Offa’s Dyke Path Run – Bodfari to Llandegla
Offa’s Dyke Vital Stats
Bodfari to Llandegla
- Distance: 17.57 miles
- Elevation Gain Today: 1339m
- Highest Elevation: 565m
- Time: 3:26:07
- Av. Pace: 11:44 mins/mile
- Av. Heart Rate: 137bpm
- Max Heart Rate: 168bpm
- Calories: 1914
Totals to Date
- Total Distance: 476.35miles
- Total Time: 89:10:25
- Total Elevation Gain: 13108
- Total Calories: 44956
- Distance to go: 148 miles
What a perfect day for a run across the Clwydian Range. Freezing temperatures, clear blue skies, white topped hills and 18 miles of Welsh countryside at its best. I haven’t continued with my quest to run around Wales for a while now. The main reason for this was that I was racing in the Welsh Cyclocross series during the Autumn. Also, the fact that the public transport along the Offa’s Dyke trail isn’t great meant that I really needed backup from Anna so that I could run point to point without having to worry about getting back to where I started from.
Thankfully, Anna and I both had a day free on Sunday and the weather looked like it was cooperating too. It might have been cold, but it was clear and sunny and the hills were looking nice on our drive to Bodfari in the morning. Cadair Idris and Aran Fawddwy were covered in snow and the roads were a little icy too but I had some warm layers on and we had a plan. Anna was to drop me off in Bodfari, where I finished my previous stretch of the Off’s Dyke path. We then had some meeting points along the way and a final destination in Llandegla. We did think that we might need to re-think this plan on the drive up though as it looked as though some of the smaller roads to the meeting points might be a little too icy for Anna to drive up. Contingency plans were made and I was soon dropped off into the cold morning air in Bodfari
The Clwydian Range
I’d never been into the Clwydian Range of hills before. It is an unmistakable chain of purple heather-clad summits, topped by Britain’s most dramatically situated hillforts. The range runs from runs from Llandegla in the south to Prestatyn in the north, with the highest point being the popular Moel Famau. The Clwydian Hills are formed from an upstanding block of Silurian age sandstones, mudstones and siltstones. The summits of the hills in the Clwydian Range provide extensive views across northern Wales, to the high peaks of Snowdonia, eastwards across the Cheshire Plain and the Peak District, and towards Manchester and Liverpool in England to the northeast. They have heather-clad summits above rolling pastures. The Offa’s Dyke National Trail traverses the range from Chirk to Prestatyn
Starting at Bodfari I was soon climbing the first of these hills and within minutes I was gaining elevation and soon had lovely views of the lowlands below and to the west. I could still just about make out the coast of North Wales too.
The path continued on upwards with very little respite. I took to walking a few stretches as it was going to be a long day. The low sun was shining in my eyes too which made seeing where I was going difficult. There was frost on the ground, barely a cloud in the sky and the signposts so far were good. The bracken was bright orange in the sunlight, the grass bright green and the sky bright blue. What a day for being in the hills.
As I climbed higher up towards the first summit of the day at Penycloddiau the temperature dropped. It was especially cold in the shade but the constant climbing had warmed me up and my hat and gloves came off.
I negotiated a complicated junction and soon found the acorn icon denoting Offa’s Dyke path and headed on towards the summit. The hat and gloves soon went back on as I approached the summit.
It was frozen solid up here. I was at 460m in what looked like a winter wonderland.
I was soon descending on a nice wide path and then onto a small root infested track alongside Llangwyfan Forest. It was much warmer on this side of the hill as the sun was shining on it, the ice had melted and the conditions underfoot were wet, muddy and slippery. Warmer maybe, but still only around 1-2ºC in the sun and below freezing really. I met a few other people out for a morning walk and soon found myself in a little car park in the woods. Anna wasn’t meeting me at this one so on I went up another hill to the Moel Arthur Hillfort and then back down the other side, once again in the sun to Moel Arthur Car Park.
Built over 2,500 years ago around 500 BC, Moel Arthur is one of a series of Iron Age hill forts to be found on the summits of these hills. The fort boasts some of the largest earthworks, banks and ditches in the area. Up close it doesn’t look like too much, but the aerial photos of it are quite impressive. I don’t have a drone though so you’ll just have to make do with a Google Image Search if you want to see it.
Anna was waiting for me in the little car park which was much busier than we had anticipated. The road there had been a little icy in places so we decided that we would meet again at the 12 mile mark, and miss out the car park at the 10 mile mark. After a brief stop I was soon heading steeply upwards again. The terrain was steep, rocky and slippery as I made my way up the northern flank of the hill.
Looking back the hillfort of Moel Arthur was clear to see bathed in sunshine. The effect of the sun’s rays were also clear to see, creating a line of frost.
Whilst looking back I also noticed someone else running up the hill. Uh oh, competition from a fell runner, I’d better get a move on! Looking over my shoulder I was holding him off, but then I couldn’t resist stopping to take a photo of the snow-capped peaks of Snowdon on the horizon.
