Offa's Dyke Path 2002

Author: George Tod

This walk is illustrated with photographs. Click on small photo to enlarge in situ, or click caption to enlarge into new window.
Part 5 - Llandegla to Finish at Prestatyn


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Day 11 - Saturday 13th July - Llandegla to Bodfari

Distance: 17.5 miles + 0.5 miles to B&B, Ascent: 3,400 ft + 460 ft to Foel Fenli and Moel Arthur summits

I had a different sort of breakfast this morning. When I had booked on the phone I got the impression that the couple were vegetarians as they didn't do the usual fried breakfast. However, it is just that they prefer to serve healthy eating breakfasts instead. I had muesli, melon, ham and cheese omelette, croissants and toast which was all very nicely presented and served in the conservatory where I could get a view of the village street outside. The Dutch couple had been down here the previous evening to see if there was any way they could have their luggage taken to Bodfari as they were carrying a lot of camping and cooking equipment and the weight was far too much for a long day's walk. There was no actual luggage shuttle but the landlady was able to put them in touch with a man who would take it for 20. It seems like a lot of money, but when you consider that the distance is over 25 miles by road, entailing a round trip of over 50 miles probably taking about an hour and a half, it doesn't seem so bad, and it was 10 cheaper than the taxi fare. They called by whilst I was having breakfast with a mobile phone number, although I don't think the landlady wanted to know as she had only arranged things as a favour and didn't want to get involved any further.

The couple at Hand House had an interesting tale about accommodation for walkers. When they had just moved in to the derelict building with no windows and beams hanging down from the ceiling, they were descended upon by ten Offa's Dyke Path walkers from New York who had seen the place marked as an Inn on the map. They all had sleeping bags so the couple went off to get food from a takeaway, got some wine from the off-licence and got out a guitar for the evening's entertainment. The New Yorkers were extremely grateful and later wrote an article about the experience, which found its way into a magazine.

I set off at 9.10 a.m. and the weather was already hot as I crossed a few miles of farmland before coming to Moel-y-Plas, the first climb of the day. Some cloud came over as I was climbing, which saved me from getting too hot. There was very good visibility with Cadair Idris, the Arans and the whole of the Snowdonia range visible in the distance as well as a fine view of the ridge ahead with the Jubilee Tower on Moel Famau prominent. Alan caught up with me on Moel-y-Plas and we walked together as far as Foel Fenli, where I took the route over the summit and he took the official route round the side. There was some cloud around but the views were still extremely good.

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Cadair Idris, 40 miles away, can be clearly seen left of centre
West from Moel y Gelli
Looking back down the southern end of the Clwydian Range
South from Foel Fenli
The path up to Jubilee Tower at the summit of Moel Famau, the highest point of the Clwydian Range
Moel Famau

At the Moel Famau car park there were a large number of people as this is a popular local beauty spot which is easily accessible by car, and this was a very fine day at a weekend. Alan passed me whilst I was writing up my diary and I then followed him up to the summit. This is the highest point of the Clwydian Range at 1,818 ft (554 Metres) so it gives a real panorama view with some plaques on the tower to aid identification of the various landmarks. By now some of the Snowdonian mountains had been obscured by cloud but Cadair Idris was still very clear 40 miles away and various buildings in Liverpool could be identified such as the two cathedrals and the Royal Liver Building, particularly with the aid of binoculars. I had been here several times before, but this was the clearest view I had seen.

After lunch with Alan and a multitude of other people at the summit, we walked together for the rest of the way to Bodfari. I was now back on home territory, so I knew that, although we had passed the highest point, there were still a few climbs left to come. However, there was a cool breeze on top of the hills and a little localised cloud giving some shelter from the heat of the sun, whilst not obscuring the marvellous views. This is a superb ridge walk, especially when the visibility was so good. Most of the views are of distant hills and mountains with the broad Vale of Clwyd down below, stretching down to the sea at Rhyl, with the finish at Prestatyn still hidden from view by the northernmost hills of the Clwydian Range. Further along the ridge it was just possible to make out the mountains of Cumbria on the horizon to the north about 70 or 80 miles away. Most of the way there is a good path, although it deteriorates on one or two steep sections, and the excellent views are mostly unobstructed.

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Moel Arthur is one of the many hill forts in these hills
Moel Arthur
The path descends to Bodfari to the left of Moel y Parc
Moel y Parc

Although this is quite a hard day's walk, it was no real hardship as the walk and the spectacular views were so rewarding. There were also a number of hill forts both on the way and nearby to add historic interest should one be feeling withdrawal symptoms at the loss of the dyke, which is now lost in obscurity some way to the east. After Moel Arthur and Penycloddiau, two of the hill forts, the path descends to Bodfari, which is on the main Denbigh to Mold road. Alan and I quenched our thirsts at the Downing Arms before Alan went off to the campsite nearby and I to my B&B half a mile up the road.

I had a nice relaxing bath and a rest before heading back down to the Downing Arms where I had arranged to meet Alan for a meal. There was a marvellous view of Moel y Parc from my bedroom window, brightly lit by the evening sunshine. This is the most northerly hill of the range before Bodfari with a large television mast over the other side, although Offa's Dyke Path drops down before reaching there.

It was quite busy in the pub, as it was Saturday night, but most of the people had been dining fairly early and it soon started thinning out so that we were able to get a table for a meal and a couple of pints.


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Day 12 - Sunday 14th July - Bodfari to Prestatyn

Distance: 12 miles + 0.5 miles from B&B, Ascent: 2,250 ft

I had breakfast at 8 a.m., having arranged to meet Alan at 9.15 outside the pub so that we could walk together. In the washbasin in the bathroom I found a small bat, which had probably got in through an air vent. I had seen it the night before on the bathroom floor when I came back from the pub, but decided to leave it there, whereas now it was half way down the plug hole of the washbasin, so I thought I had better move it. It was very docile and didn't seem to mind being picked up and I gently placed it on the window ledge outside, where it stayed until I left.

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The bat was very docile as I moved it onto the window ledge
Bat in Bodfari

Alan was waiting as I came down the road and we started off up the steep ascent of Moel y Gaer that has a hill fort at the top, although the path skirts around to the east before reaching the fort. A few more gentle ups and downs lead to Cefn Du and then on to Moel Maenefa, which gives a fine view out to the west of the mountains of Snowdonian. Most of them were clear with the exception of Snowdon itself which, as is often the case, was covered in cloud. By walking a little way to the trig point, the view opened up in all directions with the coast now looking quite close at Rhyl, but Prestatyn still hidden by the hills. I have walked around these hills several times, as they only a few miles from home, but I have generally not taken the Offa's Dyke Path route for much of the way as there are other paths that offer better viewpoints. So when we set off from the trig point, I set off along a familiar path along the ridge rather than backtracking and dropping down to cross a field below. We soon realised that we were on the wrong path when we saw no waymarks on the next stile but then made the mistake of dropping down a steep, bracken covered hillside as a shortcut back to the Offa's Dyke Path. The bracken was so thick and tall that it was like fighting through a dense jungle and there were surprise attacks from patches of nettles hiding beneath the bracken in places. Eventually, we struggled to the bottom to join a minor road and then, after initially going the wrong way along the road, turned back and regained the path. Not surprisingly, Alan said that it was the last time he would rely on my navigation!

After crossing the busy A55 North Wales Expressway using the footbridge which was provided when the road was made into a dual carriageway, we soon dropped down into Rhuallt and the Smithy Arms which, being 11.50 on Sunday was still closed until noon. When they opened, I had a quick pint of John Smith's Extra Smooth, the first pint that wasn't real ale in the whole walk. This was because they had a problem with the cellar cooling which had affected their real ales. It was a very hot day, probably the hottest of the whole walk, so it was very refreshing and helped to replace some of the lost body fluids.

Another steep climb led us to a series of fields and lanes on the way towards the final ridge overlooking Prestatyn. There is a very nice hill with a hill fort, Y Foel, near Dyserth, which offers some fine views over the Vale of Clwyd, but Offa's Dyke Path passes it by to the east. Further along Craig Fawr, owned by the National Trust, affords another good viewpoint, but again is bypassed. This is presumably because the footpaths are not so well defined or, as often seems to be the case, the path takes the easy route rather than the most scenic route. Just before Ty Newydd we passed through a field with three abandoned cars, which didn't do anything to enhance the scenery. However, across the road, I was pleased to see that the field by the farm was dry and easy to cross. I have been here a few times after periods of wet weather, particularly in the winter and found it the most diabolical field to cross, with huge pools of mud and slurry near the bottom and the whole field deeply churned up by the hooves of cattle to such an extent that hardly any grass was growing, every hoof print was deep and filled with water making it extremely difficult to negotiate without all this coming over the tops of boots. Today, however, it was just a dry field with a reasonably even path running up it. (More recently, a fence has been erected to keep the cattle from the path, and this has improved the matter considerably, even in wet weather.)

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Looking across the Vale of Clwyd towards the mountains of Snowdonia
West from Moel Maeneva
Looking West along North Wales Coast from Tan-yr-allt. The end is in sight - the seafront at Prestatyn is off to the right.
W along N Wales Coast
Left to right: Me, Alan and the Dutch couple
At the finishing stone

Shortly we came out onto the edge of the ridge overlooking Meliden with the finish at Prestatyn in sight. Even at this stage the hard work was not over as the path climbs quite steeply before making its way down the cliff side into the town. We caught up with the Dutch couple along this stretch. They were struggling with their overweight packs that they had decided to carry, as it was not such a long day. Finally we entered the town on the last leg of the walk, down the High Street, over the railway bridge and down to the finish marker by the seafront, where we again met the Dutch couple. The only thing left to do to finish the walk was to wade out into the sea, although the the Dutchman took it a stage further and swam in the sea in his underwear, which was not as foolhardy as it may sound as it was still very hot and the water temperature was quite pleasant. After carrying such a heavy pack he must have been finding it even hotter than the rest of us.

My daughter Jen met us at the finish and, after photographs, handshakes and farewells, we went back home to our hotel, taking Alan with us as he was staying for the night before going on to Snowdonia to do some more walking.


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Afterthoughts

I had rather mixed feelings at the end of this walk, having found some sections to be through excellent walking country whilst others were rather tedious and uninteresting. There is little option as to which route the walk should take over large sections as this is dictated by the dyke itself, where it exists. It is just rather unfortunate that many sections of the path are covered by trees that completely obscure some very splendid scenery. There are other sections of the walk which are nowhere near any actual earthworks, either because they never existed as is the case near the start, or because they have been lost through the ravages of time, as in the latter part of the walk. In these cases, the path takes the most interesting or convenient route to fill in the gaps, although there are a number of occasions where a variation in the route may have been preferable in terms of the scenic beauty of the walk.

For my liking, there are rather too many miles along roads, albeit generally quiet ones, and also over low lying land with neither good views nor easy walking, but with innumerable stiles and much uneven ground. Nevertheless, there were also several days of excellent walking with a considerable variety of scenery and the added historical interest of the dyke itself and the many hill forts and castles along or close by the route. However, this is not a walk that I would be in a rush to do again in its entirety, but it has opened my eyes to a few stretches of excellent walking of which I was not previously aware and which I will revisit (as I already have done) for day walks. For long distance walking, though, I still have a preference for those trails which are predominantly high level, with considerable stretches above the altitude where there are many trees to obscure the view, where the paths are not churned up by farming activities, and where there is no dense vegetation to obstruct the way, nor too many stiles or gates to cause inconvenience.

(13/02/2007) Note: I have had comments from a few people about my assessment of this walk, which has caused me to have a rethink. I have probably been too critical at times, as my passion is for high level hill and mountain walking, and some parts of Offa's Dyke Path do not live up to this, as indeed is the case with sections of almost any long distance walk. However, many walkers do not need mountains for fulfilment and find this walk to be very enjoyable in its entirity - it is all a matter of personal opinion. As I live within an hour's drive of much of the Snowdonia National Park, as well as the Berwyn Mountains and the last four or five days of Offa's Dyke Path with some of its finest scenery, I am rather spoilt for magnificent walking country, so I am easily disappointed by some of the more prosaic scenery that is found in some parts of Offa's Dyke Path. Though not my favouite walk, I would still say that Offa's Dyke Path is well worth doing and I would also recommend anyone to complete the whole walk rather than just picking out the better parts, as I always feel that this is necessary to do the walk justice.


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