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]

Wednesday 14 May 2008

Day 30 - Bronygarth to Hanmer

14 May
Distance: 17 miles
Number of wannabe killer dogs: 3
Number of killer cows: 1 entire herd

It was a hideous farce from beginning to end.

We should have known that it wasn't going to go well when we left the Old School in Bronygarth and struggled to follow the sketch map from the Maelor Way guidebook (a sketch map that is not to scale nor is it directionally orientated).

Twenty minutes later the broken stile that was completely hidden by stinging nettles (and my trousers boast no nettle-proof qualities) should have been the next clue that this is a Way that is walked by about 2 people per year. We are this year's mugs.

Never have I come across the combination of footpaths so ill-signed, ill-used, wildly overgrown and with stiles in such a bad state of repair (in one place completely collapsed and handily replaced by the farmer with barbed wire).

1:25k maps hadn't been procured for this section on the basis of having the sketch maps in the guidebook (the guidebook that seemed so detailed and useful on initial reading; I now take back every good word I ever said about it). With those maps supplemented by the narrative, how difficult could it be to follow?

I gave up on the book and resorted to 1:50k map and compass (with the necessary guessing as to which side of fences we should be on) when we got to the bit where the sketch map was entirely unclear and the narrative helpully told us to 'go the other side of the barn to a stile 20 yards from the junction'.

1) which side is the 'other side' when you're approaching something corner on?
2) 20 yards east or west of the road junction?
3) How far to the stile?

All of those pieces of information would have been helpful.

After the mud baths that were pure comedy, followed by a bridge so rotten that the Local Authority is just waiting for a law suit, we came to a sign telling us that the next two bridges were out of service and a diverion was necessary - 4.5km along roads, mainly along a B road and an A road.

For reasons perhaps only explained by a stubborn nature and an intense dislike of busy roads, we still persisted with our intended route beyond Overton. That persistence saw us wading for a couple of miles through knee high grass - always an energy sapping experience - whilst playing spot the bridge.

Surely things couldn't get worse?

It was about ten minutes after lunch that we came out of some woodland and a bearing was required. Then I realised that I'd lost my compass.

I wasn't moved to retrace my steps through the long grass to hunt for the needle in a haystack (it wasn't a good quality compass and I wasn't attached to it). We still have Mick's compass so I'll just have to buy myself a new one next time the opportunity presents, and in the meantime try to lose Mick's...

Finally patience was lost with the Maelor Way. We took to lanes and finally made some rapid progress.

Then just a mile or so before our destination we were presented with the options of taking lanes that formed two sides of a triangle or a footpath that formed the third.

I won't got into the detail but it took us the best part of an hour to cover the half a kilometre 'short cut'. The incident with the cows firstly encircling us and then following us turned out to be the least of our worries (although they do possibly explain why we didn't turn back when we got to the most difficult obstacle of the day (a nettle, broken stile, drop, deep stream, nettle, barbed wire combo; thank goodness for the fallen tree, even though it was followed by a nettle bed and a significant wetland)).

Incredibly, despite feeling like we were achieving less than 1mph for much of the day we still arrived at our destination earlier than anticipated, and feeling reasonably fresh.

Perversely, we even looked back on the day and saw some enjoyment in the challenge (and despite the obstacles the sun was shining and the surroundings green and magnificent).

Tonight we are not camping, nor are we staying in a B&B. No, tonight we are living it up in the Hanmer Arms Hotel. It feels like we deserve it too.


  1. Hi,Mick and Gayle.By now you should have reached the Oasis of Whitchurch with its many pubs and cafes.It even has a little Outdoor shop plus Internet Access in the Library.It will give you the opportunity of licking your wounds and restocking with supplies.My rucksack is packed and ready to go so if I can get away for a day or two,you may find yourself in the company of Trenthamwalker. If I don't manage to make it,then good luck with the rest of your walk.

  2. Hi Trenthamwalker,

    As you may have seen from the post above, we didn't spend a long time in Whitchurch, although I did part with some cash in the outdoor shop there.

    We'll be back on the route as of Saturday morning and will be looking out for someone heading towards us with purpose sometime in the following days!