Offa’s Dyke Path Run – Chirk to Llanymynech
Offa’s Dyke Vital Stats
Chirk to Llanymynech
- Distance: 17.05 miles
- Elevation Gain Today: 967m
- Highest Elevation: 367m
- Time: 3:27:33
- Av. Pace: 12:10mins/mile
- Av. Heart Rate: 126bpm
- Max Heart Rate: 156bpm
- Calories: 1533
Totals to Date
- Total Distance: 510.01 miles
- Total Time: 95:32:36
- Total Elevation Gain: 14722
- Total Calories: 47906
- Distance to go: 117 miles
After my last Offa’s Dyke run, and more pertinently the freezing cold bus journey back to where I started, I decided to do things differently today. Rather than drive to Castle Mill where I finished last time, run south and then catch the buses back later in the day, I decided it would be better to get the bus travel done first, before I was wet. So, I set off at around 6:15am en route to Llanymynech where I planned to finish todays Offa’s Dyke run. It was dark, pouring with rain and windy. At least it wasn’t too cold at around 8ºC. The roads were familiar though so it wasn’t too bad a drive. At only 90 minutes away it’s also one of the closer parts to home as far as my circumnavigation of Wales goes. It’s still a lot of travelling but as I head further south I’ll only be going further from home again.
I left the familiar roads at Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain as the world began to get light, crossing the Bridge over the River Vyrnwy. I turned left towards Llanymynech over the river again and then followed the Montogmoery Canal into Llanymynech. The parking spot that I had identified from Google Earth was taken by some highway maintenance vehicles and the road here had temporary traffic lights in place. Not to worry, I had at least two back-up plans for places to park and had spotted a few others on my way through Llanymynech. I parked in the little car park adjacent to the Llanymynech Heritage area which was perfect.
Off to Chirk
The pouring rain had eased to a light rain so I got ready in the back of the van and then inspected the signs about Llanymynech, wandered down to the canal and then waited at the bus stop in the rain. I’d never been to Llanymynech before but it looks like an interesting place. Straddling the border between Montgomeryshire/Powys, Wales, and Shropshire, England, Llanynmynech lies on the banks of the river Vyrnwy, and the Montgomery Canal passes through it. The Wales/England border runs down the centre of the village’s main street, with the eastern half of the village in England and the western half in Wales. The border also passed right through the now closed Lion pub, which had two bars in England and one in Wales. At one time Welsh counties were referred to as “wet” or “dry” depending on whether people could drink in pubs on Sundays. When Montgomeryshire was dry it was legal to drink on Sundays in the two English bars of the Lion but not the Welsh bar.
Llanymynech is also a nationally significant industrial heritage area, containing one of only three remaining Hoffmann kilns in the country. It’s huge chimney the only one still intact. It certainly looks like a nice place to visit but maybe not on a very wet Monday morning.
Waiting at the bus stop wasn’t the nicest of places to be. The temporary traffic lights were backing up the traffic and the rain was falling. On went my hat, gloves and buff to keep from from getting too cold. At least I was warm to start with and wasn’t cold and sweaty from the run. My new OMM Kamleika Race Jacket was keeping my top half fairly dry too. The bus was on time and I paid my £2 for a single to Oswestry. Soon the bus filled with school kids and there was standing room only.
We pulled into Oswestry a little later than timetabled, only for me to see the Number 2 to Chirk (the next bus I was supposed to be on) pulling out of the Bus Station. Had I known the layout of Oswestry I would have got off the bus a couple of stops earlier as the bus simply looped around the town passing one side of the bus station and then driving around through the traffic for 5 minutes to the other side of the bus station. Alas, I’d never been to Oswestry before, and never caught these busses before and didn’t know that the next bus was about to leave anyway. I therefore had a 30 minute wait for the next bus so headed off to Morrisons to find a toilet. I then waited at the cold bus station for the 2A bus which cost £4 for a single to Chirk.
Chirk to Castle Mill
Chirk itself isn’t on the Offa’s Dyke Trail. Instead the trail passes through a tiny hamlet called Castle Mill a couple of miles to the West. This is where I stopped last time. There is a bus to Castle Mill but it only runs a few times a day so I had decided it was easier to get to Chirk and then run to Castle Mill before starting on the Offa’s Dyke. It added a couple of miles to my run but made things easier as far as public transport logistics were concerned.
