It was a bit odd waking up for a family trip without all four of us here. Even though Olivia hasn’t been joining us for the hikes, she was still a part of our trip. And with her gone, it felt like we were missing something. However, it did mean that we could get an earlier start to the day because we didn’t need to figure out transportation plans - and we needed that extra time today because the trek from Knighton to Mellington Hall is known as the toughest section of the ODP.
The three of us were the only guests at the Red Lion Inn this morning, so we were able to get breakfast quickly at 8 (typical English breakfast) and be out the door at 9, our earliest departure of the trip by far!
This type of day was a blessing in disguise. We had thought that the emotional #tsbt of Olivia leaving would be our real test, but this first day of hiking after a rest day quickly reminded us that there are physical challenges that can really test one’s fortitude too! And with Olivia gone, Lara and Jonah were back to carrying their packs, and they could definitely feel the added weight. Putting one foot in front of the other and surmounting the day’s physical tests took our minds off missing our daughter and back to the task at hand.
Right at the start of the hike, we were reminded that “Coast to Coast hike across Wales” is a bit of a misnomer. We are actually crossing back and forth between Wales and England -sometimes it’s hard to tell which country we are in without signs like these!
A few meters later we came to the Shropshire Hills, known to give a beating to all legs who enter!
We did have a few hundred meters of walking on flat land by the river and sheep and through the drizzle.
And we were all smiles!
And then we quickly encountered what turned out to be a 550 foot ascent.
Even with the fog and rain, the views back down to the sheep below were inspiring.
But I did need a bit of a break when we reached the peak - thankfully a bench was waiting for me!
We didn’t hit any max elevations today, but the constant up and down definitely took its toll.
In the UK, people refer to this type of trail as a ‘switchback’. The term is a little confusing to us since we think of that as a trail that makes an S or a Z formation switching back and forth from left to right to ease the incline and decline over a mountain. We quickly learned that the term is used differently here - there was no easing of incline. We typically were heading straight up and down the hills/mountains.
We saw one group of horses early in our hike.
But we were mainly spending our day with families of cows and sheep. WARNING: there will be a lot of sheep photos today!
Some of them even led us along the path!
While we did have a bit of fog on and off throughout the day, it didn’t completely obscure our views of the countryside.
And we were able to hike much of the day along Offa’s dyke, which was easy to discern.
For the most part, the path today was easy to follow.
We crossed over several streams with rustic walking bridges.
And we were given some reprieve from the hills with some flat sections too.
Jonah was a trooper, as he has been throughout our trip. He was admittedly struggling more today than he did last week, but he never complained even when his father kept stopping him for photos!
The rain has definitely taken a toll on the terrain - lots of muddy sections. At the end of most days our pants (or in Jonah’s case, his legs) are caked with mud.
But that’s easy enough to take with views like this.
Today was the first day that my socks got wet. And it wasn’t due to the heavy rain, but rather the wet tall grass when we walked through fields that didn’t have a mowed lane for walkers.
There were a few close calls because signs were a bit hidden as was the case here, where we almost missed this sign taking us off a farm road and onto a path through the woods.
And we did get thrown off-course about 1/4 mile as we followed signs that said that we were on the ODP, but we actually weren’t. After the fact Lara had remembered reading about needing to be careful with this confusing section, but with the weather as it was, it slipped her mind. And because of the rain, I was less diligent about checking my watch to make sure we were on course. Without my Garmin, I have no idea how we would have found our way back to the right path. We were surrounded by fields/pastures/hills with no defining traits. Fortunately, the GPS steered us back over a hilltop, through some fields, over a few fences, and back onto the ODP.
We came across a few groups of cows along the trail, including this group that was resting right on the path.
And then at 12:30 pm, we came to the half way point of the ODP! From here on out we will be closer to the finish than the start.
We didn’t have much time to rejoice though as we were soon confronted with another massive incline.
The sheep were there to cheer us along though!
We came to this wooded area by a stream and I had to take a photo of Lara in this bucolic setting.
As I took the photo, I was reminded of how lucky I am to have a partner like Lara (and I told her so.) She is my perfect mate as we both like adventure, don’t mind a good workout, don’t bother getting upset about a little bad weather, and have no problem taking a photo when we’re not all dolled up. I feel so blessed and lucky to hike through life with this amazing woman.
And now back to climbing!
We paused for a quick photo break amongst the buttercups!
With all of the signs we have passed along the ODP, for some reason this one stood out to me. I loved seeing the trails name in both Welsh and English - something about the symmetry of it made me feel good.
Back to the climb!
This tree was kind enough to have fallen right across the path, giving Lara and me a perfect spot to take a breather.
Soon thereafter we started another 500 foot climb, one that we thought would be the last of the day.
We met a hiker coming the other direction who corrected our misperception, letting us know that we had at least one more climb before reaching our lodging for the night.
As we hiked along the dyke, I thought about the people who stood on this ground so many centuries ago toiling away to build this earthwork. Since it was so easy to see that we were walking on this raised section, I felt a sense of its history.
And while our hike today was tiring, I knew that it was nothing compared to the hard work that went into building the actual dyke. That, along with the constant reminder of the animals for whom we are doing this charity trek, helped me chug along!
And the sun came out, bringing us a sense of lightness and ease.
Knowing that we were on our final descent to our lodging gave us all a little more lightness too.
Finally, at 3:30 we arrived at our destination for the night: Mellington Hall!
It seems fitting that our most luxurious accommodations comes after our hardest hiking day.
After showering, hand-washing some clothes, and resting a bit, we went down for some dinner. Service was extremely slow (it took about an hour from the time we ordered to when we got our food), but we were just happy to have completed our day’s journey so didn’t mind.
And while we waited, Jonah went out to the playground and reminded us that he is just a 14-year old boy. We sometimes forget that as he seems so mature approaching each days challenge with a smile.
After a blueberry crumble and soy ice cream dessert, we went back to the room to read and watch a little TV before calling it a night at 10 pm.
I woke a little after 5 AM with light starting to come through the windows and wrote my day’s blog.
Distance: 15.44 miles
Time: 6 hours 26 minutes
Average Speed: 2.4 mph;
Total Ascent: 3,956 feet
Total Descent: 3,979 feet