Day 1: Saturday 21st May – Gladestry to Newcastle (Shropshire) 25 miles
Leaving Gladestry on marathon leg 19, my morning wake-up call was the ascent onto Hergest Ridge at 426m. I was feeling good so moved fairly swiftly cross the terrain before descending down into the village of Kington (184m). I had agreed to meet Jackie for a coffee – she was surprised that I had arrived so quickly.
Post coffee, I skirted Bradnor Hill to the east (passing the golf club), then Herrock Hill before heading north in overcast weather and drizzly rain. I needed my navigation skills as I meandered mile after mile through “the marches” countryside, ascending then descending Offa’s Dyke path eventually arriving in Knighton, the home of the Offa’s Dyke walking centre. In the town, I took on-board a toasted sandwich (calories) and water (hydration).
I popped into the Offa’s Dyke centre before taking the very steep climb out of the town. I’m familiar with running up hills but one of my ground rules on the Moon Shadow Wales challenge http://www.moonshadow.wales/ is that where there are steep inclines I march rapidly up without stopping.
Alex Jungmayr had pre-warned me that I would see excellent evidence of the Dyke on this run and he was right, evidenced by some of the video clips. Whilst enjoying the sight of a Dyke created many decades ago, I have to admit that marathon 19 was a tough and long day. Traversing Llanfair Hill, it was good to know that for the remainder of the day I would be heading downwards towards the RV in the Shropshire village of Newcastle.
I discovered today that there are very many “not spots” on this section of Offa’s Dyke and on the rare occasion when there had been a signal, I received an e-mail from Jackie to say that she and Lynne would meet me at the pub in Newcastle, meaning that I had to “go the extra mile” (literally) to get there at the end of marathon 19. I’m always relieved to finish a marathon, but today more so because I had the feeling that I was half way.
Day 2: Sunday 22nd May – Newcastle (Shropshire) to Pool Quay 23 miles
Leaving Newcastle on Sunday morning, I was confronted straight away by Graig Hill. Good morning marathon 20!!!!!!!!! As I’ve come to realise this weekend, running along this stretch of Offa’s Dyke is challenging because of its undulating nature, made clear by the contour lines on my Harvey map (Offa’s Dyke Path North).
As I climbed the hill, it was good to see a sign signposting Prestatyn 88.5 miles and offering congratulations stating “you are half way along Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail”. Onward I ran into this rural remoteness, marching quickly up hills and running down the other side – an elevational difference of 150 metres. My knee caps became sore as the downward pressure began to bite again. Yesterday had been challenging as well.
Eventually, I arrived at Mellington Hall where by pure co-incidence Lynne John was staying. Offa’s Dyke passes right by this property so I was able to pop in for a quick coffee and chat with Lynne. Having reached this point of today’s run – apart from Leighton Hill – I knew I had broken the back of the weekend. The terrain across the valley to the east of Montgomery was fairly level until I reached Kingswood where I began to ascend into Leighton Woods. This is where the heavens opened! Thank goodness for being prepared and having my waterproofs. Woodland running is a unique experience but I quite enjoy it. Reaching the road at Pant y bwch (283m), I then pushed on to the Beacon Ring and mast at 408m. From here, it was downhill all the way to Buttington (I quite enjoyed the downward rush of air passing by as I moved swiftly to the River Severn). Crossing the bridge, I turned right running across a number of fields before joining the towpath adjacent to the Shropshire Union Canal. From here, early afternoon, it was a pleasant run to the finish of marathon 20 in Pool Quay…..and guess what……..the sun began to shine.