We had a good omen today when we awoke to clear skies (maybe some clouds, but everything looks clear compared to the grey skies and rain we’ve been having the past few days!) We had breakfast at 8:30 am and our hostess, Val, did not disappoint. She had anything and everything vegan one could ask for. Val mentioned that it has become much easier to purchase vegan food options since so many people took part in Veganuary this past January. It was a big hit in Wales and brought a lot of attention and understanding to the movement.
Though we weren’t in any major rush to depart this morning because we knew that we wouldn’t be able to get in to our lodging until at least 4 pm (the owners wouldn’t be there before then), we also didn’t want to get in much later because the forecast called for rain at 5 pm. Since Olivia opted to take another day off from the trail, she played with the son of one of Val’s helpers while the rest of us packed up.
While we would much prefer having Olivia join us, I always try to find the silver lining. One benefit of having her cab to the next lodging is that the rest of us can lighten our loads and let Olivia transport some of our gear. Jonah left his full pack with Olivia, and both Lara and I removed some of the items that we wouldn’t need for the day. After arranging for Olivia to be picked up at 3:30 (Val was gracious enough to let her spend the day at Old Hendre Farm), we took a picture with Val and started our day’s hike just before 11 am.
We strolled down the country lane feeling light and excited for the day. Possibly because the weather was so pleasant and our loads were lightened, we had our guards down and missed our very first turn! It took me about 1/10 mile before I happened to look down at my Garmin and notice that we were off-course. Here are Lara and Jonah happily oblivious to the fact that we were not on the actual path at this point!
Though we had some close calls as far as missing turn-offs after this one, it turned out to be our only actual miscue of the day. Shout out to my hawk-eyed wife for helping in that respect. Here she is at the sign we missed for that first turn.
There were plenty of sheep to cheer us along the day including these little ones we encountered just after getting back on track.
And the rest of their crew were close by too.
And then we hit a snag - an open mud field (one of several we would encounter for the day) with no clear sign of which way to go. It’s not a problem to wander around a grass field looking for the next sign. Not so much fun though when the exploration is through mud! Jonah and I needed a moment to think through the options - fortunately I found a beautiful lounge chair to ponder the dilemma.
After scoping the area, we finally discovered the path to the next acorn sign and trudged on from one field...
to the next!
While we mainly shared the country side with sheep and cows today, we did see several horses, including this one with its foal.
Passing through overgrown fields during or right after rain can be an unpleasant experience, but on dry days like today it wasn’t a problem.
And then we came to this incredible tree that reminded us of one from the Harry Potter movies, so just had to take a picture!
Pasture after pasture, we were greeted by friendly sheep.
What gentle creatures!
They are curious and friendly too! I know some people pay a premium to eat the babies, also known as lamb. When I was growing up, we too would eat baby sheep (lamb) and baby cows (veal) on special occasions. As I see these beautiful animals and their children today, it is hard for me to imagine.
Seeing all of these animals out in the fields reminded me of Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY - if you haven’t visited, give yourself a treat and do so. It is magical! Commune with animals as we are doing on this hike. Animals are out grazing as they are meant to. Unfortunately that isn’t the case for 99% of the animals, especially those in the USA, who live their lives in factory farms. These animals are meant to be outside, enjoying the simple pleasures of their lives.
I had left my ukulele with Olivia to take, so Jonah entertained us with his plastic flute!
There had originally been hundreds of stiles that hikers would have to climb over to get from field to field. Fortunately, most of those have been replaced by gates like this one -much easier to handle with a pack on one’s back.
We walked not only through beautiful pastures (though some were certainly muddy), but also through buttercup fields. The big advantage of these fields over the pastures was that we didn’t have to look down so much to avoid stepping in manure!
And the Moo Man was out in full force today! I’d like to think that I haven’t lost my ability to turn heads, especially with my moo-face.
It was the perfect day for a hike: not too hot, not too cold, no overbearing sun beating down on us, and no rain pouring down either. Nothing could dampen our moods on this beautiful hiking day!
We even passed through an apple orchard, though no apples were ripe for picking!
And the farmers were kind enough to make easy paths for us to follow through their crops, though these often were also quite muddy!
With Lara back with the boys today, I was actually able to be in a few more photos. Here’s one of Jonah and me surrounded by the picturesque countryside that filled our day.
And while we didn’t get lost today, here’s a good example of how it is easy to do so if you aren’t really paying attention. The signs for the public pathway and the ODP, often close to each other in proximity, also look quite similar. They are easy to differentiate when focused, but when visibility is poor or fatigue sets in, they are easy to mix up.
We also walked along many country lanes today, typically bordered by high hedges.
Shortly before 2 pm we came to White Castle, seen here in the distance. It was built in the 12th century and is obviously uninhabitable (except by these sheep) but still pretty substantial.
We were hoping to be able to walk the grounds, but the gate was closed with a padlock when we got there so we had to settle for looking from afar.
The name White Castle comes from the long-weathered away whitewash that was applied to its walls a hundred years after it was built.
Together with two other castles in the area it controlled traffic through Wales along the Monnow valley. As the border became more peaceful, its importance subsided and it was finally abandoned in the mid-1500s.
At this point, Jonah decided it was too hot for a shirt. Since he didn’t have a pack today, it was easy enough for him to hike topless for a while.
And then we realized that we had managed to hike for 3 days without a single handstand photo. Needing to rectify the situation, we found the perfect backdrop.
Since Jonah and I are not as comfortable on our hands as we are on our feet, we also took a group shot with feet on the ground.
Some fields just screamed out for us to run through them and sing, “The hills are alive with the sound of music!” Here’s Lara doing just that!
While many signs along the path are either non-existent or confusing, this isn’t one of them. It actually is just pointing out the directions of the path depending on whether you are coming from the north or south.
And we finally saw our first pony of the trip so had to take a photo of it!
While we didn’t quite hit the same ascent numbers as yesterday, we did have some steep hills to climb, including this one.
But we had no problem climbing today since the visibility was wonderful and the views amazing.
As we neared the end of our hike and began our descent into the town of Pandy, it became apparent that we have a Mini-Moo in the family: Jonah called a herd over to us. And then the Moo man raised his hands and the herd came close.
We originally were supposed to spend our night in Pandy at the Park Hotel. However, when I emailed all of the lodgings a couple of weeks ago (I had originally made the reservations in early September) to reconfirm and remind about our vegan diets, I was surprised to find out that the Park Hotel closed down in the fall! There aren’t many options in this small town, so I was very fortunate to find a couple of rooms at the Brynhonddu Country House B & B. It’s a bit past the town of Pandy, but only about 1/2 mile off the path. We arrived a little before 4:30 pm.
Olivia had arrived just 15-20 minutes before we did and was settled into the loft room that she and Jonah were sharing. Since we knew that the lodging didn’t serve dinner and the nearest restaurant was over a mile away, we had asked Val to provide pack lunches for us that we had Olivia transport. So after dropping off our bags, we convened in the kids’ room for a well-deserved meal and recap of our day. After showering and relaxing we went to bed at our typical early bedtime. As has been the trend, I fell asleep at 8 pm and woke again at midnight to write my blog. It’s now 3:15 am and time to get some more rest before another long hike tomorrow!
Distance: 14.54 miles
Time: 5 hours 23 minutes
Average Speed: 2.7 mph
Total Ascent: 2, 024 feet
Total Descent: 1, 666 feet