We had entered Welshpool by the path next to the canal and decided to take a other way to head back towards the official path. Sometimes it’s better to chose the route you already know, even if you won’t discover any new sights. We went through the center of the town, following less than charming roads in the suburbs. After a while you link up with the canal once more, and that’s a good thing. Our return to the Offa’s Dyke Path meant an added total of 2,5 km, but luckily, we would see some pretty sights today.
Welshpool – Kingswood & Forden (10 km/6,2 m)
The first part of the stage is a relatively steep hike to the top of Beacon Hill, an old hill fort amidst a beech forest and a telephone mast on top of it. Thanks to the yellow fields of grain the climb is not only challenging but also visually pleasant. The top of Beacon Hill was the perfect place for a short break.
The highlight of the day was the passage through Leighton Estate, a very agreeable path through an imposing forests. These woodlands are not only used to please hikers, but here roam dozens and dozens of pheasants. It may have been fun to be surrounded by those manic birds, but it was obvious that these animals were bred as proverbial cannon fodder. Once you leave the forest you enter the small villages of Kingswood & Forden.
Kingswood & Forden – Montgomery (8,5 km/5,3m)
The second part, heading towards Montgomery, offers a more pastoral experience and leads you to fields and meadows. It was here that one of the bloodiest battles in the English civil war, in the 17th century, was fought, in the vicinity of Montgomery. During this 8,5 km you can spot a bit more of the Dyke itself. It is a quiet, peaceful and easy stroll and a good place to walk.
Montgomery is probably one of the prettiest places we’ve seen on this first half of Offa’s Dyke, a small village with beautiful houses. Despite its relatively modest size, you can spend quite a few hours if you’ve arrived early. The local museum has a surprisingly interesting collection and the castle, although it’s actually a ruin, is also a must, especially since you get a lot of interesting information during your visit.
It was proven once more that small villages can offer great food along a relatively touristic long distance trail. I chose a risotto and my girlfriend picked the vegetarian pasta. I also have fond memories of the chocolate cake.
The Dragon Inn is a neat hotel with spatious room and a very good shower (quite important while walking in summer). The staff was very friendly, which was especially welcome since we had to order a taxi for our next day.
– The border country become of great strategic importance from the invasion of William the conqueror onward. It was called the Marshes, a buffer between England and the Welsh kingdoms.
– Montgomery got its name from one of those Norman noblemen, loyal to William of Normandy, Roger de Montgomery.