A foot in two countries – backpacking the English / Welsh border

by backpackingbongos

Planning a route for a hot and sunny late May Bank holiday can reduce a misanthropic backpacker to a mild state of panic. The roads would be at a standstill and the hills an awful tangle of humanity. I managed to hatch a cunning plan which involved leaving really early on a Sunday morning and doing a round of what I hoped would be a group of forgotten hills. It worked and by the time I got back to the car all hot and bothered the following day it was late enough to avoid the Monday homebound rush.

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 16.23.06

49 kilometres with 1520 metres of ascent over two days.

The River Teme runs through Lloyney, but before this trip I would have been hard pushed to point out either on a map. Lloyney is a one horse village and the pub was not going to open until the following day. What it lacks in facilities it makes up for in easy access to a long undulating ridge of moor and pasture leading to the Beacon Hills. After a steep climb in bright sunshine I was able to enjoy a high level yomp along gorse covered grassland. The heat of the day was building and distant views were shrouded by haze, but on the hills a breeze kept me cool.

DSC00010

DSC00011

DSC00012

The area surrounding Beacon hill is a lump of high undulating moorland. It gives extensive views and is unmolested by anything but sheep and buzzards. The grassy tracks enable you to almost float along.

DSC00013

DSC00015

DSC00017

The major disappointment of the day came when a footpath through the heather failed to materialise. For half an hour I cursed the Ordnance Survey as I lurched through the deep and tough vegetation, my shoes snagging and socks being covered in prickly heather.

DSC00019

DSC00021

A lane led me down to the village of Beguildy where I was looking forward to getting refreshments in the pub. Although a Bank holiday they had decided that they would close at 2pm and not reopen until 6pm. That was not much help to a thirsty backpacker with a rapidly emptying water bottle.

I was aiming for the Kerry Ridgeway for the night. The problem with devising your own backpacking route is that it is not always possible to join up all those green dots, especially away from the mountains. It was a long road bash to get to the River Clun. Thankfully the tangle of minor roads in this area means that there is very little traffic.

DSC00024

I was getting tired so instead of climbing up onto the nature reserve at Rhos Fiddle I followed another lane towards the Ridgeway. As I left it and entered a forest I noticed all the bird feeders hanging from the trees. I was just about to pass a ramshackle caravan when I heard a shout in Welsh. The owner of the caravan came over to say hello and we spent a good half hour chatting. He was what you could call a ‘proper character’, living alone in his seventies, totally off grid and away from the world. I had to force myself away in the end or I would have been there for the whole weekend, the encounter left me with a smile on my face.

To the south of the Ridgeway is a large area of high unenclosed grassland, perfect for sheep but perhaps not ideal for a stealthy wild camp.

DSC00025

In the end I found a lovely pitch hidden in a steep grassy side valley, a tiny clear stream bubbling alongside. It was a bit of a treat pitching on soft grass rather than rough moorland. I spent a peaceful undisturbed night, the only negative being the sheer amount of slugs that covered all my gear when I woke.

DSC00026

DSC00031

In the morning it was a short walk to the Kerry Ridgeway where the wide track gave easy level walking and the hilltop position gave extensive views.

One of the highlights of the weekend came for me as I reached the edge of an unnamed valley. With the scenery exploding with green under blue skies and a warm sun it was a perfect place to stop and relax.

DSC00034

I soon picked up the Offa’s Dyke long distance path that took me back to the car in an arrow straight line. The problem with this is that on this part of the trail it does not respect the contours. It is an endless procession of ups and downs, some as steep as any mountain path. In the heat it became rather tiresome, especially after I had to start rationing my water.

DSC00038

DSC00044

DSC00050

For mile after mile it was up and down, up and down, before finally the River Teme was at my feet. I was glad to get back to the red-hot and stuffy car and a change of clothes. I apologise to the person whose house I got changed outside. I was grateful for the warm bottle of water that was waiting for me in the boot.

Advertisements

13 Comments to “A foot in two countries – backpacking the English / Welsh border”

  1. Wonderful far reaching views there. The weather reminded me of that hot weekend we had on Wildboar Fell – two dogs with their tongues nearly dragging on the floor….

    • Yes the weather was very similar to what we had with the hot dogs on Wild Boar fell, I was melting!

      It’s a lovely part of the country, always surprised that you and Geoff never go to Wales or Shropshire, it’s only down the road from you.

      • I don’t know why we never think of it, either. We don’t do Snowdonia any more as it really is an absolutely awful drive from here, but I’m sure the Shropshire bit and central Wales is a nicer journey. Pity we didn’t get to your birthday weekend in the end, it would have probably inspired us!

  2. Lovely photographs. It is nice to see and area that I have driven and cycled many times from a walker’s perspective.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks for popping by Derek. I could imagine that it’s a good area for cycling, lots of very quiet lanes etc.

  3. A really good write up James. Heather bashing is never fun. Your usual high calibre photos always inspire.

  4. Good stuff. Just the sort of backpack I like. It doesn’t always need to be about the high hills – you can have a perfectly acceptable, and lonely, time lower down with a bit of planning.

    • Agreed, there is more than just the mountains that are prefect for backpacking. As you say it needs a bit of planning, especially if wild camping. A good pay off when you get the paths and tracks to yourself.

  5. Driven through those hills a few times but never walked them, they look good. You are the master of backpacking in unknown corners!

  6. Thank you so much for your post and indeed all the posts on your blog. Living in Birmingham I’ve been looking for some backpacking options in Shropshire/mid Wales to prepare for my first TGO challenge. This looks ideal. Quiet and away from the crowds and plenty of views. My question is about carrying water – did you use streams along the way to keep topped up? Colin

    • Thanks for your kind words Colin. I managed to find streams along the way on this backpack to keep topped up. Just make sure that you filter as there are a lot of sheep about in that part of the world!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: