I might have gotten a little carried away again, this post is mostly about the Offa’s Twisted Wye Kanter LDWA challenge event and I managed to take 155 photos…. For anyone who wants to see them, they’re at https://flickr.com/photos/julianwhite-uk/albums/72177720298765447.
The NEC had met in Bristol the previous day and three of us, Julie, Bill and I went to do this challenge event in south Wales, with Stuart coming along to help with the marshalling. We were fortunate to get a lift with Bill’s son and partner, as the train options seemed a little challenging to get to the start before lunchtime. It was quite sad to leave the comfort of the Novotel in Bristol, but the sun was shining and the walk looked a good one.
As some background, Offa’s Twisted Wye Kanter is an event run by South Wales LDWA and it took place in 2017, 2018 and 2019. It’s back this year and there were four different routes and it uses routes such as Offa’s Dyke, Wye Valley Walk, Wales Coast Path and Gloucestershire Way. As some added excitement, there was also a series of questions from key points along the walk although GPX and route descriptions were available as well. Having a GPX is fortunate, this is the way that I like to navigate….
After a quick snack of toast at the beginning of the event, I mentioned to Dave and anyone who I suspected might listen that I was being very brave taking part. The trained sympathiser that I had asked for wasn’t available, but the volunteers at the event were endlessly helpful and supportive. After a final failed effort to swap with Stuart so that I could sit and eat cake whilst he went walking, it was time to collect my tally card for the adventure ahead.
And off we go through the sunny town centre of Chepstow.
I don’t think that I’ve been to Chepstow before, but I will go again as there are numerous things worth seeing including pubs and also the impressive castle, which apparently is the oldest surviving post-Roman stone fortification in Britain. It seems a charming town, with plenty of information about its history, definitely worth another visit.
Unfortunately, Chepstow is in the footlands of mountains, with this being a long slog up the hill although the locals have kindly provided a bench. I messaged Stuart here asking for a car to pick me up, but that request was refused. I had a feeling that there might be more slopes ahead…..
An atmospheric path.
I’m slightly annoyed that this photo doesn’t show how big these rocks were that entrants had to clamber over.
That’s better, they look much more challenging in these photos, and there’s Julie charging over them. To be fair, Dave warned me about these rocks and I sailed over them as I needed to get to the other side quickly to message everyone at HQ about how brave I’d been. Imagine a mountain goat, well, that was me.
My friend Liam would take one look at this and want to cycle down it….
I accept that the Wye Valley does look rather lovely.
The ruined St. James’s church at Lancaut, one of the earliest Christian churches in the Wye Valley area and it’s thought that there has been a religious building here since the seventh century. The Vikings kept interfering with arrangements here (mainly by pillaging and destroying stuff), with this current structure dating from the eleventh century. The village of Lancaut doesn’t exist any more, it was likely abandoned after the Black Death, although a few residents continued to live in the area. The church was used until the 1860s, but then the Rector decided to take the roof and interior fittings away, which it’s fair to say wasn’t ideal for the building’s future. It nearly fell down in 1980s and since then the structure of the church has been secured and it’s an interesting building, with some remnants of lime plaster visible.
The ruined church was a little bit more ruined when a part of the door mechanism fell off in my hand, but the LDWA are a responsible organisation and we ensured that the issue was resolved….
I thought for a moment that we were allowed to get the bus back.
A standing stone.
This was not what I wanted to see.
I took this opportunity to message Dave and question in a very positive manner why the route went through a wood which was evidently packed full of snakes ready to attack anyone walking through. It seems the snakes have been left without supervision as well, there were no snake wranglers in the area.
I’m sure there’s an interesting back story as to what has happened with this gate, but it wasn’t anything to do with us or the LDWA.
The view from Devil’s Pulpit (or a few metres away from it) which overlooks Tintern Abbey. Judging from the number of people, this is clearly a popular walk with locals and visitors to the area, and I can see why. Very picturesque.
There’s Devil’s Pulpit and I didn’t feel the need to stand on it as it didn’t look secure enough to me.
Over the river at Tintern.
Whilst we had a little break for lunch, Stuart decided to message at this point as he realised that I was about to summit another mountain on this walk and frankly, I think he was trying to deliberately annoy me, but I didn’t say anything…. I think Dave also found my messages useful about my thoughts on this mountain, as I sent several to reinforce what I was saying.
This tells a story of its own about Covid and then, later on, Putin.
St. Mary’s Church at Penterry and this is another mostly abandoned village, devastated by the Black Death. Platforms are visible in the field showing where some of the buildings were and there’s also an area which has been identified as a plague pit.
Simon interviewing Julie for the video about the event. Simon is a runner who completes these things far too fast, including the marshals’ event for the 100 last week.
