(Written on June 16th, but dated and sending on June 17th because of WiFi issues.)
Happy Father’s Day! I get to spend mine relaxing since it is our one rest day for the hike! As the first Father’s Day since Lara’s dad passed away, it’s an emotional mixed bag for Lara. Her father, Larry, always loved to hear about and see pictures of our family adventures, so I’m sure he is smiling down on us today. It also happens to be our 18th wedding anniversary, so there are a lot of reasons to relax and rejoice today. Relaxing day doesn’t mean a sleep-in day for me though - I woke at 4 am to finish yesterday’s blog. Unfortunately we don’t have great WiFi at the Red Lion Inn, so I’ll have to find someplace to upload it.
Everyone was up for an 8 am breakfast. It was a bittersweet meal: food was great, and our hosts Neal and Kath are spectacular, but there was a weight in the air knowing that our little gal would be leaving us today.
Alex, Kate, and Ed were also leaving after breakfast so it was a mass departure. I opened/read my Father’s Day cards, and Lara did the same with her anniversary card, then we said our goodbyes and sent Olivia off with the others.
And then I needed to figure out a way to get Lara out of her funk, especially since this was our anniversary day!
So we walked down the street and explored the Offa’s Dyke Center.
Knighton is the town closest to the half way point - still 97 miles to go though!
I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to sit on a replica of King Offa’s throne! He was King of Mercia from AD 757 to 796. I’m pretty sure it is meant for kids to sit on, but I’m just a big kid at heart so felt that I fit the bill.
There was a lot of information about Offa, the region, and the building of the dyke. There is quite a bit of ambiguity about the reason for it and how it was built, but it definitely served as some sort of border between kingdoms. Here’s a picture of what it would have looked like then and also how it has been filled in to be reduced to its current form.
After a half hour touring the center, we headed back to the inn. I spent the next hour or so dealing with logistics for switching Olivia’s non-refundable/ non-exchangeable ticket, so she could fly home on the 17th instead of with us on the 24th. Grateful to the patient supervisor at United who helped us out with that.
Much of the rest of Knighton closes on Sundays and we had missed the only train out for the day, so our gracious and cheery host, Neal, offered to drive us to the train station in the next town so we could train to Shrewsbury for the afternoon - there were no cabs running on Sunday so this was the only way we would be able to go anywhere. Such a kind gesture! He works about 80 hours a week between running the Inn and doing his day job managing a steam engine facility and yet didn’t think twice about offering to take us. Sometimes the kindness of strangers overwhelms me.
Jonah wanted to relax in bed for the day - he has been such a trooper this past week that we were happy to oblige - so Neal took the two of us to Craven Arms, which turned out to be almost 30 minutes away! We had no idea how far it was when he offered to drive us! We caught a 12:30 train to Shrewsbury (site of the climatic final battle scene in Shakespeare’s Henry IV).
We only had 3.5 hours to explore before catching the only train back to Knighton and made the most of it. First stop was the Shrewsbury coffee shop so I could upload my photos and blog from our hike a day earlier as well as finalize Olivia’s bus from Birmingham to Manchester and hotel accommodations for the night before her morning flight home. Fortunately for us, the only shower of the day happened while we were in the coffee shop! With those tasks completed we set off to explore the town.
What a beautiful town! We loved it as it reminded us a little of Stratford.
Lots of old Tudor buildings and small alleys. We could feel the history!
Since we both are big proponents of the importance of drinking water, especially while hiking, we had to stop at this street sign!
And as we have learned on our journey, vegan options abound throughout the UK!
We even found a doughnut store with vegan options! Someone was definitely smiling down on us - we were told that the vegan options were only made once a week, on Sundays!
Lara and I had one there and brought three back to share with Jonah. No idea why all of the doughnuts aren’t vegan - these were AMAZING and no one would be able to tell the difference b/w non-vegan and vegan doughnuts (there weren’t even marked vegan, so many customers were ordering the vegan ones without knowing it!)
We enjoyed walking through Shrewsbury’s Enchanted Garden and what is known as The Dingle, which was created in the late 1700’s by the town’s horticulture society. Beautiful gardens and paths surrounding a pond.
Right outside of this area is a bandstand, in which a local full band played tunes throughout the afternoon.
The large lawn reminded me of the lawn in Central Park,although this one is backed by St. Chad’s Church.
We also learned that Shrewsbury is Darwin’s birthplace! Since Lara’s father Larry was a big Darwin fan, coming here on Father’s Day, when Larry is definitely in our thoughts, seemed fitting.
And finally, I got Jonah a new tin whistle at the local music store. The plastic one he brought on the trip has been broken and taped several times this past week. He’s actually really good playing it and enjoys doing so as we hike, so this was a no-brainer!
After the rocky start to the day, our afternoon in Shrewsbury was the perfect antidote: peaceful, serene, and relaxing. And the buildings were charming and impressive. Even the train station was photo-worthy!
By the time our train arrived back in Knighton and we walked back to the Red Lion Inn, it was already 5:30. We did a load of laundry and then headed back to the Horse and Jockey for dinner. We soon discovered that it’s the only food place in town open on Sundays - so there was a bit of a wait. Not a problem as we had nowhere to be anyway. Jonah had pizza for the 3rd night out of 4 - I think he’s going for some kind of record!
My favorite part of Father’s day was the jam session that Jonah and I had when we got back from dinner. It could only have been topped with Olivia singing while we played, but even without that this made me very happy!
And then it was time to bed. We actually were able to pack up for tomorrow’s hike so we can get an early start. We haven’t been able to do that until now because we never knew in the evening whether Olivia would be joining us or whether we would have to order her a cab and send some bags with her to the destination. It’s a small positive, but it usually helps to find something positive to take from any situation, and there is ALWAYS something.
As far as stats for the day, we didn’t do anything official as far as time spent, speed, or elevation since we weren’t hiking. However, my Garmin does clock distance walked: 6.1 miles! Not bad for a rest day.