So, off I headed through the streets of Chirk in the rain. Hat and gloves were off, but my hood was firmly up and rain poured off it. I briefly left the road to drop down and cross a bridge over the Shropshire Union Canal. It was a grey and dreary day so photos were unlikely to be too inspiring but here’s one of the canal as I ran across it.
On I went, past the railway station and the entrance to a large factory which had a huge chimney with steam billowing from it. Up a small incline to the gates of Chirk Castle. I had intended to run around the south side of the castle to Castle Mill. There were roads and paths everywhere, some heading into caravan sites, others into the Castle Grounds and others on public roads and footpaths. The signs had Chirk Castle 1.4 miles in one direction and 1.2 miles in the other so I decided to take the shorter one. It was now pouring with rain as I trudged my way up a steep and very soggy field. My feet were sinking into the mud and soon my shoes were plastered with the sticky soil and weighing three times as much as they had before. It was absolutely pouring with rain now and the strong headwind was driving it onto me as streams of water ran down my face. Lovely! The path took me through several muddy fields and then headed off in what seemed like completely the wrong direction. I continued to follow it though and eventually emerged on the northern side of Chirk Castle.
Here I had more choices as I made my way along the roads around the castle and into the car park. I should have looked at the map but it was absolutely pouring down so instead I took what looked like a promising footpath that headed into the woods and down the hill. That only lasted a few yards though as it then took me through a gate and up over several more steep, muddy and exposed fields. I could see the top of the hill ahead of me and what looked like some parts of Offa’s Dyke that I had run last time. I was a little off track and would have to repeat a section of the trail that I had done last time but at least I would know where I was and would have the familiar acorn signs to follow.
I continued my trudge up the muddy, wet and slippery hill to the top where I turned left and joined Offa’s Dyke Trail. I was back on track. It was cold wet and windy last time I was here. Today it was even wetter and windier and feeling cold too but I knew that it was now downhill all the way to Castle Mill in the valley below. I made it to Castle Mill and finally started the next leg of my Offa’s Dyke run. I had covered 3.2 miles already but so far had made no progress along the trail itself. I’d taken quite a big detour. My original plan to cut through Baddy’s Wood would have been much better.
Not only would it have been a good deal shorter but it would have resulted in a lot less climbing, would have been under cover of the trees, would have been sheltered from the wind and would probably have been along nice woodland paths rather than slippery, claggy, muddy exposed fields.
Onto the Dyke
Not to worry, I was now on track, the rain had started to ease a little in the valley and there were signs of Spring with snowdrops lining the roadside verges.
My route took me pretty much straight up the side of a very steep hill. I was following the Wales England border and towards the top of the hill actually started following what looked like my first bit of actual dyke. There was a distinctive embankment, raised earthworks, defensive linear mound. Call it what you like, it was what I was expecting from Offa’s Dyke as it cut across the countryside. Despite having followed the Offa’s Dyke Trail for about 50 miles from Prestatyn on the North Wales coast, this was the first bit of distinctive ‘dyke’ that I had seen.
It would have been remiss of me not to take a selfie with it.
The rain had eased by now but it was still quite damp as I ran on through the mist and murk following the distinctive embankment. At times the path ran along the top of it, but most of the time it was precariously balanced on one side or the other. The muddy, wet nature of this off-camber narrow path made the going tough and slippery. The ground was also saturated so my feet were soaked as they sploshed through the muddy fields.
There were a few little stream crossings accompanied by treacherous, slippery descents and quad burning climbs up the steps.
Most of the trail was through soaking wet fields though. Grazed by sheep and cattle these were pock-marked with hoof prints making running very difficult. I was taking it easy so as not to twist an ankle as my feet sank into the sodden ground. Every step was accompanied by a muddy splash of water, a squelch and a sucking, popping sound as the thick mud relinquished its grip on my shoe. Thankfully my laces were tied tight and the mud never quite managed to steal my shoe from my foot but it had a good go and on occasion did bring me to a halt as my feet disappeared into a particularly deep muddy patch.
The path crossed the quiet B4579 and then headed up onto Sellatyn Hill. The path was still straddling the England Wales border so signs were in English on one side and in Welsh on the other.
The first part of the climb up onto the hill was along a nice hard packed track with only muddy puddles to splash through. As this came to an end I passed a lovely looking cottage with a well kept garden. I was going to take a photo, but its resident was stood out in an adjacent field. He was on his mobile and obviously had to stand in that exact spot to get any reception.
