Offa’s Dyke Path Run – Llanymynech to Montgomery
Offa’s Dyke Vital Stats
Llanymynech to Montgomery
- Distance: 21.04 miles
- Elevation Gain Today: 569m
- Highest Elevation: 459m
- Time: 3:55:20
- Av. Pace: 11:11mins/mile
- Av. Heart Rate: 120bpm
- Max Heart Rate: 140bpm
- Calories: 1635
Totals to Date
- Total Distance: 531.05 miles
- Total Time: 99:27:56
- Total Elevation Gain: 15291
- Total Calories: 49541
- Distance to go: 97 miles
Another day on the Offa’s Dyke Path, and another day in which mud featured heavily. It was also the first time that I deviated from the route stages set out in most Offa’s Dyke guide books.
Talking of guide books, the one I have been using is the Cicerone guide book by Mike Dunn. I’m doing it in the opposite direction to this book so it’s not that useful reading the descriptions of the walks as it provides a turn-by-turn guide. It does however come with a very handy route map booklet that contains 1:25,000 OS maps of the entire route. I take this with me and use it as my guide on the runs which saves me having to carry full size OS maps. It has the route ready drawn onto the map too so I don’t have to deface any of my OS maps either.
Most guides, including the one above, have a short stage between Llanymynech and Buttington. Not only is this stage a mere 10½ miles long, but it is almost completely flat. That’s a little too short and too easy for me and almost a waste of the 1½ hour drive at either end. On top of this, from a logistical point of view it didn’t fit in with public transport very well either.
Instead I decided it would be better to double the length of this run and do most of the next stage as well. This would bring me out onto the B4386 about a mile from Montgomery. I therefore planned to get buses from Montgomery to Llanymynech in the morning. Run back to this location and then add on the short detour into Montgomery to get back to the van. Montgomery itself isn’t on the Offa’s Dyke Path, but a visit was necessary as far as bus stops were concerned.
As it turned out, the logistics fell into place perfectly. After an easy drive to Montgomery through a cold and quiet Wales, I parked up about 20 yards from the Town Hall.
I waited at the town hall for the bus and was joined by a friendly old lady. I was half hoping for a quirky anecdote to share with you here from the ‘crazy bus-people’, but she was perfectly normal. She had moved to Montgomery on Saturday so was just settling into her new house and was off to Welshpool for the day. She knew Ynyslas as well having owned a family cottage in Borth until recently (although her ‘recently’ was the 1980’s). We caught the 8:56am number 71 bus from outside of the Town Hall. The bus timetables had been a little vague. It had said that I needed the 8:56 from Montgomery to Welshpool and then had a 2 minute window to get the X71 from Welshpool to Llanymynech. I was hoping it was in fact the same bus as this one was already 5 minutes late when we got on it. So, if I had to change buses I would miss the second bus in Wleshpool. Not only had I parked right next to the bus stop which made things easy, but the number 71 bus did magically transform itself into the X71 in Welshpool and took me all the way to Llanymynech for £3.10. Perfect. The lady I had been chatting to got off in Welshpool and I saw her disappear into an electrical store – presumably ordering white goods for her new house in Montgomery.
In Llanymynech I took some steps down off the road and onto the towpath alongside the Montgomery Canal. Swans and other waterfowl glided effortlessly along the water and the leafless trees were reflected in the still waters. I’m supposed to be kayaking along part of this canal later in the year so I was interested to see it. However, as I left Llanymynech behind me the canal itself was shallow and choked with vegetation. Luckily we aren’t kayaking in this section, but I hope that the bit we will be on is a little more navigable than this!
The going was easy as I trotted alongside the canal following the flat, gravelly towpath. The backs of houses and other buildings of Llanymynech to my left soon disappeared and I ran along open countryside beside the peaceful canal. One or two dog-walkers greeted me as I passed, their breath clear to see as clouds of vapour in the cold morning air. Every now and then there were low bridges to duck under and then the canal appeared to come to a dead end as I ran up and crossed a minor road. The canal continued on the other side though and soon came to a lovely set of lock gates at Carreghofa
There was a nice cottage alongside the lock here too.
The weather was overcast and very cold. 1ºC with a few light snow flurries. The canal side signage wasn’t much use to me as I wouldn’t be following the canal all the way today, but no doubt these place names and distances will be more important in the Montgomery Canal Triathlon that I’m hoping to do. They made nice little points of interest even if they didn’t serve much use.
The canal triathlon is a charity event and not a race so I’ll just be doing it as a fun day out. As I ran alongside the canal I even started thinking that maybe it would be nicer to do the kayak section in our home-made open canoe rather than on my surf-ski. That way Morgan could join me for the canoe section as well. It wouldn’t be anywhere near as fast, but it’ll probably be more fun and might even get Morgan involved.
After a while the canal passed over the River Vyrnwy by way of an aqueduct with views of the road bridge to the west.
The Offa’s Dyke Path followed the canal for another mile or so and then took me away from the canal, through a farmyard under the A483 via a subway adorned with murals. From here it took me into Llandysilio where it went through the village and then out through some muddy fields. The terrain was still flat but the early decent pace along the towpath soon slowed as mud started to clog things up and make the going difficult. The path took me across the B4393 and through more fields where a slight hump marked the presence of the Dyke itself. It wasn’t very prominent here but still visible. In the distance, the distinctive outline of the Breidden Hills could be seen.
Floodplains and Meanderings
After a while the path emerged out onto a much more prominent embankment and started to follow the River Severn.
