The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Sunday 4 May 2008

Day 20 - Chepstow to Monmouth

4 May
Distance: 19 miles (going on 84)
Number of mice I stepped on: 1 (by accident)

Today was our first day in our boots and the first day on the Offa's Dyke path (ODP) - and it was hard. As I sit here (next to the still smouldering Bushbuddy) typing this my feet still feel like someone's been punching the soles all day.

But back to this morning. As we left the campsite we agreed that it was the worst value for money yet. For £11 you get a patch of field and a share in a single toilet, shower and hand basin in a 'rustic' outbuilding. We couldn't grumble, mind, as the owner donated £6 of the fee to Macmillan.

As we walked back into Chepstow, at 7am, it was with the belated realisation that with today being Sunday we were very unlikely to find a grocer in the town centre open for business - and we didn't even have any breakfast, never mind lunch. Even worse, we weren't to pass another store until three miles before our destination.

As fortune had it we passed close to a Tesco petrol station in the town. I crossed my fingers that they opened at 7 and so it turned out to be. The food crisis was solved, which was a jolly good thing as I was having a particularly hungry day.

With rain falling on us (but so warm!) we set off along the (mainly) well way marked route.

All went well, despite the occasionally heavy downpours, until this afternoon, when we misplaced the ODP. I'm not sure how it came about but it took us so long to notice the error (and we were heading in the right direction, just on a parallel lower path) that we decided to vary the route slightly. I fear that the result was even more ascent than advertised and no less distance. We weren't the only people to make the same error either; we encountered eight others who had done likewise, albeit six of those were together in a D of E group.

By the time we reached Redbrook the wearing of the boots, the ascent and the cumulative mileage of the last three days was showing. Our legs were tired and the last three miles were a struggle, even though the day had dried and brightened. We again varied our route (intentionally this time, but as a side effect we missed what the guide book describes as the best view point on the whole ODP; as visibility wasn't great we didn't feel as bad about that as we might have) to take the seemingly easier riverside path.

Arriving in Monmouth every B&B looked inviting and we very nearly knocked on the door of one, but with a final burst of energy we made it to the campsite on the far side of town, where a small pitch was found for us despite the site being fully booked.

It's going to be an even earlier early night tonight, so that we'll be fighting fit and raring to go in the morning. It's a more pleasantly proportioned 15.75 miles tomorrow.

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