As I put my phone away the chasing fell runner was almost upon me. He caught me up on a rocky little descent and we had a quick chat as we ran along together. He was only running to the summit and back and seemed quite impressed that I was going all the way to Llandegla. I told him to carry on as he was half my age and clearly faster than me on the tricky descents. I’m never very good at descending and prefer to err on the side of caution. My old knees and ankles can’t cope with too many twists and turns so easy does it is the best course of action for me. It didn’t help that things were frozen solid up here so we were dodging ice and jumping over frozen puddles too.
Once we started heading up again though I caught him up. He conveniently stopped to tie his shoe lace just as I was about to overtake him but then overtook me again on a tricky descent. My lace came undone now as well so I too stopped and then we had a long climb to the summit of Moel Famau ahead of us. I was soon catching him again along the lower slopes and he seemed to be slowing. I think it was a case of the Hare and the Tortoise as I was still feeling good and if anything was speeding up. Once the gradient increased he soon let me pass and a big gap developed. I was still running but the steep slopes had reduced him to a walk. It was clear I was now going to win this unwritten race so pushed hard to the top.
All of a sudden I emerged onto the summit and there were people everywhere. I wasn’t expecting that and was taken aback by the sudden crowd of humans. They were everywhere, all sporting mountain clothing and marvelling at the views. By now I was a sweaty mess and wearing very little in comparison to everyone else. Not only were the crowds a little unexpected, but so was the Jubilee Tower. The tower was built to commemorate the golden jubilee of George III in 1810. It was designed to look like an Egyptian obelisk with three tiers but was never completed due to a lack of funds. In 1862, a major storm brought down the incomplete tower. The remaining upper part of the structure was demolished for safety reasons leaving just the base. Despite not being finished, not being particularly attractive and not really serving any purpose it is still obviously quite an attraction. I took a few photos, said well done to the guy who had been running up the hill with me once he made it to the top and then set off on my way back down the sunny side of Moel Famau.
Moel Famau was the highest point of the day, and the highest point of the Clwydian Range at 555m. I’d now completed 8 miles of today’s run but still had 10 to go and plenty more climbing ahead of me. According to the distance marker at the summit I’d also completed 20 miles of the Offa’s Dyke Path and had 157 miles to go before I made it to Chepstow.
I didn’t spend long up here and soon started making my way back down the wide path towards the Moel Famau Car park where Anna was no longer meeting me.
This should have been quite a fast descent and a chance for me to pick up the pace and improve my average pace for the day. The track was wide, dry and a fairly good surface. It wasn’t too steep either, but with thousands of people and just as many dogs walking up and down it I spent the whole time weaving in and out of them, dodging dogs, trying to avoid dog leads and shouting “excuse me, excuse me” all the way. The people who were descending couldn’t see me coming as they had their backs to me. Whole families seemed to stretch out to completely block the path. The people who were coming up had their head downs and didn’t see me coming either. There were literally thousands of them, I’ve never seen so many people on a hill before! There were so many people that I stopped to take a photo of them, only to find that it got even busier than this once I started on the descent.
I made it to the busy car park at the bottom and ‘The Hut’ which was serving hot drinks and food. I resisted the temptation though, ran through the car park and out onto the hill on the other side. Suddenly I was back into complete and utter peace and quiet without another human being in sight. I looked back to see throngs of people on the slopes of Moel Famau, but ahead of me were the much more attractive slopes of Foel Fenli which I had all to myself!
Foel Fenli may be 40m or so lower in stature than Moel Famau but it was prettier and bathed in sunshine. With no one else around it was idyllic and the path along it’s NW flank was steep but fairly easy going.
The remains of a hillfort are found on the peak; the site is believed to date back to the Iron Age but was later re-occupied during the Dark Ages. There are the remains of strong ramparts on all sides, with an entrance at the west end.
The path soon took me down a steep slippery slope though and then through some soggy, fields. The semi-frozen holes made by sheep and cattle hooves were difficult underfoot but things soon opened out onto more wide open and deserted heathland once again.
Next on the horizon was a tall radio mast of some description and then a descent along a frozen track to the main A494 and the car park of the Llwyd Gate where I met Anna.
On to Llandegla
After a quick stop, I was off again. Across the A494 and then up a steep climb through some fields. The path weaved its way across farmland and open countryside finally emerging onto a small road near to a fishery. After a brief climb up this icy tarmac I turned left through more semi-frozen fields. The top layer of ice cracking under my feet and plunging them into the icy mud-water below. Many of these fields were flooded as I trudged my way through the slush.
I crossed another minor road and could now make out Llandegla in the distance. More frozen fields and muddy trails and I emerged alongside a small stream.
I crossed a bridge and followed the stream which eventually brought me out into the village of Llandegla and the car park where Anna was waiting.
A quick change out of my running shoes and it was into the car where my trophy awaited. A nice cup of hot chocolate and a bag of M&M’s. These set me right for the drive home which was into the low sun all the way.
Another good day out on the trails though and probably one of the more challenging sections of the Offa’s Dyke Path. 17.5 miles in total and close to 4,500 feet of climbing. Let’s hope I can do the next stage soon.