Although ‘dyke-like’, I’m pretty sure this embankment is part of a more modern flood defence levee. [Edit: It is indeed part of the Tirymynach flood embankment]. It was a clear structure cutting across the landscape. At one point it took me across a strange metal contraption that looked like floodgates through the levee. It looked a little odd though in the middle of a field with no water in sight. There were helicopters buzzing around here too. This is nothing unusual here as the area is used for Air Ambulance training. I was close to a campsite we stayed in last year. The valley was wide and flat with the Breidden Hills close by. Scarred by mining activity of the huge Criggion Quarry, half of the hill has been removed. It is still an active quarry producing in the region of 750,000 tonnes of roadstone every year. Huge piles of it could be seen at the base the hills, whilst on top Rodney’s Pillar stood proud.
After running alongside a drainage ditch high up on the flood levee I weaved my way through a couple of gates and emerged out onto the banks of the River Severn. The river snaked its way across the flat valley floor in never-ending meanders. Some of these meanders are pretty impressive, especially the one known as ‘The Roundabout’. Here, the river has failed to break through a narrow section of land and instead takes a winding route around the valley floor only to come back virtually to where it started. This feature has apparently persisted for at least 150 years.
Geography lessons will teach you that eventually the river will break through and take a more direct route, leaving behind it an Oxbow Lake. More fields, more mud, more meanders and a dodgy looking bridge and eventually the path emerged out onto the busy A483.
Here it followed the road for a short distance before heading up a small slope into Pool Quay and back onto the Montgomery Canal. There were a set of locks here and the now familiar signs by these of a man lifting his canoe out of the water to negotiate the locks!
The canal itself seemed better kept here. Still quite shallow but not choked with vegetation.
After a short distance I passed the Abbey lift bridge which was reflected in the canal water.
The easy going towpath, then ran alongside the busy road for a while before the path signs directed me onto the roadside and then across it and back down onto the valley floor. I traversed several large fields, disturbing muddy looking sheep from their grazing as I squelched my way through the mud. I was soon back alongside the River Severn which was flowing fast through freshly eroded banks.
A few more fields, and gates and I came out into Buttington where I crossed the rusty orange iron bridge. The colour of the rust blending in perfectly with the red sandstone pillars. The sun was now coming out too so the colours of the bridge contrasted well with the blue skies.
Although, I think it looks just as good in black and white.
I crossed the railway line and a few more fields before running through the village of Buttington and out past Offa’s Dyke Business Park where pheasants patrolled the driveways.
Climbing the Hill to Beacon Ring
A short distance along the road and the path took me back into farmland and started heading uphill. I met someone else walking part of Offa’s Dyke here. He was heading in the opposite direction and had stopped for a coffee. We had a quick chat and I continued on my way as the trail headed steeply up the hill. I was reduced to walking here as the slopes were very steep and the ground wet and slippery. The views below and behind me were soon opening out.
I crossed a couple of minor roads and went through a farmyard where workmen were busy digging up the ground and installing cables. There was a brief respite from the steep slopes here but not for long as the Offa’s Dyke Path once again headed straight up the hill. The ground beneath my feet becoming more frozen the higher I climbed and frost crunched under my footsteps. Never frozen enough not to still be wet under the crust of frost though and still very slippery.
Eventually the slope eased off so I paused for a couple more photos of the view.
I then followed the edge of a conifer plantation before taking a very wet and muddy path through it and on to Beacon Ring. This is a huge circular hill fort that was occupied in the Bronze Age and Iron Age.The tall defensive rampart still clearly visible today as I was directed around the western side of it, following the outer ditch.
Leaving Beacon Ring behind I started to descend. Mainly through arable fields but also a short section through a dark conifer plantation. Down I went to a small road that I followed for a short distance before heading off onto the muddy, root infested tracks through a large woodland. The path weaved it’s way through the woodland, up a large flight of steps and through the Leighton Estate. Following the contours most of the way with undulations here and there. Birds chirped and pheasant scattered, shrieking as they went. I passed a large retaining wall, apparently part of a hydro-electric scheme but now it just looks like an out of place brick wall with a marshy garden behind it.
I started descending once again, past a quiet pool and then out onto a small road that led steeply down into Forden.
Here I joined the pavement alongside the B4388 and followed it for a while. I was tiring now so walked this stretch in the sunshine whilst eating a few snacks. After a while the path took me back into the muddy fields and ran parallel to the road for a bit following the distinctive mound of Offa’s Dyke once more. The dyke is well preserved with the lines of arable farming either side making it stand out well as it’s cuts across the fields. The dramatic clouds above just added to the scene.
The dyke itself soon become less obvious as I made my way through more and more fields then down a steep hill and across a minor road. Past Pound House and then out onto flat valley floor once again. Glimpses of Montgomery castle could be seen from time to time, my destination for the day in sight. Occasional dark clouds brought with them light flurries of snow.
I crossed the river Camlad, the only river that flows from England into Wales (which it does twice). I then passed through Devil’s Hole where the earliest known freshwater fish fossils in Britain were discovered. There was nowhere obvious to look for fossils but there was a stark old barn that looked quite photogenic.
More fields, more views, immense amounts of mud at a farm marked as Rownal on the map and a slowing pace. I eventually emerged out onto the B4386 where I left Offa’s Dyke for another day and headed west into Montgomery.
A quick trip to the shop for some refreshments and I was back in the camper and on my way home with another 20 miles of my round Wales trip completed.