One of the clues for the challenge walk was on the mast. Fortunately, just on the boards at the base and not higher up.
It’s always rather lovely to have a walk which goes past several churches.
Beautiful, the Wye Valley.
Woodland is one of my favourite terrains to walk through, I really enjoyed this section.
The history behind this property is substantial and it’s a real shame to see it in its current condition. It’s Piercefield House which is Grade II* listed, with the park around it being Grade I listed, not that this has helped in the building’s preservation. It dates from the late eighteenth century and its history is quite intertwined with that of slave owners, which was turned slightly on its head when in 1802 it was purchased by Nathaniel Wells, the son of a white slave owner and a black slave. He had a successful career as a magistrate and also as the first black sheriff in Britain. It’s also thought that Horatio Nelson, the hero of Norfolk (we have a lot of brave people) stayed a night here.
I’m not sure what can be done with this now, with a problem that there’s a limit to what can be done with the structure because of its historic listing. Some compromise is going to have to be made with regards to its heritage as very little of the building is left, but this would make a lovely hotel, craft beer venue or Greggs.
This is why I don’t eat lamb, look at their little faces…..
How very sweet. I decided the jolly happy one in the middle, who bounced into where he probably shouldn’t be, should be called Leon ?
Back at the end, there’s Dave and Stuart at the back and Julie at the front. I’m not one for gossip, but Dave mentioned he had hurt his back or something whilst standing around the checkpoint. I, however, completed my mountain expedition with no ill effects although I imagine that’s my tough Norfolk training coming to the fore. I’d also like to thank all the marshals who put this event together, it takes a lot of work and everyone was helpful and kind. There was a major controversy when Julie got a time that was one minute faster than mine, I think she must have slipped someone some Twixes for that, but I didn’t say anything.
Very lovely, although the Viennetta promised by Stuart didn’t arrive…. However, there was a marvellous selection of cakes.
Back into Bristol (thanks Bill and son!) and at Temple Meads, ready for the train back to London.
I spend quite a lot of time in waiting rooms and here’s the one at Bristol Temple Meads railway station, with power I’d add, as well as an excessively hot temperature. But I did think that perhaps my body was still at the 8,000 metre height that I had spent some of the challenge walk at, so maybe that was just me.
The GWR train sweeping into Bristol Temple Meads. I didn’t bother trying to get my reserved seat as there was a table seat without any reservations on it, meaning I could get some work done on the train.
The Crossrail train at Reading.
Not very busy, but that didn’t entirely surprise me on a Sunday night.
The Southall sign that has caused some controversy because of the translation at the bottom, although I fear the negativity is perhaps a little unwarranted as it’s hardly a substantial change.
I was annoyed by the time I got into this Ibis Budget Hounslow hotel room. The receptionist randomly said “I need your ID” in quite a blunt manner when checking in. I thought this was very odd, as there’s no need for them to see my ID at all, but I had my passport and just handed that over, as I’m quite compliant at hotels in case they offer me a lovely upgrade. Although I accept that there’s a limit to what an Ibis Budget can do. I thought that the service was terse, but it was late at night and I guessed that the staff member had perhaps had a long day, although I was slightly disappointed that I couldn’t tell her how brave I had been on the walk.
Anyway, a youngish black guy next to me (and I mention his colour for a reason) said “they wanted your ID as well?” to which I replied “yes, which was unusual”. The receptionist then started on me, saying that it has always been the hotel’s policy. The guy next to me said that he thought he was a victim of racism, and I can’t possibly comment on that, but the service was very odd from the receptionist. I replied saying I had stayed at the hotel several times and had never been asked for ID, but she was insistent that it was a policy at the hotel and that it was in the booking e-mail. I know bloody well it isn’t in the e-mail and so I perhaps unnecessarily asked her to show me where it was mentioned. She couldn’t find it and said that she didn’t know about third party booking sites and their emails.
I was a little annoyed at this service and mentioned I had booked with Accor directly so it was their email and I didn’t understand her hostility. Her claim was that the hotel was having problems with people pretending to be other people and that’s why ID was needed. At this point I couldn’t be bothered to argue any more, it isn’t the policy of Accor, Travelodge, Premier Inn or just about anyone else, although it is the policy of YHA but that’s because of child protection issues. I hope the poor guy got into the room that he had paid for, as the staff member’s attitude towards him was I felt completely unnecessary. It was nearly midnight and so this was an unkind and potentially reckless way to treat one of their customers, although I was just relieved that I had my ID so as not to be caught up in the same dispute.
Fortunately everything in the room was fine as I hardly dared go back down to reception anyway…… But with that, my day was complete and I could reflect on the glorious views that I had seen on the challenge event and all of the mountains that I had summited without complaint.