Kington to Drewin Farm, north of Knighton
13.5 miles, 1216 calories used, 9.00 to 4.30
A hard day for me for some reason. A friend who goes on a lot of distance walking holidays had told me that she always feels that she is really into her stride in the second half of the first week so I suppose I had expected to feel the same. Both Erica and I had found that we had a hot, red rash on our calves, mine practically from sock to knee, Erica's a bit more localised. Whether it was that or just a general flagging I had to work hard as we climbed out of Kington and wondered where my increasing fitness was supposed to be. Maybe it had decided to have an extra day's rest in the comfortable shabby chic of Church House.
For the first time our acorns deserted us and we found two gates which were unmarked. We had been playing catch up all day with a party of five men who arrived at the first gate at the same time. Much consultation and the superfit man in too short shorts who seemed to be charging ahead of their party whizzed off up the hill to inspect another gate. We hung around and eventually followed the group decision through the acornless gates. It was funny watching the dynamics of another group walking: wiry short shorts at the front, two Americans in the middle, one charming and chatty, one taciturn, two other Brits bringing up the rear with the odd witty, self deprecating comment as we passed. An oddly assorted group.
Coming down into Knighton we found our B and B easily and were welcomed with Welsh cakes and tea by charming, one legged elderly landlady. Knighton is far less monied than Hay but a pleasant little town with a variety of shops and a couple of decent pubs and, wondering if I was just short of chips, we settled down to replenish our chip stores. You can see that the very prospect made us feel better.
Friday 5th June
no miles, no fun, no point
This was another rest day and we spent it in Llandrindod Wells. I am very happy to be told that the fact that we thought there was nothing there was because we missed the centre somehow. There was a fine Art Deco hotel called The Metropole in which we had a good lunch and there was much fine architecture but the town itself seemed empty and curiously devoid of shops. It was a popular spa town in Victorian times and looks like a place which would like to relaunch itself but hasn't yet worked out quite how.
Saturday 6th June
Knighton to Drewin Farm
14 miles, 1264 calories used, 8.50am to 5pm, gallons of water absorbed by clothing: 15 (possibly)
The first day of pouring rain. Erica's husband had joined us for the weekend. He drove the car to our next destination and he was then to walk back to meet us, hoping that we would meet about lunchtime. As we finished our huge breakfast the rain lashed on the windows.
Now in ordinary life you don't spend a day outside in the pouring rain. You run from the house to the car, you put up your umbrella on your walk to the station, you dash into shops or you just decide to stay home. There wasn't much option for us. The B & Bs were all booked, the itinerary written, Erica had her time off work all scheduled. So we cagouled ourselves up and off we went.
The wet weather head gear is of Erica's own design, involving a snood, a visor and a plastic rainhat. Her intellectual property rights will be fiercely defended so no copying without huge payment.
The climb out of Knighton was the stiffest yet although to begin with the rain was steady but fine. Soon however we were walking in a heavy downpour. There were tantalising glimpses through the curtains of rain of what may have been glorious views but there was little to see for more than a few seconds and we put our heads down and slogged on. We stopped for lunch in a barn at a farm, asking permission and suddenly understanding the force of the need for shelter, a basic human need which we take utterly for granted. The barn was piled with straw and we were visited by two curious farm dogs. We changed our soaking socks for dry ones which gave us a surprising amount of improved comfort for about an hour or so until the sense of squelching along with our feet in buckets returned.
We met Chris a little further along and continued to trudge up hill and down dale and up hill again (this area is known as the Switchback) through relentless rain. It had to be done. We told ourselves it would hardly have counted if we had done the whole walk in the dry and just got on with it.
Ian was at the farmhouse to meet us and it was wonderful to see him, to have a blast from my normal life, and to eat a marvellous meal, perhaps the best of the walk at the Castle Hotel in Bishops Castle. The farmhouse kitchen was festooned with our wet gear, steaming gently over the Aga as we went to bed.