The path became a rooty track along the top of another section of dyke. This was the best bit of running so far. The rain had eased, the track was flat and hard packed and the roots kept me on my toes.
It only lasted for a short while though as the little woodland soon came to an end and once again I was forced to trudge through thick mud and soggy, slippery fields. My pace was slow and the going was tough.
On I went, through muddy field after muddy field, each separated by a slippery stile over which I had to climb. Occasionally there would be a small road to cross as I made my way along Offa’s Dyke Path and out onto Racecourse Common. It was raining again up here but I stopped briefly at the Racecourse Stand ruins. There were a couple of etched plaques showing what presumably would be the horizon and the various Welsh Hills you could see in the distance. I could see nothing through the rain, but I was dubious as to whether or not I would have been able to see anything even on a clear day. The area seemed to be surrounded in trees which would have obscured any views at all.
Woodland Trails and Hilltop Views
The path now took me into Racecourse Woods and along some muddy slippery trails under the trees. I did finally get some views of the surrounding countryside as the rain eased and there even seemed to be some small breaks in the clouds.
The woodland paths were wide and easy to follow with some steep sections here and there and of course lots of mud. There were views here, an interesting seating alcove and plenty of trip hazards beneath by feet to keep me focussed.
Eventually I passed through a little Nature Reserve and emerged into the hamlet of Tyn-y-Coed were I crossed the River Morda and started a steep climb out of the valley.
The path now took me through the village of Trefonen, through more muddy fields and then through an even muddier farm.
The rain had stopped now and things were beginning to clear. I even had some decent views out across the flatlands to the East. At times the dyke was prominent as sizable embankment to my right.
The path now took a turn in what felt like the wrong direction. The signposts had been good and were still easy to follow so I hadn’t needed to look at the map. I didn’t therefore really know what to expect next but the path emerged out onto open countryside and climbed a grassy hill.
This was the first section in ages without too much mud and a decent surface for running on. Unfortunately it was also very steep and into a strong headwind so the going was still slow. Looking back there were some nice views to the East which gave me an excuse to stop for a photo.
I took a selfie too.
As I reached the top of Moelydd it started to rain again so I braced myself against the wind and rain to take a couple of quick panoramic photos before looping around and back down the otherside of the hill.
This was the nicest spot of the day so far and the views spectacular. It was also quite wild, wet and windy up here so I didn’t hand around too long. The views today were dramatic rather than picturesque as showers marched across the landscape.
On towards Llanymynech
Soon I was back down into muddy woodland and grazed fields. I passed a little metal roofed cottage that had seen better days, passed through the small nature reserve of Jones’ Rough and headed down towards Nantmawr where I crossed a dismantled railway.
Next I ran through Porth y Waen, across the railway again and then up the very steep tricky climb through Pen-y-Coed and up onto Llanymynech Hill. This path was steep, rocky, muddy and slippery so I was reduced to walking. It emerged at the top onto a golf course and the sun was now coming out. There was blue sky above me and the birds were singing.
The path followed the edge of the golf course for a while, undulating up and down along the side of the hill and dipping into the woodland now and then. It then took me through a gate and out onto Llanymynech Rocks, a nature reserve created on the Carboniferous Limestone.
Not only was the sun now shining but I was nearly done for the day and it should be downhill all the way. Indeed it was. The paths here were drier than they had been anywhere else, thanks no doubt to the permeable nature of the underlying limestone.
The going was good and the views were too as they opened out across the flat floodplains of the River Vyrnwy and River Severn. Judging by the views ahead of me the next section of the Offa’s Dyke Path was going to be quite flat.
I stopped briefly at the quarry and then continued my descent down into Llanymynech.
The quarry itself looks like an interesting place to explore and should prove to be a good fossil hunting spot too. Along with the industrial heritage of the location and of the village below I think we might have to return for a family day out in Lanymynech one day soon. From here it was a short descent into the village of Llanymynech where the camper was waiting patiently for me.
I’d covered just over 17 miles today. A little further than anticipated thanks to my early detour and there was a fair bit of climbing too.
The terrain and soggy nature of the ground made the going slow and tough but the next stage looks flat. That said, it is across the floodplains of the River Vyrnwy and River Severn so could be equally as wet and soggy.