such an innocent age now!

  4. I have been enjoying your Offa posts so much - been reading them on my phone hence no comments but today the internet on holiday is working, hooray! I LOVE the idea of the green shoes and big earrings look. Go for it! x

  5. It is delightful to read about your tour. Absolutely delightful.

    I am so interested in everything that you show and tell. Every detail and every description or photo of the sweep of the landscape takes us with you all.

    Many thanks.

  6. Lovely i've always wanted to visit hergest ridge for some unfathamable [is that a word] reason lost in my memory...
    You now begin on the bit i'll recognise, and that climb up which was the start of our walk groooan. x..Theres a french market in denbigh tomorrow and shakespear up at the castle next month, we'll have to make a date .

  7. Ooh, looking forward to reading about the next B&B ( really, how shallow is that? Maybe it's because I'm feeling rather lazy today and I'm glad to read about your walk instead of doing one!). I have to say on the calories in/out front, I have been known to put on weight at the beginning of the build-up to a race because I think I can justify a disproportionately huge intake because I've 'had a run'!!

  8. Oh goodness, Elizabeth - there's nothing quite like beautiful bedlinen after a long, hot day's walking, I know just what you mean. What a beautiful part of the world you're traversing - yes, yes, Kilvert was forever shuttling between here and Clyro and there's something so immediate, spontaneous and unselfconscious about they way he writes about children, the landscape and, well, everything. I had no idea it was on the Offa's Dyke path. Love the idea of the breath of the past on one's neck.

    (And no, no - you have not put me off coming to visit in the least. Will get back to diary consultation and email you with some suggestions.)


  9. Hello Elizabeth,
    Just popping in to say hello, as promised in my e-mail. You are right, it is taking longer to write about Offas Dyke than it did for you to walk it! Lovely to enjoy it all over again, from the comfort of your chair as you tell us all about it though.
    Helen x

  10. I enjoy the account of your walk so much.Thankyou

  11. Sorry I am late in catching this. The country is so beautiful and you tell the tale so well. It's probably too late now but I would be interested to know the measurements of the dyke. Was it built to a specification and if so what was it. I would then try to convert the measurements into what Offa might have used - or rather his men. Probably for length they would have used the Celtic league - roughly 2500 metres - but I don't know.

  12. I'm so enjoying your journey, thank you

  13. You inspired us Elizabeth - we are just back from Pembrokeshire where we walked a bit of the coastal path every day - think we totalled 50 miles in a week - my feet - arrgghhhh. Have just read all of your walk so far - sounds absolutely wonderful and now you're heading towards our bit - so looking forward to it

  14. I loved the comment about not buying anything which weighed more than a plaster!
    I have been to Knighton several times - it is a super area. Did you go anywhere near to Clyro and Kilvert country

  15. Just been catching up with your progress, I know a lot of the places you mention. Almost wish I had come along now. Well done you.

  16. I went to Wye for the first time last year and loved it. Loved reading of your visit too Elizabeth. Gorgeous photos x

  17. Lovely walk and indeed we are already thinking of planning a trek through the Welsh countryside. My wife has been to Wales before but I haven't and I can't wait to get to grips with that language either. Lovely photos. Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  18. I am leaving Pennsylvania this Thursday to walk the Trail! Your blog is an inspiration to me!

    I will be walking with a group from Footpath Holidays. I am most nervous about taking the Train from Manchester to Hereford!


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