This stage of Offa’s Dyke offers some really fantastic views and, in my mind at least, also represents a subtle shift in the nature of the path as the landscape loses some of the softness of the Wye Valley and feels altogether more rugged.
Partly perhaps that was down to the fact that this was a winter walk for me but not completely, there is genuinely something more muscular about the higher sections and a feeling of being in a wild environment.
The changing character of paths is one of great joys of long-distance walking and really enhances that feeling of making a journey so I embraced today’s stage with enthusiasm.
At between 13-14 miles, it is not the longest stage but there is a fair amount of climb and it is physically quite demanding so you end the day with a satisfying sense of achievement as well. As an added bonus, there are also some sections of the original dyke on the route as well.
The first challenge is getting out of Kington as your OS Map is a mass of little diamonds in the town centre, where the Herefordshire Trail also comes in. Last year, while I was doing a baggage transfer, a walker stopped me to ask me if I knew the way out as he had been wandering around for some time!
With confidence, I can say that I know ‘A’ way out even if I can’t swear that it is ‘THE’ way out – as you walk into town, keep an eye out for The Square on the left with The Swan pub on the corner. If you walk up to the top left-hand corner of The Square, the road bends round and you will start to see small ‘acorn’ signs pointing you in the right direction.
Once you cross the main road, all is resolved and the path is once again superbly signposted.
The early part of the day is a climb and quite a steep one
up Bradnor Hill though not overly long, which is a blessing. You soon hit the
fringes of Kington Golf Club, where the path starts to skirt the fringes of the
hill and turns towards Rushock Hill, where you climb again.
An early climb up Bradnor Hill out of Kington
Continuing with the up on Rushock Hill
A beautiful winter's day looking back in the direction of Kington
Although it was early February, I had spotted a window in the weather for my walk and was rewarded with a clear day but as I toiled up Rushock Hill, I felt the full weight of a stiff wind, which dragged me sideways as I toiled to maintain a straight line.
The wind was knife-sharp with cold too and in the distance, I could see cloud banking up lending a really dramatic aspect to the long-distance views which can be enjoyed at this point.
The point at which you make a make a left to run parallel with Knill Garraway Wood felt particularly high and exposed and there is a nice photo opportunity with a lonely signpost overlooking the valley.
Much as I enjoyed it, it was nice to find shelter in the lee of Herrock Hill and the steep downhill section to Lower Harpton was altogether quieter. Despite prolonged periods of winter rain, the path was fundamentally sound and it was only a treacherous top surface which needed concentration as I descended.
The fields far below were streaked with silver trails of water and were clearly still sodden after some winter flooding from the brook you cross as you pick up the road at Lower Harpton. Yet for all that, there was a feeling of spring and not winter in the air as I left the road and climbed again towards Burfa and the mile-and-a-half or so to Granner Wood.
I made good time on this section and soon the village of
Evenjobb could be seen in the distance away to the left as I entered the wood
and followed a high ridge out to the other side. Thoughts of lunch were in my
mind and I pressed on to Hilltop Plantation with an idea that it might make a
good stopping point but I reached it quickly and opted for another ten minutes
down to the road at Bwlch, where I was able to sit on a step and break out a
flask of tea.
The lonely signpost on a windswept Rushock Hill
Looking towards Herrock Hill, where a section of the original dyke runs along the top
Snowdrops add to the beauty of a winter walk
Refreshed, I pushed on through farmland, a mixture of pasture for sheep and what would be cropfields later in the year, and soon found myself passing Discoed and closing on Dolley Old Bridge. The climbs of the day were catching up with me and my legs felt heavy after not walking much over the winter.
My mind wandering, I missed the path briefly and had to double back in order to cross the bridge over the River Lugg but there was no real harm done.
Turning left just before Dolley Green, I was faced with the big climb of the day up Furrow Hill, a long sapping route which was a tough grind but I met a cheerful solo walker coming downhill who issued encouragement. Then, in quick succession, mother and daughter ramblers appeared, also enjoying the downhill, and I was once again told ‘not far’, which was good to hear if not entirely accurate.
The views from Furrow Hill were worth the effort however and when the terrain did start to ease, I made great time to Hawthorn Hill and before long was closing in on Rhos-y-meirch, which put me within striking distance of Knighton.
The path here went through a plantation of gorse bushes grazed by sheep and the ground was exceptionally muddy. The sheep watched me with keen interest as I skated my way along but I disappointed them by not landing on my backside.
There was one more hill to climb but it was not a bad one and, with a sense of deja-vu, I found myself on a golf course again, this time at Knighton. I almost missed the path off the golf course but was spared another diversion and instead tackled a very steep downhill to end up in a housing estate, from which it was easy to drift into town.
So that was the southern section done! Knighton is the limit
of Walklite Baggage Transfer’s operations and so the end of my blog as well
though I have the Wye Valley Walk in my sights this year as compensation.
Coming off Herrock Hill, the valley opens up
A small wooden bridge takes you over the River Lugg near Dolley Green
Furrow Hill is wild and beautiful - and the route up it is steep ...